Daniel 9 Commentary and Independent Evaluation of the Four Major Interpretations – Summary

This Daniel 9 Commentary provides an overview of the prophecy, discusses the key points of dispute and analyses the four major interpretations:
– The Consistent Symbolical,
– Liberal-Critical,
– Dispensational and
   – Historical-Messianic Interpretation.

Overview of the prophecy

This section is a summary of the article Overview Daniel 9.

When Daniel received the prophecy in Daniel 9 in 538 BC, the Jewish nation was in captivity in Babylon, and Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins.  The first 19 verses of Daniel 9 record Daniel’s prayer for the temple and the city.  While he was still praying (9:21), the angel Gabriel appears to him and gave him the extremely compact prophecy.  It covers only four verses (9:24-27), but is critical for our understanding of end-time events.


Gabriel told Daniel that seventy weeks have been decreed for his people and their holy city.  Israel’s calendar followed a seven-year cycle in which every seventh year was a Sabbath for the land (Lev. 25).  The 70 weeks are 70 of those seven-year cycles, and consequently equal to 490 years.  The is confirmed by the Covenant in Daniel 9.


The prophecy has two major foci:

The one is the city Jerusalem.  Daniel prayed for Jerusalem (9:18), and Gabriel told him that Seventy Weeks were decreed for the city, starting with “the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” (9:25).  Jerusalem will be rebuilt (9:25), but, Daniel had to also hear that Jerusalem would again be destroyed (9:26).

The other focus of the prophecy is “Messiah the Prince”:  He will appear at the end of 69 weeks (483 years), but “will be cut off”, which means he will be killed.  For more detail, see Poetic Pattern.


The 70 weeks is sub-divided into three sub-periods; 7 weeks (49 years), 62 weeks (434 years) and 1 week (7 years).  All the action is reserved for after the long period of 49+434=383 years, implying that the purpose of the long period of 483 years is simply to locate the last seven years in time.  The last week is therefore the real purpose of the 490 years.


The seventy weeks has a specific purpose.  Gabriel announced six glorious goals for the seventy weeks, including “to make an end of sin” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (9:24).  These goals, namely to solve the sin problem of the whole human race, were to Israel to fulfill, and Israel was given 490 years to fulfill these goals.  This the last seven years are the real purpose and core of the prophecy, these six goals were to be fulfilled during those seven years.


The last seven years are interpreted by liberal scholars as the work of Antiochus IV, 168 years before Christ, by traditional Protestantism as fulfilled in the seven years around Christ’s death and by Dispensationalism as the work of the Antichrist during the seven years prior to the return of Christ.

This extremely compact prophecy gave to Israel six glorious goals, and gave them 490 years to fulfill these goals.  But it also promised the messiah, through whom these goals would be fulfilled.  However, neither the Liberal-Critical not the Dispensational interpretations include Jesus Christ in the last week, which is the real purpose of the prophecy.

Messiah after 49 Years

Daniel 9 prophecies a period of 490 years.  It also predicts that a messiah will appear.  In some translations the messiah appears at the end of the first 49 years.  In other translations the messiah appears after the first 483 years.  This difference in the translations is due to assumptions with respect to punctuation, for there was no punctuation in the originally text of Daniel 9.  The article When does the Messiah Appear? shows that the messiah appears after 483 years.

Same Crisis?

Does Daniel 9 describe the same crisis as the other prophecies in Daniel?

The article Same Crisis compares the Daniel 9 prophecy to the other prophecies in Daniel and concludes that Daniel 9 deals with Israel specifically, and with the 490 years allocated to her, while the other prophecies deal with all nations and cover all time from the time of Daniel to the Return of Christ.  Another difference is that the other prophecies are symbolic, while Daniel 9 does not use symbolism at all.

Jeremiah’s 70 Years

The Daniel 9 prophecy was received in the year after Babylon was conquered by Cyrus (9:1).  Daniel knew that LORD revealed to Jeremiah that Babylon will rule for 70 years.  These 70 years were from 609 BC to 539 BC.  Daniel also knew that God promised to restore Israel to Jerusalem after those 70 years (Dan 9:2).  These things caused him to pray for His people and for Jerusalem.  For a detailed discussion, see Jeremiah’s 70 years.

Five Decrees

The 490 years begin with a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.  Restore means to return the city to the Jews to serve as their capital from which they would rule their whole nation, according to their own laws.  In the article Which Decree, four Persian decrees are considered:

(1) The decree by Cyrus in 538/7 BC allowed Jews to rebuild Jerusalem, but did not give Jerusalem back to the nation to serve as their national capital.

(2) The decree by Darius I 520 BC simply confirmed Cyrus’ edict.

(3) The decree by Artaxerses I 457 BC for the first time granted autonomy of Judah, and if we add 490 years to 457 BC, we come to the time of Christ.  This was therefore the decree referred to in the prophecy.

(4) The second decree by Artaxerxes—in 445/4—was too late to fit the time of Christ and simply confirmed his previous decree.

Prayer and Prophecy form a unit

Daniel 9 consists of two parts; the prayer by Daniel, and the prophecy which Daniel received even while he was still praying.  A separate article shows that the Prayer and Prophecy form a unit:

God promised, through Jeremiah, to bring Israel back from exile in Babylon after 70 Years (Jer. 29:10).  When Daniel prayed, in Daniel 9, the 70 Years of Babylonian exile was nearly over and Daniel prayed for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophetic promise.

In response God sent Gabriel to give Daniel the 70 Weeks prophecy as assurance that Jeremiah’s promise will be fulfilled.

Covenant in Daniel 9

Leviticus 26 lists the covenant curses, climaxing in exile.  They would be in exile one year for every Sabbath year not observed;then the land will enjoy its sabbaths”.  But if Israel in exile would confess its iniquity, then Israel would be restored to Jerusalem.

Through Jeremiah God informed Israel that they will be in exile for Seventy Years. 

The Leviticus 26 covenant sequence of disobedience – exile – confession – restoration is the central theme in Daniel 9, and binds together prayer (confession) and prophecy (of restoration).  For more detail, please see Covenant in Daniel 9.

Covenant in Daniel 9:27

During the last of the seventy weeks “he” will “confirm the covenant” with “the many”.  The article Confirm the covenant shows that this refers to God’s covenant with Israel.  Through the seventy weeks-prophecy God extended His covenant with Israel for a further 490 years.  But during those last seven years the Messiah will confirm God’s covenant with many from Israel.  After that God’s covenant with Israel comes to an end.

Chronological sequence in Daniel 9

The prophecy lists 8 events, but not chronologically.  The prophecy has alternates between two foci—Jerusalem and the Messiah.  The Jerusalem-events are in chronological order and the Messiah-events are in chronological order.  For further information, see Chronological sequence in Daniel 9.

End of the Covenant

The 490 years promised to Israel in Daniel 9 came to an end a few years after the Cross; at the stoning of Stephen: In those first few years after Jesus died, when the Holy Spirit worked with power through the disciples, the gospel was preached only to Jews.  The Christian Jews continued to live like Jews.  Christianity was a sect of Judaism, with its headquarters in Jerusalem.  Two to four years after the Cross the Jewish persecution of the Jewish Christians commenced with the stoning of Stephen.  This was the end of the 490 years which God added to His covenant with Israel through Daniel 9.  For more detail, please see the separate article Stoning of Stephen.

Consistent Symbolical Interpretation

The major interpretations all understand the Daniel 9 prophecy to be literal, in contrast to the other prophecies in Daniel, which are symbolic.   In the Consistent Symbolical Interpretation everything is symbolic.

Critical View of Daniel 9

The book Daniel was written during the Babylonian Empire in the sixth century BC and contains very precise predictions of the later Medo-Persian and Greek Empires.  The liberal critical view of the Bible, which dominates the academic centers of the world, makes the a priori assumption that knowledge of the future is impossible.  It therefore must show that Daniel was written after the events it predicts.  Its solution is that Daniel was written during the second century BC crisis under Antiochus IV, and that Daniel contains no predictions of events beyond than time.  But if this is true, then Daniel 9 predicts 490 years from the decree to restore Jerusalem until Antiochus, while there are less than 400 years between the Babylonian Empire and Antiochus.  These scientists therefore propose creative solutions.

For a discussion of this view, read: The critical interpretation of Daniel 9.


Seven articles are devoted to Dispensationalism Daniel 9.  See Dispensationalism.  The objections to this view in these articles may be summarized as follows:

Timing Indications

This section is a summary of the article Time indications in Daniel 9.


The 490 years began with “a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem”.  Dispensationalism takes this as Artaxerxes’ second decree.

However, the word “restore“, in the original text, does not mean to rebuild.  Restore means to give the city back to its previous owner. Artaxerxes first decree in 458/7 BC already restored Jerusalem as judicial and executive capital to the nation.  Artaxerxes second decree only dealt with the physical construction of the city walls.

Furthermore, adding 483 years to the second decree does not brings us to the time of Christ, while adding 483 years to his first decree does bring us to the time of Christ; more specifically, to His baptism.  For detail, see Which decree.

Difference in dates

Different renowned Dispensational interpreters use different years for Artaxerxes’s decree and for the Cross.  This raises some doubt over to the calculations.

Prophetic Years

Since the second decree of Artaxerxes is too late to fit the time of Christ, Dispensationalism reduces the first 483 years by about 7 years by interpreting these as “prophetic years” of 360 days each; rather than literal years of 365 days each.

However, the Jewish calendar was divided into cycles of seven years each, with each seventh year a Sabbath year.  God warned Israel that they would be in exile one year for every Sabbath year not observed.  They were in exile for 70 years, which therefore represent 70 weeks of years (490 years) of disobedience (prior to the exile).  This implies that the 70 weeks of years promised by Daniel 9 is a renewal of God’s covenant with Israel for a further 490 literal solar year.

This is confirmed by the fact that the covenant pattern (disobedience – exile – repentance – covenant renewal) forms the framework for Daniel 9.  For a discussion of this fundamental issue, see Covenant in Daniel 9 or the section Seventy Weeks in Time indications in Daniel 9.

Triumphal entry

Messiah the Prince” will appear after 69 weeks (483 years – 9:25).  Dispensationalism takes this as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days prior to His crucifixion.

However, that was not His appearance, as required by 9:25; it was His disappearance.  Jesus began His work as Messiah about three years earlier at His baptism, where He was anointed and introduced to Israel.

Covenant suspended at the Cross

Dispensationalism assumes that God suspended His covenant with Israel at the Cross.

However, God continued His covenant with Israel for about four years after the Cross.  Actually, God’s strongest effort ever for the hearts of the Jewish nation came in those years after the Cross.  At that time God sent His Holy Spirit with power, but only to Jerusalem and only to Jews.  See Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church.  God’s covenant with Israel, and therefore the 490 years, only came to an end when the Jews rejected the Holy Spirit by persecuting His Spirit-filled disciples.  Then, for the first time, God allowed the gospel to be preached to Gentiles. See Judea and Samaria Phase of the Early Church.

Whose Covenant?

This section is a summary of the article Whose covenant is confirmed in Daniel 9:27; God’s covenant with Israel or the devil’s?.

Dispensationalism interprets the covenant in 9:27 as a covenant of an end time Antichrist.

However, it is proposed here that this is God’s covenant with Israel, for God’s covenant with Israel is the central theme throughout the entire Daniel 9.  An analysis of the covenant in Leviticus 25-26 and of Daniel 9 shows that Daniel 9 follows the covenant pattern: Disobedience – Repentance – Covenant Renewal.  See The Covenant in Daniel 9.  This covenant theme binds together the prayer and prophecy into a single unit and implies that the 490 years promised by Daniel 9 are a time-limited extension of God’s covenant with Israel.  The last part of it (the last week in 9:27) must therefore also be God’s covenant with Israel.

The word “confirm” (9:27) in the phrase “confirm the covenant” supports this conclusion, for it means that this covenant existed prior to the 70th week.  Then it can only be God covenant with Israel.

The covenant in 9:27 is confirmed with “the many”, which also supports this conclusion, for this phrase most often refers to God’s people.

Who confirms the Covenant?

This section is a summary of the article Who confirms the covenant?

Dispensationalism assumes that the “he”, who will confirm the covenant with the many for seven years (9:27), is the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD 70 (9:26), and that this prince will reign during the last seven years before Christ returns.

However, it cannot be this prince, for he is a supernatural being, representing the Roman Empire.

The following indicates that the “he” is the Messiah that is cut off in 9:26:

The Daniel 9 prophecy has a poetic pattern: it repeatedly shifts the focus back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  In this pattern “he” in the first part of verse 27 is the Messiah.

The Messiah is the dominant figure in the entire prophecy, and therefore the appropriate antecedent for “he” in verse 27.

The purpose of the 490 years is to solve this world’s sin problem (9:24) through the killing of the messiah (9:26), while an end will be made to the sacrificial system (9:27).  In the light of the New Testament this is a prediction of Christ’s mission.  The animal sacrifices pointed forward to the Lamb of God.  This astounding sacrifice caused all animal sacrifices to cease in terms of meaning.  In this context the “he”, who makes an end to the sacrificial system, is the Messiah; the Lamb of God.

When are the last seven years?

This is a summary of the article Last seven years.

In Dispensationalism the last week is the last seven years before Christ returns, when the Antichrist will rule.  The entire church age is a gap or parentheses between the first 483 years and the last seven years, when the prophetic clock stopped.

Abomination of desolation

Dispensationalism finds support for a gap between the first 69 weeks and the 70th week in Matthew 24:15, where Jesus mentioned the “abomination of desolation”.  Dispensationalism claims that Jesus here referred to the stop that will be put to sacrifice in the last week (9:27) and that Jesus put the “abomination of desolation” at the end of the age.

However, the parallel verses in Luke 21:20-23 shows that the abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15 refers to the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem in AD 70.  See Little Apocalypse.  If we assume that Jesus in Matthew 24:15 referred to Daniel 9:27, as Dispensationalism does, then Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:15 confirms that the “abominations … desolate” in the last part of 9:27 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, which means that the last week must be prior to AD 70.

Chronological sequence

Dispensationalism assumes that there must be a gap between the first 69 weeks and the 70th week because the “firm covenant” (9:27) of the last week is mentioned after the destruction of the city in AD70 (9:26).

However, the events in the prophecy are not presented in chronological sequence.  For example, the prince causes sacrifices to cease (9:27) after the sanctuary is destroyed (9:26).  See Chronological Sequence in Daniel 9.

Destruction of the Roman Empire

Dispensationalism interprets the last part of 9:27 as referring to the destruction of the Roman Empire, and since the Roman Empire was not destroyed in Christ’s time, it argues that this verse must describe end-time events.

However, the prophecy has a Poetic Pattern, and in that patterns the last part of verse 27 is the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, already mentioned in 9:26.  This is confirmed by the repetition of words from 9:26 in 9:27.  The last week, described earlier in verse 27, must therefore be prior to AD 70.

Other arguments against an end-tem fulfilment of the last week include:

(1) How can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it ceased to exist?

(2) Verse 27 is the core of the Daniel 9 prophecy.  All important events occur after the long period of 69 weeks (483 years).  The purpose of the 69 weeks is therefore merely to foretell the timing of the events of the last week.  Hence, to postpone that final week of years and to propel it far into the future is to defeat the purpose of the 69 weeks.

(3) The wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a break or gap.

(4) It has already been concluded above that it is the Messiah that confirms God’s covenant with Israel during the last week.  The last week therefore cannot be the time of an end-time Antichrist.

Because of the emphasis which Dispensationalism places by on the Antichrist rule during the last seven years, the Daniel 9 prophecy is converted from a prophecy about Christ into a prophecy about the Antichrist.

Other Anomalies

This section is a summary of the article Other Anomalies.

Rebuild again 

The Daniel 9 prophecy explicitly promises that Jerusalem will be rebuilt.  This was fulfilled with the rebuilding of Jerusalem a few hundred years before Christ.  But Dispensationalism reads into 9:27 that the temple will be rebuilt again, namely during the last seven years before Christ returns.  There is no evidence in the text for a second rebuilding.  If the temple was to be rebuilt after the destruction of verse 26, would the prophecy not have explicitly stated this, given that it is so clear about the rebuilding in verse 25?

Furthermore, there can never be a valid return to the old covenant and its earthly temple worship.

Breaks his covenant

In Dispensationalism the Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel and “put a stop to sacrifice” in the middle of the last seven years.

However, according to 9:27 the covenant is confirmed for the full seven years.

Furthermore, since the full 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people (9:24), the sanctuary services will not be stopped during the 490 years.

Return of Christ 

In Dispensationalism the last week ends with the return of Christ, but the prophecy in no way indicates the return of Christ.  If the 490 years are to end with Christ’s return, would verse 27 not end with a description of His glorious return, as the other prophecies in Daniel do?  In contrast, the Daniel 9 prophecy ends with the accumulation of desolations and chaos.

Goals fulfilled 

In Dispensationalism the 70 weeks do not include the death of Christ, and the goals in 9:24 have not been fulfilled by the Cross.  Dispensationalism proposes that these goals will be fulfilled at the end of the last seven years, with the return of Christ.  But this proposal denies Israel its responsibility and it denies the 490 years their purpose.  The goals in 9:24 were set for Israel to achieve, and Israel was given 490 years to accomplish those goals.  In other words, these goals were to be achieved during the 490 years, through Israel.

The Goals of 9:24

Dispensationalism argues that the last week must be in our future because the goals set for the seventy weeks (9:24) have yet not been fulfilled.  This is true, but remember, these goals were given to Israel and Israel was given seventy sevens (490 years) to fulfil them.  But Israel failed.  If Israel succeeded in their task, the Daniel 9:24 goals would have been fulfilled.  Since they failed the kingdom of God has been taken away from them.  For more detail on this important subject, see the article Daniel 9:24.

Historical-Messianic Interpretation

This interpretation is called Messianic because it interprets this entire prophecy as pointing to Jesus Christ.  It is called historical because the full 490 years is interpreted as past history.  Daniel 9 has been understood this way ever since the early church.  It is only in the recent centuries that dispensationalism and liberal criticism have become the dominant interpretations.

Eight short articles have been written to explain this interpretation.  See Historical Messianic Interpretation.  It may be summarized as follows:

Start of the 490 years

The “decree” (9:25) that began the “seventy weeks” was Artaxerxes’s first “decree” of 458/7 BC.  This decree restored Jewish self-rule through Jerusalem.  See Which Decree.

49 years later

There is no messiah after the first 49 weeks.  Using the punctuation as reflected in the NASB, the Messiah the prince appears at the end of 483 years.  This is Jesus; the One that is called Christ.  See When does the Messiah Appear?

At the end of 483 years

The Messiah appeared when He was anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism.  This also marked the inauguration of His public ministry.  He was baptized in AD 26/27, exactly 483 years after the decree in 458/7.

Last Seven Years

The last “one week” of years follows immediately after the 69th; therefore immediately after His baptism.  There is no gap, as in Dispensationalism

The “he” who makes a firm covenant with many for one week is still Jesus Christ, and the covenant is God’s covenant with Israel.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 extended God’s covenant with Israel for a final 490 years.  Jesus made the covenant strong (Young’s literal translation):

By His personal preaching for 3 or 4 years before His death, and

By sending His disciples to Israel, powered by the Holy Spirit after His death, when the infant church was still a Jewish sect, .  In those seven years the gospel went exclusively to Jews.  God’s covenant with Israel therefore did not come to an end when they crucified the Messiah.

Midst of the week

The Messiah who is cut off (killed) is our Lord Jesus Christ.  “In the midst of the week” (that is, 3 or 4 years after His baptism), Jesus caused the cessation of the entire system of sacrifices appointed for Old Testament times by offering Himself as the once-for-all and all-sufficient sacrifice for sins.  The sacrificial system lost its meaning at the Cross because it pointed forward to the Lamb of God.

The goals

During the last seven years, including through His atoning death, the purposes of the seventy weeks, as set out in verse 24, were to be fulfilled.  These include to make “atonement for iniquity” and bring in “everlasting righteousness” (9:24).  For more detail, see When will the Daniel 9:24 goals, set by for the 490 years, be fulfilled?

End of the 490 years

The 490 years came to an end when “heno longer “confirm the covenant with the many” (9:27).  The phrase “seventy weeks are cut off for your people and your holy city” (v. 24), also implies the end of God’s covenant with Israel at the end of that period.  The kingdom of God was taken away from the Jews (Mat. 21:43).

When was Jesus crucified?

Scientists are unable to determine the year in which Christ died with certainty.  The chronologist must be content to simply cite the range of possibilities and their likelihood.  Some give the most probable date as April, AD 30.  If Jesus was baptized in AD 26/27, then April, AD 30 was approximately in the middle of the seven years after His baptism.

Jerusalem destroyed

Since seventy weeks were decreed for Jerusalem (9:24), the city was destroyed after the end of the seventy weeks.  God did not purpose the Jewish nation to fail, but through their rejection of the Holy Spirit they lost their divine protection.  This led to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

In summary

The decree of Artaxerxes in 458/7 “restored” Jerusalem to the Jews.  In AD 26/27, 483 years later, Jesus was baptized.  3 or 4 years later, in AD 30/31, He was crucified.   Another 3 or 4 years later, in AD 33/34, God’s covenant with Israel came to an end.  The period from 26/27 to 33/34 is seven years, with the crucifixion “in the midst of” these seven years.  Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, after the end of the seventy sevens.

490 years

The historical-messianic interpretation offers those that accept it a testimony to God’s foreknowledge.

Concluding Thoughts

The essence of Daniel 9:24-27 is that within 500 years from the restoration of Jerusalem (after the Babylonian captivity) and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Messiah would arrive.  It is understandable that the Talmud places a curse on those who attempt to compute the seventy weeks of Daniel (Sanhedrin 97b (Soncino ed.), p. 659).

It is an irrefutable fact that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his public ministry 483 years (69 weeks) after Artaxerxes’ first decree.  Furthermore, the specifications of the prophecy find complete fulfillment in the events during the seven years around the Crucifixion.

While objections can be raised against all four of the major interpretations of Daniel 9:24-27, the historical-messianic interpretation is not subject to the difficulties encountered by the other systems.  The exact date of the crucifixion and of the end of the 490 years remains uncertain, but compared to the difficulties facing the other interpretations, the relative chronological uncertainty appears to be insignificant.


A person that accepts Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of this prophecy is astounded by the mathematical exactness of the prophecy, received five hundred years prior to those tremendous events that changed the entire course of human history.  Daniel 9:

Confirms that God knows the future precisely.

Proves Jesus Christ to be the true and only Messiah.

Affirms the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible when predicting future events.

These give me confidence that we will one day see God with our own eyes.  The things that we read about in the Bible are really true.  There is a wonderful future ahead of us.

The accurate fulfill­ment of the prophecy is compelling support for the argument that Daniel is real prophecy written in the 6th century BC, and not in the second century BC, as liberal scholars propose.

Messiah focus

Daniel did not pray for a Messiah.  He prayed for Jerusalem and the temple.  But the prophecy he received includes a Messiah because the purpose of the additional period awarded to Israel was to bring fourth the Messiah, and through the Messiah, to achieve the goals listed in verse 24.  Israel would be restored, but as a means to an end.

There is no greater unfolding of the gospel provisions in all the prophetic Word than is revealed here and in Isaiah 53.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 is precious because it sets forth Jesus Christ as our atoning sacrifice, made on Calvary nineteen centuries ago.   We are all sinners and do not deserve to live.  Through Him, through faith, we are justified from our sin.

TO: General Table of Contents

Nehemiah – summary of book

This is a summary of the book of Nehemiah.  This book is important for the interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel.  Some propose that the decree of the king, which is recorded in Nehemiah, is the “word” of Daniel 9:25.

This book also describes an important part of Israel’s history.  Judea and its people were completely destroyed by the Babylonians.  But through Nehemiah and others God effectively gave Israel a new beginning.


Hanani and some other men from Judah (1:2) told Nehemiah (1:1) that the Jews in Judea are in great distress and reproach, that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and that its gates are consumed by fire (1:3).

When Nehemiah heard this, he “wept and mourned for days” (1:4).  He fasted and prayed (1:4) on behalf of Israel, confessing their sins (1:6).  He prayed that God would make him successful when he would appear before the king (1:11).  He was the king’s cupbearer (1:11).

In the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes (2:1) Nehemiah “took up the wine and gave it to the king” (2:1).  The king asked him, “Why are you sad?”  Nehemiah was very afraid and answered (2:2), “Let the king live forever.  Why should I not be sad when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lies desolate and its gates have been consumed by fire?” (2:3)

Then the king asked, “What would you request?” (2:4) Nehemiah responded, “If it pleases the king … send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it. (2:5) If it please the king, let letters be given me for the governors of the provinces beyond the River, that they may allow me to pass through until I come to Judah, (2:7) and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates and for the wall of the city.” (2:8)

The king granted to Nehemiah what was requested because the good hand of my God was on him (2:8).  The king also sent with Nehemiah army officers and horsemen (2:9).


The Samaritans—the Jews’ enemies (4:1-3)—were very displeased that someone had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel (2:10).

Nehemiah did not tell anybody what God put into his mind to do for Jerusalem (2:12, 16).  He first went on an inspection tour and found the walls broken down and gates consumed by fire (2:13, 17).  The officials did not know where Nehemiah had gone; nor had he as yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials or the rest who did the work (2:16).  Then he said to the Israelites: Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach (2:17).  He told them how the hand of God had been favorable to him and what the king said (2:18).  The Israelites agreed (2:18).

When Samaritans heard about these plans, they mocked the Jews (2:19), but Nehemiah said to them:

The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem. (2:20)

The Israelites divided the work amongst themselves.  Different teams worked on different parts of the walls and gates (3:1-32)

When the Samarians heard that the Jews were rebuilding the wall, they became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews (4:1, 2).  They said:

What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble? (4:2)  Even what they are building–if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down! (4:3)

Nehemiah prayed to God to punish the Samarians (4:4).  The Jews continued to work hard (4:6).  When the whole wall was joined together to half its height (4:6) the Samarians were very angry (4:7).  They conspired together to fight against Jerusalem (4:8).

The Jews prayed to God, and set up a guard day and night (4:9).  Nehemiah stationed men in the lowest parts of the wall; the exposed places (4:13).

Some Jews became discouraged when they heard what the Samarians planned (4:10-12).  When Nehemiah saw their fear, he spoke to them:

Do not be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses (4:14).

Then all the Jews returned to the wall (4:15).

From that day on, half of Nehemiah’s servants carried on the work while half of them held weapons (4:16).  The builders did the work with one hand and held a weapon in the other (4:17), with their swords girded at their sides (4:18).  They even took their weapons to the water (4:23).

Because the Jews were separated far from one another while working (4:19), Nehemiah, arranged that they would call one another by means of trumpets in case of an attack (4:20).

They worked from dawn until the stars appeared (4:21).

Nehemiah ordered the people to sleep within Jerusalem so that they may also serve as guards by night (4:22).


Now there was a great outcry of the people against their Jewish brothers who are exacted usury from their fellow Jews for use of the land.  Apparently the nobles and the rulers exacted usury from their fellow Jews (5:7) for the use of the fields and vineyards, and apparently this with by command of the king (5:4).  Nehemiah held a great assembly against them (5:1-7) and spoke sternly to them (5:8-10).

He demanded that they “give back to their fellow Jews this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses … and of the grain, the new wine and the oil that you are exacting from them.” (5:11)  They agreed (5:12).  Nehemiah “took an oath from them that they would do according to this promise” (5:12).   He threatened them that God would punish them if they do not fulfill this promise (5:13).  Then the people did according to this promise (5:13).

The governors before Nehemiah taxed the people (5:15), but during the 12 years that Nehemiah was governor in the land of Judah he never demanded the people to pay tax (5:14).  Nehemiah himself and all his servants worked on this wall.  He did not buy any land (5:16).  Nehemiah had to feed 150 people on a daily basis, besides visitors from the surrounding nations (5:17).  This required a large quantity of food (5:18).  Yet Nehemiah never taxed the people (5:18).


When their enemies heard that the Jews had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time the doors in the gates have not been set up (6:1), their enemies invited Nehemiah to meet on the plain of Ono.  But they Nehemiah knew they were planning to harm him (6:2) and refused (6:3).  Four times they sent messages in this manner, and Nehemiah answered them in the same way (6:4).

Then their enemies sent a letter (6:5) saying that the Jews are planning to rebel, and that this will be reported to the king (6:6-7).  They again asked Nehemiah to meet them (6:7).  Nehemiah denied the accusations (6:8).  Their enemies were trying to frighten them (6:9).

One fellow Jew advised Nehemiah to meet with him within the temple, with all the doors closed.  He said that their enemies are coming to kill him at night (6:10).  Nehemiah also refused this (6:11).  He perceived that his enemies hired this Jew (6:12) to get Nehemiah to sin, so that they could reproach him (6:13).

Nehemiah prayed to God to punish their enemies (6:14).


The wall was completed in fifty-two days (6:15).  When surrounding nations saw it, they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of their God (6:16).

In those days many letters went from the nobles of Judah to Tobiah—an influential Samarian ruler—and Tobiah’s letters came to them (6:17).  Many in Judah were bound by oath to him because he had many important connections (6:18). They also spoke about Tobiah’s good deeds in Nehemiah’s presence and reported Nehemiah’s words to him (6:19).

When the wall was rebuilt and the doors set up, the Jews appointed gatekeepers, singers and Levites (7:1).  Nehemiah appointed Hanani—his brother, and Hananiah in charge of Jerusalem (7:2).  He instructed them to appoint guards and to guard the city carefully (7:3).  At that time the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few and the houses were not built (7:4).

Then God put it into Nehemiah’s heart to enrol the people by genealogies (7:5). He found the book of the genealogy of those who first to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city (7:6, 7).  In total there were 42,360 (7:66) and also 7337 servants, 245 singers (7:67), 736 horses, 245 mules (7:68), 435 camels and 6720 donkeys (7:69).  Some from among the heads of fathers’ households gave to the work (7:70-72).

Now the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants and all Israel, lived in their cities. And when the seventh month came, the sons of Israel were in their cities. (7:73)


All the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they requested Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel (8:1).  Ezra brought the law before the assembly on the first day of the seventh month (8:2).  He read from it from early morning until midday; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law (8:3). Ezra stood on a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. Beside him stood his helpers (8:4).  When Ezra opened the book, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God and the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands.  Then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground (8:6).  Also Ezra’s helpers explained the law to the people (8:7).  They read from the book—the law of God—translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.  All the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law (8:9).

Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra and the Levites said to the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” (8:9) Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to their Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (8:10-11).  All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them (8:12).


On the second day the heads of fathers’ households of all the people, the priests and the Levites were gathered to Ezra that they might gain insight into the words of the law (8:13).  They found written in the law how the LORD had commanded through Moses that the sons of Israel should live in booths during the feast of the seventh month (8:14).  So they issued a proclamation in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying,

Go out to the hills, and bring olive branches and wild olive branches, myrtle branches, palm branches and branches of other leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written. (8:15)

So the people went out and made booths, each on his roof, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim (8:16).  The entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them.  The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day.  And there was great rejoicing (8:17).

They read from the book of the law of God daily, from the first day to the last day. They celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly according to the ordinance (8:18).


On the 24th day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them (9:1).  The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers (9:2).  They read from the book of the law of the LORD their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God (9:3).

The Levites stood on a platform and they cried with a loud voice to the LORD their God (9:4):

They praised the LORD God who made the heavens, the earth the seas and all that is in them, and gave life to all of them (9:5-6).

They recounted Israel history referring to Abraham (9:7), the land God promised him and to his descendants (9:8), the affliction in Egypt, their cry by the Red Sea (9:9), the signs and wonders against Pharaoh (9:10), the pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire by night, the laws (9:12), good statutes and commandments received at Mount Sinai (9:13), His holy Sabbath (9:14), the manna and the water from the rock (9:15).

When God instructed the Israelites to enter the promised land (9:15) they acted arrogantly and would not listen to God (9:16), appointing a leader to take them back to their slavery in Egypt.  They tell about the calf of molten metal (9:18), but that God did not forsake them (9:17, 19).  God gave His good Spirit to instruct them, His manna and water for their thirst (9:20)

For forty years He provided for them in the wilderness.  They were not in want.  Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell (9:21).  God also gave them the land (9:22).  God made their sons as numerous as the stars and brought them into the Promised Land (9:23).  God subdued before them the inhabitants of the land (9:24).  But they became disobedient and rebelled against God, killed His prophets who had admonished them and committed great blasphemies (9:26).

Therefore God delivered them into the hand of their oppressors.  But when they cried to God in their distress, God delivered them from their oppressors (9:27-28) and admonished them in order to turn them back to His law.

Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen sinned against God’s ordinances (9:29).  God bore with them for many years, yet they would not listen.  Therefore God gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands (9:30).  Nevertheless, in His great compassion God did not make an end of them (9:31).

They pleaded that the mighty and awesome God, who keeps covenant and lovingkindness, consider the hardship which has come upon the Israelites from the days of the kings of Assyria to this day (9:32), confessing that God is just in all that has come upon them, for they have acted wickedly (9:33-37).

Then they made an agreement in writing (9:38).  All the people (10:28) took on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of GOD their Lord (10:29):

  • that they would not intermarry with the peoples of the land (10:30);
  • that they would not buy on the sabbath or a holy day;
  • that they will forego the crops the seventh year and the exaction of every debt (10:31);
  • that they would annually contribute for the service of the house of their God (10:32-33);
  • that they would supply wood to the house of their God, to burn on the altar (10:34);
  • that they would bring the first fruits to the house of the LORD (10:35);
  • that they would bring the firstborn of their sons and cattle to the house of their God (10:36);
  • that they would bring the tithe of their ground to the Levites (10:37);
  • that the Levites shall bring up the tenth of the tithes to the house of their God (10:38);
  • that they will thus we will not neglect the house of their God (10:39);

At that time the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem, while nine-tenths remained in the other cities (11:1).  Some volunteered to live in Jerusalem (11:2).


At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem all the Levites and the singers were brought to Jerusalem (12:27-29).  The priests and the Levites purified themselves, the people, the gates and the wall (12:30).  Two great choirs were formed (12:31).  The choirs followed two different routes through Jerusalem (12:37,38), with the people following them with trumpets (12:32, 35) and with the musical instruments of David the man of God (12:36).  And Ezra the scribe went before them (12:36).  Eventually the two choirs took their stand in the house of God (12:40) and they sang (12:42).  On that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy. The joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar (12:43).

On that day men were appointed over the stores and contributions and tithes for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites, for they performed the worship of their God and the service of purification (12:44-45).

On that day they read aloud from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people; and there was found written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God (13:1).  So when they heard the law, they excluded all foreigners from Israel (13:3).

Nehemiah had to go back to Babylon for a time.  During this time Eliashib, the priest, being related to Tobiah (a Samarian), had prepared a large room for him in the courts of the house of God (13:4-7).  When Nehemiah returned he threw all of Tobiah’s household goods out of the room (13:8) and gave an order and they cleansed the rooms (13:9).

While he was away contributions to the Levites had not been given them, so that the Levites and the singers who performed the service had gone away, each to his own field (13:10).  Nehemiah reprimanded the officials and brought the Levites back to Jerusalem (13:11).  All Judah then brought the tithe of the grain, wine and oil into the storehouses (13:12).


Nehemiah saw some working and buying on the Sabbath.  So he admonished them and the nobles of Judah (13:15-16-17).  He said: “Did not your fathers do the same, so that our God brought on us and on this city all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.” 13:18

Nehemiah ordered the gates of Jerusalem to be shut closed during the Sabbath and stationed servants at the gates so that no load would enter on the Sabbath day (13:19).  From that time on the traders and merchants did not come on the Sabbath (13:20-21).


In those days the Jews had married women from other nations (13:23).  As for their children, half spoke in the language of Ashdod, and none of them was able to speak the language of Judah (13:24).  So I contended with them and made them swear by God not to intermarry with other nations (13:25, 27).  Nehemiah said:

Did not Solomon king of Israel sin regarding these things?  There was no king like him, and he was loved by God; nevertheless the foreign women caused even him to sin (13:26).

Nehemiah purified the priesthood from everything foreign (13:28-30).


It is significant that the memoirs of Nehemiah stress that the work concentrated primarily on the wall and gates of Jerusalem, rather than on the city proper.  To understand this one needs to understand that in those days a city without a wall was no city.  The wall provided protection and formed the basis for the cooperation by the inhabitants towards their joint protection—maintaining the wall and gates and guarding the city.  A wall made them a city.  Only after the wall has been completed the restoration of the city could start in all earnestness.

Further important background information is that after the Jews were taken away to Babylon, the Samaritans claimed ownership of the land.  The Jews therefore did not rebuild the city in a vacuum.  There were other people that felt that they have a right to the city and the land (2:20).  This is evidenced by the frequent mention in the book Nehemiah of the opposition the Jews experienced (4:1-3, 7).

TO: General Table of Contents