When we read about the Temple mount in the Bible before the Temple was rebuilt, we need to remember that it was even then often called the House of the Lord, as though the Temple were already standing. This can be seen in Ezra 2:68, when the returning exiles came to the Temple mount for the first time after leaving Babylon. The foundations for the House were not even laid until the Jews’ second year in the land (cp. Ezra 3:8-10), yet we see a reference to the House of the Lord as though the Temple were already rebuilt! This same manner of referring to the Temple was used in the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:4; 6:3) and in the letter Darius sent back to Tatnai (Ezra 6:6, 12), though in the case of the latter the Temple was well on its way to being completed.
In chapter three of Ezra and only a few months after being released by Cyrus, Jeshua, the High Priest, and Zerubbabel repaired and built up the altar of God on the first day of the seventh month or the Feast of Trumpets in the Jewish calendar (corresponding to our month of September). This is an important date and happens to be the first reference to time in the book of Ezra. This act by Jeshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel represents the first fruit to be born out of the commandment given by God through Cyrus to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem. Therefore, the Seventy Weeks Prophecy begins at this point and not when Cyrus made the decree! This should be obvious in that the word of God makes a point of the building of the altar of God before the foundations of the Temple were laid. If this prophecy should begin from another point in the books of Ezra or Nehemiah, then at what point should it begin and how does the word of God note that date?
It stands to reason that, if God were making a point to refer to a prophecy showing a specific time so that one could count from one point in time to another and recognize what God is doing, the date in question should be set apart and noted somewhere in God’s word.
The date of the Jews’ return to their homeland is not noted; the date of Ezra’s return is noted, but the Temple is already rebuilt, and the dedication of the city walls took place just a few weeks after Ezra’s arrival. Therefore, the coming of Ezra cannot be used to count to Messiah, since the Seventy Weeks Prophecy is already well underway at the time of his arrival.
The date of the arrival of Nehemiah is noted by the year of a king, but it is not specific. Furthermore, the rebuilding of the Temple had already begun and was stopped in the reign of Cambyses, the son of Cyrus; at which time the rebuilding of the business district north and west of the Temple Mount was also stopped. Therefore, the coming of Nehemiah cannot be used as the starting point of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy either, since the rebuilding of the city had already begun.
The only logical point to begin this controversial prophecy is here on the date of the Feast of Trumpets in the first year of the Jews’ return to Jerusalem from captivity in the first year of Cyrus’ reign over Babylon. I believe this should become even clearer, if we take a look at the wording of Daniel 9:25. The time of the prophecy must begin at the going forth (H4161) of the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. That is, when the commandment began to bear fruit, the prophecy would begin. The same word is used of the seed or bud that springs forth or sprouts in Job 38:27. In Psalm 65:8 this same word (H4161) is used the express the outgoings of the morning and evening i.e. dawn and sunset. The ‘going forth’ of the commandment has more to do with the renewal of the morning and evening sacrifices upon the altar that Jeshua and Zerubbabel built than it has with the actual decree of Cyrus. It has to do with the sprouting of the seed rather than the casting of the seed. The Seventy Weeks Prophecy began on the first day of the seventh month when the morning and evening sacrifices were renewed for the first time in 51 years. We should look, therefore, for the coming of Messiah on this date as well. As can be seen in previous blogs on the Seventy Weeks Prophecy, Jesus began his ministry on the Feast of Trumpets 483 years after the children of Israel began to worship God in their homeland on the first day of the seventh month of the first year they returned from Babylon (Ezra 3:1-6).
The very first thing that was rebuilt was the Altar of God. Make no mistake, the beginning of the worship of God at Jerusalem after so long a time is no small thing, and marks a very significant commencement towards counting the years to Messiah. If we follow the Lord, we shall know that his going forth (H4161) is prepared as the morning (cp. Hosea 6:3). I believe that a better translation of “going forth” in Daniel 9:25 would be ‘budding’ as it is translated above in Job 38:27. Don’t you think that, if God wanted us to count toward the coming of Messiah, who was sacrificed for our sins, he would begin to point to him from the altar of God? His going forth (H4161) is prepared as the beautiful morning (dawn) at the altar of God!
 Josephus – Antiquities of the Jews: Book XI Chap.2:2.