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PRAYER AND CONFESSION
In common with the other prophecies of Daniel, the ninth chapter takes us on to the future, bringing before us the destiny of Jerusalem. But, it does more, for it shows the connection between the revival of God's people in Daniel's day and the judgment coming upon Jerusalem in a latter day that will end the time of her desolations.
Daniel is instructed that, though a remnant of God's people may be restored to the Land, and the Temple and City rebuilt in his day, as recorded in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, yet this revival by no means ends the captivity of Israel, nor delivers Jerusalem from Gentile oppression. There are yet sorrows for God's earthly people, and desolations for His city, before the end is reached.
As the prophet, Daniel has seen visions and received revelations of the future, now we are to see him as the intercessor on behalf of God's people, and, in answer to his prayer and supplication, receiving instruction as to the mind of God.
Verses 1 and 2 give the occasion that called forth the prayer.
Verses 3 to 6 record Daniel's confession of the sin and failure of God's people.
Verses 7 to 15 set forth his vindication of God in all the governmental chastening that had come upon the people.
Verses 16 to 19 present his supplication to God for mercy on behalf of the people of God.
Verses 20 to 27 bring before us God's gracious answer to Daniel's prayer, whereby he is made to understand the mind of God in word and vision.
(a) The occasion of the prayer (Vv. 1, 2).
(V. 1). Sixty-eight years had passed since Daniel had been taken captive at the fall of Jerusalem. Daniel had seen the rise and fall of Babylon, the first great world empire. Persia, the second world empire, had come to the front. In this kingdom Daniel held a high position of authority over the princes of the empire. But, neither the exalted office that he held, nor the engrossing affairs of state, could for one moment dim his ardent love for God's people, or his faith in God's word concerning His people.
(V. 2). We have seen that Daniel was a man of prayer; now we learn that he was also a student of Scripture. Though himself a prophet, he is ready to listen to other inspired prophets of God and learn the mind of God from books of Scripture. Thus, as he reads the prophet Jeremiah, he discovers that, after the fall of Jerusalem in the days of Jehoiakim, the land of Israel would be desolate for seventy years, and at the end of the seventy years the king of Babylon would come under judgment and the land of Chaldea become desolate ( Jer_25:1 ; Jer_25:11-12 ). Moreover, Daniel learns that, not only would Babylon come under judgment, but that the LORD had said to Jeremiah, "that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place" ( Jer_29:10-14 ).
Daniel makes this important discovery in the first year of Darius. The actual return, we know, took place two years later in the first year of Cyrus ( Ezr_1:1 ). At the moment there could have been nothing in passing events to warrant the hope of a return. That God would visit His people in captivity, and open a way for them to return to their land, he discovers "by books," not by circumstances. He has just seen the destruction of the king of Babylon and the fall of his empire, but he does not speculate upon the stirring events taking place around him and seek to draw from them conclusions favourable to God's people. He is guided in his understanding "by books" - God's word - whether the circumstances appear to favour the predictions of God or otherwise.
The word of God is the true key to prophecy. We are not left to explain prophecies by passing circumstances, nor to await the fulfilment of prophecies in order to interpret them.
(b) Daniel's confession of the sin of God's people. (Vv. 3-6).
(V. 3). The immediate effect of learning from the word that God is about to visit His people is to turn Daniel to God. He does not go to his fellow-captives with the good news, but he draws near to God, as he says, "I set my face unto the Lord God." As another has said, "He has communion with God about that which he receives from God." The result is that he sees the true character of the moment, and the moral condition of the people, and acts in a way that is suited for the moment.
God is about to stay His chastening hand and grant a little reviving to His people. Nevertheless, Daniel is not elated, nor does he turn to the people with shouting and praise. On the contrary, seeing the true significance of the moment, he turns to God "by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes," and he makes confession to the LORD his God.
Well acquainted with the Scriptures, Daniel looks back over one thousand years since God delivered His people from the bondage of Egypt (verse 15). He sees that this period has been one long history of failure and rebellion. Already he has been permitted to look into the future and see that failure and suffering still await the people of God ( Dan. 7, 8 ). He has learned, too, that there will be no complete deliverance for God's people until the Son of Man comes and sets up His kingdom.
To sum up, he sees the past marked by failure, the future dark with the prediction of deeper sorrows and greater failure, and no hope of deliverance for the people of God as a whole until the King comes. In the presence of these truths Daniel was deeply affected, his thoughts troubled him, his countenance was changed, and he fainted and was sick certain days ( Dan_7:28 ; Dan_8:27 ).
But Daniel made another discovery. He learned from Scripture, that, in spite of all past failure and all future disaster, God had foretold that there would be a little reviving in the midst of the years.
In all this we cannot but see a correspondence between our own day and that in which Daniel lived. We can look back over centuries of the failure of the Church in responsibility. We know from Scripture that "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse," and very soon that which professes the Name of Christ upon the earth will be spued out of His mouth. We know, too, that nothing but the coming of Christ will bring the people of God together again, and end all the sorrowful history of failure. But we also know that in the midst of all the failure, the Lord has definitely said there will be a Philadelphian revival of a few who, in the midst of the corruption of Christendom, will be found in great weakness, seeking to keep His word and not deny His Name.
Daniel, in his prayer and confession, shows the spirit which should mark those who, in his day or in our own, desire to answer to the open door of deliverance that God sets before His people.
(V. 4). Turning to God in confession, Daniel gets a deep sense of the greatness, holiness and faithfulness of God. Moreover, he realises that God is true to His word and, if His people will only cherish His Name and keep His word, they will find mercy.
(Vv. 5, 6). With a true sense of the greatness of God before his soul, Daniel at once discerns the low condition of the people. God has been faithful to His covenant, but the people have departed from the precepts and judgments of God. He recognises that this low moral condition lies at the root of all the division and scattering that have come in among the people of God. He does not seek to place the blame for the division and scattering upon certain individuals, who may indeed have acted in a high-handed manner and perverted the truth and led many into error. This, we know, was the case with the kings, priests and false prophets. But, looking beyond the failure of individuals, he sees, and owns, the failure of God's people as a whole. He says, "We have sinned . . . our kings, our princes, our fathers, and . . . all the people of the land." Personally Daniel had no direct part in bringing about the scattering that had taken place nearly seventy years before. He could only have been a child at the time of the break-up of Jerusalem, and during his captivity probably no one was more devoted to the Lord than himself.
Nevertheless, the absence of personal responsibility and the lapse of time do not lead him to ignore the division and scattering, nor seek to place the blame upon individuals long since passed away; on the contrary, he identifies himself with the people of God, and owns before God that "we have sinned."
So, in our day, occupation with the instruments used in breaking up the people of God may blind us to the true cause of the break-up, namely the low condition that accompanied our high profession. We may not have had any definite part in the folly and high-handed action of the few who brought about the immediate scattering of the people of God, but we have all had our part in the low condition that necessitated the break-up.
Daniel does not seek to extenuate their sin: on the contrary, he owns that they had aggravated their sin by their refusal to hearken unto the prophets that God had sent from time to time to recall them to Himself. Nothing is more striking than to see how persistently the people of God, in that day as well as in this, have persecuted the prophets. We do not like to have our conscience disturbed by hearing of our failures. To admit that we are wrong, or have done wrong, (except in the most vague and general terms) is too humbling to religious flesh. Therefore, the prophet who seeks to exercise the conscience - who reminds God's people of their sins - is never popular. The mere "teacher" will be received with acclaim, for the acquisition of knowledge at the feet of a teacher is rather gratifying to the flesh. To have a great teacher in the midst of a company tends to exalt; but who wants a prophet to arouse the conscience by telling us of our failures and sins? Thus it was that Israel refused to hearken unto the prophets.
(c) Daniel's justification of God in His governmental dealings (7-15).
(V. 7). Having confessed the sin of "all the people of the land," Daniel justifies God in having chastened the people. He lays hold of this deeply important principle that, when division and scattering have occurred, these evils must be accepted as from God, acting in His holy discipline, and not simply as brought about by particular acts of folly or wickedness on the part of individual men. This is clearly seen in the great division that took place in Israel. Instrumentally, it was brought about by the folly of Rehoboam, but, says God, "This thing is done of Me" ( 2Ch_11:4 ). Four hundred and fifty years later, when the people of God were not only divided but scattered among the nations, Daniel very clearly recognises this great principle. He says "O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither Thou has driven them". Then again he speaks of "the Lord our God . . . bringing upon us a great evil"; and yet again, "the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us" ( Dan_9:7 ; Dan_9:12 ; Dan_9:14 ). Thus Daniel loses sight of the folly and wickedness of individual men. He mentions no names. He does not speak of Jehoiachim or "his abominations which he did," nor of Zedekiah and his folly; nor does he refer to the ruthless violence of Nebuchadnezzar; but, looking beyond these men, he sees in the scattering the hand of a righteous God.
Thus, too, a little later Zechariah hears the word of the Lord to the priests, and all the people of the land, saying, "I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not" ( Zec_7:5 ; Zec_7:14 ).
So, too, later still Nehemiah in his prayer recalls the words of the Lord by Moses saying, "If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad" ( Neh_1:7 ).
There is no attempt with these men of God to modify their strong statements of God's dealings in discipline. They do not even say that God has "allowed" His people to be scattered, or "permitted" them to be driven away; but they plainly say that God Himself has driven the people away and brought the evil.
(Vv. 8, 9). But further, if on the one hand confusion of face belongs to every class and each generation of Israel from the fathers onwards, on the other hand "mercies and forgivenesses" belong to the Lord our God. Not only is God righteous, but He is merciful and full of forgiveness. In spite of this the nation had rebelled and again aggravated their guilt.
(V. 10). Thus Daniel sums up the sin of Israel. The nation had not obeyed the voice of the LORD; they had broken His laws and disregarded the prophets.
(Vv. 11, 12). Therefore the curse proclaimed in the law had fallen upon them, and God had confirmed His words which He had spoken against the nation by bringing this great evil upon them.
(V. 13). Furthermore, when the evil came, they did not turn to God in prayer. Apparently, there was no desire to turn from their iniquities and understand the truth.
Has this solemn verse no voice for the people of God in this our day? The people of God are scattered and divided because of their sins, and yet how calmly, even complacently, is this state of division viewed by the people of God. Moreover, not only is the truth of God for the moment little understood, but there is little desire to understand the truth. Oh that we might be so exercised as to the condition of God's people that we are compelled to make our prayer before the Lord our God, turn from our iniquities, and set our faces to understand the truth of God!
(V. 14). "Therefore," says Daniel, "hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us." The Lord had said to Jeremiah "I will watch over them for evil, and not for good;" and again, the same prophet tells us that the Lord had "watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict" ( Jer_44:27 ; Jer_31:28 ). How solemn! We can better understand the Lord watching over His people to protect, but here we find He watches over them for evil, and Daniel justifies the Lord in so doing. "The LORD our God is righteous in all His works which He doeth: for we obeyed not His voice."
(V. 15). There was yet a further aggravation of their guilt which Daniel confesses. The people who had sinned and done so wickedly were the redeemed of the Lord - the people that He had brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Thus the very people through whom God had gotten Him renown were the very people who, through their sin, had now dishonoured Him. By God's redeeming power on behalf of Israel, His fame had been spread abroad among the nations; by Israel's sin His Name had been blasphemed among the Gentiles. Therefore God had vindicated His glory by driving Israel again into bondage.
(d) Daniel's supplication to God for mercy (Vv. 16-19).
(Vv. 16-19). Having confessed the sin and failure of God's people and having, moreover, justified God in all His ways, Daniel now prays in the form of supplication. Remarkably enough, as we might think, his first plea is the righteousness of God, and later the "great mercies" of God. He realises that mercy must be based on righteousness. Already he had owned the "righteousness" of God in bringing all this sorrow upon this people (verse 14); now he pleads that in righteousness God would let His anger and fury be turned from Jerusalem.
The subjects of his supplication are the city, the holy mountain, the sanctuary and the people of God. He is not pleading for himself, his own personal interests, or the particular needs of his companions in captivity. His whole heart is concerned in the interests of God upon earth. Would that we knew more of the spirit of Daniel; that our hearts were so filled with that which is nearest and dearest to the heart of Christ that, rising above all personal and local needs, we could cry to God for His Church, His Name, His house and His people, confessing the common failure and feeling the common need.
It is significant that in pleading for the city, the mountain, the sanctuary and the people, he views them not in relation to himself or the nation, but as belonging to God. He does not say our city, or our sanctuary, or our people, but "Thy city," "Thy holy mountain," "Thy sanctuary," and "Thy people." Rising above all the failure, he turns to God and pleads, "We are Thine."
First, he pleads the righteousness of God (verse 16). Then he pleads "the Lord's sake" (verse 17). Following this, he pleads the "great mercies" of God (verse 18). Finally, he pleads the "Name" of the Lord (verse 19). Basing his prayer on such pleas, he can definitely ask the Lord to "hear," to "forgive," to "do," and "defer not" to act on behalf of His people.
It is of the deepest importance to see that the basis of Daniel's supplication is the fact, again and again emphasised in his confession, that it is God Himself who had broken up the people (verses 7, 12, 14). Until this fact is faced and owned, without any reserve, there can be no recovery. Once it is faced we have good ground on which to turn to God and plead for recovering mercy; and for this reason, God is One who can not only break up. but also can heal; God can scatter, but God can also gather together ( Psa_147:2 ). Refusing to acknowledge that God has broken us up, and seeing only the folly that men have wrought, we shut out all hope of recovery for those who desire to be faithful to God. With men before us we are thinking of those who can break up but have no power to recover; whereas God can break up, and God can recover.
Seeing only men as causing divisions has led many sincere people to the false conclusion that, if men caused divisions, men have the power to remedy them. Hence the efforts that are made to bring the people of God together again are foredoomed to failure, and worse than failure, for they only add to the confusion among the people of God. To bring together is beyond the wit of man; it is God's work. We can destroy, we can scatter, we can break hearts; but "The LORD doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel. He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds" ( Psa_147:2-3 ).
Here, then, in Daniel's prayer we have the course that should ever guide God's people in a day of ruin:-
First, to get, in turning to God, a fresh and deepened sense of His greatness, holiness and mercy to those who are prepared to keep His word:
Secondly, to confess our failure and sin, and that the root of all scattering lies in a low moral condition:
Thirdly, to own the righteous government of God in all His dealings in chastening His people:
Fourthly, to fall back on the righteousness of God that can act in mercy towards His failing people, for His Name's sake.
(e) Understanding in the word and vision (Vv. 20-27).
(Vv. 20-23). Turning to God in prayer and confession, Daniel receives light and understanding in the mind of God. It is significant that he receives the answer to his prayer at the time of the evening oblation, indicating that his prayer is answered on the ground of the efficacy of the burnt offering which speaks to God of the value of the sacrifice of Christ.
At the beginning of Daniel's supplication, God had given commandment to Gabriel concerning Daniel. God did not wait for a lengthy prayer to hear all that Daniel would say. God knew the desires of his heart, and at the very commencement God heard and began to act. Gabriel's commission was to open Daniel's understanding to receive the communications of God, as he says, "to make thee skilful of understanding" (N. Tn.). It was not enough for Daniel to receive revelations; he needed to have his understanding opened to profit by them. At a later date the Lord opened the Scriptures to the disciples and also opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures. We, too, need the opened understanding, as well as the opened Scriptures, even as the Apostle can say to Timothy, as he opens up the truth to him, "Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding" ( 2Ti_2:7 ).
Moreover, having associated himself with the failure of God's people, and confessed that "We have sinned," Daniel is now assured that, in spite of all failure, he is "greatly beloved."
(V. 24). Daniel had discovered by reading the prophet Jeremiah that at the end of seventy years God was going to judge Babylon and deliver his people from captivity. Because of this prophecy Daniel had turned to God and besought Him to act according to His word. In answer to Daniel's prayer God makes a further revelation to him. He is told that at the end of "seventy weeks" there would come a much greater deliverance for the Jews - one that would be final and complete.
We must remember that this prophecy wholly concerns the deliverance of the Jewish people and their city. The angel says, "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and thy city." Daniel's people are the Jews, and his city Jerusalem. The Christian has no continuing city in this world; he seeks one to come.
All that is necessary for the fulfilment of these prophecies has been carried out at the Cross. To secure these blessings Christ has died for the nation ( Joh_11:52 ). The blood has been shed and propitiation has been made. The reception by faith of the work of Christ, so that the nation may enter into the blessings that the work secures, is yet future. When Israel turns to the Lord, the transgression for which the nation has been scattered will be finished, their sins will be forgiven, their iniquities pardoned ( Isa_40:2 ), and God's righteousness established ( Isa_51:4-6 ). Visions and prophecies will be fulfilled, and, in this sense, sealed up or closed. The holy of holies will be set apart for the dwelling place of God.
What, then, are we to understand by the "seventy weeks"? Do they mean literally seventy weeks of seven days, or four hundred and ninety days? Verses 25 and 26 forbid such a thought. The commencement of the seventy weeks is clearly stated, and we are told that at the end of sixty-nine of the weeks certain events would take place that evidently did not take place at the end of four hundred and eighty three days. All difficulty is removed when we see that the word "weeks" merely means "periods of seven." The Jew reckoned by periods of seven years, or septenates, as we reckon by periods of ten years, or decades. The seventy weeks, then, are seventy periods of seven years, or four hundred and ninety years.
(V. 25). This period of four hundred and ninety years commences from the going forth of the command to build and restore Jerusalem. From Nehemiah 2 we know that this command to rebuild Jerusalem went forth in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes. In the history of the world the twentieth year of Artaxerxes has been calculated to be about 454 or 455 B.C. Four hundred and ninety years after this event we are told that the time of Israel's sorrow would be over and the blessings of the Kingdom established.
Now it is evident that the foretold blessing did not come at the end of four hundred and ninety years if the years are calculated without a break. But, in these verses, we see that this period is divided into three parts. The first period is one of seven weeks, or forty-nine years, during which Jerusalem is rebuilt in troublous times. How troublous they were we know from the account given in the Book of Nehemiah. The second period of sixty two weeks, or four hundred and thirty four years, is from the completion of the wall of Jerusalem unto the Messiah. The word does not say exactly the birth of the Messiah, or His presentation to the people, or His death. It is left quite general; only it is definitely stated that "after the sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off and shall have nothing" (N. Tn.).
(V. 26). Following upon the prophecy as to the cutting off of the Messiah, we have a statement about the people of the prince that shall come; this, in turn, is followed by statements as to the prince himself. It is stated that the people will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The reference is, doubtless, to the Roman people - the fourth great Gentile power - that ruled the earth when the Messiah came and was cut off. Daniel learns that the Jewish nation, having rejected their Messiah will come under judgment, and their city and sanctuary will be destroyed by the Roman people who, like a flood, will overflow the land, bringing the Jewish occupation to an end. The nation will pass into captivity and the land be left desolate. The Jews will find that every man's hand is against them until the time of the end. The Lord Himself repeats the prediction of these solemn events when He says, "They (the Jews) shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" ( Luk_21:24 ).
This part of the prophecy was completely fulfilled about seventy years after the birth of Christ when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans under Titus.
(V. 27). At this point the prophecy passes on to speak of events that are yet future, and that will take place during the last week, or seven years, of the prophecy. When Christ was cut off, sixty-nine weeks had run their course. There only remained one week - or seven years - before His kingdom would be set up. But the Jews rejected their Messiah; consequently the fulfilment of the prophecy is deferred. From the time that they rejected their Messiah, God no longer recognised the people as in relation with Himself. During this time there is a great blank in the history of God's ancient people, a blank of which God gives no account as to its length. During this time we know from the New Testament Scriptures that salvation has come to the Gentiles through the fall of Israel. During this period we also know that God is calling out His heavenly people - the Church. It will therefore be seen that there is an immense and important interval between verses 26 and 27, of which no details are given in the prophecy. The calling out of the Church is a truth reserved for the coming of the Holy Spirit. We are definitely told that this is a truth "which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" ( Eph_3:4-6 ; see also Rom_16:25-26 ). Direct prophecy always refers to earth and God's earthly people. Any allusion to the calling of the Church would have been wholly incomprehensible to Daniel. We can, then, understand why this immense interval between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week is passed over in silence.
Here, then, we are carried on to events that are still future. These events turn upon the activities, not so much of the Roman people, of whom we have already heard, but the head of the Empire, here called the prince of the people. Of this man we read, "He shall confirm a covenant with the many for one week" (N. Tn.). This head of the revived Roman Empire will enter into a covenant with the mass of the Jewish nation who will be back in their land, though still rejecting Christ as their Messiah. Probably, through fear of being overwhelmed by another enemy - the northern power or "overflowing scourge" - the Jews will enter into an alliance with the imperial head of the Roman Empire.
Then it seems that the one upon whom the Jews will lean for protection from other enemies will himself become their great enemy. False to his own covenant, in the midst of the week, or at the end of three and a half years, "he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease." The next clause would seem to indicate the reason for causing the sacrifice to cease, for it speaks of the "protection of abominations" (N. Tn.). This is plainly a reference to that which is stated in other Scriptures, that the coming Antichrist will cause an image to be erected in the holy of holies to whom all are commanded to render divine honours (See Mat_24:15 , 2Th_2:4 ; Rev_13:14-15 ).
Nevertheless, during this last half week there will be a "desolater," an overflowing scourge from the north, from which no alliance with the prince of the Roman Empire will avail to protect the Jews. It is during this time that the Jewish nation will pass through the great tribulation. The Lord definitely says, "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place . . . then shall be great tribulation" ( Mat_24:15-21 ). During this terrible time the unbelieving Jewish nation will be the object of unceasing judgments until judgment is exhausted by being fully poured out upon the desolate city and nation.
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Daniel 9". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter