Robert Duncan Culver


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Dr. Robert Duncan Culver

IX.            Chapter 9: The Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks

A.     Introduction

The last previous revelation had left the aged prophet physically overwhelmed and puzzled.[493] And although about 10 years has passed by,[494] the literary proximity of the chapter before us (Dan. 9) with that exertion and puzzlement strongly conveys the answer to an important question: What shall a saint do when he is baffled by the deep things of God —faint, exhausted, astonished, and still mystified in spite of the angelic revelations? A mature and godly man takes the only course open to him: further study of the Word of God and prayer.[495]

When a little knowledge of divine things brings confusion to the minds of some, they throw up their hands and resign from all effort at further understanding, leaving it for the "experts" to consider. This is especially true of the study of prophecy where a truly comprehensive knowledge of all of the Bible is necessary for full understanding. Paul's message to the Bereans was concerning Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ.[496] It was these Bereans who "were more noble...in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so".[497] They were willing to pay the price in study effort. Precisely on that account "many of them believed." Still others will make up their minds and set forth comprehensive pronounce­ments about the course of the future on the basis of very incomplete study. Some of them rush into print and require, not infrequently, that others of many more years of study fall into line with complete agreement. A few will give many years to study and then, too timid to make up their minds about anything requiring the weighing of evidence, refuse to take any stand whatsoever.

The best way is simply to continue studying, in prayer waiting for the leading of God. "The Lord giveth wisdom…. He layeth up sound wis­dom for the righteous".[498] His spirit must illuminate the under­standing. A little more observation of human nature and of the ways of God helps much. When opinions are reached in this manner there will be a humble spirit in the presentation of views that will stifle unnecessary controversy and promote Christian fellowship rather than hinder it.

Let Daniel's own example, then, be our guide as we further study the prophecies. The chapter before us devotes two verses to the historical setting, 22 verses to a prayer of Daniel for himself, his people, and his country, and four verses to an answer to the prayer in the form of the most compre­hensive chronological prophecy in the entire Bible. Though from the standpoint of doctrine, especially the unfolding in the New Testament of the four-verse prophecy with which the section closes, the prediction is most impor­tant, it seems wise that we keep our expositions in approximate proportion to the amount of Scripture devoted to each type of material. We will, therefore, give special attention to Daniel's prayer.

B.      The Historical Setting of the Prophecy (9:1, 2)

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; in the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. (Daniel 9:1, 2)

The first year of Darius was the year 539-538 B.C. This puts the events of chapter nine in the neighborhood of 67 years after Daniel was taken captive from Jerusalem at its first subjugation by Nebuchadnezzar in the summer of 605 B.C. It would have been about sixty years from the captivity of king Jehoiakim and his priestly subject, Ezekiel, who were taken to Babylon in the year 598 B..C. It was a bit less than fifty years after the complete destruction of the city in the summer of 586 B.C. As shall be explained shortly this explains Daniel's interest in the prophecies of Jeremiah concerning 70 years of "desolations" for Jerusalem at this particular time, and for that matter his interest in the "books" of prophetic Scripture in general. .

The passage of greatest interest to Daniel was undoubtedly Jeremiah 25:11, 12. After naming Nebuchadnezzar as the king who would come against the Jews, the passage reads, "And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the Lord, for their iniquity." Now Daniel must have been persuaded that the seventy years were now up—not almost over, but finished—for the king of Babylon had already been destroyed, and Cyrus, with Darius as his lieutenant was resigning instead. On the basis of these calculations Daniel would have concluded that Jeremiah's "seventy years" were to be taken as an approximate number, not an exact one, for actually a year or two less than 70 had passed by since the initial subjugation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.

But there were other prophecies, especially one by Isaiah, made a century and a half before, concerning the restoration of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon to their homeland. Here are the famous words: Speaking of the Lord, Isaiah says, “that confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built…that saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem: Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus".[499] Here the restoration of the Jews to their own country, the rebuilding of both their cities and their tem­ple are predicted. Isaiah had even given the name of Cyrus, the very Persian king whose recent victories had brought about the fulfillment of Jeremiah's prophecy about Babylon. There were gaps in information in both Jeremiah's and Isaiah's predictions. Jeremiah, for example, had not said explicitly that Jerusalem should be rebuilt, nor that the Jews would be sent home, immediately after the destruction of Babylon. Besides, Daniel might justifiably have wondered if the beginning of the prophetic 70 years might not be 586, when the temple and the city were burned. If so, there were in the neighborhood of at least 20 years before the restoration might occur. All this surely filled the prophet with a breathless ex­pectancy.

There is a certain analogy with the informed Christian believer's anticipation of the Lord's return. We know Jesus' Second Advent has been promised. Yet He never set a date. He did, however, say that men should look for his appearing, and that when certain things should "come to pass" believers should "then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh".[500]

When, in Jeremiah's time, the captivity was still only a prophecy, the prophet insisted that among the causes of the coming judgment was the fact that while people were placing great stock by their elaborate ritual and newly refurnished temple they were not heeding their prophets. Not only did they fail to "speak the truth" (Jer. 9:5), but they were “not valiant for the truth",[501] and, worst of all, "the word of the Lord" was "unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it".[502] Bible study was not a joy but a task; not a pleasure but a duty; not a delight but a burden! It took the wounds of the captivity to teach them some love for the truth and some interest in prayer. But not so Daniel: this man, perplexed by his vision, turned to the Word, "the books," and having "understood" “set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer."

We will not have strong Christians and soul-winning churches till we have praying Christians; we will not have praying Christians till we have Christians who love their Bibles and who will study them long enough and diligently enough to understand them. And, as for understanding the Bible, there is no shortcut, for it is self-evident that before one can know what the Bible means he must have knowledge of what the Bible says. In this epoch of spiritual slothfulness men want the message of the Bible wrapped up in neat packages for easy assimilation without the burden of preparation. Our churches and Sunday Schools cannot be made into pedagogical supermarkets where everything will be smoothly arranged in cellophane packages for easy selection and quick assimilation.

C.      The Exemplary Prayer of the Prophet (9:3-19)

Some portions of Scripture are creations of art. Like beautiful poems, paintings, gems, and statuary they must be seen whole to be appreciated. This portion of chapter nine, one of the lengthiest prayers reported in Scripture, is such a gem of literature. One really ought to read it several times to capture some of the beauty before attempting analysis of individual verses and words.

This particular prayer had an important place in the working out of the eternal plan of God. It is a principle that God not only ordains ends but means as well. God had foreseen and predestined the restoration.[503] But restoration was not without conditions. It was necessary that there be previous repentance and supplication.[504] In this respect the restoration of old was unlike the final restoration of the Jews which will apparently take place while they are yet in unbelief. Says God, "I will yet be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them; I will increase them with men like a flock".[505] The restoration was not to come until there was "going and weeping'" to “Seek the Lord their God" and they should be prepared to say, “Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord".[506] Daniel in his position of prominence in Babylon was the very man, who now upon the very eve of Cyrus' degree of restoration could provide the prayer leadership that met God's requirement. The application of this principle to the need for prayer for souls of lost men needs to be emphasized. God has chosen some, but we must pray for them. It is doubtful if a soul has ever been won for Christ for whom previous prayer had not sometime been made.

This prayer reveals one source of its strength in the knowledge and appreciation of God it shows on the part of its author. Daniel was bold to remind God that the city of Jerusalem, then lying in ruins, was “called by thy name,” as likewise the Jewish people.[507] This reminded God that his own reputation was involved in the fortunes of the people and their city. The names of God, furthermore, are, as many names in Scripture, an indication of character. Daniel addressed his Lord first as Lord God.[508] Adonai meant essentially master—lord in the old sense of the word—one's ruler. It emphasizes the sover­eign rights of God. Elohim, the usual word for God, a plural form, conveys the idea of his immensity. Daniel also called Him the LORD my God,[509] in the Authorized Version, all in capital letters, always translates Jehovah. Thus Daniel recognized God as the self-existent source of all being, the one who keeps promise with Abraham.[510] Nine times the name Lord, Adonai, ap­pears in the passage, showing that above everything else Daniel acknowledged God’s sovereign rights, his power to do as he pleases. This is the primary confession of believers in all ages: "that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".[511]

Daniel's fervent reference to many of the attributes of his God shows even more in what knowledge and respect he held Him. He is "the great and dreadful God”.[512] His God, like Isaiah's, was "high and lifted up" before whose awful majesty the most exalted of God's whole creation can only cover their feet and faces while they cry "Holy, Holy, Holy".[513] Yet this dread majesty is matched by a compassion that keeps covenant "and mercy to them that love him and keep his commandments".[514] These seeming opposites are really one, having their unity in God's holiness. That God is not only holy in character but righteous in His actions is admitted.[515] And, Daniel in bold familiarity, born of long association, reminds his god of his reputation for “mercies and forgiveness”.[516]

Without any particular effort to achieve logical arrangement of the various elements, let us view this prayer as a model prayer, and see where the path may lead. More than once the disciples asked our Lord to teach them to pray. In each case he gave examples and illustrations rather than instructions of a "theoretical" or "propositional sort".[517] We may be certain that this also is an exemplary prayer, and the man an exemplary man, for he was declared by the angel to be "a man greatly beloved" of God.[518]

a.      A Life Long Exercise

In the first place, prayer is seen to be a wholesome life-long spiritual exercise. In chapter five Daniel is seen to have risked his life to maintain his regular devotions. A comparison of Daniel 6:1, 10 with 9:1-3 shows that his thrice daily prayer habit was tested at about the same time as this lengthy prayer.) Daniel was now a very old man. For nearly seventy years he had maintained his watching and waiting vigils. During this time he had been subject to extreme temptation. The previous chapters are the story of those temptations. "Wealth, luxury, splendor, authority have not hurt his soul. How marvelous, how exceptional!" [519] The truth and the people of God are still his concern. The holy city Jerusalem, which he had not seen it since childhood, the temple now in ruins, and the poor Jews of the dispersion—still his concern—precisely because they were God's. During these years Daniel had kept himself "unspotted from the world" and unspoiled by the subtle temptations of a luxurious court by this absorption in the things of God. We are reminded of Paul who by the same means was kept from spiritual harm in the Roman prison, actually using his prison cell as a pulpit from which to preach the gospel.

b.      Marked with Fierce Determination

Daniel’s prayer was marked with fierce determination. “I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer” he says.[520] It reminds us of the Lord, who when the time of his death came near “steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem”.[521] Isaiah, prophetically describing that determination, places these words in the Lord's mouth: "For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed".[522] This tenacity of purpose was the result of real appreciation of a desperate situation. Why should the new administration now replacing the Babylonians give the Jews any more kind attention than to a lost file-folder in the old Babylonian archives? Why should the insignificant descendants of captives from a petty state far away receive the attention of the mighty Persians? Furthermore, Daniel knew that his people had been but little improved by their sufferings. Perhaps the lonely years had only destroyed their hope and faith. And, as he was to see (and probably already knew), the very hosts of wicked angels were arrayed against any restoration.[523] So, "he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head…and was clad with zeal as a cloak"[524] thus joined determinedly in the fray, resolved that if he were to go down in the battle it would be with blood on his sword. We in the desperate spirit­ual crisis of our day likewise need to put on the "whole armor of God"[525] and join with like determination in the fray.

c.       Marked with Intensity of Spirit

Related to his determination was importunity, or intensity of spirit. There is fervor breathed into the tenor of the whole passage. This aged prayer warrior entered into his closet, and having shut the door, began "to seek".[526] The very word implies intensity. W. C. Stevens has suggested that four decrees of progressive intensity are indicated. First, there is "prayer", general address. This is surpassed by "supplications" or pressing entreaties.  This is augmented in the third place “with fasting,” temporary letting go of physical necessities. Perhaps the fervent old saint simply forgot to eat in his importunity. The fasting was overpassed, fourthly when, laying aside his near-royal ropes of high office, he made his prayer in "sackcloth, and ashes." These expressed utter unworthiness and extreme need.

"He who feels that he has no personal claim (not merely admits it theoretically, as a matter of doctrine) will the more earnestly beg for help. One who believes he has a right, a claim, goes to his bank with quietness, with a sense of title. He takes for granted that he will receive without trouble what is his own. Not so the suppliant".[527]

The suppliant comes with fervent supplication, crying both distinctly and often.[528]

d.      Marked with a Sense of Unworthiness

The importunity was in part a natural fruit of humility, or a sense of unworthiness, to which reference has just been made. Daniel had been honored by men as no Jew of his time; not even the captive kings and their sons had been so honored. God had exalted him greatly in mak­ing him the recipient of the great revelations and the seer of magnificent visions. With them had come no "thorn in the flesh" as with Paul, lest he be "exalted above measure".[529] Yet there is not the slightest suggestion of pride. Not a hint of being puffed up. He still regards himself as a sinner, made of no different clay from that of other men, claiming that to him as to his brethren "belongeth confusion of face".[530] How different from the Pharisee is his prayer; how like that of the penitent publican![531] We can almost hear him plead, "God be merciful to me a sinner, and save me for Jesus sake. Amen."

e.      Marked with Confession

The most prominent feature of Daniel's prayer, preliminary to all supplication and intercession, was confession.

And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and that keep his commandments; we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments. (Daniel 9:4, 5)

Though the word for "confession" is rendered to "give thanks", etc., in many other passages, the peculiar Hebrew form used here is usually given the sense of confession as regards sin.[532]

Here as elsewhere confession is primarily toward God. Though we may harm others by our sins, and though we may greatly injure ourselves, sin is ultimately and mainly against the Creator who made us to bring him glory. So Daniel addressed all his remarks about sin in such a way as to make it clear that it was “the great and dreadful God" whose honor was involved. David, stricken in conscience could cry in shame, "against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight",[533] and in celebrating his forgiveness could exclaim, "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin”.[534] And, though for good relations Christians are told to confess their faults one to another,[535] their sins are against God and are to be confessed to him alone. This they may do in complete confidence that they are forgiven.[536]

The words for Daniel’s own and the Jews' offenses against the Lord are in themselves an instructive study. They had "sinned".[537] Translated also to err, neglect, fail, it emphasizes the falling short of God's high purposes.[538] They had secondly “committed iniquity",[539]   "Done wrong" (RSV), "dealt perversely" (ASV) or better, they had "incurred guilt" in the sense of obligation to pay for what they had done. God is keeping books and bringing every deed into judgment. Thirdly, they had “done wickedly” or engaged in “passionate rebellion against God” (Keil). These are the very three words Solomon had prophetically said would be used by the exiles. "Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whether they were carried captive and repent, and make suppli­cation unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives, saying, We have sinned, and have done perversely, we have committed wickedness [italics mine]; and so return unto thee with all their heart, and with all their soul, in the land of their enemies…".[540]

To them Daniel adds a forth, "and have rebelled" and a fifth "by departing" etc. These are some of the very strongest words of the Hebrew language to express the idea of sin. Furthermore they cover the whole range of sin. Daniel was willing to name the thing by its right name. There was no hiding under verbal run-arounds such as modern psychological lingo has given the public; "complex," "compulsion," and the like. Daniel would not have recommended psychiatric treatment as the cure for any of his country's sins nor would he likely have blamed any wickedness on to a 'Mother Fixation" or "Oedipus Complex."

Their sins consisted essentially in "departing" from God's “precepts and judgments." These are summarized in the Ten Commandments. Their sins were not complicated. In the years immediately before their captivity the prophet Jeremiah had laid them all bare. They were things like murder,[541] covetousness,[542] adultery and fornica­tion,[543] lying[544] treachery,[545] Sabbath breaking,[546] and stealing[547] Every one of the Ten Commandments, especially that against idolatry, was being broken every day until as the Scripture says, "…there was no remedy".[548]

Neither have we harkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, or princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. (Daniel 9:6)

The most adequate commentary on this verse is the rest of the Old Testament. The author of the books of Chronicles, writing long after­ward in the period of the Restoration gives a summary of it all at II Chronicles 36:14-20.

It should be noted that though the leaders—kings, princes, priests and others—are singled out for special mention here and in the prophets, as being guilty of the sins which led to the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth, Daniel makes it very clear that all the people were guilty. Before noting these portions in Daniel's confession, a selection from Jeremiah's sermons is appropriate. Said Jeremiah sometime during Josiah's reign, "A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so" (Jer. 5:30, 31). "My people love to have it so!" It is always like this. People usually find in their rulers what they demand in them.

Daniel continues his confession—having already mentioned the guilt of kings, princes, fathers, people [549] —as follows:

0 Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou has driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. 0 Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against Thee. (Daniel 9:7, 8)

Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing that they might not obey thy voice. (Daniel 9:11)

How easy it is to select some special group as the cause of all the people’s difficulties! In the “twenties” we used to hear voices blaming the World War on the munitions makers. In the “thirties” there were those who blamed the depression on the rich or the factory owners or the Jews. With the coming of turmoil’s in the "forties" and especially the rising price of goods and inflation in the "fifties" there were voices raised to blame it all on the labor unions, etc., etc. Let us remember Daniel's confession before God, and like him admit that our whole nation is to blame. The sins of Israel are the sins of America and of the world. Translate the stately language of the King James Version into the parlance of the daily newspaper, the addresses of Jeremiah and Daniel on the sins of their time read like the front page of the Chicago Tribune.

We have seen that Daniel’s model prayer was exemplary of his daily practice; that it was with determination, importunity, humility; and that a major subject was confession of sins. Now the impression is laid heavily upon us that—

                                 i.            The model "pray-er" associated himself completely with his people.

How easy it might have been for Daniel, since he really had lived an exemplary life, to disassociate himself in thought, sympathy, affection, and confession from his people. But this is not the force of his words: “we have sinned”,[550] “neither have we harkened”,[551] “unto us confusion of faces”,[552]  “neither have we obeyed”,[553] “therefore the curse is poured upon us”,[554] ‘he spake against us[555] etc. Most striking in view of his prayer life and study of the Word is the admission, “yet mad we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth”.[556] There is a fact of life which we are inclined to ignore or reject, that we are joined with our neighbors, family, and others. What happens in a remote corner affects every one of us. Adam’s sin brought a whole race to ruin; the single assassination on an obscure archduke in remote Sarajevo of a small country (Serbia) June 28, 1914, set off a great war that embroiled the whole world, a war which appears really not to have stopped yet. The pastor or missionary who would help his people must be one of them in life, thought, affection, and interest. Does not Daniel make us think of Him who though "being in the form of God, thought it not a thing to be grasped to be equal with God;…took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men"? [557]

                               ii.            Daniel's prayer was made in submission to the will and wisdom of God.

Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and. brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice. (Daniel 9:14)

Sometimes when we pray it is out of desperation—a desperation that is dissatisfied with what life has given us. We complain that our rights have been over-run or we have received less than we have deserved. Full of self-pity and self-interest we run to God and complain against him. Let us always remember that "the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth."

f.        Marked with Petition

While, as observed earlier, confession is the major burden of the prayer, the purpose of it was to make petition and intercession. Petition, in the sense of prayer for one's self, and intercession, or prayers for others, are really joined in this prayer, for Daniel's interests and those of his people are the same.

The burden of Daniel's prayer was request for the restoration of his country, its people, its land, its worship at the temple.[558] There are those who wish to interpret the answer of the prayer [559] as having really no reference to the Jewish people, their land and temple supposing it to refer to the New Testament church. Contrariwise the prayer is especially clear. Every word of it relates to "thy city Jerusalem, thy holy thy holy mountain [Zion]…Jerusalem and thy people".[560]

The reasons supplied by Daniel, for he does carry on a kind of argument, are 1) that God's own people are a reproach,[561] 2) God is, a merciful God, [562] and 3) God's own reputation is at stake, for every­one knows that both the people and the city, to say nothing of the sanctu­ary therein, are called by the Lord's name and hence the request is made for God's own sake.[563] It is not far different from Moses' prayer-argument in a similar situation.[564]

The prayer closes in the most intense and exalted manners "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name".[565]

D.      The Angelic Messenger of the Prophecy (9:20-23)

Daniel 9:20—And while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplica­tions before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; yea while I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.

These words are important to understanding the continuity of the book, for by telling his readers that "the man Gabriel" is the same person who had interpreted his first vision,[566] and since Gabriel is the revealer of the second series of visions also,[567] we know that Gabriel is the revealing angel who interpreted all the visions and here imparts the news which forms the answer to Daniel's prayer.

Of great practical blessing for Daniel, and by way of encouraging precedent, to us, is the fact that the answer was immediate—while he was still on his knees in prayer. In verse 23 Gabriel reports that he was commanded to come as soon as the prayer began, evidently consuming some time in coming to speak to Daniel. God has said there would be days like that, "And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer and while they are yet speaking, I will hear".[568] As we shall see in chapter ten, God sometimes responds differently, for sometimes he delays his answers, for our good. But he may, as an encouragement to faith, and as a necessary part of his answer, give his response immediately. Since God is sovereign in such matters, men must be submissive.

E.       The Great Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (9:24-27)

It is this prophecy which makes Daniel unique as a prophet of the future, as nearly two thousand years ago Josephus observed: “We believe that Daniel conversed with God: for he did not only prophesy of the future, as did other prophets, but he also determined the time of their accomplishment”.[569] The four verses before us not only state time for the coming of the Messiah, being called specifically Messiah, i.e., the anointed one herein,[570] but in the opinion of many interpreters, also provide a chronological framework of end-time events at the second coming of Christ.

Gabriel told the prophet that whereas Jeremiah had predicted seventy years of desolations for Jerusalem. God had still another prophetic period in mind for Israel. This period would be one of seventy sevens of years.[571] The force of comparison of “seventy years”[572] with “seventy sevens”[573] is in effect that God is revealing a new period of God’s dealing with the Holy People exactly seven times as long as the predicted, and now fulfilled, prophecy by Jeremiah of seventy years of desolation of Jerusalem.

Though there are some who demur, the preponderance of opinion among scholars is that these weeks are weeks of years. What are the rea­sons for this? The word "week" automatically brings a period of seven days before the mind of English-speaking people. The reasons are as fol­lows:

                                 i.            The Hebrew word for "week" is literally "a seven." It could be a seven of hours, days, years, or of marbles. Context has to determine.
                               ii.            As comparison of Daniel 9:2 with II Chron. 36:21 shows[574] a week of years was already on the prophet's mind.
                              iii.            There was a well-known "seven" or week of years familiar to all Hebrews for it was in their law.[575]
                              iv.            In the very next chapter, Daniel, when he wished to make it clear that he was referring to a week of days, specified it. In Daniel 10:2, 3, where the word "seven" appears the Hebrew word for days follows, viz., a seven of days. Evidently it was Daniel's custom to speak thus, for obviously he did not fast for twenty-one years!
                               v.            Likewise the facility this gives to interpretation of the many refer­ences elsewhere in the Bible to half of this week of years is an argument for it.

All interpreters must resolutely hold to the fact that the seventy "sevens" of years were determined upon Daniel's "people" and "holy city".[576] To apply the prophecy to something else is surely an error. Furthermore, it seems likely (as we shall soon point out) that the seventy "sevens" of years apply only to periods when "the people" are dwelling in the "holy city."

Once it is agreed that the prophecy relates to Jerusalem and to the Jews the field of investigation is narrowed immensely and possibilities of understanding are enlarged.

There are some who feel that the prophecy really relates primarily to the first advent of Christ when his mission was to die for the sins of the world. If space allowed, their views might be examined in detail. We shall do well here, however, to present a positive view and defense of it consistent with interpretation of prophecy employed through­out the book. My views and supporting arguments are presented in expanded technical form in my book.[577]

Perhaps the best way for anyone to begin his studies of a difficult passage like this one is to read it slowly, think of the context as he reads, and see what the obvious meaning seems to be. Insofar as the circumstances of treatment in a book of this type allows, we shall do just that, verse by verse, following the American Standard Version (1901) inasmuch as several obscurities due to faulty translation are cleared up in that version and the Revised Standard Version being particularly unsatisfactory in this text.

1.      The Special Character of the Seventy Weeks

Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, 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 [margin, a most holy place]. (Daniel 9:24)

Besides announcing the coming period of 490 years on the Jews and Jerusalem, the angel states what God is going to do in that period (not after it, but in it). It is in the next three verses that we are told how these things shall come to pass. Six things are to take place—again, observe, concerning Daniels “people” Israel, and their “city” Jerusalem:

a.      “to finish transgression”

Daniel had been confessing the rebellious breaches of the divine law. Within this period these transgressions are to come to an end. The Hebrew word has no connection with atonement, as advocates of a "church" interpretation suppose, but rather to restrain, cause to cease. (as the rain, Gen. 8:2). The disobedience of these people is to cease; an age of obedience is to be ushered in.

b.      "to make an end of sins"

A literal translation is "to seal up sins.” As in the book of Job where God is said to seal up the stars so that they do not shine[578] and as cold weather seals up the hand of man so that he cannot continue his accustomed daily labor,[579] so in this period of seventy weeks of years, the sins of Daniel's people are to be brought under full restraint. The same seems to be the idea of sealing Satan in the pit—to bring his activities to an end.[580] Sins are related to transgressions as failures are consequent upon a rebellious attitude.

c.       "to make reconciliation for iniquity"

The work of reconciliation accomplished at Calvary by the Lord will be effective for Israel when again in their land, "in that day" of his second appearing, they "look on him whom they have pierced",[581] and shall repent.[582] "In those days, and in that time saith the Lord, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve".[583]

The previous three matters to be effected during the 490 years are negative: the settlement of their sin problem; the second group of three have to do with the establishment of positive righteousness among them, not imputed righteousness but personal righteousness and national moral integrity.

d.      "to bring in everlasting righteousness"

This will be affected by an inward moral transformation within the people, writing the law of God in their hearts.[584]

e.      "to seal up vision and prophecy [margin and Heb., prophet]"

When there is no more sin to correct, the disciplinary words of the prophets will cease to be needed. This is specifically declared at Jeremiah 31:34.

f.        "to anoint the most holy [margin, a most holy place]"

There is more agreement among commentators with regard to the interpretation of this phrase than might be expected for most of them agree that the lan­guage specifies that with the ending of sinning among Daniel's people and the bringing in of righteousness, a new Jewish temple shall be anointed (as was the tabernacle in the wilderness), i.e., set aside for divine worship. Mount Zion will be crowned with a new temple, of which the tabernacle and the succession of temples of old were but shadows. The glory-presence of the Lord will return;[585] the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of cloud by night likewise.[586] The ritual, since the death of our Lord put an end to sacrifices forever, will be different, but "The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, saith Jehovah of hosts; and in this place will I give peace".[587]

2.      The First 69 of the Weeks

Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem 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. (Daniel 9:25)

There never has been but one common Christian interpretation of “the anointed one, the prince”: that he is the Lord Jesus Christ. "Anointed" is the Hebrew word "Messiah," in Greek translation, Christos, Latin Christus; hence, English, Christ. The word "prince" is a desig­nation entirely proper to the Savior.[588]

Now, therefore, we see two periods, one of seven sevens (49 years) to be followed by another of 62 sevens (434 years), 483 years in all, were to expire between the giving of a decree to restore the Jewish city of Jerusalem and the appearance of Christ. The decree is one made in heaven, of course, but manifest on earth by some king's announcement. An examination of the evidence (too lengthy to report and discuss here) leads to the conclusion that only one decree reported in the Old Testament fits the specifications as a "commandment to restore and to build Jeru­salem." This was the one made by the Persian king Arataxerxes Longimanus (465-423 B.C.) in the year 445 (perhaps 444) B.C. and executed by Nehe­miah. The story is told in the first two chapters of Nehemiah. What events were to transpire during the first period of seven weeks (49 years) is not stated, but likely it was the completion of the Restoration temple. Why it took so long is explained by several facts. The massive walls e­rected over the centuries on old Jebusite foundations by a succession of kings, David to Zedekiah, and many times enlarged and repaired, were really broken down. They were in wholly wrecked condition when Nehemiah and his men set out to rebuild them.[589] The people were neither numerous nor especially ambitious, as the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi show. Furthermore, there were many opponents and several interruptions (Nehemiah). The prophecy of Haggai was directed mainly to stirring up the sluggish immigrants, who had come several years before, to rise up and finish the task.

There is no suggestion of any interval or gap between the seven and the 62-week periods. I am acquainted with no convincing arguments for any break in the consecutive continuity of the prophecy before the end of the sixty-ninth week, though I have read several learned works so advocating.

A bit of simple arithmetic shows how the prophecy was fulfilled. Seven times 69 is 483 years, the period from the decree of the Persian king to Messiah's presentation. The time from 445 to about 30 A.D., the end of Christ's career, is about 474 years.[590] Knowing as we do, that our knowledge of dates in those ages is only approximately certain, and that prophecies of time were not always exactly intended, the correspondence is close enough to demonstrate that Daniel really did predict the actual time of Messiah's appearance.

It is possible, however, that we may be able to refine the matter further. The New Testament seems to indicate that Christ only once officially presented himself to the Jews as their "Messiah-Prince," and that was at the beginning of the last week of his life in what is known as the "Triumphal Entry." Fulfilling the prediction that their "king" would come to them “just and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass",[591] Jesus on that one occasion presented himself to the nation as their promised king. Previously he had commanded his disciples not to proclaim him as the Messiah.[592] He had previously steadfastly refused either to be made king or to act as their judge.[593] But on this day he gave the instructions for his entrance that led to his being proclaimed by the crowds as Son of David, the promised king who would come in Jehovah’s name.[594] As Jesus moved into sight of the city,[595] some of the Pharisees complained and asked him to rebuke his followers, Whereupon Jesus said, "if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out".[596] This was clearly his presentation day. He apparently knew he was acting in God's will and thereby fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. No other understanding of these words seems adequately to explain the solemn intent.

Certain scholars have interpreted the seventy weeks of prophetic years on the basis of a 360 day year. Making full account of astronomical and chronological data they have calculated that Daniel's prediction was car­ried out to the very day.[597] The case is a strong one and is well presented.

3.      The Hiatus between 69th and 70th Week           

And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off, and shall have nothing: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:26)

It is crucial to understanding this portion of prophecy to note carefully that two events clearly indicated and separated by 38 years of time, are introduces after the sixty-ninth week but before the seventieth. The text says “after” and the order of happenings requires "before." These two events are the cutting off of messiah by death (about 30 A.D.) and the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple about forty years later (70 A.D.) by the people (Roman) of the "coming" wicked prince Antichrist. There, are competent interpreters of nearly every school of believing interpretation who insist that this coming prince is Antichrist, said to be "coming" because his coming has previously been clearly predicted in Daniel.[598] The mighty pen of F.C. Kreit defends this view.

Thus, a gap is introduced between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks—not arbitrarily by theologians, as is sometimes claimed, but exe­getically by the very language of the text itself. This verse suggests, however, that continuing wars, invasions (flood) and desolations shall plague the city of Jerusalem until "the end".[599]

4.      The Seventieth Week

And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate. (Daniel 9:27)

This coming prince, the anti-Messiah, shall affect a seven-year league covenant with Daniel’s people in their city,[600] people known in chapter seven and chapter eight as "the holy people.” In the middle of it Antichrist shall break the league, and begin to persecute them, as his ancient prototype, Antiochus, did in the second century B.C.

It is beyond the scope of this study fully to treat the later Biblical references to the two halves of this seventieth week. Jesus made reference to the “abomination” that marks its mid-point in his last great address, an eschatological discourse relating to the future of Jerusalem.[601] Paul's discussion of the "Son of Perdition" or "Man of Sin"[602] relates in part to the same event, in the opinion of many interpreters, the present writer included. The second half of this week is referred to in others of the oracles of Daniel—the three and one-half times wherein the little horn persecutes the holy people[603] and at least three times in the twelfth chapter.[604] Most importantly the seven years halved into two periods and indicated in Revelation by such literary devices as three and one-half times, 1260 days, 42 months becomes important to the interpretation of that book, supplying the indispensible key to the futuristic interpretation. This halved period is referred to no less than five times therein.[605]

These chronological data are bewildering to the beginning student of prophetic matters. One should beware of accepting uncritically everything that is said about them, but contrariwise, one should certainly approach their study with a hopeful sanctified curiosity to understand the oracles of God.

So ends the story of an immediate answer to a godly prophet's prayer. Before the prayer had scarcely begun the answer was on the way. It was not what the prophet expected. How could he have expected it? He no doubt hoped that God would tell him that the exile would end and restoration, complete, final, and forever would come at the end of the 70 years of Jeremiah’s prediction. God answered with more light. With the light came not an end to effort and study—rather with new tasks, new problems, new duties—and above all with new strength. So it will be with all godly prayers.

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