It is commonly believed by most folks who believe the Bible is true that Elijah never died. When he ascended in a fiery chariot, it is commonly thought that Elijah went directly into heaven, living forever, without ever having to die. Is this so? If it is so, how does this understanding square with Jesus’ words in John 3:13 that “…no man has ascended into heaven except for he who came down from heaven…”, namely Jesus, himself? Read the rest of this entry »
Category Archives: Old Testament History
Until recently, I had been troubled by Aaron and the Israelite people building a calf(s) while Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Covenant written upon the two tables of stone; and this immediately after God had spoken to the whole nation loudly from the mount—thundering out the Ten Commandments. How could they do this and believe that the calf(s) was God who took them out of Egypt? Read the rest of this entry »
I have had several discussions on different internet forums where I’ve been told that the illiteracy rate was very high in the first century AD all over the Roman Empire. The point, of course, is that if the Jews were generally illiterate, how could Jews who were nothing more than fishermen, zealots or tax collectors have written the New Testament. If Peter, Matthew, Luke, John, James, Jude and Paul didn’t write the New Testament, how could it be an eye witness record to what Jesus said and did or what occurred in the early church? Is this possible, and what criteria is used to determine the literacy rate among the Jews during the 1st century AD? Another point to consider is, shouldn’t the Jews be regarded as a counter culture people group? That is, can we judge the Jewish culture of the first century AD by what we think we know about the cultural condition of the rest of the Roman Empire? Read the rest of this entry »
The Temple was completed in the sixth year of the king of Persia as is stated in Ezra 6:15. This occurred in Adar, the 12th month of the Jewish year. In the following month during the Passover season the Jews dedicated the Temple. Chapter seven of Ezra begins with the words: “Now after these things…” Obviously, this refers to what occurred after the completion of the Temple and its dedication, namely, Ezra gained a release from the king of Persia in the seventh year of his reign. It all seems to fit – the seventh year always follows the sixth year – but the rub is that traditional thought would have us believe that because Darius is the king in chapter six and Artaxerxes is mentioned in chapter 7, that these are two different kings. Can this be true? No! This is another case of vain tradition making the word of God of no effect. There is direct continuity intended here as we shall see. Read the rest of this entry »
Haggai and Zechariah the prophets began preaching after Nehemiah was sent back to Persia and the work on the Temple and the city was halted. After the death of Artaxerxes and two years into the reign of his son, Darius the Persian (Xerxes), they preached the word of God to the Jews; and the aging Zerubbabel and Jeshua, as examples before the people, led them to begin rebuilding the Temple and the city walls (Ezra 5:2). They were challenged by their local gentile rulers in Ezra 5:3. Notice the words of the gentiles: Read the rest of this entry »
In Ezra chapter four, the chronology shifts to the tenure of Nehemiah. Nehemiah, the governor, must come before Ezra, the priest and scribe. This, however, is not what has been thought. Traditionally, it has been presumed that the coming of Ezra preceded that of Nehemiah. The reason for concluding that our traditional understanding is in error concerns the building of the wall. Nehemiah began to build the wall around the city of Jerusalem in Nehemiah chapter 3. This chapter lists the chief men who helped Nehemiah. When this list is compared with the returning list of exiles of Ezra chapter two, it can be seen that the names found in Nehemiah 3 are of second and third generation of Israelites that returned from Babylon. Neither Ezra nor any of the company who returned with him from Babylon are listed among the chief names of Nehemiah chapter 3. Read the rest of this entry »
The one who succeeded Cyrus was his son, Cambyses, and is the one referred to in Ezra 4:6 as Ahasuerus. Secular history says that he reigned nearly 7 ½ years before dying of a wound incurred in battle. Nothing more is said of him in the word of God, probably because he did not do one thing to advance the condition of God’s people. On the contrary, during the whole time of his reign the building of both the city and the temple was interrupted. His only service to God is to act as a figure in history who counts out seven and one half years in the march of God’s people toward their Messiah. Read the rest of this entry »
