Confused About Dates

Q. In doing a study on the 70 weeks of Daniel I’m confused with some of the dates.  From your past studies I’ve learned that the 70 year servitude of the nation began in 606 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar defeated Egypt and Assyria at the Battle of Carchemish.  Then in 536 B.C. the Persians freed the Jews who began returning to Israel and rebuilt the altar.  But the decree by the Persian king Artaxerxes to allow the Jews to return and rebuild the city of Jerusalem wasn’t until March 5, 444 B.C.  My question is what happened between 536 and 444 B.C.?  Were the Jewish people returning to Jerusalem during this time even though the decree had not been given yet?

A. When Cyrus conquered Babylon and freed the Jews, only about 42,000 of the people there returned to Israel with Sheshbazzar (Ezra 2:64).  And they only had permission to rebuild the Temple, not the city and its walls. Because of this they suffered constant harassment from their enemies. Finally they decided that the time had not yet come for the Temple to be built and in 520 BC they gave up (Haggai 1:1).  But the Lord sent first Haggai and then Zechariah to encourage them to finish.  The Temple was finally dedicated  in 516 BC (Ezra 6:15-18).

Ezra arrived with another group in 458 BC (Ezra 7:8-9) but the Jews lived without a fortified city until Nehemiah received permission to rebuild its walls from Artaxerxes. According to Sir Robert Anderson and the London Royal Observatory the decree of Artaxerxes was dated March 14, 445 and began the 483 year countdown to the Lord’s appearance in Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday.

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