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Chapter 9 The Vision of the Seventy Sevens.
Daniel prays over the situation of Jerusalem and passionately declares the undeserving of Israel and expresses his hope in the mercy and forgiveness of God. He pleads for the restoration of Jerusalem. His prayer reveals the powerful influence of Jeremiah’s writings on him. God then sends Gabriel to tell him that there are yet ‘seventy sevens’ before the final purposes of God can be brought about.
‘In the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans, in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of years about which the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah the prophet for the bringing to conclusion of the desolations of Jerusalem, even seventy years.’
For Darius the Mede see chapter 6 opening. Here he is called the son of Ahasuerus (Persian khshayarsha). This was a name applied to royalty (the Greek equivalent is Xerxes) in the Medo-Persian empire and there is no reason why someone with such a name should not be father to Darius the Mede. And he is said to be ‘of the seed of the Medes’. This stresses that ‘the Mede’ refers to his birth and not to the empire over which he was king.
‘Was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans.’ ‘Was made.’ He was acting as an under-king to the ruler of the whole empire. We only hear of the first year of his reign and it may well be that he died, or was replaced, shortly after, for within two years Daniel begins to date in terms of Cyrus (Daniel 10:1), whose son took over the governorship of Babylon. As Darius was 62 years old when he was ‘made king’ (Daniel 5:31) he would not rule for long, and he was probably appointed as having a recognised ability for the organisation of administrators (Daniel 6:2). Nothing is known of him historically, but in view of his short tenure this is not necessarily surprising. He has been variously identified with Cyrus himself, and with Cyrus’ general Gobryas, but his age at accession makes these identifications unlikely. There is no good to reason to deny his historicity, or for not accepting his identity at face value.
‘Understood by the books.’ Daniel clearly had a number of ‘books’ which included at least a part of the prophet Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 36:2-3; Jeremiah 36:28). It is very possible that he had other parts of the Old Testament as well, especially Deuteronomy. These told him that Jerusalem’s period of barrenness and emptiness was to be seventy years, after which His people would return to the city (Jeremiah 25:11-14; Jeremiah 29:10-11; compare 2 Chronicles 36:21). The prayer that follows is clearly based on Scripture and confirms that Daniel was heavily influenced by Jeremiah and Deuteronomy, even to the use of the divine name YHWH, which is found nowhere else in Daniel.
‘Seventy years’ would be considered a round number indicating the divine perfection of the period involved and a fairly long period, thinking in terms of a lifetime (Psalms 90:10). Daniel at this stage had been in Babylon since 605 BC (sixty six years) and was thus probably around eighty. He would therefore have felt that God’s time was surely near.
‘And I set my face towards the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.’
He ‘set his face’, suggesting firm intention and perseverance. The Lord Who is God had promised and He must do it. Note the signs of repentance and humility, fasting, sackcloth and ashes. He was really in earnest (compare Exodus 34:28; 2 Kings 6:30; Isaiah 58:5; Jonah 3:5; Ezra 8:23; Nehemiah 9:1; Esther 4:1; Esther 4:3; Esther 4:16; Job 2:12).
‘And I prayed to YHWH my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, the great and dreadful God, who keeps covenant and mercy with those who love him and keep his commandments.” ’
In Babylon the Israelite God was called ‘the God of heaven’, but in private prayer He was still YHWH, the covenant name. Or perhaps the fact of reading Jeremiah had renewed for Daniel the thought of that name, for it has not been used prior to this and yet he uses it regularly in this chapter (Daniel 9:2; Daniel 9:10; Daniel 9:13-14 (twice), 20) and not again after this. This would appear to emphasise a stress in this chapter on the covenant, as mentioned specifically in this verse. Outside this chapter all references to the covenant refer to the sacred covenant with YHWH (Daniel 11:22; Daniel 11:28; Daniel 11:30; Daniel 11:32). Note that Daniel, with all his experiences of the divine, does not approach God lightly. Sometimes we fail to recognise the awe and reverence we should have when we approach Him. ‘The great and dreadful God,’ the powerful and awesome One Who had allowed His city and temple to be destroyed because of men’s sin (see Deuteronomy 7:9; Deuteronomy 7:21; Deuteronomy 10:17).
‘Who keeps covenant and mercy with those who love him and keep his commandments.’ Cited from Deuteronomy 7:9 (see also Daniel 5:10). Daniel’s hope lay in the fact that God was the covenant God, and would thus respond in mercy towards those who were faithful to His covenant. The word for ‘mercy’ indicates ‘covenant love’. God responds in covenant love towards those who obey the covenant commandments, not because they earn it, but because by it they reveal that they are His.
“We have sinned and have dealt perversely, and have done wickedly and have rebelled, even turning aside from your precepts and from your judgments.”
Daniel here identifies himself with his people. Note the multiplying of words to express sinfulness; wandered from the right way, behaved unrighteously, falling short of God’s requirements, doing wickedly by following that which was positively known to be wrong, acting in rebellion against God, and a deliberate turning aside from His Law as revealed in the Scriptures. Yet he no doubt felt its truth about himself deeply. None are more conscious of sin than the truly righteous.
“Nor have we listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.”
They had added to their sins in that they had refused to listen to the words of the true prophets, who had spoken in YHWH’s name. All were involved in this, from the king downwards. Compare Jeremiah 7:25; Jeremiah 25:4; Jeremiah 26:5; Jeremiah 29:19; Jeremiah 44:17; Jeremiah 44:21; Nehemiah 9:32; Nehemiah 9:34; Ezra 9:7. The verses in Jeremiah demonstrate where Daniel obtained his ideas from, but he had distant memories of having seen it for himself. The references in Nehemiah and Ezra are more formal indicating that they come later than Daniel.
“O Lord, righteousness belongs to you (is what is yours), but to us confusion of face as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel who are near, and who are far off, through all the countries where you have driven them, because of their trespass which they have trespassed against you.”
He first acknowledges that God has been totally righteous in all His dealings with Israel. No blame could be set at His door. He had done all, and more than all, of what could have been expected. But His people, on the other hand, could only avoid His gaze in confusion, for they had failed Him utterly. The Hebrew is succint, ‘to You, honour, to us, dishonour’.
As a trained administrator Daniel distinguishes the three sections of Israel, Jerusalem, (which always saw itself as a separate city), Judah and all Israel, although in Daniel 1:3; Daniel 1:6 he uses the names interchangeably. Thus perhaps ‘all Israel’ is to be seen as including the others. But wherever Israel is found all will suffer confusion of face, inability to look God or good men in the face, because of the way in which they have broken His laws and done what they should not. And this is demonstrated by the fact that they have been scattered among the nations because of it.
“O Lord, to us belongs confusion of face, to our kings, and to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.”
Daniel repeats his confession that they can only be ashamed before God. The princes were the heads of the tribes. ‘The fathers’, the heads of sub-tribes and family groups. All were responsible for guiding the behaviour of the people.
“To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him, nor have we obeyed the voice of YHWH our God, to walk in his laws which he set before us by his servants the prophets.”
He declares that YHWH is the compassionate and forgiving One. This is literally ‘compassions and forgivenesses’. The thought is of God’s continual acts of compassion and forgiveness, resulting from the fact of His compassion and His willingness to forgive.
Had it not been for His compassion and forgiveness they would have been totally destroyed, for they had rebelled against Him, they had not obeyed His voice, and they had not walked in His laws which had been fully explained to them by God’s servants the prophets. They were thus without excuse.
We can apply the same idea to ourselves. Before we point the finger at Israel we must look at our own lives.
“Yes, all Israel have transgressed your law, even turning aside that they should not obey your voice. Therefore has the curse been poured out on us, and the oath that is written in the Law of Moses the servant of God. For we have sinned against him.”
Daniel points back to the written Law. Remember his reference to Deuteronomy earlier. They have broken God’s Law. And they have also refused to listen to the voice of God through His prophets. That is why they have been cursed, as indeed God had warned them that they would be (Jeremiah 44:22; Deuteronomy 27:26; Deuteronomy 29:20; and in detail Deuteronomy 28:15 onwards; Leviticus 26:14 onwards).
Daniel Relates What Has Happened To What They Deserved Should Happen.
In this section Daniel does not speak to God directly, but indirectly. Indeed it may be that this short section was included by Daniel as an explanation of his prayer when he wrote the details down.
“And he has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing on us a great evil. For under the whole heaven has not been done as has been done to Jerusalem.”
What has happened to Jerusalem has in fact been a confirmation of the word of God. By His judgment He has demonstrated that He is a God Who does what He promises, and carries out what He says He will do (Jeremiah 35:17; Jeremiah 36:31). That is why this great evil has come on them.
‘For under the whole heaven has not been done as has been done to Jerusalem.’ If we were only thinking of the destruction of Jerusalem this would be a forgivable exaggeration. For other great cities have also been destroyed and razed to the ground. But he was thinking of more. He was also thinking of what Jerusalem had meant as the city of God, as God’s earthly dwellingplace. It was the most sacred city of all. Thus for it to be destroyed was a crime beyond telling. And they had enjoyed it and had lost it all. No one had ever lost what they had lost, for others had never enjoyed it.
“In accordance with what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, all this evil has come on us, yet have we not appeased (begged the favour of) YHWH our God, that we should turn from our iniquities and have discernment in your truth. Therefore has YHWH watched over the evil and brought it on us. For YHWH our God is righteous in all his works which he does, and we have not obeyed his voice.”
Daniel acknowledged that all that had come on Israel was exactly what had been promised in God’s covenant, in the Book of the Law of Moses (compare Joshua 8:31; Joshua 23:6; 2 Kings 14:6) . He also acknowledged that they could have turned from their sin and sought God’s favour (for the meaning of the verb see 1 Kings 13:6; Jeremiah 26:19), but had failed to do so. They had refused to receive discernment and understanding through His truth. Thus YHWH had Himself seen all that they had done and had brought His judgment on them, something revealed in the evils that they faced (see Jeremiah 1:12; Jeremiah 31:28; Jeremiah 44:27). And he summed up the situation by acknowledging that YHWH was righteous in all that He had done and does, and that Israel’s fate was simply due to their own disobedience.
Note that it was not a question of them earning their deliverance. Deliverance required the favour and mercy of God, but it would always be available if they sought Him in repentance. But nevertheless without an obedient response there could be no deliverance. Responsive faith and obedience always go together.
Daniel’s Final Plea.
Daniel again begins to speak directly to God.
“And now, O Lord our God, you have brought your people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made for yourself a name as at this day. We have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, in accordance with all your righteousness, let your anger and your fury, I pray you, be turned away from Jerusalem your city, the mountain of your holiness, because for our sins and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a reproach to all who are round about us.”
He reminds God as the Lord that by His great and powerful deliverance from Egypt He had established what He was, He had ‘made for Himself a Name’ which had continued to this day. He admitted that in themselves they deserved nothing. They had sinned and done wickedly. But He asked God to reveal the righteousness that all good men knew that He had, by turning His anger away from Jerusalem His city, from His holy mountain so that the reproach of non-Israelites round about, in what they said about YHWH, might be shown to be false. Thus it was to be for the sake of His own holy name (‘that they might know that I am the Lord YHWH’ was a regular cry on the lips of God through Ezekiel), not for the sake of His totally undeserving people who had brought this judgment on Jerusalem.
‘The mountain of your holiness.’ All that was left of Jerusalem at this time was the mountain and huddles of ruined buildings, some of which had probably been made barely habitable by people struggling to survive.
“Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant, and to his supplications, and cause your face to shine on your sanctuary which is desolate, for the Lord’s sake (or ‘which is desolate because of the Lord’). O my God, incline your ear and hear, open your eyes, and behold our desolations and the city which is called by your name. For we do not present our supplications before you for our righteousnesses, but for your great mercies.”
Daniel’s prayer bring out the feelings of the faithful among the exiles about Jerusalem and the Sanctuary. All their thoughts were centred on them, and their restoration, as though God’s purposes could not go on without them. They felt that until Jerusalem and the Sanctuary were restored God’s name would not be vindicated, nor would Israel be able to rise again, and the thought tore at their hearts. They had not heeded the message of Ezekiel which turned their thoughts away from Jerusalem to the presence of God in His heavenly temple on ‘a high mountain’ away from Jerusalem in a portion which was ‘very holy’, far holier than Jerusalem (Ezekiel 40:2 with Ezekiel 45:2-8). See our commentary on Ezekiel.
Gabriel would also seek to turn his thoughts away from Jerusalem to the fuller purposes of God. True it would be rebuilt, but then both city and sanctuary would be destroyed before God’s final purposes came to fruition. He was pointing out that they were only secondary in the purposes of God for Israel and the world.
Now, however, Daniel pleads with God on behalf of the sanctuary and the city. And he does it, not on the basis of the people’s deserving, but on the basis of His mercy. He asks Him to hear his pleading and let His face shine on the sanctuary which was desolate, and to turn His eyes on the situation of Jerusalem. To ‘let His face shine on’ means to again accept it and restore it and make it His earthly dwellingplace (Numbers 6:25; Psalms 80:3), and he is sure that once God takes a good look at Jerusalem and its devastation He will be moved for His own name’s sake to act on its behalf. His hope lies fully in the mercy of God.
‘For the Lord’s sake.’ A difficult expression in the context. Some see it as the equivalent of ‘For your sake, O Lord.’ Others as ‘desolate because of the Lord’. The latter may have been a well known saying, repeated here by Daniel verbatim.
‘The city which is called by your name’, or ‘on which your name is called’. Such a city was one over which the one named had exercised his sovereignty by conquest or restoration, or by virtue of great and memorable things done in it. The result was that men connected the name with the city. Thus Jerusalem was connected with the Name of YHWH.
‘For we do not present our supplications before you for our righteousnesses, but for your great mercies.’ He makes clear that that he recognises that if mercy is to be shown it will only be because God is merciful. There is no question of it being deserved in any way.
“O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act, and do not put it off, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”
Daniel’s prayer was becoming more fervent. His pleading increased, ‘hear, forgive, listen, act, do not put off’. His desperation is apparent. He would not take no for an answer, for he was deeply concerned for God’s reputation. The Lord must act for His own name’s sake, for the vindication of His name by restoring the city and the people which were called by His name.
Gabriel Appears With The Promise That God Will Fully Bring About His Purposes, But It Will Not Be Within Seventy Years But Within Seventy ‘Sevens’.
At this point deliverance for Israel was already in motion. In this first year of Cyrus the edict would be proclaimed which allowed Israel to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:0). The same would happen to many other nations. It was Cyrus’ policy. Indeed he restored many gods to their homelands from which Nabonidus had removed them, and in Israel’s case commanded that the temple vessels, stolen by Nebuchadnezzar, should be restored to them.
But while man was concerned for the city and the temple, God’s concern was for greater things. His vision far exceeded that of Daniel. The city and temple were secondary, indeed would eventually be put out of the way. What mattered was the final fulfilment of history in the establishing of the Rule of God in righteousness. And graciously He recognised that that was indeed the end that Daniel really intended without fully understanding it. He would grant him the greater blessing.
‘And while I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before YHWH my God for the mountain of holiness of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly in weariness, touched me (or ‘reached me’) at about the time of the evening oblation. And he instructed me and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come to make you to make you wise in understanding.” ’
The first part of these verses summarises Daniel’s petition. He has been praying audibly, and confessing both his own sinfulness, and also the sinfulness of his people Israel. And secondly he has been praying audibly for the restoration of God’s mountain of holiness, for the establishment of a new Israel in a new temple and a new Jerusalem. To Daniel that was the ultimate hope. From there would spring forth the purposes of God for the future. It was only in chapter 12 that he recognised a greater hope, the resurrection of men to face God and receive either blessing or cursing. But like Isaiah 26:19 he probably saw that resurrection as resulting in a new life on this earth for the righteous, and like Isaiah 66:24 he probably saw the fate of the wicked as connected with the valley of Hinnom.
And then ‘the man Gabriel’ appeared, the same Gabriel that he had previously seen and before whom he had collapsed in awe. Called here a man because that was his appearance (Daniel 8:15-17).
‘Being caused to fly in weariness.’ The idea here is that he was sent with such promptness and speed that had he really been a man it would have exhausted him. Daniel wants us to be aware of how quickly God had responded to his prayer (Daniel 9:23).
‘Touched me about the time of the evening oblation.’ We are possibly to understand that Daniel had begun praying at first light and that he had prayed through the day. The evening oblation was the time of the evening offering which would have been offered before the light died if there had been a temple in Jerusalem. It was a time observed by the faithful in Israel for worship and prayer, because the sacrifice could no longer be offered. The verb ‘touched’ can also mean ‘reached’. Daniel’s aim may have been to remind us of Daniel 8:18, where Gabriel had made him ready to receive the vision by touching him, or it may have been simply to give the time of arrival.
‘And he instructed me (or ‘made me to understand’) and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come to make you to make you wise in understanding.’ This sums up what will follow. Gabriel would instruct him in, and enable him to understand, the message that he had brought to him.
“At the beginning of your supplications the word went forth, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved. Therefore consider the matter and understand the vision.”
Gabriel assures him that ‘the word went forth’ for the fulfilment of his hopes right from the beginning of his prayer. He was not heard for his much speaking but because of the graciousness of God towards a beloved servant. The idea of ‘the word going forth’ is powerful. God makes His decree and sends forth His word to bring it about. The exact phraseology is paralleled in Daniel 9:25. Thus Daniel 9:25 must also be seen in similar terms. The word that goes forth there, is the word that has gone forth here. It is God’s word bringing about His purpose (compare Isaiah 55:11). We are not therefore left to hazard as to when the seventy sevens commences. It commences in 539/8 BC in the first year of Darius the Mede, when Daniel put forth his intercession for the rebuilding of the city and the Temple.
Here we learn the vital lesson that God’s response is prompt and not dependent on the volume of our prayers, as Jesus Himself would make clear (Matthew 6:7-8). But Daniel had not wasted his time. It had brought him nearer to God. Now he would learn what God was going to do in the future. His prayer had been the final touch to the prayers of all the faithful throughout the world. And he was to hear, and consider and understand.
The Great Vision.
We have come now to what is probably one of the most crucial passages in eschatology. It is the passage on which is based the idea of the ‘seven year’ tribulation, a concept which must be very seriously questioned. The Bible knows nothing of a seven year tribulation period, for as we shall see it is not in mind here, and the suggestion of seven years occurs nowhere else. And yet it is pivotal to many schemes. On the other hand this passage in Daniel is often also interpreted to fit in with those schemes with scant regard to the niceties of the Hebrew in this passage. I would therefore suggest that in view of the importance of the passage the first thing that we need to ask ourselves is, ‘what does the Hebrew actually say?’ And as we look at these verses that will be the first priority that we keep in mind.
So as a preliminary to our study let us consider some of the niceties of the Hebrew, and the first one that leaps to our attention is that the word for ‘prince’ in both cases is nagid. Elsewhere Daniel uses a number of words for ‘prince’ but the only time that he uses nagid is when he is speaking of an Israelite prince, a ‘prince of the covenant’ (Daniel 11:22). And in Daniel 9:25 it is also clear that it is an Israelite prince that is in mind. The only possible ambiguous use is in Daniel 9:26 where it speaks of ‘the prince who is coming’. But as the coming of a prince (nagid) has been mentioned in Daniel 9:25 it seems reasonable to see ‘the coming prince’ in Daniel 9:26 as the same prince, that is, as the one previously referred to in Daniel 9:25 as coming, and thus as an Israelite prince. There are, however, those who seek to make it signify an foreign unknown prince who is coming. But if the latter was intended why did Daniel not use sar as he normally does?
This is especially so in that, outside Daniel, nagid as a title is a regular term for the anointed rulers of Israel. It is only once used in the singular of a ruler outside Israel, and then specifically of him as an ‘anointed one’, probably in ironic contrast to the son of David. Let us consider the facts.
From the earliest days nagid was a regular term applied to rulers of Israel, to Saul, David and Solomon (1 Samuel 9:16; 1Sa 10:1 ; 1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Samuel 25:30; 2Sa 5:2 ; 2 Samuel 6:21; 2 Samuel 7:8; 1 Kings 1:35) and to early rulers of Israel and Judah after Solomon (1 Kings 14:7; 1 Kings 16:2; 2 Kings 20:5) . Saul was anointed ‘nagid’ (1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 10:1). David was to replace him as ‘nagid’ (1 Samuel 13:14), as David himself acknowledged (2 Samuel 6:21). And it was a title of honour recognised by others (1 Samuel 25:30; 2Sa 5:2 ; 2 Samuel 6:21; 2 Samuel 7:8) And even though David later saw Solomon as king, he still recognised that in his becoming king Solomon would be appointed ‘nagid’ (1 Kings 1:35). God was King, each king was His chosen nagid, His anointed representative and war leader. It will further be noted that in all the verses except one (2 Kings 20:5) it is used of the initial appointment of the king. However, 2 Kings 20:5 is probably not to be seen as an exception, for there it is used by God of Hezekiah, and we may therefore well see that reference as also having the fact that he was a God-appointed king in mind.
In the remainder of the Old Testament there is only one use of nagid where it refers to a foreign prince, and that is when it is applied by Ezekiel to the king of Tyre at the point where he is claiming to be a god. This is found in Ezekiel 28:2. There is, however, very good reason for seeing its use there as deliberately derisive, contrasting him with his grand claims with God’s chosen princes. The contrast is between on the one hand him as a self-proclaimed ‘nagid’, one who claims to be the chosen of the gods (see Daniel 9:2), an ‘anointed’ cherub (Daniel 9:14), and on the other hand the true nagid of the people of God, who are the true anointed of God, and adopted as His sons (Psalms 2:7; 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 89:26-27). It is derisive of his great and blasphemous claims. He thinks he is a ‘nagid’ but he is only a king. Later in the passage he is in fact called ‘the king of Tyre’ (Ezekiel 28:12). Thus nagid in its use here also points to one anointed and divinely chosen.
Daniel maintains this emphasis when he speaks of ‘the prince of the covenant’ in Daniel 11:28 and when he speaks in Daniel 9:25 of ‘an anointed one, a nagid’, clearly connecting the use of nagid with one who is anointed by God.
In the plural, but only in the plural, it is also used of important men in authority in Israel and Judah, for example of ‘rulers over the house of God’, of rulers of priestly courses, and of grand viziers of Judah and Israel, once kingship was fully established, who all represented God under the king. In the plural it is also used more generally in Psalms 76:12, but even there it may actually signify princes of Israel in contrast with the kings of the earth. The only time it is ever definitely applied outside Israel and Judah is in 2 Chronicles 32:21, where it is used in the plural of the king of Assyria’s war leaders. Thus even in the plural it is almost always used of leaders of Israel, although not totally exclusively.
In the singular, however, its only certain use of a foreign prince, even outside Daniel, is in Ezekiel 28:2, and there it is as one chosen of the gods, and whose anointing is mentioned in context (Daniel 9:14), and as we have suggested, the idea of the nagid of Israel is in mind as a contrast. It is being used ironically while keeping its basic meaning in mind. He is being seen as imitating the true nagids of YHWH.
That being so there is overwhelming reason for seeing nagid in the singular as being a unique title referring exclusively to princes of Israel as representatives of God, a title used when they are appointed, adopted as His sons and anointed in His name. If this be so it means that we should then see ‘the people of the nagid who is coming’ as referring to Israel as the people of an Israelite prince, and it would seem sensible to parallel it with ‘the coming prince’ whom they had rejected and killed. This explains fully why the action is referred to the people and not to the prince. The prince was dead. And as we shall see later there are other reasons also why we should interpret it in this way.
The second thing we should note is that ‘the covenant’ mentioned in Daniel 9:27 is ‘confirmed’ not made. Now the only covenant mentioned elsewhere in Daniel is in Daniel 9:4; Daniel 11:22, (where there is reference to Israel’s ‘nagid’ as ‘the prince of the covenant’); Daniel 11:28; Daniel 11:30; Daniel 11:32. Thus in Daniel ‘covenant’ always means ‘the holy covenant with God’. It is God’s covenant with His people, closely connected with His nagid. We should note in this regard that the idea of the covenant has already been introduced in this chapter (Daniel 9:4), and is clearly continually in mind.
The third thing that we should note is that there is no mention anywhere of ‘years’. Indeed the seventy ‘sevens’ are contrasted with the seventy ‘years’ prophesied by Jeremiah. Deliverance for Judah will come after seventy years, but God’s full and final deliverance will only come after seventy ‘sevens’. There are therefore no real grounds for applying the idea of ‘years’ to the seventy ‘sevens’.
The more detailed niceties we will refer to as we come to them.
“Seventy sevens are decreed on your people, and on your holy city, to finish transgression, and to make and end of sin, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy (‘one’ or ‘place’).”
The seventy sevens are here seen as not only making the situation right between the nation and God, resulting at the commencement in the rebuilding of the city and the sanctuary in the first ‘seven’, (which was what the seventy years of Jeremiah had in mind), but also as resulting in the making of a way of final full restoration and acceptability with God, and the final fulfilment of all prophecy, which includes all nations. The whole world is in mind.
‘Seventy sevens.’ These seventy ‘sevens’ are in contrast with Jeremiah’s seventy ‘years’. Thus the idea is that final and full deliverance will occur in God’s timing. What Gabriel is saying is that far beyond the limited statement of Jeremiah concerning seventy years there was rather to be a period of seventy ‘sevens’ which would result in the fulfilment of God’s final purposes. In other words the ‘sevens’ (divinely perfect time periods) replace years. This expresses the ultra divinely perfect period. Seven is the number of perfection and seventy is an intensification of that number (see Genesis 4:24). Thus there are to be a divinely perfect number, not of years per Jeremiah, but of divinely perfect periods. God has them measured, even if man does not, and they are perfect within His will. The word for ‘sevens’ is unusually in the masculine plural, as in Daniel 10:2-3 (and in Genesis 29:27 in the singular). Perhaps this was to stress the importance of these periods. They would be powerfully effective. (Further consideration will shortly be given to the interpretation of ‘sevens’).
‘Are determined on your people and on your holy city.’ The limited view that suggests that therefore these verses only refer to Israel misses the point. God’s purpose for Israel and the holy city (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-3; Jeremiah 3:17; Zechariah 14:8-9) was that finally they should be a blessing to the world. So Israel was not here for itself, it was here for the world. From the time of the first promise to Abraham of blessing on all nations (Genesis 12:3), through the appointment of Israel as a kingdom of priests in the Sinai covenant (Exodus 19:6), to the recognition that they were to be God’s servant to the nations in Isaiah 42:0 onwards, the divine emphasis was always on their status and position as world functionaries (see Isaiah 49:6). What God determined on His people He determined for the sake of the world. Thus this prophecy has a world view.
The result of the seventy sevens is to be:
1) ‘To shut up (restrain) transgression.’ This and 2). are parallel ideas. Transgression has raged through the world since man’s first days. Men have flouted God’s laws. Now it is to be restrained, to be brought under control, to be imprisoned, to be finally dealt with.
2) ‘And to make an end of sins (or ‘seal up sin’).’ Job 14:17 refers to ‘the sealing up of sin’ where the idea is that God has sealed it up so as to bring it to account. The restraining and imprisonment of transgression and the making an end of or sealing up of sin could only have in mind both the binding and restraining of the Evil One and the cessation of the power of sin over men’s lives both in penalty and effectiveness. This would be brought about through a sufficient sacrifice for sin which put away sin (Hebrews 9:26), and effective transformation through the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18) so that men became blameless before God. Sin would finally be dealt with by mercy and judgment.
3) ‘And to make reconciliation for (or more literally ‘cover’) iniquity.’ This means such a reconciliation that man can come to God and be received as His with no shadow of failure between (2 Corinthians 5:19; Ephesians 2:16). It was to remove any shadow or barrier between God and man. Transgression, sin and iniquity will all have been dealt with.
4) ‘To bring in everlasting righteousness.’ This signifies that the stain of sin and evil is removed for ever, both judicially before God as men are covered in perfect righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Corinthians 2:0 Corinthians 2:21), and in fact, so that man will actually be holy, blameless and unreproachable before Him for ever (Colossians 1:22; Ephesians 5:27). Note that everlasting righteousness is ‘brought in’ from outside. There is clear reference here 1). to God ‘bringing near’ righteousness and salvation (Isaiah 46:13), everlasting salvation and righteousness (Isaiah 51:5-6), and 2). to the work of the One Who came to do it as the perfectly righteous one, bringing His righteousness for men (Romans 5:17; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21) and sacrificing Himself for sin.
5) ‘To seal up vision and prophecy.’ This signifies its final and complete fulfilment so that it is no longer required and is past instead of future.
6) ‘To anoint ‘the most holy’ (literally ‘the holy of holies’ - that which is most holy)’. Anointing indicates a new dedication to God, a setting apart for Him, within His purposes. This can refer either to the anointing of the everlasting King (as mentioned later in the chapter of ‘the anointed One’) or more likely to the anointing of the supreme everlasting sanctuary, in the heavenly Jerusalem (Exodus 40:9; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 21:0), the eternal dwellingplace of God with men. Whichever we choose, it is an indication of the fulfilment of God’s final purposes in holiness.
In our view these descriptions cancel out any interpretation of these seventy ‘sevens’ that falls short of resulting in final perfection. There is no space for an inadequate ‘kingdom age’ to follow. Perfection has been achieved. And although there is a genuine sense in which Christ’s work on the cross and His resurrection fulfilled what is described here up to a point, it did not at that time bring it to complete fulfilment. That awaits the coming of Christ in glory and the final judgment. In our view it is not sufficient to stop short in a partial fulfilment at Christ’s first coming, glorious and initially complete though that was. Daniel is clearly, in the end, thinking of the final consummation.
It has been said that there is no clear indication of what closes off the seventieth ‘seven’, but we find this suggestion quite remarkable. For we have it stated here quite clearly. It is closed by the final fulfilment of all God’s purposes brought to a state of perfection and completion. In terms of Daniel 9:27 it is closed by ‘the consummation’.
“Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the command to restore and to build Jerusalem to the anointed one, the prince (nagid), will be seven sevens, and sixty two sevens. It will be built again with street and moat, even in troubled times.”
The command (literally ‘word’) to restore and build Jerusalem almost certainly refers to God’s command for it to happen spoken of in Daniel 9:23, for the same phraseology is used by the angel to Daniel there. In Daniel 9:23 the ‘word (of the Lord) went forth’ in response to Daniel’s prayer for the restoration of the land, the city and the Temple. That would appear to indicate that the word that goes forth here is the same word. In terms of Daniel 9:23 that dates the commencement of the seventy sevens as being the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, which is 539/8 BC. The fulfilment of that word on earth proceeded in stages. It commenced with the decree of Cyrus in 538 BC (Ezra 1:2-4) which, although it was specifically about rebuilding the temple, necessarily involved other building work in the city with the purpose of housing those who would have direct responsibility for the Temple. That is possibly why in Isaiah 44:28 Cyrus is seen as declaring of Jerusalem ‘she shall be built’ and of the Temple ‘your foundation will be laid’. A further edict was decreed in the time of Nehemiah in 445 BC (Nehemiah 2:8), and there the city was to be fortified with walls and made a governing city of the area. Furthermore the words in Ezra 4:12-16 also indicate that an attempt had previously been made to continue the work of building Jerusalem, an attempt stymied by the activities of enemies of Jerusalem. Some work had already proceeded, certainly sufficient to arouse the ire of the complainants, and the consequence of their complaint was that the work was immediately suspended (Ezra 4:21-24). It is clear therefore that the work was proceeding ‘in troubled times’.