It has been said that Cyrus lived too early to be the king who gave the order to ‘restore and rebuild Jerusalem’, yet the book of Ezra records his command to build the Temple, and one would not build a Temple of worship and leave the city that surrounds it in ruins. God said it would be Cyrus who would give such a command that would not only include the rebuilding of the temple but the city as well (Isaiah 44:24-28). The fact is: the only reason one would not regard Cyrus as the person to whom Daniel 9:25 refers is the current chronology based upon the alleged observations of Claudius Ptolemy for the placement of the Persian kings, and the word of God does not fit the chronology laid out by the experts! Read the rest of this entry »
The traditional dates for the beginning of Jeremiah’s Seventy Years Prophecy and the return from captivity cannot be reconciled with the claims of the Bible. A seventh century captivity is at odds with our using Cyrus as the king who issued the decree to release the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. In such a case Bible students have sought to reconcile this error by using Artaxerxes instead of Cyrus, but all Artaxerxes did was reaffirm what Cyrus had written in the beginning. Daniel’s prophecy clearly points to Cyrus as God’s agent in this matter (cp. Isaiah 44:28; 45:1), but the chronology of current ancient history forbids our using him for this purpose. Nevertheless, I intend to continue on the assumption that Cyrus is this figure and that future blogs will show reasonable evidence that this is the correct choice. Read the rest of this entry »
Any study of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy would have to show how one would count toward the coming of Jesus. We would need a day or date to count from (a beginning) and a day or date to count to (an end). Furthermore, since the Seventy Weeks Prophecy points to several markers along the way, we would also need a calendar that shows exactly what God is doing as the along at those times. A calendar measures time. It also gives a sense of ‘controlling’ time which is another way of saying one has control of one’s life. But more than this, calendars were often produced for the purpose of worship. For example the calendar we use today is the Gregorian calendar, named after Pope Gregory and was calculated over a concern that we were celebrating Easter out of its season.
Today the Hebrew calendar is lunar/solar. It is determined entirely by calculation of the heavenly bodies. This was not done in ancient times. The months were determined by observing the occurrences of the new moons. It was determined, however, that three new moons occur roughly in every 59 days. Therefore, it could be predicted that one month would be 30 days long and the month following would be 29.
This would be satisfactory, if it were not for the fact that the Hebrew calendar was also a seasonal calendar. That is, the religious activities depended upon their occurring during the spring and the fall respectively. With a normal lunar year of 354 days, there would occur an error of at least 11 days every solar year, which is what our Gregorian calendar is. This error would continue to compound until the months would not occur in their seasons. Therefore, in order that the religious festivals would not occur outside their respective seasons, an intercalary month was added about every two to three years. However, this too was done by observation. The first month, Abib had to occur during the time of the spring equinox, because nothing could be harvested from the fields until a portion of ripe fruits were offered to God. If they were not ripe, how could they be offered? If they were not offered, how could the regular harvest be sanctified? Therefore, a periodic 13th lunar month was needed.
Sometime after the destruction of Jerusalem, about the year 359 AD, Rabbi Hillel II fixed these intercalary months to 7 within a 19-year time cycle (3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, 19). The 19-year time cycle was probably not in use during the time of Christ. However, if all one did was observe the heavens one would know that an intercalary month was sometimes needed after two years or three years, so a reasonable facsimile was in practice. This would keep the Hebrew calendar in sequence with the planting and harvest seasons and also keep lunar and solar reckoning within reasonable agreement.
How Were the Calculations Made?
As it is today, the Hebrew calendar is very complicated and far from the simple tool it had to have been in ancient times. There had always been some calculation used with observation, but it was kept simple so the average person in Israel could tell when one month ended and another began. This was especially important when the new moon landed on a Sabbath or was itself a Sabbath as was the case of the 7th new moon. The nation had to prepare for the Sabbath. How could one prepare, if no one knew when the month began, if, indeed, the priests in Jerusalem had to announce its arrival by their observations?
In the case of the 7th new moon, the Feast of Trumpets, it didn’t do any good if the day was declared a Sabbath at 5 or 6 AM. The day began at sunset the previous evening. Furthermore, it doesn’t make any sense to declare the month an intercalary month (13th) month on the 14th of the month, because the lamb had to be set aside on the 10th of the month and continually inspected for blemishes. Leavening agents also had to be removed from the dwellings and probably took more than one day. Finally, the priesthood served in courses. The first course began its service for the ecclesiastical year on the Sabbath immediately preceding the first day of the first month (Abib or Nisan). “Observing” the seasons entirely by observation of the heavens would not be logical. There must be a better way.
It is evident from Scripture that some predictability was observed when using the calendar. For example, David and Jonathan knew that the following day was the day of the new moon (1Samuel 20:5, 18, 24). How could they have understood this, if new moons were not declared until the first sighting of the moon’s faint crescent? Therefore, it seems very likely that new moons were observed, but only to keep the festivals in their respective seasons. The months were predictable so that someone like David or Jonathan knew ahead of time when the new month would occur. So it is likely that each month was fixed with either 30 or 29 days, knowing the distance between three new moons is two full months or 59 days. So the months probably alternated 30 in the first and 29 in the second etc. without varying from year to year. The even months would always be 29 days and the odd would always be 30 days, except for the occasional 13th month. In this case the month could be either 30 or 29 days according to how many days the previous intercalary month had. If the previous leap year contained 30 days in the 13th month, then the next would have 29 days. So it would vary with each successive intercalary month just as the regular months did throughout the year. The calendar needed to be kept simple, since they were not written out for each family to own. People needed to know how to calculate the new month on their own. Simplicity was necessary.
The mean or average lunar month is 29.530594 days. Seven intercalary months or 206.714158 days were added to each 19-year time cycle. Rabbi Hillel II’s calculations put seven intercalary months into every 19-year time cycles. As I said above, it would not have been unusual for the ancient Jews to know through observation, that from time to time an intercalary month was needed two years from the previous intercalary year instead of the usual three years.
A 19-year time cycle having seven 30-day months = 210 days or a difference of +3.285842 days more than the lunations in a 19-year cycle. After two 19-year time cycles the calendar would be off the regular lunation cycle by nearly 7 days. In order to keep the calendar from getting out of sequence, one would have to subtract days from the regular months, making its calculation complicated and not user friendly. The average person would not know when the next month began. Therefore, this method was probably not used.
A 19-year time cycle having four 30-day months and three 29-day months = 207 days or a difference of +0.285842 days in a 19-year time cycle.
A 19-year time cycle having four 29-day months and three 30-day months = 206 days or a difference of – 0.714158 days in a 19-year time cycle
In exactly two 19-year time cycles of seven 30-day months and seven 29-day months the solar calendar would be behind the lunations by less than a half a day (+0.428316). In such a case, every 100 years (cir. 5 nineteen-year cycles) the Jews could subtract one day from the end of the last intercalary month having 30 days causing it to have only 29 days. In so doing, there would be no interference with how the holy festivals fell during the year, and the lunar and solar years would be kept in sync.
In conclusion, I submit that the ancient Hebrew calendar in use at the time of Christ was one dependent upon the seasons and needed a periodic additional month to keep the religious festivals in their seasons. This month varied in its number of days just like the succeeding months during any given year. The intercalary, 13th month, therefore, had 30 days one leap year and 29 days in the next intercalary year.
 There were intercalary months added, however, even if a 19-year time cycle was not kept. Third century apologist, Julius Africanus said: “…the Greeks and the Jews insert three intercalary months every 8 years.” Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6: Julius Africanus; The Extant Fragments of Five Books; Chapter 16: “On the Seventy Weeks of Daniel” – Paragraph 3.
 This has been suggested by some scholars, including Isaac Newton in his: “The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended”
 “The observation of the autumnal equinox, i.e., ‘the going out of the year’ (Ex. 23:16), and of the spring or vernal equinox, called ‘the return of the year’ (1Ki. 20:26; 2Ch. 36:10), was important for controlling the calendar and consequently the festivals. Thus the year began with the new moon nearest the vernal equinox when the sun was in Aries (cf. Josephus, Ant. 3.201 (Ant. III.x.5)), and the Passover on the fourteenth day of Nisan coincided with the first full moon (Ex 12:2-6)” (The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas, N. Hillyer, editors, IVP, 1980; Calendar, Vol 2, p 223).
 A solar year = 365.2425 days and 19 solar years = 6939.6075 days.
A lunar year = 29.530594 (one lunation) X 12 = 354.367128 days + an intercalary (13th) month of 29.530594 days 7 times in a 19-year time cycle. Therefore, 19 lunar years = 6939.68959 days or 235 lunations (new moons).
This is a difference of 0.08209 days, or the lunar cycle is greater than the solar cycle by 1hour, 58 minutes and 12.6 seconds in the 19-year cycle.
 Adding a 13th month to the Hebrew calendar every three years or so would technically necessitate making the 13th month 30 days for every intercalary year. However, the ancient Hebrews were observing seasons and not parts of days. They knew that two new moons occurred every 59 days, making one 30 days long and the other 29. There is no reason to assume they did otherwise with the intercalary month. One year the 13th month would be 30 days and the next intercalary year it would be 29. It is only logical to conclude that the ancient Jews did this. Every three years the lunation would have an error of one tenth of a day (approximately 2hrs. and 24 min.). They would not have been able to observe this in the heavens. This required sophisticated calculation.
Most Bible Students have probably never even heard of Claudius Ptolemy, but he has greatly influenced how we understand Biblical chronology, and therefore prophecy concerning Jesus. Ptolemy was an ancient astronomer and mathematician upon whose works modern historians base much of their data concerning the Jewish chronology from the time of the captivity and then the release of the Jews to about the rise of Alexander the Great. The dates of Nebuchadnezzar’s and Cyrus’ reigns and exploits are assumed to be fixed by Ptolemy’s seven lunar eclipses dated from 747 BCE TO 330 BCE. However, in any given year there could be a total of seven lunar and solar eclipses, five of the sun and two of the moon or four of the sun and three of the moon. The smallest number of eclipses that could occur in one calendar year is two, both of the sun. To complicate matters even further, there are some 70 eclipses in any given 18 years period. Moreover, the solar eclipses occur one third of the way around the earth in every 18-year cycle. Thus, a solar eclipse will occur in the same place at the same longitude every 54 years. Read the rest of this entry »
It is essential that we know an accurate chronology of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, if we are to understand the fulfillment of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy in Daniel. In my own opinion we have allowed the world to interpret for us the time frame of these books and those that relate to them, namely Esther, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Once we begin to try to fit the events of the Bible into the historical chronology prescribed for the nations surrounding Israel, we build for ourselves a labyrinth out of which there is no path without denying the word of God or creating an historical puzzle with missing pieces and questionable content. Read the rest of this entry »
The date of the returning captive Jews has nothing to do with the reign of Artaxerxes as is presently assumed by so many. The return of the Jews to their homeland has to do with the first year Cyrus conquered Babylon, not the first year he reigned over Persia, but the first year he conquered Babylon where the Jews were held captive. According to history this was cir. 536 BC. However, this date is fixed by historians who receive Claudius Ptolemy’s seven eclipses between the dates of 747 BC and 330 BC to date historical events during this period. Ptolemy’s work has been nearly universally accepted by modern historians for the last 400 years. Nevertheless, astronomers have been finding fault with his works for almost 1000 years, not to mention that some prominent contemporary historians, such as Plutarch, were never impressed with dating historical events through astronomical observations and calculations. Therefore, although I cannot prove that Cyrus conquered Babylon in 457 BC, 79 years after the normally accepted date set by Ptolemy (536 BC), but neither can modern historians prove otherwise without using Claudius Ptolemy’s alleged infallible conclusions. Read the rest of this entry »