Daniel 9:1-2. In the first year of Darius — That is, immediately after the overthrow of the kingdom of Babylon, which was the year of the Jews’ deliverance from captivity. This Darius was not Darius the Persian, under whom the temple was built, as some have asserted, to invalidate the credibility of this book; but Darius the Mede, who lived in the time of Daniel, and is called Cyaxares, the son of Astyages, by the heathen historians: see note on chap. Daniel 6:1. In the first year of his reign, I Daniel understood by books, &c. — Namely, by the several prophecies of Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10, which are called so many books: see Jeremiah 25:13; Jeremiah 30:2. We may learn from hence, that the later prophets studied the writings of those prophets who were before them, especially for the more perfect understanding of the times when their prophecies were to be fulfilled. The same they did by several of their own prophecies. That he would accomplish seventy years, &c. — Concerning the time from whence these seventy years are to be dated, see note on Jeremiah 25:11-12. Daniel saw a part of Jeremiah’s prediction fulfilled, by the vengeance which the Lord had taken upon the house of Nebuchadnezzar; but he saw no appearance of that deliverance of the Jews which the prophet foretold. This was the cause of his uneasiness, and the motive of his prayers.
Daniel 9:3. I set my face unto the Lord God — This expression does not merely mean, that he directed his face to the place where the temple had stood: it signifies also his resolution to apply to God with the utmost seriousness, fervency, importunity, and perseverance, for the accomplishment of his promises respecting the restoration of his people. It denotes, says Henry, “the intenseness of his mind in this prayer, the fixedness of his thoughts, the firmness of his faith, and the fervour of his devout affections in the duty.” To seek by prayer and supplication, &c. — God’s promises, in general, are conditional, and intended, not to supersede, but to excite and encourage our prayers: this was especially the case with regard to God’s promise of restoring the Jews from captivity after seventy years, and this condition was particularly expressed when the promise was made by Jeremiah 29:10-14, where God says, Ye shall call upon me, and I will hearken unto you, &c., and will turn away your captivity, &c. Here we see Daniel complied with the condition; he sought unto the Lord with all his heart, (and undoubtedly excited others to do the same,) and the Lord was found of him. With fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes — In token of humiliation, sorrow for their sins, and grief for the duration of their captivity.
Daniel 9:4. I prayed unto the Lord my God — Daniel could approach God with confidence, knowing him to be his God in covenant, his reconciled God and Father. Observe, reader, we must know God to be our God, if we would pray in faith, and with success, when we apply to him for any blessing. And made my confession — Both acknowledging his justice and holiness, and my own and my people’s iniquity. The more pious men are, and the better they are acquainted with themselves and God, the greater is the sense they have of their past guilt and present unworthiness, and the deeper is their humiliation: see Job 42:6; and 1 Timothy 1:15. Observe, reader, in every prayer we must make confession, not only of the sins we have committed, (which is what we commonly call confession,) but of our faith in God, and dependance upon him; our sorrow for sin, and our resolutions against it. It must be our confession, the language of our own convictions, and what we ourselves do heartily subscribe to. And said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God — A God of whom it is our duty always to stand in awe, and who art well able to deal with the greatest and most terrible of thy churches enemies; keeping covenant and mercy to them that love him — Fulfilling his promises to his people, and showing them mercy and loving-kindness, even beyond what he hath promised.
Daniel 9:5. We have sinned, and have committed iniquity — Daniel uses the same confession here that is prescribed, in Solomon’s consecration prayer, to be used by the Jews in the land of their captivity; with a promise subjoined, of a favourable answer that God would make to their supplications presented to him on such an occasion: see the margin. And being one of the Jewish nation, he speaks of their sins as his own; and, though certainly a most holy man, puts himself among the greatest sinners. There seems to be a kind of gradation in the prophet’s confessions here, beginning with sins in general, and rising to rebellion and apostacy.
Daniel 9:7-10. O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee — Thou hast done us no wrong in any of the calamities which thou hast brought upon us; but hast shown thyself to be just and holy, nay, merciful and gracious, punishing us far less than our iniquities deserved. But unto us confusion of faces — But ignominy and shame belong to us; and the contempt and ill treatment we have met with has been no more than we justly deserved. To the men of Judah, and unto all Israel that are near, &c. — To the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, that are near, by the rivers of Babylon; and to the ten tribes, that are afar off, in the land of Assyria. Confusion belongs not only to the common people of our land, but to our kings, our princes, and to our fathers, who ought to have set a better example, and to have used their authority and influence for the checking of the threatening torrent of vice and profaneness. Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord — Though we were under infinite obligations to obey him; to walk in his laws — Which were all holy, just, and good; which he set before us by his servants the prophets — By Moses, and the succession of prophets that followed him; who re-enforced the law of Moses, and gave the people new instructions from God upon emergent occasions.
Daniel 9:11-14. Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law — Not here and there one, but the generality of them; the body of the people have transgressed, by departing, and taking themselves out of the way, that they might not hear, and so might not obey thy voice: therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath, &c. — That is, the curse that was ratified by an oath in the law of Moses. This further justified God in their troubles, that he only inflicted the penalty of the law, of which he had given them fair notice. It was necessary for preserving the honour of God’s veracity, and saving his government from contempt, that the threatenings of his word should be executed; otherwise they would have looked but as bugbears, nay, they would have had no terror in them. And he hath confirmed his words against us — Because we broke his laws, And against our judges that judged us — Because they did not, according to the duty of their places, punish the breach of God’s laws. He informed them frequently, that if they did not execute justice, as terrors to evil-doers, he must and would take the work into his own hands; and now, says Daniel, he has confirmed what he said, by bringing upon us a great evil — In which the princes and judges themselves have deeply shared. For under the whole heaven hath not been done, &c. — See note on Lamentations 1:12; Lamentations 2:13; Ezekiel 5:9. As it is written, &c., all this is come upon us — This is a devout acknowledgment, that, from the very beginning of their state, they had been forewarned that such evils as they now suffered would come upon them, when they forsook the Lord their God, and turned aside from the observation of his law. And it is an humble confession of God’s justice and providence, in making his judgments exactly fulfil the threatenings denounced many ages before by Moses. Yet we made not our prayer before the Lord our God — Not in a right manner, as we should have made it, with a lowly, penitent, and obedient heart; we have been smitten, but have not returned to him that smote us; literally, we have not entreated the face, or, as Wintle translates it, have not deprecated the wrath, of the Lord our God. We have taken no care to make our peace with God, and reconcile ourselves to him. Daniel set his brethren a good example of praying continually, but he was sorry to see how few there were that followed his example; in their affliction it was expected they would seek God early, but they sought him not, so as to turn from their iniquities and understand his truth. Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil — Hebrew, watched over the evil; namely, hath taken care that his threatenings should be fulfilled, as a just judge takes care that execution be done, according to the sentence pronounced; because we have not been melted, he hath kept us still in the furnace, and watched over it to make the heat yet more intense; for when God judges he will overcome, and will be justified in all his proceedings.
Daniel 9:15. And now, O Lord, who hast brought thy people forth, &c. — A form of supplication used in several places of Scripture, whereby devout persons entreat God to continue his favours, by recounting his former mercies toward them. And hast gotten thee renown, or, made thee a name, as at this day — That is, even to this day, namely, by bringing Israel out of Egypt; and wilt thou lose the credit of that, by letting them perish in Babylon? Didst thou get renown by that deliverance which we have so often commemorated, and wilt thou not now also get thee renown by this which we have so often prayed for, and so long waited for? We have sinned, we have done wickedly — Here Daniel confesses again God’s being just and good in all his ways; and that it was owing to themselves only that all these evils were come upon them.
Daniel 9:16-17. According to all thy righteousness let thine anger be turned away — The word righteousness here, as in many other places of Scripture, is equivalent to mercy; (see the margin;) from thy holy mountain — The place whereon thy temple stood. Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach — Our conquerors and others, who know into what a miserable condition we are brought, mock at us, and say, See to what a state the people are reduced, who boasted themselves to be the chosen people of the Lord of heaven and earth! Now, therefore, cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary — Return in mercy to us, and show that thou art reconciled to us, by repairing the desolations of thy sanctuary. For the Lord’s sake — That is, as some interpret the expression, for thine own sake; that is, do this that thou mayest do honour to thyself. Or rather, as most Christian interpreters understand the words, for the Lord Christ’s sake; for the sake of the Messiah promised, who is Lord. The Hebrew word, here rendered Lord, is אדני, Adonai, the word used for the Messiah Psalms 110:1, where David calls him his Lord. It is for Christ’s sake, and because of the atonement he has made for sin, that God causes his face to shine upon sinners, when they repent and turn to him. In all our prayers, therefore, that must be our plea; we must make mention of his righteousness, even his only. He himself has directed us to pray in his name.
Daniel 9:18-19. O my God, incline thine ear and hear — The prophet’s importunity, in these verses, is very remarkable and affecting, and shows how exceedingly he had it at heart to have his request granted. Open thine eyes, and behold our desolations — Especially the desolations of thy city and temple: or, look with pity upon a most distressing and piteous case. For we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness — That is, our righteous acts. We do not hope to have success for the sake of any thing we have done, do, or ever can do, as if we were worthy to receive thy favour, as if we could merit it by any good in us, or could demand any thing as a debt; but for thy great mercies — The only sources of all our blessings. Grant what we ask, to make it appear thou art a merciful God. Observe, reader, the good things we request of God we call mercies, because we expect them purely from God’s mercy. And because misery is the proper object of mercy, therefore the prophet here spreads the deplorable condition of God’s church and people before him, as it were, to move his compassion. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; defer not — Forgive our sins, and then hasten our deliverance. That the mercy which we ask may be granted, let the sin, that stands in the way of our receiving it, be removed; O Lord, hearken and do — Not hearken and speak only, but hearken and do: do that for us which none else can do, and that speedily. As he now sees the appointed day approaching, he could pray in faith that God would make haste to them, and not defer the expected blessing.
Daniel 9:20-21. And while I was speaking and praying, &c. — We have here the answer that was immediately sent to Daniel’s prayer, and it is a very remarkable one; as it contains the most illustrious prediction of Christ, and gospel grace, that is extant in any part of the Old Testament. Daniel here observes, and lays a great emphasis on, the time when this answer was given; While I was speaking, says he, Daniel 9:20, yea, while I was speaking in prayer, Daniel 9:21. Before he rose from his knees, and while there was yet more which he intended to say if the answer was not given. He mentions the two heads which he chiefly insisted on in prayer, and which, perhaps, he designed yet further to enlarge upon. 1st, He was confessing sin, his own sin, and the sin of his people Israel. 2d, He was making supplication before the Lord his God, and presenting petitions to him as an intercessor for Israel. Now while Daniel was thus employed, he had both a grant made him of the mercy he prayed for, and had a discovery communicated of a far greater and more glorious redemption, which God could work out for his church in the latter days. He further observes, that as this answer was given him at the very moment when he was requesting it, and before he had concluded his petitions, so it was about the time of the evening oblation — The altar was in ruins, and there was no oblation offered upon it; but, it seems, the pious Jews, in their captivity, daily thought of the times when it should have been offered, and at those hours endeavoured to set forth before God their prayers as incense, and the lifting up of their hands as a morning or evening sacrifice, Psalms 141:2. The evening oblation was a type of the great sacrifice which Christ was to offer in the evening of the world; and it was in virtue of that sacrifice that Daniel’s prayer was accepted, and this glorious discovery of redeeming love was made to him: the Lamb opened the seals of prophecy in the virtue of his own blood, Revelation 5:5.
Daniel informs us here also by whom this answer was sent. It was not communicated to him in a dream, or by a voice from heaven; but, for the greater certainty and solemnity of it, an angel was sent from heaven to bring it to him. The man Gabriel — That is, the angel Gabriel, appearing in a human shape, whom I had seen in the beginning — Or, before, see Daniel 8:16; being caused to fly swiftly — An expression used to signify the haste he made to bring Daniel an answer to his prayer. Angels are winged messengers, quick in their motions, and delay not a moment to execute the orders they receive. But, it would seem, that at some times they are directed to use more expedition, and make a quicker despatch than at others, as, it appears, was the case with Gabriel now; touched me — Probably to infuse additional strength and courage into him, that he might be perfectly recollected, have the proper use and exercise of all his faculties at this important season, and might at once understand and retain a perfect remembrance of the whole message which the angel was commissioned to bring him from God.
Daniel 9:22-23. And he informed me — Namely, on what errand he came; and talked with me — That is, familiarly, as one friend talks with another. And said, O Daniel, I am come to give thee skill and understanding — To reveal to thee things of infinite importance, and to make thee understand them. Mr. Wintle reads this verse in connection with the preceding, as follows: “Even as I was yet speaking — the man Gabriel — reached me, about the time of the evening oblation; when he brought information, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to improve thee in understanding.” At the beginning of thy supplication the commandment came forth — God’s command to me, to instruct thee further in what should hereafter befall the city and temple of Jerusalem, in the behalf of which thou didst pour forth thy supplications. Here was a remarkable completion of that promise, Isaiah 65:24, While they are yet speaking I will hear. For thou art greatly beloved — Learned men have observed a near affinity between the prophecy of Daniel and the Revelation of St. John; and we may take notice that much the same title is given to both. Daniel is styled here, and chap. Daniel 10:11; Daniel 10:19, a man greatly beloved; and the character given to St. John is, that of the disciple whom Jesus loved, John 21:20; John 21:24. Therefore, understand the matter, and consider the vision — Apply thy mind carefully to what is said, for this prophecy contains in it truths of the greatest importance. Our Saviour plainly refers to these words, which are repeated Daniel 9:25, when, explaining the latter part of this prophecy of the final destruction of Jerusalem, he adds, Let him that readeth understand, Matthew 24.
Daniel 9:24. Seventy weeks, &c. — Weeks not of days, but of years, or, seventy times seven years, that is, four hundred and ninety years, each day being accounted a year according to the prophetic way of reckoning, (see note on Daniel 7:25,) a way often used in Scripture, especially in reckoning the years of jubilee, which correspond with these numbers in Daniel: see Leviticus 25:8. See also Genesis 29:27, where, to fulfil her week, is explained by performing another seven years’ service for Rachel; and Numbers 14:34, where we read, that according to the number of the days which the spies employed in searching out the land of Canaan, even forty days, the Israelites were condemned to bear their iniquities, even forty years. Thus God says likewise to Ezekiel, cotemporary with Daniel, I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days three hundred and ninety days. I have appointed thee EACH DAY FOR A YEAR. Nor was this mode of expression in use only among the Jews; for Varro, speaking of himself, says, he was entered into the twelfth week of his age, at the close of which he would have been eighty-four years old. In these instances, the days evidently denote solar years, which were in use throughout the Jewish history; so that there is no probability that the angel should here intend any such singularity, as counting by lunar years. Are determined upon, or concerning, thy people — Hebrew נחתךְ, are decided. The great event specified was not to be protracted beyond this period, fixed and determined in the counsels of God.