It was the rise of Nehemiah that resulted in a great advance in the situation. It was he who received the king’s authority to rebuild the city and its walls, and to establish it as an independent city, thus demonstrating that God was ensuring that His plan to go forward. It was then, and only then, that Jerusalem could become what for Israel it had always been, a capital city, ruling over its own dependency. Note the words spoken to Daniel, it would be built with street and moat, a planned and defendable city, not a huddle of houses. This presumably occurred within the first ‘seven.
The importance of this is clear. When Jerusalem was destroyed and ceased to be a ruling city, that was the sign that God had forsaken His people. And while it was trodden down that situation remained. The almost overwhelming vehemence of Ezekiel’s cries that ‘Jerusalem must be destroyed’ was the seal that God had closed a chapter in the history of Israel and Judah. (Later indeed, in other circumstances, after another destroying of Jerusalem, we are told that the times of the Gentiles will continue while Jerusalem was trodden down (Luke 21:24) demonstrating again that it was Jerusalem primarily and the Temple only secondarily that was seen as the prime test of God’s favour on the Jews).
Up to the time of Nehemiah Jerusalem had again been populated to some extent, but it was as a huddle of buildings with its own small Temple, and it was ruled from elsewhere and had little real authority. It was merely a provincial town of no importance and no status, part of a larger province, with no independence. It was still a dream in Israelite hearts rather than a reality. It was Nehemiah who rebuilt the walls and made it once more a ruling city with its pride restored (Nehemiah 5:14). It was Nehemiah who made ‘Jerusalem’ truly independent from the surrounding nations. Thus the word going forth in Daniel’s prophecy must be seen as resulting both in the edict of Cyrus and in the edict of Artaxerxes concerning Nehemiah, when Jerusalem once again began to count for something.
‘To an anointed one, a prince (nagid) will be seven sevens, and sixty two sevens.’ There is no indication from the Hebrew whether the coming of the anointed prince was to be after the seven sevens or the sixty two sevens. However the fact that the anointed one will be cut off at the end of the sixty two ‘sevens’ would appear to date his coming at that time. So we must ask, what is the significance of the split into two sections ? For nothing is specifically stated as happening at that time (unless we see it in the reference to the building of the city with street and moat in troubled times), and anointed princes were coming along in Israel all the time. It should be noted that this is not intended to be an ongoing prophecy like those in chapter 7, 8 and 11, covering different aspects of history. In this prophecy all the emphasis is on the achievement of God’s ends. This being so we must probably see this anointed prince as being also the one described in Daniel 9:26. All eyes are on his coming.
The main answer to the question of the reason for the split almost certainly lies in the nature of seven ‘sevens’. We must look at this from the perspective of Israel and understand in this regard that ‘seven’ was a distinctive period for Israel. Time for them was split up into seven day periods, with the seventh day a sabbath; then into moon periods; then into years; and then into seven year periods, with the seventh year a sabbath for the land; and then finally into ‘seven sevens of years’ (Leviticus 25:8) with the fiftieth year a year of Yubile (Leviticus 25:10-12), a time when all Israelite bondservants would be released and land outside of walled cities would revert to its original owners (see Leviticus 25:27). All Israel would then be made free again. Thus time was seen as moving forward in seven day periods, and then in seven year periods and then in forty nine year periods (seven sevens of years). The fiftieth year was not strictly a year like all the others but overlapped the forty ninth year at the end of one period and the first year that began to next period of forty nine years. The Jews therefore saw time as moving forward in sevens.
Thus if seven days ended up with the sabbath and seven years ended up with the sabbath for the land and seven sevens of years ended up with the year of Yubile, then seven ‘sevens’ might well have been seen as a period ending with a seventh ‘seven’ which would be a time of special blessing. Seemingly this would be the period when the street and moat of Jerusalem would be built in troubled times, the street indicating a populated city, the moat indicating a city with strong defences (Daniel 9:25). Thus by the time of the seventh ‘seven’ Jerusalem would have been established as a populated and fortified city. And they might well have seen that as indicating that the kingdom of blessing would then come. The angel is therefore careful to explain that that will not be so. For the seven ‘sevens’ will simply lead into the sixty two ‘sevens’. They were not to look for a quick solution. The purpose of this is n order to emphasise that there will be a considerable length of time which must pass before what is prophesied finally comes about. The everlasting kingdom will not be issued in by the restoration of the city and building of the sanctuary.
This is not suggesting that we are to think strictly of a certain period of years. Indeed it rather brings out that we are dealing in ‘sevens’ not years. Not ‘seven days’, not ‘seven years’, nor seven sevens of years, but seven ‘sevens’, seven divinely determined periods. And these will then be followed by a period of a further sixty two ‘sevens’, and then by a final period of ‘a seven’. And these are clearly to occur in sequence. There is not even a hint of a gap in between. The first ‘seven’ (divinely determined period) sees the establishment of Jerusalem. The second series of ‘sevens’ will end in the coming of the anointed Prince, and the third ‘seven’ will bring about the consummation, the final fulfilment of prophecy and the introduction of the everlasting kingdom.
(At this point an interesting fact should be considered. In prophetic and general calculations months tended to be seen as of thirty days. This was equally used for convenience outside prophetic circles. It was a useful approximation. Of course true months per the moon were for twenty eight to twenty nine days, but this made for awkwardness, whilst our method of calculating months would not have been known to Daniel. Men lived by moon periods. So for calculation purposes a month was often seen as thirty days. Consider the 1,260 days of Revelation 11:3 which equates to forty two months which is intended to represent three and a half years (Revelation 11:2 with Daniel 11:3), and the 150 days of the flood which seems to indicate five months (Genesis 7:11 with Daniel 8:4). If we take the first sixty nine sevens as years and count them as being 360 days in length (12 times 30) we have 483 x 360, and the number of days resulting after the edict given to Nehemiah would actually, quite remarkably, bring us to the time of Jesus ministry on earth. This is so extraordinary a ‘coincidence’ that some find it difficult to see it as a mere coincidence. But the fact is that the angel has made quite clear when ‘the word went forth’ (Daniel 9:23; Daniel 9:25) and that was in 359/8 BC. Thus the main idea behind the seventy ‘sevens’ (rather than ‘seventy years’ as prophesied by Jeremiah) is of God’s perfect timing and a divinely perfect number of God-determined periods of activity of a duration unknown to man, as with the ‘seven times’ in Daniel 4:16. It should be noted in this regard that neither Jesus nor the Apostles ever seized on this passage as evidence that Jesus had come as ‘the anointed One’, nor did anyone else in the early church. That must count against its having a timing significance).
‘To an anointed one, a prince (or ‘to Messiah the Prince’).’ The latter translation would mean that we have here the first specific reference to the Messiah, although not to the Messianic idea, which occurs fairly regularly in the Old Testament. But either way, in these words all the emphasis is on this prince. He is the one who is coming, and to whom all should look forward. This account is all about ‘the anointed One, the Prince’, who is coming, and what is done to him, and what subsequently follows.
“And after the sixty two sevens the anointed one will be cut off, and will have nothing, and the people of the coming prince will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And their end will be with a flood. And even to the end there will be war. Desolations are determined.”
Now if we read this verse without preconceived notions, and without a theory to be supported, the natural interpretation of this verse is that the anointed prince, who was to come after the sixty nine ‘sevens’ have passed, will be cut off, and that his people will then destroy the city and the sanctuary. And this is supported by the fact that the prince is a ‘nagid’ (a prince of Israel, see earlier in the passage) in both cases. Note especially that on this interpretation Daniel 9:25 speaks of ‘the anointed one, the prince’, then Daniel 9:26 refers to him first as ‘the anointed one’ and then as ‘the prince’. Thus the three references fit together as referring to the same person in three different ways, the first combining both terms and preparing for the other two.
Indeed on this basis the whole passage fits together. The prince arrives. Rebellion takes place. The prince is cut off (compare Leviticus 7:20; Psalms 37:9; Isaiah 53:8). Then his rebellious people destroy the city and sanctuary. But could this be seen as happening to God’s anointed prince? Could it be that the One for whom Israel has waited should be cut off (put to death for gross sin), and finish up with nothing?
That that could be seen as happening is evidenced by Isaiah’s picture of the anointed prophet who, personifying Israel, comes to proclaim the truth to Israel (Isaiah 49:1-6), is falsely tried, smitten, spat on and shamed (Isaiah 50:6; Isaiah 53:7-8), and sets his face like a flint to go towards his destiny (Isaiah 50:7), with the result that he is made to suffer and is offered as a sacrifice (Isaiah 53:3-5; Isaiah 53:8; Isaiah 53:10-12), thereby accomplishing the will of God (Isaiah 53:10). And finally He is to be exalted, extolled and be very high (Isaiah 52:13). Daniel may well have had this picture and thought in mind, especially if we link it with the anointed prophet in Isaiah 61:1.
The fact is that all were looking forward to the coming of an anointed Prince (Isaiah 11:1-2; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 55:3; Hosea 3:4-5) or Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 18:18; Isaiah 42:1-4; Isaiah 49:1-6; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 61:1-2). But the prophets had come to realise that when such a One came Israel would reject Him, because He would not fulfil their expectations, They would put Him away because He was too righteous (compare Zechariah 13:7). But above all they recognised that somehow, in spite of what they did, God’s purposes would be fulfilled through that rejection.
Of course this picture will not be pleasing to those who want to see Antiochus Epiphanes as the prince who destroys the sanctuary (but why then a nagid?), nor to those who want to see it as referring to Titus or the king of the end days. But it is very questionable whether any of these could be given the title ‘nagid’, which means a prince anointed by God and chosen as His adopted son. Indeed it is difficult to see why Antiochus Epiphanes or the king of the end days should be called ‘prince’ at all, or why they would be spoken of, uniquely, in terms of their people. They are always referred to elsewhere as ‘king’. And there is really no reason why the Roman invasion should not have been attributed to a king, for Titus was acting on his father’s authority. But these difficulties are often simply overlooked because they get in the way of a theory.
A further point to be made is that the reference is to ‘ the people of the prince who is coming.’ Now if the prince has been cut off we can see immediately why they should be so described. On the other hand Daniel does not otherwise normally refer to ‘the people’. He refers directly to the king or the kingdom, whilst the people who follow the king are assumed. Why then this sudden change? Why say ‘the people of Antiochus’ or ‘the people of Titus’? It is very odd indeed and against all precedent.
However there is one circumstance where ‘the people’ are referred to rather than the prince, and that is in Daniel 7:27 where reference is to the people of God in contrast with the kings and their kingdoms. They are called ‘the people of the saints of the Most High’. There the emphasis is on the people and not the prince. Thus general usage is against the phrase ‘the people of the coming prince’ being seen as signifying a worldly ruler and is in favour of it indicating Israel, although in this case Israel in rebellion.
But how then was this fulfilled? Certainly an ‘anointed prince’ came in Jesus Christ (Jesus the anointed One), and certainly He was put to death and had nothing. And certainly by their act of crucifying Jesus Israel brought on its own head the wrath of God resulting in the destruction of the city and the sanctuary. This was something that Jesus again and again pointed out would happen. The act of rejecting and crucifying Him was constantly connected by Him with the idea of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
They had refused to listen to Him when He sought to gather them as chickens under His wings and their house would therefore be left to them desolate (Matthew 23:37-38; Matthew 24:2; compare John 2:19). The fig tree was to be cursed and the mountain was to be thrown into the sea (Mark 11:21-22). Jesus was confident that the Temple would be destroyed, and that must surely have been with His coming death in mind (Matthew 24:0; Mark 13:0; Luke 21:0). Compare how in the same context in Daniel as this verse Jerusalem’s previous destruction came from a curse on them in Daniel 9:11-12. So by this act of cutting off the Messiah the people are seen by Daniel as again putting themselves under a curse, and thus, by it, bringing about the effective destruction of the city and the sanctuary.
Furthermore it should be noted that very similar language was in fact used by the Jewish historian Josephus in 1st century AD, who also ascribed the destruction of Jerusalem to his own people and their behaviour. He says, ‘I venture to say that the sedition destroyed the city and the Romans destroyed the sedition.’ And again, ‘I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city, and that from this very day may be dated the overthrow of her walls.’ (Italics ours).
And when we look at what happened we can understand why he said it. For the story of the end of Jerusalem in 70 AD is almost unbelievable. The Jews behaved like madmen. They fought each other even while the armies of Rome were approaching the city, and in consequence they sacked much of the city. They even destroyed the grain supplies to prevent their rivals from using them. The different factions then defended different places from which they glared at each other, and made sallies against each other, although in the end also, with much bravery, fighting the Romans. And it must seem very probable that they did deliberately set alight their own temple in order to prevent Titus from desecrating it (Titus had given strict orders for the preservation of the Temple). So the suggestion that they destroyed their own city is certainly historically true, and if Josephus could thus date this destruction of Jerusalem from the death of Ananus, how much more could it be dated from the death of their God sent Messiah.
How poignant is the picture. The city and sanctuary having been built, the anointed prince comes. But the people are so sinful that they ‘cut Him off’, (a phrase which regularly signifies someone cut off for gross sin) and then by their actions bring about the destruction of the very city and sanctuary which they had so longed for. Retribution indeed. By it the sinfulness of man is revealed to its fullest extent. But by it also the city and sanctuary are finished. They are written off. Hope now lies totally in God. In other words this revelation is emphasising that final hope must not be placed in the city of Jerusalem or in the Temple
We must pause for a moment to consider this picture. Daniel has seen and known of the process of Jerusalem’s first destruction, which has witnessed to the sinfulness of his people, he has been informed of the sacrilege to happen against the second temple in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, which was to be the end of the days of indignation against his people’s sins (Daniel 8:19), and now he learns that Jerusalem and the sanctuary are once more to be destroyed, this time by his own people. The message could only be that once again his people as a whole will fail to truly respond to God, that no hope can be placed in them, even though they have been given another chance.
‘And their end will be with a flood. And even to the end there will be war. Desolations are determined.’ Scripture often describes invaders in terms of a flood. See Daniel 11:22; Isaiah 8:7-8; Isaiah 17:13; Jeremiah 46:8. So Israel having killed their Messiah will experience the flood of God’s anger (Nahum 1:8). Reference is made to ‘their end’, which comes suddenly, and then to ‘the end’. This could be to the end of a new period of God’s indignation against them (compare Daniel 8:19), or possibly to the end of time. Either way it is described in terms of war. Jesus may well have had this verse in mind when He spoke of wars and rumours of wars (Mark 13:7). Some have tried to see ‘even to the end’ as signifying a gap between the sixty ninth and seventieth week. But if that were so it would leave the destruction of the city and the Temple to occur before the gap, and thus in the sixty ninth seven. For their theory it is simply self-defeating. And it is difficult to see ‘to the end’ as signifying any other than what it says. To the end of the seventy ‘sevens’.
‘Desolations are determined.’ The world and its sinfulness is such that there can only be desolations. Man in his inner heart does not change unless transformed by the power of Christ. Thus his continuing sinfulness will result in desolations, and is the reason why God determines desolations on him. War and desolations are to be the future of mankind.
Note On The Prince Who Will Come.
The natural interpretation of the prince who will come in the context, given that the reference is to his people, is that it refers to the prince already described as coming in Daniel 9:25. He has been cut off and therefore his people are left to act on their own. This would tie in with the use of nagid, which almost always refers to a king of Israel appointed by God, and it would also link him and his death with the destruction of the city and the Temple, something which the Gospels do of the death of Jesus.
There is, however, another popular view (although not among most scholars) which attempts to see in this description a reference to a king who will come prior to the second coming of Christ. The idea is that his people are mentioned (which they see as the Romans) pointing to the fact that the king of those final days of the age will also be connected with the Roman empire, a Roman empire that is revived. But this view must be rejected for a number of reasons:
· Firstly because the term nagid is not the term that Daniel would use of such a king. He would use either sar or melech. He only elsewhere uses nagid of an Israelite prince.
· Secondly because the people who destroyed the city and Temple would not be his people. They would be the people of the emperor who was ruling the Roman empire at the time. Thus it is far too subtle. Surely had Daniel intended to convey such a message he could have done it by directly referring to the king and indicating his connection with the fourth beast. It took the subtle minds of the modern era to weave together such a pattern from different parts of Daniel.
· Thirdly because it seems a very backhand way in which to introduce such an important personage without giving any further information about him.
· Fourthly because those who hold this view then see him as a foreigner ‘confirming covenant’ with the Jews. But in this case he would be making the covenant not confirming it. Why then use the idea of ‘confirming’. And besides the word ‘covenant’ is not the one used of treaties and alliances made by foreign kings in Daniel. It is elsewhere only used of the covenant with God, which would then make sense of it being confirmed because it was already in existence, and having been broken required confirmation.
· Fifthly because normally in Hebrew the antecedent of ‘he’ would be sought in the subject of a previous sentence unless there were good grounds for seeing otherwise. And a previously unmentioned prince would hardly be good grounds.
Thus everything about this interpretation is wrong.
End of note.
“And he/they will make a covenant to prevail (‘will confirm covenant’) with many for one seven, and in the midst of the seven they will cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, and even to the consummation, and that determined, will wrath be poured out on the desolator.”
It should be noted that there is no clear indication here of any break between the sixty nine sevens and the seventieth seven. The natural interpretation if we were not trying to fit it into history would be that the seventieth seven follows on immediately after the sixty ninth seven.
It will be observed immediately that it is suggested that the singular verbs could be translated in the plural. And the reason that this is has been done is because the obvious antecedent to the he/they is ‘the people of the coming prince’, for they are the subject of the previous sentence. This is because the word for ‘people’ is a collective singular noun and therefore requires a singular Hebrew verb, although in English we translate as a plural. The translation is therefore a correct rendering of the Hebrew if the people are being referred to.
Many see the subject of the verbs as being ‘the coming prince’ of Daniel 9:26 or the ‘anointed one, the prince’ of Daniel 9:25. Both are possible. But neither are grammatically the most likely. Indeed the genitive ‘of the prince’ is extremely unlikely as an antecedent, for the emphasis of the phrase is on the people and the prince is only an identifying factor, and it is extremely unusual in Hebrew for the subject of a verb to indicate a previous genitive. On the other hand the mention of the ‘other’ prince is too far away really to be an antecedent, and besides, as the ‘other’ prince has been cut off, the idea of him confirming a covenant could only be derived from elsewhere. Neither is a totally insuperable objection but they do make either interpretation extremely unlikely. An alternative suggestion is that the initial ‘he’ is referring to God. The sudden introduction of God as ‘he’ without any other identification is something that occurs elsewhere in the Old Testament. But the undeniable fact is that Hebrew verbs with no subject usually look back to the subject of the previous sentence. And as that makes complete sense in this case we can see no reason why should we look elsewhere, especially as ‘the covenant’ in Daniel always means the holy covenant.
What is to take place here is within the final ‘seven’, that final period of God’s divinely perfect activity of unknown duration which will bring His final purposes to pass.
The people of the prince who has been cut off, will at some stage recognise their rebellion for what it was and, realising that they have by their actions breached their holy covenant, will come to renew it before God, (as many such as Paul did) including within that renewal the ‘many’ who had not breached it, the true Israel of God, Gods true people. The word ‘many’ is regularly used by Daniel when referring to people of an uncertain number and identity (Daniel 8:25; Daniel 11:14; Daniel 11:18; Daniel 11:26; Daniel 11:33-34; Daniel 11:39; Daniel 11:41; Daniel 11:44; Daniel 12:3-4; Daniel 12:10, compare also its use in Isaiah 53:11). This is a picture of the widespread conversion of Jews to their Messiah, to Christ, and of their rapprochement with the true people of God, something which did happen in the early days of the church prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Such a conversion is seen as having taken place in the early chapters of Acts when large numbers of Jews responded to the preaching of the Apostles and the followers of Jesus, and it continued as the message went out into the wider world, with many Jewish Christians (including Paul) preaching the Gospel in the synagogues around the know world.
This period may be seen as immediately following the cutting off of the prince, as ‘the many’ of His followers are joined by large numbers of other repentant Jews in the confirming of God’s covenant through Christ, resulting in the new Israel, and then in the bringing in to the new Israel of the Gentiles who are converted to Christ (Romans 11:17-20; Galatians 3:29; Galatians 6:16; Ephesians 2:12; Ephesians 2:19-22).
The ceasing of true worship in the midst of the seven may then be seen as referring back to the reference to the destruction of the sanctuary, or alternatively it may refer to apostasies that will occur as a result of persecutions, such as those referred to in the letter to the Hebrews.
It should be noted in this regard that Daniel 9:26 a and 27 can be seen as parallel. Each commences at the time when the anointed prince is cut off, and each goes up to ‘the end’. Thus we may see in them two reactions of ‘the people of the Prince’. The one the reaction of those who rejected Him, and continued to do so, the other the reaction of those who after His death (and resurrection) responded to him. The whole of Israel rarely acted as one.
But some consider it the more natural reading to see Daniel 9:27 as following the destruction of Jerusalem and the sanctuary. That would not, however, require a ‘gap’ for the destruction of city and sanctuary could well be directly connected with the cutting off of the prince, and be seen as occurring within the sixty ninth ‘seven’. Nevertheless they try to argue that this must be seen as occurring towards ‘the end’, when a great turning back of Israel to God through Christ is to be expected (Joel 2:15-17; Joel 2:32; Zechariah 8:21-23; Romans 11:23; Romans 11:26-32). This is especially the case for those who wish to treat the ‘sevens’ as years (in order to make the years fit). On this basis it would refer to a wholesale conversion in the end days. But the interpretation has to be ‘read in’. it is not a natural interpretation of the passage.
This idyllic final ‘seven’ will be interrupted, for in the midst of the ‘seven’ the sacrifices and oblations will be caused to cease. In context this should probably be seen as another way of indicating the destruction of the Temple already mentioned in the previous verse. This was a blow to both unbelieving Jews and to believing Christian Jews who still engaged in Temple worship. Alternately it can be seen as indicating that, after the renewal of the covenant, many will again turn away from Christ, probably as a result of the activities of persecutors, and possibly following some proscription of Jewish Christians (or all Christians) by the powers that be, and especially finally by the horn, the small one, of chapter 7 who is to ‘wear out the saints of the Most High’ (Daniel 7:25 compare Revelation 11:0). Thus they will cease to worship and honour God, and will renege on their commitment to Christ. They will cease to honour His sacrifice on their behalf. They will ‘cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease’, not literally, for there will be no literal sacrifices (no new temple has been posited), but the spiritual sacrifices of worship, praise and thanksgiving through Christ’s own sacrifice of Himself ( Romans 12:1; Heb 13:15 ; 1 Peter 2:5; Mark 12:33). Given a further chance they will have once again failed. Either way desolation is to follow, something which has occurred regularly throughout subsequent history.
(It must always, however, be recognised that throughout all these failures of Israel there have always been a remnant who have carried on the purposes of God. God has never been left without a witness. And it was this remnant which became the new true Israel and which Jesus used for the spreading of the Gospel incorporating into it converted Gentiles who thus themselves became part of the true Israel. Thus were God’s promises for Israel fulfilled even when Israel as a whole failed).
‘And on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate.’ ‘Abominations’ regularly refers to idolatry and ungodliness. Thus the reference here may be to the Roman armies who continued to wreak desolation throughout Palestine. Or it may signify persecution wrought by idolatrous emperors against the people of God. Thus desolation is a keynote of what follows the cutting off of the Messiah, and the destruction of the Temple, and it will especially affect Palestine. Such desolations certainly resulted in Palestine later becoming bereft of Jews. But they tie in with Jesus’ warning of what the future held for the world (‘wars and rumours of wars’). And this will go on until the final consummation determined by God, at which point judgment will be poured out on the desolator (see Daniel 12:1-3; Revelation 19:11-21).
‘The wing of abomination.’ The thought of the singular ‘wing’ may be that false religion can only offer half of what it pretends. It flies with one wing, and is therefore deficient and lacking. It, as it were limps, along. (This is a vision so that the question of whether it is possible to fly with one wing is irrelevant, and anyway it could be argued that it flies like an injured bird). There may here be a deliberate contrast with the One Who carries His people on eagles’ wings, on two wings (Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:11). Others refer it to the wing of the temple, as an indication that the desolator is parodying the temple, or indeed replaces the Temple. The singular may, however, just be similar to our use when we speak of ‘a bird on the wing’.
Some see the seventieth seven as referring to the time when Christ was on earth, with the renewing of the covenant then taking place through the ministry of Jesus, and the ceasing of sacrifices and offerings coming about through His death. This is then followed by an indeterminate period, the final part of God’s plans of unknown duration, in which the people of God have to face the tribulations ahead until God’s final judgment. The problem with this interpretation in my view is that it here treats the cessation of sacrifice and offering as a good thing, whereas elsewhere in Daniel it is a bad thing (Daniel 8:11-12; Daniel 12:10-11). Nor does it lead up to the final consummation.
‘And even to the consummation (or ‘full end’), and that determined, will wrath be poured out on the desolator.
Finally the troubles must cease, for the full end is coming as determined by God, and then wrath will be poured out on the desolator. We are left to recognise that the consummation indicates the great blessings of Daniel 9:24 will become true for God’s own people. For the final destruction of evil coincides with the triumph of the people of God. Both are sides of the same coin, and the latter was the central purpose of the vision.
Note. Could There Be a Break Between the Sixty Nine Sevens and the Seventieth Seven?
The fact of such a gap has been seen by some as suggested by the phrase ‘to the end’. Elsewhere in Daniel we have examples of history foretold and then of a sudden jump to ‘the end’. Contrast Daniel 11:29-35 with Daniel 11:36-45. In chapter 11 the contrast between those two sections is so remarkable that two different periods of activity appear to be in mind, and the latter takes us on to ‘the time of the end’. This phenomenon is found in all the prophets. Regularly there is a gap between the near fulfilment and the far fulfilment.
Compare and contrast also the ‘small horn’ (a small horn is an indication of a horn that is starting to grow) of the third empire in Daniel 8:20-26 with that of the fourth empire in Daniel 7:20-25 where the contrasts are far more than the similarities. The former deals with Antiochus’ persecutions, the latter with the time of the end. But there is no real reason for seeing a gap here in chapter 9, which reads like a continuous sequence, while ‘to the end’ would seem to indicate what it says, something that will occur to the very end, not something which will be followed by a further ‘seven’.
Certainly, if the seventy sevens is taken to mean seventy sevens of years (on no really satisfactory grounds, for in context the seventy ‘sevens’ are contrasted with Jeremiah’s seventy ‘years’) then there must be a gap, for the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple did not take place within seven years of the death of Christ. This would, of course, depend on what the ‘seventieth seven’ means. If it is ‘a divinely perfect time of unknown length’, as we believe, then all that is described in Daniel 9:26-27 can be encompassed in that ‘seven’. It simple represents ‘the end of the ages’ which began at the time of Christ’s death (1 Corinthians 10:11; Hebrews 9:26; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 Peter 4:7). When we are dealing with God time is irrelevant. To him a thousand years, or even ten thousand, could be accomplished within a ‘seven’, His final perfect activity.
Furthermore, here in chapter 9 Daniel sums up what follows the cutting off of the Messiah by ‘their end will be with a flood’. Whose end? Why, surely the people of the coming Prince (a singular noun in Hebrew followed by a singular verb). They will be destroyed by a flood of invaders (compare Daniel 11:22). And the phrase that follows, ‘and even to the end shall be war, desolations are determined’ is an indefinite and vague phrase that can cover many situations. Mankind will continue to face suffering and hardship because they are the result of their own sin.
That such a history would be theirs is actually confirmed by Jesus in Luke 21:24 where He speaks of the coming in of the invaders, the times of the Gentiles, and the terrible and long exile of the Jewish people (described in Matthew as included in the ‘great tribulation’ which they would suffer under the invasion of Titus and the mad antics of their own fanatical leaders), which would commence with the destruction of the city and the sanctuary, when ‘the times of the Gentiles’ would begin. Thus the ‘seventy sevens which are determined upon your people’ (Daniel 9:24) could possibly be seen as suspended, but there are no grounds in the text for suggesting it.
The idea of a gap in the history of the Jews may also be seen as suggested by Paul in Romans 11:15-24. Indeed that is exactly his argument. He is dealing with the problem of God turning away from His people and setting them aside and answers it along two lines.
1) That not all Jews have been rejected. An examination of the past reveals that God has always chosen out some and rejected others. Thus this position is no different.
2) That the temporary rejection of the nation as a whole is in order that God might bless the Gentiles, but there is the suggestion that when this purpose is accomplished the Jewish nation itself may expect a new final offer of deliverance (Daniel 9:25-27).
Given this fact Paul clearly saw a period when the unbelieving part of the Jewish nation would be put into the background, followed in the end by a great work of God among that people as they come in response to Christ. There can in fact be no future for the Israel away from Christ. It is only when they respond to Him and are grafted back into the olive tree that they can be saved and begin again to fulfil God’s purpose . This situation could be seen as confirmed in the seventieth seven.
But while we agree that such a gap is ‘possible’, (anything is possible with interpreters) it is really taking what Paul is saying too far, for he nowhere connects it with prophetic interpretation, and such a gap is not obvious from this passage. Furthermore Paul is not indicating a gap, he is indicating the individual response to Christ of both Jews and Gentiles to make up the sum total of the elect, and the continuation of Israel. It therefore seems far more realistic to see the seventieth seven as immediately following the sixty ninth, and therefore as including all that will then happen from the end of the sixty ninth seven until the end of time. It then encompasses within it conversion, apostasy and tribulation, and all the continual experience of the people of God, the true Israel, as well as the destruction of Jerusalem because of the unbelief of those who continually reject Him. Taken in this way it ties in with the apocalyptic message of Jesus in Matthew 24:0; Mark 13:0; Luke 21:0, which also have in mind the death of Christ, people responding to the covenant who will be persecuted, the destruction of the Temple, and continuing desolations.
Note. Is This the Period of the Great Tribulation?
We ask this question because of the use made of this passage by many, not because there is anything in the passage to suggest it. It is this popular usage that makes it a violable question.
Firstly, however, we must question the phrase ‘the Great Tribulation’. It is the invention of Bible students not of the Bible. The Bible does speak of ‘great tribulation’ which would come on parts of the church in the time of the Apostle John (Revelation 2:22), and ‘great tribulation’ which the Jews would face when Titus destroyed Jerusalem (which could be avoided by fleeing to the mountains, thus it is a tribulation limited to the Jews) with its aftermath in the dispersion of the Jews to face tribulation through the centuries (Matthew 24:21; Luke 21:24). There is also a mention of great tribulation which the people of God would suffer through the ages (Revelation 7:14), possibly referring back to the great tribulation of Revelation 2:22, but never is there mention of a period called ‘the Great Tribulation’.
Secondly we should note that here in Daniel war and desolations are promised right from the time of the destruction of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:26), so that what is described in Daniel 9:27 is not unusual. Certainly Daniel 9:27 may be seen as suggesting that the people of God will be persecuted so that some turn aside from the covenant, but if it is to be restricted to a seven year period at the end of time that might be limited to Palestine, and anyway the people of God are persecuted in all ages, and never more so than in parts of the world today, especially in Muslim countries. We must not over-exaggerate the picture.
Thirdly we should note that while at the end there will be ‘a time of trouble such as never was’ (Daniel 12:1) that is nowhere limited to seven years, and its geographical extent we do not know. It is mainly connected with the Jews.
So this modern huge emphasis by some on a seven year tribulation period cannot be obtained from Daniel. Nor, we believe, can it be found in Revelation (see our commentary on Revelation). That is not to deny that at the end there will be great troubles and persecution. Such have always been the lot of Christians and it is very likely that they will intensify as Satan realises that his time is short. It is only to reject the idea that it can be summed up in a seven year period on the basis of this passage.
End of note.
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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Daniel 9". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany