by Mike Ratliff
1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans- 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. (Daniel 9:1-2 ESV)
One of the worst parts about expounding scripture while not allowing “what men say” to influence that exposition is that there will always be some people who are “offended” or in disagreement with the analysis. I desire to offend no one. I deeply desire to be of use to my Lord in bringing His people into agreement about what His Word says. Therefore, I will continue to simply exposit scripture. As we have moved through Daniel I have tried very hard to look at extra-biblical sources only when necessary. I am very well aware that Daniel 9 is a hot button with some people. However, we must proceed.
Daniel was a very godly man. He was taken to Babylon before Nebuchadnezzar’s army destroyed Jerusalem. He was a youth who came into the King’s service as his “Prime Minister” because in him was found an excellent spirit. Daniel survived the Babylonian Kings who followed Nebuchadnezzar into the reign of Cyrus the first King of the Medo-Persian Empire. Daniel had a copy of Jeremiah’s prophecy about how long Jerusalem was to remain desolate. He read the part that we call Jeremiah 25:1-14. We will concentrate on vv8-14.
8 “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, 9 behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 10 Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. 13 I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. 14 For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.” (Jeremiah 25:8-14 ESV)
In this passage we read why God allowed the Judeans to go into captivity and that there would be a definite timetable for a restoration of city and nation. The prophecy says that Jerusalem will be desolate and the sons will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. After the seventy years are complete God will punish Babylon. Daniel would have also read Jeremiah 29, which is Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon exhorting them to not rebel, but serve their masters. In v10 we read, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” Daniel was a very sagacious man. He knew His God and believed Him. He knew that the time was nearing for the seventy years to end and also the Persians had conquered the Babylonians.
Daniel was probably in his eighties or even older here. He was not a young man. However, he was a godly man who served His God day and night. His heart yearned for Jerusalem and the restoration of the temple worship. Then he prayed.
3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. 12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the Lord our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. 15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day, we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
16 “O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord, make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.” (Daniel 9:3-19 ESV)
Notice that Daniel humbly comes before the Lord God his maker confessing the sins of the people and agreeing with God that they deserved far worse than they got. Then he prayed for God to turn aside His anger and wrath from the people and Jerusalem appealing not to their own merit but to God’s great mercy. Notice also how he pleaded with God to pay attention and act. He asked Him to not to Delay for His own sake. How often do we pray to God in a wimpy sort of way refusing to plead with Him over things like this? It is not wrong to pray for God to do something for His sake and great name as Daniel did here. Then Daniel got his answer.
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision. (Daniel 9:20-23 ESV)
Does God answer prayer? Does God love His people? Does God want us to pray in order to know Him and His ways? Yes, yes, and yes! Notice that God greatly loves Daniel. Why is that? Some translations render that statement by Gabriel as, “you are highly esteemed!” It should be deeply ingrained in each of God’s people to serve Him as Daniel did. Those who walk through this life as Spirit-led believers are in this group. Yes, God loves His people, but those who are highly esteemed and used by Him for His glory are those who seek nothing from this life except His glory. Those living like this can take all sorts of abuse and even not seek to “be right” in every discussion, but they will come at others as lions for the sake of their Lord’s glory. Notice also how soon God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer was sent to him. God sent it at the beginning of his pleas for MERCY! He did not demand anything from God for self. He simply wanted to know the truth and for God to be merciful to His people.
24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” (Daniel 9:24-27 ESV)
For us to understand this prophecy or vision given to Daniel by Gabriel from God in answer to his prayer for mercy, we must look at some historical data.
605 B.C. – Jeremiah’s prediction of Judah’s captivity. Daniel and others were deported to Babylon after this.
587 B.C. – God’s Word came to Jeremiah promising the rebuilding or re-inhabiting of Jerusalem.
586 B.C. – Jerusalem fell, the first temple was destroyed and most of the remaining Jews were taken to Babylon.
558 B.C. – Cyrus the Great became King of Persia and partnered with Media.
539 B.C. – Cyrus’ general, Gobryas, attacked the Babylonians
538 B.C. – Gobryas defeats Babylon, kills Belshazzar, Daniel received the “Seventy Weeks” prophecy and Cyrus decrees to end Jewish captivity.
536 B.C. – Foundations of the second temple were laid, thus ending the 70 year captivity (605 B.C. to 536 B.C.)
458 B.C. – Artaxerxes’ decrees to rebuild temple.
445 B.C. – Artaxerxes’ decrees to rebuild Jerusalem.
6? B.C. – 33? A.D. Life of Christ
A.D. 70 – Roman General Titus destroys Jerusalem and the temple.
Along with these important dates we must also take a look at the “coming prince” mentioned in v26. This mercurial person is mentioned here in Daniel and in the New Testament. Here are a few cross-references about this coming prince from Daniel 9 (coming prince), 2 Thessalonians 2 (man of sin) and Revelation 13 (the beast from the sea).
Characteristics Prince Man of Sin Beast
In Temple X X X
Makes Idol X X
Demands Worship X X
Succeeds in Deceiving
With Signs X X
Reign of Terror X X
Satan X X
3 1/2 Year Reign X X
Persecutes Saints X X X
World Ruler (implied) X X
Christ at His
Coming (implied) X X
The Hebrew term “seven” (shabua’) is used six times in Daniel 9:24-27. In every usage outside of this passage it always indicates a definite period of seven. Gabriel tells Daniel that the period of the prophecy is for seventy “sevens.” Nearly all Biblical Scholars believe this is referring to seventy periods of seven years. Here is the breakdown of what Gabriel told Daniel about the Seventy Weeks. The first period is for Seven sevens v25. These 49 years will begin with a “word to restore and build Jerusalem.” It will end with the coming of an anointed one, a prince. Following this period will be Sixty-two sevens. This is made up of 434 years. During this period the temple and city of Jerusalem will be rebuilt in troubled times. At the end of this period, an anointed one shall be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy Jerusalem and the temple. Then there is another Seven, 7 years, where the prince who is to come will make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. The Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Jesus Christ will take place.
There is a reason for the three separate groups of seven. We cannot jam them together demanding that they be concurrent. No, God separated them into these three groups for a reason. Let’s look at v25 again.
25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. (Daniel 9:25 ESV)
We must determine who sends out the word to restore and build Jerusalem. The time period from that moment to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. That is 49 years. The Hebrew for the “going out of the word” is “dabar.” This is simply a command, not necessarily a royal decree. It comes from someone with the authority to make it happen though. Also, we must not jump to the conclusion that the “anointed one” spoken of here is the Messiah. Scripture speaks of many other “anointed ones.” For instance God called Cyrus himself “His anointed.” When did Cyrus become king of Medo-Persia? That took place in 538 B.C. If we go back 49 years from that date we come to 587 B.C. Look at the chart above. That was when God’s Word came to Jeremiah promising the rebuilding or re-inhabiting of Jerusalem. Who has more authority than God? Then the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem is from God and took place in 587 B.C. through the prophet Jeremiah. 49 years later, Cyrus, God’s anointed, comes to power. This completes the Seven Sevens.
The Sixty-Two Sevens equals 434 years. We cannot simply start counting those years from the end of the Seven Sevens (538 B.C.). The only predictive event for this group of years is, “after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off.” It does not say how long after. There must be a time gap between the seven sevens and the sixty-two sevens, but how long? From this we see that the 490 years are made up of three sets of years that encompass a much longer span of time. What historical events would mark the beginning and ending of the sixty-two sevens then? From the text it would seem that the beginning of the rebuilding of the city walls of Jerusalem would be a good candidate for the beginning event. When was that? Nehemiah requested to go and rebuild the walls in April of 444 B.C. According to Josephus he then went to Babylon to seek volunteers from among the Jews to go with him. He also had to obtain building materials. Josephus tells us that he arrived in Jerusalem in the 25th year of Artaxerxes. That would be 440 B.C. If we then add 434 years to that date we get 6 B.C. Many scholars believe that his is probably the time of the birth of Christ because Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.
So far we have the seven sevens beginning with God’s word to Jeremiah and ending with the crowning of Cyrus the Great. Then there is a gap until 440 B.C. for the beginning of the sixty-two sevens which began with Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem. It ended with the birth of Christ in 6 B.C. These dates are firm and the alignment of the events with the number of years in these first two groups of sevens is too exact to be dismissed lightly.
In v26 we have a summary of what the people of the prince who is to come do to Israel and Jerusalem and the Jewish people. Josephus describes this in horrible detail. Needless to say, the end for Jerusalem came like a flood. However, what about the final seven? We already know that there is a gap between the first seven sevens and the sixty-two sevens. The final seven of the seventy takes place in the future to us. The prince who is to come is the lawless one and the Beast from the sea. In v27 we see that he makes a strong covenant with many for one week. That week is the last seven. Here is a simplistic breakdown of this seven. The first 3 1/2 years will be made up of a covenant between the prince who is to come and Israel. At the end of the 3 1/2 years, he commits the abomination of desolation. This reveals who he is to those who have discernment. Then in the next 3 1/2 years the great tribulation falls upon the world. It is ended with the return of Christ.
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