DANIEL - CHAPTER 9
A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
Copyright 2000 James Melough
9:1. “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;”
9:2. “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.”
Prophetically this is the most important chapter in the Bible for it contains the prophecy of the seventy weeks, a 490 year period in which God will complete His program for the salvation and blessing of Israel, and that will conclude with the establishment of the millennial kingdom.
Confusion has resulted from failure to distinguish between the 70 years of verse 2, and the 70 weeks (of years) of verse 24. God had commanded Israel to let the land lie fallow every seventh year, promising to give in the sixth year enough to last until the harvest of the ninth year, “When ye come into the land ... then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the Lord. Six years thou shalt sow thy field ... and prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit; but in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.... And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year ... then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of the old fruit until the ninth year....” (Le 25:2-22). And in Le 26:32-35 He threatened the most severe punishment for disobedience, including their removal from the land for a period equal to the number of the unkept sabbatic years. The 70 years of the Babylonian captivity were the punishment for 490 years of violation of God’s command. The 70 sabbatic years of rest denied the land by greedy, disobedient Israel during those 490 years, were given it while the nation languished in Babylon.
It is instructive to note that Daniel understood this “by books” (the Scriptures), not by a special miraculous revelation. God has revealed Himself and His requirements, in His Word. He who will not read will not know, and the folly of such willful ignorance may be assessed by realizing that until we know what God requires we can’t obey, and without obedience there is no blessing.
9:3. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:”
Little will be derived from our study of this section if we lose sight of the fact that Israel is a type of the Church; Jerusalem, a type of the human heart; and individual Israelites, types of individual believers. The professing church today is in much the same state spiritually as was Israel literally, and for the same cause. The chastisement of the Babylonian captivity we have seen to be directly related to Israel’s failure to keep the sabbatic year, a disobedience that had resulted in God’s causing the land to lie unworked until those years were made up.
Few will refuse to acknowledge that the professing church today lies also “desolate” spiritually (hereafter the professing church will be indicated by the single word church, uncapitalized; and the true Church by the single word Church, capitalized); but few are able to see that as “the desolations of Jerusalem” were the result of activity at times when God had said there was to be rest, so are “the desolations” of the hearts of individual believers, and the spiritual desolation of the church as a whole, due to their failure to observe the spiritual counterpart of the sabbatic year. But what is that spiritual counterpart? Simply this: analogous to every phase of Israel’s literal husbandry is a spiritual activity of the Church. The field represents the world (Mt 13:38). Israel’s plowing, sowing, and reaping have their counterparts in our evangelistic activity in the world. As Israel’s plowing prepared the fields, so do our prayers and testimonies prepare the hearts of men to receive “the seed” (the Gospel). Israel’s reaping corresponds to our seeing souls saved as a result of having “sown” the Word in the world. “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Ps 126:6). Israel’s work in the vineyards corresponds to our ministry to believers in the local churches.
But each seventh year the Israelites were to cease from all activity, and the desolations came because they didn’t cease. During that sabbatic year the Israelites were to rest, and eat what God had given in the preceding year. The lesson God would teach is that we are not to be engaged in an endless activity which He has not ordered, and that leaves no time to rest and feed our souls on the spiritual food with which He has blessed us. The lesson is largely ignored, however, and the average church is so busy with “activities” that there isn’t a free night in the week. But this frenzy of activity has produced in the church the same spiritual results as the forbidden literal agricultural activity of Israel: barrenness and desolation in the spiritual realm.
There are activities for the children, for the teens, for the young singles, for the young marrieds, and a host of other special groups - in spite of the fact that Scripture is silent as to any such activities on the part of the early Apostolic-age Church, nor does the New Testament give any direction for such. (Incidentally, the absence of instruction relative to such activities, does not, contrary to popular opinion, furnish liberty to promote them). There would be more time for God’s people to rest and feed their souls with His word if it was with the Church today as it was once: a coming together of all the age groups, not for “activities,” but to pray and study, being taught by men who have given themselves to the study of the Word, and have solid wholesome spiritual food to set before the saints. This would eliminate a good deal of activity that is spiritually profitless, and would give the believers time to rest, and sit quietly in the presence of God with opened Bibles, being nurtured by meditation on its truth as ministered by the Holy Spirit.
The writer is well aware of the popular excuse, “We’re living in a different age,” and would point out that God’s order for the early Apostolic days remains His order for the whole Church age. The church today languishes in the equivalent of the Babylonian captivity because of failure to observe the principle of the sabbatic year. Not only has meditation become a lost art, however, but worse, it is deemed by many professing Christians to be a waste of time! The truth is that without meditation all other time is wasted as far as spiritual profit is concerned.
Babylon represents false religion, and none but the spiritually blind will refuse to acknowledge that the churches, so recently delivered from that bondage, are being brought under it again with alarming speed.
Let’s look at some of the evidence. What qualifications, for example, are being sought today in those who profess to serve the church? Scripturally the only qualification is whether the man has spiritual gift as an evangelist, pastor (shepherd, elder, overseer), or teacher, Eph 4:11. Many churches, however, ignore the Divine requirements, and look, not for spiritual gift, but for natural talent trained in a Bible school or seminary, the diploma from such an institution being considered proof that the person has been “called” by God, and should therefore be commended to the work. The performance of many of these “commended workers” indicates that the much prized diploma is a worthless credential. Evidence of spiritual gift is completely lacking. A man may have many such certificates testifying to his ability in Hebrew, Greek, etc., but if he doesn’t have spiritual gift as an evangelist, pastor (elder), or teacher, those credentials aren’t worth the material they are written on as far as spiritual service is concerned. Much of the useless activity of the church in fact stems from this very cause, and is itself evidence of spiritual lack. This humanly devised and directed activity is the present day counterpart of Israel’s working in the seventh year when they should have been resting. For all their labor they had less than when they adhered to God’s order. The salaried “pastor” or “commended worker” has replaced the evangelists, pastors and teachers, with the result that there is neither evangelism, shepherding, nor teaching according to the Divine pattern. Since the “pastor” or “commended worker” is expected to do all the work which has been Divinely appointed for three separately gifted men, his very intrusion into these spheres precludes the development and exercise of these gifts in the Church, and the result is spiritual barrenness and desolation in spite of all the busy activity.
Evangelism has been watered down to make it more acceptable. With no mention of man’s ruined state, no mention of hell, no mention of the blood of Christ as the only remedy for sin, no call for repentance, men and women, apart from conviction of sin, are invited to “receive Jesus” as the solution for every need except that of the soul; and the result is that there are plenty of “converts” who know nothing of spiritual regeneration.
Pastoring (shepherding) has become largely a matter of keeping the new converts busy (give them something to do so that they’ll feel needed), or entertained (provide plenty of activities). The “successful” church for the most part is the one that manages to have the most programs, and which has found something for practically everybody to do.
And teaching has fared no better. It rarely rises above the level of the spiritual infant, so that the ministry appropriate to spiritual maturity is received with a blank uncomprehending stare, or dismissed with the wise platitude of those who pretend to understand - though they don’t - “It’s over their heads. They’re not ready for it yet.” And this in regard to those who profess to have been saved, some of them for many years!
These are only a few of the conditions corresponding to the barrenness and desolation that blighted the land as a result of Israel’s refusal to honor God by keeping each seventh year as a sabbath. An honest appraisal of the condition of the church will elicit the confession that history has repeated itself.
The realization that the Babylonian captivity - now almost ended - had been chastisement for disobedience, led Daniel to pray, and it seems that he was seeking now a revelation from God as to what was to befall Israel when the 70 years were complete.
His prayer has much to teach us. It was accompanied by “fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes,” Literal fasting was for the Apostolic age until AD 70 only. It is not for today, but inasmuch as it represents refusal to gratify the lusts of the flesh, it is the symbolic announcement of the truth that holiness (denial of the lusts of the flesh) is essential for effective prayer.
Sackcloth, the outward sign of sorrow and repentance, was rough and irritating to the skin. Since prayer is an expression of fellowship with God, Daniel’s wearing sackcloth would teach us that we are not to permit that fellowship to be interrupted by considerations of personal comfort, a pandering to the ease of the flesh. It would remind us also of the need to repent, and to forsake every known sin, if we would enjoy blessing.
