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 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 majority of the period apart from the last section and follow the Historicist interpretation of prophecy as per previous chapters, although with some variations in dates and periods.
However, two essential deviations are addressed later - the stretching and turning of the final section and the comparison to another period.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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 the same delayed consequences as the Jews at this time in Babylon, where their earlier sins had then 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), which allowed the Romans to destroy them in 70 AD (verse 26).
The two changes
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.
The critical Preterist view has different time slots, including Jeremiah’s prophecy, which ends a few hundred years BC with Antiochus Epiphanes being the assumed antichrist who damaged (not destroyed) the temple in Jerusalem.
The traditionalist Futurist position assumes these time frames are only symbols and not literal; therefore, events can be made to fit. It tends to end with Christ’s birth, believes His death is the ‘desolation’ talked about, and the final week is split up to when Rome conquered Jerusalem in 70 AD, and then before the Second Coming of Christ.
However, the Dispensationalist Futurist variation of this is now popular; here are two key variations to the Historicist one applied in this study which focuses on this mainstream method:
How this 70-week time span compares to the previous prophecy in chapter eight is overlooked.
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.
2. Stretching & turning
The popular Futurist/Dispensationalist method of interpretation assumes two changes to the last one-week section of this 70-week prophecy.
Firstly, there is a gap in time between weeks sixty-nine and seventy, which stretches the prophecy beyond seventy consecutive weeks (and can be different dates for the first sixty-nine 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. Also, the Old Testament prophets are seen as not spotting this hidden period for the Gentiles in between.
Secondly, this leads to a 180-degree turnaround in 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 when the Christian church has already been raptured to heaven, and the remaining Jews make a ‘covenant’ with the antichrist figure who then turns against them halfway through the last 7-year ‘week’. (There's also a reference to the Olivet Discourse in Matthew twenty-four and the Great Tribulation in Revelation).
However, the word 'covenant' elsewhere in Daniel always refers to God and not the antichrist.
Also, a day-year principle is used here to equate seven days to seven years like the previous sixty-nine weeks - yet the 1,260 days in chapter seven are taken literally to match three and a half years halfway through these seven years. Emphasis is placed on weeks rather than days being used as a group of seven, and Jeremiah also considers years earlier in the chapter.
The focus of all this is assumed to be Israel, not Christians generally, including the six specific issues mentioned in verse twenty-four, which haven't all been fulfilled yet - to finish the transgression, end sins, reconciliation for iniquity, bring everlasting righteousness, to seal the vision/prophecy, and anoint the Most Holy.
The 'people of the prince' in verse 26 are viewed as the antichrist followers stemming from the Romans rather than God's people up to 34 AD.
Also, a different start date for the 70-week prophecy in verse twenty-five can emerge, for example, 444 BC. The first sixty-nine can be timed later when Christ rides into Jerusalem on a donkey just before his crucifixion and His presentation to them as the King of the Jews - He 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 to respond to this.
In addition, Preterists also link this antichrist to Antiochus Epiphanes, as mentioned in the previous section. (Futurists see him as simply a forerunner to the main antichrist at the end of time). However, this was a long time before the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in the latter part of the Old Testament (see a post here on this).
To help summarise this chapter, two-time spans ave 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.