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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Daniel 9

Prophecy and Prayer (9:1-27)

Chapter 9 consists of three sections: a brief introduction, the prayer of Daniel, and the interpretation of Jeremiah’s prophecy. The interpretation is the real center of this passage, which was expanded at some time by the addition of a beautiful liturgical prayer. Again the terminus toward which the "seventy weeks of years" (vs. 24) is made to move is the same center of gravity found in the two previous chapters, namely, the age of Antiochus Epiphanes. Alternate views have crowded the stage of biblical interpretation, but this one is transparently in line with the author’s intent. Undoubtedly the original intent of this material was to interpret the era of tragic persecution, whatever the theological overtones may now be.

Verses 1-2

Jeremiah’s Prophecy (9:1-2)

The date given here suggests the historical confusion which pervades the book because Darius the Mede is said to be the son of Ahasuerus (Xerxes). But Ahasuerus had no son named Darius. Darius I was the father of Xerxes, who was not a Mede but a Persian. It is certain, however, that the author meant to place this vision appropriately in 539 B.C. when Babylon was captured. Reference to Jeremiah’s prophecy of "seventy years" is the basis for a vision. Jeremiah had predicted that seventy years would pass while Judah remained desolate and her people were captive. After seventy years there would be restoration and revival (Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10). The author recalled this prophecy of hope and interpreted it as a light in the darkness of his contemporary world.

Verses 3-19

The Prayer (9:3-19)

Daniel’s remarkable confession of sin and his petition for God’s grace upon God’s people is an outstanding example of prayer as practiced among the Jews. Whether this prayer was drawn from the liturgy of the Temple or that of the later synagogue is difficult to determine. It consists of well-known fragments of language and ideas drawn from various parts of the Jewish Scriptures (Ezra 9; Nehemiah 1, 9; 1 Kings 3; Jeremiah 26; Jeremiah 32; Jeremiah 44) and is symbolic of true Israel at prayer in repentance for past failure and in petition for future recovery. Even though the prayer has literary affinities to several Old Testament and Intertestament passages, it still is an original work.

The reference to the Lord who keeps Covenant and shows loyal love to those who are loyal to him by keeping the commandments gets to the center and heart of the Covenant faith. This Covenant was instituted when by God’s love Israel was chosen to be his peculiar people. These people were commissioned to display loyal love as a proper response to the action of God’s love. God was a God of grace and of gentle love to those who kept his commandments (vs. 4) .

The tragedy of ancient Judah was that while God remained a Covenant-keeping God, his people became a Covenant-breaking people, "turning aside from thy commandments" (vs. 5). Daniel recalled before the Almighty how the prophets were sent as God’s emissaries to speak "to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land" (vs. 6). God had been perfectly righteous in his dealings, but "confusion of face" (shame or disgrace) had become the lot of Jerusalem, Judah, and Israel because of their treachery. All were now in captivity.

For these rebellious people there was no hope except in God’s "mercy and forgiveness," because they had flagrantly transgressed God’s laws and refused to heed his prophets. The statement that "All Israel has transgressed thy law and turned aside, refusing to obey thy voice" (vs. 11) emphasizes an undeniable fact about Hebrew history as witnessed by the prophets. Involved in the Law were the blessings and curses which people took upon themselves for obedience or disobedience (Leviticus 26:14-25; Deuteronomy 28:15-68). The curse prescribed in the Law of Moses had been fully poured out upon this rebellious people. God’s words had been confirmed in history through the incomparable desolation which was visited upon Jerusalem (vs. 12). However, even the destructive force of God’s judgment brought the people neither to entreaty for mercy nor to repentance for sin. For this reason the calamity continued (vs. 14).

Daniel, having set faith in the context of the Covenant and having confessed the sin of his people, began to make supplication for restoration. He asked God, "for thy own sake, O Lord, cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary, which is desolate." What more appropriate petition could be raised in the time when Antiochus had made the Temple desolate? The supplications of Daniel clearly are made not on the basis of human righteousness but through trust in divine mercy and forgiveness. Man can never plead forgiveness because of human righteousness; the ground must always be God’s unchanging mercy. Finally Daniel reflects the concern that was frequently manifest in Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 36), namely, "thy city and thy people are called by thy name." The Lord’s honor and character appeared to be at stake in this situation.

Verses 20-23

The Angel Returns (9:20-23)

The angel Gabriel came as a messenger of God to give Daniel wisdom and understanding, so that he could "consider the word and understand the vision." Once more God is recognized as the Source of all true wisdom, in whom alone is the key to the future. However, this wisdom and revelation of the future had been given into the keeping of Daniel, who was himself symbolic of the faithful in Israel. The meaning of the seventy weeks is ready to be revealed to Daniel for safekeeping until the end-time.

Verses 24-27

The Seventy Years: An Interpretation (9:24-27)

The seven-year period of time was common in Hebrew thought, where the Year of Jubilee was to follow seven times seven years (see Leviticus 25:1-12). The fiftieth year was the Year of Jubilee, while the seventh year in each cycle was the Sabbath year unto the Lord. Furthermore, the week-of-years (hebdomad) was relatively common, not only among the Hebrews but also among Greeks and Romans.

Taking the prediction that seventy years should pass before the end of punishment and exile, the Book of Daniel adjusts the meaning of the text to mean seventy weeks of years, which would total 490 years and would conveniently stretch from 587 B.C. to 168-165 B.C. Actually the times are not exact and should not be forced to fit into a precise pattern of dating. Should we require chronological precision the time of great distress would be reckoned as 96 B.C. Actually by starting from the center of gravity for this book, which has been demonstrated to be the early part of the Maccabean struggle, and working back to the time of captivity (587 B.C.), we should probably be following the author’s intent. The result follows :

1. 7 weeks = 49 years, 587-538 B.C. (vs. 25).

2. 62 weeks = 432 years, 588-171 B.C.

3. 1 week = 7 years, 171-165 B.C.

a. 1/2 week = 3 1/2 years, 171-168 B.C.

b. 1/2 week = 3 1/2 years, 168-165 B.C.

"Seventy weeks," Daniel was told, would be required so that the transgression might be finished, sin ended, and iniquity atoned. Punishment and redemption would take time (vs. 24). Then the prophetic vision would be approved and the sanctuary anointed for renewed service.

Seven weeks of years were to pass before the coming of "an anointed one," who should be identified with the high priest Joshua. (From 587 to 538 B.C. there was neither anointed priest nor king in the land; only a priest was there after the Restoration.) For sixty-two weeks of years the city will be built up and its moat restored, but the years will be filled with trouble. No better description could be given of the Persian and early Greek periods than this — "a troubled time." After sixty-two weeks of years the anointed one will be cut off. Onias, the high priest who was deposed in favor of Jason in 175 B.C., was summarily murdered in 171-170 B.C., at the instigation of the high priest Menelaus (2 Maccabees 4:33-38). Soon thereafter, in 168 B.C., the sanctuary was destroyed, and the city lived in the shadow of a heathen fortress which Antiochus constructed (1 Maccabees 1:31-40; 1 Maccabees 2:7-13).

The usurper will make "a strong covenant" with many for one week. Antiochus IV attracted to him many Jews who were happy to accommodate faith and life to the new way (see 1 Maccabees 1:11-15). These turncoats were bitterly resented among the pious in Israel. But for half the week — that is, approximately three and one-half years — all sacrifice was made to cease. This period should be identified with that time between 168 and 165 B.C. when all sacrifice was forbidden in the Temple, when the high priest did not serve, and when Zeus Olympus replaced the Lord as the object of devotion and loyalty. Supported by these abominations there shall come the "one who makes desolate." Antiochus IV was responsible for this sacrilege in the Temple. His defiance of God caused his Hebrew subjects to call him "Epimanes" (the madman), while his installation of Zeus Olympus was ridiculed in a pun meaning "abomination of desolation."

Once more the brilliant author of Daniel, a man of profound faith and unswerving loyalty, beheld God as the arbiter of all history, determining how long the desolation of the city should continue, allowing the time of trouble, and witnessing the final hours of terror. Ultimately this same God would bring to nought "the desolator" who had served a purpose in the divine economy.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Daniel 9". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/daniel-9.html.