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THE 20TH YEAR OF ARTAXERXES AND THE "SEVENTY WEEKS" OF

DANIEL The questions about the chronology of the reign of Artaxerxes I and its
supposed relation to the 70 weeks of Daniel 9:2427 would require a minor book
to answer, and such a book is, in fact, what I have been planning to write for
some years. I have been collecting material on the subject for many years, and in
1989 I even wrote a brief draft in Swedish. Other projects, however, have
occupied my spare time since then, and I dont expect to be able to resume the
work on the 70 weeks within the next few years. The following discussion is an
examination of the arguments brought forth by the Watch Tower Bible & Tract
Society in support of the idea that Artaxerxes I acceeded to the throne in 475 BC,
not in 465 BC as is held by modern historians. What follows is a brief summary of
the Swedish paper on the chronology of Artaxerxes reign.
1. Was Xerxes a coregent with his father Darius?

It is true that the Watch Tower Society attempts to solve the problems created by
their prolongation of Artaxerxes length reign from 41 to 51 years (his accession
being dated to 475 instead of 465 BC) by abbreviating the reign of his
predecessor Xerxes (485465 BC) from 21 to 11 years, arguing that the first 10
years of Xerxes rule was a co-rule with his father Darius. There is not the
slightest evidence in support of such a coregency. The Watch Tower Societys
discussion on pages 614616 of its Bible dictionary Insight on the Scriptures,
volume 2 (1988), is a miserable distortion of the historical evidence. Thus, on
page 615 they claim: There is solid evidence
If we look up Herodotus statement, however, we will discover that he, in the
very next few sentences, directly contradicts the Watch Tower Society's claim
that there was a ten year long coregency of for a coregency of Xerxes with his
father Darius. The Greek historian Herodotus (VII, 3) says: "Darius judged his
[Xerxes] plea [for kingship] to be just and declared him king. But to my thinking
Xerxes would have been made king even without this advice." This indicates that
Xerxes was made king during the reign of his father Darius.
Xerxes with Darius by stating that Darius died one year after this appointment of
Xerxes as his successor. Herodotus says: Xerxes, then, was publicly proclaimed
as next in succession to the crown, and Darius was free to turn his attention to
the war. Death, however, cut him off before his preparations were complete; he
died in the year following this incident and the Egyptian rebellion, after a reign
of thirtysix years, and so was robbed of his chance to punish either Egypt or the
Athenians. After his death the crown passed to his son Xerxes. What we find,
then, is that Darius appointed Xerxes his successor one year (not ten!) before his
own death. Further, Herodotus does not say that Darius appointed Xerxes his
coregent, but his successor. (Note, for instance, the wording of the passage
quoted by the Watch Tower Society in Aubrey de Slincourt's translation in the
Penguin Books). In the preceding paragraphs, Herodotus explains that a common
rule among Persian kings before they went out to war was to appoint their
successors to the throne, in case they themselves would be killed in the battles.
This custom, he says, was also followed by Darius. The Watch Tower Society,
then, quotes Herodotus completely out of context, leaving out the subsequent
sentences that refute their claim. Incredibly, they introduce this forgery by
terming it "solid evidence"! Other "solid evidence" presented in their Bible

dictionary in support of the coregency is of the same quality, for example the basreliefs found in Persepolis, which Herzfeld in 1932 felt indicated a coregency of
Xerxes with Darius. (Insight 2, p. 615) This idea, however, is dismissed by
modern scholars. The very fact that the crown prince is pictured as standing
behind the throne shows that he is not a king and a coregent, but an appointed
successor. Second, no names are found on the relief, and the conclusion that the
man on the throne is Darius and the crown prince is Xerxes is nothing but a
guess. J. M. Cook, in his work on the history of Persia, argues that the crown
prince is Artobazanes, the oldest son of Darius. (Cook, The Persian Empire, New
York 1983, p. 75) Other modern scholars, such as A. B. Tilia and von Gall, have
argued that the king cannot be Darius but must be Xerxes, and that the crown
prince, therefore, is the son of Xerxes! (Cook, p. 242, ftn. 24)
E As "evidence from Babylonian sources" for the claimed coregency the Watch
Tower Society first refers to "a palace for Xerxes" that was built in Babylon in
498496 BC. But there is no evidence to show that this palace was built "for
Xerxes". J. M. Cook refers to Herodotus statement that Xerxes was appointed
successor to the throne as late as one year before Darius death in 486 BC and
adds: If Herodotus is correct in this, the residence constructed for the kings son
in Babylon in the early 490s must have been intended for Artobazanes. (Cook,
pp. 74, 75) The palace, then, proves nothing about a coregency of Xerxes with
Darius. The final "evidence" for the claimed coregency consists of two clay
tablets held to be dated in the accession year of Xerxes. According to the Watch
Tower Society both tablets are dated several months before the last tablets dated
in Darius final regnal year. (Insight 2, p. 615) This "overlapping" of the two
reigns, it is argued, indicates a coregency. But either the Watch Tower Society
conceals the real facts about these two tablets, or they have done very poor
research on the matter. The first tablet, designated "A. 124" by Thompson in his
Catalogue from 1927, is not dated in the accession-year of Xerxes (486/485), as
Thompson indicated. This was a copying error by Thompson. The tablet is
actually dated in the first year of Xerxes (485/484 BC). This was pointed out as
far back as in 1941 by George G. Cameron in The American Journal of Semitic
Languages and Literature, Vol. LVIII, p. 320, ftn. 33. Thus there was no
"overlapping" of the two reigns. The second tablet, "VAT 4397", published as No.
634 by M. San Nicolo and A. Ungnad in their work from 1934, was dated by them
to the fifth month ("Ab"). It should be noted, however, that the authors put a
question mark after the month name. The sign of the month on the tablet is
damaged and may be reconstructed in several ways. In the more recent work by
Parker and Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology, published in 1956, where the
same tablet is designated "VAS VI 177", the authors point out that the tablet "has
the month sign damaged. It might be IX [9] but more probably is XII [12]." (Page
17) The original guess by Nicolo and Ungnad is
dropped altogether. As Darius died in the 7th month, a tablet dated to the 9th or
12th month in the accession-year of his successor is quite all right. There was no
overlapping between the two reigns.
2. The flight of Themistocles

Much has been made in the Watch Tower publications of Themistocles flight to
Persia. This argument is an old one, originating with the Jesuit theologian Denis

Petau (Petavius) and archbishop James Ussher in the seventeenth century. It was
presented in great detail by E. W. Hengstenberg in his work Christologie des
Alten Testaments, published in Berlin in 1832. According to the Greek historians
Thycudides and Charon of Lampsacus, Artaxerxes was the king that
Themistocles spoke with after his arrival in Persia. The Watch Tower Society
argues that Themistocles died about 471/70 BC. Artaxerxes, therefore, must
have began his rule before that date and not as late as in 465 BC. (Insight 2, p.
614) These arguments have a superficial strength, only because the Watch Tower
Society leaves out some very important information. In proof of their claim that
Themistocles met Artaxerxes after his arrival in Persia, they quote Plutarchs
information that "Thucydides and Charon of Lampsacus relate that Xerxes was
dead, and that it was his son Artaxerxes with whom Themistocles had his
interview". But they left out the second part of Plutarch's statement, which
says: . . . but Ephorus and Dinon and Clitarchus and Heracleides and yet more
besides have it that it was Xerxes to whom he came. With the chronological data
Thucydides seems to me more in accord, although these are by no means
securely established. The Watch Tower Society, then, conceals that Plutarch goes
on to say that a number of ancient historians had written about this event, and
that most of them stated that Xerxes, not Artaxerxes, was on the throne when
Themistocles came to Persia. Although Plutarch (c 46120 A.D.) felt that
Thucydides was more reliable, he stresses that the chronological data were by no
means securely established. One fact that usually seems to be ignored is that
Thucydides wrote his story about Themistocles flight some time after 406 BC, or
about two generations after the event. He contradicts himself several times in
this narrative, which shows that his information on the subject cannot be trusted.
(On this, see the Cambridge Ancient History, V, 1992, p. 14.) But even if
Themistocles really may have met Artaxerxes, there is nothing to show that this
occurred in the 470s. There is no evidence whatsoever in support of the claim
that Themistocles died in 471/70 BC. None of the sources referred to by the
Society says so, and some of them, including Plutarch, clearly show that he died
much later, in about 459 BC. (Plutarch's Lives, XXXI:25) A considerable time
passed after the attempt to defame Themistocles in Athens in the archonship of
Praxiergus (471/70 BC) until his interview with Artaxerxes (or Xerxes). It took
several attempts before the enemies of Themistocles succeeded and forced him
to flee, first from Athens and finally from Greece. Cambridge Ancient History (Vol.
5, pp. 62ff.) dates this flight to 569 BC. He first fled to some friends in Asia
Minor, where he stayed for some time. The Society quotes Diodorus Siculus in
support of the 471/70 date for the beginning of the defamation of Themistocles,
but avoids to mention Diodorus statement that, on Themistocles arrival in Asia
Minor, Xerxes was still on the throne in Persia! (Diodorus Siculus, XI:5459) This,
of course, conflicts with Thucydides statement that Themistocles letter from
Asia Minor was sent to Artaxerxes. After some time, evidently after some years,
in Asia Minor, Themistocles finally went to Persia. There he first spent one year
studying the language before his meeting with the king. This meeting may have
occured toward the end of 465 BC or early in 464 BC. As historian A. T. Olmstead
argues, Xerxes may very well have been on the throne when Themistocles
arrived in Persia, but may have died shortly afterwards, so that Themistocles,

