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B. Daniel’s vision of the 70 sevens ch. 9
This chapter records a third vision that Daniel received (cf. chs. 7, 8). The vision itself occupies only a small part of this chapter (Daniel 9:24-27), but the verses that precede it prepare for it and connect with it.
"In many respects, this is the high point of the book of Daniel. Although previously Gentile history and prophecy recorded in Daniel was related to the people of Israel, the ninth chapter specifically takes up prophecy as it applies to the chosen people." [Note: Ibid., p. 201.]
"Unless the ninth chapter of the book of Daniel is properly understood, the great prophetic discourse of our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21 will be misunderstood, as will the greater portion of the book of Revelation." [Note: Feinberg, p. 117.]
"This prophecy is unique in Scripture in that it actually sets up a sort of time schedule of coming events. The nearest approach to it is Jeremiah’s prophecy of seventy years . . ." [Note: Culver, "Daniel," p. 792.]
What Daniel did and saw in this chapter dates from 538 B.C., the first year of Darius the Mede’s (Cyrus’) rule as king over the former Neo-Babylonian Empire (cf. Ezra 1:1). [Note: See my comments on 5:31 and 6:1 for explanation of the identity of Darius the Mede.] This means that Belshazzar’s feast (ch. 5) occurred between chapters 8 and 9. We cannot date Daniel’s experience in the lions’ den (ch. 6) as accurately. That may have happened before or after the events recorded here.
1. Jeremiah’s prophecy of Jerusalem’s restoration and Daniel’s response 9:1-3
Somehow Daniel had obtained a copy of Jeremiah’s prediction of the length of Jerusalem’s desolation (cf. Jeremiah 36:23; Jeremiah 36:28). Jeremiah had revealed that the city would lie in ruins for 70 years and then God would destroy Babylonia (Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10-14; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:21). Daniel received this vision about 67 years after Nebuchadnezzar had deported the first group of exiles, including himself, in 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple and Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The specific period of desolation in Daniel 9:2 probably refers to 586-515 B.C., since "the desolations of Jerusalem" are in view. Daniel may also have been aware of Isaiah’s prophecy that God would raise up a king named Cyrus, who would order the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple (Isaiah 44:28; cf. Isaiah 45:1-2; cf. Isaiah 45:4; cf. Isaiah 45:13). However, there is no mention of this in the Book of Daniel.
Daniel interpreted literally the "70 years" that Jeremiah predicted. As he saw the end of this period approaching, he prayed for the restoration of his people. Daniel’s understanding of a literal fulfillment of numbers in prophecy helps us know how we should understand at least some of them. Notice also that he regarded Jeremiah’s prophecy as "the word of the LORD."
Jeremiah had revealed that God would restore His people to their land when they prayed to Him wholeheartedly (Jeremiah 29:12-14). This revelation prompted Daniel to pray the prayer that follows (Daniel 9:3-19). Daniel’s prayer fulfills what Solomon anticipated in his prayer at the dedication of the temple (cf. 1 Kings 8:33-36). Daniel did not regard prayer as unnecessary in view of the certainty of the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy. He viewed prayer properly as one means that God uses to accomplish His will in human history (cf. Daniel 6:10). Through prayer we become partners with God in bringing His will to fruition in the world. Daniel’s behavior, as well as his words, expressed the genuineness of his contrition.
"These verses show Daniel as a diligent student of Scripture who built his prayer life on the Word of God." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 107.]
"This verse teaches that biblical prophecy should bring us to our knees, as it did Daniel." [Note: Feinberg, p. 119.]
"While God honors the briefest of prayers, as the experience of Nehemiah 2:4 indicates, effective prayer requires faith in the Word of God, proper attitude of mind and heart, privacy, and unhurried confession and petition. Daniel’s humility, reverence, and earnestness are the hallmarks of effective prayer." [Note: Walvoord, Daniel . . ., p. 206.]
Daniel’s prayer (Daniel 9:4-19) began with confession. This is only the second time in the book that Daniel used the name Yahweh for God (cf. Daniel 9:2; Daniel 9:8; Daniel 9:10; Daniel 9:13-14; Daniel 9:20). He also addressed God as Adonai (master) in Daniel 9:4; Daniel 9:7. It is natural that he would do this, since this chapter describes the most intimate contact that Daniel enjoyed with His God, namely: through Bible study and prayer.
2. Daniel’s prayer of confession 9:4-14
Daniel stressed God’s transcendence and His loyal love (Heb. hesed) to Israel in his salutation (Daniel 9:4). He then proceeded to point out that, in contrast to Yahweh’s faithfulness to Israel, Israel had been unfaithful to Him. The prophet identified with his people. Personally he had been faithful to God. Yet since he was an Israelite he partook of the blessings and curses that God sent Israel for her obedience and disobedience (cf. Deuteronomy 28:48-57; Deuteronomy 28:64-68).
"What made Daniel one of God’s greatest saints was not his sinlessness but his sensitivity to the true depth of his sin." [Note: Whitcomb, p. 123.]
He listed several of Israel’s sins first: positive transgressions (Daniel 9:5) and then negative omissions (Daniel 9:6). Note the progression in the description of sin in Daniel 9:5. Evidently Daniel wanted to confess all the nation’s sins of every kind to their full extent. [Note: Stuart, p. 258.] Especially sinful was the fact that all classes within Israel had disregarded God’s words to them through His prophets (cf. 2 Chronicles 30:10). To disregard God’s Word is "the beginning of all moral disorders." [Note: Leupold, p. 384.]
Daniel proceeded to contrast the righteousness that belongs to God, with the guilt and shame that belonged to His people because they had sinned against Him (Daniel 9:7-8). He also compared God’s forgiveness and compassion with Israel’s rebellion (Daniel 9:9). Daniel 9:10-11 a focus again on Israel’s great sin of disregarding God’s words to her. All of this resulted in Israel’s humiliation among the Gentile nations.
God had poured out curses on His people because of these sins (Daniel 9:11 b). He had done what He had promised He would do if Israel departed from Him (Daniel 9:12; cf. Deuteronomy 28:15-68). Moses had warned the Israelites about departing from God, yet His people had not sought His favor by repenting (Daniel 9:13). Therefore, calamity had descended on them, since Yahweh is righteous in all His deeds. In contrast, Israel had disobeyed His voice (Daniel 9:14). In this section of his prayer, the prophet glorified God for dealing justly with His people who, Daniel acknowledged, deserved all the punishment they had received.
He first referred to the Exodus, as a former demonstration of God’s power and faithfulness for His people, when they found themselves in a situation similar to that of the Babylonian exiles. Again Daniel stressed God’s reputation and Israel’s unworthiness, clarifying the basis for his appeal (cf. Daniel 9:4-5).
"The deliverance of the people of Israel from Egypt is, in many respects, the Old Testament standard illustration of the power of God and His ability to deliver His people. By contrast in the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s standard of power (Ephesians 1:19-20). In the future millennial reign of Christ, the standard of power will be the regathering of Israel and their restoration to the land (Jeremiah 16:14-15)." [Note: Walvoord, Daniel . . ., p. 211.]
3. Daniel’s petition for restoration 9:15-19
Having laid a foundation for appeal in his confession (Daniel 9:4-14), Daniel now proceeded to petition God to restore His people to the Promised Land.
Now the prophet appealed to God as Adonai, stressing His sovereignty over His people, and as Elohim, the strong One. As God had righteously brought discipline on Israel for her past sins, Daniel asked Him righteously to bring restoration, since He had promised it, too. The answer would primarily glorify God, and secondarily, bless His people.
Daniel appealed repeatedly to God to hear and answer his prayer, not because the Israelites deserved it, but because God is compassionate (cf. Exodus 32:12-14). It is interesting that Daniel did not tell God what to do. Instead he asked God to hear, to see, and to act. This is a humble approach that does not dictate to God but leaves the answering up to Him. This magnificent prayer builds to an emotional, positive, logical climax in Daniel 9:19.
Daniel again saw Gabriel, whom he had met previously (Daniel 8:16). He was obviously an angel. The description "the man Gabriel" is a play on words and probably means "the servant, the strong one of the strong God." The Hebrew word ish (man) often appears as a description of a servant. [Note: Leupold, p. 400.]
"Note that the term ha’is (’the man’) does not signify ’man’ in contradistinction to angels or other spiritual powers residing in heaven; that would have been ’adam or ’enos in Hebrew. It rather indicates that this mighty archangel had appeared in a humanlike form and had spoken to Daniel intelligibly as one man speaks to another [cf. Luke 24:4; Acts 1:10]." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 111.]
Evidently Daniel had become weary because of his praying and fasting. The time of the evening offering was 3:00 p.m. The Jews were not able to offer the regular morning and evening sacrifices after the Babylonians destroyed their temple. However, pious Jews such as Daniel still prayed at these customary times (cf. Daniel 6:10).
4. God’s response to Daniel’s prayer 9:20-23
God began responding to Daniel’s prayer as soon as he began praying (cf. Daniel 9:19; Luke 11:10-13). Clearly, the prayer recorded in the preceding verses is only a summary of what the prophet prayed, since he prayed long and hard (Daniel 9:21).
Daniel’s concern for God’s reputation (Daniel 9:4-14) doubtless made him special to God (Daniel 9:23). The vision that God had sent Gabriel to convey constituted an answer to Daniel’s prayer. It revealed what would happen to the Jews.
"For the first time in the book Daniel’s initiative occasions a revelation." [Note: Baldwin, p. 162.]
The Hebrew word translated "weeks" (shabu’im) literally means "sevens." It can refer to seven days (Genesis 29:27-28) or seven years (Leviticus 25:3-5). The Jews observed a seven-year celebration (the sabbatical year), as well as a seven-day celebration (the Sabbath). Most scholars believe that this word here represents seven years. Daniel had been thinking of God’s program for Israel in terms of years. He had read Jeremiah’s prophecy that the exile would last 70 years (Daniel 9:1-2). It would have been normal then for him to interpret these sevens as years. [Note: For defense of this view based on additional internal evidence in the Book of Daniel, see Otto Zöckler, "The Book of the Prophet Daniel," in Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, 7:2:194. See also Pentecost, "Daniel," p. 1361; and The New Scofield . . ., p. 913.] Furthermore, the fulfillment of the first sixty-nine years shows that these sevens are years. In addition, the last half of the seventieth seven is described elsewhere as consisting of three and one-half years, or 42 months, or 1260 days. [Note: For an example of how interpreting the numbers in this passage as both symbolic and literal leads to confusion, see Waltke, An Old . . ., pp. 549-50.]
Seventy seven-year periods totals 490 years. As Jerusalem was suffering under the hand of Gentiles for 70 years (Daniel 9:2), so the Jews and Jerusalem would suffer under the hand of Gentiles for 490 years. "Your people" and "your holy city" are obvious references to the Jews and Jerusalem (cf. Daniel 9:7; Daniel 9:11; Daniel 9:20). They do not refer to the church, which is a distinct entity from Israel (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:32). However, as the following verses clarify, these will not be uninterrupted years. Similarly, Israel’s rule by Davidic monarchs has suffered interruption: the last king being Zedekiah-and the next, Messiah.
God had decreed these years. He had ordained them, and they were as certain to come as anything else that God had foreordained. This verse states that the purpose for God decreeing this period is six-fold. First, it will end rebellion against Him. Second, it will end human failure to obey God. Third, it will provide time for atonement that will cover human wickedness. Fourth, it will inaugurate a new society in which righteousness prevails. Fifth, it will bring in the fulfillment of the vision that God has for the earth. Sixth, it will result in the anointing of the most holy, probably a reference to a new and more glorious temple.
God has already achieved some of these goals: specifically the third one, and to some extent the first two. However, other goals have not yet seen fulfillment. Therefore it is reasonable to look for a future fulfillment from our perspective in history. [Note: Cf. Barker, pp. 143-46.]
"By the time these 490 years run their course, God will have completed six things for Israel. The first three have to do with sin, and the second three with the kingdom. The basis for the first three was provided in the work of Christ on the cross, but all six will be realized by Israel at the Second Advent of Christ." [Note: Pentecost, "Daniel," p. 1361.]
Young believed Christ completed all six things for the church at His first coming. [Note: Young, p. 201.]
"This prophecy, it must be noted, concerns three deliverances. Daniel was greatly burdened about an early deliverance of the Jews from Babylon to return to Jerusalem. God was also interested in their deliverance from bondage to sin (at Christ’s first advent) and in the final deliverance of the Jews from oppression (at Christ’s second coming) . . ." [Note: Campbell, p. 108. See also Wood, A Commentary . . ., p. 244.]
"This vs. is a Divine revelation of the fact that a definite period of time has been decreed for the accomplishment of all that which is necessary for the true restoration of God’s people from bondage." [Note: Young, p. 195.]
5. The revelation of Israel’s future in 70 sevens 9:24-27
"In the concluding four verses of Daniel 9, one of the most important prophecies of the Old Testament is contained. The prophecy as a whole is presented in Daniel 9:24. The first sixty-nine sevens is described in Daniel 9:25. The events between the sixty-ninth seventh and the seventieth seventh are detailed in Daniel 9:26. The final period of the seventieth seventh is described in Daniel 9:27." [Note: Walvoord, Daniel . . ., p. 216.]
Renald Showers demonstrated that these verses imply a pretribulation Rapture of the church. [Note: Renald E. Showers, Maranatha: Our Lord, Come! A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church, pp. 230-44. See also Alva J. McClain, Daniel’s Prophecies of the Seventy Weeks, pp. 53-55.]
"Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks (Daniel 9:24-27) provides the chronological frame for Messianic prediction from Daniel to the establishment of the kingdom on earth and also a key to its interpretation." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 913.]
"Probably no single prophetic utterance is more crucial in the fields of Biblical Interpretation, Apologetics, and Eschatology." [Note: McClain, p. 9.]
There are four decrees concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem that Scripture records. The first was Cyrus’ decree to rebuild the temple in 538 B.C. (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; Ezra 6:2-5). The second was Darius I’s decree in 512 B.C. confirming Cyrus’ earlier one (Ezra 6:1; Ezra 6:6-12). The third was Artaxerxes’ decree in 457 B.C. (Ezra 7:11-26). [Note: See William H. Shea, "Supplementary Evidence in Support of 457 B.C. as the Starting Date for the 2300 Day-Years of Daniel 8:14," Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 12:1 (Spring 2001):89-96.] The fourth was Artaxerxes’ decree authorizing Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem in 444 B.C. (Nehemiah 2:1-8). Chisholm suggested a fifth possibility, namely, that the decree in view was Jeremiah’s prophecy, sometime between 597 and 586 B.C., that Jerusalem would be rebuilt (Jeremiah 30:18). He took the seventy weeks as symbolic of completeness. [Note: Chisholm, pp. 314-17.]
The first two of these decrees authorized the rebuilding of the temple, and the third provided for animal sacrifices in the temple. Only the fourth one gave the Jews permission to rebuild Jerusalem, and it seems to be the one in view here. The Jews encountered opposition as they sought to rebuild and refortify their ancient capital, as the Book of Nehemiah records. The date 444 B.C., then, probably marks the beginning of this 490-year period.
Seven sevens plus sixty-two sevens equals 483 years. Gabriel predicted that after 483 years, Messiah would be cut off. Detailed chronological studies have been done that show that Jesus Christ’s death occurred then. If one calculates 483 years from 444 B.C., one might conclude that the date for Messiah being cut off is A.D. 39. However, both the Jews and the Babylonians observed years of 360, rather than 365 days per year. If one calculates the number of days involved in the Jewish and Babylonian calendar year, the year Messiah would be cut off comes out to A.D. 33 with a 365-day year, the modern Julian calendar year. One scholar, Sir Robert Anderson, calculated that the day Jesus entered Jerusalem in his triumphal entry was the last day of this long period. [Note: Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince, p. 128. McClain, p. 25-26; and H. W. Hoehner, "Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology," Bibliotheca Sacra 132:525 (January-March 1975):64; came to the same conclusion.] The Triumphal Entry was significant because it was the last public event during Jesus’ first advent that demonstrated a positive popular reaction to Him. After it, the nation of Israel rejected Him. Whether or not the chronology is that exact, almost all expositors agree that the death of Christ is in view and that it occurred at the end of the sixty-ninth week. J. Paul Tanner showed that there was a strong consensus among the early Church fathers that this passage is messianic, though they varied greatly in their understanding of the details. [Note: J. Paul Tanner, "Is Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy Messianic?" Bibliotheca Sacra 166:662 (April-June 2009):181-200.]
Even Young, a representative amillennialist, supported this basic chronology, though he held that the numbers (7 and 62) were symbolic, not literal numbers. [Note: Young, pp. 191-206, 220-21.] He believed the decree in Daniel 9:24 was Cyrus’ decree of 538 B.C., that the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 occurred toward the end of the 70th week, and that the prince to come (Daniel 9:26) was Titus.
What happened after 49 years that justifies breaking this period of 69 weeks into two parts? Perhaps it was the end of the Old Testament revelation through the writing prophets. Another, more probable view, is that it took seven weeks (49 years) to clear out all the debris from Jerusalem, and to restore it fully as a thriving city with streets and moat. [Note: Walvoord, Daniel . . ., p. 227; Pentecost, "Daniel," p. 1363; Campbell, p. 110; Ironside, p. 165; J. Randall Price, "Prophetic Postponement in Daniel 9 and Other Texts," in Issues in Dispensationalism, pp. 151-52.]
"This perfectly describes the work of Nehemiah and under what difficult circumstances he performed his tasks." [Note: Feinberg, p. 130.]
The reference to Jerusalem being rebuilt "with plaza and moat" (NASB), or "with streets and a trench" (NIV), has confused some readers, since Jerusalem never had a typical moat or trench around it. However, the valleys of Hinnom and Kidron, on Jerusalem’s east, south and west sides, resemble a moat or trench around most of the city. In heavy rains they did and still do carry water and function as a moat or trench.
Most Christian interpreters have taken the cutting off of Messiah as a reference to Jesus Christ’s death. He had nothing then in a very real sense.
The prince who will come seems to be a different person from the Messiah. A legitimate translation is "the people of a ruler who will come." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 116.] His people, not he himself, would destroy the city. This happened in A.D. 70 when the Roman army under Titus leveled Jerusalem. The prince who will come, however, was evidently not Titus but a future ruler, namely, the Antichrist (Daniel 7:8). Titus made no covenant with the Jews (Daniel 9:27). However, Titus did initially what this prince will do ultimately. Jerusalem did not end because of a literal flood of water in Titus’ day, but Roman soldiers overwhelmed it (cf. Daniel 11:10; Daniel 11:22; Daniel 11:26; Daniel 11:40; Isaiah 8:8). War preceded the destruction. Gabriel announced that God had determined the city’s desolation (cf. Matthew 24:7-22).
Some interpreters believe that the end of this verse describes conditions that have followed Titus’ destruction and continue even today. [Note: E.g., Pentecost, "Daniel," p. 1364; and Archer, "Daniel," p. 117.] Others think it only describes what Titus did. [Note: E.g., Walvoord, Daniel . . ., p. 231.]
"In contrast to the rather clear fulfillment of Daniel 9:25-26, Daniel 9:27 is an enigma as far as history is concerned; and only futuristic interpretation allows any literal fulfillment." [Note: Ibid.]
The nearest antecedent of "he" is "the prince who is to come" (Daniel 9:26). Titus made no covenant with Israel, so who is in view? Apparently a future ruler of the revived or reorganized Roman Empire, the little horn of chapter 7, is in view. This seems preferable to taking the antecedent of "he" as Messiah, since Jesus Christ did not do the things predicted of the prince here. Young held that Christ is the prince, and He fulfilled what Daniel predicted, in that He put the covenant of grace into effect at the time of His death, and abolished the sacrifices of the old dispensation. [Note: Young, pp. 213-17, 220-21.] If the little horn of chapter 7 is in view, as seems preferable, this means that the seventieth week does not follow the sixty-ninth week immediately. Such a break in prophetic chronology has precedent in the predictions of Messiah’s first and second advents (Isaiah 61:1-2). Another evidence of a break between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks, is the fact that there was a 37-year gap, between Messiah’s cutting off in A.D. 33, and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Yet Daniel presented both of these events as after the sixty-ninth week and before the seventieth week. Thus there must be a break in the chronology after the sixty-ninth week. [Note: See McClain, pp. 31-45, for additional proofs of a gap.]
This future ruler, according to Gabriel, will make a covenant with "the many" for one week (seven years). "The many" evidently refers to Daniel’s people (Daniel 9:24), ethnic Jews (cf. Daniel 11:39; Daniel 12:2). After three and one-half years, this Antichrist will terminate the sacrifices and offerings that he permitted these Jews to offer. Their ability to offer these sacrifices indicates that they will be back in the land worshipping at a rebuilt temple.
"The wing of abominations" may be a reference to a wing of the temple that is particularly abominable because of idolatry, possibly the pinnacle or summit of the temple. [Note: Young, p. 218; Whitcomb, p. 134.] Another interpretation takes "wing" figuratively, and sees Antichrist descending vulture-like on his prey. [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 118.] Perhaps the simplest explanation is to take "on the wing of" in the sense of "with." Apparently the prince will appear in the Jerusalem temple when he ends the sacrifices.
Daniel 12:11 refers to a future stopping of the Jewish sacrifices, forty-two months before Messiah returns to the earth. Revelation 13:4-7 also describes this future ruler in harmony with what Gabriel revealed here. Jesus warned of him, too, in Matthew 24:15-28, as did the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, and the Apostle John in 1 John 2:18. The complete destruction decreed by God and poured out on this prince will come, according to these passages, when Messiah returns to the earth.
Students of this passage who do not take this verse as predicting future events usually adopt one of the following interpretations. [Note: See also Baldwin’s additional note on some interpretations of the seventy sevens, pp. 172-78.] Liberal commentators believe that the events in the seventieth seven, as well as those in the preceding sixty-nine sevens, happened in a loose sense after the Maccabean persecution of the second century B.C. [Note: E.g., Montgomery, pp. 400-401.] Orthodox Jewish scholars usually take the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as the fulfillment of this verse. Many amillennialists understand the seventieth week to represent what has happened since Jesus Christ’s first advent and what will continue until His second advent. [Note: E.g., Young, pp. 208-209; and Leupold, pp. 431-40.] Some amillennialists take the seventieth seven as seven literal years beginning with Jesus’ public ministry and ending about three and one-half years after his death. [Note: E.g., Philip Mauro, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation, pp. 70-71.] Dwight Pentecost articulated the standard premillennial, pretribulational interpretation.
"This seven-year period will begin after the Rapture of the church (which will consummate God’s program in this present Age). The 70th ’seven’ will continue till the return of Jesus Christ to the earth. Because Jesus said this will be a time of ’great distress’ (Matthew 24:21), this period is often called the Tribulation." [Note: Pentecost, "Daniel," p. 1364. See also The New Scofield .. . ., p. 913.]
The strongest argument for a literal fulfillment of the events predicted in Daniel 9:27, is that the events predicted in Daniel 9:24-26 were fulfilled literally.
"The ’abomination of desolation’ set up by Antiochus is not the ultimate fulfillment of Daniel 9:27 because (a) Antiochus does not fit the time sequence given in that verse, and (b) long after the time of Antiochus, Jesus said Daniel’s prophecy of the abomination of desolation was still future (Matthew 24:15-16)." [Note: Dyer, in The Old . . ., p. 719.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Daniel 9". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany