The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 013)

The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple Page 15

Christian Churches of God

No. 013

The Sign of Jonah

and the History of the

Reconstruction of the Temple

(Edition 5.0 19940402-19980822-20071211-20080106-20110910-20011127)

One of the most misunderstood concepts is that of the Sign of Jonah. This was to be the only sign given for the ministry of Messiah. The sign relates to the reconstruction of the Temple and that of the seventy weeks of years. The sign extends on to and has relevance for our days. The prophecy is still in operation and ends in the near future. The understanding of the correct timing of the reconstruction of the Temple is vital. This paper interrelates the Gospels and Christ’s mission with the Books of Jonah, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai and others.

Christian Churches of God



(Copyright ã 1994, 1998, 2007, 2008, 2011 Wade Cox)

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The Sign of Jonah and the History of the

Reconstruction of the Temple

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The Reconstruction of the Temple

There are three versions concerning the reconstruction of the Temple: the first is the Bible, the second is the Apocrypha at 1 Esdras, and the third is by Josephus in The Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, Chapters I to IV.

All are agreed that Cyrus delivered up the artefacts of the Temple to Sheshbazzar, the Prince (Ezra 1:8) or Governor (Ezra 5:15 or 1 Esdras) of Judea for safekeeping until the construction of the Temple was effected, and they were carried back with the returning exiles. Except for Josephus (The Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. XI, Ch. III, see note on Reign of the Magi), Zerubbabel is recorded as Governor later during the reign of Darius (at the relaying of the foundations), and the Apocryphal legend of the three guards, as also found in Josephus, which is set in this reign (Zerubbabel may have returned with others in the time of Darius I, but this is speculation).

The altar of the Lord was built in the Seventh month of the first year of their return. Most of the exiles went to their towns and not to Jerusalem (if not all the exiles in accordance with the prophecy; Ezra 3:1-3). The foundation of the Temple was not yet laid (v. 6). Work was begun in the second year with the foundation laid (v. 10). From this time onward, the Jews were frustrated in their attempts by the inhabitants of the area, the latter-day Samaritans, who were not Israelites but Cutheans and Medes, who were resettled in Israel after the Ten Tribes had been taken away as a deliberate policy by Esarhaddon, King of Assyria. Josephus says that they were transplanted from Cuthah and Media by Shalmaneser, King of Assyria. The policy of deliberate resettlement was a characteristic of all the Tigris-Euphrates Empires and affected countries as far removed as Ethiopia and Libya that were removed as far as the Indus Basin. Israel was resettled north of the Araxes. Remnants of Israel in the later years moved into hovels along the Euphrates and are found amongst Judah, giving rise to the assertion that Israel is scattered amongst Judah. This fallacy has been supported by some of the most eminent Rabbis of the East.

The Cutheans and Medes or ‘latter-day Samaritans’ adopted the Jewish religion, and in later years they established a city, Shechem, below Mt Gerizim, which was peopled by apostate Jews, i.e. those who were in fear of judgment for infringements of the Law in relation to the Sabbath and meats etc. (Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, Bk. XI, Ch. VII:2 and VIII:6-7; and Ezra 4:2).

The following table depicts the sequence of events according to the Bible, using currently accepted dates, although Josephus may differ significantly.

There was a Temple constructed in the middle of the fifth century BCE by the Samaritans. The foundations have been found to resemble the foundations at Jerusalem, which were laid on the return but not completed until the reign of Darius II a century later, and after the structure at Gerizim.

Josephus has been proven wrong on his dates about the works on Mt. Gerizim. Dr. Yitzhak Magen has excavated the original Temple and dated it to the mid-fifth century BCE. 13,000 Persian coins were found in the tithe area. There were 68 different coins, the earliest dated to 480 BCE. The pottery was fifth century through the fourth century. The bones of the sacrifices are dated to the fifth century. At the archaeology conference in Copenhagen in 2006, it was announced that Josephus was wrong with his dating (cf. Y. Magen, Mt Gerizim Excavations, Vol. I, Judea and Samaria Publications, JSP II, Israel Antiquities Authority 2004 ISBN 965-406-160-0 ISBN 13: 978-965-406-160-5). The details indicate a temple and priesthood active at Gerizim from the middle of the fifth century (say up to 343 years) prior to Hircanus's destruction, from 113 BCE. That is why the construction at Jerusalem was opposed so vehemently by these people, as the Bible states.

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539 BCE / Conquest of Babylon by Cyrus and Darius the Mede, son of Astyages (called Xerxes by Daniel), uncle of Cyrus and first regent, ruling from Babylon and Media, to where he took Daniel (Josephus, Antiq. of the Jews, Bk. X, Ch. XI:4).
538/7 BCE / Edict of Cyrus.
Return of the exiles (date uncertain). They returned to the towns of Israel, but not to Jerusalem.
? / Sheshbazzar lays the foundation of the Temple (Ezra 5:16). The foundations may have had to be relaid by Zerubbabel when he commenced construction after constructing the altar (Ezra 3:2). It is probable that Sheshbazzar is the Shenazzar at 1Chronicles 3:17-19, son of Shealtiel and brother to Pediah, father of Zerubbabel. It is probable that Zerubbabel succeeded Sheshbazzar as Governor while still a young man. Matthew 1:12 records Zerubbabel as the son of Shealtiel, indicating that Pediah would have died young and Shenazzar or Sheshbazzar succeeded Shealtiel as Prince Regent of Judah and was in turn succeeded by Zerubbabel, either when he came of age or on the death of his uncle.
530-522 BCE / Reign of Cambyses. He reigned for one year jointly with Cyrus, his father. Josephus refers to a letter of complaint written to this king, but no record is found in the Bible. Attempts have been made to link him with the letter to Ahasuerus, but this is the Persian rendering of Xerxes and is rendered as such by Moffatt, NIV and others. Herodotus records that this King was mad.
525 BCE / Completion of the riddle of the prophecy of Pharaoh's broken arms in its first stage by Cambyses' occupation of Egypt (Ezek. Chs. 29-30 et seq.), i.e. eighty years from 605 BCE.
522 BCE / Reign of the Magi (Josephus records). The Magi were slaughtered after one year’s reign and Darius, son of Hystaspes, was elected as king by the seven principle Persian families. Zerubbabel returned from Judea for the vessels of God that were still at Babylon (possibly a contradiction). Smerdis, the Magus, was substituted for Smerdis, son of Cyrus, murdered at the order of Cambyses.
He reigned for seven months until he and his brother, Patizeithes (the author of the substitution), were discovered and beheaded in the night of the slaughter of the Magi (the Magophonia). He was not a king in the true sense of the word and issued only one decree giving a three-year remission of taxes. He was confined to the palace for fear of discovery, which occurred regardless, because Cyrus had earlier cut off the ears of Smerdis the Magus for a serious crime. This pseudo-Smerdis is sometimes used as one of the alleged three kings mentioned in Daniel 11:2-4. The four kings mentioned are more likely to be Cambyses, Darius, Xerxes and Cyrus Artaxerxes. The remaining kings were not as involved although Darius II interfered in Greek affairs by entering into treaty with Sparta (Thucydides The Peloponnesian War, Bk. 8:5,6,36,37,57-59). Herodotus writes of the last three at Histories, Bk. 6, p. 100:
During the three generations comprising the reign of Darius the son of Hystaspes and of his son Xerxes and his grandson Artaxerxes, Greece suffered more misery than in the twenty generations before Darius was born partly from the Persian wars, partly from her own internal struggles for supremacy.
After Cyrus Artaxerxes, Persia was so committed to hostility with Greece that it was inevitable that Greek reaction came as it did in the form of Alexander.
521 BCE / Darius I (the Great). There was little construction on the Temple (Ezra 4:4-5).
516 BCE / Prophecy of the seventy years expires (Jer. 25:8-14 and Dan. 9). Jerusalem could not have been inhabited until this date.
486 BCE / Xerxes I (Ahasuerus), fourth son of Darius I, first grandson of Cyrus. Letter written to him, but no reply is recorded (Ezra 4:6).
465 BCE / Artaxerxes I (real name is Cyrus, also called Macrocheir or Longimanus). Letter written to him by Bishlam, Mithredath and Tabe-el (Ezra 4:7); the leaders of the anti-Jewish restoration group during this king's reign. (These are different to the leaders mentioned by Nehemiah, further reinforcing the point that two different kings are involved.) Artaxerxes issued a decree ordering construction on the Temple to stop (Ezra 4:7-24). The Athenian invasion of Egypt with the League of Delos would have prompted the harsh control measures to be adopted.
