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Daniel’s prayer (9:1-23)
Persia conquered Babylon in 539 BC and Darius was placed in charge of the newly conquered territory (see 5:31). The Jews’ seventy years captivity in Babylon, which Jeremiah had predicted, was now almost complete, and Daniel looked for their return to their homeland (9:1-2; see Jeremiah 29:10). But he knew that repentance was necessary if they were to enjoy God’s blessing, and therefore he came to God in prayer on behalf of his people (3).
Casting himself and his people entirely upon the unfailing love of God, Daniel confessed that they had rebelled against his word and disobeyed his messengers (4-6). He acknowledged God’s justice in punishing them and scattering them among the nations, but reminded himself that God was also merciful and forgiving (7-10). Through the law of Moses, God warned his people of the consequences of disobedience, but they ignored his warnings. As a result Jerusalem was destroyed and the people taken captive to a foreign land. Yet they had still not asked God’s forgiveness (11-14).
Daniel humbly confessed that the calamity that fell upon the nation was a just punishment for a sinful people. He now asked that God, on the basis of his mercy, would forgive. He prayed that God, for the sake of his great name, would act without delay and bring his people out of Babylon and back to their land, as once he had brought them out of Egypt (15-19).
While Daniel was still praying, the heavenly messenger Gabriel brought him God’s answer. God had heard his prayer and would bring the Jews back to their land. However, God would give additional revelations, and Daniel would need to think about them carefully if he wanted to understand them (20-23).
The seventy weeks (9:24-27)
Possibly no other portion of the Bible has produced as many interpretations as Daniel’s ‘seventy weeks’. This is for two main reasons. First, it is not clear who or what many of the symbols or statements refer to. Second, if a ‘week’ equals seven years, the timetable of 490 years does not correspond exactly with the historical record of events, no matter what meaning we give to the symbols or what method of chronological reckoning we use.
The following interpretation, which is only one among many possible explanations, does not attempt to draw up a timetable based on seventy lots of seven years. Rather it understands the seventy weeks as symbolic of the era about to dawn in answer to Daniel’s prayer. The three divisions within the seventy weeks are therefore seen as symbolic of three phases within that era.
With the Jews’ return to their homeland, the old era of seventy years captivity in Babylon would end (see v. 2), and a new era of seventy ‘weeks’ in Jerusalem would begin. During this period God would bring his age-long purposes to fulfilment. He would deal with sin finally and completely, and in its place would establish everlasting righteousness. Through the arrival of the promised Messiah, God would set his seal of absolute authority upon the visions of the prophets, for their predictions had now come true. As for the Messiah himself, he would be exalted to his rightful place in the holy presence of God (24).
At the time of Gabriel’s revelation to Daniel, Persia had just taken control of the Jewish exiles in Babylon (see v. 1) and the Persian king was about to issue a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their city and temple (Ezra 1:1-4). Gabriel’s message was that the first period (seven weeks) would see the city and the temple largely rebuilt, but the next several hundred years (sixty-two weeks) would be a time of constant trouble for Israel (25).
Following this time of trouble God’s anointed one, the Messiah, would come (seventieth week), but his people would reject him and kill him. After this an enemy army would pour into Jerusalem like a flood, destroying both city and temple (26). (This predicted calamity occurred when the Roman armies under Titus destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70.)
The Messiah would bring in a new covenant. In the middle of the seventieth week he would be killed and the Jewish sacrifices would cease for ever. But in killing their Messiah, the Jews were preparing their own punishment. They were going to bring upon themselves the ‘awful horror’ and ‘desolating abomination’ of ruthless Roman attack. They, as well as their city and temple, would be destroyed. The Romans would be so savage in their attack that they too would be punished (27; cf. Matthew 23:37-38; Matthew 24:15-22).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Daniel 9". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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