DANIEL’S PRAYER FOR ISRAEL’S DELIVERANCE FROM THE WORLD-KINGDOM, AND HIS VISION OF “MESSIAH THE PRINCE,” THE TIME OF WHOSE COMING IS REVEALED.
1.For “Darius the Mede” see our Introduction, III, 3, (5), and note Daniel 5:31. If this king really was Gubaru, appointed vicegerent by Cyrus when he captured Babylon, then this prophecy of the “seventy year-weeks” is represented as being given in the very year when the Jews received permission to return and rebuild their temple; that is, at the end of their “seventy weeks” of captivity in Babylon.
Son of Ahashuerus — This may possibly have been a marginal note, though the versions do not indicate it.
If the reference here is to the Book of Esther’s famous Ahasuerus (Xerxes) it is a bad mistake; for he was the son of Darius Hystaspes, not the father of Darius the Mede. But a famous man is usually preceded by less famous men bearing the same name. In official documents of the fifth century B.C. and later the name Ahasuerus (Khsyrs, mighty) occurs in many forms. The Hebrew ear was not keen nor the tongue glib, so that no objection can be properly raised here because of the Hebrew spelling of this name. In the very first year of the reign of the celebrated Xerxes (485 B.C.) his name was spelled in official records, Akhsu-varsi, Akki-sarsu, Akhsi-varsa, Aksi-yarsu; the form fixing itself later as Akhsi-yarsu (Oppert, Revue des Etudes Juives, 1894).
2.By the books (or, rolls) of Jeremiah’s prophecies, which Daniel possessed, he understood the number of years which the Lord had decreed “for the accomplishing of the desolations of Jerusalem, even seventy years” (R.V.; compare Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10).
3.It was now nearly seventy years since Daniel had been carried captive to Babylon (Daniel 1:1), and as the time of the captivity seemed drawing to a close he is represented as becoming deeply and solemnly interested in its fulfillment. Kautzsch’s idea that Daniel’s sadness proves that according to the writer’s calculation the time of fulfillment must have been already past (Beilagen, p. 205), curiously misinterprets the prophetic temperament. There is no necessary anachronism here. Daniel’s sorrow is not said to be because of Jehovah’s failure to keep his promise of deliverance, but because of his people’s sins which had brought upon them these terrible calamities. So earlier prophets, notably Jeremiah, had sorrowed with equal bitterness. (See also note Daniel 10:2-4; Daniel 10:15-16.) As the number “seventy” was the common symbolical number of perfection and fullness of time (see our Introduction to Ezekiel, VIII), no elaborate calculation is necessary as to the year when these “desolations” commenced. If they began with Jehoiachin’s captivity (598 B.C.) there were yet ten years before the seventy years of ruin would literally come to an end.
4-6.This is a model prayer, including adoration and praise, confession of sin, and petition for further mercies. (Compare Nehemiah’s prayer, Nehemiah 1:5-11.) The phraseology used is distinctly scriptural. (See Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 7:9; 2 Chronicles 36:15-16, and compare Nehemiah 9:30; Nehemiah 9:32.)
7, 8.The Lord is righteous, and all the sorrows which have fallen upon Israel have been because of their trespass (or, because of the unfaithfulness that they have committed). (Compare Leviticus 26:40.) It is this unfaithfulness which causes confusion of faces to all Israel, both rulers and people; those that are near (in Palestine) and those that are far off (the captives in foreign countries).
9.Though we have rebelled — R.V., “for we have rebelled.” The phrase might even be read, “because we have rebelled.” (Compare Psalms 25:15.)
10, 11.Having disobeyed persistently the written law, the penalty of disobedience, which God had confirmed by an oath, had to be inflicted. (See Leviticus 26:14-39; Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Deuteronomy 29:14; Deuteronomy 29:19-28; Deuteronomy 30:17-19.)
12, 13.Because of Israel’s extreme sensitiveness, better training, higher ideals, and nobler possibilities the loss of her land and temple cut her deeper than any such loss could have wounded a heathen people. (See notes Ezekiel 5:9.) All this ruin had fallen upon the nation wholly because of the people’s sins and their failure to repent and recognize the truth of the prophetic promises and warnings. R.V. reads, “have discernment in thy truth;” that is, gain a knowledge of the true way of safety and life.
