This verse deals specifically with the commencement of the period that will culminate in the arrival on the scene of “Messiah the Prince,” “The Anointed,” “The Christ.” The date that allows the time clock of prophecy to start ticking is given as “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem.” There are three edicts in Scripture regarding the building of the temple (2Chro 36:22-23; Ezra 6:6-12; Ezra 7:12-26) but there is only one that deals with the rebuilding of the city. It is no surprise that it is carefully dated. This is the decree given by King Artaxerxes Longimanus to Nehemiah as recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-8. It is dated in the month Nisan in the twentieth year of his reign. Nisan is the first month in the religious calendar of Israel and of Babylon. Since it was normal practice in most of the ancient empires, notably in both Babylonian and Medo-Persian Empires, to date edicts from the first of the month in which they were issued, the starting date for this decree becomes, in our chronology, 1st Nisan 445 BC.
Implicit in this verse is the return of the remnant of the nation of Israel (around 50,000 persons) to Jerusalem, which took place in 536 BC. So Daniel’s immediate concern about his people is answered in the implications obvious in this prophecy. The complete return took place in several movements between 536 BC and 445 BC. The key dates for the temple may be noted:
(a) Founded at the first return movement under Zerubbabel 536 BC;
(b) Finished under the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah 516 BC;
(c) Furnished at the second return movement under Ezra 458 BC.
There is no mention of rebuilding the city up to this point. Through the exercise of Nehemiah (Neh 1) attention is drawn to the condition of the city of Jerusalem. The decree was issued to restore and build the city by Artaxerxes Longimanus in the month Nisan in 445 BC and put into the hand of Nehemiah for implementation. By this time Daniel had been dead many years and Israel had been back in the land ninety years when this key date starts the prophetic clock.
From the commencing date to Messiah the Prince is given to Daniel as “seven weeks and three score and two weeks” – thus a total of 69 “weeks” or heptads. Counted as weeks of years, this gives 69 x 7 = 483 years. The break between the seven weeks (49 years) and the 62 weeks (434 years) is clearly to point to the completion of the city. The “street” or “open place” describes the public area where civic gatherings took place. The word for “wall” is not the usual word but is best translated as “the scarped rampart”(F. A. Tatford) indicating the restored defensive ditch. The phrase “in troublous times” aptly describes the time from Nehemiah (445 BC) until the prophetic voice fell silent in Malachi (396 BC).
The threescore and two weeks following the seven weeks (69 weeks total), bring us to Messiah the Prince. The RV reads “Unto the Anointed One the Prince.” The “anointed” is the OT designation of the expected prophet (greater than Moses); priest (greater than Aaron, after the order of Melchisedec); king (greater than David; David called Him Lord) in whom all divine promises would be made good to Israel. So from the 1st Nisan 445 BC to the expected Christ would be 7 weeks plus 62 weeks totaling 69 weeks of years = 483 years. Using the prophetic year of 360 days gives a total of 173,880 days. In his book The Coming Prince, Sir Robert Anderson has shown that exact calculation of the days between 1st Nisan 445 BC brings us to the date 10th Nisan AD 32. The expression “Messiah the Prince” implies a public presentation of Christ, thus ruling out reference to His birth or to His baptism. However, there is one very public event recorded in all the gospels and dated very carefully in the Gospel of John that fits the timing in this passage. This event is the formal presentation of Christ to the city of Jerusalem as anticipated by the prophet Zechariah when Christ rode into Jerusalem on the colt.
The Jewish Passover was, of course, on the 14th Nisan. For His last Passover, Christ arrived at Bethany six days before the Passover (John 12:1) which must be dated as the 8th Nisan AD 32. In this year the 8th fell on a Friday. Christ would rest on the Sabbath day (9th Nisan) and then, after sunset, enjoy the supper in the house of Simon the leper (Matt 26:6; John 12:1-9). On the next morning (John 12:12), the first day of the week, the 10th Nisan, Christ presented Himself officially to His nation as Messiah the Prince. Zechariah had given a prophetic view of that moment when the nation was challenged: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion; Shout O daughter of Jerusalem: Behold, Thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation: Lowly, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zech 9:9).
Messiah the Prince had arrived exactly on schedule.
Problem Defined and its Penalty: Sentence upon Sinners v26(a)
The next statement is startling and unexpected. “After the threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off.” In a sober prophetic statement the most dramatic moment in earth’s history is stated. Instead of a crown, the nation of Israel gave Christ a cross! Four days after the closing of the 69th week, on the 14th Nisan AD 32 Christ died on the cross of Calvary. “The Lamb of God” (John 1:29) having been kept the four literal days, dies on the Passover day in keeping with Scripture. “Cut off” is a word used in Scripture to describe deliberate judicial action (see Isa.53:8); the nation refusing His claim took action to put Him to death. Instead of the AV reading “but not for Himself” the RV “and shall have nothing” carries the authority of most conservative grammarians. Not a crown but a cross for Messiah. The purpose of God for this nation was not cancelled but suspended. Before the Sovereign could reign national Israel would have to face this sin. In the meantime, the prophetic clock is stopped.