Ashes are the memorial of the fire’s work, but fire is one of the symbols of the Holy Spirit. It may be therefore that Daniel’s wearing the ashes is the symbolic announcement of the truth that the man who would pray effectively must evince by his life that the Spirit has worked in his life. The Spirit’s work is to reduce to ashes, as it were, everything in which the flesh might glory. The literal ashes worn by Daniel declared symbolically the same truth as was expressed by Abraham, and significantly that was also in connection with prayer, “I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes,” (Ge 18:27). As to our bodies, we are but dust (Ge 3:19), and for the believer, all that he was in Adam has been condemned by the Spirit, and reduced, as it were, to ashes. Only he who displays in his daily living the holiness which God imputes, can pray effectively.
Daniel’s prayer had been combined with study of the Scriptures, and the result was that further revelation was given him. It should be noted, however, that his prayer was largely devoted to confession, and pleading for the blessing of Israel. Knowledge sought for its own sake “puffs up” the possessor, (1 Co 8:1), but knowledge sought for the blessing of others builds up the Church.
9:4. “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 to them that keep his commandments:”
Confession of sin ought to precede prayer, nor should we ever forget that He Who deigns to call us His children, and Who bestows upon us the privilege of calling Him Father, never ceases to be the “great and dreadful God”, i.e., the One Who is great, and to be revered, and who is merciful to those who love Him, that love being expressed in obedience, as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).
9:5. “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:”
As noted above, confession of sin must precede prayer, and confession must go beyond generalities : it must specify the sins.
9:6. “Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.”
Rejection of God’s servants was no small part of Israel’s sin, nor is it different today. Those who faithfully declare His Word are very often branded as old fashioned legalists, and it is to be noted that the rejection of the prophets wasn’t just by the common people: the rulers led the way, and in this also the church has followed all too faithfully in rebel Israel’s footsteps. It is the leaders of the church who have led the people into apostasy.
9:7. “O 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 unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.”
Because He is righteous God will never compromise with sin, nor will He permit His people to be anything less than righteous also, as it is written of Israel, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Ex 19:6), His command to the Church also being, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (living): because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pe 1:15-16).
Relative to the scattering of Israel amongst the nations, and to Judah’s shameful captivity in Babylon, there is a deeper significance than is at first apparent. Israel scattered amongst the nations points to the fact that the church is similarly scattered amongst the nations, not as salt to retard the moral corruption, or as light to alleviate the spiritual darkness, but as a corporate entity become so much like the unbelievers who constitute those nations, as to be virtually indistinguishable from them. Remembering, however, that Babylon represents false religion, Judah’s Babylonian bondage is the OT foreshadowing of the present state of the true Church. She is governed so much by what is “Babylonian” that what is Scriptural has virtually disappeared from her worship and service, one example being the almost universal acceptance of the clerical system, so that ministry by those whom God has gifted, rather than by those who have been theologically educated, is virtually unheard of.
9:8. “O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.”
Confusion is literally shame, and in repeating this confession, Daniel was emphasizing the justness of the judgment that had brought that shame. His repetition of the fact that all were guilty, from the king to the common man, also continued to declare the fitness of the punishment. It displays amazing grace on Daniel’s part that he was willing to include himself with the rest of the people, even though everything points to his being blameless. This continues to enhance the clarity of his being a type of the Lord Jesus Christ Who was willing to be numbered with the transgressors so that our sin might be put away.
9:9. “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him.”
Having been careful to establish the justness of the judgment, and having thereby made it clear that they had no claim upon God, he proceeded to declare further truth relative to God. He was not only a God of justice, but also of tender mercy, ready to forgive the guilty the moment they were willing to confess their sin, and seek His forgiveness. Nowhere, however, do we find God’s character more clearly displayed than at Calvary, for in that He spared not His own Son when that Son took our sins upon Himself, we see the righteousness of God, but in that He was willing to give that Son to be our Substitute, we see mercy beyond our ability to comprehend.
9:10. “Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.”
It must be remembered that those laws had been given after God had delivered the people from Egyptian bondage, that deliverance being itself a reason for the people to obey as an expression of gratitude for His having delivered them. They, however, had compounded their guilt by sinning against God countless times even as He provided for their every need while leading them across the desert to Canaan. And worse still, after being brought into Canaan with its milk and honey, they had continued to rebel against Him, yet through all the long years of the judges, when in chastisement He had delivered them into the hand of their enemies, He never failed to send them a deliverer as soon as they repented and cried out to Him. They may have forgotten all this, but Daniel hadn’t. It was the remembrance of God’s past great mercies to that unworthy nation, plus His assurance that the present chastisement would last for just seventy years, that impelled the prophet to come before Him seeking the promised mercy, now that the seventy years were about to end.
9:11. “Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.”
The reference to the law of Moses takes us back to Dt 11:26-28 where it is written, “Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God ... and a curse, if ye will not obey....” See also Dt 27 and 28 for details of the cursings and blessings pronounced.
Clearly Daniel’s concern wasn’t just for Judah and Benjamin in captivity in Babylon, but for Israel also which had been carried away to Assyria about 180 years earlier. Daniel’s heart was big enough to embrace all of God’s people, and in this also we find that which marks him as a beautiful type of Him Whose heart embraced, not just the nation of Israel, but the whole world.
9:12. “And we have confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil; for under the whole heaven hath not been done as he hath done upon Jerusalem.”
This is the acknowledgement that God keeps His word. Judah’s captivity in Babylon, and that of the ten tribes in Assyria, were the confirmation that cursing instead of blessing is the reward of disobedience, and we are missing the lesson of Israel’s experience if we fail to understand that the same principle applies today. Those who die in unbelief will have to endure eternal punishment in the lake of fire, and disobedient believers will suffer the eternal loss of reward at the judgment seat of Christ.
But there is a broader lesson than that which applies to individuals. Israel’s past judgments are but foreshadowings of a still more terrible one yet to come: that of the Tribulation era, when not only Israel, but all the nations will receive the just recompense of their blatant rebellion against the God of heaven. As His mercy is beyond the ability of man to measure, so also is His wrath. Jerusalem, once “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth” (Ps 48:2), had lain for seventy years heaps of rubble, which evoked the amazement of all who beheld what had once been the center of God’s blessing, but which had now become the scene of His fierce anger.
Jerusalem, however, was rebuilt, and still stands today, the warning connected with its former desolation forgotten by all but the few who believe the Scriptures. The city’s testimony to the folly of disobedience has been replaced by one far more dramatically poignant - Calvary’s cross, for there men are presented with the spectacle of God not sparing His Own Son when that Son took man’s guilty place, and suffered in His own body the outpouring of Divine wrath against sin. Well might the writer of Hebrews ask, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb 2:3).
9:13. “As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand the truth.”
As noted already, the law of Moses, in the present context, relates to what is written in Dt 11:26-28 and chapters 27-28, but here Daniel alludes to what Solomon had written relative to the remedy when Israel should make themselves the heirs of cursing rather than blessing, “If they sin against thee, (for there is no man which sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near; yet if they ... turn and pray unto thee ... saying, We have sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly; if they return to thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their captivity ... then hear thou from the heavens ... their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee” (2 Ch 6:36-39).
The people may have forgotten, and neglected to pray and confess their sin, but Daniel remembered, and in 6:10 we learn that in response to those words of Solomon, it had been his custom to pray three times every day - nor would he stop even when prayer to God endangered his life. Small wonder that Gabriel said of him, “thou art greatly beloved” (verse 23), and that twice more he should be described as “a man greatly beloved,” see 10:11, 19. Everything recorded of this outstanding man points to him as a type of the one perfect Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who not only prayed for Israel, but for all men, and Who didn’t just risk His life, but Who gave His life a ransom for men’s souls at Calvary.
9:14. “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.”
While God watched the sin of the people increase, and “watched upon the evil (the calamity)” i.e., held the judgment in check, giving them time to repent, the moment came when His patience came to an end because instead of repentance there was only increased wickedness. And as it was with Israel, so is it also with the nations. God has watched human wickedness increase, until today it covers the earth like a vast tidal wave of moral corruption, and as in the days prior to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities, He has restrained judgment, that restraint is about to end, and there will be poured out upon a desperately wicked world the terrible Tribulation judgments, of which the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities are but the shadows. As Daniel confessed the righteousness of the judgments that had befallen Israel and Judah, so will every rebel yet be made to confess too late the justice of his punishment, the terrible irony being that that confession made in time would have brought deliverance! Who can begin to measure the blessedness of those, who having had their eyes opened in time, have been led to make the confession that has saved their souls!
9:15. “And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.”
Daniel now rehearses God’s mighty deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage, a deliverance that had caused the nations to stand in awe of such a Deliverer, and the clear implication appears to be that still more honor would accrue to God by His delivering them now from the hand of their present oppressors, even though that oppression was the just recompense of their refusal to obey Him.
9:16. “O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.”
Continuing to acknowledge the righteousness of God, Daniel pleads for the turning away of the Divine anger, and for the restoration of Jerusalem, so that the nations would cease to deride both God and His people, and fear Him as in the past when He had overthrown the might of Egypt. This indicates that the prophet was no less concerned for the Lord’s honor than for the deliverance of the people, and he made no attempt to diminish the fact that it was their disobedience that was responsible for God’s being robbed of the honor that was His due. But Daniel’s concern for God’s honor simply foreshadows the greater concern of the Lord for the Father’s honor and glory, as expressed in His own words, “Father, glorify thy name” (Jn 12:28), and again, on the night of His betrayal, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him” (Jn 13:31), and again, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” (Jn 17:4). The Father’s glory was the great objective of the Lord’s life. We who are believers should never forget that our obedience and God’s honor are inseparably linked. He is dishonored every time we sin, for it furnishes the adversary with opportunity to mock the Creator Whose sons and daughters we have been made through His amazing grace, based on the perfect obedience of His Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
9:17. “Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake.”
Having first confessed grievous sin on the part of the people, Daniel pleaded not, it should be noted, for the deliverance of the people, but for God’s glory, which was inseparably linked with Jerusalem and the Temple. With God’s glory his foremost concern, this faithful servant longed to see the city and Temple restored to the glory that had been theirs in the early days of Solomon’s reign, so that the nations would again fear the Deliverer of Israel.
What power would mark believers today had we but the same concern for God’s glory, and were we to follow Daniel’s example in prayer by beginning with genuine repentant confession of sin before presenting our supplications!
9:18. “O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.”
Daniel knew what many professing Christians today do not: that we can never plead our own righteousnesses before God. If we are to be blessed it must be on the basis of His righteousness and His great mercy displayed at Calvary. His righteousness required that sin be punished by death. His mercy led Him to give His only begotten Son to die in our place, so that He could impute to every believer both the life and the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because God is gracious as well as merciful, our righteous deeds will bring us reward at the judgment seat of Christ, but that comes very far short of giving us any claim upon Him.
9:19. “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.”
Daniel, having undertaken to be the intercessor for the guilty people, and having confessed their sin, concluded his prayer by simply casting himself on God’s mercy, and by pleading for pardon and a speedy delivery, not because he or the people were worthy, but because both city and people belonged to God, so that the desolation of the one and the captive state of the other impugned His honor.
How much more effectual is the intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ! He can present a reason that wasn’t available to Daniel. All the sins of those who belong to God, have been atoned for by the precious blood shed at Calvary. That very fact, however, ought to compel such gratitude as will deter believers from sinning.
9:20. “And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God;”
9:21. “Yea, whiles 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.”
“Speaking, and praying, and confessing” are literally, “speaking in prayer and confession.” Daniel is one of the few men in Scripture of whom no sin is recorded (Joseph is another), yet it is instructive to read of him confessing his own sin, for as it is written, “There is no man that sinneth not” (1 Ki 8:46). Human judgment might reason that such confession was unnecessary since compared to Israel, Daniel was virtually sinless, but in recording this confession, God would remind us that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Man without sin. He would remind us also that confession of our sins must be the prelude to prayer.
Here is recorded also the swift response of God, reminding us of what He Himself has written, “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isa 65:24). Another instance of His speedy response to prayer is recorded in Ge 24:45 in regard to the prayer of Abraham’s servant relative to guidance in finding a bride for Isaac, for there we read, “And before I had done speaking in mine heart, behold, Rebekah came forth....” He is no less attentive to the prayers of His own today, delayed response indicating, not that He hasn’t heard, but that He in His perfect wisdom knows that the request is better denied, or the answer reserved for a better time.
Gabriel’s being described as “the man” means simply that he had appeared in the form of a man, while his being made to fly swiftly confirms what has already been noted relative to the swiftness of God’s response to His servant’s prayer. Its being given “about the time of the evening oblation” is recorded not just as an incidental detail, but to remind us perhaps that that lamb, the last sacrifice of the day, is a type of the One offered at Calvary, the last sacrifice, which fulfilled the type of all the others, and which enables God to answer the prayer of the believer with blessing instead of judgment.
9:22. “And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.”
He was to be shown that Judah’s seventy year captivity in Babylon was but the foreshadowing of a far broader historical panorama that would be climaxed by something far better than the return of Israel and Judah to the Palestine of Daniel’s day. God was about to reveal to His servant, not the climax of seventy years of chastisement and scattering, but of seven times seventy, a four hundred and ninety year period that would see Israel crown her iniquity by crucifying her Messiah and then refusing to believe in His resurrection, which would be followed by His return to earth in power and glory to banish His foes into hell, inaugurate His millennial kingdom, and bring a converted remnant of Israel and of the nations into the enjoyment of that glorious kingdom.
9:23. “At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.”
The moment Daniel had begun to pray, God sent Gabriel to reveal to him the most important prophecy in Scripture. And the reason he was so highly favored? He was greatly beloved, which tells us of his outstanding obedience, for it was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself Who said, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (Jn 14:21).
9:24. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”
In Hebrew usage the term “week” meant simply “seven,” and could be a period of seven days, weeks, months, or years, the context indicating which time period was meant. In the present instance the context leaves no doubt that these weeks are sevens of years, so that the prophecy relates to a period of seventy sevens of years, that is, four hundred and ninety years. It must be remembered, however, that prophetic time is measured in Jewish years, which are of three hundred and sixty days. The prophecy relates also specifically to “thy people,” that is, the Jews; and to “thy holy city,” that is, Jerusalem. Their being described as Daniel’s people and city, rather than God’s, is the reminder that God will not acknowledge them as His until that day, still future, when they will fulfill what God has declared of them, “they shall look on me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zec 12:10). Until that day they must remain “Lo-ammi ... not my people” (Ho 1:9).
The word “determined” is from a root meaning “to cut off.” Those seventy weeks of years (490 years) are “cut off” from the rest of time as a special period in which God will complete His program for the restoration and blessing of Israel, and through Israel, the nations.
God’s activity during those 490 years will be: (1) to finish transgression, (2) to make an end of sins, (3) to make reconciliation (atonement) for iniquity, (4) to bring in everlasting righteousness, (5) to seal up vision and prophecy, i.e., fulfill what the prophets had foretold, (6) to anoint the most Holy, i.e., anoint the most holy place, the innermost compartment of the Temple.
Israel has been guilty of many transgressions, but the one that transcends all others is her crucifixion of Christ, and her refusal to believe upon Him after being assured that God viewed the crucifixion as a sin of ignorance, Ac 2:36-39; 3:17. That great transgression will be “finished” when the Tribulation judgments will have brought Israel (represented by the believing remnant) to repentance and faith in Christ.
“to make an end of sins.” Israel’s Levitical sacrifices could cover sin only temporarily, but the foretold 490 years would see the offering of the perfect sacrifice (Christ) that would put away for ever not only the sin of the believing remnant of Israel, but of the believing remnant of the nations also. The original language indicates that the thought here is of sealing up for punishment. Within the foretold time period Christ would bear that punishment.
“to make reconciliation for iniquity.” Here the primary thought is of covering or making atonement. The 490 years would see the blood of Christ shed as the perfect covering, not only for Israel’s sins, but for those of the whole world.
“to bring in everlasting righteousness.” The righteousness provided through Christ’s death is a righteousness that will last for ever. Scholars, however, point out that the thought here is of the bringing in of an age of righteousness. The 490 years will bring in the millennial kingdom that will be characterized by righteousness, and that will be followed by the everlasting righteousness of the eternal state, to be enjoyed by everyone, who through faith, clothes or covers himself with Christ’s right-eousness.
“to seal up the vision and prophecy.” The Millennium will witness the fulfillment of all that was promised by the prophets, that fulfillment being made possible because Christ first went to Calvary to fulfill what the prophets had written concerning the expiation of sin.
“and to anoint the most Holy.” Inasmuch as the word “holy” here refers, not to a person, but to a place or thing, it can scarcely relate to anything except the Holy of Holies in the millennial temple, a view shared by virtually all commentators.
The fact that these blessings to be enjoyed in the Millennium are six (number of imperfection) reminds us that there won’t be perfection even during that age of unprecedented blessing. Perfection belongs to the eternal state to which the Millennium will give place.
9:25. “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.”
The beginning of those seventy weeks (490 years) was to be “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.” That commandment was the decree of Artaxerxes issued on what others have calculated to have been March 14, 445 BC, according to our calendar, and recorded in Nehemiah chapter 2. They were divided into three parts, seven weeks (49 years), sixty-two weeks (434 years), and one week (7 years). The first seven weeks (49 years) were to be employed in rebuilding temple and city “in troublous times.” This was completed by the remnant that returned from the Babylonian captivity, as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah.
Those 7 weeks (49 years) were to be followed by 62 weeks (434 years), making a total of 69 weeks (483 years), at the end of which Messiah would present Himself. In his book The Coming Prince, Sir Robert Anderson has shown that the conclusion of those 69 weeks of years was not the day on which Christ was crucified, but the day on which He rode into Jerusalem on the back of the ass’s colt, presenting Himself as the Messiah, in fulfillment of Zec 9:9. The same author has calculated that that day, according to our calendar, was April 6, 32 AD, and the accuracy of the prophecy is demonstrated by the fact that from March 14, 445 BC till April 6, 32 AD is 173,880 days, the exact number of days in 483 years (69 weeks or sevens of years of 360 days each)!
9:26. “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: 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 unto the end of the wars desolations are determined.”
Without specifying the date, the prophecy simply states that “after (the) threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off ...” and as we know, Christ was crucified (cut off) just a few days after having been hailed as the Messiah. (It is interesting to note that the original word translated “cut off” is used of executing the death penalty on a criminal - The Bible Knowledge Commentary). The prophecy, however, includes the detail that though Messiah would be slain, it would be “not for himself,” i.e., not for any wrong that He had done. Isaiah has recorded the reason, “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa 53:5).
Again without specifying the exact time, the prophecy declares that, “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary,” the fulfillment coming in AD 70 when the Romans, under Titus, destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and brought Jewish autonomy to an end, the Jews having remained scattered amongst the nations to this very day.
Clearly Titus was not that coming prince, nor is Christ. From the same people (the Romans) there is yet to come that evil ruler described here as “the prince that shall come,” and in Re 13:10 as the “beast ... out of the sea (of the nations).” He will be the final great Gentile king, head of the revived Roman empire, which in the Tribulation period will wield even greater power than did the Roman empire of the past.
At this point we must digress for a moment to note that the God Who foretold the scattering of Israel, has also foretold her regathering, e.g., “After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight” (Ho 6:2). And remembering that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pe 3:8), the restoration of Jewish autonomy in 1948, and the steady flow of Jews back to Palestine since then, after approximately 2,000 years (2 days by Divine reckoning), are simply two of the many signs which declare that Daniel’s seventieth week (the seven years of the Tribulation era) can’t be far off.
“... and the end thereof shall be with a flood” is usually taken to mean that the end will come with the suddenness and devastating power of a flood,” but commentators disagree as to whether “the end” refers to the end of Jewish autonomy in AD 70, or to the end of the age, i.e., the end of the Tribulation, the latter seeming to be the more likely.
“... and unto the end of the war desolations are determined,” it is more generally agreed should be, “War will continue till the end (i.e., till the end of the Tribulation), and desolations have been decreed.”
9:27. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”
It is generally agreed that the correct rendering is “a” covenant, rather than “the” covenant, and the one week, of course is a week or a seven of years, i.e., the seven years of the Tribulation era. That seven year covenant or treaty between Israel and the Roman beast ruler, will promise them unmolested occupation of Palestine for seven Jewish years of 360 days each. The signing of that treaty will mark the beginning of the Tribulation, and the end of seven years of 360 each from the day that treaty is signed, will be the exact day on which the Lord Jesus Christ will return in power and glory to end the Tribulation, judge the nations, and establish His millennial kingdom. That date can’t be calculated today because the date of the signing of Israel’s treaty with the beast is unknown.
“And in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” At the end of three and a half years the beast will violate the covenant by putting an end to the Temple worship, presenting himself in the Temple as God, and demanding that he be worshipped, see 2 Th 2:4 and Re 13. That violation will mark the beginning of the great Tribulation, the final three and a half years of the whole Tribulation era. Thus the seventy weeks (490 years) will end with the terrible Tribulation judgments that will bring the remnant of Israel, and multitudes of Gentiles, to repentance and faith in Christ.
Other translations render the latter part of this 27th verse more clearly than does the KJ version, one, e.g., reads, And one who causes desolation will place abominations on a wing of the temple, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” History has confirmed the accuracy of the prophecy that wars and desolations would characterize, not only the seventieth week, but the long interval (the two thousand years of the Church age) between it and the preceding sixty -nineth week.
The fact that this coming evil prince will cause “the sacrifice and the oblation to cease” indicates that the Levitical system will have been restored during the seventieth week, and this of course implies the existence of a temple again in Jerusalem.
The “abominations” of verse 27 undoubtedly refer to the setting up of the image of the final wicked ruler, and the accompanying idolatrous worship, see Re 13:11. All of these things, however, simply declare the omniscience of God, Who while permitting man the exercise of free will, could write with absolute certainty twenty-six hundred years ago, what the exercise of that free will would produce. While permitting man the use of his free will, an omnipotent God can still work all things together for the accomplishment of His own purposes.
In concluding our study of this chapter we present a brief summary of Sir Robert Anderson’s calculations relative to the first sixty-nine of the seventy weeks. As has been noted already, the beginning of the period was March 14, 445 B.C., the date of the decree of Artaxerxes that ended the Babylonian captivity, and permitted the Jews to return to Palestine. The day on which Christ rode into Jerusalem in fulfillment of Zec 9:9 was April 6, 32 A.D., making the interval between those two dates to be 173,880 days. But His presentation of Himself on that day as Israel’s Messiah was to be also the last day of the 69 weeks of years, i.e., 483 years. It must be remembered, however, that those were Jewish years of 360 days each (as are all prophetic years), and 483 x 360 equals 173,880 days.
If Mr. Anderson’s calculations are correct - and in the hundred years since they were first presented, no one has proved them wrong - then there is ample justification for believing that as the first 69 of those prophetic “weeks” were fulfilled right to the very day, so will the remaining one week also be fulfilled right to the very day.
When the Lord declared the impossibility of knowing the exact date of His return, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Mt 24:36), it was because another date was, and still is, unknown: the date when the Roman prince, the beast, will sign the covenant with Israel that will mark the beginning of the Tribulation, Daniel’s seventieth week. It isn’t given to the Church to know the exact date of the Lord’s return to effect the Rapture, as it was given to Israel to know the date of His presentation of Himself as the Messiah. Their own Scriptures provided the date from which they were to count the sixty-nine weeks of years that would end with His presentation of Himself, but blind eyes would not see, deaf ears would not hear, and so the day came without their knowing it, causing Christ to weep, as it is written, “And when He was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes” (Lk 19:41,42).
As that past generation of Israelites should have known the exact day of His presentation as their Messiah, so will it be given to the Tribulation-age generation of Israelites to know the exact date of His second coming in power and glory. As the first sixty-nine weeks began with the decree of Artaxerxes, the last week will begin on the day the Roman prince signs the seven-year covenant. As the first sixty-nine weeks (483 years of 360 each) ended exactly on the specified date, so will that last week end exactly on the date that will bring the end of the seven years of 360 days each. That day, which can’t now be calculated because that covenant hasn’t yet been signed, will be easily calculated then. From that date - the day the covenant is signed - it will be exactly 2,520 days (seven years of 360 days each).
The Church looks for the Lord to return and effect the Rapture, knowing only that it is imminent, but not exactly specified. The Tribulation-age remnant, looking for His return to establish the millennial kingdom, will know the exact day of that return. Prophecy relative to Israel is specific, naming day and date. Relative to the Church, however, there is no such precision. Enough information is given so that we may know the approximate time of a foretold event, but not the exact day.