The revolt was put down in 454 BCE in Egypt and in other parts of the Empire. A fortified Jerusalem was obviously not desirable. The Greek war lasted from the burning of Sardis in 501 BCE to the seventeenth year of Artaxerxes in 448 BCE.
424 BCE / Xerxes II (no biblical record). Assassinated in 424 after 45 days by Sogdianus his illegitimate brother who reigned for 6½ months. He was assassinated by another illegitimate brother, Ochus, who became Darius II in late 424 BCE / early 423 BCE.
423 BCE / Darius II. Decree issued to commence construction in 422 BCE (Ezra 6:1 and 4:24) (i.e. his second year). 70 weeks of years commences. From Ezra 5 it appears that Haggai and Zechariah prophesy in 423 BCE and 422 BCE. 70 weeks of years commences from 423/22 BCE (i.e. first year of the new Jubilee period). Construction completed in sixth year of Darius the Persian (Ezra 6:15) in 3 Adar, i.e. March 418 BCE. Darius dies in the period end 405 to spring 404. The Temple at Mt. Gerizim may also have been commenced at this time, but probably not before 465 to 448 BCE (see above).
404 BCE / Artaxerxes II (Arsakes) faces Egyptian rebellion on accession in spring or Nisan 404 BCE.
402 BCE / Artaxerxes loses Egypt.
401 BCE / Civil war in Persia. Greeks defeated at Battle of Cunaxa and they retreat to the Black Sea coast.
398 BCE / Provisioning decree issued for the return of Ezra in seventh year, probably rewarding Jewish loyalty (Ezra 7:1-26).
387 BCE / Artaxerxes defeats the Spartans and stops their meddling. The king's peace sees Persia re-occupy Ionia.
385 BCE / Nehemiah is made Governor of Judea from 385-372 BCE when the city and walls were reconstructed (Neh. 5:14). Eliashib is High Priest (Neh. 3:1). This was the second letter or decree of Artaxerxes. This was for the reconstruction of the gates of the fortresses of the Temple and for the walls of the city (the Temple was already constructed - Neh. 6:10-11). The city would appear to have been damaged in the civil war in which the Babylonian and Israelitic Jews obviously supported the king.
375/4 BCE / This completes the prophecy at Daniel 9:25 of the first Anointed One of the 7 weeks of years, i.e. 49 years from 423/2 BCE - 375/4 BCE.
374/3 BCE / The Jubilee year commences at 374 BCE in 32nd year of Artaxerxes II. It is unclear whether the restoration of lands by Nehemiah was a Jubilee restoration. It seems likely that this was the case and that this, therefore, was the last known observed Jubilee.
374/3 BCE
323 BCE / Thirty-second year of Artaxerxes. Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem from Babylon and finds the Temple in disarray under Eliashib and Tobiah (Neh. 13:6). Nehemiah restores the Temple and provisions the Levites and singers who return to the Temple (Neh. 13:10-11). He re-establishes the tithe and cleanses the Sabbaths (Neh. 13:12-19).
Ezra dies in the same year as Alexander the Great (Seder Olam Rabbah 30).
62/63 CE / End of 62 weeks of years and the effective elimination of the tithe and the reduction of the high priesthood to criminality with the execution of James, Bishop of Jerusalem in 62 CE.
70 CE / The end of the 70 weeks of years and the destruction of the Temple.
73 CE / Fall of Judea and the Masada.

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Josephus has Zerubbabel returning immediately after the decree of Cyrus. The letter to Ahasuerus is the letter to Cambyses, and construction is completed in the reign of Darius I – with Ezra and Nehemiah returning in that reign, and the prophets Haggai and Zechariah being raised up in the second year of that reign also. According to him, construction would be completed in 516 BCE. 519-516 BCE was the very earliest time that was allowed for in the prophecy of seventy years made by Jeremiah and repeated by Daniel when giving the time for which Jerusalem would be desolate. The time sequence is too convenient and, had things gone according to the earliest contingency allowed by the prophecy, there would have been no need for the missions of Haggai and, to a lesser extent, Zechariah to order them to get on with the job (Hag. 1:2-15). Ezra 4:23 and 5:1-2 show that Haggai and Zechariah were appointed after the decree of Artaxerxes forced cessation of construction (see also 1Esdras 7:5).