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Daniel 9:1-27

     During the so-called “Axial Age” of ancient history, God’s people in Israel had come to a pivotal time in their development as a nation.[1] The prophet Jeremiah, in chapter 25 v.11 had predicted that because of the nation’s idolatry, the “…whole country would become a desolate wasteland, and…serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” Both 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles recount that dreadful period of Israel’s decline and downfall leading to their predicted 70-years in captivity.

Having studied Jeremiah’s prophecy 70 years later, Daniel says in chapter 9 v.2 that he “understood from the Scriptures…the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah; that the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years.” So he prayerfully petitioned God in vv.3-19 to fulfill His promise to deliver the Israelites from bondage back to their homeland of Israel. “When [the] seventy years are completed,” the Lord had assured Jeremiah in chapter 29 v.10, “I will come to you and fulfill My good promise to bring you back to [Israel].” And so, in Daniel chapter 9 v.20, the prophet received the particulars of God’s plan for Israel through the angel Gabriel.

Daniel 9:20-23

     “I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, pleading with the Lord my God for Jerusalem, His holy mountain. 21As I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came swiftly to me at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22He explained to me, “Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. 23The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God. Listen carefully so that you can understand the meaning of your vision. (New Living Translation)

Like Jeremiah’s prophecy at the beginning of the 70-years, Gabriel’s message to Daniel after the 70-years was important to God’s people and their future. At this point they weren’t sure what would become of them, since Babylon—their original captors—had been conquered[2] by Darius and the Medo-Persians, who had taken over where Nebuchadnezzar left off.[3] So Daniel carefully studied Jeremiah’s prophecy in order to see what God’s people might expect in the months and years to come. I want to outline Daniel’s message beginning with “God’s Prophetic Plan” as explained by Gabriel in vv.20-23; followed by

“The Goals of God’s Prophetic Plan,” as they’re listed in v.24; and finally, “The Fulfillment of God’s Prophetic Plan,” as laid out for Israel’s future in vv.25-27.

     “When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you…” Moses had told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 30:1, “and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey Him …according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you… Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back…The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts…so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” As Daniel studied the Jeremiah, he would have read later in 31:33f: “The time is coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant…It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors… because they broke My covenant…’ declares the Lord…’I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Gabriel’s prophetic proclamations in Daniel 9 would add up to “insight and understanding” for those, who like the prophet, are wise enough to listen and learn.

 

God’s Prophetic Plan

     “While I was speaking and praying,” says Daniel in v.20, “confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel… Gabriel, the man… said to me, ‘Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding.’” For Daniel and those living within the timeframe of Jeremiah’s “70-year prophecy,”[4] God’s judgment had been harsh and even its conclusion was going to involve some painful reminders of just how miserably they had failed themselves and God.[5]

The tragic despair of the Hebrew people in Daniel’s day prompted the prophet to plead with God for their return and the restoration of Jerusalem within the timeframe of Jeremiah’s 70-year prophecy.

The Lord promptly responded to Daniel’s prayer in v.21 by sending Gabriel who laid out God’s prophetic plan, including the events in Israel’s expected future,[6] or what’s often referred to as the “Seventy Weeks.”[7] God’s plan for Israel from the beginning was to fulfill Jeremiah’s prophecy by answering Daniel’s prayer and delivering Israel, then restoring the city of Jerusalem. A plan that would require the faith of those who trusted in God’s will despite its occasional twists and turns.[8] As contemporary students of Scripture, it’s important for us to understand the significance of biblical prophecy in the planning and preparation that’s part of our daily lives. God’s prophetic plan for Israel at this time was simple and it was laid out plainly for Daniel and his readers in these verses.

 

God’s Prophetic Goals

Daniel and the Israelites—who had been hostages for 70 years—could now prepare to return home in accordance with God’s prophetic plan. In v.24, Gabriel tells Daniel that “seventy sevens are decreed…to (1) finish transgression, (2)to put an end to sin, (3) to atone for wickedness, (4) to bring everlasting righteousness, (5) to seal (off the)[9] vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place[10].” The 70 weeks are generally understood to mean 70 weeks of years, or 70 times 7 years, or 490 years.[11] Israel’s exile in Babylon had been 70 years and so their restoration and the coming of the Messiah would be seven times longer or 490 years.

Many have understood the “seventy sevens” to be a literal period of 490 years and in all honesty it does work out closely to the time of Christ’s birth and ministry.[12] However, it’s also worth noting that the numbers seven and seventy are used symbolically in Scripture to represent completeness, the sum of which would represent a symbol of ultimate completeness. Like in Matthew 18:22 where Jesus responds to Peter’s question about how many times he should forgive a brother. The Savior says, “seventy times seven.”

Just as Jesus wasn’t suggesting to Peter that believers are obligated to forgive a brother exactly 490 times, then on the 491st time to hold a grudge. It makes sense to understand the seven times seventy in Daniel as more symbolic than literal.

From Daniel’s perspective, the timeframe was arranged to show how the Messiah would do away with Israel’s transgression and achieve her restoration.

Despite the difficulty of this passage, Gabriel wasn’t trying to discourage Daniel, even though its fulfillment was going to come long after his lifetime. Despite the human desire for “instant gratification,” that isn’t how God works.

Most of us can barely remember the days when we had to wait for television and radio tubes to warm up before we could watch our favorite black and white cartoons. Yet Daniel 9 reveals that God’s timeframe for the salvation of His people and the restoration of their land—although certain—wasn’t going to happen instantly.

Daniel’s vision revealed that the completion of Israel’s promised restoration would come in stages.[13] The first stage—or first set of seven weeks—would include the time from God’s answering Daniel’s prayer for Israel’s restoration to the time when that restoration and the rebuilding of Jerusalem was complete.[14] It’s not likely that the decree[15] to restore and rebuild Jerusalem mentioned in v.25, was the decree of king Cyrus, as is often assumed these days, but rather it was God’s response to Daniel’s prayer in v.23 that marked the beginning of fulfillment.[16]

The distinction between earthly and heavenly decrees is vital to gaining “insight and understanding” with regards to Daniel’s prophecy in chapter 9. The first seven shows God’s response to Daniel’s prayer that Jerusalem would be rebuilt soon. Jeremiah’s 70-years prophecy would find partial fulfillment when this was accomplished in 515 bc upon the completion of the second temple under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah.[17] However, the period of restoration, along with the subsequent sixty-two sevens after the city was rebuilt, would also be a time of trouble, just as Gabriel had warned. Jerusalem would not enjoy the complete safety described by Jeremiah 33:16 as yet. Because the Messiah still hadn’t made His appearance and He wouldn’t do so until the end of the sixty-nine sevens, ushering in the climactic seventieth seven. Even then, the Messiah would be cut off, leaving Him with nothing, we’re told in v.26.

It’s human nature to assume that if God is in control of history, then things should run as smooth as a 51-minute episode of Star Trek. Sure, we’ll accept a few historical hiccups along the way, but on the whole we expect God to make our path relatively smooth and straight. Yet notice that 69 out of Daniel’s 70 weeks of sevens are marked by difficulties and trials, and the seventieth seven is no picnic either. The prophetic future that Daniel is shown is a one that would encompass wars and rumors of wars, along with trials and tribulations just as Jesus would describe in Matthew 24. Yet, the fact of the matter is, these trials are precisely the believer’s path to glory, because they’re in the footsteps of our Savior who journeyed from life to death to eternal life by way of the cross. God doesn’t demand anything from us, He’s not willing to endure Himself. His very own Anointed One, Jesus—the Prince of princes—came into this world and suffered firsthand what it’s like to be cut off and left with nothing.

Isaiah 53 from the Message translation: “Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have thought God’s saving power would look like this? The Servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about Him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at Him and people turned away. We looked down on Him, thought He was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains He carried—our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought He brought it on Himself, that God was punishing Him for His own failures. But it was our sins that did that to Him, that ripped and tore and crushed Him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through His bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on Him, on Him…”

Daniel’s prayer in vv.4-19, is based on his reading of Jeremiah’s prophecy, as he says in v.2. Sure enough, God answered his prayer by sending Gabriel to divulge His prophetic plan in vv.20-27. Forgiveness, reconciliation and justice were things Daniel and the Israelites had longed to experience; and with this prophecy in mind, they could renew their hopes that the future still held God’s promise.

God’s Fulfillment

The temple—nearly destroyed by Antiochus IV in 164 bc—was rebuilt by Herod the Great more than 200 years later, in 70 ad. But Israel’s trials and tribulations were not over, they would continue to get worse. When Jesus was born 450 after Daniel’s prayer, He would indeed be cut off—as predicted—when He was crucified on a Roman cross. But, the most difficult part of Daniel’s vision is what follows the cutting off of Jesus the Messiah. It’s at this point, that Gabriel tells the prophet that Jerusalem and its sanctuary will be destroyed by “the people of the ruler who will come.” Many have been convinced this is a reference to the “Antichrist,” but nothing could be further from the truth.

Actually, this ruler is Christ Himself, who was going to confirm God’s new covenant during the last climactic seventieth week, when He put an end to all animal sacrifices by becoming a sacrifice Himself for the sins of God’s people.[18]

According to the late Tim La Haye’s “Left Behind” books, these last events represent the work of an Antichrist in the distant future. The argument is that a sort of “parenthesis” needs to be inserted between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth weeks of Daniel’s prophetic timeframe, when believers are raptured into heaven, the antichrist appears, then sometime afterwards the temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt. Based on this prophetic approach, “the covenant” in v.27 isn’t God’s prophetic promise of grace through Christ, but a political agreement that the Antichrist makes in the last days with Jews, then reneges on that promise and destroys the newly rebuilt temple. However, many—including myself—believe that the covenant mentioned here is God’s promised new covenant, that Jeremiah 33 had prophetically predicted would come by way of the Messiah, Jesus. And as for the desolation and destruction of the temple mentioned in 9:27, that would take place in God’s response to Jesus’ crucifixion, when the temple was destroyed for the last time in 70 ad. Gabriel’s announcement to Daniel about the seventy weeks should be seen in the context of Jeremiah’s prophecy of the new covenant as fulfilled when God sent His Holy Spirit to put His law in our minds and write it on our hearts. [So that] He will be our God, and we will be His people.” Therefore, the coming of Jesus as the Messiah, and especially with His death and resurrection, the seventieth week began and will be fulfilled upon His Second Coming.

With the coming of Christ, all the things that Daniel predicted were accomplished:

Our sins were atoned for,

Our transgressions were removed,

and the words of all the prophets were vindicated.

Of course, we’re still awaiting the end of the seventieth week, again, that will come with the return of Christ.

Yet because of His sacrifice for our sins, there’s no need for the sacrifice of innocent animals nor is there a need for the temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. When Jesus breathed His last breath, the curtain separating the Holy place from the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. This symbolized the final departure of God from His temple and from Israel the nation that had broken the covenant for the last time. But most importantly it symbolized God’s Holy Spirit taking up residence in believer’s heart where the temple remains to this day. The only person who could unite the two offices of the “Anointed One” and the “ruler” found in Daniel 9:25 is Jesus Christ.[19]

Thus, Daniel was being told by Gabriel that the sins of God’s people—not the Romans—would destroy the temple in Jesus’ day, just as the sins of God’s people had destroyed the temple in Daniel’s day. Again, let me emphasize that the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem in Daniel’s day as well as in Jesus’ day, wasn’t the work of Antiochus Epiphanes or Caesar and the Romans, it came as the result of people’s sins.

The general sense of Daniel 9 is that the prophecy’s timing is both symbolic and real. Therefore, a literal 490 years from King Cyrus’ edict in 538 bc or the restoration of the temple in 515 bc, which is the core of what most people argue over in Daniel today, these dates aren’t even necessary. It’s a means of being ready for what’s to come as it occurs rather than trying to guess when it will occur.

     “This is love,” says 1 John 4:10, “not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Even if we’ve crucified Christ with our sin, or we’ve taken His name in vain, God’s grace is sufficient for our forgiveness. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Even if we’ve rebelled and transgressed against Him in every possible way, there’s still hope. While sacrifices and offerings were once the means for sinful men and women to approach God in the OT, now that Christ has come and died for our sins, His sacrifice is enough to forgive the most hideous of sinners.

      Daniel 9 shows us that with genuine prayer and mediation upon the truths revealed in God’s word, ordinary men and women can be prepared for the future. There will be Christ-like moments when God’s providence will lead us to the very edge of our faith and about all we’ll be able to say is, “not my will by Thine.” But whenever that happens, we’ll be prepared; not because we’re lucky or smart or because we’ve figured out some secret code that tells us exactly when the world will end. But because God’s prophetic plan has given us insight and understanding for the future.

 

[1] Meister, Chad (2009). Introducing Philosophy of Religion. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 10.

[2] Daniel recognized that the Babylonians and their king had been judged by God, fulfilling the first part of Jeremiah’s prophecy.

[3] (c.539bc?) The dating I’ve used in this message is approximate at best.

[4] The number 490 is not an arithmetical calculation to be pressed to yield chronological information. It is a figure that puts together two symbolic figures, the seventy years (a lifetime) of Jer 25:11/29:10 and the sevenfold chastisement of Lev 26:28. The result is a doubly symbolic figure extending from the beginning of chastisement in the exile to whenever it is seen as ending. J.Goldengay WBC

[5] In reference to Jer 29:10 JFB states that “After seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you – (note, Jer 25:11-12; Da 9:2). This proves that the seventy years date from Jeconiah’s captivity, not from the last captivity. The specification of time was to curb the impatience of the Jews, lest they should hasten before God’s time.” (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

[6] Now the word rendered “weeks” simply means a period divided into seven. Thus it is definitely misleading if we try to study this Scripture with conventional methods of measuring time. We do better to think in terms of seventy periods of time, each of which is divided into seven parts. Biblical Expositor, The – The Biblical Expositor – Volume 2: Job-Malachi: The Living Theme of the Great Book.

[7] Heb “sevens.” Elsewhere the term is used of a literal week (a period of seven days), cf. Gen 29:27-28; Exod 34:22; Lev 12:5; Num 28:26; Deut 16:9-10; 2 Chr 8:13; Jer 5:24; Dan 10:2-3. Gabriel unfolds the future as if it were a calendar of successive weeks. Most understand the reference here as periods of seventy “sevens” of years, or a total of 490 years. NET Bible.

Cf., Lev. 25:9, “Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven Sabbath years amount to a period of 49 years.” Seven-year periods of time, making a total of 490 years, but some take the numbers as symbolic. Of the six purposes mentioned (all to be fulfilled through the Messiah), some believe that the last three were not achieved by the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ but await his further action: the establishment of everlasting righteousness (on earth), the complete fulfillment of vision and prophecy and the anointing of the “Most Holy Place”

[8] Whiles I was speaking, and praying. (comp. Genesis 24:15, “And it came to pass, before he had done speaking”). This shows the rapidity of the Divine answer to prayer; even before we ask, “our Father knows what things we have need of.”

[9] The sealing here as used elsewhere in the OT was a sign of authentication as in 1 Kgs 21:8; Jer 32:10, 11, 44.

[10] Some translations (ie., NIV, NAS, NLT) have “the most holy place” instead of “most holy one” as in others. The expression is used of places or objects elsewhere in Scripture and not of people.

[11] 2 Chronicles 36:20f brought the idea of the 70 years of Judah’s desolation into connection with heptads, or ‘weeks,’ of years, by his remark that they were the penalty exacted by God for the ‘sabbatical’ years, which Israel had neglected to observe whilst in possession of its land (cf. Leviticus 26:34 f.).

[12] The number seven, and cycles of seven, sometimes have symbolic meanings, yet the actual facts of this prophecy are most amazing:

The date from which the 70 weeks was to be counted was the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (v. 25). There were three decrees issued by Persian kings for this purpose (539 b.c., 458 b.c., 444 b.c.; see under Ezra). The main one of these was the one in 458 b.c.

The 70 weeks are subdivided into 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 1 week (vv. 25, 27). It is difficult to see the application of the 7 weeks, but the 69 weeks (62 + 7) equal 483 days, which, according to the commonly accepted year-day theory (Ezekiel 4:6), means 483 years.

This 483 years is the period between the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the coming of the Anointed One (v. 25). The decree to rebuild Jerusalem was issued in 458 b.c. Adding 483 years to 457 b.c. brings us to a.d. 26, the very year in which Jesus was baptized and began His public ministry. A most remarkable fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, even to the year.

Further, within 3½ years Jesus was crucified, that is, “in the middle of the ‘seven’” (in the middle of the week) “the Anointed One” was “cut off”; He atoned for wickedness and brought in everlasting righteousness (vv. 24, 26-27). Thus Daniel foretold not only the time at which the Messiah would appear, but also the duration of His public ministry and His atoning death for human sin.

Some think that the remaining half of the 70th week was completed in the few years after Christ’s death and resurrection. Others believe that the fulfillment of the 70th week was suspended at the death and resurrection of Christ and will remain suspended as long as Israel is scattered; the last half of the “one week” then belongs to the time of the end.

Yet another viewpoint is that there is an indeterminate interval between the 69th and 70th weeks. Some believe that the 70th week will begin at Christ’s second coming and the rapture of the church. This, then, marks the beginning of the seven years referred to as the Great Tribulation period. It is thought that during this time the “little horn” of chapter 8 will rise to power and enter into a seven-year covenant with the Jews (Israel). This covenant is then broken after 3½ years and the remaining 3½ years represent a time of great war and destruction, leading up to the great and final battle of Armageddon.

[13] (1) the first seven sevens were for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, which was consummated forty-nine years after the decree to rebuild the city was announced; (2) sixty-two additional sevens bring us to the time when Messiah the Prince will come; and (3) a remaining seven concludes the full seventy sevens as they were given to Daniel. Hard Sayings of the Bible.

[14] The accents in the MT indicate disjunction at this point, which would make it difficult, if not impossible, to identify the “anointed one/prince” of this verse as messianic. The reference in v. 26 to the sixty-two weeks as a unit favors the MT accentuation, not the traditional translation. If one follows the MT accentuation, one may translate “From the going forth of the message to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince arrives, there will be a period of seven weeks. During a period of sixty-two weeks it will again be built, with plaza and moat, but in distressful times.” The present translation follows a traditional reading of the passage that deviates from the MT accentuation. NET Bible.

[15] Although not considered here, there are three points variously adopted by interpreters for the so called terminus a quo: First, the decree was the one Cyrus issued in 538/37 b.c. (Ezra 1:2-4; Ezra 6:3-5). Second, the decree was the one Artaxerxes announced in 458 b.c., when Ezra returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:11-26). Third, it was the decree that the same Artaxerxes proclaimed in 445 b.c., when Nehemiah returned.

[16] Decree Hb. dabar

[17] The time between the decree authorizing the rebuilding of Jerusalem (v. 25) and the coming of the Messiah (“the Anointed One”) was to be 69 (7 plus 62) “sevens,” or 483 years (see note on Ezr 7:11). The “seven ‘sevens’” may refer to the period of the complete restoration of Jerusalem (partially narrated in Ezra and Nehemiah), and the “sixty-two ‘sevens’” may refer to the period between that restoration and the Messiah’s coming to Israel. The final (70th) “seven” is not mentioned specifically until v. 27, following the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem by “the people of the ruler who will come” (Titus in ad 70). Therefore, while many hold that the 70th “seven” was fulfilled during Christ’s earthly ministry and the years immediately following, others conclude that there is an indeterminate interval between the 69th and the 70th “seven”—a period of “war” and “desolations” (v. 26). According to this latter opinion, in the 70th “seven” the little horn or beast (the antichrist) of the last days (referred to here as the one who sets up an “abomination that causes desolation” and who is the antitype of the Roman Titus; see Rev 13:1–8 and notes) will establish a covenant for seven years with the Jews (the “many”) but will violate the covenant halfway through that period (but see also note on v. 27). The death of the Anointed One (v. 26) refers to the crucifixion of Christ.

[18] He will confirm a covenant … will put an end to sacrifice. According to some, a reference to the Messiah’s (“the Anointed One,” v. 26) instituting the new covenant and putting “an end” to the OT sacrificial system; according to others, a reference to the antichrist’s (“the [ultimate] ruler who will come,” v. 26) making a treaty with the Jews in the future and then disrupting their system of worship. abomination that causes desolation. See note on 11:31.

[19] He will confirm a covenant … will put an end to sacrifice. According to some, a reference to the Messiah’s (“the Anointed One,” v. 26) instituting the new covenant and putting “an end” to the OT sacrificial system; according to others, a reference to the antichrist’s (“the [ultimate] ruler who will come,” v. 26) making a treaty with the Jews in the future and then disrupting their system of worship. abomination that causes desolation. See note on 11:31.

Many commentators understand this “coming prince” as a reference to the Roman general Titus, whose army destroyed Jerusalem in a.d. 70, or as a reference to a future antichrist. Other interpreters understand him to be the same “anointed prince” anticipated in Dan. 9:25. This person is addressed as “anointed one,” where the focus is on his priestly work of offering himself as a sacrifice, and as a “ruler” whose people fail to submit to his rule. The principal cause of the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 was the transgression of God’s people in rejecting the Messiah that God had sent to them (Luke 19:41–44).

In one interpretation, this refers to Christ’s atonement. With the death of Jesus on the cross, the atoning sacrifices of the OT were abolished. In another interpretation, if “the prince who is to come” (v. 26) is not the Messiah but an opponent of God’s people, then “he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering” means he will destroy the temple, and thus the prediction refers to the destruction of Jerusalem. A third interpretation argues that this will be fulfilled at the end of the church age, during the great tribulation. The final part of v. 27 is extremely difficult to translate. Literally, it reads, “In the middle of that seven, he will put an end to sacrifice and offering, and on account of the extremity [or “wing”] of abominations that cause desolation, until the end that has been decreed, it will be poured out unto desolation.” On the connection of abominations and makes desolate, see note on 11:31–32.