In the first year of Darius, Daniel, knowing by the prophecy of Jeremiah that the time had nearly come when the Lord had promised to deliver his people, made a remarkable prayer, in which he confessed his sins and the sins of his people, earnestly beseeching the Lord to forgive them and not to defer the fulfillment of his promise.

While Daniel was yet making his supplication, the Lord sent the angel Gabriel to talk with him. Some fifteen years previous to this time, when Daniel had the vision recorded in the eighth chapter of his prophecy, Gabriel had been sent to explain the vision, and was commanded to make him understand it; but Daniel fainted before the explanation was finished; so Gabriel now begins just where he left off at that time. He tells the prophet that he has now come forth to give him skill and understanding, and asks him to consider the vision, so as to be prepared to understand the part that had not been explained.

The unexplained portion pertained chiefly to a long prophetic period of 2300 days [years], at the end of which the sanctuary was to be cleansed; and Gabriel now informs Daniel that the first seventy weeks of this period are to be especially given to his people, the Jews, after which the gospel would be preached to Jews and Gentiles alike.

He also gives a date for the commencement of this period; tells what shall be accomplished during the seventy weeks; and even goes so far as to show when the Saviour will begin his public ministry, and when he will be crucified. 

Thus the prophet's prayer was more than answered.

The capture of Babylon by the Medes and Persians occurred B. C. 538. About two years later, Darius the Mede having died, Cyrus took the government of the empire into his own hands. One of his first acts was to make a decree granting the Jews permission to return to Jerusalem, and rebuild the temple. By reading the first and sixth chapters of Ezra we shall see that this decree was a direct fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah; and that Cyrus, acknowledging that it was the God of Heaven who had given him all his wealth and power, ordered the expenses of building the temple to be defrayed from the public treasury.

This decree was published throughout the em- pire; and in a short time nearly fifty thousand people assembled, and took up their march for Jerusalem under the charge of Zerubbabel, the first of the royal line, and Jeshua, the one to whom the office of high priest would fall. They were four months in making this dreary journey of 700 miles.

About a year after arriving at Jerusalem they began to rebuild the temple, but were soon hindered by the Samaritans, who were descendants of the colony planted in Samaria by Shalmaneser at the time he conquered the kingdom of Israel, and led the people into captivity. These Samaritans wanted to assist in rebuilding the temple, and because they were not allowed to do so, they became very angry, and did all they could to put a stop to the work. This opposition continued throughout the reign of Cyrus, and during the reigns of his successors, Cambyses (called Ahasuerus), and Smerdis (called Artaxerxes). From the last of these kings the Samaritans obtained a formal decree for the discontinuance of the work, and took great pleasure in enforcing it.

But wicked Smerdis was soon succeeded by a more humane king, called Darius Hystaspes. In the second year of this king the prophets Haggai and Zechariah began to urge the people to resume their work on the house of God. The people thought it a very unfavorable time, as they were suffering from drought and famine; but the prophets told them that these calamities had come upon them in consequence of their indifference toward the work of God. Thus encouraged, they set to work, but no sooner was this known than Tatnai, one of the Persian governors, visited them, and demanded by what authority they builded. They referred him to the decree of Cyrus, which, upon search, was found at Acmetha, the capital of Media. The Persian monarch then issued a decree that the Jews should be helped in their work, and that whoever opposed them should be hung upon a gibbet erected from the timbers of his own house. Thus aided, the work went on, and was finished in the sixth year of Darius Hystaspes, twenty years from its commencement.