Daniel 9:1. In the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus. He is also called Cyaxares, the son of Astyages. His father was called by the jews, Ahasuerus. See on Esther.
Daniel 9:2. I Daniel understood by books, by Jeremiah, and confirmed by Ezekiel, that the seventy years of the captivity were accomplished. This passage proves how prophecies, even in those irreligious times, were valued by good men, and how widely the writings of the prophets were circulated. Why then should Rome keep the bible from the people? It is like forcing the people to keep their windows closed against the sun which brings us light, and health, and joy.
Daniel 9:3. I set my face to the Lord God, to seek him by fasting, by prayer, and by confession of sin. The Spirit of God inspired the prophet with this prayer, that he might hear it.
Daniel 9:21. Even the man Gabriel, the archangel who came as a man, and who had revealed the dream of the four monarchies: chap. 7. This is the same heavenly messenger that appeared to Zachariah, and made the annunciation to the virgin Mary. Luke 1:11; Luke 1:26. The church has this glory, that an innumerable company of angels are ever watching over her for good. “More are they that are for us, than all those that are against us.”
Daniel 9:24. Seventy weeks are determined. This revelation has ever been regarded as the sheet anchor of the christian religion, because it fixes the time when Christ should come. Jews and christians are equally divided in calculating the seventy weeks of Daniel; and no wonder, as Beroaldus observes, seeing the pagan historians respecting the Persian empire so constantly and grossly contradict one another. “Xenophon makes Astyages the last but one of the Median kings, but Herodotus says he was the last. Xenophon relates that Astyages died in peace when Cyrus was very young, leaving the kingdom to his son Cyaxares; whereas Herodotus affirms that Cyrus subdued Astyages. Xenophon says that the father of Cyrus was one of the princes of Persia, descended from Perseus, and that he received a princely education; but Herodotus makes him the son of one Cambyses, of ignoble birth, and brought up with a shepherd. Xenophon allows no more than eleven years for Cyrus’s reign, Herodotus twenty nine. The former makes him die peaceably on his bed, the latter says he was slain in a war against Tomyris, queen of the Massagetæ.”
Hence, as this point of the seventy weeks can never be exactly settled for want of evidence in early historians, we should rest satisfied that the jews who lived in our Saviour’s time really did believe that those weeks were accomplished. Dr. Lightfoot suggests, that the multitude went out to be baptized by John, in expectation of the Messiah’s kingdom.
There were four commands or edicts issued to rebuild the city and temple of Jerusalem; but the temple was not begun till the prophet Haggai had reproved the jews for building themselves ceiled houses, and for neglecting the house of God. The last edict was in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, and from that date most christians compute the commencement of Daniel’s weeks up to the crucifixion of our blessed Lord. And Ptolemy’s table does not go much beyond this time, nor has the difference any weight, when opposed to the expectation of the jews, those devout men out of every nation under heaven, who really at that time did expect the Messiah. Professor G. Strauchius, of the university of Wirtemburg, has written well upon this subject. I will gratify the rigorous enquirer with the substance of his arguments.
“We read,” says this learned divine, “of four edicts concerning the restoration of the jews, and the rebuilding of the temple and city, in the holy scripture. The first is in Ezra 1:1-3. “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, (that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled) the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he hath charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (he is the God) which is in Jerusalem.” The same words we read also in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, pursuant to the prophecies of Isaiah in chap. 45.
The second edict concerning this restitution is described likewise by Ezra 6:7-12. This which was issued by Darius in the same year that the prophets Haggai and Zechariah began to prophesy to the governors beyond the river, contains the following words. “Let the work of this house of God alone. Let the governor of the jews, and the elders of the jews build this house of God in his place. Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon, and let his house be made a dunghill for this; and the God that hath caused his name to dwell there, destroy all kings and people that shall put their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I, Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.” And the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah cited by Ezra, mention expressly the second year of Darius, and the month. For thus we read in Haggai 1:1; Haggai 1:8. “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech the highpriest, saying, thus saith the Lord of Hosts. Go up to the mountain and bring wood, and build the house, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord.” The same mandate is repeated by Zechariah in Zechariah 1:1. In the eighth month of the same second year of Darius, then, pursuant to God’s commandment, and the decree of the Persian king, the work was happily brought to perfection, according to the words of Ezra: Ezra 6:15-16. “And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king: and the children of Israel, the priests and the levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house with joy.”
The third edict is likewise described by Ezra 7:6. “This Ezra went up from Babylon, and the king granted him all his requests, according to the hand of the Lord his God upon him. And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, the levites, the singers, the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.” This decree of Artaxerxes grants full liberty to the jews to return to Jerusalem, and exempts all the priests, levites, and other ministers of the house of God from toll, tribute, or custom.
The fourth edict concerned particularly Nehemiah, Ezra 7:13-24, who in the twentieth year of king Artaxerxes, got leave to go to Jerusalem with the king’s letter to the governors beyond the river, and to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forests, that he should give the jews timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertaineth to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house he was to enter into, as may be seen more at large in Nehemiah 2:1-9. These are the four several mandates concerning the restoration of the jews, and the rebuilding of the temple and city, to one of which the beginning of these seventy weeks must be fixed.
There are not a few, both among the ancient and modern interpreters, who would have this epoch of the seventy weeks begin from the time of the edict of Cyrus, of which mention is made in Ezra 1:1, and in 2 Chronicles 36:23. Among the ancients, Clement of Alexandria patronizes this opinion before all others; and of the modern authors, David Paræus, Constantine L’ Empereur, and Johannes Wichmannus, especially Matthæus Beroaldus, and Hugh Broughton, an Englishman. To this opinion also the Dutch interpreters seem to incline, as appears out of their original Annotations, but without any probability of truth. For supposing with Beroaldus, that Christ suffered in the thirty third year of his age, in the fourth year of the two hundred and second olympiad, in the year seven hundred and eighty four from the building of the city of Rome, in the eighteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, and in the year of the world 3961. Supposing, I say, that according to the synchronisms of Beroaldus, Christ suffered in the year of the Julian period 4745, the beginning of these seventy weeks, and (according to the hypothesis of Beroaldus) the solution of the Babylonian captivity of the jews must be coincident with the year of the Julian period 4255, when Cyrus was dead; the interval from the beginning of the Babylonian epoch of Cyrus till the eighteenth year of the reign of the emperor Tiberius, comprehending no less than five hundred and sixty nine years, as most evidently appears out of the following table of Ptolemy. But no positive dependence can be placed in this table, because it reckons the reign of Persian, Syrian, Egyptian, and Roman princes in regular succession.
Cyrus reigned — 9
Cambyses — 8
Darius 1. — 36
Xerxes — 21
Artaxerxes 1. — 41
Darius 2. — 19
Artaxerxes 2. — 46
Ochus — 21
Arostus — 2
Darius 3. — 4
Alexander the Great — 8
Philippus Aridæus — 7
Alexander — 12
Ptolemæus Lagus — 20
Ptolemæus Philippians — 38
Evergetes — 25
Philopater — 17
Epiphanus — 24
Philomater — 35
Evergetes 2. — 29
Soter — 36
Dionysius — 29
Cleopatra — 22
Augustus — 43
Tiberius — 17
Total = 569
One of the main questions, and the most difficult to be resolved belonging to this point is, which of the three Dariuses is to be understood by that Darius mentioned by Haggai, Zechariah, and Ezra. It is well known that the first Darius is commonly surnamed Hystaspes, the second Nothus, and the third Codomanus. Concerning the last, it is put beyond all dispute by the consent of all the chronologers, that he had not the least share in this decree or edict; but about the two first, the most learned interpreters are very different in their opinions. Josephus, Antiq. lib. 9. cap. 4, refers this edict to Darius Hystaspes, who being put in mind by Zerubbabel of his promise, before he was king, of rebuilding the city and temple of Jerusalem, and to restore all the vessels and utensils carried away by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon, he joyfully granted his request, commanding his governors to conduct him and his followers safely to Jerusalem, to perfect the structure of the temple, and ordering those of Phœnicia and Syria to furnish them with cedars from mount Lebanon. But though archbishop Usher stands up in defence of the opinion of Josephus, yet his relation renders the whole very dubious: for he describes this edict as an effect of the marriage between Darius Hystaspes and Esther. On the other hand, there are very strong motives which induce belief, that the edict for the rebuilding of the temple was made by Darius Nothus in the second year of his reign. 1. Because it must be understood of the reign of the same Darius, when the jews lived in ceiled houses, and the temple laid waste, which was the reason they were afflicted with a general scarcity. Haggai 1:4; Haggai 2:16. Now, there being but twelve years betwixt the edict of Cyrus and the second year of the reign of Darius Hystaspes, it seems very improbable that in so short a time, especially under the reign of Cambyses, the jews should have built themselves ceiled houses, and have quite laid aside that zeal they had so lately shown in contributing cheerfully towards the rebuilding of the temple. Ezra 2:68.
2. It is to be understood of the reign of the same Darius, under whose auspicious reign the jews, after they had endured a great deal of misery, began to enjoy the benefit of a more peaceable state, pursuant to the words of God in Zechariah 8:11-13. But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the Lord of hosts. For the seed shall be more prosperous, the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her encrease, and the heavens shall give their dew, and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, oh house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing.
3. The above cited passages are to be understood of the same Darius who lived and reigned many years after the solution of the Babylonian captivity, it being evident from Ezra 5:6, that the Persian nobles had not the least remembrance of the edict published in behalf of the jews by Cyrus; for which reason it was that they were obliged to search the royal records. But this appears in nowise agreeable to the reign of Darius Hystaspes, there being but a few years betwixt the beginning of the reign of Cyrus and that of this Darius, who was probably one of the chief Persian lords under Cyrus. But this being applied to the reign of Darius 2. surnamed Nothus, there remains not the least difficulty, there being betwixt Cyrus and Darius Nothus above a hundred years. In confirmation of this may be alleged the words of Rupertus,, cap. 5:6, formerly professor in the university of Altorf. “If it was Darius Hystaspes that granted leave to the jews to rebuild the temple; how is it possible that the edict of Cyrus, concerning the restoration of the jews, could be so entirely forgotten? For Darius Hystaspes was one of the principal Persian lords under Cyrus; and yet this same Darius is obliged to have recourse to the records. Nehemiah was forced to inspect the genealogies of those that returned with Zerubbabel, when at the time of Darius Hystaspes there were living among them such as were able to give an account of their own descent. What can be more absurd? When we therefore read of Darius, that he ordered the records to be searched; and of Nehemiah, that he was obliged to inspect the genealogies; we may rationally conclude with Scaliger, that the edict of Cyrus was not a thing of a late date, at that time when Darius was petitioned about the rebuilding of the temple; and that consequently it could not be Darius Hystaspes who was coetaneous with Cyrus, but Darius Nothus, who granted liberty to the jews to rebuild the temple.”
4. The words in Haggai and Zechariah are to be understood of the same Darius who was at least the third after Cyrus, it being evident from the following words of Ezra 4:5-7, that Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes reigned betwixt Cyrus and this Darius; and that under both their reigns the building of the temple was obstructed. These are his words. “And the people of the land hired counsellors against the people of Judah, to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus, king of Persia, even unto the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia, and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue.” And in the seventeenth and following verses of the same chapter may be read the answer of Artaxerxes, forbidding the rebuilding of the temple. But betwixt Cyrus and Darius Hystaspes there reigned but one lawful king, which was Cambyses; wherefore the words of Ezra, both in this passage and in Ezra 6:1-15, cannot be understood of the son of Hystaspes. Whereas on the other hand, Darius Nothus having reigned betwixt the two Artaxerxes, to wit, Artaxerxes Longimanus, and Artaxerxes Mnemon, all the circumstances of the holy text concur for his reign.
Notwithstanding the unquestionable perspicuity of this argument, Dionysius Petavius found out another objection against Scaliger, which has been embraced and promoted by some of his followers. Among the rest, Periculi has the following words. “This Cambyses, this Smerdis, the son of Cyrus, either true or supposititious, we believe to have been the same with Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes mentioned in the scriptures; as appears out of the words of Daniel 11:2, ‘That after Cyrus till the time of Artaxerxes there reigned three kings over Persia;’ which would not be agreeable to the catalogue of the Persian kings, if Smerdis were not numbered among them. The objection that there is to the congruity betwixt Artaxerxes and Cambyses, and Ahasuerus and Smerdis, is of little moment. For Cambyses and Smerdis were their names when they lived yet in a private condition, or perhaps were their surnames, which afterwards, when they attained the royal dignity, were changed and transmuted into those of Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes. So according to Josephus, lib. 11. cap. 6, the son of Xerxes was by his father called Cyrus, by the Greeks Artaxerxes, and in the scriptures Ahasuerus; and if we may rely upon the testimony of Sedar Olam Rabba, the Persians called all their kings Artaxerxes.”
Those who would have Darius, mentioned in Ezra and by the other prophets, to have been the son of Hystaspes, are in no wise agreeable to the true computation of the history. And to make Artaxerxes the same with Cambyses, and Ahasuerus the same with Smerdis, is an unaccountable way of arguing. It is undeniable, that among the Persian kings there was a supposititious or Pseudo-Smerdis; but that he should be the same Ahasuerus mentioned in scripture, is contrary to truth, it being manifest out of Herodotus, that this Magus reigned only a few months; which time he bestowed in settling himself in the throne which he had usurped, not in oppressing the jews. And what is related of Ahasuerus in the book of Esther, has very little or no relation to the Pseudo-Smerdis, this impostor having never appeared in public during his short reign. It is also very evident from all the circumstances of the original text in Ezra, that in those ancient times, all the Persian kings were called Artaxerxes, Artasastas, or Ahasuerus.
There are likewise some who maintain, that Ezra did by Artaxerxes and Ahasuerus understand one and the same king of Persia, contrary to the tenor of the sacred history, which assigns them not only different names, but also different actions. Under the reign of Ahasuerus divers accusations were brought against the jews, but without success; whereas in the time of Artaxerxes the jews were, pursuant to a royal mandate, publicly opposed in the building of the temple by their enemies.
5. If, according to our opinion, by this Darius is to be understood Darius Nothus, and the beginning of these seventy annual weeks be fixed in the second year of his reign, this interval, as described by the angel Gabriel, will by a just computation, founded upon undeniable chronological characters, amount exactly to four hundred and ninety years, till the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. Wherefore we conclude with the words of Scaliger, lib. 7. p. 591, “It is very apparent that this Darius, in the second year of whose reign the rebuilding of the temple was begun afresh, must be Darius Nothus, who reigned betwixt the two Artaxerxes, viz. Artaxerxes Machrocire or Longimanus, and Artaxerxes Mnemon or Memor. The predecessor of Artaxerxes Longimanus could be no other person but Xerxes, who is called Oxyares in the scripture, which was his name before he obtained the royal dignity.”
Those who differ from us in opinion concerning this Darius mentioned by Ezra, make, among others, this objection, that our hypothesis is not agreeable to the age of Zerubbabel and Joshua. But this objection is answered very succinctly by Joshua Scaliger, lib. 6. p. 603. “They make, says he, this objection; because from the time of the edict of Cyrus, when Zerubbabel and Joshua were sent to Jerusalem, till the second year of the reign of Darius Nothus, are less or more one hundred and six years. And say they, how could they be living after one hundred and six years? But for my part I see no great occasion why they should so much wonder at it, there being no want of examples in the holy scripture, that several persons, especially those whom God had chosen as instruments to rule his church and people, have lived above one hundred and thirty years. And do we not see in our age some who attain to the age of a hundred and twenty years, and are in their full senses?”
But what is most remarkable, is, that Petavius, who is the main champion against our and Scaliger’s opinion, and looks upon the age of Zerubbabel as a thing very improbable, is very liberal in attributing at least the same age to Sanballat. For Petavius, lib. 13., himself makes Nehemiah’s journey into Palestine coincident with the 4259th year of the Julian period; and it is evident from Nehemiah 4., that the beforementioned Sanballat flourished about the same time. Now, according to Petavius’s own hypothesis, Alexander besieged Tyrus in the year of the Julian period 4382; so that from the time of Nehemiah’s journey into Palestine, when Sanballat flourished, till the taking of Tyrus after a siege of seven months, are to be accounted one hundred and twenty three years. For the beforenamed Sanballat assisted in the siege of Tyrus, and died not long after in Alexander’s camp in the siege of Gaza, as may be seen more at large in Josephus, lib. 12. cap. 8. From whence it is evident, that supposing this Sanballat but twenty seven years old at the time of Nehemiah’s journey into Palestine, he was one hundred and fifty years old when he died, and consequently Petavius contradicts his own opinion. But there is something peculiar in the age of Zerubbabel and Joshua, which is so far from carrying with it the least improbability, that long life was promised as a particular benefit from God, to all such as should return from the Babylonian captivity, according to Zechariah 8:4. “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, there shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.” Many examples might be produced of such persons as have lived to a great age, in Scaliger’s behalf. But for the sake of brevity we are willing to pass them by in silence, and refer the reader to other historians.
Those who are not pleased with Scaliger’s chronological computation allege, among other matters, that the following passage in Zechariah 1:12, contradicts his hypothesis concerning Darius. “Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, oh Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem, and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years.” From whence they draw the following consequence—that since from the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, till the second year of Darius Nothus, are elapsed above seventy years, the restoration of the temple is not to be referred to that king’s reign. But Scaliger’s answer is, that this passage of Zechariah is as little agreeable to their opinion concerning Darius Hystaspes, since these seventy years differ as well from the time of Darius Hystaspes as from the second year of Darius Nothus. He adds therefore, that those seventy years of which mention is made by the angel in Zechariah, begin about the twenty ninth or thirtieth year of the reign of Darius Hystaspes, when the jews were sorely oppressed by their enemies, and their condition grew worse after the death of the said Darius, about the beginning of the reign of Artaxerxes, as may be seen more at large in Ezra 4:5.
To finish the transgression. לכלא lecallai. Theodotian’s version, with all the various readings, is now before me, and he follows the LXX, του συντελεσθηναι αμαρτιαν. This reading is nearly as the English, only the Greek prefix syn, marks the full and complete expiation of sin. Liv. 16. Chrysostom has the same remark on the prefix to the word self-denial in the gospel, as equivalent to the injunction that a man should deny himself altogether. פשׁע pesha, French, péché, sin, crime, transgression. What more can we ask? What greater consummation can we have? Why then should our arians and socinians still give us trouble by reading, “To restrain transgression?” This rendering, borrowed from Grotius, cohibendo, is illusive and false. Let the English reader refer to places where the word callai occurs, and it will demonstrate the idea, that Christ hath put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and shut and covered it up in his grave. Zedekiah, it is said, shut up Jeremiah in prison. Jeremiah 32:3. They shut up the calves of the cows that drew the ark. 1 Samuel 6:10. I am shut up, said David, and cannot come forth. Psalms 88:8. Ahab said of Micaiah, put this fellow in prison. 1 Kings 22:27. The heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from fruit. Haggai 1:10. The preaching of the gospel did not “restrain” the jews from sin; they filled up the measure of their iniquity by the blood of the saints, as Daniel had foretold in Daniel 9:26-27.
The second blessing of the Messiah’s coming is, the consummation of his great sacrifice for the sin of the world. Such is the force of the word לחתם lechatam; he sealed, he finished on the high altar of the cross, the propitiatory oblation of his body for the sin of the world. He has consequently abolished in his flesh the enmity of ordinances in the ceremonial law, a yoke revolting to the jews, and insupportable to the gentiles. Ephesians 2:15.
The third blessing is reconciliation, as the Mediator between God and men, as the prophet had foretold. Isaiah 53:10, 2 Corinthians 5:18. Colossians 1:20.
The fourth blessing is everlasting righteousness, described in the following passages. Jeremiah 23:6. Romans 3:4. Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness and strength. This is literally the righteousness of ages, lasting as the kingdom of God.
The fifth blessing is the obsignation, or sealing up of the vision and prophecy, by fulfilling all the figures of the law, and all that the prophets had foretold. The Mosaic economy lasted till the mission of John. Matthew 11:13. After that there was no need of farther visions respecting the glory of his person, he being come the great High Priest, and the light of the world.
The sixth blessing is the anointing of the Most Holy. Literally, the holy of holies, the church of which he is the head. To him the Spirit was given without measure; and on all his members he sheds it down according to his good pleasure. He dwells in the church, of which the temple was a figure, in all the glory of the only-begotten of the Father.
Daniel 9:25. From the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. Archbishop Usher reckons the whole of the seventy weeks from the twentieth year of Artaxerxes; but here Daniel divides that period into three; seven weeks—sixty two weeks—and one week. Dr. Lightfoot allots the seven weeks, or forty nine years, for the building of the temple; and the one week, or seven years, from the commencement of John’s ministry to the crucifixion.
Daniel 9:26. After threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself. From this text, Tertullian argues against the jews, that the Messiah must be really come, and must have been cut off one hundred and sixty years prior to his writing at the close of the second century; and no rabbi of that age had confidence to refute him.— The people of the prince, the Romans shall come, as stated in Deuteronomy 28:49-52.
Daniel 9:27. For the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate. The prophets when contemplating distant objects are always laconic. Montanus reads, “and upon the wing of abomination exciting stupefaction.” The abominations in the temple brought the Roman eagles with swift wings to desecrate the city and temple, conformably to the determinate counsel of God, that the once holy place should, like Babylon and Nineveh, be desolate till the times of the gentiles should be fulfilled. The ruins of that sanctuary should be warnings to christians against Israel’s sins.
What a view of futurity now opened on the prophet’s mind. How his eyes rolled on judgment, on grace, and on glory. What an admission of a mortal man into the councils and communion of his Maker. Ah, poor Milton, thine access was an intrusion, but Daniel was an invited guest.
Above all, what rocks, what refuges are these predictions for the church, against the puns and sneers of a wicked age. The blaspheming sons of science are all in the labyrinth, while the christian walks at large with the lamp of revelation in one hand, and the shield of faith in the other.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Daniel 9". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany