Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Daniel 9


Daniel 9. This is one of the most puzzling chapters in the Bible, and no little ingenuity has been expended upon its interpretation. Jeremiah had spoken of a punishment which was to befall the king of Babylon "when seventy years are accomplished" (Jeremiah 25:12). Daniel, puzzled by the prophecy, inquires of God what the seventy years signified. The answer given is that the "seventy years" refers to seventy weeks of years, i.e. 490 years, and is divided into three periods of 49, 434, and 7 years respectively. The first period will be the interval between the utterance of the prophecy and the commencement of the work of restoring the city and the advent of the "anointed one." The second period of 434 years covers the time of restoration, and at the end of it an anointed one would be cut off, and a time of desolation would ensue. During the last period of seven years, persecutions would arise, and for half the time the sacrifices would be suspended. No interpretation has yet been suggested which entirely meets the facts. The two most popular explanations are as follows:

(1) The Modern View.—Following the analogy of the interpretation of the other prophetic elements in Daniel, most modern scholars think that the 490 years are to be found in the period which begins with the date of Jeremiah's prophecy (587 B.C.) and ends with the death of Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 B.C. Many of the details of the narrative fit this explanation, e.g. the cessation of the sacrifices under Antiochus for 3½ years (Daniel 9:27). The most serious difficulty lies in the fact that the period 587 B.C. to 164 covers only 423 years and not 490, so that there are 67 years unaccounted for. The only possible reply is to argue that the mistake is due to the writer's lack of sufficient chronological data. Josephus makes similar mistakes, and the Hellenistic writer, Demetrius, over-estimates a similar stretch of history by about the same amount (73 years); see Driver, p. 147.

(2) The Traditional View maintains that the passage contains a prediction of the advent and the death of Christ, the abolition of the Levitical sacrifices, and the fall of Jerusalem. The reading of the AV affords some support for the theory. Phrases like "unto the Messiah the Prince," "Messiah shall be cut off," naturally suggest to the ordinary reader the birth and death of Christ. But when we look more closely into the passage, it becomes clear that this interpretation will not bear examination. (a) It is extremely doubtful whether the term "Messiah" really represents the meaning of the original. The RV translates "the anointed one," and if we adopt its punctuation there are two "anointed ones," the one appearing at the end of the 49th year, the other "cut off" at the end of the 483rd year. (b) Upon this reasoning the period would commence (see Driver, p. 144) at 458 B.C., the date of Ezra's mission, which would form a good beginning, though it does not seem to be definitely connected with the rebuilding of the city, but there is no event at 409 to mark the break between the first two epochs. (c) It is impossible to explain the phrase in Daniel 9:27 which states that the anointed one "made a covenant for one week" (seven years). The ministry of Jesus lasted only for three years. (d) The narrative implies that the sacrifices were only suspended for 3 years. The interpretation implies their complete and total abolition. (e) There is no hint that a period of 40 years, the time between the Crucifixion and the destruction of Jerusalem, is to intervene between the Messiah's overthrow and the final dnouement. The date of the destruction of Jerusalem falls completely outside the range of the 490 years. For these reasons the traditional view is now generally abandoned by modern scholarship, and the first theory almost universally adopted.

Verse 1-2

Daniel 9:1. Darius: Daniel 5:31*.

Daniel 9:2. Jeremiah the prophet: the reference is to the prophecies in Jeremiah 25:11 f; Jeremiah 29:10. Daniel is distressed by the apparent failure of these prophecies and seeks to discover an explanation.

Verses 4-19

Daniel 9:4-19. According to Charles, a later interpolation containing the confession of Daniel. This prayer was evidently written by a Palestinian Jew (see Daniel 9:7 and Daniel 9:16), and does not, therefore, maintain the point of view assumed in the rest of the book, where the writer is supposed to be living at the court of Babylon. There is little originality in the prayer, and many of its phrases are borrowed from other parts of the OT.

Daniel 9:11. written in the law of Moses: cf. Deuteronomy 29:20.

Daniel 9:13. as it is written: cf. Deuteronomy 28:15; Deuteronomy 30:1.

Verses 20-26

Daniel 9:20-26. The explanation of Jeremiah's prophecy.

Daniel 9:21. being caused to fly swiftly: the meaning of the original is obscure; mg, gives an alternative rendering, "being sore wearied," but neither translation is satisfactory. If "fly swiftly" is correct, this is the earliest reference to the later popular conception that angels possess wings.

Daniel 9:24. seventy weeks: this phrase gives the new principle upon which Jeremiah's prophecy is to be reinterpreted. The 70 years are to be regarded as 70 weeks of years, i.e. 490 years. This verse describes in general terms what is to happen during this period.—seal up: confirm or ratify.—anoint the most holy: it is doubtful whether this phrase is masculine or neuter (cf. mg.). Driver thinks that it refers to the Temple or altar.

Daniel 9:25. from the going forth: i.e. from the utterance of the commandment by Jeremiah.—unto the anointed one: scholars are divided as to the person referred to in this phrase. Driver favours Cyrus, who is called "the anointed" in Isaiah 45:1. Charles thinks it refers to Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, the first high priest after the restoration (Ezra 3:2).—threescore and two weeks: this verse should undoubtedly be connected with the following clause as in RV, and not with the preceding sentence as in AV. It means "weeks of years, i.e. 434 years.—with street and moat: many scholars accept an emendation which enables us to translate, "with square and street." Jerusalem is to be rebuilt on a larger scale and with broader streets than before.

Daniel 9:26. the anointed one be cut off: the meaning of this phrase is far from clear, but most modern scholars think it refers to Onias III, who, in 175 B.C., was deposed from the high priesthood by Antiochus Epiphanes (p. 523).—shall have nothing: this is, as Charles says, "a questionable reading of an uncertain text." As the words stand, they mean that Onias, after his deprivation, was left in abject poverty.—the people of the prince: refers to the soldiers of Antiochus.—his end: i.e. the death of Antiochus. Charles translates, "The end shall be with a flood," and connects with the following verse, making these words introduce the events of the last week.

Verse 27

Daniel 9:27. (a most difficult verse) he shall make a firm covenant: if the reference is to Antiochus, as seems absolutely certain, the words can only mean that "he made a covenant with apostate Jews in order to secure their help in extirpating the Jewish religion." Some scholars emend the text and translate, the covenant shall be annulled for the many," i.e. there shall be a period of general apostasy.—one week: 7 years.—half of the week: the 3½ years during which the sacrifices were suspended by Antiochus (cf. Daniel 7:25, Daniel 8:14).—upon the wing of abominations: another difficult and obscure phrase. As it stands, it can only be explained on the analogy of Psalms 18:10, "and he (i.e. Yahweh) rode upon a cherub and did fly." Many scholars, however, prefer to emend the text and translate "in its stead," i.e. in place of the sacrifice. "In its stead shall be the abomination that maketh desolate, i.e. the heathen altar set up by Antiochus (Daniel 11:31*).—and even unto the consummation: the best rendering of the last clause is that of Driver, "and that until the consummation and that which is determined be poured upon the desolation," i.e. the abomination will continue until doom is poured out upon Antiochus.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Daniel 9". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.