Saturday, 16 January 2021

The post-exilic chronology. Part 5: Other support for the sequential reconstruction of Ezra-Nehemiah


There are several other lines of evidence that point to the revised sequential reconstruction.

The table below contrasts the common and the sequential reconstructions. The year is referenced to Cyrus' first year as king over Babylon.

Event CommonSequentialReference
Jews return to Jerusalem1 1Ezr 1
Work begins on the temple. Foundation laid.2 2Ezr 3
Opposition to building2 2Ezr 4
Letter to Ahasuerus53–75 ?9–16Ezr 4
Letter to Artaxerxes75–116 ?9–17Ezr 4
Darius' 1st year18 18
Temple building resumes (Darius' 2nd year)19 19Ezr 6
Temple completed (Darius' 6th year)23 23Ezr 6
Artaxerxes 1st year 75 (18)
Ezra returns to Jerusalem81 24Ezr 7
Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem (Artaxerxes 20th year)94 37Neh 2
Wall completed94 ?37–49Neh 6
Nehemiah returns to Babylon (Artaxerxes 32nd year)106 49Neh 5, 13

The difference is significant. Note the variable sequences in the two reconstructions and the timeframes varying by up to 50 years. There is also disagreement over the identity of kings.

Other material from Ezra and Nehemiah fit the revised version better. This could also be said about parts of the book of Daniel.

The aspects I wish to cover here are
  1. The people opposing rebuilding
  2. The high priest line
  3. The mention of Darius the Persian
  4. Daniel's prophecy of the rebuilding
Rebuilding
People oppose the rebuilding on more than one occasion. That they are different times is seen by the names of the people conflicting with the Jews. There are different persons who are in opposition to the building or who send letters to the king.

In the time of Artaxerxes (Ezr 4) there is a letter written by Rehum and others objecting to the building of the city. In the 2nd year of Darius (Ezr 6) there is a request by Tattenai concerning Cyrus' decree. And in the 20th year or Artaxerxes—whom I identify as Darius—there is opposition from Sanballat and Tobiah. None of these names overlap which suggests that these are distinct events. This may not count as discriminatory evidence between the 2 reconstructions, though the lack of mention of Sanballat or Tobiah in the letter to Artaxerxes (Ezr 4) suggests that if the common reconstruction is followed, the letter was early in Artaxerxes reign.

KingOpponents Reference
ArtaxerxesBishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their associates. Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates.Ezr 4
DariusTattenai the governor, Shethar-bozenai, and his associates.Ezr 6
ArtaxerxesSanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant. Geshem the ArabNeh 2, 4

High priest genealogy
The high priest family line is helpful as it may give a rough indication of whether the times proposed by the various reconstructions are feasible. Jeshua (Joshua) son of Jehozadak was the high priest at the time of Ezra's return. Nehemiah gives a list of priests at the time of Zerrubbabel's return which includes Jeshua who returned with Zerubbabel (Erz 2:2). Nehemiah then gives a list of Levites and then he lists Jeshua's descendants.
Jeshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua. (Neh 12:10–11)
That is
  1. Jeshua
  2. Joiakim
  3. Eliashib
  4. Joiada
  5. Jonathan (?Johanan)
  6. Jaddua
Nehemiah goes on to specify a list of priests during the time of Joiakim.
And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers’ houses (Ne 12:12)
Among the list is Zechariah son of Iddo. Zechariah's first oracle was during the second year of Darius.

Nehemiah then states that
The family heads of the Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua, as well as those of the priests, were recorded in the reign of Darius the Persian. The family heads among the descendants of Levi up to the time of Johanan son of Eliashib were recorded in the book of the annals. And the leaders of the Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua son of Kadmiel, and their associates, who stood opposite them to give praise and thanksgiving, one section responding to the other, as prescribed by David the man of God. 
Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon and Akkub were gatekeepers who guarded the storerooms at the gates. They served in the days of Joiakim son of Joshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law. (Neh 12:22–26 NIV).
So there was documentation of the Levites in the days of Eliashib and his descendants. And specifically in the Book of the Annals from Eliashib to Johanan.

And the gatekeepers served during the time of Joiakim, Nehemiah, and Ezra.

Further, Eliashib the high priest helped fix the wall in the time of Nehemiah (Neh 3:1).

So
  1. Jeshua son of Jehozadak returns with Zerubbabel
  2. Zechariah son of Iddo is the head of a priestly family during the time of Joiakim
  3. Zechariah's first oracle is in second year of Darius
  4. The gatekeepers serve in the days of Joiakim son of Jeshua (Joiakim is possibly the high priest)
  5. The gatekeepers serve in the time of Ezra
  6. The gatekeepers serve in the time of Nehemiah
  7. Eliashib son of Joiakim helps repair the Sheep gate in the time of Nehemiah.
We know from Zechariah that Jeshua was the high priest in the second year of Darius, year "19" of Cyrus. Zechariah was alive at the time of Joiakim at some time after that. The gatekeepers served at the time of Joiakim and Ezra and Nehemiah, and by implication, Zechariah. But also, that Eliashib was highpriest at the time the wall was being repaired.

Darius the Persian
In Nehemiah mention is made of Darius the Persian
In the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, the Levites were recorded as heads of fathers’ houses; and the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian. (Neh 12:22)
The structure of Nehemiah 12 is as follows

The time of Zerubbabel and Jeshua the highpriest, that is the time of the first return from Babylon. A list of priests then Levites.

Priests
These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: [list of priests]. These were the chiefs of the priests and of their brothers in the days of Jeshua.
Levites
And the Levites: [list of Levites].
Then there is the highpriest genealogy
And Jeshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.
Then there is the list of priests in the time of Joiakim the highpriest, the son of Jeshua who returned with Zerubbabel.
And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers’ houses: [list of priests].
The Levites of the time of Joiakim are not yet mentioned, but it skips to the time of Eliashib the highpriest, and his descendants.
In the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, the Levites were recorded as heads of fathers’ houses; and the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian.
The Levites names were recorded during the time of these highpriests, but we are not given their names. But we are told that the names of the Levites during the first three of these highpriests are given elsewhere: Book of the Annals.
The sons of Levi, their heads of fathers’ houses were written in the Book of the Annals until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib.

The names of the priests are also recorded: the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian.

Then we return to the Levites (and gatekeepers) and what they were doing during the time of Joiakim. 

And the heads of the Levites: [list of Levites] to praise and to give thanks... watch by watch. [List of gatekeepers] were gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates.

 This was during the time of Joiakim, the highpriest during the time of Nehemiah and Ezra.

These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra, the priest and scribe.
The highpriest at the time of the return was Jeshua. The next highpriest was Joiakim and he was contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah.

In summary Nehemiah 12 gives us a list of the priests and Levites at the time of Jeshua the highpriest at the time of the return. We then get a list of priests at the time of Joiakim and subsequently a list of Levites during his time. We get no list of priests or Levites for any subsequent highpriest. But the names of the heads of the father's houses, are recorded. Specifically the names of the Levites during the time of the 4 highpriests: Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua. And the names of the priests during the time of Darius the Persian.

This list demonstrates that Joiakim the highpriest after the return from exile was contemporary with Ezra and Nehemiah. It is also suggestive there was a Darius the Persian who was reigning at the time of Eliashib the highpriest.

Daniel's prophecy of the rebuilding

During prayer Gabriel appeared to Daniel and said,
70 sevens are decreed for your people and for your holy city: to finish the transgression and to seal up sin and to atone for guilt and to bring in everlasting righteousness and to seal vision and prophet and to anoint a holy of holies. Now know and understand: from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince—7 sevens and 62 sevens; it will be built again with streets and a moat, but in troubled times. And after the 62 sevens an anointed one shall be cut off, and he shall have nothing, and the city and the sanctuary will be destroyed by the people of the coming prince, and its end will be with the flood and to the end there shall be war; these desolations are determined. (Dan 9:24-26)
Now there is some difficulty translating this. Options include
from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince—7 sevens and 62 sevens; it will be built again with streets and a moat, but in troubled times. And after the 62 sevens...
and
from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince—7 sevens. And [during] 62 sevens it will be built again with streets and a moat, but in troubled times. And after the 62 sevens...
The first option suggests that the 7 sevens is the time until Jerusalem is rebuilt: that is 49 years, and the anointed one appears after a further 434 years. The second option implies that the anointed one comes after 49 years and Jerusalem would be built in the subsequent 434 years.

The Masoretic text implies a break between 7 sevens and 62 sevens which would favour the second translation. The problem with this is that Jerusalem would not start to be built until nearly 50 years after the decree. And also the the anointed one is cut off 434 years after he arrives.

If the first translation is more accurate then it takes 49 years from the decree for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Then 434 years until the anointed one. This is more in keeping with the fact that building the temple and restoring the city occurred soon after the decree of Cyrus to return to Jerusalem.

In the common reconstruction we have work beginning on the temple within 2 years of the decree (Ezra 3:8). Opposition to the building of the city ~80 years after the decree and the completion of the wall within 100 years. In the sequential reconstruction we have work beginning on the temple within 2 years and the city shortly after. Opposition to the building of the city occurs and there is a decree to cease. The Jews start further work on the temple and send a request to continue. Subsequent to the temple completion the city is rebuilt and Nehemiah returns to rebuild the walls. Nehemiah finishes the wall by 49 years after the decree and returns to Babylon in the 49th year after the initial decree. Gabriel's word to Daniel is more consistent with the sequential chronology of Ezra/ Nehemiah.

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