Reading Nehemiah chapters 8-10 we find one of the biggest religious revivals that ever happened in the history of Israel, under the preaching of Ezra. Perhaps the reform that happened in King Josiah’s time was greater but this one was a biggie. The people wept; the people rejoiced; debts were cancelled and a profound revival broke out. This happened in September-October 444 BC and the impact was felt for many years after that.
What is not so well known today is how it happened in a Sabbatical year (ie. a ‘seven’) so it is related to the 70-weeks prophecy. It happened at the end of the second ‘week.’ Now, the date is confirmed from historical records because it was the 20th year of king Artaxerxes reign. But the matter of it being a Sabbath is deduced from a practice laid down in Mosaic law. Here is our clue in Deuteronomy 31:10-12.
“At the end of every seven years, in the year for cancelling debts, during the Festival of Tabernacles, when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. Assemble the people – men, women and children, and the foreigners residing in your towns – so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully all the words of this law.”
This is what Ezra and Nehemiah were doing; they were following strictly the rule prescribed by Moses to gather the people and read the law in the month of Tishri on the seventh year. This is when revival broke out, but the point to notice: the year 444 BC was a Sabbath year.
Now, this is very significant. Why? Because it means we can calculate increments of seven from a confirmed date and uncover the rest of the 7-year cycle. Christian Bible scholars usually assume the shmita was lost but it is not lost at all. Please look at the last column in my table of dates. We are looking at actual, original Sabbath years!
Even more significant are the ramifications for students of Daniel’s prophecy. Each week ends with a Sabbath so now we know their dates. It clarifies small chronological issues enabling us to count more accurately than our nineteenth century teachers who did not have access to all the historical data. For example, a lot of prophetic theory is based on the calculations of Sir Robert Anderson who published his book, ‘The Coming Prince’ in 1895. His dates were slightly out. So was the Adventist movement slightly out, whose dates were based on chronology from the 1840’s.
In conclusion, the revival of 444 BC provides us with a solid date that unlocks the previously ‘lost’ Sabbath years. This directly impacts on our previous estimates of Daniels ‘weeks’ because they are intrinsically part of the Sabbath / Jubilee system.