In Daniel 8 we saw in Daniel’s vision the fall of the Persian empire and the future turmoil of the holy people under Greece. Once Alexander the Great conquered for Greece, the kingdom would be divided between four of his military leaders. Some time after this, a little horn would arise from among these kingdoms that would remove the daily sacrifices and bring the temple low. During this time the holy people would experience persecution from the little horn. This little horn is considered to be Antiochus IV Epiphanes. These things were to last for 2300 evenings and mornings after which the sanctuary would be cleansed. After seeing this vision and receiving the interpretation, Daniel is sick for days and astonished by the vision. This leads us into our study of Daniel 9.
Daniel’s Prayer (9:1-19)
Time and conditions
In verse 1 we read that it is the first year of Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus. Therefore our time is about 539 B.C. when the Medo-Persian empire conquered the Babylonian empire (Daniel 5:31 ). Through the reading of “the books,” which we would understand to be the scriptures because of the reference to Jeremiah, Daniel understands that the time of desolation in Jerusalem would be seventy years. This is exactly what Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 25:11-12 and 29:10. Jeremiah 25:11-12 reads, “And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, says the Lord; and I will make it a perpetual desolation.” These events, as prophesied by Jeremiah, had now been fulfilled. Nearly seventy years had gone by since the first invasion of Babylon into Judah until this time. Further, Babylon has just been conquered by the Medo-Persian empire. Since the words of Jeremiah have been fulfilled, it seems that Daniel understands the time for the restoration of the people of Judah is coming. However, it seems that Daniel knows that the people have not changed. The people are still continuing in their wickedness. This leads Daniel to pray for intercession to the Lord.
Contents of Daniel’s prayer
Daniel begins his prayer with adoration to the Lord in verse 4. The Lord is described by Daniel as the “great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments.” Daniel then proceeds to confess to the Lord the sins of the people. Verse 13 seems to suggest that the people have not turned their hearts to the Lord because of the disaster that has come upon them. Daniel says, “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand your truth.” The heart of the people has not changed. They are not praying to God and not turning from their iniquities. In verses 16-19 Daniel makes his requests before the Lord. Daniel asks for the Lord’s anger and fury to be turned away from Jerusalem because of the Lord’s righteousness. Verse 18 really makes the point of Daniel, “for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies.” Daniel admits that the people are not acting righteously. There is no reason for the Lord to act upon their behalf except for His mercy. Daniel pleads on the basis that God made a covenant with the people that a remnant would return, and Daniel asks that the Lord fulfill His words, even though the people continue to break the covenant.
Gabriel’s Answer ( 9:20 -27)
The coming of Gabriel
While Daniel is praying and confessing sin, Gabriel comes to him. Gabriel was seen in Daniel 8:16 as the one who would bring understanding to Daniel concerning the vision he had seen. Gabriel informs Daniel that he was sent at the beginning of Daniel’s prayer to bring him the insight to understand. In verse 23 we see a personal statement, “for you are greatly beloved.” This is the Lord’s attitude toward his children. The Lord desires to answer the prayers of the faithful. Thus, the Lord sends Gabriel to explain the things that will happen concerning Jerusalem.
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city. Literally, “seventy sevens” have been decreed, though most translations render this seventy weeks. Now, before we begin to analyze this text, it is useful to know that these verses are considered the most difficult of this book. Others say that these four verses are the most controversial verses in the Bible. Our approach to these seventy weeks will be the same as the other prophecies and visions that we have seen. We will look for the simplest and most natural understanding of the seventy weeks. Verse 24 tells us that there are six things that are going to take place during the seventy weeks. Notice in verse 24 that these things are concerning “your people and your holy city.” These are things that will occur regarding God’s people and the city of Jerusalem . The six things are: (1) to finish the transgression, (2) to make an end of sin, (3) to make atonement for iniquity, (4) to bring in everlasting righteousness, (5) to seal up the vision and prophecy, and (6) to anoint the most holy. Any explanation of the seventy weeks must be able to show how these things were fulfilled in the seventy weeks.
Are these seventy weeks to be taken literally or symbolically? Many scholars claim that we need to take these seventy weeks literally. However, none of them actually follow through in being literal. At some point, everyone makes the number figurative or symbolic in some manner. We know that it was not 69 weeks from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah. This would be the true way to understand this text if one were to be completely literal. But this does not fit into history. Therefore everyone, in one form or another, takes these seventy weeks to be symbolic in some fashion. Let us note the chronology of the seventy weeks. Verse 25 tells us to begin with the “decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem .” This is our starting point. Seven weeks is the time between the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to the time of the completion of the restoration of Jerusalem . 62 weeks are defined as the time from the completion of the restoration of Jerusalem to the time of the coming of the Messiah the Prince (vs. 25). Therefore, from the time of the decree to rebuild to the coming of the Messiah is 69 weeks. Verse 26 tells us that after the 62 weeks (the coming of the Messiah), the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing. This must take place in the 70th week since it takes place after the other stated weeks. Then verse 26 tells us that the city and the sanctuary will be destroyed. In verse 27 we see at the end of this 70th week, the one who makes the city and sanctuary desolate will have complete destruction poured out on it. So what is the meaning of the seventy weeks? We will spend some time looking at the various views.
This view states that the decree to rebuild the city begins in 458 B.C. when Artaxerxes gives approval for Ezra to go to Jerusalem . Daniel says that from the decree to rebuild to the coming of the Messiah the Prince would be 69 weeks. This view defines each week to equal seven years. Therefore the 69 weeks equals 483 years (69 x 7). Add 483 years to 458 B.C. and you get 25-26 A.D. This is about the time that it is supposed that Jesus was baptized. The final week would then be a total of seven years, since each week equals seven years according to this view. Verse 27 tells us that in the midst of the 70th week, he (the Messiah) causes the sacrifice and grain offering to cease. We know that the ministry of Christ lasted approximately three and a half years. All of these things so far fit nicely until we try to see the completion of the 70th week. Now there are only three and a half years left for the destruction of the city and the temple and the complete destruction upon the one who makes desolate these things. The city and the temple were destroyed in 70 A.D., forty years after the death of Christ, not three and a half years. Further, the one who made desolate the city and the temple was the Roman empire . The Roman empire was not put to an end for more than 300 years. These historical points do not fit into the view presented.
There are also some other difficulties.
- There is no proof in the text to tell us that each week or “seven” is to equal seven years. Simply because it is used in another book of the Bible does not necessitate its use here.
- According to Nehemiah, the city was completed in 444 B.C. The scripture tells us that there are 7 weeks from the decree to rebuild the city to its completion. Using 458 B.C. (as they use) as the decree date and adding 49 years (7 weeks x 7, since each week equal seven years) gives us a date of 409 B.C. This is not accurate and cannot be accepted.
- Why should the decree involving Ezra be the date used in the calculation? Ezra’s purpose was mainly with the temple. Isaiah prophesied that Cyrus would decree that the city and the temple be rebuilt (Isaiah 44:26-28; 45:13). Cyrus issued his decree to rebuild in approximately 538 B.C. From this decree, Zerubabbel leads the people to Judah to rebuild the temple and the city.
- The seventy weeks speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which took place in 70 A.D. (vs. 26). This view has no way to work this important event into its chronology. Because of all of these problems, this view must be rejected.
This view states that the decree to rebuild the city begins with Nehemiah in 445 B.C. This view also holds that each week equals seven years. Therefore, the 69 weeks equals 483 years. Adding 483 years to 445 B.C. gives us the date of 38 A.D., which would have to be the time of the coming of the Messiah. As many should know, by 38 A.D. Jesus has already lived, died, resurrected, and ascended. This has more than seven years too much time on it. This view also has the Messiah being cut off during the 69 weeks, instead of after them as verse 26 states. This view goes on to state that the 70th week has not yet occurred. Instead, the prophetic clock stopped with the death of Jesus on the cross and has not started again. Therefore, the church age has a two thousand year gap (and counting) in the seventy weeks. In the 70th week, this view states that it will begin with the rapture of the church and that these seven years will constitute the tribulation period. The last three and a half years will be the “great tribulation.” The one who causes the sacrifices to cease is said to be the antichrist.
As we have noticed, and will now go into more detail, there are many difficulties with this view.
- This view also treats each “week” as seven years. However, as noted above, nowhere does the text tell us to make such an association.
- This view says that the decree begins with Nehemiah in 445 B.C. But why begin with this date? The temple was finished in 516 B.C. This decree to Nehemiah was not to rebuild the temple and city, but only the walls of the city. Further, as already noted, the chronology shoots us far past the life of Christ to 38 A.D. Again, Isaiah prophesied that it would be Cyrus who would decree the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple (Isaiah 44:26-28; 45:13).
- Gabriel says that after 62 plus 7 weeks (69 weeks) the Messiah is cut off (vs 26). Thus, the cutting off of the Messiah happened in the 70th week. However, this view says that the final week, the 70th week, has not yet happened. Therefore, the consequence is that the Messiah has not been cut off yet. We know this is not true, for the Messiah was cut off in death on the cross, as we will prove later.
- From the decree to rebuild to the completion of the rebuilding is seven weeks. This would be 49 years according to this view’s methodology. Add 49 years to 445 B.C. and this leaves us the date of 396 B.C. for the completion of the walls. However, we know according to the scriptures that the city was completed by Nehemiah in 444 B.C. (Neh. 6:15 ). This view violates the known history of the completion of Jerusalem . J.F. Walvoord, a proponent of this view, sees the problem and suggests the possibility that some rubbish may have not yet been taken care of in the city. Who can believe such a stretch?! This is a clear example of trying to prove a theory rather than seeking the truth of the scriptures.
- This view has a gap of 2000 years or more inserted into the message of the seventy weeks. But this is inconsistent with the view. If each week equals seven years and those years are counted from 445 B.C., how can we stop the chronology of the seventy weeks and insert 2000 years where Gabriel does not say such? Did Gabriel not know the things that were going to take place? The view adds time that the scriptures do not add. Therefore this view is rejected, even though most commentators and scholars hold this view. It does not reconcile with the scriptures.
Considering that these numbers cannot be taken literally and still fit into the chronology that Gabriel reveals, we must look for another alternative. Even when commentators try multiplying the numbers by seven and converting them into years, the chronology still does not fit. Therefore, our only alternative is to understand the numbers as symbolically representing periods of time. Seven weeks would represent a short period of time, while the 62 weeks must represent a longer period of time. Daniel has been praying concerning the seventy years of captivity. Gabriel answers Daniel’s prayer by responding that there is going to be another 70 that the people will go through. Gabriel is not revealing the exact time that these events will take place. The important message is to reveal that there are more events that are going to take place to this people.
With this view we understand that in verse 25 “the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem ” to refer to the decree of Cyrus, king of the Medo-Persian empire, for the people of Judah to go back to Jerusalem . As mentioned previously, Isaiah prophesied of this decree that Cyrus would make in Isaiah 44:26-28 and Isaiah 45:13. We can read this proclamation in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 where it says, “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put in writing, saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given to me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah . Who is there among you of all His people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!'” This decree of Cyrus can also be read in Ezra 1-2. The temple was completed in 516 B.C. and the city was completed in 444 B.C. This would be less than one hundred years from the time the decree was made. Therefore the seven weeks simply represent the short period of time that would be required to finish the building of the temple and the city of Jerusalem . From the completion of Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah would be 62 weeks. Or from the decree to rebuild to the coming of the Messiah would be 69 weeks. These numbers suggest that it would be a more lengthy period of time until the Messiah would come. It was more than 400 years from the completion of Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah.
According to verse 26, after the 62 weeks the Messiah will be cut off, during the time of the 70th week. This is clearly a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Isaiah also prophesied that Christ would be cut off in Isaiah 53:8, where we read, “For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.” After this takes place, we further see in verse 26 that “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” We know through history that the city and the sanctuary were destroyed in 70 A.D., less than 40 years after Jesus was crucified. These events are said to happen in the last week (one week), therefore signifying how quickly these things would take place after the coming of the Messiah.
Verse 27 tells us “and he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week, he will put a stop to the sacrifice and grain offering.” Who is the “he” in this verse referring to? It is either the Messiah in verse 26 or the people of the prince in verse 26. Since the word is “he” and not “they” we must be talking about the Messiah. He will make a firm covenant. Jesus Christ brought with Him the new covenant that took effect when He died on the cross (Hebrews 9:15 -18 ). With the new covenant in effect at Jesus’ death, this was to put an end to the sacrifices and offerings of the people of God. Now that there had been the sacrifice of Jesus, there was no more need for animal sacrifices (Hebrews 10:1-10; 7:26 -28 ). Thus, according to verse 27, he would put a stop to the sacrifices and offerings.
In verse 26 we also notice that “the people of the prince” would be the ones who would come in and destroy Jerusalem and the temple. Who are these people? History tells us it is the Romans. The Romans are the ones who in 70 A.D. laid siege to Jerusalem , destroying the city and the temple. This is exactly what Jesus prophesied in Luke 21:20-24. Parallel this passage to the same account in Matthew 24:15, “when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place.” Jesus reminded his readers that this is what Daniel had spoken of here in Daniel 9:26-27. The abomination of desolation according to Jesus in Luke 21:20 and Daniel 9:26-27 is the people who would destroy Jerusalem , the Romans. This is the meaning of the end of verse 27. Here we see “the wing of abominations shall be the one who makes desolate.” The Romans made desolate the city of Jerusalem and the temple of God . The end of verse 27 tells us that upon the Romans a complete destruction will be poured out.
This is the only view that harmonizes not only the words of Gabriel in the book of Daniel, but also the words of Jesus regarding this event in Matthew 24 and Luke 21. All the other alternatives leave us with conflicts and difficulties. Finally, this view harmonizes with the six purposes that are listed in verse 24.