To finish the transgression — The reader will observe, the expression is not, to finish transgressions, but הפשׂע, the transgression; a word which is derived from a theme which signifies, “to revolt, to rebel, to be contumacious, to refuse subjection to rightful authority, or obedience to a law which we ought to observe.” To finish such transgression, is expressed by a word ( לכלא) which denotes universality, to cancel, or annihilate. Dr. Apthorp, in his Discourses on Prophecy, vol. 1. p. 262, justly observes, that the diversity of expression respecting the several benefits here promised to the world by the Messiah, may be well supposed to intend so many distinct and determinate ideas. “In a prophecy of such moment,” says he, “we cannot suppose a mere co-acervation of synonymous terms, but each word is emphatic, and proper to its subject. The appropriate sense of each may be investigated, from their use and significance in other passages of Holy Scripture.” Accordingly, by the word transgression, he here understands man’s first disobedience, with its direful effects, the depravation and mortality of human nature. And by finishing this transgression he understands, “cancelling the primeval guilt of Adam’s apostacy, and reversing the sentence of mortality then passed on all the human race.” In other words we may properly understand by the expression, the abolishing the guilt and fatal effects of that disobedience, in such a manner that no man shall perish eternally merely on account of the sin of our first parents, or the depravity entailed upon us thereby; to counteract the influence of which, sufficient grace is procured for us, and offered to us in the gospel of Christ. Concerning this first benefit of our redemption, the apostle treats explicitly Romans 5:12-21, a passage which the reader is particularly requested carefully to consider, as containing a full justification of the exposition here given of the first clause of this verse; man’s first disobedience, termed by the apostle the one offence, and the offence of one, being represented by him as introducing death into the world, and all our misery; and the obedience, or righteousness of one, and the free gift, procured for all mankind, and actually conferred on all penitent believers, as the one meritorious cause and source of our salvation. “No words can express, or thought conceive, the greatness of this redemption. Imagination faints under the idea of a Divine Benefactor effacing sin, annihilating death, and restoring eternal life.”
And to make an end of sins — “As, in the appropriate sense of the words, the transgression denotes one original act of apostacy and rebellion against a positive command of God; sins, in the plural, emphatically express all the vices [offences] against conscience, all the crimes against civil society, and all sins against God, which have ever reigned among men. The redemption by Christ hath abolished all the fatal effects of moral evil, with respect to such as believe and obey the gospel;” not only cancelling their actual guilt by a gracious remission, but even renewing their fallen nature, stamping them with the divine image, and thus both entitling them to, and preparing them for, the immortality lost by the fall.
And to make reconciliation for iniquity — In these words is expressed the manner in which our redemption from death and sin hath been effected. “The word כפר, rendered reconciliation here, is the etymon of our English word, to cover. Its primary meaning is, to hide, or conceal, the surface of any substance, by inducing another substance over it. Thus the ark is commanded to be pitched, or covered, within and without, to secure it from the waters of the deluge. Sin, when grievous, and ripe for punishment, is said to be before God, or in his sight: a propitiation is the covering of sin, [procuring] God’s hiding his face from our sins, and blotting out our iniquities: see Romans 3:23; Romans 3:25. The word redemption implies a price paid for those who are set at liberty: the price is the blood of Christ; that blood a sacrifice; and the sacrifice an expiation for sinners, that is, for all mankind. This is the first and leading notion of the divine expedient for saving sinners, the sacrifice and blood of Christ. The second principal idea under which this redemption is represented, is that of substitution, and satisfaction, by another’s suffering for our guilt; and in this way of stating the doctrine, still the principal and leading idea is that of a sacrifice, and the blood of a victim;” namely, Christ’s dying for the ungodly: see Romans 5:6-9. Inasmuch as Christ, by dying in our stead, “hath prevented either the extinction or [eternal] misery of a whole species, and hath obtained for us a positive happiness, greater than we lost in Adam; every considerate man must think it fit, that to effect such a redemption, some great expedient should be proposed by God himself, to vindicate his wisdom and moral government, in suffering so much vice and confusion to end so happily.” Add to this, that “so congenial to the most generous sentiments of the human mind is the idea of one devoting himself for another, for many, and for all, that all antiquity abounds with such examples and opinions. Not that the Scripture doctrine of Christ’s satisfaction, in itself so luminous, needs any support from foreign testimony; but it is certain that a general consent, founded in nature, or divine institution, or both, hath led men to seek expiation of conscious guilt, in the way of voluntary substitution, and vicarious devotement. The chief reason of that prejudice, which is by some entertained against a doctrine so essential to peace of conscience, is founded on inattention to ancient religious customs. By the sacrifice of Christ, victims and sacrifices are abolished; but all the ancient religions abounded with them to a degree which we should think astonishing, and scarcely credible. Oceans of blood flowed round their altars; and the Levitical rites were instituted on purpose to adumbrate Christ’s expiation, and to introduce all that admirable spirituality and [pious] devotion, which is now the distinguishing excellence of Christianity.” — Dr. Apthorp.
To bring in everlasting righteousness — The three former particulars already considered import the removing the greatest evils; this, and the two following, imply the conferring of the greatest benefits, and all by Jesus Christ. This clause, says Dr. Apthorp, “may admit of two interpretations, which both concur in Christ, and are consistent with each other: our justification by faith in him, and our subsequent study [practice] of personal virtue. The first is a gratuitous act of Christ; the second is characteristic of his true disciples. In the former sense, Jeremiah styles him by his divine title, JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. And in both senses Christ Jesus is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption.” To speak a little more distinctly: to bring in everlasting righteousness, according to the gospel, evidently includes three things: 1st, To bring in Christ’s righteousness, or his obedience unto death, as the ground of our justification and title to eternal life, he being the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. 2d, To bring holiness, the divine nature, or the Spirit of God, with his various graces, into our souls, making us conformable to his image, as our meetness for that future felicity. And, 3d, For our direction in the way that leads to it; to lay before us, for our observation, a complete rule of life and manners. Of this last particular, which Dr. Apthorp includes in the everlasting righteousness here spoken of, as being immutable in its obligations, and eternal in its sanctions, he speaks as follows: “When we consider the Christian morality in its ground of obligation, [namely, the will of God,] its principle of charity, and in its detail of special duties, we are struck with admiration at the simplicity and perfection of a rule of life, which, without any artificial system, extended the Jewish law, and combined all the excellences of Gentile philosophy; the elevation of Plato, without his mysticism; the reasonableness of Aristotle, without his contracted selfishness, and worldly views; tempering the rigour of Zeno with the moderation of Epicurus; while, by the greatness of its end, it reforms, refines, and elevates human nature from sense to spirit, from earth to heaven.”
And seal up the vision and prophecy — Hebrew, ולחתם חזון ונביא, to seal vision and prophet; prophet being put for prophecy. The words are a Hebraism, and when expressed in modern language signify, 1st, The accomplishing, and thereby confirming, all the ancient predictions relating to the most holy person here intended. God had spoken of the Messiah, by the mouths of his holy prophets, from the foundation of the world; had foretold his coming, pointed out the place of his birth, and specified the extraordinary circumstances of it; described the manner of his life, the nature of his doctrine, and the variety and splendour of his miracles, with the treatment he should receive from his countrymen; had foretold repeatedly, and set forth at large, his humiliation, sufferings, and death, his resurrection, ascension, and the glory that should follow. Now by making the events exactly to answer the predictions, he confirmed them, as the setting of a seal to any writing confirms its authenticity. 2d, To seat implies, to finish, conclude, and put an end to any thing. Thus also were the vision and prophecy sealed among the Jews. They were shut up and finished. The privilege and use of them were no longer to be continued in their church. And this also happened accordingly; for, by their own confession, from that day to this they have not enjoyed either vision or prophet. But, 3d, To seal, is to consummate and perfect; and to seal the vision and prophecy here, may include the adding the New Testament revelations and predictions to those of the Old, and thereby supplying what was wanting to perfect the book of God, and render it a complete system of divine revelation. It is only necessary to add, 4th, That as things are frequently sealed in order to their security, the preservation of the divine records and oracles included in both Testaments may be also here intended by the expression.
And to anoint the Most Holy — Hebrew, קדשׂ קדשׂים, literally, the holy of holiest an expression often used of holy places, or things, especially of the most holy place of the Jewish tabernacle and temple. It is here very properly applied to the Messiah, whose sacred body was the temple of the Deity; agreeable to his own declaration, Destroy this temple, pointing to himself by some expressive action, and in three days I will raise it up; and who was greater than the temple. Now this most holy person, in whom dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and who, even as man, had the Holy Spirit without measure, was by that divine unction (which is here principally intended) at once designated and qualified for the sundry offices he was to sustain, especially the prophetic, sacerdotal, and kingly offices, for the various characters he was to bear, and the work he was to do on earth, and is now doing in heaven, and hence is properly termed the Messiah, or the Anointed One. To this may be added, that, as the Jewish temple was evidently a type of the church of God, especially the Christian Church, termed in the Psalms and Prophets the city of God, and the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High; by anointing the holy of holies here, may be also intended the effusion of the Holy Spirit, in his rich variety of gifts and graces, upon the Christian Church, foretold in innumerable passages of the Prophets, and eminently fulfilled, as the Acts of the Apostles, the epistles contained in the New Testament, and the writings of the ancient fathers abundantly prove.
Daniel 9:25. Know therefore and understand — Learn therefore and retain; from the going forth of the commandment — From the publication of the edict by the Persian king; to restore and to build Jerusalem — Or, to build again Jerusalem: so the verb שׂובis translated in the latter part of the verse. Daniel had besought God to behold their desolations, and the ruins of the city which was called by his name, Daniel 9:18. In answer to this his supplication, the angel acquaints him, that an order should be issued from the Persian king to rebuild both the city and its wall. Now when, after this, the commandment did actually go forth, the faith of God’s people would be greatly confirmed, respecting the accomplishment of this wonderful prophecy of the coming of the Messiah, the prescience of the end being confirmed by that of all the intermediate events.
Four edicts of the kings of Persia, in favour of the Jews, mentioned in Scripture, are, 1st, That of Cyrus, Ezra 1:1. 2d, That of Darius Hystaspes, Ezra 4:6; Haggai 1:1; Haggai 2:3 d, That of Artaxerxes Longimanus, in the seventh year of his reign, Ezra 7.; Ezra 8:4 th, That in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, Nehemiah 2:1. The first of these edicts cannot be applied to this prophecy, inasmuch as from the first of Cyrus, before Christ 536, to the death of Christ, A.D. 34, are 570 years. It was, however, the basis of liberty to the Jews, for all the indulgences granted them afterward, by the following kings of Persia, were founded on the precedent of this great monarch. So that he might well be considered as fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah: He shall build my city, he shall let go my captives, Isaiah 45:13. In consequence of this decree 50,000 Jews returned under Zerubbabel, and partly dispersed themselves in their several tribes, and partly settled at Jerusalem, and began to build both the city and temple. But this was in a very rude and tumultuous manner, and they met with so many hinderances from the Samaritans and others, that the decree was not carried into effect. This therefore is not the period we are to reckon from. The second, namely, that of Darius Hystaspes, was made about fourteen years after, preceding the death of Christ 550 years. But neither was this efficacious. Besides, it related to the temple only, as appears from the letter of the Samaritan colony to Cambyses, Ezra 4:11-16; neither therefore is this the period. The third decree, which was that of Artaxerxes Longimanus, recorded at large Ezra 7:12-26, “was of great solemnity and efficacy, importing no less than the restoration of the Jewish constitution, both civil and ecclesiastical, providing in the first place for the re-establishment of divine worship with becoming order and magnificence, exempting the priesthood from all taxes; then, for the civil government of the people, the institution of tribunals, and the administration of justice, according to the law of Moses. This decree answers to all the characters of the prophecy, the restoring of the constitution, the rebuilding of the city, and the chronological periods distinctly specified,” and is, no doubt, here chiefly intended.
“It is not unpleasing to conjecture the cause that moved the Persian monarch thus to emulate and transcend the magnanimity of Cyrus. Josephus with great probability, supposes the famous Esther to have been the queen of Artaxerxes. By her influence both the edicts of the seventh and twentieth of his reign were obtained: which is almost demonstrable from Nehemiah’s prayer, Nehemiah 1:5-11; and relation, Nehemiah 2:1-11. Thus the providence of God raised a Jewish heroine to the throne of Persia, first to preserve his people from massacre and extermination, and afterward to facilitate and complete their resettlement. Under these auspices, Ezra, like another Moses, became a second founder of the Jewish state: and his return with the captives to restore Jerusalem is the glorious epoch, from which the seventy weeks begin. God was pleased to reward the heroic virtue of Esther with a long and uninterrupted prosperity, being in full favour with the king from the seventh to the twentieth year of his reign, and perhaps earlier and later: and she had the felicity, than which none on earth can be greater, of having restored her nation to the full possession of their religion, laws, and liberties.”
“The fourth and last edict was that which the same Artaxerxes granted to Nehemiah, in the twentieth year of his reign, to repair and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Between the two edicts of the seventh and the twentieth, the rebuilding had met with so much opposition and hostility, that Nehemiah had much of the fortifications to begin again: the temple, which is the essential part of the completion, being finished, in consequence of the former edict. It is easy to solve the seeming difficulty respecting the thirteen years between the two edicts; for the archangel commences the seventy weeks, not from the actual rebuilding the walls and streets, but from the going forth of the commandment to restore and rebuild them. So that the date of the first edict, not the work itself, is the epoch from whence begins the period of four hundred and ninety years. The work itself, though interrupted and resumed, properly began with the permission to execute it. Ezra began the foundation of the temple; Nehemiah completed the walls on the old foundations, and celebrated the encænia, keeping the dedication with gladness and with thanksgivings, Nehemiah 12:27. Thus, of the four edicts, the first two are excluded because they were not efficacious, and prolong the term to near six hundred years: and the fourth was only a confirmation of the third. No other commencement of the four hundred and ninety years agrees with the event, than that of the seventh of Artaxerxes: and this system is perspicuous, and free from all difficulties.” — Apthorp.
In order to manifest the perspicuity of this exposition, and give it the greater evidence, it may be well to examine the distinct characters of each of the three intervals into which the seventy weeks are divided; namely, seven weeks, threescore and two weeks, and one week. The reason of this distribution into three intervals, flowing in uninterrupted succession, is not so obscure as to elude discovery. The first and third of these intervals are marked by great events; the restoration of the Jewish polity, the expiation of Christ’s passion, and his covenant with the Jews and Gentiles. The long interval which connects the two extremes, necessarily contains sixty-two weeks. “In our English version, the sense of the twenty-fifth verse is somewhat obscured by the punctuation. It is easily rectified thus: From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks — The angel then specifies the great events of each of these intervals. In the first, of seven weeks, the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And thus it was; the city and the walls were rebuilt in forty-nine years, not without much opposition and various impediments. Nothing can be more exact than this period of the completion, both for the interval of forty-nine years, ending with the sixteenth of Darius; and for the troublous times in which the Jewish patriots restored and rebuilt their city.” — Dr. Apthorp. It must be observed here, 1st, That the restoring and rebuilding Jerusalem, here spoken of, though it may chiefly respect the laws and constitution, is not so merely figurative as to exclude the literal sense: for though the city itself was in some degree rebuilt before this period, yet it was done so imperfectly, by reason of their poverty, and the opposition and envy of their neighbours, that the work was to be resumed in the seventh of Longimanus, whose long reign, and his favour to the nation of his queen, providentially effected its complete restoration. 2d, The troublous times mentioned, refer both to the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks. “The peculiarity in the application of these times to the seven weeks, consists in the almost continual obstructions which the restored Jews met with, chiefly from the Samaritans, and also from their idolatrous neighbours the Moabites, Ammonites, and others, in the difficult work of rebuilding the temple and walls of the new city; insomuch that the artificers were obliged to carry on their work with arms in their hands to repulse their assailants. But the troublous times here predicted have also an aspect on the long period of sixty-two weeks, in which the Jewish history abundantly verified this sad circumstance. Not to mention their general calamities and subjection to their potent neighbours of Syria and Egypt, their city was taken and their temple profaned by Ptolemy I., by Antiochus, by Crassus, by Pompey, by Herod: and their state was often so critical, that a particular providence was manifested in their preservation, especially in raising them up those illustrious patriots, who so nobly resisted the tyranny and persecution of Antiochus. Few periods of history are more savage and inglorious, more profligate and flagitious, than that of the successors of Alexander: and the Jewish government is not to be calumniated for their portion in the general calamities of those ages; while they are deserving of the highest admiration for their constancy, in being the only people on earth who adhered to the exclusive worship of the ONLY GOD.” — Apthorp.
Daniel 9:26. After threescore and two weeks (counting from the expiration of the first interval) shall Messiah be cut off — “This long interval extends from the 93d Olympiad to the 202d Olympiad, or four hundred and thirty- four years; ending with the sixty-ninth [prophetic] week, and with the commencing of our Lord’s ministry. No prophetic characters are here given of the long interval; but they are supplied from other predictions of this great prophet, which respect the Roman people and empire, the Persian monarchy, Alexander and his successors; particularly by that circumstantial prophecy in the eleventh chapter, respecting the Lagidæ and Seleucidæ, and extending to the antichristian persecutions and idolatries typified by those of Antiochus Epiphanes. These four centuries include the most interesting periods of profane history, and their chronology is so well ascertained as to make the computation of Daniel’s weeks mathematically exact. For sixty-two weeks, or four hundred and thirty-four years, added to seven weeks, or forty-nine years, are equal to four hundred and eighty- three years. After which period, or in the last one week, containing seven years, the Messiah should be cut off. The title of MESSIAH is, by way of eminence, peculiar to Christ. It was first used in this prophecy in that appropriate sense. No other application of this title ever obtained among the ancient Jews. Nor can it, without absurdity, be applied to any civil or ecclesiastical prince, much less to a succession in the high-priesthood. It is here used personally, proper to some one anointed; and to whom it is proper is decided by that emphatic circumstance, Messiah shall be CUT OFF, an expression used in Scripture to denote a judicial sentence and a violent death; BUT NOT FOR HIMSELF — Isaiah gives an exact comment on both these expressions, Isaiah 53:8. HE WAS CUT OFF out of the land of the living; FOR THE TRANSGRESSION OF MY PEOPLE was he stricken.” — Dr. Apthorp.
And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city, &c. — Thus to the death of Christ the angel immediately subjoins the excision of Jerusalem. The people here spoken of are the Romans, and the prince that should come, may mean, as some think, the Messiah; the Romans being called his people, both on account of their present subserviency to his will, and their future conversion to his faith; HE sent forth HIS armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city, Matthew 22:7. Or, the prince that should come may be understood of Titus Vespasian, of whom the Roman writers speak as if his military glory chiefly resulted from the taking of Jerusalem. “The actions of this prince, in the conduct of this memorable siege, are related in the fifth and sixth books of Josephus; the most tragical event in history was effected by a prince whose clemency made him ‘the delight of human-kind,’ and who saw, with generous reluctance, the horrors of his own victory. — Jos., 7:5. 2. It is thus Divine Providence distinguishes its counsels and instruments; and the victor himself acknowledged that ‘God was his assistant, that none but God could have ejected the Jews from so strong fortifications,’ Josephus Daniel 6:9. 1. They shall destroy the CITY and the SANCTUARY — The specification is remarkable; as Jerusalem, in effect, sustained two separate sieges; one, of the lower city; the other, of the temple, or sanctuary of strength, as our prophet elsewhere styles it, chap. Josephus Daniel 11:31, as being not only a magnificent temple newly rebuilt, but a strong fortress, which was consumed by their own fires, against the intention and efforts of their conqueror. — Josephus Daniel 6:4, 7.” The end thereof shall be with a flood — The symbol of invading armies:
— — Aggeribus ruptis cum spumeus amnis Exiit, oppositasque evicit gurgite moles, Fertur in arva furens cumulo, camposque per omnes, Cum stabulis armenta trahit. VIRG. ÆN. 2:496.
Not with so fierce a rage the foaming flood Roars, when he finds his rapid course withstood; Bears down the dams with unresisted sway, And sweeps the cattle and the cots away. DRYDEN.
And unto the end of the war desolations are determined — “Which marks the irrevocable decree of Heaven, and the completeness of the devastation, after a continued war of more than seven years.” — Dr. Apthorp.
Daniel 9:27. And he shall confirm the covenant with many — “The covenant to be confirmed by the Messiah is not a civil, but a religious compact, as such, styled by Daniel himself, the holy covenant, Daniel 11:28; Daniel 11:30; Daniel 11:32, the covenant of grace; which, after the infraction of the first divine law of strict obedience, was, of mere clemency, granted to all mankind by the mediation of Christ. He not only expiated the sins of the world by his death, which was the chief article of the federal system; but in person, by the energy of his miracles, by the efficacy of his doctrine, and, soon after his resurrection, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, he induced many myriads of the Jews to accede to this covenant, which the Prophet Jeremiah so admirably describes, Jeremiah 31:33-34 : compare Hebrews 8:6-13. He shall confirm this covenant with MANY, not with ALL, which marks the exclusion of the obstinate and impious Jews, whose fate is predicted in the preceding and following clause. By an obvious analogy, the Christian covenant, though offered to all, is still confirmed with many; namely, those only who, by a rational faith and moral subjection, having his law written in their hearts, attain to that exalted privilege.”
For one week — “Christ’s personal ministry continued to its fourth year. St. John (John 2:13; John 5:1; John 6:4; John 11:15;) distinctly reckons four passovers; the first, A.D. 30, Feb. 15, and the first year of his ministry; the second, A.D. 31; the third, A.D. 32; the fourth, A.D. 33. The half year precedes the first passover from his baptism. The first half week of Daniel is from the beginning of Christ’s first preaching, Mark 1:15, Repent ye, and believe the gospel, A. 30, to his death, April 3, A. 33; or rather, to the pentecost following, when all the Christian mysteries were completed. The duration of Christ’s ministry is so ascertained by St. John; and is so suitable to the great events of his life as well as to this prophecy, that, as it needs not to be protracted, so it cannot be shortened with any degree of probability. The second half week is from the feast of pentecost, (when St. Peter with so much energy converted three thousand of the Jews,) to the conversion of Cornelius, and the first-fruits of the Gentiles, by the same apostle. The best chronologers place the vision of St. Peter, and the conversion of Cornelius, in the fourth year after the passion; and in the same year we may place the foundation of the church of Antioch, where the disciples were first called CHRISTIANS, Acts 11:26. Thus a prediction, which began with the happy event of rebuilding the earthly Jerusalem, sublimely terminates with the structure of the heavenly, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, JESUS CHRIST himself being the chief corner-stone, Ephesians 2:20-22. The confirmation of the Christian covenant in one week, or seven years, includes its full effect, both in the conversion of many myriads of the Jews, and in the first-fruits of the Gentile Church.”
And in the MIDST of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease — “The sacrifice here specified, with its attendant bread-offering, was eucharistical, as well as propitiatory, being a slain victim, on which the offerers feasted in token of amity and reconciliation with God. When Christ, in the MIDST of the week, offered his own body, that great sacrifice for the expiation of sin, to reconcile sinners to God; by that most holy and acceptable victim, he completed and abolished all the typical sacrifices of the law. The legal sacrifices, indeed, continued to be offered at the temple, for thirty-six years after Christ’s death; but, in effect, they ceased, at that instant their efficacy was no more, after that Christ had given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour, Ephesians 5:2. Hence forward the Christian religion abrogated the Levitical sacrifices, as was accurately foretold by the psalmist, Psalms 40:6, as commented by the inspired writer to the Hebrews 10:5-10.”
And for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate —
Or, more literally, And he shall be a desolator by the wing of abominations. Or, And being a desolator, he shall command over a wing of abominations. The desolator is the Roman army of sixty thousand men: Jos., B. J. 3:4. 2. The wing, as well as the flood, is the Hebrew metaphor for great armies. Abominations, in the Jewish style, are idols. The word is so used by Daniel 11:31, for the idol of the Olympian Jupiter, which Antiochus placed on God’s altar, 1 Maccabees 1:57. In this prophecy, it denotes the standards of the Roman legions. To every legion was a golden eagle with expanded wings, grasping a thunder-bolt. The eagles, with the standards of the cohorts, ten in each legion, adorned with the image of the reigning Cesar, were deified, adored, and sworn by; each eagle was placed in a little temple, or shrine; and there was a chapel in the camp where all the eagles were adored. At Rome they were deposited in the temple of Mars. Such deified ensigns were an abomination to the Jews: see Joshua 17:7; Joshua 17:2; Joshua 18:8. The prediction was minutely verified when the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the temple and adjacent buildings, brought the ensigns to the holy place, fixed them against the eastern gate, offered sacrifices to them, and hailed Titus Imperator, Joshua 6:6. 1. The allusion to the Roman standards is observable in that prediction of Moses; The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as the eagle flieth, a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand, Deuteronomy 28:49 : see also Matthew 24:15-16. The eagles, and the language, and the distance from Rome, discriminate the Romans from the Chaldeans, whose tongue was only a dialect of the Hebrew.”
“The concluding clause, Even until the consummation, and that determined, shall be poured upon the desolate, is elliptical. It may be thus literally translated, and the ellipses supplied; Even until the consummation and excision, the divine wrath shall be poured on the desolate city, temple and people; which expresses so complete a devastation, as cannot be described but in the emphatic words of Christ, when his disciples beheld with admiration the recent magnificence of Herod’s temple. See ye not all these things? Verily, I say unto you, there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And, Daniel 9:21, Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. Christ’s own prediction was memorably verified against the attempt of the apostate emperor, Julian, expressly to defeat it: an attempt which confirms the principle of prophecy, that the designs and counsels of God are independent of the projects of men, either to frustrate or fulfil them.” The war of Adrian, A.D. 133, may be also intended in this last clause of the prophecy; and the re-duplication of images and expressions, rising one above another, may relate to the two completions. “It is worthy of attention, that the ancient prophecies, prior to this of Daniel, have no such exact specification of the time of their completion. Chronology was not reducible to historic certainty prior to the Olympiads. When that era became the authentic measure of time, God was pleased to give this singular credential to the Christian religion; whose author and original could not be more precisely ascertained than by a measure of time, adapted to the ideas of the Jewish law, including ten jubilees, or seventy sabbatic years, nearly commencing with the war of Peloponnesus [between the Athenians and Lacedemonians;] in the recital of which, the unexampled accuracy of Thucydides led the example of the most exact notation of time to other historians. If chronology for six hundred years after Cyrus had been as perplexed as it was for six hundred years before, it would not have been possible to ascertain the completion of a prophecy, specifying so many particular dates.” — Dr. Apthorp. The reader will observe, that several false and evasive systems have been advanced on the subject of this prophecy; but it has not been judged proper to embarrass this exposition of the passage with a refutation of them.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Daniel 9". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany