THE STARTING-POINT; OR, THE CAPTIVITY ERA OF ISRAEL AND JUDAH.
HOWEVER accurately prophecy may have been fulfilled, it is impossible we should perceive the fulfilment, unless we are acquainted with the history which has fulfilled it. And even when we are familiar with the history, we may yet fail to trace the fulfilment of Divine predictions, from want of a due consideration of the moral and religions bearing of the events which it records; i.e. their bearing on the counsels of God with reference to the redemption of the world.
Symbolic prophecy is simply history written beforehand and in hieroglyphics. The whole bulk of it in Scripture is small; hence it is evident that the amount of history with which it is needful to be acquainted in order to understand such prophecy, and have well grounded convictions as to its fulfilment, is not very large. The Atlantic is broad, almost boundless, hut the coarse over it steered by any given steamer is definite and restricted within very narrow limits: so the ocean of history is vast and wide, and every passing year makes it more and more impossible accurately to survey it all; but the line of events in connexion with which the redemption of mankind has been and still is being wrought out is comparatively restricted, and even in that narrow line certain points alone are of salient importance in connexion with our present subject.
The line, as we have seen, is that of the history of the Jewish nation and of the Christian Church, and of the kingdoms and powers with which they have had to do. It is the line of the four great empires of Daniel ii. and vii. The important periods in this line which it is needful specially to consider here are three:
I. THE CAPTIVITY ERA, introducing "the times of the Gentiles."
II. THE ERA OF THE RISE OF THE APOSTASIES, dividing "the times of the Gentiles" into two parts.
III. THE TIME OF THE END, closing that dispensation.
Before we can profitably consider the chronological relations between these three periods, and their respective years of crisis, it is necessary to recall the events of the periods themselves, and their dates. The force and meaning of the chronological facts to which we shall have to call attention later on, depend wholly on the character of the events of the three periods above named, in their relation to the natural and spiritual seed of Abraham. The events themselves are simple matters of fact, and can be verified by reference to reliable historical works on the periods. Scripture itself is the best authority as to the captivity era, though Usher, Clinton, Rawlinson, and others may be consulted, and much light has been thrown in recent years on this remote age by the discovery and decipherment of the Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions, especially the annals of Tiglath-pileser, Sargon, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, Assurbanipal, and Nebuchadnezzar, etc. A multitude of historians, including Gibbon, Hallam, Milman, Ranke, and Ockley, give full details as to the bisection era; while Alison and many modern authors furnish the facts which we shall have to notice in connexion with "the time of the end." For recent years the annual Times summary is a trustworthy guide.
The following sketch will necessarily be brief. It will recall the history to those who are familiar with it, but it will hardly produce any adequate impression of the character of the epochs in question on those who are not so. We should advise such to refer to works like those just named or similar ones, so as to study for themselves, more fully than we can give them here, the important historical episodes mentioned, in order that their true and critical character in connexion with the providence of God may be duly appreciated. It is curious and interesting to note in the tables of contents of many of our great historical classics, that the epochs and divisions adopted by historians are precisely those indicated by chronologic prophecy, THE CAPTIVITY ERA OF ISRAEL AND JUDAH extended over a period of about 160 years. The first deportation of the Israelites from their land took place under Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, whose accession is by the Assyrian canon determined to the year B.C. 745.
Nebuchadnezzars conquests, extending from B.C. 605 to B.C. 587, over the first nineteen years of his reign, were the final stages of the decline and fall of Jewish independence. He was the great and typical monarch of Babylon, but he was neither the first nor the last.
When the prophet said to him, "Thou art this head of gold," he addressed the king as representing the whole Babylonian empire. This is evident, because he immediately adds, "After thee shall arise another king, inferior to thee," alluding to the Medo-Persian empire, which succeeded that of Babylon. Now we know that this latter empire did not arise after the death of Nebuchadnezzar personally, but only after the fall of his kingdom and the death of his fourth successor, Belshazzar. The head of gold therefore represents the Babylonian empire, just as the breast of silver represents the Medo-Persian.
Now the first king of the Babylonian empire of the image was NABONASSAR, and the year of his accession is an era of great historical importance, ranking with the greatest eras of history; such as the Greek era of the olympiads, the Roman A.U.C. era, the Syrian era of the Seleucidæ, the Christian era of the Nativity, the Papal era of Indictions, and the Mohammedan era of the Hegira. Its precise chronological point is also more certainly ascertained than that of any other ancient date, because it is connected with a series of exact astronomical observations, given by Ptolemy in the work containing his celebrated Canon; it is certain not only to a year, but to a day and to an hour: it is noon of February 26th, B.C.. 747.
This most important era marks the commencement of the Babylonian empire, and therefore the commencement of "the times of the Gentiles."
Six years later, in B.C. 741, the future date of the destruction of the ten tribes was announced beforehand by Isaiah. Ahaz, the wicked king of Judah, had been terrified by a war-like alliance formed against him by the king of Israel and the king of Syria, a powerful monarch named Rezin. The avowed object of their confederacy was to overthrow the dynasty of David and Solomon, and to place on the throne of Judah a stranger and an alien, "the son of Tabeal." Isaiah was directed to calm the fears of Ahaz by promising him deliverance, and reminding him of the unalterable purpose of God, that of the royal line of Judah, and of the kingly house of David, Christ was to be born; that the sceptre was not to depart from Judah till Shiloh came. A virgin (of the house of David) should conceive and bear a Son, whose name was to be called Immanuel. Ahaz was not therefore to fear.
Judahs national existence could not cease till SHILOH came; it might pass under an eclipse, as it did later on, but it must be restored, till the true Son of David should appear. Ahaz was informed that both his enemies would speedily be destroyed. As to Israel, the prophecy was a brief and a literal one, " Within threescore aud five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people." The national existence of the ten tribes, who were at that moment conspiring against Judah, would, it was predicted, terminate within sixty-five years.
Their captivity did actually take place, in several stages, within those limits. A careful study of the records given in the books of Kings and Chronicles shows that the first deportation of Israelites from their own land occurred as far back as the reign of Pekah, king of Israel, when TIGLATH-PILESER, king of Assyria, reduced the ten tribes to tribute, and carried the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh, from the other side of Jordan, into captivity. A second stage of the process was when Samaria was first besieged by SHALMANESER, in B.C. 723.
The city fell after a three years siege (B.C. 721), and Shalmaneser carried Israel away captive into Assyria, and placed them "in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes." [2 Kings xv. 29; 1 Chron. v. 26. See also the inscriptions of Tiglathpileser II., in "Assyrian Discoveries," by George Smith, pp. 276-286. The annals of this king are in a very imperfect and broken condition, but much of the deepest interest to Biblical scholars can still be made out from them. The names of Azariah and Jehoahaz, kings of Judah, of Menahem, Pekah, and Hoshea, kings of Israel, of Rezin of Damascus, and of Hiram of Tyre, occur in the records, which fully confirm the Biblical accounts of the campaigns of Tiglath-pileser in Syria.] "For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God . . . and had feared other gods, and walked in the statutes of the heathen, . . . and did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God. . . . And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: and there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the Lord carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger: for they served idols, whereof the Lord had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing. Yet the Lord testified against Israel, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways. . . Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to tho neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the. Lord their God. And they rejected His statutes and His covenant. . . . They caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of His sight: there was none left but the tribe of Judah only. . . . So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day."
The next critical date in the captivity era is that of the invasion of Judea by Sennacherib, B.C. 713. The association of this memorable incident with Hezekiahs faith and prayer, and with the signal deliverance which God wrought for His people, the large space in the sacred narrative given to a description of it, compared with that devoted to other stages of the overthrow, makes this episode of the decline and fall of Judah one of special interest.
It occurred in the interval between the first destruction of Israel by Shalmaneser, and its final ruin by Esarhaddon, and it brought Judah to the verge of ruin, from which she was saved by a marvellous miracle. We read that "in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them" (2 Kings xviii. 13). Hezekiah was distressed at the ruin of his kingdom, and, conscious of his inability to oppose the forces of the Assyrian invader, he asked for terms of peace, offering to recognise Sennacherib as his sovereign lord. An enormous ransom of 300 talents of silver and thirty talents of gold was demanded, to pay which Hezekiah had to exhaust both the treasury of the temple and his own coffers. Having obtained this treasure, Sennacherib broke his treaty engagements, and continued to ravage the country, till of all the strong places of Judah Jerusalem alone remained untaken. Even the capital was so greatly reduced, that the foe offered 2000 horses, if Hezekiah could find riders for them! Proud and haughty blasphemies were hurled against the hapless defenders of the holy city by Rabshakeh and other generals of Sennacherib. Hezekiahs heart sank within him; but he spread the kings letter before the Lord, sought the intercession of Isaiah, and betook himself to prayer. God heard and answered; promised that the host of the Assyrian king should not even attack the city, but that He would Himself defend it for His servant Davids sake. It was an awful emergency, and a great deliverance. Silently and swiftly the vast army was annihilated.
The following account of his exploits by the great conqueror himself is inscribed on one of the Assyrian cylinders. "And Hezekiah king of Judah did not submit to my yoke: forty-six of his strong cities I captured, 200,l50 people, small and great, male and female, with horses, mules, asses, camels, oxen, and sheep without number, I brought out and as spoil I counted. Him, like a caged bird within Jerusalem, his royal city, I had made; towers round him I raised, and the exit of the great gate of his city I shut. I subjected him to my yoke." There is, it should be observed, no statement that Jerusalem was taken.
When the predicted sixty-five years had fully run out, in the year B.C. 676 (forty-five years after Shalmanesers capture of Samaria), ESARHADDON, son of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, invaded the land of Ephraim, carried captive another detachment of Israelites, and thus finally destroyed the national existence of the ten tribes. They were carried away, never to be restored till "the times of the Gentiles" terminate. Unlike Judah, who, after their captivity in Babylon, enjoyed more than five centuries of renewed national existence, Israel were never again to dwell in their own land. Alien colonists were settled there, and Samaria ceased to be a royal city.
This crisis, B.C. 676, is a specially important one in the course of the Jewish captivity era. But for the prediction of the sixty-five years, we might have supposed that Shalmanesers invasion was quite as important as that of Esarhaddon; but the latter was divinely indicated beforehand as a terminal year in the historical movement, and the former must consequently be regarded as a minor stage in the process.
Esarhaddons son and successor, Assurhanipal, carried captive at a later period Manasseh, king of Judah, some of the commanders of his army having made an inroad into Judea, and God having delivered its wicked monarch into their hands for a time (B.C. 650-648). After some years in Babylon, Manasseh however repented of his sins. "When he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto Him: and He was entreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem unto his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord He was God."
This happened some time before his death, and during the interval the sincerity of his repentance was proved by his abolition of idolatry, and re-establishment of the worship of the true God. He could not however undo the evil he had done in Jerusalem; the final doom of Judea, and overthrow of the throne of David, is especially attributed to "the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; and the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon." (#2Ki 24:3-4). His son and successor, Amon, was also a wicked king; but the glorious reign of Josiah, a time of revival, followed, and the national existence of Judah was prolonged yet awhile.
As soon as the Babylonian empire was fully developed by the destruction of Nineveh, and had reached its height in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, the more serious disasters of Judah began. While still acting for his father, Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar, in a war with Egypt, was victorious over Necho its king. This was the war in which Josiah king of Judah, foolishly engaging, was slain. The life of this good king seemed the last barrier that kept off the long predicted judgments from his people. A world of miseries followed his death, which was so bitterly mourned by the Jews, that the year of its occurrence became proverbial as a year of lamentations, "the lamentation of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddo," the spot where Josiah was slain.[#2Chron 35:22.]
His three sons all succeeded him. Jehoahaz was deposed by the king of Egypt, who placed on the throne his elder brother Jehoiakim. In the beginning of this kings reign Jeremiah, by the command of God, earnestly exhorted the people to repentance, and, standing in the court of the temple, denounced against them the seventy years of the Babylonish captivity, if they should not repent. Urijah also prophesied in a similar strain, and such was the enmity exhibited against him in consequence, that he had to flee to Egypt to save his life. He was captured, brought back to Jerusalem, and murdered; and Jeremiah narrowly escaped a similar fate. The prophet Habakkuk also had reason to complain of the stubbornness of the Jews, and was answered by God that He was about to punish them, and to bring on them the Chaldeans, "that bitter and hasty nation," which should march through the breadth of the land, and possess the dwelling-places that were not theirs, as if it were their own inheritance. "I will do a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you." [#Hab 1:5.] Baruch the prophet wrote in a book from the mouth of Jeremiah, all the words that the Lord had spoken to him concerning Israel and Judah, from the time of Josiah even unto that day. He read them in the house of the Lord, in the audience of all the people assembled at the feast of tabernacles, and was himself exceedingly overwhelmed and amazed with horror at the judgments which he was commissioned to denounce. Jeremiah comforted him, and assured him his own life should be spared in the midst of the Babylonian troubles about to burst on Judah. [#Jer 45.] Nebuchadnezzar, who was at this time associated with his father in the kingdom, had overthrown the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish, when he first besieged Jerusalem; and God gave the wicked city and its impenitent king into his hands, as He had foretold. He put Jehoiakim in chains, to carry him away to Babylon, but does not seem to have fulfilled his intention; for on Jehoiakims submission, and promises of subjection, he left him in his own house, where he reigned for three years as a tributary vassal to Babylon, and then rebelled. This brought down bands of the Chaldeans and others, who came against him, and after a four years struggle he fell, and, according to the word of the Lord, was "buried with the burial of an ass," thrown out and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem. [#Jer. 22:18, 19.] "Surely at the commandment of the Lord came this upon Judah, to remove them out of His sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; and also for the innocent blood that he shed; for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the Lord would not pardon." [#2Ki 24:3, 4.] This overthrow in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judea, and rendered the king tributary, B.C. 605, is the first terminus a quo of the "seventy years" of the Babylonish captivity, as is proved by the issue of the restoration decree of Cyrus, seventy years later. It was the year in which the king and people of Judah first lost their independence and became subject to Babylon. It is consequently the beginning of the "seven times" of Gentile power. One or two years later Nebuchadnezzar had the vision of the great image, of which it was said to him, "Thou art this head of gold."
Jehoiakim was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin, then only eighteen, who reigned but three months; he also "did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done," and a second time Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. The king and his family, his servants, his officers, and all his courtiers surrendered themselves to the Babylonian monarch, who carried them to Babylon, with ten thousand of the principal men of the land, and seven thousand mechanics, "all that were strong and fit for war," together with the treasures of the temple and of the kings house, leaving only "the poorest sort of the people of the land."
Ezekiel the prophet was among this party of captives (as Daniel had been among the previous party) and consequently he always reckons from this year, "the year of our captivity," as he terms it in his prophecy. It was the year B.C 598, and a very important and principal year of crisis in the captivity era, a year marking the height of Nebuchadnezzars power. It was also the year of the birth of that monarch who was to be the destroyer of Babylon and the deliverer of Israel, Cyrus the Persian. In the Persian language, this name signifies "the sun," and Cyrus is in some, respects a type of the "Sun of Righteousness," who shall yet arise with healing in His wings, to deliver Israel in a far more glorious sense.
One more fatal stage of overthrow and captivity awaited Jerusalem. Judah had been destroyed, and its noblest sons and daughters, including most of the priests, languished in exile. But the temple of Solomon still stood, though bereft of its treasures and its glory. After the fall of Jehoiachin, Zedekiah, his uncle, not his legal heir, had been placed by Nebuchadnezzar on the throne at Jerusalem, nominally as king, but virtually as Babylonian viceroy; a position he occupied for eleven years.
Like his predecessors, this man did evil in the sight of the Lord, and by his rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, to whom he had taken an oath of subjection, he provoked the final stage of Judahs destruction. The result was that in the year B.C. 589, nine years after the fall of Jehoiachin, the city was a third time besieged. Jeremiah had forewarned the people of the total destruction that was coming, but they would not hearken. When the Chaldean armies actually approached the walls, they were in the end of the observances of the sabbatical year, when according to Mosaic law liberty was to be proclaimed to all servants In the fear engendered by the siege the people complied with this Divine statute, and liberated their slaves; but when Pharaoh-Hophrah approached for their succour, and the Babylonians for a time raised the siege, they took back their Hebrew slaves again, and made them serve as before, contrary to the covenant into which they had entered. For this sin they were severely reproached by Jeremiah, who told them that God would "proclaim liberty to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine against them," and that the siege should be renewed by the Chaldeans, and their city taken and destroyed by fire. And so it came to pass. In the second year of the siege the city fell. Zedekiah and all the men of war fled by night, hut were pursued and overtaken; the king was brought before Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah; his children were slaughtered before his eyes, which were then put out, and, loaded with chains, he was carried away to Babylon, fulfilling thus the remarkable prophecy, that with his eyes he should see the king of Babylon, but that he would never see the city, though he would die there (#Ezek 12:13). Then followed the supreme act of destruction. Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, made his entry into Jerusalem on a sabbath day, set fire to the kings palace, to all the mansions of Jerusalem, and to the temple! That sacred temple-in which the glory of Jehovah had been manifested, which Solomon had erected, Hezekiah and Josiah restored, which had stood for between four and five centuries, the scene of Jewish sacrifice and the centre of Jewish worship, the "holy and beautiful house" in which so many generations had praised God-perished in the flames. A second temple was afterwards reared on its site, but was "as nothing" to Solomons temple in its glory. After having been wonderfully enlarged and improved by Herod, it also perished in the flames kindled by the Roman soldiery of Titus. Five centuries later a Christian church crowned the sacred site. When Omar the Saracen captured Jerusalem, it became a Mohammedan mosque, and for twelve centuries that mosque, and the adjoining one erected by Omar, which bears his name, have defiled the sacred hill of Moriah, where Abraham offered his son, his only son. But all these events lay in the distant future on that fateful day when Jerusalem finally fell before Babylon, B.C. 587. The walls of the city were rased to the ground, and the rest of the Jewish people were deported to Babylon, and continued there for the remainder of the seventy years, while the land kept sabbath.
This period of 160 years, extending from B.C. 747 to B.C. 587-that is, from the first of Nabonassar to the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar-may well therefore be called the captivity era. It was a period during which the Jewish monarchy was falling, and Babylonish or Gentile monarchy rising triumphant over it, as well as over Egypt and other countries. In 2Ki 24:7 we read, "The king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt," as well as all that pertained to the king of Judah. He had virtually rendered himself supreme.
There is no doubt either about the above events or their dates; they are not drawn from the Bible alone. The records on the stones in the British Museum confirm the statements of Scripture. On one of these, for instance, we read Shalmanesers vainglorious description of his conquests. "I am Shalmaneser, king of multitudes of men, prince and hero, king of all the four zones, the marcher over of the whole world! In my first year I crossed the Euphrates in its flood to the sea of the setting sun; my weapons on the sea I rested; to Mount Amanus I went up; logs of cedar wood and pine wood I cut; an image of my royalty I erected; of large size I constructed it. . . . In my eleventh year cities too of countless number I captured in the land of the Hittites. I forced under my dominion the land which would not bow to me, I broke the pride of kings; being king, I have had no equal among the kings from the first day of my accession; being a warrior, I did not withdraw from battles and fights; all countries I crushed; I asked from them the symbols of submission; I besieged and occupied the town of Samaria; I brought into captivity 27,280 persons; I took them to Assyria, and instead of them I placed men to live there whom my hand had conquered. I instituted over them my lieutenants as governors, and imposed on them tribute like the Assyrians."
After naming a number of other places which he had subdued, be adds of one of them, "Those who remained I pulled them out of their dwellings, and placed them in the town of Samaria."
"Hezekiah, king of Judah, did not submit to my yoke; forty-six of his cities, strong fortresses, and cities of their territory which were without number, I besieged, I captured, I plundered, I counted as spoil. I made Hezekiah himself like a caged bird in the midst of Jerusalem, the city of his royalty. Garrison towers over against him I raised ; his cities which I had plundered from the midst of his country I separated, and made them over to the kings of Ashdod, Askelon, Ekron, and Gaza. I diminished his land. In addition to previous taxes I imposed on them a tribute. The fear of the approach of my majesty overwhelmed Hezekiah himself, and the soldiers whom he had called to enter Jerusalem, his royal city; he consented to the payment of tribute; the treasures of his palace, his daughters, the women of his palace, male and female musicians, he sent to Nineveh, the city of my power. . . . On my return I seated Esarhaddon, my son, on the throne of his dominion, and entrusted him with authority." Such were the facts of this melancholy CAPTIVITY ERA. Its moral features are most solemn and instructive. Though long threatened and distinctly foretold by revelation, it was not expected, or feared, or even deemed credible. When the judgments had actually begun, they were not accepted as from God, nor did their early stages awaken conscience, produce repentance, or lead to serious apprehension. The warnings of the prophets were despised, treated either with ridicule or resentment, and produced only persecution to those who uttered them. The words of Jeremiah, recorded by Baruch, were read to King Jehoiakim; but though he witnessed one Babylonish overthrow, and had himself been bound and all but carried away captive, and was even then tributary to Nebuchadnezzar, yet he turned a deaf ear to the word of the Lord, and dared to burn the book that contained the Divine denunciations. The dungeon was awarded to Jeremiah as his due, and his life was preserved with difficulty by his friends. False prophets who cried peace, peace, when there was no peace, were heard and heeded, and the true witness was despised and rejected..
A vain alliance with idolatrous Egypt was eagerly sought, though it had been foretold that it would prove but as a staff of reed, wounding the hand of him who leant on it: its only result was that Egypt and Judah had to share one and the same sad fate. Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin fell one after another, yet Zedekiah learned no lesson! When the Chaldean armies had ravaged the country, and were actually within sight of Jerusalem, he repented, like Pharaoh, for a moment; but no sooner was the danger averted than he afresh defied the Lord.
Even at the very last, when God set before them life and death, confirming His oft-repeated assurance that the city would be miserably destroyed, together with all those who chose to abide in it, but confirming also His promise of life and safety to those who voluntarily surrendered to the Chaldeans, Zedekiah and his people would not heed, but rushed madly on their tragic fate.
The terrible doom denounced was only too well deserved. Boastful self- exaltation, inveterate and multiplied idolatry, rebellion against every law of God, secular and sacred, corruption and cruelty, violence and blood, refusal to amend, refusal to believe, slaughter of the faithful witnesses, and Pharaoh-like hardening of the heart against the first stages of the Divine judgment,-these were the iniquities that brought down the righteous wrath of God until there was "no remedy."
No remedy! No "healing," as the margin has it; no possibility of healing the inveterate sore of Judah ! Of Zedekiah, who reigned in Jerusalem for the last eleven years of its existence, the Divine record is, that he only "did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord. And he also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the Lord God of Israel." And as to his subjects, it is said:
"Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord which He had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling-place: but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: He gave them all into his hand. And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his son until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: to fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years" (2Chron 36:14-21).
Now these various stages of the captivity of Israel and Judah occupied a period of 160 years. We must therefore measure the Gentile dispensation, at the close of which we live, not from any one year exclusively, but from this era of 160 years in length, and from its various years of crisis. Considering that the whole period embraces twenty-five centuries, this historical margin of 160 years is not so wide a one, in proportion, as the historical margin which Daniel had to consider when he sought to ascertain where the starting-point of the seventy years Babylonish captivity should be placed.
If the opening era of this Gentile age occupied 160 years, we may expect that the closing era, from the early incipient stages of its characteristic movements to their final stage, will at least do the same. It is likely indeed to do more; for it is evident that lunar as well as solar measurements of the year are employed in the chronological predictions of Scripture: so we must be prepared for an astronomical margin as well as an historical one. The difference between solar and lunar years in " seven times" (or 2,520 years) amounts to as much as seventy- five years; if we add this astronomical 75 to the historical 160, we have a period of 235 years, in which the closing events of the age-reversing those of the captivity era-may be looked for. Some of these would be likely to fall out at the lunar close of the period, dated from the earliest starting-point; others at the solar close, dated from the latest; and others again at various intermediate points. A series of commencing dates would, in any case, give rise to a series of terminal ones, extending over an equal period; and as from each starting-point the time may be measured by a short scale, or by a medium scale, or by a long scale, the terminal era will, in all probability, be lengthened. That CHRONOLOGICAL PREDICTIONS ARE FULFILLED IN LUNAR AS WELL AS IN SOLAR YEARS is proved by the case of the celebrated prophecy of "seventy weeks" to Messiah the Prince; a prophecy which is perhaps more fundamental than any other in the Bible, as evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah of Israel. #Dan 9:27.
It will be well, before we go further, to point out the evidence of this fact, as it is very remarkable and important, and amounts to a demonstration.
That chronological prediction was given to measure the interval from the rebuilding of Jerusalem to the first advent of Christ. For fifteen hundred years the children of Abraham had been looking for his promised "Seed," in whom they and the whole world were to be blessed. Cyrus was a type of the great Deliverer who formed the goal of Jewish expectations, but only a type; and soon after Cyrus overthrew Babylon, before he had issued his great restoration decree, it was revealed to Daniel that "seventy weeks" had yet to elapse before MESSIAH would appear. The event proved, as might have been expected, that weeks of years, not days, were intended-a period of 490 years; and it is undeniable that this prophecy was fulfilled both on the solar and lunar scales, and on the latter with most marvellous exactness.
The starting-point was to be a decree to restore and to build Jerusalem, and the terminus was to be "Messiah the Prince." Now there were two restoration decrees issued by Artaxerxes, and they were thirteen years apart. Either of them may be taken as the starting-point, as each involved a measure of rebuilding of Jerusalem and of re-establishment of Jewish polity and national existence. The two decrees are associated with the two names of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the second of the two-that given to Nehemiah-answers most fully to the terms of the prophecy. The first was given by Artaxerxes in the seventh year of his reign, B.C. 457, and the second in the twentieth year of his reign, B.C. 444. [It has been contended by some that the decree of the seventh of Artaxerxes must not be taken into account, because it makes no explicit mention of the city, as the later decree does. But the same might, with even more force, be alleged against the still earlier decree of Cyrus, which speaks exclusively of the temple (Ezra i.). Yet in #Isa 44:13 God says of Cyrus, two hundred years before he was born, "He shall build My city."] The 490 years ran out on the solar scale from the first date, in A.D. 34; and, more accurately, on the lunar scale from the second date, AD. 32-3. In both cases the last or seventieth week of years included most of the ministry of Christ, His death, resurrection, and ascension; together with the formation of the Church by the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the early proclamation of the gospel in Palestine.
But the prophecy states that the Messiah was to be cut off before the close of the seventy weeks (or 490 years), "after" the sixty-ninth had elapsed, and before the seventieth fully ran out; that is to say, in the course of the seventieth week. He was to be cut off "in the midst of the week," i.e., of the last supreme week-the one week which is marked off from its fellows; the week which stands pre- eminent, not only among the seventy, but among all the weeks the world has ever seen; the week of seven years which witnessed the miracles, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of the Son of man and Son of God. In the middle of this terminal week of the seventy Messiah would, according to the prophecy, be "cut off," and by the shedding of His own blood would confirm the new covenant with "many "-not with the nation of Israel, but with many, both Jews and Gentiles. He would also cause all Jewish sacrifice and oblation to cease by putting away sin for ever "by the sacrifice of Himself."
This chronological prediction was fulfilled on the solar scale from the first edict of Artaxerxes, and on the lunar scale to a day from the second. A simple calculation shows this. Seventy weeks are 490 years, but sixty-nine and a half weeks are only 486« years; this is therefore the number of the years predicted to elapse between Artaxerxes decree and the death of Christ. Nehemiah commenced his journey to Jerusalem in accordance with the decree given in the twentieth of Artaxerxes, during the Passover month, the month of Nisan, B.C. 444; and, as we know, our Lord was crucified at the same season, the Passover, A.D. 29. (See Appendix B.) From Nisan, B.C. 444, to Nisan, An. 29, 472 ordinary solar years only elapsed, not 486«. But 472 solar years are exactly 486« lunar. Hence sixty- nine and a half weeks of lunar years, from Passover to Passover, did extend between Artaxerxes decree in the twentieth year of his reign, and the crucifixion, or cutting off, of "Messiah the Prince," A.D. 29. Thus the prophecy was accurately fulfilled, even to a day, on the lunar scale.
Now if the most important of all events was chronologically predicted in lunar form, as well as in solar, it is clear we may expect other periods also to run out on both scales. [The prophecy asserts that the death of Messiah would be followed by the destruction of the second temple (the temple just about to be rebuilt by order of Cyrus), by a fresh cessation of the daily sacrifice (just about to be recommenced), and by a longer and more terrible judgment than the Babylonish captivity (just about to terminate); that Judahs crowning sin in rejecting her Messiah would bring down Gods severest judgments upon her, which would rest upon the Jewish nation till "the times of the Gentiles" being fulfilled, Rome, the great desolater, should itself be desolated and judged,-an event which, as we learn from other Scriptures, will take place at the second advent. No chronology, however, is attached to this last event, the object of the prophecy of the "seventy weeks" being to measure the time up to the first, and not up to the second advent of Christ. Chronological measures, terminating in this latter, had been previously given to Daniel in connexion with his earlier visions (#Dan 7.).
The reason why the first advent of Christ is not alluded to in either of the great prophecies of the "times of the Gentiles" (Dan. ii. and vii.) is, that it is too important an event to appear as a mere incident of the history of the fourth, or Roman empire. It has an entire prophecy dedicated to itself and its consequences.] Now the long period we have to consider-the "seven times" of Gentile dominion, the lifetime of the fourfold metallic image-if measured on this lunar scale, comprises 2,445 ordinary years only, and not 2,520, the difference in that period amounting to seventy-five years.
We have said that these "seven times" extend from the gradual fall of Israel and Judah to, their gradual restoration in the time of the end, that they measure the long period of Jewish dispersion and subjection to Gentile powers. This is true as a general statement, but accuracy requires that a distinction be made between Israel and Judah at this point.
The Divine grant of the LAND is to all the seed of Abraham; [#Gen 12:7; #Gen 13:14,
#Gen 13:15, 17; #Gen 12:8.] the grant of the THRONE is to the tribe of Judah and house of
David exclusively; [#2Sam 7:13, 16.] and the restoration of the glory of God to the TEMPLE is distinct from either. In chronologic measurements this distinction is important.
Seven times of dispersion have passed over Israel or the ten tribes; for 2,520 years they have been driven from the land given by God to Abraham and his seed for ever. But not so Judah. Their exile and dispersion did not begin till the Roman war, AD. 70-135, seven or eight hundred years later. In what sense then has "seven times" passed, or all but passed, over them? In the sense of the loss of their peculiar and distinctive privileges, the loss of their regal honours and pre- eminence, the loss of the throne, the loss of national independence. That dates from the captivity era, though their complete expulsion from the land of their fathers did not take place until 1,800 years ago. The throne of Judah has been vacant since the days of Nebuchadnezzar, and is to be vacant for "seven times." It is entailed however in the tribe of Judah, and in the family of David, to whom God sware "with an oath, that He would raise up Christ to sit upon His throne."
The critical dates in this captivity era which we have mentioned are the following
B.C. 747 Era of Nabonassar, king of Babylon. 741 First chronological prophecy of Israels desolation. 738 First deportation of Israelites under Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria. 727 Shalmanesers accession. 723 His campaign against Israel and Judah. 713 Sennacheribs invasion of Judah. 676 Esarhaddons deportation of the ten tribes. 650-647 Captivity of Manasseh, king of Judah.* 606-5 Nebuchadnezzars overthrow of Jehoiakim in the first year of his reign. 598 Nebuchadnezzars overthrow of Jehoiachin in the eighth year of his reign. 587 Nebuchadnezzars overthrow of Zedekiah, with final destruction of the city
and temple, in the nineteenth year of his reign.
The captivity era lies chronologically thus
180 years. B.C. 747____________________________________ ____ B.C. 587
[*The exact date of Manassehs captivity is not given in Scripture, but it can be gathered from the Assyrian annals of Assurbanipal. It is fixed by the rebellion of Saulmugina, in the year B.C. 650-648, as it was Manassehs connexion with that movement which occasioned his deportation to Babylon. Saulmugina was a younger brother of Assurbanipal, and had been appointed both by him, and previously by their common father Esarhaddon, governor of Babylon, then a dependency of Assyria. He raised a dangerous and nearly successful revolt against his brother, in which Manasseh, as well as many other tributary kings, was compromised. The rebellion was crushed with revolting cruelty. See "Assyrian Eponym Canon," p. 162.]