WHAT IS RECORDED in chapter 9 took place shortly after Darius had overthrown Babylon and taken the kingdom - that is, soon after the experience Daniel had, as narrated in Daniel 5:1-31. By this time he was of course an old man, and near the end of his life of service, for he had been amongst the first batch of captives, deported by Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah, an older man, had been left in Jerusalem, prophesying there until its destruction years later.
The fall of Babylon was a tremendous upheaval. What effect had it upon Daniel? It moved him to study that portion of the Word of God that was available under his hand. A first-rate example for us today, since the upheavals among the nations during the past fifty years have been more far-reaching than the fall of Babylon. The prophecies of Jeremiah had been committed to writing and were available to him as, 'books'. We have the completed Bible, which really means 'The Book'.
To Daniel these 'books' came as 'the word of the Lord'; that is, he received Jeremiah's writings as being inspired of God, and hence authoritative, and to be accepted without question. Happy are we if, following his example, we treat our Bible in the same way. The particular passage that affected Daniel so deeply was Jeremiah 25:8-14, where 'desolations' lasting 70 years were predicted. Daniel must at once have realized that the 70 years had nearly run their course, and that deliverance of some kind was near at hand. The effect that this discovery had upon him is most instructive and also searching for us.
Had we been in his place we might have felt greatly exhilarated by the discovery, and inclined to have a time of jubilation. But it was not thus with Daniel; but rather the exact opposite. He was moved to fasting, humiliation, confession and prayer, realizing the great sin of his people which had brought all this judgment upon them. This we see, if verses Daniel 9:4-19 of our chapter be read. He utterly condemned himself as identified with his people, and he vindicated God in His judgments, proclaiming His righteousness in all He had done.
These words of Daniel should be deeply pondered by each of us. Nowhere in the Bible do we find a finer example of thorough-going confession and prayer, though Ezra's prayer recorded in Ezra 9:1-15 closely resembles it. He made no allusion to the covenant of promise made with Abraham, but placed himself before God on the basis of the covenant of the law of Moses, and the subsequent ministry through the prophets. As to this he confessed complete breakdown and disaster, though personally he was less implicated in it than any in his day.
But thus it always is. Those deeply implicated in failure and sin are by that very fact rendered insensible to the depths into which they have sunk, while those less involved are painfully alive to the state of things. What is the state of things in the professing church today? A prophetic sketch of church history is given us in Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22. The last stage is that of Laodicea. Are those deeply involved in its grievous evils likely to bow down in confession and prayer? No. Only those who are lightly involved will do so. May we all take heed to this.
The things that mark true confession come clearly to light here. The evil is acknowledged without any attempt at excuse or extenuation. The rightness of God's judgments and discipline are fully acknowledged, and the plea that God would grant deliverance, according to His word, is urged, 'not... for our righteousnesses, but for Thy great mercies'. Let us cultivate these excellent features in our day. We too can ask for nothing on the ground of merit, but only on the ground of mercy. As we contemplate the state of Christendom today, and of our own state too, let us cultivate the spirit of humble confession that marked Daniel.
Such confession and prayer meets with an immediate answer, as we see in verses Daniel 9:20-21. Gabriel, the angelic messenger of God, was sent, 'to fly swiftly', with an answer that would give Daniel 'skill and understanding' as to events that lay ahead, with the assurance that he was in God's estimation a man 'greatly beloved'. What other saint was permitted to hear himself so described? Our Lord's words were, 'he that shall humble himself shall be exalted' (Matthew 23:12). Here we have an illustration of this. Daniel had humbled himself in exceptional measure, and so he is permitted to know that he is greatly beloved in Heaven. What an exaltation! Had he not been truly humbled such an assurance might have puffed him up to his undoing.
Gabriel was commissioned to reveal to Daniel the prophecy of the 'seventy weeks'; the word week here indicating a period of seven, it may be of days, or as here it clearly is, of years. We have just seen Daniel stirred to confession and prayer by the discovery of the fact that the seventy years of the desolations had nearly run their course; he is now to learn that seventy years, multiplied by seven, were to pass when according to the Divine reckoning, full release and blessing would be reached, as indicated in verse 24.
The contents of this verse must be carefully noted. In the first place, the time indicated is determined upon 'thy people and upon thy holy city', and not upon the world in general; though doubtless what transpires upon Israel and Jerusalem will have great effect upon the world in general. Then, in the second place, the end that is to be reached is the establishment of full millennial blessedness. Then it is that the sad story of transgression and sin will be dosed; then 'the righteousness of the ages' (New Trans.), will be brought in; then the vision and the prophecy will be sealed up, since all is accomplished: then 'the most holy' or, 'the holy of holies' will be anointed, and set apart for God, as is also predicted in such a passage as Ezekiel 43:12. The end of the seventy years of desolations would only be a very faint and imperfect forecast of this.
The seventy weeks, or 490 years, were, however, to be divided into three parts, and they were to start when the commandment was issued to restore and to build Jerusalem as a city. The opening verses of Ezra give us the edict of Cyrus to rebuild the temple: the edict to rebuild the city was that of Artaxerxes, as recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-20. This latter was the start of the seventy weeks, predicted here. The first part — seven weeks, or 49 years, — were to be occupied with the rebuilding, and the re-establishment of Israel in the city and land: that is, about up to the time of Malachi. Then were to come the 62 weeks, or 434 years, completing the period 'unto the Messiah the Prince'.
Here then we have a very clear and definite prophecy, which has been fulfilled. In checking its fulfilment the main difficulty lies in the fact that the Jews calculated their years in a way different from ourselves, which gives rise to complications. We are content to accept the result of an investigation made years ago by the late Sir Robert Anderson, a competent and reliable person. He showed that not only were the 483 years to Christ correct, but that they expired exactly to the day on which He made His formal presentation of Himself to His people, riding on the foal of an ass, as Zechariah had foretold.
And what was the result of this presentation? Just what we have in verse 26. Messiah was 'cut off, but not for Himself', or better, as the margin has it, 'and shall have nothing'. Thus His rejection was foretold, and though He had the title to everything on the earth, He had nothing: a borrowed stable for His birth; nowhere to lay His head, while He served; a borrowed tomb at the finish. Here then we find the Jews committing themselves to a sin far worse than their breaking of the law and their persistent idolatry. The consequences flowing from this greatest of all sins, are stated at the end of verse 26.
Years ago we heard of a Christian talking to a Jewish Rabbi, and asking him what in their history justified God in condemning them to the disasters and miseries they suffered in Babylon. He admitted at once that it was their law-breaking and idolatry. Then, said the Christian, tell me, what have you done that justifies God in condemning you to far worse disasters and miseries, lasting from A. D. 70, to the present time, with even worse things still in prospect? It was a devastating question, and what could he say? We know what we should at once say; pointing to the Messiah crucified between two thieves.
In this prophecy the result of the cutting off of the Messiah is briefly summed up at the end of verse 26. The more immediate result was to be the destruction of the city and the sanctuary by 'the people of the prince that shall come.' Now this prince is the 'little horn', of whom we read in Daniel 7:1-28, the head of the Roman Empire in its revived and last stage, whom we identified with the first 'beast' of Revelation 13:1-18. This Roman despot is still to come, but the Roman people were the dominant power in the time of our Lord, and they did destroy Jerusalem in very thorough fashion.
That destruction was but the beginning of God's disciplinary judgments upon them. So the prophecy moves on to 'the end thereof', which is to be 'with a flood', or 'an overflow', indicating, we judge, that the sorrows and persecutions that have followed the Jews through all these centuries will rise to flood-tide height just before the end. The closing words of this verse may be read, 'unto the end, war, — the desolations determined'. Here is a state" meet, conveying volumes in a few words.
In the past nineteen centuries war has been the prominent feature. If all reference to it were cut out of our history books, there would be not much history left, and there are wars predicted, that yet have to come. But the Jew and his city are particularly in view in this prophecy, and hence we again meet with the word, 'desolations'. Our chapter began with a reference to the 70 years' desolations predicted by Jeremiah; now as we reach its end we find another prediction of desolations, which in length and final severity will surpass the former. So Messiah's death was to be followed almost immediately by the destruction of Jerusalem, and ultimately, for a long period, but its length not revealed, by war and desolations.
Having mentioned the end in verse Daniel 9:26, we are carried on to the events of the end in verse 27. Who is the 'he', with whom the verse begins? Clearly the 'prince that shall come,' dominating the revived Roman Empire of the last days. He is going to confirm, not 'the covenant' but, 'a covenant with the many for one week' (New Trans.). And this is evidently the one week which completes the 70 weeks of this prophecy. This covenant, we judge, will permit the Jews of that day to resume 'the sacrifice and the oblation' in Jerusalem, for in the midst of the week he will break the covenant, and the desolations will reach their climax.
In the New Translation the close of the verse reads, 'because of the protection of abominations (there shall be) a desolator, even until that the consumption and what is determined shall be poured out upon the desolate'. This will be the time of the great tribulation, and the 'desolator' we should identify as being the 'king of fierce countenance', spoken of in the closing verses of Daniel 8:1-27. At the end of this seventieth week Messiah will appear in power and great glory, as other scriptures show, and the 'everlasting righteousness', or 'the righteousness of the ages', will be established. His appearing will completely overthrow the desolator and completely deliver the desolate.
Thus, the day of grace, in which we are living, comes in between weeks 69 and 70. The latter part of verse Daniel 9:26 shows that there is to be an undefined period at that point, marked by war and desolations as to world affairs and the Jews, but marked also by the going forth of the Gospel, as the New Testament shows. The rejection and the death of the Messiah was thus plainly predicted, with the sorrows of the world in general and of the Jew in particular, as the result of it.
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Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Daniel 9". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany