The Command to Restore Jerusalem From Cyrus to Alexander the Great

Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away. Ezra 10:6


Orthodox Judaism teaches there were approximately 50 years between Cyrus’ first year of reign after conquering Babylon and Alexander the Great’s defeat of the Persian Empire .  They claim this short span of time is supported by the Bible.

This position of 50 years is in conflict with the Bible.  Also, secular history shows the Persian Empire lasted from 539 BC to 332 BC which would be a total of 207 years.  There is a total difference of 167 years between secular history and orthodox Judaism.  Judaism is missing 167 years of history.  The majority of this time period comes from the Persian Empire .

The orthodox claim there were exactly 490 years between the destruction of the first and second temple.  This would fulfill the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27.  They claim this prophecy has nothing to do with the coming of the King Messiah and has no future fulfillment.  Secular history shows the first temple was destroyed in 586 BC while the second in 70 AD.  This time span would be 657 years instead of the 490.  The difference between the secular and orthodox dates would be 167 years.

To prove their position in the Bible, Judaism holds that Ezra’s father was Seraiah, the last high priest before the destruction of the temple.  Seraiah’s son was listed by the Bible as Jehozadak.  This would make Jehozadak and Ezra brothers.  There is no doubt that Ezra is a descendant of Seraiah’s.  In Ezra’s genealogy, he is listed as a descendant of Seraiah.  The Scriptures to show this follows:


1 Chronicles 6:14 “And Azariah begat Seraiah, and Seraiah begat Jehozadak, (15)  And Jehozadak went into captivity, when the LORD carried away Judah and Jerusalem by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.”

Ezra 7:1 “Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, (20) The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub, (3) The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth, (4) The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki, (5) The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest:”


There are other examples that Judaism uses to try and show there is only a 50 year gap, but this from Ezra is the one I’ll work with to show there has to be a much longer than 50 year span.

On face value the genealogy to prove this gap could be rejected.  It is clear from reading Ezra 7:1-5 that a shortened genealogy is being used just to tie Ezra back to Aaron.  These Scriptures list 16 generations back to Aaron while 1 Chronicles 6:1-15 lists 22.  It is possible that Seraiah was Ezra’s grandfather or great grandfather.  Ezra 7:1-5 is not conclusive proof that Ezra’s father was Seraiah.  It does prove that he is a direct descendant of Seraiah and can be traced back to Aaron.  That is all this genealogy does.

The best proof of the time span is examining the genealogy of the high priests both before and after the captivity.  This gives us a frame of reference because both Ezra and Nehemiah deal with the high priests.  By following the high priests we can see that a much longer time than 50 years is needed.

The Bible lists 21 high priests of Israel from Aaron to Seraiah who was the high priest when Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC.  Seraiah was killed by the Babylonians and his son Jehozadak was taken alive captive to Babylon .  Jehozadak was the high priest during the exile to Babylon .  The Scriptures to show this follow:


2 Kings 25:18 “And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door: (21) And the king of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the land of Hamath . So Judah was carried away out of their land.”


The number of high priests are known which is 22.  The time span from Aaron to Seraiah is not precisely known but a very good estimate can be made.  There were approximately 350 years from Aaron to David and 414 years from David to the destruction of the temple.  That is a total of 764 years.  Let’s just round this off to 700 years.  If you divide the 700 years by 22 the result would be 32.  This number would represent the average years between the births of the high priests.  It is not the years of their reign, but the average years between their births.

This number is extremely important because a pattern has been set for almost 700 years, and this pattern can be used to examine the high priests after the exile.  The Scriptures to show the 22 high priests follow:


1 Chronicles 6:3 “And the children of Amram; Aaron, and Moses, and Miriam. The sons also of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. (4) Eleazar begat Phinehas, Phinehas begat Abishua, (5) And Abishua begat Bukki, and Bukki begat Uzzi,

(6) And Uzzi begat Zerahiah, and Zerahiah begat Meraioth, (7) Meraioth begat Amariah, and Amariah begat Ahitub, (8) And Ahitub begat Zadok, and Zadok begat Ahimaaz, (9) And Ahimaaz begat Azariah, and Azariah begat Johanan,

(10) And Johanan begat Azariah, (he it is that executed the priest's office in the temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem :) (11) And Azariah begat Amariah, and Amariah begat Ahitub, (12) And Ahitub begat Zadok, and Zadok begat Shallum, (13) And Shallum begat Hilkiah, and Hilkiah begat Azariah, (14) And Azariah begat Seraiah, and Seraiah begat Jehozadak, (15) And Jehozadak went into captivity, when the LORD carried away Judah and Jerusalem by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.”


The Bible lists the genealogy of the high priests after the exile.  Josedech is listed along with his son, Jeshua to an additional five generations.  The last high priest listed was Jaddua.  Jeshua along with Zerubbabel were commissioned to oversee the rebuilding of the temple.  Jeshua and Joshua are the same high priest with just a slight variation of the spelling of the name.  The same spelling variation occurs with the names Jehozadak and Josedech.  The Bible then lists seven high priests after the exile which would result in six generations.  These high priests are: Josedech, Jeshua, Joiakim, Eliashib, Joiada, Johathan and Jaddua.  The Scriptures to show these seven high priests follow:


1 Chronicles 6:15 “And Jehozadak went into captivity, when the LORD carried away Judah and Jerusalem by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.”

Zechariah 6:11 “Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;”

Nehemiah 12:1 “Now these are the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua:” (10) And Jeshua begat Joiakim, Joiakim also begat Eliashib, and Eliashib begat Joiada, (11) And Joiada begat Jonathan, and Jonathan begat Jaddua.”


Most likely Jehozadak was young or he would have been slain by the Babylonians.  It is hard to imagine that if Jehozadak was an adult the Babylonians would not have killed him.  Because Jeshua is not listed in the genealogy before the destruction of Jerusalem , it is a very strong indicator he was born during the captivity in Babylon .  Seraiah was the last high priest but his son’s genealogy was listed before the exile.  This is a tremendous indicator that Jeshua was not born before the destruction of the temple.

I’m going to say Jehozadak was 10 at the time of the destruction of the temple.  A reasonable average age between the “begats” is 30.  Following this sequence, we can come to a time line between the births of the high priests.  This is not how long they reigned but the time between their births.  Also, a cumulative number of years from Jehozadak will be shown.  This time line follows:

585 BC  Jehozadak 10 years old

565 Jeshua               20 years

535 Joiakim             50 years

505 Eliashib             80 years

475 Joiada               110 years

445 Jonathan           140 years

415 Jaddua              170 years

Jeshua was the high priest when the children of Israel returned from Babylon . He was the high priest into at least the second year of Darius.  This gives a good starting point because the second year of Darius would be the 20th year of the orthodox time line.

If Ezra’s father was Seraiah, like Jehozadak’s, he would have to be young, even younger than Jehozadak as Jehozadak became the high priest.  The high priest usually was passed to the firstborn.  Let’s say Ezra, like Jehozadak, was about 10 years old in 585 BC.  The Bible shows that Ezra had direct dealings with a descendant five generations away!

He met Jonathan in the temple of the Lord.  Jonathan was the son of Joiada, the son of Eliashib, the son of Joiakim, the son of Jeshua, the son of Jehozadak.  Jonathan was a man at this time so he had to be at least 20 years of age.  That means Ezra would have to be about 160 years of age!  This would totally disprove Judaism’s 50 year time span and in fact does.


Ezra 10:5 Then arose Ezra, and made the chief priests, the Levites, and all Israel , to swear that they should do according to this word. And they sware.

(6) Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away.


Nehemiah’s recording the five generations past Jeshua completely eliminates any possibility for orthodox Judaism’s 50 year span, but it fits perfectly into the secular time span.  Both Nehemiah and Ezra were dealing with Persian kings long after the 50 years were concluded.  There is no record of Ezra ever dealing with Jeshua, but only with Jeshua’s descendants.

Nehemiah never dealt with Jeshua as the high priest but with Jeshua’s grandson Eliashib.  He also, like Ezra, dealt with Jonathan, Eliashib’s son.  Nehemiah also records meeting with Jonathan.  Jonathan is four generations removed from Jeshua!  It is impossible for all those generations to fit in the 30 years that remained from the second year of Darius to the coming of Alexander the Great.  Remember, Jeshua was the high priest for at least 20 years of this 50 year span from Cyrus to Alexander.


Nehemiah 3:1 Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel .

Nehemiah 12:23 The sons of Levi, the chief of the fathers, were written in the book of the chronicles, even until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib.


These events were even chronicled until the reign of Johanan the high priest. Nehemiah mentions that the genealogy of the Levites was kept until the reign of Jaddua. This is a long, long time after Jeshua.  It is five generations past him.  By using the genealogy of the high priests and the time span between their generations, this would come to about 120 years.  Many orthodox claim that Nehemiah returned with Zerubbabel from the captivity.  They use Ezra 2:2 to support this position.  The verses from Nehemiah and Ezra follow:


Nehemiah 12:22 “The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan, and Jaddua, were recorded chief of the fathers...”

Ezra 2:2 “Which came with Zerubbabel: Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mizpar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel :”


Let’s say that Nehemiah was just 10 at the return.  The return was in 539 BC, so that means he would have been born around 550 BC.  He chronicled events up to the generation of Jaddua.  This would cover six high priest generations and make Nehemiah in the range of 120-150 years old.  Both the extreme ages of Ezra and Nehemiah show that the 50 year span was impossible.

Also, if Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem , how did he then become the king’s cup bearer in Shushan?  Shushan was the capital of Persia and located in modern Iran which is a long way from Jerusalem .  A cup bearer was one of the most trusted persons of the king.  He was very close to the king and watched over his physical safety.  He would handle the king’s food and wine.  The king was always concerned about being poisoned.

To be the King’s cup bearer, that person would have to be well known and be from a well established background.  All these requirements would take a lot of time which the 50 year span does not allow.  How could a Jew in Jerusalem who just returned from Babylon end up 20 years later as the cup bearer to the King of Persia?  The answer is this is not the same Nehemiah.  The Nehemiah who was the cup bearer must have come from a well known family which rose to power in Persia .  Nehemiah then became to Artaxerxes as Daniel was to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon .  Nehemiah rising to be King Artaxerxes cup bearer shows a great deal of time was needed.  This fact fits perfectly with the secular dating of the Persian Empire .

Although Jaddua was listed as the last in the genealogy of the high priest, he was not the final one until Alexander.  Secular history shows there were about 70 years or less from the reign of Jaddua to the coming of Alexander.  Most likely Nehemiah passed away and that ended the recording of the genealogies.  The death of Nehemiah and the prophet Malachi closed the Old Testament until the coming of King Messiah.

The generations of the high priests as listed in Nehemiah 12:10,11 give conclusive proof that it would be impossible for a 50 year span for the Persian Empire .  The Bible rejects orthodox Judaism’s claim that there were 50 years from Cyrus to Alexander.  Secular history also proves the orthodox claim is incorrect.  This would show the orthodox view of Daniel 9:24-27 is incorrect.  However, these generations agree with the secular historians of the longer time period for the empire.  This longer time span fits exactly for the evangelical Christian teaching on Daniel 9:24-26.  This position holds that in 445 BC the Persian king Artaxexes gave Nehemiah permission to rebuild Jerusalem , Nehemiah 2:1-8.  This would then start the 483 year countdown to King Messiah.

This teaching is that the 69 weeks of years (483 years) ended in the month of Nisan 32 AD when the Lord Jesus presented Himself to Israel as King Messiah.  He was then crucified or as Daniel says, “Cut off but not for himself.”  The remaining week of years (seven) is yet future and will conclude with King Messiah’s second coming.  He will return with the “Clouds of heaven” to establish His kingdom over all the earth, Daniel 7:13,14.


By John McTernan: Defend and Proclaim the Faith
Blog: John McTernan's Insights at www.johnmcternan.name

Meet author John McTernan
During numerous appearances on television, radio and in seminars, he has publicly defended Israel in light of Biblical prophecy. His current best selling book is As America Has Done To Israel.
He is author of the acclaimed book God's Final Warning to America, and co-author of the bestseller Israel: The Blessing or the Curse. From his experience debating, John wrote the Only Jesus of Nazareth series. This series includes: Only Jesus of Nazareth Can Sit on the Throne of David and Only Jesus of Nazareth Can Be Israel's King Messiah. Additionally, he has written several tracts, including Muhammad or Jesus: The Prophet Like Unto Moses, and The Koran vs the Bible.

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