Mankind’s recollection of landmark events in its past—”legends” or “myths” to most historians—includes tales deemed “universal” in that they have been part of the cultural or religious heritage of peoples all over the Earth. Tales of a First Human Couple, of a Deluge, or of gods who came from the heavens, belong to that category. So do tales of the gods’ departure back to the heavens.
Of particular interest to us are such collective memories by the peoples and in the lands where the departures had actually taken place. We have already covered the evidence from the ancient Near East; it also comes from the Americas, and it embraces both Enlilite and Enki’ite gods.
In South America, the dominant deity was called Viracocha (“Creator of All”). The Aymara natives of the Andes told of him that his abode was in Tiwanaku, and that he gave the first two brother-sister couples a golden wand with which to find the right place to establish Cuzco (the eventual Inca capital), the site for the observatory of Machu Picchu, and other sacred sites. And then, having done all that, he left. The grand layout, which simulated a square ziggurat with its corners oriented to the cardinal points, then marked the direction of his eventual departure (Fig. 118). We have identified the god of Tiwanaku as Teshub/Adad of the Hittite/Sumerian pantheon, Enlil’s youngest son.
In Mesoamerica, the giver of civilization was the “Winged Serpent” Quetzalcoatl. We have identified him as Enki’s son Thoth of the Egyptian pantheon (Ningishzidda to the Sumerians) and as the one who, in 3113 B.C.E., brought over his African followers to establish civilization in Mesoamerica. Though the time of his departure was not specified, it had to coincide with the demise of his African protégés, the Olmecs, and the simultaneous rise of the native Mayas—circa 600/500 B.C.E. The dominant legend in Mesoamerica was his promise, when he departed, to return—on the anniversary of his Secret Number 52.
And so it was, by the middle of the first millennium B.C.E., in one part of the world after another, that Mankind found itself without its long-worshipped gods; and before long, the question (which has been asked by my readers) began to preoccupy Mankind: Will they return?
Like a family suddenly abandoned by its father, Mankind grasped for the hope of a Return; then, like an orphan needing help, Mankind cast about for a Savior. The Prophets promised it will surely happen—at the End of Days.
At the peak of their presence, the Anunnaki numbered 600 on Earth plus another 300 Igigi based on Mars. Their number was falling after the Deluge and especially after Anu’s visit circa 4000 B.C.E. Of the gods named in the early Sumerian texts and in long God Lists, few remained as the millennia followed each other. Most returned to their home planet; some—in spite of their wonted “immortality”—died on Earth. We can mention the defeated Zu and Seth, the dismembered Osiris, the drowned Dumuzi, the nuclear-afflicted Bau. The departures of the Anunnaki gods as Nibiru’s return loomed were the dramatic finale.
The awesome times when the gods resided in sacred precincts in the people’s cities, when a Pharaoh claimed that a god was riding along in his chariot, when an Assyrian king boasted of help from the skies, were over and gone. Already in the days of the Prophet Jeremiah (626–586 B.C.E.), the nations surrounding Judea were mocked for worshipping not a “living god” but idols made by craftsmen of stone, wood, and metal—gods who needed to be carried, for they could not walk.
With the final departure taking place, who of the great Anunnaki gods remained on Earth? To judge by who was mentioned in the texts and inscriptions from the ensuing period, we can be certain only of Marduk and Nabu of the Enki’ites; and of the Enlilites, Nannar/Sin, his spouse Ningal/Nikkal and his aide Nusku, and probably also Ishtar. On each side of the great religious divide there was now just one sole Great God of Heaven and Earth: Marduk for the Enki’ites, Nannar/Sin for the Enlilites.
The story of Babylonia’s last king reflected the new circumstances. He was chosen by Sin in his cult-center Harran— but he required the consent and blessing of Marduk in Babylon, and the celestial confirmation by the appearance of Marduk’s planet; and he bore the name Nabu-Na’id. This divine co-regnum might have been an attempt at Dual Monotheism (to coin an expression); but its unintended consequence was to plant the seeds of Islam.
The historical record indicates that neither gods nor people were happy with these arrangements. Sin, whose temple in Harran was restored, demanded that his great ziggurat temple in Ur should also be rebuilt and become the center of worship; and in Babylon, the priests of Marduk were up in arms.
A tablet now in the British Museum is inscribed with a text that scholars have titled Nabunaid and the Clergy of Babylon. It contains a list of accusations by the Babylonian priests against Nabunaid. The charges ran from civil matters (“law and order are not promulgated by him”), through neglect of the economy (“the farmers are corrupted,” “the traders’ roads are blocked”), and lack of public safety (“nobles are killed”), to the most serious charges: religious sacrilege—
He made an image of a god which nobody had seen before in the land.
He placed it in the temple, raised it upon a pedestal,
He called it by the name of Nannar, with lapis lazuli he adorned it,
Crowned it with a tiara in the shape of an eclipsed moon,
Made for its hand the gesture of a demon.
It was, the accusations continued, a strange statue of a deity, never seen before, “with hair reaching down to the pedestal.” It was so unusual and unseemly, the priests wrote, that even Enki and Ninmah (who ended up with strange chimera creatures when they attempted to fashion Man) “could not have conceived it”; it was so strange that “not even the learned Adapa”—an icon of utmost human knowledge—”could have named it.” To make matters worse, two unusual beasts were sculpted as its guardians—one a “Deluge demon” and the other a wild bull; then the king took this abomination and placed it in Marduk’s Esagil temple. Even more offending was Nabunaid’s announcement that henceforth the Akitu festival, during which the near-death, resurrection, exile, and final triumph of Marduk were reenacted, would no longer be celebrated.
Declaring that Nabunaid’s “protective god became hostile to him” and that “the former favorite of the gods was now fated to misfortune,” the Babylonian priests forced Nabunaid to leave Babylon and go into exile “in a distant region.” It is a historical fact that Nabunaid indeed left Babylon and named his son Bel-Shar-Uzur—the Belshazzar of the biblical Book of Daniel—as regent.
The “distant region” to which Nabunaid went in self-exile was Arabia. As various inscriptions attest, his entourage included Jews from among the Judean exiles in the Harran region. His principal base was at a place called Teima, a caravan center in what is now northwestern Saudi Arabia that is mentioned several times in the Bible. (Recent excavations there have uncovered cuneiform tablets attesting to Nabunaid’s stay.) He established six other settlements for his followers; five of the towns were listed—a thousand years later—by Arabian writers as Jewish towns. One of them was Medina, the town where Muhammad founded Islam.
The “Jewish angle” in the Nabunaid tale has been reinforced by the fact that a fragment of the Dead Sea scrolls, found at Qumran on the shores of the Dead Sea, mentions Nabunaid and asserts that he was suffering in Teima from an “unpleasant skin disease” that was cured only after “a Jew told him to give honor to the God Most High.” All that has led to speculation that Nabunaid was contemplating Monotheism; but to him the God Most High was not the Judeans’ Yahweh, but his benefactor Nannar/Sin, the Moon god, whose crescent symbol has been adopted by Islam; and there is little doubt that its roots can be traced back to Nabunaid’s stay in Arabia.
Sin’s whereabouts fade out of Mesopotamian records after the time of Nabunaid. Texts discovered at Ugarit, a “Canaanite” site on the Mediterranean coast in Syria now called Ras Shamra, describe the Moon god as retired, with his spouse, to an oasis at the confluence of two bodies of water, “near the cleft of the two seas.” Ever wondering why the Sinai peninsula was named in honor of Sin and its main central crossroads in honor of his spouse Nikkal (the place is still called, in Arabic, Nakhl), I surmised that the aged couple retired to somewhere on the shores of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Eilat.
The Ugaritic texts called the Moon god EL—simply, “God,” a forerunner of Islam’s Allah; and his moon-crescent symbol crowns every Moslem mosque. And as tradition demands, the mosques are flanked, to this day, by minarets that simulate multistage rocketships ready to be launched (Fig. 119).
The last chapter in the Nabunaid saga was linked to the emergence on the scene of the ancient world of the Persians—a name given to a medley of peoples and states on the Iranian plateau that included the olden Sumerian Anshan and Elam and the land of the later Medes (who had a hand in the demise of Assyria).
It was in the sixth century B.C.E. that a tribe called Achaemeans by Greek historians who recorded their deeds emerged from the northern outskirts of those territories, seized control, and unified them all to become a mighty new empire. Though deemed to racially be “Indo-Europeans,” their tribal name stemmed from that of their ancestor Hakham-Anish, which meant “Wise Man” in Semitic Hebrew—a fact that some attribute to the influence of Jewish exiles from the Ten Tribes who had been relocated to that region by the Assyrians. Religiously, the Achaemean Persians apparently adopted a Sumerian-Akkadian pantheon akin to its Hurrian-Mitannian version, which was a step to the Indo-Aryan one of the Sanskrit Vedas—a mixture that is conveniently simplified by just stating that they believed in a God Most High whom they called Ahura-Mazda (“Truth and Light”).
In 560 B.C.E. the Achaemean king died and his son Kurash succeeded him on the throne and made his mark on subsequent historic events. We call him Cyrus; the Bible called him Koresh and considered him Yahweh’s emissary for conquering Babylon, overthrowing its king, and rebuilding the destroyed Temple in Jerusalem. “Though you knowest Me not, I, Yahweh, the God of Israel, am thy caller who hath called you by name… who will help you though you don’t recognize me,” the biblical God stated through the prophet Isaiah. (44: 28 to 45: 1–4)
That end of Babylonian kingship was most dramatically foretold in the Book of Daniel. One of the Judean exiles taken to Babylon, Daniel was serving in the Babylonian court of Belshazzar when, during a royal banquet, a floating hand appeared and wrote on the wall MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN. Astounded and mystified, the king called his wizards and seers to decipher the inscription, but none could. As a last resort, the exiled Daniel was called in, and he told the king the inscription’s meaning: God has weighed Babylon and its king and, finding them wanting, numbered their days; they will meet their end by the hand of the Persians.
In 539 B.C.E. Cyrus crossed the Tigris River into Babylonian territory, advanced on Sippar where he intercepted a rushing-back Nabunaid, and then—claiming that Marduk himself had invited him—entered Babylon without a fight. Welcomed by the priests who considered him a savior from the heretic Nabunaid and his disliked son, Cyrus “grasped the hands of Marduk” as a sign of homage to the god. But he also, in one of his very first proclamations, rescinded the exile of the Judeans, permitted the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, and ordered the return of all the Temple’s ritual objects that were looted by Nebuchadnezzar.
The returning exiles, under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, completed the rebuilding of the Temple—henceforth known as the Second Temple—in 516 B.C.E.—exactly, as was prophesied by Jeremiah, seventy years after the First Temple was destroyed. The Bible considered Cyrus an instrument of God’s plans, an “anointed of Yahweh”; historians believe that Cyrus proclaimed a general religious amnesty that allowed each people to worship as they pleased. As to what Cyrus himself might have believed, to judge by the monument he had erected for himself, he appears to have envisioned himself as a winged Cherub (Fig. 120).
Cyrus—some historians attach the epithet “the great” to his name—consolidated into a vast Persian empire all the lands that had once been Sumer & Akkad, Mari and Mittani, Hatti and Elam, Babylonia and Assyria; it was left to his son Cambyses (530–522 B.C.E.) to extend the empire to Egypt. Egypt was just recovering from a period of disarray that some consider a Third Intermediate Period, during which it was disunited, changed capitals several times, was ruled by invaders from Nubia, or had no central authority at all. Egypt was also in disarray religiously, its priests uncertain who to worship, so much so that the leading cult was that of the dead Osiris, the leading deity the female Neith whose title was Mother of God, and the principal “cult object” a bull, the sacred Apis Bull, for whom elaborate funerals were held. Cambyses, too, like his father, was no religious zealot, and let people worship as they pleased; he even (according to an inscribed stela now in the Vatican museum) learnt the secrets of the worship of Neith and participated in a ceremonial funeral of an Apis bull.
These religious laissez-faire policies bought the Persians peace in their empire, but not forever. Unrest, uprisings, and rebellions kept breaking out almost everywhere. Especially troublesome were growing commercial, cultural, and religious ties between Egypt and Greece. (Much information about that comes from the Greek historian Herodotus, who wrote extensively about Egypt after his visit there circa 460 B.C.E., coinciding with the beginning of Greece’s “golden age.”) The Persians could not be pleased with those ties, above all because Greek mercenaries were participating in the local uprisings. Of particular concern were also the provinces in Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), at the western tip of which Asia and the Persians faced Europe and the Greeks. There, Greek settlers were reviving and reinforcing olden settlements; the Persians, on their part, sought to ward off the troublesome Europeans by seizing nearby Greek islands.
The growing tensions broke into open warfare when the Persians invaded the Greek mainland and were beaten at Marathon in 490 B.C.E. A Persian invasion by sea was beaten off by the Greeks in the straits of Salamis a decade later, but the skirmishes and battles for control of Asia Minor continued for another century, even as in Persia king followed king and in Greece Athenians, Spartans, and Macedonians fought one another for supremacy.
In those double struggles—one among the mainland Greeks, the other with the Persians—the support of the Greek settlers of Asia Minor was very important. No sooner did the Macedonians win the upper hand on the mainland than their king, Philip II, sent an armed corps over the Straits of Hellespont (today’s Dardanelles) to secure the loyalty of the Greek settlements. In 334 B.C.E. his successor, Alexander (“the Great”), heading an army 15,000 strong, crossed into Asia at the same place and launched a major war against the Persians.
Alexander’s astounding victories and the resulting subjugation of the Ancient East to Western (Greek) domination have been told and retold by historians—starting with some who had accompanied Alexander—and need no repetition here. What does need to be described are the personal reasons for Alexander’s foray into Asia and Africa. For, apart from all geopolitical or economic reasons for the Greek-Persian great war, there was Alexander’s own personal quest: there had been persistent rumors in the Macedonian court that not King Philip but a god—an Egyptian god—was Alexander’s true father, having come to the queen, Olympias, disguised as a man. With a Greek pantheon that derived from across the Mediterranean Sea and headed (like the Sumerian twelve) by twelve Olympians, and with tales of the gods (“myths”) that emulated the Near Eastern tales of the gods, the appearance of one such god in the Macedonian court was not deemed an impossibility. With court shenanigans that involved a young Egyptian mistress of the king and marital strife that included divorce and murders, the “rumors” were believed—first and foremost by Alexander himself.
A visit by Alexander to the oracle in Delphi to find out whether he was indeed the son of a god and therefore immortal only intensified the mystery; he was advised to seek an answer at an Egyptian sacred site. It was thus that as soon as the Persians were beaten in the first battle, Alexander, rather than pursuing them, left his main army and rushed to the oasis of Siwa in Egypt. There the priests assured him that he indeed was a demigod, the son of the ram-god Amon. In celebration, Alexander issued silver coins showing him with ram’s horns (Fig. 121).
But what about the immortality? While the course of the resumed warfare and Alexander’s conquests have been documented by his campaign historian Callisthenes and other historians, his personal quest for Immortality is mostly known from sources deemed to be pseudo-Callisthenes, or “Alexander Romances” that embellished fact with legend. As detailed in The Stairway to Heaven, the Egyptian priests directed Alexander from Siwa to Thebes. There, on the Nile River’s western shore, he could see in the funerary temple built by Hatshepsut the inscription attesting to her being fathered by the god Amon when he came to her mother disguised as the royal husband—exactly like the tale of Alexander’s demigod conception. In the great temple of Ra-Amon in Thebes, in the Holy of Holies, Alexander was crowned as a Pharaoh. Then, following the directions given in Siwa, he entered subterranean tunnels in the Sinai peninsula, and finally he went to where Amon-Ra, alias Marduk, was—to Babylon. Resuming the battles with the Persians, Alexander reached Babylon in 331 B.C.E., and entered the city riding in his chariot.
In the sacred precinct he rushed to the Esagil ziggurat temple to grasp the hands of Marduk as conquerors before him had done. But the great god was dead.
According to the pseudo-sources, Alexander saw the god lying in a golden coffin, his body immersed (or preserved) in special oils. True or not, the facts are that Marduk was no longer alive, and that his Esagil ziggurat was, without exception, described as his tomb by subsequent established historians.
According to Diodorus of Sicily (first century B.C.E.), whose Bibliotheca historica is known to have been compiled from verified reliable sources, “scholars called Chaldaeans, who have gained a great reputation in astrology and who are accustomed to predict future events by a method based on age-old observations,” warned Alexander that he would die in Babylon, but “could escape the danger if he re-erected the tomb of Belus which had been demolished by the Persians” (Book XVII, 112.1). Entering the city anyway, Alexander had neither the time nor the manpower to do the repairs, and indeed died in Babylon in 323 B.C.E.
The first century B.C.E. historian-geographer Strabo, who was born in a Greek town in Asia Minor, described Babylon in his famed Geography—its great size, the “hanging garden” that was one of the Seven Wonders of the World, its high buildings constructed of baked bricks, and so on, and said this in section 16.I.5 (emphasis added):
Here too is the tomb of Belus, now in ruins, having been demolished by Xerxes, as it is said.
It was a quadrangular pyramid of baked bricks, not only being a stadium in height, but also having sides a stadium in length.
Alexander intended to repair this pyramid; but it would have been a large task and would have required a long time, so that he could not finish what he had attempted.
According to this source, the tomb of Bel/Marduk was destroyed by Xerxes, who was the Persian king (and ruler of Babylon) from 486 to 465 B.C.E. Strabo, in Book 5, had earlier stated that Belus was lying in a coffin when Xerxes decided to destroy the temple, in 482 B.C.E. Accordingly, Marduk died not long before (Germany’s leading Assyriologists, meeting at the University of Jena in 1922, concluded that Marduk was already in his tomb in 484 B.C.E.). Marduk’s son Nabu also vanished from the pages of history about the same time. And thus came to an end, an almost human end, the saga of the gods who shaped history on planet Earth.
That the end came as the Age of the Ram was waning was probably no coincidence, either.
With the death of Marduk and the fading away of Nabu, all the great Anunnaki gods who had once dominated Earth were gone; with the death of Alexander, the real or pretended demigods who linked Mankind to the gods were also gone. For the first time since Adam was fashioned, Man was without his creators.
In those despondent times for Mankind, hope came forth from Jerusalem.
Amazingly, the story of Marduk and his ultimate fate in Babylon had been correctly foretold in biblical prophecies. We have already noted that Jeremiah, while forecasting a crushing end for Babylon, made the distinction that its god Bel/Marduk was only doomed to “wither”—to remain, but to grow old and confused, to shrivel and die. We should not be surprised that it was a prophecy that came true.
But as Jeremiah correctly predicted the final downfall of Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon, he accompanied those predictions with prophecies of a reestablished Zion, of a rebuilt temple, and of a “happy end” for all nations at the End of Days. It would be, he said, a future that God had planned “in his heart” all along, a secret that shall be revealed to Mankind (23: 20) at a predetermined future time: “at the End of Days you shall perceive it” (30: 24), and “at that time, they shall call Jerusalem Yahweh’s Throne, and all nations shall assemble there” (3: 17).
Isaiah, in his second set of prophecies (sometimes called the Second Isaiah), identifying Babylon’s god as the “Hiding god”—which is what “Amon” meant—foresaw the future in those words:
Bel is bowed down, Nebo is cowered,
their images are loads for beasts and cattle…
Together they stoopeth, they bowed down,
unable to save themselves from capture.
These prophecies, as did Jeremiah’s, also contained the promise that Mankind will be offered a new beginning, new hope; that a Messianic Time will come when “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb.” And, the Prophet said, “it shall come to pass at the End of Days that the Mount of Yahweh’s Temple shall be established as foremost of all mountains, exalted above all hills; and all the nations shall throng unto it”; it will be then that the nations “shall beat their swords into plough-shares and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and they shall no longer teach war” (Isaiah 2: 1–4)
The assertion that after troubles and tribulations, after people and nations shall be judged for their sins and transgressions, a time of peace and justice shall come was also made by the early Prophets even as they predicted the Day of the Lord as judgment day. Among them were Hosea, who foresaw the return of the kingdom of God through the House of David at the End of Days, and Micha, who—using words identical to those of Isaiah—declared that “at the End of Days it shall come to pass.” Significantly, Micha too considered the restoration of God’s Temple in Jerusalem and Yahweh’s universal reign through a descendant of David as a prerequisite, a “must” destined from the very beginning, “emanating from ancient times, from everlasting days.”
There was thus a combination of two basic elements in those End of Days predictions: one, that the Day of the Lord, a day of judgment upon Earth and the nations, will be followed by Restoration, Renewal, and a benevolent era centered on Jerusalem. The other is, that it has all been preordained, that the End was already planned by God at the Beginning. Indeed, the concept of an End of Epoch, a time when the course of events shall come to a halt—a precursor, one may say, of the current idea of the “End of History”— and a new epoch (one is almost tempted to say, a New Age), a new (and predicted!) cycle shall begin, can already be found in the earliest biblical chapters.
The Hebrew term Acharit Hayamim (sometimes translated “last days,” “latter days,” but more accurately “end of days”) was already used in the Bible in Genesis (Chapter 49), when the dying Jacob summoned his sons and said: “Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you at the End of Days.” It is a statement (followed by detailed predictions that many associate with the twelve houses of the zodiac) that presupposes prophecy by being based on advance knowledge of the future. And again, in Deuteronomy (Chapter 4), when Moses, before dying, reviewing Israel’s divine legacy and its future, counseled the people thus: “When you in tribulations shall be and such things shall befall you, in the End of Days to Yahweh thy God return and hearken to His voice.”
The repeated stress on the role of Jerusalem, on the essentiality of its Temple Mount as the beacon to which all nations shall come streaming, had more than a theological-moral reason. A very practical reason is cited: the need to have the site ready for the return of Yahweh’s Kavod—the very term used in Exodus and then by Ezekiel to describe God’s celestial vehicle! The Kavod that will be enshrined in the rebuilt Temple, “from which I shall grant peace, shall be greater than the one in the First Temple,” the Prophet Haggai was told. Significantly, the Kavod’s coming to Jerusalem was repeatedly linked in Isaiah to the other space-related site—in Lebanon: It is from there that God’s Kavod shall arrive in Jerusalem, verses 35: 2 and 60: 13 stated.
One cannot avoid the conclusion that a divine Return was expected at the End of Days; but when was the End of Days due?
The question—one to which we shall offer our own answer—is not new, for it has already been asked in antiquity, even by the very Prophets who had spoken of the End of Days.
Isaiah’s prophecy about the time “when a great trumpet shall be blown” and the nations shall gather and “bow down to Yahweh on the Holy Mount in Jerusalem” was accompanied by his admission that without details and timing the people could not understand the prophecy. “Precept is upon precept, precept is within precept, line is upon line, line is with line, a little here, somewhat there” was how Isaiah (28: 10) complained to God. Whatever answer he was given, he was ordered to seal and hide the document; no less than three times, Isaiah changed the word for “letters” of a script— Otioth—to Ototh, which meant “oracular signs,” hinting at the existence of a kind of secret “Bible Code” due to which the divine plan could not be comprehended until the right time. Its secret code might have been hinted at when the Prophet asked God—identified as “Creator of the letters”— to “tell us the letters backward” (41: 23).
The prophet Zephaniah—whose very name meant “By Yahweh encoded”—relayed a message from God that it will be at the time of the nations’ gathering that he “will speak in a clear language.” But that said no more than saying, “You’ll know when it will be time to tell.”
No wonder, then, that in its final prophetic book, the Bible dealt almost exclusively with the question of WHEN—when will the End of Days come? It is the Book of Daniel, the very Daniel who deciphered (correctly) for Belshazzar the Writing on the Wall. It was after that that Daniel himself began to have omen-dreams and to see apocalyptic visions of the future in which the “Ancient of Days” and his archangels played key roles. Perplexed, Daniel asked the angels for explanations; the answers consisted of predictions of future events, taking place at, or leading to, the End of Time. And when will that be? Daniel asked; the answers, which on the face of it seemed precise, only piled up enigmas upon puzzles.
In one instance an angel answered that a phase in future events, a time when “an unholy king shall try to change the times and the laws,” will last “a time, times and a half time”; only after that will the promised Messianic Time, when “the kingdom of heaven will be given to the people by the Holy Ones of the Most High,” come about. Another time the responding angel said: “Seventy sevens and seventy sixties of years have been decreed for your people and your city until the measure of transgression is filled and prophetic vision is ratified”; and yet another time that “after the seventies and sixties and two of years, the Messiah will be cut off, a leader will come who will destroy the city, and the end will come through a flood.”
Seeking a clearer answer, Daniel then asked a divine messenger to speak plainly: “How long until the end of these awful things?” In response, he again received the enigmatic answer that the End will come after “a time, times and a half time.” But what did “time, times and a half time” mean, what did “seventy weeks of years” mean?
“I heard and did not understand,” Daniel stated in his book. “So I said: My lord, what will be the outcome of these things?” Again speaking in codes, the angel answered: “from the time the regular offering is abolished and an appalling abomination is set up, it will be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days; happy is the one who waits and reaches one thousand three hundred and thirty five.” And having given Daniel that information, the angel—who had called him before “Son of Man”—told him: “Now, go on to thy end, and arise for your destiny at the End of Days.”
Like Daniel, generations of biblical scholars, savants and theologians, astrologers and even astronomers—the famed Sir Isaac Newton among the latter—also said “we heard, but did not understand.” The enigma is not just the meaning of “time, time and a half” and so on, but from when does (or did) the count begin? The uncertainty stems from the fact that the symbolic visions seen by Daniel (such as a goat attacking a ram, or two horns multiplying to four and then dividing) were explained to him by the angels as events that were to take place well beyond Babylon of Daniel’s time, beyond its predicted fall, even beyond the prophesied rebuilding of the Temple after seventy years. The rise and demise of the Persian empire, the coming of the Greeks under Alexander’s leadership, even the division of his conquered empire among his successors—all are foretold with such accuracy that many scholars believe that the Daniel prophecies are of the “post-event” genre—that the book’s prophetic part was actually written circa 250 B.C.E. but pretended to have been written three centuries earlier.
The clinching argument is the reference, in one of the angelic encounters, to the start of the count “from the time that regular offering [in the temple] is abolished and an appalling abomination is set up.” That could only refer to the events that took place in Jerusalem on the 25th day of the Hebrew month Kislev in 167 B.C.E.
The date is precisely recorded, for it was then that “the abomination of desolation” was placed in the Temple, marking—many then believed—the start of the End of Days.