Christian Churches of God
Reading the Law
Ezra and Nehemiah
(Edition 1.0 19980711-19980711-20071110)
The Restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah was of great significance. The way it was done and the time in which it was done were in implementation of biblical Law and the Jubilee system. This system has equal relevance to us today.
Reading the Law with Ezra and Nehemiah
Harmonising the events of Ezra and Nehemiah
Nehemiah undertook the restoration of the walls of the city of Jerusalem when he had asked permission of the king to return and rebuild the city from Nisan (Bab. Nisanu), in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes II (Neh. 2:1-20). He returned and organised the restoration in spite of the opposition of the enemies of Judah.
1In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Ar-ta-xerx'es, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. … 4Then the king said to me, "For what do you make request?" So I prayed to the God of heaven. 5And I said to the king, "If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may rebuild it."… 8 … And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me. (RSV)
The priests, under the High Priest, commenced the construction from the sheep gate, and the restoration of the city was done by the people in divisions (cf. Neh. 3:1-32; and see the paper The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 013)).
It was completed on the Twenty-fifth of the Sixth month Elul in fifty-two days (Neh. 6:15), during the twentieth year of the reign of Artaxerxes II. This was the year of the restoration of the wall, which commenced from Nisan with the edict to restore the walls and the city.
Despite opinions to the contrary, this year – beginning in October 386 and ending in October 385 BCE, following the Babylonian civil calendar – was not a Sabbath year, overlapping the Thirty-ninth year of the Ninth Jubilee before the ministry of Messiah. The birth of Messiah took place ca. 5 BCE in the previous Jubilee of 24 BCE to 27 CE.
How do we know this and how might we determine the Sabbath and Jubilees from other biblical sources?
Determining the Jubilee from other texts
There are two texts that can be used to determine the Jubilee and can be placed against the texts in Ezra and Nehemiah where we find the Reading of the Law recorded.
One reference is from the Old Testament (OT), and the other is the fulfilment of OT prophecy in the New Testament by Messiah.
The reference from the OT is in Ezekiel 1:1-3.
Ezekiel 1:1-3 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. 2In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin's captivity, 3The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him. (KJV)
The details of this vision are detailed in the paper The Meaning of Ezekiel’s Vision (No. 108). The calculation places the Thirtieth year of the Sacred Calendar in the fifth year of Jehoiakin’s captivity or 594 BCE. The reasoning is found in the table appended.
Thus based on a reconstruction from Ezekiel’s timings, the Jubilee fell in the year 574/3 and hence also 524/3, and thence 74/3 and 24/3 in the centuries BCE, and 27/28 and 77/78 in the centuries of this era.
This view is further supported by another major fact of prophecy involving the Messiah.
After the commencement of the fifteenth year of Tiberius, which could have been no earlier than the civil year in October of 27 CE, John the Baptist began to preach and to baptise (Lk. 3:1-22). The Holy Spirit called Jesus from Nazareth to be baptised by John sometime after John commenced his ministry, in other words, from after October of 27 CE.
After Christ was baptised he went into the wilderness and was tempted for forty days (Lk. 4:1-2).
From his return a significant and little understood fulfilment of prophecy occurs.
Luke 4:13-21 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season. 14And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about. 15And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. 16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (KJV)
Messiah had returned to Galilee from his forty days in the wilderness and in Nazareth had fulfilled this prophecy of God through Isaiah. The text is found in Isaiah 61:1-2 and also a compound from Isaiah 58:6.
Isaiah 61:1-2 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; (KJV)
The texts of Luke omit the words: to heal the broken hearted. The words, to set at liberty those that are bruised, are a compound from Isaiah 58:6, which was allowed for in the readings (cf. The Companion Bible n. to Lk. 4:18). This term, the acceptable year of the Lord, is identified by Bullinger as referring to the Jubilee in the text in Isaiah, and he says it is either the Jubilee or it is simply called that because it is the year Christ’s ministry commenced.
It is difficult to see how this can be the commencement of Christ’s ministry, because Christ did not commence his ministry until after the Passover of 28 CE when John the Baptist was put in prison (Mat. 4:12-17; Mk. 1:12-14; Jn. 3:23-24). He uttered these words in Galilee, but after his temptation and before Passover, and before John was put in prison. Luke 3:18-20 has a reference to John being put in prison, but it is an insertion to the narrative of the text. The imprisonment is not meant to fit in the text as a time indicator but rather in the sense of future complete action. The sequence is as a narrative encompassing the many acts of John and his ministry as he preceded Messiah and his ministry, even though they overlapped in detail. The activity in Luke chapter 4:1-20 is after his temptation and before the miracle at Cana, and before he selected his Apostles and went to Jerusalem for the period of the Passover from 1 Nisan and the Sanctification process through to the end of the period (cf. the paper Sanctification of the Temple of God (No. 241)).
So the ‘Reading of Isaiah’ took place in a Jubilee year, if it is compared with the timing in Ezekiel, and Naves Topical Bible refers to these texts as referring to the Jubilee (cf. Jubilee p. 755). It is also the Year of Liberty (ibid., cf. Ezek. 46:17). Thus Christ proclaimed the Jubilee in 27 CE, prior to the commencement of the year at 1 Nisan, and after the activities of John the Baptist and his baptism and trial of Satan in the temptation in the wilderness. His ministry then began in the First year of the Tenth Jubilee since the restoration of Ezra and Nehemiah.
If his next restoration begins from the Jubilee of 2027/28, the millennial restoration of 2028 will commence the fiftieth-Jubilee period, or Jubilee of Jubilees, from that restoration and after forty Jubilees in the wilderness since Messiah. Messiah will arrive prior to the Jubilee of 2027/8, as the time will be cut short (cf. the paper The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 013)). This text concerning Messiah stands as second witness to Ezekiel and confirms that the comments and timings in Nehemiah were of Sabbath and Jubilee systems.
The Sabbath Cycle and the Law
The Law is required to be read on the Sabbath year in accordance with Deuteronomy 31:9-12. This event occurred every Seventh year on the Sabbath. How might we reconcile this apparent contradiction in the biblical texts? The answer lies in the text in Nehemiah and Ezra. There are two Feasts of Tabernacles mentioned in Ezra. One is in Ezra 3:4-6. It says they kept Tabernacles and the New Moons, but says that the foundations of the Temple were not laid (v. 6). We know from the Aramaic letters in the Elephantine papyrus that a Passover was ordered by Darius II in 419 BCE. This was prior to the donations made to the dedication of the Temple in the Fifth year (apparently of Darius II) (cf. J.B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East... Vol. 1, Princeton, 1958, pp. 278-279). Thus the Feasts were being kept, and Ezra notes Judah as having kept Tabernacles prior to the completion of the Temple, virtually from their return, and well prior to this Reading of the Law at Tabernacles.
How might we reconcile the two texts and the sequence in Nehemiah? The answer lies in the time sequence listed in Nehemiah. From a cursory reading of the text of Nehemiah it appears that the story of the construction of the wall goes on from the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, after he issued the decree in Nisan. This was thus March/April of 385 BCE. The fact of the matter is that it was completed in fifty-two days on the twenty-fifth of the Sixth month (called Elul). Thus construction was commenced in the Fifth month on the second or third day of the month.
The gap is not a few months. It relates to the time between Nisan of the twentieth year of Artaxerxes II in 385 when Nehemiah was made governor, and the time of the Reading. The text in Nehemiah 5:14ff. has a reference to the next twelve years up to the Thirty-second year. Thus the activities related in the Reading of the Law could have happened in the intervening period, up to the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes II, which is the year of the Jubilee beginning in the Feast of Trumpets of the Jubilee according to the Babylonian civil calendar; and that is in fact what happened.
The twentieth year of Artaxerxes II began in the September/October or the new year of the Babylonian civil calendar, the month of Teshritu, which is preserved in the Jewish calendar name Tishri (the month of beginnings) of the year 386 BCE. The request and consent of Artaxerxes was given in Nisan or Nisanu of 385 in the middle of the twentieth year, Babylonian.
Bullinger holds that there was a gap of many years between the events in Nehemiah 7:73 and the events of Nehemiah 8:1, which we would hold to have occurred in the later period. That is either the case or the events referred to in Nehemiah 7:4 and 7:73 are over the same extended time-frame. It may be that the latter is the case and the events in 7:73 refer to the establishment of the nation in preparation for the allocations and restorations under the Jubilee that Seventh month, as we will see.
The thirty-second year of Artaxerxes II began on October 1st 374 BCE, which was the Seventh month of the Sacred Calendar, but the end of the year for Jubilee purposes, and the time for the blowing of the Jubilee on Atonement in that year. The thirty-third year began in the Seventh month of 373/2. Thus the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes II commenced in the year of the Jubilee – the Ninth Jubilee before Messiah’s ministry. The Reading of the Law might have taken place in either the Forty-ninth year Sabbath or the Jubilee itself. We shall see that it occurred in the Jubilee itself. Nehemiah’s account of it was made in the Twelfth year, seemingly just prior to 1 Nisan of the next year of 373 BCE. We will examine the time-frame below.
The text in Nehemiah chapter 5 speaks of the redemption of their people and thus it appears that the redemption is being done in the period subsequent to the construction, and this is a period of restoration found in a Jubilee (cf. Neh. 5:8-11).
Thus chapter 6 of Nehemiah goes back to a period long before the activities of chapter 5, which appear to be in the restoration of the Jubilee during the thirty-first and beginning the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes II. The harmony of the activities is in the Table appended.
In The Companion Bible, Bullinger correctly realises that these activities around the Reading of the Law relate to the Sabbath year, but his harmony at Appendix 58 of The Companion Bible is completely wrong, as a comparison with the Appendix will show.
The dates given in the Soncino for the activities of the twelve years of Nehemiah (cf. Soncino, p. 213) are not in accord even with the older rabbinical authorities (cf. Seder Olam Rabbah 30), and their view that the death of Ezra ca. 323 BCE is regarded as being synonymous with that of Alexander the Great. The comment appears to be an attempt to fall in with modern Protestant interpretations and to avoid the obvious condemnation of rabbinical Judaism made by prophecy, and the destruction of Jerusalem at the end of the seventy weeks of years of Daniel 9:25 (which is mistranslated in the KJV, but not in the RSV; cf. Soncino).
The end of the twelfth year of Nehemiah was in the thirty-third year of Artaxerxes II, which started from the civil calendar in the East from October or the seventh month under the Babylonian system. Nehemiah had completed the activities in the thirty-second year when he recorded the activities following from the Sabbath and Jubilee in 375/4 and 374/3 BCE counted from Atonement to Atonement. He wrote after Tishri 374 and seemingly prior to Nisan in 373. All the restoration had taken place when he wrote.
Another important factor is the time of his recall to Babylon and return to Jerusalem. Nehemiah is recorded in Nehemiah 13:6b as being away over the period of the destruction or apostasy of Eliashib.
Nehemiah 13:3-6 Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude. 4And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah: 5And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests. 6But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king: (KJV)
In the thirty-second year he returned from Babylon. He had been there some time with Artaxerxes. The wording in Nehemiah might be construed as indicating he was not present at the Reading of the Law and the separation of the Mixed Multitude (Neh. 13:3-6). Eliashib was still High Priest and had set up Tobiah in a chamber in the Temple. The priests had not been properly cared for, and this is not evident in the text on the Reading of the Law in chapter 8. The text more probably indicates that he was not present over the apostasy of Eliashib and came back for this restoration. The before this of Nehemiah 13:4 is the subject of the text of in all this time of verse 6.
Based on the Babylonian calendar we understand that Nehemiah must have returned for the New Year to Babylon. He returned when he heard of the problems there following on the Reading of the Law. No doubt the people were in discontent. This explains why the High Priest did not read the Law, and the restoration was left to Ezra the scribe and later enforced by Nehemiah the governor. We will see later what the actual sequence was.
The conclusion is that the Law was read and the restoration occurred in the year of Jubilee from 375/4-374/3 BCE in the Seventh month of the Sabbath year, and ended in the Seventh month of the Jubilee year.
The Reading of the Law
From the records we see that the Reading of the Law commenced on Trumpets and continued on to the second day. From this we can deduce that Trumpets fell on a Friday of that year and hence was followed by a Sabbath. Trumpets is never a two-day festival in the Bible text except when it falls with the Sabbath. The timings of the Feast and the Reading of the Law confirm this proposition, as we shall see.
Allegedly, by the Seventh month the entire nation was organised, the Temple was restored, the priests were set and their garments were provided (Neh. 7:73). This appears to contradict the text in Nehemiah 13:11. Perhaps the timing of the activities in 7:73 is earlier and the gap between activities is in between chapter 7 and chapter 8 of Nehemiah. We will examine this further.
Nehemiah 7:73 So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities. (KJV)
Thus the ‘reading’ takes place later. Israel had seemingly been organised for this event. The explanations of this text are assisted by reference to the rabbinical commentaries.
Nehemiah 8:1-18 And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel.
The restoration of the nation was essential to the restoration of the Law in its entirety. The Soncino makes the commentary on verse 1:
With the city walls completed and a feeling of national security restored the leaders take measures to establish national consolidation by presenting the people with the Divine Code with which their corporate existence was bound up.
The term in the Hebrew rendered street here is actually broad place. The Soncino comments that it “may have been the same as in Ezra x:9 which is said to have been situated before the house of God between the east wall and the southeast part of the Temple”.
Ezra, the scribe and priest, was held to have been the founder of the Keneseth Haggedolah or Great Assembly which is held to have formed the link between the prophets and the early schools of the rabbis (cf. Soncino n. to v. 1). This view is necessary because there is no direct link or authority in time for the Pharisaic or Rabbinical systems.
The Soncino holds that the fact that Ezra was not included in the list of those who rebuilt the wall means he was too old for hard labour. This can hardly have been the case if he died in 323 BCE in accordance with the traditions. He was given the decree for the provisioning of the Levites and the refurbishment of the Temple in the seventh year of Artaxerxes II. It had stood since its construction in the sixth year of Darius II without its full accoutrements. It still did not have the full outfits of the priests (Neh. 7:70-71), until this final period leading up to the events in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes. The Soncino seems to be trying to vacillate between the ancient record and the modern Protestant versions, and fails to explain the problem as the opening comments on verse 1 indicate (cf. also the paper The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 013)).
There is no indication that Ezra is of a great age at all here. He was certainly not the High Priest. For this reason it is speculated that he may have been back in Babylon over this period of the building of the wall (cf. Soncino). Whatever the case, he was in a position as a priest, teacher and scribe of the Law to be performing this function. He seems to have taken over as de facto leader, with Eliashib actually in disfavour through his profaning of the Temple. What we are seeing here is a religious revolution where the High Priest and his staff had failed the people, and the restoration was occurring without them in the absence of the Tirshatha or governor, who was in Babylon, but with his knowledge (cf. Neh. 13:4-5, 6-7). It appears that he was absent.
From the text in Nehemiah 13:6, it seems that at the start of the thirty-second year he asked permission to return to Jerusalem probably for the religious restoration of the Temple, from the problems we read of under Eliashib up until that time. Nevertheless, he is recorded as personally contributing a substantial amount of money and goods for the restoration and refurbishment of the Temple and priesthood. This was October 374 from the Babylonian New Year, as the next Babylonian New Year of Teshritu or Tishri commenced the thirty-third year of Artaxerxes II. All activity had been completed prior to the Seventh month or Tishri of 373. We might assume from below that Nehemiah returned in Tishri prior to Tabernacles, and seemingly in time for the period of Trumpets. Thus Nehemiah 13:6 must be intended to indicate he returned for the thirty-second year and the wording is clumsy in the translation, or there is another explanation.
Continuing in Nehemiah 8:
2And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. 3And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
The text here is literally: with the understanding to hear. The concept is not simply “all but the children” as the Soncino sees it, but rather those with the capacity to act on what they heard and to internalise it. The Bible uses the concept hear without hearing of the spiritually blind (cf. Prov. 20:12; 28:9; Eccl. 1:8; Isa. 33:15; Mat. 13:13-15; Lk. 8:10; Acts 28:26-27; Rom. 10:17; Gal 3:2,5). Hearing is of faith.
The term first day concerning Trumpets has the meaning that the timing here was a two-day activity. The First day was the Feast of Trumpets and New Moon. This event heralded the restoration. Can we substantiate this timing, and what can we learn from it?
New Moon timings at Jerusalem for 375 BCE were:
Sept. 12th 6:40 p.m. on Julian day 1584709
Oct. 12th 6:05 p.m. on Julian day 1584739
The first of the month on each day was on the 13th day of September and October and hence on the next Julian day for each month.
1 Tishri was September 13 in 375 BCE. This commenced the year of Jubilee until it was blown at Atonement 374 BCE.
New Moon timings at Jerusalem for 374 BCE were:
Sept. 1 at 6:27 a.m. on Julian Day 1585062
Oct. 1 at 6:29 a.m. on Julian Day 1585092
Hence, from standard rules, 1 Tishri was October 1, 374 BCE.
The calculations regarding 374 BCE determine a number of very serious issues that were hidden or ignored by the rabbinical authorities.
It appears that there has been a more or less deliberate policy of concealment between the rabbinical authorities and mainstream Christianity for centuries. The true situation removes all doubt and proves both sides in error and condemned by their traditions. It does, however, demonstrate the faithfulness of the Judaic system in keeping the Sabbath and the week intact over the entire period.
The determination of the calendar by reference to Tishri alone as being determined by the equinox is also shown to be false here. The equinox falls in September, and in this year that would have put the New Moon too early in Nisan, according to the generally accepted calendar rules regarding the equinox in Nisan. However, Trumpets would not have been on a Friday but on the much more problematic Sunday in this case. If, however, the standard rules for Nisan are followed here – as understood by the early Church and as observed in the Temple period according to Sadducean rules, and also by the Samaritans – then October 1 becomes Trumpets and this falls on a Friday, as we would expect from the wording of the text. However, there are also a number of other fictions destroyed here.
The restoration is thus understood to have occurred on the Jubilee over the period of the Seventh month right through to the Last Great Day, and the restorations occurred, as we would have expected, under the Law. It appears from the text in Nehemiah that they only came to fully understand this matter during the Sabbath year and implement it on the Seventh month of the Jubilee itself, and seemingly in opposition to the High Priest and his entourage. Perhaps that also explains why the Temple is incidental to this restoration in the Reading of the Law.
The postponement system is shown to be false, as the New Moon occurred at 6:29 a.m. There are also back-to-back Sabbaths involved here. Thus the conjunction system is seen to have been in place, as we would expect from our knowledge of the Sadducee and Samaritan systems in operation during the late Temple period, and from the Mishnah regarding back-to-back Sabbaths, and also Atonement.
Thus the activities specified here in Nehemiah relate to the restoration, and are what we would expect to occur in a Jubilee following a Sabbath year. The preparation of the Sabbath year was tied into the Jubilee and marked a great restoration period of Judaic history.
The text demonstrates that on this occasion Trumpets was followed by a second day. The Bible is silent on a two-day festival of Trumpets and the Rabbis try to insinuate that this was a two-day Rosh HaShanah in justification of their traditions. The Soncino says this was Rosh HaShanah, the New Year, a day of holy convocation, and quotes Leviticus 23:24. However, it is conveniently silent on God’s explicit direction that Abib or Nisan was to be the beginning of months and hence the New Year to Israel (Ex. 12:2). Rosh HaShanah, the Babylonian New Year in Tishri, was not introduced until the post-Mishnaic period from the 3rd century after the death of Christ (cf. Kohn, The Sabbatarians of Transylvania).
Verse 3 says that Ezra read the Law until midday. This is not to be construed that the people did not continue after midday. The Soncino holds that it was either that the explanations were continued by others from that time, or there was a break for the midday heat. The text goes on to explain exactly what happened. The pulpit referred to here was in effect an elevated stage, which carried fourteen priests. Nehemiah 8 continues:
4And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: 6And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 7Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. 8So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
The sequence was that the people stood up for the blessing and then the Law was read and explained to them by the priests and Levites over the reading (some names appear again in 9:4 and 10:10ff.). The sense is understood as standing or paying attention to the Reading of the Law and not talking (cf. Job 32:16). Thus it is not simply a matter of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, or even only one – namely, the text of Deuteronomy – as some have done. The Law must be explained precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little (Isa. 28:10-13). These precepts of the Law were understood as explained also by Moses, as we see from Hebrews 9:19.
The text in verse 8 indicates all the priests present had access to the Law and explained it. Perhaps this was done by allocation of time to individuals or the priests were allotted to specific areas.
9And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. 10Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
This day was explained as Holy and a Feast of the Lord and so it was not the weekly Sabbath, which would have needed no explanation, but the Feast day that was on the First day. "Go your way and eat the fat and drink the sweet and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared" is an ordinance regarding the Feasts and providing for the poor. Thus Nehemiah is recorded as being present for the Feast of Trumpets, and the text in Nehemiah 13:6 must be taken to indicate that he returned from Babylon for the thirty-second year. It could not be the next year as he says the thirty-second year. The thirty-third began at the New Moon of Tishri 373, which was the Babylonian New Year. Nehemiah indicates this all happened in the thirty-second year, and to harmonise both texts he had to return for Tishri of 374. He would have returned for this very important event and his support had obviously been enlisted previously. He states he had not been there during the events prior to the thirty-second year.
Thus there are three alternatives surrounding the events and texts concerning Trumpets 374 BCE.
1. The likely alternative is that Nehemiah came back for Trumpets and the Restoration. The rest of the text seems to indicate that fact also.
2. Alternatively, the Book of Nehemiah, his text, might have included him because he sent his support and orders for the provisions of the sacrifices as required under the Law, but he himself arrived on or after Trumpets and before Tabernacles, and was thus included in the record of the activities. He was still Tirshatha or governor, whether he was in Babylon or in Jerusalem.
3. The third alternative is that he arrived at the separation after Tabernacles and then established the Temple, and is referred to in the text in deference. This is an alternative that might be construed from the text in Nehemiah 13:3-6 read in isolation, and taking into account that he was there some days into the thirty-second year. However, read in conjunction with chapter 7, it appears that chapter 13 is rendered in that way obscuring the intent.
The time-frame is, however, exact for the purposes of determining the month and year, and leaves no room for error. It can not be the year before commencing from the civil year at Babylon, and the next year begins at Trumpets according to the civil calendar of the Babylonians imported into Judea by the populace and adopted by the Pharisees and later Rabbinical traditions inherited from them.
If the timing was taken from Nisan to Nisan in deference to the biblical timing then the activities took place from March to October 374 BCE, and no problem exists at all. Darius II is recorded as dying in 405 BCE by Bernard Grun (The Timetable of History, 3rd ed., Touchstone, 1991, p. 14), and supports this contention (cf. W. Stein Kulturfahrplan). This is in fact the real solution and has far-reaching consequences for the rabbinical system. The current Egyptian government position is that Darius II was dead by Spring 404 BCE (Egyptian Ministry of Tourism, http://www.touregypt.net/index.htm). The Oxford Classical Dictionary ('Artaxerxes II', 3rd ed., 1996, p. 182; cf. P. Briant De Cyrus á Alexandre, 1996) gives Artaxerxes’ reign as 405/404-359/358. The solution is very simple and very important for modern Judaism, Christianity and Islam together.
The Babylonian civil calendar was not used in the references here in Ezra and Nehemiah. This is what would be expected of a true religious restoration. The references are to the Sacred Year commencing in Nisan. The timings are all based on Nisan to Nisan and hence the year began in Nisan, and the references in Nehemiah relate to Nehemiah returning at the beginning of the thirty-second year counting from Artaxerxes’ assumption on the death of his father Darius II. Nehemiah returned sometime after 1 Nisan and in time to get the Temple ready and take part in the festivities, as he is recorded as doing by Ezra. This was a true restoration of God.
The implications of this fact are far reaching indeed. It probably explains why the dates of his assumption and the details are so badly exposited by Judaism and Christianity alike. It demonstrates that the Babylonian calendar and the Babylonian New Year are features of late post-Temple period rabbinical Judaism inherited from the Babylonian rabbis. Their calendar system has nothing to do with and never has had anything to do with the true Temple system. For this reason Judaism goes along with the Protestant system and tries to place the construction of the Temple and the prophecy of Daniel in the reign of Darius I, instead of Darius II, despite the clear direction of the Book of Ezra and the direction of the early rabbinical writings, which make Ezra contemporaneous with Alexander the Great, both dying in 323 BCE.
The fact of the matter is that the Hillel calendar and the Rosh HaShanah system are anti-biblical fabrication of Babylonian rabbinical Judaism, and have nothing to do with the Bible system as restored here by Ezra and Nehemiah and used during the Temple period. Rosh HaShanah and that calendar are as pagan as the Greek gods placed with it in the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes. It was this false system of worship at Jerusalem in the Temple which made the construction by Onias IV of the Temple at Heliopolis necessary, in accordance with the direction of God in Isaiah 19:19.
The people at the Restoration of Ezra and Nehemiah wept because they had not been following the Laws of God, and they had not kept the Laws even though it is recorded that they had kept Tabernacles and the Passover (cf. Ezra 3:4). The reaction is like that of Josiah in 2Kings 22:11,19. The duty of the prince is to provide the sacrifices from the Prince’s Levy and so it is probably Nehemiah as Tirshatha (or governor) that is speaking in verse 10 (contrary to the assertion of the Soncino). Continuing with Nehemiah 8:
11So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. 12And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.
From their study and grief through their awareness of their neglect of the Law, they still found joy in the Law and the bounty of God. They should have been reading the Law every Sabbath year and not just here on the Jubilee. There is no record of a comparable event or Jubilee-type activity in the subsequent year. The Law was read here in this year and it marks both the Reading and Restoration activities. It should also be considered that the Law is perhaps read at the end of the Seventh Sabbath at the Tabernacles of the Jubilee, maybe instead of, but more likely in addition to, the beginning of the Jubilee in the Seventh month of the Forty-ninth and Sabbath year.
13And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law. 14And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: 15And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
The species here such as the myrtle or hadas shoteh were distinct from the lulab or palm branch as employed in religious ceremony. The wild olive is literally the oil tree (cf. Isa. 41:19; and Soncino).
This text on Booths is found in Leviticus 23:40, and so it is Torah that was read and not just Deuteronomy.
16So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. 17And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. 18Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner. (KJV)
The name Yeshua is the Hebrew form of what we understand as Joshua, and rendered Jesus from the Greek.
It is obvious that the Feast of Tabernacles was held in the early days of the return, as we see from Ezra 3:4. Thus this Feast was distinct and different from the usual. The Soncino attempts to explain it as being in the joy with which it was celebrated, but that is another problem. The answer lies in the type of activities undertaken. The restorations of property, of usury and lands and also of the Israelites themselves make this celebration distinctive as a Jubilee and one following on from what we would expect to see in the Sabbath and the restoration of the Law.
The restoration of debts was exacted as required in the Jubilee year as we see in Nehemiah chapter 5. From Nehemiah 5:14ff., this was seemingly undertaken in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes, which was from October 374 BCE in the Babylonian calendar, but from Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, as we see. The comments inserted into Nehemiah chapter 5 from verse 14 onwards after the events in question detail the timing.
The year can be determined from the calendar given the years of the reign of Artaxerxes II mentioned in this book, and the years of the Sacred Calendar. The structure and timings are also in the paper The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 013).
The Reading of the Law is done every Sabbath year in accordance with Deuteronomy 31:10-12. The term for the book of the law is understood as Torah and the reference is made also in Deuteronomy 30:10. The term is understood as the Torah Scroll. Bullinger makes the same comparison and refers also to 2Kings 22:8 and 23:25, and he makes a note on Exodus 17:14 to which he refers. 2Kings 22:8-13 in comparison with 23:25 shows that the entire Book of the Law was to be observed and because it was not the nation would be punished (vv. 14 ff.).
We see from verse 18 that the Law was read day by day and so it is not acceptable simply to read it on the Last Great Day, or on any day alone. The Feast was kept each day according to Law, and the Eighth day was a solemn assembly as the Last Great Day (cf. Lev. 23:36; Num. 29:35ff.) with its specific sacrifices (cf. Soncino).
On the Twenty-fourth day of the Seventh month the people then separated themselves. The Soncino holds this was two days after the Feast of Tabernacles, or more correctly two days after the Last Great Day. Bullinger holds this to be a different occasion, but the Soncino is probably correct as it was kept as a fast. This was the first day that it was possible to fast and do these actions as the Last Great Day fell on a Friday also in 374 BCE. The first day after the Feast was a Sabbath and hence no fast would have been undertaken. The Twenty-fourth was the first opportunity and also confirms the timing as noted above.
Apologising for the sins of the fathers is not strange as we see here, and in the Psalms and in Ezra 9:6-15. The repentance of the individuals was subsumed in the nation of Israel. The individual is part of the national whole and hence there is a total identification in the shame and in the repentance from idolatry introduced by foreigners (cf. Ezra 9:2; Davies, Soncino).
Here on this day they read the text of the Law for a quarter of a day and then confessed their sins before God for another quarter day. The Soncino says they spent half the time listening to the recital and then the other half confessing and praying. This follows the format of the reading where the Law was read until midday and then explained.
The National Covenant that was made on the Twenty-fourth day of Tishri is extracted from Genesis and can be compared with the texts in Isaiah 43:16; 44:6; Psalm 83:19; 1Kings 22:19; Psalm 78:14; 103:21; Exodus 3:7; 13:21; 14:15ff.; 15:10; 18:11; 19:20 and Numbers 14:14.
The Soncino holds the note in 9:14 referring to Thy Holy Sabbath is to be compared to the rabbinic dictum, The Sabbath outweighs all the commandments of the Torah (p. Ned. 38b). This is in express contrast to the words of Messiah where the two Great Commandments of the Law are paramount, as quoted also by Gamaliel.
One can only infer from this view that if the commandments to observe the Sabbath year and the Reading of the Law as required by express command of God to Moses through Jesus Christ was kept then there would be no misunderstandings. The Reading of the Law eliminates the intrusion of the traditions and enables the restoration of the Jubilee and the land Sabbath. Reading the Law obeys the will of God and empowers our people and gives a vision of the Plan of Salvation.
It is important to note also that the Forty-ninth year Sabbath of this Jubilee was seemingly also related to the seven weeks of years, i.e. forty-nine years of the prophecy of Daniel 9:25.
Daniel 9:25-27 Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war; desolations are decreed. 27And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator." (RSV)
Thus this restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah was foretold by God through the prophet Daniel, as part of the seventy weeks of years. These were also tied into the Jubilee system. The last days for repentance of the Jewish people in the Temple period were thus during the Sabbath year of 69/70 CE. They did not repent of their apostasy and false traditions, and so by 1 Nisan 70 CE Roman armies under Titus had surrounded Jerusalem. Everything is done to God’s great Jubilee system. The last seven-year period saw Judea go into captivity. The last seven years of the Forty-ninth Jubilee from the beginning of the seventy weeks of years prophesied by Daniel and leading into the restoration of Ezra/Nehemiah will see the Messiah return and pour desolation out upon the desolator.
The Sabbath year of the Twenty-first year of the Fortieth Jubilee from Messiah is identified from this text as 1998. The Reading of the Law and the restoration of the understanding of the Jubilee system and Calendar are enabled from this activity in the Last Days.
The Sabbath year of 1998 was important in this sequence because it follows the demarcation points in the sequence of important Jubilees and millennia. 1996 was the 3000th anniversary or Sixtieth Jubilee of David’s entry to Jerusalem. It was the 2000th anniversary or Fortieth Jubilee of the birth of Messiah. 1997 marked the end of the Time of the Gentiles timed from seven times or 2,520 years since the invasion of Egypt by the Babylonians under Cambyses in 525 BCE, following on from the two forty-year periods from Nebuchadnezzar’s victory over them at Carchemish in 605 BCE.
The next three Sabbath periods to 2019 will see the final breakdown of the Earth’s system prior to the coming of the Messiah. 2027 is the Fortieth Jubilee since the ministry of Messiah. 2028 is the first year of the Jubilee of Jubilees, the Fiftieth Jubilee since the order to build the Temple and the restoration of Ezra and Nehemiah. In that Jubilee Messiah will establish his millennial system and rulership of the planet under God’s Laws.
God’s Plan is done decently and in order according to His Law and His Calendar systems. Praise the Lord God of Hosts that He has given us the keys to restore His system according to His word.
Appendix to Reading the Law with Ezra and Nehemiah:
Notes on the determination of Jehoiakin’s captivity
The determination of the captivity is centred on the determination of Adar and WeAdar or Adar II in the year in question. This has a vital effect on the placement of the Jubilees in the years 27/28 and 77/78 or in 28/29 and 78/79 of the centuries of the current era. The month of Adar has the effect in the ancient regnal calculations of making a complete year for purposes of counting. This effect is seen most emphatically in the determination of the fifteenth year of Tiberius, as recorded in Luke for the commencement of John the Baptist’s ministry (cf. the paper Timing of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection (No. 159)).
The determination of the month of Adar and (We)Adar in 597 BCE is determined by the phases of the moon. The Judaica makes note on the captivity and places 2 Adar on 15/16 March of 597 BCE.
The Encyclopaedia Judaica, Volume 6, article ‘Ezekiel’, page 1082, footnote 1 states:
The year-count in the dates starts from the exile of King Jehoiachin (1:2; 33:21; 40:1), datable by a Babylonian chronicle to 2 Adar (mid-March) 597. However, II Chron. 36:10 has the exile beginning at "the turn of the year" -- i.e., the next month, Nisan, the start of Nebuchadnezzar's 8th year (II Kings 24:12). The era of the exile thus began in Nisan (April) 597, and its years, like Babylonian regnal years, ran from Nisan to Adar.
This is incorrect. The Jews refer to Adar 1 as Adar and to Adar 2 as and Adar or WeAdar. They do not use the terms Adar 1 and 2; it is simply Adar and Adar.
The reference to the turn of the year in 2Chronicles 36:10 refers to the equinox in March. It does not refer to the month of Nisan. The Bible reference to the turn of the year for Tabernacles also means in the period of the September equinox. The vernal equinox falls within WeAdar seven times in every nineteen-year cycle. There is thus no conflict whatsoever between the Babylonian Chronicles and 2Chronicles on the issue of the captivity.
Ezekiel’s reference is to the thirtieth year. Such reference is not to any thirtieth year of any known king or system. The simple statement is taken as understood in the Old Testament text.
There is also another restoration by Whiston which is incorrect, being based on a faulty structure of the regnal years. Some confusion occurs from this sometimes.
Determining the New Moons for 597 shows us there was a WeAdar in that year.
The New Moon fell on 12 March at 1500 hours Jerusalem LMT. The next New Moon fell on 11 April at 0733 hours. The equinox fell on 27 March at 1333 hours Jerusalem LMT.
It is more than 14 full days from the 12 March 597 to 27 March 597 afternoon to afternoon where we have sixteen days. So March cannot be the New Moon nearest the equinox, and 11 April at 0733 hours is the New Moon of Nisan. We thus have a WeAdar and the 2nd of WeAdar is 14/15 March, even assuming 13 March as the beginning of the month and not 15/16 March as Judaica holds.
The captivity thus occurred at the turn of the year, i.e. at the time of the equinox, which was in WeAdar and on 2 WeAdar or 14/15 March or 15/16 March on Jewish reckoning.
The year is thus calculated from the previous year’s commencement in April 598 BCE.
April 597 BCE is thus the beginning of the second year; 596 BCE is the beginning of the third year; 595 BCE is the beginning of the fourth year; and 594 BCE is the beginning of the fifth year of Jehoiachin’s captivity.
Table of the reign of Artaxerxes II and the activities of Ezra and Nehemiah
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 before in the period end 405 to spring 404.
Artaxerxes II (Arsakes) faces Egyptian rebellion on accession (spring or Nisan 404).
Artaxerxes loses Egypt.
Civil war in Persia. Greeks defeated at Battle of Cunaxa and they retreat to the Black Sea coast.
Provisioning decree issued for the return of Ezra in Seventh year, probably rewarding Jewish loyalty (Ezra 7:1-26).
Artaxerxes defeats the Spartans and stops their meddling. The king's peace sees Persia re-occupy Ionia.
Nehemiah is made governor of Judea from Nisan 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 Israelite Jews obviously supported the king. This was the year of the Restoration under Ezra and Nehemiah. It began with the decree in Nisan. The walls were finished on the Twenty-fifth day of the Sixth month in time for the restoration and the Reading of the Law in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes II, being the Thirty-ninth year of the Ninth Jubilee before the ministry of Messiah.
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 to 375/4 BCE. This was also year 49 of the Jubilee. Timings are from Nisan to Nisan.
Nisan of the Jubilee year of 374 BCE commences the 32nd year of Artaxerxes II. It is not specifically stated whether the restoration of lands by Nehemiah was a Jubilee restoration. It was a Jubilee year and it seems likely that this was the case and that this, therefore, was the last known observed Jubilee.
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).