after his year of learning the language, met Artaxerxes. In this way the
conflicting statements by the ancient historians may at least partially be
harmonized. After his meeting with the Persian king, Themistocles settled in the
city of Magnesia, where he lived on for some years before he died. (Plutarch's
Lives, XXXI:25)It is completely impossible,therefore,to date his death to 471/70
BC,as done by the Watch Tower Society.
3. The two tablets dated to years 50 and 51 of Artaxerxes

In support of the claim that Artaxerxes ruled for 51 years instead of 41, the
Watch Tower Society refers to two tablets dated to his 50 th year and 51st
year, respectively. The first tablet, listed as BM 65494 in E. Leichty and A.K.
Grayson, Catalogue of the Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum, Vol. VII
(London, 1987), is still unpublished. The second tablet, CBM 12803 (= BE 8/1,
127), on the other hand, was published in 1908 by Albert T. Clay in The
Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Series A: Cuneiform
Texts, Vol. VIII, text 127. All authorities on Achaemenid history agree that both of
these cuneiform tablets contain scribal errors. As the Watch Tower Society points
out, the tablet published by Albert Clay is double-dated. The date on the tablet is
given as, 51st year, accession year, 12th month, day 20, Darius, king of lands.
(Insight, p. 616) This text, then, seems to equate the 51st year (evidently of
Artaxerxes I; the name is not given in the text) with the accession-year of his
successor Darius II. But once again, the Watch Tower Society does not tell the
whole truth. The reason is, that the whole truth changes the picture completely.
Many dated tablets are extant from the end of Artaxerxes reign, thanks to the
discovery of a cuneiform archive from the Murashu firm. In Istanbul Murashu
Texts (Istanbul, 1997), V. Donbaz and M. W. Stolper explain that the Murashu
archive is the largest available documentary source for Achaemenid Babylonia
in the years between Xerxes and Alexander. (Page 4) Nearly all of the tablets
are dated to the reigns of Artaxerxes I and his successor Darius II. The number
culminates in the last two years of the reign of Artaxerxes and the first seven
years of the reign of Darius II, as shown by the graph below, published by
Donbaz and Stolper on page 6 of the work quoted above. The archive includes
over 60 texts from the 41st year of Artaxerxes and the accession year of Darius
II, and culminates with about 120 texts dated to the 1st year of Darius II!
All Murashu texts with preserved years; numbers of texts by year.

As shown by the ancient Greek historians, the months following upon the death
of Artaxerxes was a chaotic period. His son and successor Xerxes II was
murdered by his brother Sogdianus after only a few weeks of reign. The usurper
Sogdianus then held the throne for about seven months, after which he was
killed by Darius II in February, 423 BC. But as Sogdianus was never
acknowledged as the legitimate king, the scribes continued to date their texts to
the reign of Artaxerxes for some months after his death. It is even possible that
Artaxerxes died toward the end of his 40th year, as some scholars argue, so that
the scribes had to extend his reign artificially to include a 41 st year. This is still a
question debated among scholars. Not until Darius II ascended to the throne in
the 11th Babylonian month (corresponding to parts of February and March, 423
BCE) did the scribes begin to date the texts to his reign also. But to avoid any
confusion, the scribes usually double-dated the texts, mentioning both the 41 st

year [of Artaxerxes] and the accession-year of Darius II. They did this, because it
was important for them to keep an exact chronological count of the reigns, as
this was their calendar and the era by which they dated various events, such as
political events, astronomical observations, and economic transactions. A
number of such double-dated tablets have been discovered. F. X. Kugler, on page
396 of his Sternkunde und Stemdienst in Babel, II. Buch, II. Teil, Heft 2 (Munster
1924), presented the chronological information on four of these tablets. Other
tablets of this kind have been found since. Ten such double-dated tablets are now
known, of which all except one equate year 41, evidently of Artaxerxes I, with
the accession-year of Darius. The exception is CBM 12803, the text that has
year 51 instead of 41. And all except one (BM 33342) of these ten texts
belong to the Murashu archive. The nine texts double-dated to year 41,
accession-year of Darius are: BM 54557: (= Zawadzki JEOL 34:45f.) Text from Sippar [?].
Although dated only to the accession-year of Darius II (month IX[?], day 29), the body of the text
refers to a span of time from month V year 41 of Ar(takshatsu ... ) to the end of month XII, year
41, accession of Darius. (Information on this text was received from Prof. Matthew W. Stolper,
the leading expert on the Murashu archive, in a letter dated January 29, 1999). Bertin 2889:
Text from Babylon dated to day 26, month XI, year 41, accession-year of Darius. The text is
not published, but information on the date was received by Jean-Frdric Brunet from Dr.
Francis Joanns on July 3rd, 2003. (Mail Brunet-Jonsson, December 22, 2003) BM 33342: Text
from Babylon dated to month Shabatu [month XI]; day 29; year 41, accession-year, Darius,
King of Lands. (Matthew W. Stolper in AMI, Vol. 16, 1983, pp. 231236) This text does not
belong to the Murashu archive. BE 10 no. 4: (= TuM 2/3, 216) Text from Nippur dated to day
14, month XII, year 41, accession-year of Darius II, king of the lands. BE 10 no. 5: Text from
Nippur dated to day 17, month XII, accession-year of Darius, king of the lands. The first line
says until the end of Adar (month XII) of year 41, accession-year of Darius, king of the lands.
BE 10 no. 6: Text from Nippur dated to the accession-year of Darius. Month and day are
illegible, but lines 2f. mention the whole year from the first month of year 41 to the end of
month XII of the accession-year of Darius. PBS 2/1 no. 1: Text from Nippur dated to day 22,
month XII, year 41, accession-year of Darius II. BE 10 no. 7: (= TuM 2/3, 181) Text from
Nippur dated to month I, day 2, year 1, of Darius II. Line 6 mentions receipt for produce for,
year 41, accession-year of Darius.
PBS 2/1 no. 3: Text from Nippur dated to month I, day 5, year 1, of Darius II. Lines 23 refers
to taxes for the period up to the end of month XII, year (4)1, (ac)cession year of Darius. Line
13 says: until the end of Adar [month XII], year 41.

Explanation of abbreviations used in the list:

AMI: Archaologische Mitteilungen aus Iran.


BE: The Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Series A:
Cuneiform Texts, ed. by H. V. Hilprecht (Philadelphia, 18931914). Vols. 16
edited by Albert T. Clay in 1904.
Bertin: G. Bertin, Corpus of Babylonian Terra-Cotta Tablets. Principally Contracts,
Vols. I VI (London, 1883). Unpublished.
BM: British Museum.
JEOL: Jaarbericht van het Vooraziatisch-Egyptisch Genootschap Ex Oriente
Lux.
PBS: Pennsylvania. University. University Museum. Publications of the
Babylonian Section (Philadelphia,
1911 ). The first two volumes were
edited by Albert T. Clay.
TuM: Texte und Materialien der Frau Professor Hilprecht Collection of
Babylonian Antiquities im Eigentum der Universitt Jena (Leipzig).

All these nine texts agree in showing that Darius II acceded to the throne in the
41st year of his predecessor. The tablets clearly show that Artaxerxes I cannot
have ruled for more than 41 years. As stated above, the text published by Albert
Clay in 1908, the only one quoted by the Watch Tower Society, belongs to the
same category of doubled-dated texts as those quoted above, the only difference
being that it gives the predecessor of Darius a reign of 51 years instead of 41. It
is quite clear that the number 51 on that tablet contains a scribal error. This is
the only reasonable conclusion to draw, as the only alternative is to claim that
the figure 41 on all the other nine tablets listed above are errors. It is difficult
to believe that the Watch Tower Societys writers were completely ignorant of
the existence of several double-dated tablets from the accession-year of Darius.
To quote only the two tablets with scribal errors (years 50 and 51) and keep
silent about all the double-dated texts that equate Darius accession-year with
year 41 of his predecessor is far from honest. Albert T. Clay, who published the
tablet with the erroneous figure 51 on it, was well aware that it was a scribal
error. To the right of the erroneous figure in his published copy of the text he
pointed out that 51 was a mistake for 41:
Tablet CBM 12803, published by Albert T. Clay as No. 127 in The Babylonian Expedition of
the University of Pennsylvania, Series A: Cuneiform Texts, Vol. VIII (Philadelphia, 1908), P1.
57.

Such an error was easy to make, as the difference between 41 and 51 in


cuneiform is just a small wedgeone touch with the stylus. Such errors are not
unusual. The text with the figure 50 instead of 40 is just another example of
the same kind of error. Professor Matthew W. Stolper explains: Yes, it is quite an
easy error. As you may know, the sign that indicates year before the numeral
ends with four closely spaced angle-wedges. The digit 40 in 41 is
represented by four more closely spaced angle-wedges, in slightly different
configuration. It would take a simple slip of the stylus to add the extra wedge.
Letter Stolper-Jonsson, January 29, 1999.
Artaxerxes reign astronomically fixed

The decisive evidence for the length of Artaxerxes rule is the astronomical
information found on a number of tablets dated to his reign. One such text is the
astronomical "diary" "VAT 5047", clearly dated to the 11th year of Artaxerxes.
Although the text is damaged, it preserves information about two lunar positions
relative to planets and the positions of Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. This
information suffices to identify the date of the text as 454 B.C. As this was the
11th year of Artaxerxes, the preceding year, 455 BC, cannot have been his 20th
year as the Watch Tower Society claims, but his 10th year. His 20th year,
then,must have been 445/44 BC. (See Sachs/Hunger, Astronomical Diaries and
Related Texts from Babylonia, Vol. 1, Wien 1988, pp. 5659.) There are also some
tablets dated to the 21st and last year of Xerxes. One of them, BM 32234, which
is dated to day 14 or 18 of the 5th month of Xerxes 21st year, belongs to the
group of astronomical texts called "18-year texts" or "Saros texts". The
astronomical information preserved on this tablet fixes it to the year 465 BC. The
text includes the following interesting information: "Month V 14 (+x) Xerxes was
murdered by his son." This text alone not only shows that he ruled for 21
years,but also that his last year was 465 BC,not 475 as the Society says!There
are several "Saros texts"of this type covering the reigns of Xerxes and

Artaxerxes. The many detailed and dated descriptions of lunar eclipses of various
years of their reigns establish the chronology of this period as absolute.
Two other astronomical tablets from the reigns of Xerxes and Artaxerxes, BM
45674 and BM 32299, contain dated observations of the planet Venus. Again,
these observations establish the chronology of this period as an absolute
chronology. Thus we have numerous astronomical observations dated to different
parts of the reigns of Xerxes and Axtaxerxes preserved on cuneiform tablets. In
many cases, only one or two of these observations would suffice to establish the
beginning and end of their reigns. The total number of astronomical observations
dated to their reigns, however, are about 40 or more.It is impossible, therefore,to
change their reigns even one year!The Societys dating of Artaxerxes 20th year
to 455 BC is demonstrably wrong.This,of course, proves that their interpretation
of the 70 weeks of Daniel is wrong.
The seventy weeks of Daniel

A number of applications of the 70 weeks of Daniel appear throughout the


centuries.Some of them, including that of the Watch Tower Society, have to be
discarded at once, as they can be shown to be in direct conflict with historically
established dates. They have nothing to do with reality. If Artaxerxes 20th year
was 445/44 instead of 455, it is still possible to start from that year, provided that
we use a "prophetical year" of 360 days instead of the solar year of 365,2422
days. This was demonstrated by Sir Robert Anderson in his book The Coming
Prince (first published in 1895). His application has recently been improved upon
by H. W. Hoehner in his book Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (1977),
pages 135ff. These authors show that the 476 years from Artaxerxes 20th year,
445/44 BC, to the death of Christ ( if set at 33 A.D.) correspond to 483 years of
360 days. (476x365,2422 is 173.855 days, and if this number is divided by 360
we get 483 years.)This is just 1 example of an application that at least has the
advantage of a historically established date at its start.