14.The Lord watched closely all the evil that came upon his people, and brought it upon them not because he hated them, or had forgotten them, but because he remembered his own righteousness and the people’s sins.
15.By Jehovah’s marvelous deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage he had gotten for himself “a name even for this day” (an exact quotation from Jeremiah 32:20). After this mention of God’s mercies in the past the sins of Israel appear to the prophet even worse than before.
16-19.The prophet cries out in great agony, beseeching Jehovah, since now his righteous punishments had been so fearfully fulfilled upon Jerusalem and the holy mountain (Psalms 2:6; Jeremiah 25:1-11), that the equally righteous promises to repentant Israel might also be speedily fulfilled (see Jeremiah 25:12, etc.; Jeremiah 27:22; Jeremiah 29:10-14), and as a representative of repentant Israel he makes an intercessory prayer for the desolated and ruined sanctuary which reminds one of the mediatorial cry of Moses (Exodus 32:32; Deuteronomy 9:26-29), and especially of the prayer of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32) and the petition of the Levites (Nehemiah 9).
20, 21.The answer to the prayer comes even while the words are still upon his lips. For Gabriel see notes Daniel 7:16; Daniel 10:13.
Being caused to fly swiftly — Some first-rate scholars (as, for example, Schultz, Alt-testament-lithe Theologie, 2:226) follow Furst in rendering this obscure phrase “gleaming in splendor.” It is better to refer it to Daniel rather than to Gabriel, and translate “being exhausted,” or, “being faint.” (Compare Daniel 7:18; Daniel 7:27; Daniel 10:9.)
Touched me — Or, “came near unto me” (R.V., margin). This was the meal (A.V., meat) offering which was made at sunset (Leviticus 2:14). For centuries, beginning at least as early as the Babylonian captivity, every true son of Israel had regular hours of daily prayer (of which this was one) in which he turned his face toward Jerusalem and presented his supplications unto God. (See note Daniel 6:10.)
22.Daniel knew concerning the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity and its end (Daniel 9:2); but the angel is now to make him “skillful of understanding” (R.V.) concerning the larger deliverance which shall come in the Messianic era.
23.The word from God came forth at the beginning of Daniel’s prayer, and before the prayer was ended the angelic messenger had reached the supplicant with his divine revelation of comfort (Daniel 9:20). It was not the answer Daniel had hoped for, but it was a better answer. He had asked for a proof of God’s mercy in a speedy deliverance from Babylon; the answer brings the news of continuing sorrows and persecutions but of a final and heavenly triumph.
Therefore understand the matter — Rather, therefore consider the word and give heed to the vision. This “word” is the larger explanation of Daniel’s former vision (Daniel 8:2-16) with which God had intrusted Gabriel at the opening of this prayer (Daniel 9:20). Jehovah had really sent to Daniel long ago the answer to his present petition, and relief for all his sadness, but he had not been able, through lack of attention or through physical exhaustion (Daniel 8:27), to understand the divine answer.
24.The R.V. (with marginal references in brackets) reads, “Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish [to restrain] [the] transgression, and to make an end of [to seal up] sins, and to make reconciliation for [to purge away] iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy [prophet], and to anoint the most holy [a most holy place].” Kautzsch freely translates, “to bring to end the wickedness and to make full the measure of sin’ and to seal the prophetic revelations and to consecrate (again) a most holy.” All expositors agree that these terms relate to the Messianic hope. Whatever the author of Daniel saw or thought of when he penned these lines, such a vision could only be fully realized in Him who alone could atone for sin and bring in everlasting righteousness. That the prophet saw this Messianic glory break in upon the world immediately upon the close of the Antiochian persecution is in accordance with all other prophetic utterances. (See our discussion of “The Seventy Weeks,” Introduction to Daniel, II, 10, and compare Matthew 24.)
Seventy weeks — Literally, seventy sevens; that is, “sevens of years” (as Genesis 29:27). The period of desolation prophesied by Jeremiah was to be seventy years (ten “sevens”), but this Danielic period of affliction was to be at least seven times longer. (Compare Leviticus 26:18.)
To finish the transgression — That is, to fill up the full measure of the “transgression,” described Daniel 7:12, and elsewhere.
To make an end of sins — This either means, as the preceding phrase, to fill up the measure of sin (Hitzig) or, more probably, “to abolish sin” (Bevan). That is, an end will now be put to this flood of crime and wickedness.
To make reconciliation for iniquity — That is, to make atonement for sin. This is the common meaning of this familiar phrase which occurs again and again in the Pentateuch. It has reference to the mediatorial work of the Messiah, “which is here conceived as following the judgment of those transgressors whose sins are come to the full” (Terry).
To bring in everlasting righteousness — “Bring in! then it was to dwell, to make its abode, to have its home there. Everlasting! Then it was never to be removed, never worn-out, never to cease, not to pass with this passing world, but to abide thenceforth, coeternal with God, its Author and Giver.” — Pusey.
To seal up the vision and prophecy — That is, either to “seal” in the sense of “closing” — there being no more need of visions or prophets, since the old order has now given place to the new (see Wolf, who refers to 1 Corinthians 13:8) — or more probably “seal” in the sense of vindication. The predictions previously made by many prophets, of a glorious era which should follow all the back-slidings and afflictions of God’s people, should have the seal of Jehovah set to them by their fulfillment. (Compare John 3:33; John 6:27.)
Prophecy — Rather, prophet.
To anoint the most Holy — “A most holy place” (R.V., margin); “the most holy thing” (Bevan); “a holy of holies” (Terry). This may refer either to the anointing of the sacrificial altar (Exodus 29:37; Exodus 40:10), a holy sanctuary (Exodus 30:26; Exodus 40:9), or a holy one (Exodus 40:13; Isaiah 61:1) — although this phrase is never used elsewhere of an individual unless in one doubtful verse (1 Chronicles 23:13). It is possible this may have primary reference to the reconsecration of the altar, defiled by Antiochus; though this altar was probably never “anointed,” literally, as the Jews had no holy anointing oil at this period (Keil, Wolf, etc.). But in any case, coming at the close of a passage confessedly full of the Messianic hope, this reference should not be pushed back and confined within the narrow scope of the prophet’s natural vision, but must be allowed its wider and richer Messianic meaning. In that new and blessed era which Daniel so dimly saw it was made known that all former altars and sanctuaries and high priests were but types and shadows of the “true tabernacle which the Lord pitched,” with its cross altar and its holy living sacrifices (Hebrews viii-x). “Anointing” had always been the symbol of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 61:1; compare 1 John 2:20-27).
THE GREAT PROPHECY OF THE SEVENTY WEEKS, Daniel 9:24-27.
For a detailed examination of the various explanations of these verses and the reasons for our own position see our Introduction to Daniel, II, 10. We will merely attempt here to give succinctly the newer and the older views in their most reasonable form with our conclusions.
25.The commandment — Literally, the word. When was this command, to restore (or, “re-people”) and to rebuild Jerusalem, given? That cannot be settled positively. (See remarks on “The Seventy Weeks” in our Introduction, II, 10.) Probably most modern scholars believe that this is the “word of the Lord” recorded by the prophet Jeremiah — of which Daniel was thinking at this very time (Daniel 9:2) — which “word” came to him in the first year of Nebuchadnezzar (606 B.C.) and later (593 B.C.; 586 B.C.), and included inferentially at first, and afterward by explicit statement, the promise of restoration at the end of the seventieth year, the punishment of enemies, and the repopulation and rebuilding of the capital city (Jeremiah 25:1-2; Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 29:1; Jeremiah 29:14; Jeremiah 30:3; Jeremiah 30:9; Jeremiah 30:18; Jeremiah 31:38, etc.). This is the most natural reference — since it was concerning this “word” that Daniel had just been praying — unless we refer it to the edict of Cyrus which gave historical expression to the divine edict which Daniel had been so earnestly considering. This would be equally “natural,” hut does not furnish as satisfactory a terminus at the end of the first seven weeks, when according to the prophecy “an anointed one, a prince” should appear. The older interpretation generally dates it from the twentieth year of Artaxerxes (but see next verse).
Unto the Messiah the Prince — Later scholars usually read, with the R.V., “Unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks.” According to this version the passage cannot refer primarily to Christ, for the “anointed one” is to come after seven weeks. Who is this anointed one? The reference attaches itself naturally to Cyrus, who had recently been called by this very title by Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1) and who historically did appear as king of Anzan, 544 B.C., and as conqueror of Babylon, 537 B.C., just about seven weeks (forty-nine years) after these later and more explicit prophecies of the rebuilding of the city had been given (593 B.C.; 586 B.C.); although it may possibly refer to Jeshua, son of Jozadak (Ezra 3:2), who was the Jewish high priest at the time of the Return, (compare Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 3:1), the high priest being sometimes called in Scripture the “anointed” (Leviticus 4:3; Leviticus 4:5; Leviticus 4:16; Leviticus 6:20). Most of the older expositors prefer the hypothesis that the command of Daniel 9:23 is the decree of Artaxerxes given either to Ezra (about 458 B.C.) or to Nehemiah (about 445 B.C.), in which case the “anointed one” must be considered as the Lord Christ (compare Isaiah 61:1), and the punctuation of the verse retained as in the A.V. and margin of the R.V., where the seven weeks are united with the sixty-two. It seems more natural, however, to identify this mysterious “word” with the divine word of which the prophet was then thinking, as all acknowledge (see Daniel 9:2), rather than with a later decree made long after the exilic Daniel must have gone to his grave.
Threescore and two weeks — The R.V. reads, “unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks: and threescore and two weeks, it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times.” This period of sixty-two weeks is passed by almost without remark, because the chief interest centers in the last week. Since the common symbolism of number required that the full period of sevenfold (or perfected) affliction should be seventy (7 x 10) weeks, and since seven weeks had been taken from the whole number at the beginning of the calculation and another week at the end, that necessarily left sixty-two weeks in the middle. According to the newer interpretation it is not probable that in the mind of the writer this represented any exact number of years, but in a general way was meant to cover the long period lying between the return of the Jews after the longed-for decree had been proclaimed by Cyrus, the “anointed prince” (537 B.C.) and the assassination of Onias III, the high priest, 171 B.C. (See next verse.) It was not, perhaps, intended to be chronologically exact, but was an indeterminate quantity connecting the two definite and well-known periods covered by the first seven and the final week of years. Certainly this final week, as is acknowledged by all, was the period upon which the emphasis was chiefly placed. During these sixty-two weeks Jerusalem should suffer trouble, but should at last be built up again “with street and moat” (R.V.), or perhaps rather, “with court and street.” The troubles experienced by the Jews in rebuilding may be seen from the fact that some ninety years after the Return, Nehemiah could speak of the vast open spaces in the city where no one yet lived and in which dwellings “are not builded” (Nehemiah 7:4; compare Nehemiah 1:3; Nehemiah 2:3; Nehemiah 6:1; Nehemiah 9:37). Perhaps, however, the phrase and in troublous times should be connected with the statement following.
26.R.V. reads, “And after the threescore and two weeks shall the [an] anointed one be cut off.” Delitzsch and Zockler, as recent evangelical scholars generally, accept Onias III as the “anointed one” referred to here. Onias was the last Jewish high priest who ruled in the regular succession. He was deposed by Antiochus about 175 B.C. and murdered 171 B.C. This awful event must have made a tremendous impression upon the Jewish world. (Compare Daniel 11:22; 2 Maccabees 4:35.) Others of the newer critics explain this as referring to the murder of Seleucus Philopator by Heliodorus; but this seems less probable than the above. It is a significant fact that “Jewish exposition in pre-Christian times is united in referring this section [Daniel 9:25-27] to the Maccabean era of tribulation under Antiochus Epiphanes” (Zockler). The older exegetes follow here the punctuation of the A.V. and, uniting the seven with the sixty-two weeks, see a direct reference to Jesus the Messiah, who was cut off at the end of the sixty-nine prophetic weeks. (See note Daniel 9:25 and our remarks on “The Seventy Weeks,” Introduction to Daniel, II, 10.) The argument of Dr. Terry that an (or, “the”) anointed one in Daniel 9:26 should be the same as the anointed one in Daniel 9:25, while valid in ordinary historic narration, does not apply so forcibly in apocalyptic writings, which were made purposely obscure and of a double meaning.
But not for himself — This translation of the Hebrew cannot be defended. The R.V. is better, “and shall have nothing,” or, as the margin, “there shall be none belonging to him” (or, “for him”). Kautzsch renders freely, “without his having any (fault).” There are grammatical objections to every translation and the meaning is very obscure. Behrmann and many others render “and no one follows [succeeds] him.” Most critics who hold the newer interpretation of the passage explain it as meaning that Onias had no legitimate successor. Those who hold to the direct Messianic interpretation, and yet accept the critical Hebrew text generally, take it to mean that the Messiah had no one to stand for him as protector or helper when threatened with death.
The people of the prince that shall come — According to the most common form of the newer critical interpretation this refers to the army of Antiochus (compare Judges 5:2), who came from Rome after the death of Onias and devastated Jerusalem, destroyed the sanctuary, and massacred forty thousand of its inhabitants. For the objection that Antiochus did not literally destroy Jerusalem compare notes Ezekiel 29:8-12. According to the older view this phrase refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.
And the end thereof shall be with a flood — In-stead of “the” end R.V. renders “his” end, as also the A.V., in the margin. The difficulty is to know whether the flood sweeps away the sanctuary or the people or the prince. It seems most natural to refer it to the city and sanctuary, over which the invading army sweeps like a deluge (Daniel 11:22; compare Nahum 1:8).
And unto the end of the war — Rather, with R.V., “and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined.” Instead of the perfect security, victory, and peace which Daniel at the close of the seventy years’ captivity would probably have expected from the prophecy of Jeremiah which he was reading (Daniel 9:2; compare Jeremiah 29:11; Jeremiah 29:14; Jeremiah 30:8; Jeremiah 30:10; Jeremiah 30:19-20; Jeremiah 33:10-16), the “perpetual desolations” which Jeremiah had prophesied against the heathen (Jeremiah 25:12) are now prophesied against Jerusalem clear down to the end of the seventy weeks. Only after these seventy weeks of calamity can the real fulfillment of all Jeremiah’s prophecies of restoration and joy take place.
27.And he shall confirm — R.V. reads, “And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week.” Expositors of the old school generally make the “Messiah” (Daniel 9:26) the subject here. He shall make strong his new covenant of grace (Hebrews 9:13) during his life, in his death and resurrection, and for a short time afterward — this “week” being variously estimated as running to Pentecost, to the conversion of St. Paul, or farther still into the Christian era. But according to this method of interpretation it is not easy to find a period of seven years or thereabouts which could be naturally described as the week during which our Lord made firm his covenant. Some expositors make the “one week” refer to “the last period of the Jewish dispensation;” but is it consistent to make the sixty-ninth week end with the death (the “cutting off”) of the Messiah (Daniel 9:26), and then to consider the week following as a part of the Jewish dispensation? It is one of the difficulties of this theory that the “cutting off” of Christ (Daniel 9:26) should have occurred seemingly before the crisal week opens in which “he shall make a firm covenant with many” (Daniel 9:27). For fuller discussion, see Introduction, II, 10. The newer interpretation is that Antiochus, by his many alliances with other princes and the covenant made with apostatizing Jews, was able to keep himself strong for one week (the first seven years of his reign, 175-168 B.C.), and during this period he was confirmed in his heartless persecutions of the Jews. Although the Hebrew word “covenant” usually refers to God’s covenant with Israel, this usage is not universal. (See Hosea 12:1; Amos 1:9.) By a very slight change, however, the phrase may be rendered, “he shall cause many to transgress the covenant;” which was indeed sadly true of Antiochus, for we have independent Jewish testimony that “many Israelites” turned heathen at his command, consenting to profane the Sabbath, and even to set up altars to idols and sacrifice to them swine’s flesh and other unclean offerings (1 Maccabees 1:10-15).
And in the midst of the week, etc. — R.V. reads, “and for the half of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation [meal offering] to cease.” The older school of expositors refer this to the cessation of the temple sacrifices, when Christ through the eternal Spirit offered himself as a Lamb without spot to bear the sins of the world (compare Hebrews 8-10). But was it only for half a week that these temple sacrifices were to cease? Or, if the A.V. is preferred, is it historical truth to say that in the middle of the week following the one in which the Christ was “cut off” (Daniel 9:26) these sacrifices came to an end? Their typical virtue ended with the crucifixion, not half a week later; while beast sacrifices actually continued to be offered on the temple altar down to the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 70. Scholars who favor the new interpretation see in this half week a clearer allusion to the “time, times, and half a time” mentioned previously by Daniel, during which the saints were delivered into the hands of Antiochus Epiphanes (see note Daniel 7:25) and the sacrifices (as all acknowledge) were abolished for some three and a half years; from perhaps June, 168 B.C., to December, 165 B.C.
And for the overspreading of abominations, etc. — The R.V. (which is accepted in substance by scholars of all schools) reads, “and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate.” R.V., margin, “upon the pinnacle of abominations.” The older commentators generally explain this as having reference to the idolatrous eagle standards of the Roman armies, which spread desolations wherever they came. The newer school explains it in harmony with the similar but clearer phrase found in Daniel 11:31, Daniel 12:11, where it evidently has an allusion to the heathen altar built by Antiochus Epiphanes on the temple altar of Jehovah, and where on Chislev (December) 25, B.C. 168, sacrifice was offered to the Olympic Zeus. This altar is actually called (1 Maccabees 1:51; 1 Maccabees 1:54; 1 Maccabees 6:7) “the abomination of desolation.” This sacrilege certainly caused desolations and made even the most sacred altar of Jehovah an “abomination.” Although Farrar suggests that the heathen altar may have seemed to overshadow the great altar of burnt offering “like a wing,” it is not best to press any vivid pictorial meaning out of the word “wing,” as the exact thought of the Hebrew is uncertain. For the possible connection of this winged abomination with the Babylonian representations of evil genii see Speaker’s Commentary, in loco. The Greek version used by our Lord (Matthew 24:15) seems to favor the modern view that this abomination specially referred to the desecration of the “holy place.”
Even until the consummation, etc. — The R.V. reads, “and even unto the consummation, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolator (margin, ‘desolate’).” There are various readings of this very difficult phrase, but the general meaning certainly is that the desolations shall come to the divinely determined end and the desolator shall be punished. If we read “desolate,” with R.V., margin, instead of “desolator,” as the last word of the chapter, this would refer plainly to Jerusalem and would emphasize the statement that up to the very week of Messianic triumph desolations and afflictions should overwhelm the holy city. For this picture of Messianic triumph see Daniel 12:1-3. We cannot think that there is here any direct prophecy of the second coming of Christ or the end of the world; neither can we think that the passage as a whole has direct and primary reference to the coming and crucifixion of our Saviour and the destruction of the temple by the Romans. We have given our reasons for doubting this, and might add the suggestive fact that “neither our Lord nor his apostles nor any of the earliest Christian writers once appealed to the evidence of this prophecy” (Farrar), which would be superlatively astonishing if this were a direct chronological proof that Jesus was indeed the Christ. On the other hand, we must never forget that in all prophecy the future is pictured in the present with an historic exit point in the background. It has been said that the seers of God were not “children of their time but were exalted above their time.” Whether that was true or not of the prophets as individuals, it certainly was true of their Messianic visions. They often spake better than they knew. Daniel’s vision does not stop with Antiochus; the picture which he paints fits upon him only as the forerunner of an enemy of the theocracy still more dreadful. As Professor Simcox has written in the Cambridge Bible, “If the Book of Daniel be accepted as a really inspired prophecy, the visions admit of but one explanation. The oppression of Antiochus is foretold in part for its own sake, as an important episode in the temporal and religious history of God’s people; in part also as a type of a greater and still more important oppression” (The Book of Revelation, p. 21).
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Daniel 9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany