Bible Book of Daniel, Part 7 - Chapter 9
We are now eleven years after Daniel’s last vision in chapter eight concerning a ram and goat.
A new king, Darius from the Medo-Persian empire, was reigning and had conquered Babylon.
“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;” – Daniel 9:1
Daniel looks into a much older prophecy through Jeremiah, where God’s people would be captive for seventy years. Around sixty-seven years after their captivity, God’s people were coming towards the end of their prophesied time of captivity in Babylon.
"In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem." - Daniel 9:2
However, there were no signs of them leaving Babylon or praying and seeking God, and now there was a recently new Medo-Persian power in control. Plus, the previous vision in chapter eight revealed opposition against God's people and the template sanctuary. Therefore, he was understandably concerned.
His response was simple; to turn to God in prayer and fasting:
“And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:” – Daniel 9:3
Daniel realised that God’s people had sinned and gone against His commandments; therefore, he began repenting on their behalf:
“We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:” – Daniel 9:5
They have also explicitly ignored God’s warning to them through former prophets:
“Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.” – Daniel 9:6
Daniel then seeks God’s favour on both Jerusalem and His people:
“O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.” – Daniel 9:16
The eventual answer
The angel Gabriel then appears in this chapter to provide an answer to his anguish, who was there at the previous vision many years ago:
“Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.” – Daniel 9:21 & 22
His answer comes in the form of another number 70. Although Daniel focuses on Jeremiah's prophecy of 70 years of captivity for Israel, this one relates to 70 weeks.
This period focuses on the more significant issue of when the promised Messiah Christ will come, not the ending of exile in Babylon.
This is the most significant and accurate Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament predicting Christ's life and sacrifice, yet the most complicated with various interpretations by scholars.
Most agree on the length of years this covers and that it matches Christ's life, although with differences in the exact timing of this and the interpretation of the last section of time (covered later).
Therefore, the angel begins this 70-week period with a start date of when this prophecy will run from; the command to rebuild Jerusalem:
“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.” – Daniel 9:25
There were four separate commands from Babylon and Medo-Persia over time, with the third one giving full authority by Artaxerxes to God’s people in Jerusalem in 457 BC.
This relates to the city as a whole as per this verse, whereas the first decree by Cyrus in 538/537 BC and a follow-up by Darius were to rebuild the temple. As we'll see later, the popular alternative Dispensationalist view actually takes the fourth one afterwards.
Now we have a start date; the focus of this seventy weeks prophecy is the Israelites and Jerusalem’s opportunity to bring everlasting righteousness and anoint the Most Holy:
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” – Daniel 9:24
There are actually six specific goals that God is declaring to Israel to see their full restoration through the promised Messiah.
Using the same day-year principle as previously, where one day symbolically represents one year, in reality, we first total 490 days (seven days over seventy weeks), equating to 490 years.
These 490 years are then broken into three sections:
1. Seven weeks
An initial seven-week period for Jerusalem’s reconstruction equals 49 days or years (seven days times seven weeks).
“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks,” – Daniel 9:25(a)
Forty-nine years from the starting point of 457 BC leads to 408 BC, the fourth release of people back to Jerusalem from Babylon with people like Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild the walls and reinstate religious life.
Verse 25 refers to this period of rebuilding:
“and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.” – Daniel 9:25(b)
Also, the number 49 represents the jubilee cycle of 49 years in the Old Testament.
2. Sixty-two weeks
We then see a reference to ‘threescore and two’, which equals sixty-two weeks.
A 'score' is twenty; therefore, three of these sixty-two more are added to then total sixty-two.
This then equates to 434 days and, therefore, years (62 x 7).
Adding this now to the previous date of 408 BC reaches the year 27 AD taking into account no year zero between the BC and AD periods.
The interpretation explicitly links the ‘Messiah’ to this date, who will then be 'cut off' for the benefit of others:
"And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself:" - Daniel 9:26(a)
27 AD was when Jesus was alive on earth and the beginning of his three-year ministry when he was baptised with the Holy Spirit by John the Baptist and received an anointing from heaven.
3. The last week
The last week of seven days, and therefore seven years, includes the first half of Jesus’ earthly ministry and then the first part of the early church.
“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week:” – Daniel 9:27(a)
The prophecy splits this week in half, with the first half leading to Christ’s death in 31 AD (He was baptised in the autumn of 27 AD and then crucified in the spring of 31 AD after three and a half years):
“and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” – Daniel 9:27(b)
This emphasises the death and Resurrection of Jesus, who formed a New Covenant and the basis of Salvation, with the Old Covenant and the need for 'sacrifices' and 'oblation' ending (although they didn't practically stop until later, the meaning of them did).
The Gospels record the veil in the temple tearing at this time to symbolise this:
"And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself:" - Matthew 27:51
The previous verse also clearly states and replicates this point about Christ's death and His life being cut off:
"And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." - Daniel 9:26
When you add another three and a half years to arrive at the end of this last seven-year section, you come to 34 AD.
This was when the early church began to reach the Gentiles after the immediate few years following Christ's Resurrection, with incidents like Stephen being stoned as the first martyr in this year in front of Saul, who was then anointed as Paul to spread the gospel.
Up until 34 AD the Gospel and Holy Spirit were specifically directed to the Jews, who only received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, with no baptism of Gentiles in the first part of Acts (seen as unclean before Peter's vision), and Stephen pronouncing judgement on Israel at that point of change rather than a call to repentance.
This prophecy, therefore, focuses on Christ as the Messiah and the opportunity for the Jews to respond to the gospel before opening out to the Gentiles and the wider world shortly afterwards.
Both verses 26 and 27 highlight the consequence of the Holy City Jerusalem and temple sanctuary being destroyed and desolated if the Messiah is not accepted:
"And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate" - Daniel 9:26-27
Verse twenty-seven actually repeats things in verse twenty-six but with more details. This is a typical pattern of repetition in Jewish literature and emphasises different points about the Messiah and Jerusalem.
This finale happened in 70 AD when the Romans came and destroyed the temple and Jerusalem through Tiberius.
Although after this 70-week prophecy ends in 34 AD, verse 24 states that the response of God's people caused this downfall (which was in this prophecised period):
"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy." - Daniel 9:24
Verse 26 says the prince's people will do and cause this, which was outworked by the Romans afterwards (Jesus also predicted this future destruction of the temple).
This is similar to the delayed consequences to the Jews at this time in Babylon, where their earlier sins caused God to allow the city's destruction and the people's captivity through the Babylonian kingdom afterwards:
"And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god." - Daniel 1:2
Therefore, Christ is stated as ending the role of the earthly temple and Jerusalem (verse 27) because the Jews rejected Christ (verse 24) after this prescribed time prophecy and first sixty-nine weeks (verse 25), which allowed the Romans to destroy them in 70 AD (verse 26).
Put another way, God gave the Jews seven years to respond before then extending to the Gentiles; half under Christ's personal ministry on earth and half through the Holy Spirit and early church. If they had accepted, this would have changed redemptive history with a continuation of God's people through Israel and the Jews (as the purposes in verse 24 being fulfilled by them).
There are variations to this 70-week prophecy and its implication by Scholars when seeking to understand the meaning of the original Hebrew language, including the start date. There's a helpful post here comparing these other interpretations to this historical one.
Most accept this as meaning 490 years because Daniel also first focuses on seventy years, and reference to 'weeks' meaning years as well as days in the Jewish calendar. This also fits their interpretation of a literal 1260 days (not years) in other prophecies fitting into this prophecy rather than being separate.
The popular dispensationalist futurist view
This now popular method of interpretation assumes two changes to the last one-week section of this 70-week prophecy, which I've called stretching and turning.
Firstly, there is a gap in time between weeks sixty-nine and seventy, which stretches the prophecy beyond seventy consecutive weeks.
This places the last seventieth week at the end of time by inserting a current 'Church Age' from Christ's death until this future event.
This then emphasises literal Israel and the Jewish people, with the final destruction of the temple in 70 AD indicating this extended time for them. The Old Testament prophets are also seen as not spotting this hidden period for the Gentiles in between and Christ's death suspending His covenant with Israel until the end of earth's history.
Secondly, this leads to a 180-degree turning of who is involved in the last week. They assume this is by the antichrist against the Jews in literal Israel at the end of time after the Christian church has already been raptured to heaven, and the remaining Jews make a ‘covenant’ with the antichrist figure (who is part of the revived Roman Empire) who then turns against them halfway through the last 7-year ‘week’ and causes worldwide tribulation.
This is seen to match the core happenings in Revelation chapters six to nineteen and the 'abomination of desolation' referred to by Christ in Matthew 24 (Olivet Discourse) as a sign of the final Great Tribulation.
However, the word 'covenant' elsewhere in Daniel always refers to God and not the antichrist, and to 'confirm' it means maintaining an existing one, not creating a new one.
There's also a reference to Christ's sayings to His disciples that they won't know when the kingdom will come, and Paul that the mystery of the Gospel is to be revealed by first reaching Gentiles before the final opportunity back with the Jews who are still spread worldwide.
The focus of all this is assumed to be Israel, not Christians generally. It is agreed that the six specific goals of Israel mentioned in verse twenty-four haven't been completed yet, but rather than this passing to wider believers, they believe literal Jews will have a second chance to respond at the very end of time.
In the following verse 25, although the principle of the start date of the 70-week prophecy and the first sixty-nine weeks is agreed upon, the timing does vary within this view; for example, the first seven weeks from 587 BC and the sixty-two weeks from 440 BC, to end at Christ's or crucifixion. However, the popular timetable has a start date of 444 BC, and the later decree to rebuild Jerulsam with completion forty-nine years later. The end of the 69th week is when Jesus enters Jerulsam on Palm Sunday when He is presented to the Jews as their king just before His death rather than His baptism. Jesus reads the fulfilment of this in Scripture in the temple and is assumed to then permit a time gap of time until the last seventieth literal week just before His Second Coming for the opportunity for Jews to respond to this.
With the final verses 26 and 27, are assumed to be in consecutive order rather than repeating the same sequence of time. While verse 27 is DURING the 70th week, they interpret verse 26, and AFTER week 69 is the gap between 69 and 70.
Therefore, in verse 27, the 'people of the prince' from verse 26 are now viewed as the antichrist followers stemming from the Romans rather than God's people up to 34 AD. The 'he' in the previous verse 26 is assumed to mean those against Christ causing the destruction, rather than Christ the stated Messiah. Whilst the 'anointed one/price' in verses 25 and 26 are seen as Jesus, the 'prince' later in 26 and 'he' in 27 is seen as the antichrist.
Even if this was correct, you have to assume a revived version of the Roman kingdom approximately 1500 years after it falls, still in the future, and then a rebuilt temple. They also say the 'sacrifice' in verse 27 is Christ Himself; therefore, the 'he' against this can't also be Christ (but this is regarding the Old Testament sacrificial system).
Other non-dispensationalist views
These tend to focus on two areas.
Firstly, the consistent symbolic and idealistic method of interpretation is taken on by traditional and liberal Futurists. It assumes these time frames are only symbols and not literal; therefore, events can be made to fit. It tends to focus on Jerusalem symbolically and fulfilled through the wider church and assumes that all these prophecies are not genuine ones predicting the future but more a historical account afterwards in the second century BC written by another unnamed Jew, not even Daniel.
It tends to start in 538 BC, and the middle 62 weeks from 400 BC to the birth of Christ around 4 BC. However, there are differences in the last week despite agreeing that verses 26 and 27 repeat the same details and only concern Christ the Messiah, not the Antichrist. Most assume one-half of this last week to 70 AD and Jerulsam's destruction, and the second Church Age half in the future to the Second Coming.
Secondly, the critical Preterist view sees this all happening a lot earlier and being written by an unknown author around 164 BC. It commences back from Jeremiah's prophecy about Israel's exile, around 605 BC, with events not strictly following the prophecised weeks. The first 49 assumes to end in 587 AD, and the next 62 weeks to last 434 years. The last week points to 171-164 BC with the High Priests of Joshua and Onias III being murdered ('the anointed one' in verses 25 and 26, respectively), the destruction of the temple in 167 BC by Antiochus Epiphanes (the 'prince' in verses 26 and 27), and rededication of the Temple in 164 BC by Judas Maccabeans.
This is clearly before even Christ's time on earth and focuses on the Antichus Epiphanes king, as mentioned earlier, as the assumed antichrist damaging (but not destroying) the temple in Jerusalem, and Onias II, not Christ as the Messiah.
However, the temple was only damaged here, not destroyed, and Onias III did not have any form of Messiah. Also, the time span is only around 440, not 490 years, which people try to explain away by mistakes of the writer.
The forgotten comparison
How this 70-week time span compares to the previous prophecy in chapter eight is overlooked by all interpretations of this 70-week prophecy and denomination (other than Seventh-day Adventists, which forms their core doctrine of Christ's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary before His Second Coming).
A 2,300-year time span was left unexplained in the previous chapter, whereas other aspects of the Ram and Goat and little horn were explained.
This will have intrigued Daniel and motivated him to seek God at the end of the 70 years of captivity in Babylon with no signs of the sanctuary temple in Jerusalem being rebuilt or 'cleansed' as prophecised in chapter eight after 2,300 days/years:
"And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." - Daniel 8:14
"Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord's sake." - Daniel 9:17
Gabriel appears here to provide an answer to Daniel that relates to this earlier 'vision' in chapter eight (there is no other vision in this chapter nine, just Daniel seeking God):
"At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision." - Daniel 9:23
In particular, Gabriel says Daniel must now 'consider' this earlier vision.
Daniel also acknowledges that the same Gabriel was present in this earlier chapter eight vision:
"Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation." - Daniel 9:21
Therefore, the answer of 70 weeks here needs to be compared and 'considered' with the 2,300 days/years originally in chapter eight to help finally interpret this earlier one (which was emphasised by two spiritual beings):
"Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?" - Daniel 8:13
The key is a reference to being ‘determined' or 'decreed' in verse 24 after immediately mentioning the last 'vision' in verse 23. This means being ‘cut off’ or 'snipped' in verse 24 (tailors use the word to cut cloth):
“...and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” – Daniel 9: 23(b) & 24
This means that the seventy weeks are ‘cut off’ or ignored from this original 2,300 days/year period; therefore, both begin from the same point of 457 BC.
Put another way, they are timed against each other.
Adding 2,300 years to the year 457 BC, we arrive at the year 1844 AD, which we’re told is when the sanctuary was cleansed (also ignoring year zero between BC and AD).
"And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." - Daniel 8:14
The Christian Seventh-day Adventist church denomination identifies this as a critical date in God's sanctuary in heaven, with the earthly one not being in existence at this point in time.
Therefore, God answers the issue of what happens in the ultimate heavenly sanctuary where Christ is our High Priest. This is by first explaining what Christ will accomplish on earth by His death and Resurrection to enter then and minister in the heavenly sanctuary.
At the end of chapter eight, Daniel is told to seal up the 2,300-day vision, which happens long after the 490 days prophecy.
To help summarise this chapter, two-time spans have been placed on the wooden display.
One is the 70-week/year prophecy and focus of this chapter, interpreted as beginning from 457 BC and decree to rebuild Jerusalem. This was God's answer to Daniel seeking Him to end 70 years of captivity in Babylon.
This accurately predicts the baptism and death of Christ as the ultimate Messiah for all God’s people and ends in 34 AD when the gospel began to spread to the Gentiles.
Therefore, one timeline is placed on the display to match the dates in the previous vision. It starts in 457 BC, ends in 34 AD, and has the other key dates from the three sections.
The popular Futurists' interpretation stretches this into the future and turns the last week into the antichrist rather than Christ.
Modern interpretations also neglect the critical comparison with the 2,300 days/years prophecy in the 'vision' of chapter eight, which was left unexplained. This has the same start date and leads to 1844 AD.
Therefore, a timeline with these 2,300 years is also placed against the 70 weeks one and on the wooden display adjacent to the chapter eight animals where it originated from.
Therefore, here are five key reasons why I believe this Historicist-based interpretation works rather than the popular Futurist one:
1. It is logical to keep all seventy weeks consecutive unless there is a clear reference to split.
2. This seventieth week fits with actual historical events, Christ's death, and the start of the gospel to the Gentiles.
3. Although the actual desolation of the temple and Jerusalem were outworked later through the Romans, this was declared by Christ (verse 26) and triggered by the Jews' rejection of Christ and His sacrifice.
4. The antichrist has already been identified as a little horn already in existence, not just in the future (this is a Messianic, not antichrist prophecy)
5. There's an instruction to 'consider' this against the earlier 2,300-year period relating to the true heavenly sanctuary.