Whose covenant is confirmed in Daniel 9:27; God’s covenant with Israel or the devil’s?

Ark of the CovenantIt is God’s covenant with Israel, for Daniel 9 follows the covenant pattern of Disobedience – Repentance – Covenant Renewal.  The 490 years, including the last seven, therefore are a renewal of God’s covenant with Israel.  This is confirmed by the phrase “confirm the covenant”  and by “the many”, with whom the covenant is confirmed, who are God’s people. 

Central Theme

Summary: God’s covenant with Israel is the backbone of the entire Daniel 9.  The covenant in 9:27 must therefore also be God’s covenant with Israel.

7 year covenantDispensationalism interprets the covenant in 9:27 as a covenant of an end time antichrist, but it is proposed here that it is God’s covenant with Israel because God’s covenant with Israel is the central theme throughout the entire Daniel 9.  This is explained in The Covenant in Daniel 9, as well as in the previous article under the heading Prophetic Years, but this matter is critical for understanding Daniel 9.

Covenant with Israel in brief

God commanded Israel to allow the land to rest every seventh year (Leviticus. 25:1-2).  Israel was to work the land for six years (v3), but not on the seventh (v4).

God made this seven-year cycle part of the covenant by using it to count the number of years of exile (Lev. 26:35, 43).  Should Israel become unfaithful (Lev. 26:14-39), God will scatter them among the nations (Lev. 26:33) to allow the land to have its rest (v34, 43).  The period of exile would be equal to the number of years during which the land did not have its rest (v35, 43).

But if Israel confesses their sin (v40), God would renew His covenant with them (v42), that He might be their God (v45).

Daniel 9 follows this covenant pattern:

(1) The prophecy of Daniel 9 was received at the end of Israel’s exile of 70 years (Dan 9:2).  The exile was the covenant penalty for unfaithfulness: Israel was scattered to allow the land to have its rest (2Ch 36:21; Dan 9:11-13; cf. Lev. 25:2).

Daniel(2) In his prayer (9:4-19) Daniel confessed the justice of the sentence, Yahweh’s righteousness (9:7) and Israel’s guilt (9:5-11).  In this way Daniel fulfilled the condition for covenant renewal after exile (Leviticus 26:40-41).  On behalf of Israel, and he prayed for the renewal of Israel’s covenant privileges.

(3) The announcement “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city” (9:24) renewed God’s covenant with Israel in terms of Leviticus 26:42, 45, but limited to 490 years.

Conclusion

God’s covenant with Israel is therefore the central theme in the entire Daniel 9.  This implies that the promised 490 years is an extension of God’s covenant with Israel, and therefore that the last “one week” (9:27) is the final seven years of that time-limited renewed covenant.

Confirm the Covenant

Summary: The phrase “confirm the covenant” (9:27) means that this covenant existed prior to the 70th week.  Then it can only be God’s covenant with Israel.

The verb translated “make a firm” in the NASB is “gâbar”.  Strong’s short definition of this word is “prevailed”.  Of the 25 times this word appears in the OT, it is 14 times translated as prevail. The evidence of the usage of gâbar in the Bible (“The covenant of the Seventieth Week” by Meredith G. Kline) indicates that verse 27 has in view the enforcing of a covenant previously granted.  It is not a verb for the initial making of a covenant.  It should therefore be translated as “make firm a covenant”, and not as “make a firm covenant”.  The KJV translates it as “confirm the covenant” and Young’s Literal Translation reads “strengthening a covenant”.  “Confirm” and “strengthen” imply a covenant that existed prior to the last seven years.  If so, it can only refer to God’s faithful fulfillment of the covenant He has given to His people.

The many

The many”, with whom the covenant is confirmed, most often refers to God’s people.  For instance:

The Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities“ (Isa 53:11)

Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days” (Dan 11:33; See also Dan 11:39; 12:3; Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 9:26-28; Rom 5:15, 19; 1Co 10:33).

The covenant in 9:27 is therefore God’s covenant with Israel.

Summary

Dispensationalism argues that the covenant in verse 27 is a new covenant made by an end time Antichrist.  But it is God’s covenant with Israel, for the following reasons:

Central Theme – An analysis of the covenant in Leviticus 25-26 and of Daniel 9 shows that Daniel 9 follows the covenant pattern of Disobedience – Repentance – Covenant Renewal, and that the 490 years are a renewal of God’s covenant with Israel.

Confirm the Covenant – The phrase “confirm the covenant” (9:27 KJC) reflects the meaning of the verb gâbar.  It means that this covenant existed prior to the 70th week.

The manyThe many”, with whom the covenant is confirmed, most often refers to God’s people.

Of the six times that the word “covenant” appears in Daniel, it is four times explicitly God’s covenant with Israel.

NEXT:  Who confirms the covenant for seven years; the Messiah or the prince?  In the middle of these seven year he makes an end to sacrifice.  This article considers the poetic structure and messianic nature of the prophecy, and evaluates the possible antecedents in verse 26.

TO:  Daniel 9 Interpretations Overview
TO:  Daniel 9: List of available articles

Dispensationalism and the Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9; An introduction

DispensationalismDaniel 9 allows Jerusalem a further 70 cycles of 7 years each—490 years—to achieve 6 goals.  The prophecy therefore promises that Jerusalem would be restored to Israel to serve as their executive capital.  The city is rebuilt constructed to receive the Messiah, but it is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.  In Dispensationalism the last seven years are the seven last years before the Return of Christ, when the antichrist rule.  In the traditional interpretations the last seven years revolves around the Cross. 

Articles

This is the first article in a series on the Dispensational Interpretation of Daniel 9:

(1) Introduction to Dispensationalism and Daniel 9: Overview of the text of Daniel 9 and of the Dispensational interpretation
(2) Time indications in Daniel 9: When was the decree issued, when did the Messiah appear and when did God suspend His covenant with the Jews?
(3) Whose covenant is confirmed in Daniel 9:27; God’s covenant with Israel or the devil’s?
(4) Who confirms the covenant for seven years; the Messiah or the prince?
(5) Is the last week the last seven years before Christ returns?
(6) Dispensationalism Daniel 9 and the Antichrist: Other inconsistencies compared to the text
(7) When will the Daniel 9:24 goals, set by for the 490 years, be fulfilled?

Origin

John Nelson DarbyEvangelical Christians today extensively hold to the Dispensationalism view on eschatology, in spite of its relatively recent origin.  Dispensationalism is often linked with the teachings on prophecy by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)—from the 1830s on—and the Plymouth Brethren of Ireland.  Scofield (1843-1921) of the United States was influenced by Darby and presented the view of seven dispensations from Eden to the new creation in the notes of the widely used Scofield Reference Bible.

Overview of the Prophecy

Daniel the prophetsDaniel received the Daniel 9 prophecy in the year 538 BC.  At that time the Jewish nation was in Babylon in captivity, and Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins.  Daniel prayed for Jerusalem (9:16), the sanctuary (9:17) and for his people (9:19).  While still praying, the angel Gabriel appeared to him (9:21) and gave him the extremely compact and powerful prophecy contained in verses 24 to 27:

Verse 24

The prophecy commences with the announcement that 70 weeks have been decreed for Israel and for its capital city, Jerusalem, to achieve 6 goals:

Seventy WeeksSeventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to
   finish the transgression, and
   make an end of sins, and   
   make reconciliation for iniquity, and
   bring in everlasting righteousness, and
   seal up the vision and prophecy, and to 
   anoint the most Holy. (KJV)

Israel’s calendar followed a seven-year cycle in which every seventh year was a Sabbath for the land (Lev. 25).  The 70 weeks are 70 of those seven-year cycles, and consequently equal to 490 years.

The remaining three verses describe the events through which the six goals above were to be achieved.

Verse 25

This verse indicates when the 490 years start:

So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to Rebuild Jerusalem Jerusalem

To identify this decree, it is important to distinguish between “restore” and “rebuild”.  “Restore” in the original text means to give the city back to its previous owner.  “Restore” does not include the idea of rebuilding.  Jerusalem was the judicial and executive capital of the Israeli people.  To restore Jerusalem means that it will be returned to the Jews to serve as their capital from which they would rule their whole nation, according to their own laws as a theocentric society.

Verse 25 continues to say that the Messiah Prince would appear 69 sevens (483 years) after that decree:

from the issuing of a decree … until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (NASB).

Verse 25 concludes by adding that the rebuilding of Jerusalem would be “in troublous times”.

Verse 26

This verse shifts the focus back to the Messiah.  While verse 25 indicated that the Messiah will appear at the end of the first 483 years, verse 26 states that he would be cut off “after” the 69 sevens.

Verse 26 then again diverts the focus to Jerusalem, stating that it will be destroyed again.  Since 70 weeks have been decreed for Jerusalem, it must be this destroyed after the end of the 70 weeks.

The CrossIt is important to note how the prophecy repeatedly jumps back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  Verses 25 and 26 switch four time from the one to the other.  As discussed in the article Poetry and Chiasm in Daniel 9, the prophecy of Daniel 9 is a form of poetic parallelism in which Jerusalem and the Messiah are the two foci.  These two foci stand in cause-effect relationships; the city is rebuilt to receive the Messiah, but it is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.

Verse 27

The first part of verse 27 focuses on the final seven years:

And he shall with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease” (9:27 KJV)

The only event during the first 483 years is “restore and rebuild Jerusalem”.  The death of the Messiah, the “confirm the covenant” and the “cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease” (9:27) all happen during the final seven years.  These final seven years therefore are the core and the real purpose of the 490 years.  The first 483 years merely serve to locate the last seven years in time.

The last part of verse 27 describes unspecified destruction.

Conclusion

Daniel 9 is very different from the other prophecies in Daniel.  Daniel 9 is literal and only deals with Israel and the 490 years.  The other prophecies are symbolic and deal with all nations and with all time.

Dispensationalism: interpretation in brief

In Dispensationalism:

The 490 years start with the second decree of Artaxerxes I (Neh. 1-2), who gave Nehemiah permission to repair Jerusalem.

The first 483 years end with Jesus’ triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

The 490 years are not viewed as continuous, but a huge “paren­thesis” or “gap” is inserted between the first 483 years and the final seven years.  The entire “church age” is a gap during which the prophetic clock has stopped ticking.

The seven years are the final seven years before the Return of Christ, commencing with the rapture of the church.  The rapture includes the resurrection of dead saints and the translation of living saints.  They will secretly be removed from the earth.

Confirm the covenantDuring the 70th week the antichrist will arise; a revived Roman empire whose prince will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation during the latter half of the seven years.

Traditional Interpretation

There is not much difference between Dispensationalism and the traditional Protestant interpretations of the first 483 years.  Both start the 490 years with a decree of Artaxerxes and both end the first 483 years in the time of Christ.  The major difference is with respect to the final seven years. In the traditional interpretation:

From a decree to restore – The 490 years began with Artaxerxes’ first decree in 458/7 BC.

Baptism of Jesus ChristUntil Messiah the Prince – 483 literal years later the Messiah appeared at His baptism in AD 26/27.  This was also the beginning of the final seven years.

Sacrifice cease – 3½ years later, in the midst of the final seven years, Jesus was killed, causing “the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”.  These sacrifices pointing forward to His death and lost their purpose and meaning when He died.

Last seven yearsConfirmed – Jesus Christ confirmed God’s covenant with Israel during the final seven years:

First through His personal preaching for 3½ years before His death;

Then, for a further 3½ years after His death, by sending His disciples with the power of the Holy Spirit to Israel only.  In those 3½ years the church consisted only of Jews and it still adhered to all Old Testament laws.  It was a sect of Judaism.  See Early Church.

The End – God’s 490-year covenant with Israel came to an end 3½ years after His death, when Israel rejected Him by persecuting His Spirit-filled disciples.  After this the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.

Jerusalem destroyed – Since 490 years were decreed for Jerusalem (v24), Jerusalem was not destroyed during those 490 years, but only in 70 AD.

Importance of Daniel 9 in Dispensationalism

The importance of the Seventy Weeks prophecy for Dispensationalism can hardly be exaggerated.  Dispensationalism often appeals to Daniel 9 as the clear proof that the entire Church Age is a parenthesis in the prophetic program which is found between verses 26 and 27 of Daniel 9.  The other schools of Christian thought on eschatology are able to survive even when their views of Daniel 9 are proven false, but Dispensationalism eschatology stands or fall on its interpretation of Daniel 9.

Summary

Daniel 9 goalsDaniel 9 sets 6 goals for Israel.

For this purpose it grants Jerusalem a 70 weeks.  Israel’s calendar was divided into groups of seven-years, where every seventh year was a Sabbath.  The 70 weeks are 70 of those seven-year cycles, and consequently equal to 490 years.

Jerusalem was to be restored.  “Restore” does not mean rebuilding.  In the original text to restore means that Jerusalem will be returned to the Jews to serve as their capital to rule the whole nation.

The prophecy repeatedly jumps back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 is poetic parallelism in which Jerusalem and the Messiah are the two foci.  The city is restored and rebuilt to receive the Messiah, but it is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.

The final seven years are the core and the real purpose of the 490 years.  The first 483 years merely serve to locate the last seven years in time.

Daniel 9 is very different from the other prophecies in Daniel.  Daniel 9 is literal and only deals with Israel and the 490 years.  The other prophecies are symbolic and deal with all nations and with all time.

In Dispensationalism the first 483 years end with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but the last week is the final seven years before the Return of Christ, when the antichrist will bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation.

There is not much difference between Dispensationalism and the traditional Protestant interpretations of the first 483 years.  Both start the 490 years with a decree of Artaxerxes and both end the first 483 years in the time of Christ.  The major difference is with respect to the final seven years. In the traditional interpretation the final seven years include the 3½ years that Jesus preached in person and the 3½ years after His death, when He preached through His Holy Spirit to Israel only.

Dispensationalism is highly dependent on its interpretation of Daniel 9.  If the dispensational interpretation is Daniel is proven false, the entire Dispensational scheme collapses.

NEXT:   Time indications in Daniel 9: When was the decree issued?  Are these 490 years of 360 days each?  When did the Messiah appear and when did God suspend His covenant with the Jews?  The last seven years, which are the core of the prophecy, is identified by these time indications.

TO:  Daniel 9 Interpretations Overview
TO:  Daniel 9: List of available articles

Confirm the covenant in the 70th week; Who makes what covenant with whom?

During the last of the seventy weeks “he” will confirm the covenant with “many”.  This refers to God’s covenant with Israel.  Through the seventy weeks-prophecy God extended His covenant with Israel for a further 490 years.  But during those last seven years the Messiah will confirm the covenant with many from Israel.  After that the covenant comes to an end.

Daniel 9:27 reads:

And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week

The “one week” is the last of the Seventy Weeks, but who is “he”?  What covenant is this and with whom does he make this covenant?

The Covenant of God

SinaiThrough Moses God made a covenant with Israel, but because of their disobedience, Israel went into exile.  At the end of Seventy Years of exile God, through the prophecy of Daniel 9, extended His covenant with Israel for a further seventy weeks of years (490 years).  On the basis of the arguments below it is proposed that the covenant in 9:27 refers to God’s covenant with Israel:

As discussed in the previous article (The Covenant in Daniel 9), the divine covenant is the central theme in Daniel 9 that integrates the prayer and prophecy into a unit.  This context speaks against the supposition that an altogether different covenant is abruptly introduced in the last 7 of the 490 years.

The word “covenant” appears in 6 verses in Daniel.  In four verses it is explicitly God’s covenant (9:4; 11:28, 30, 32.).

Some propose that covenant in 9:27 is not God’s covenant with Israel because of the absence of the article “the”, but in Daniel 11:28, 30, 32 “covenant” is also used without the article, while the reference is explicitly to God’s “holy covenant”.

He” refers to the Messiah.

The “he” in verse 27 must refer to a person mentioned in the previous verse.  This verse reads as follows:

Jerusalem destroyed
Jerusalem destroyed

Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary …” (Daniel 9:26).

The “Messiah” is therefore the dominant figure in verse 26.  The “prince” is a subordinate figure.  It is not even the subject of the clause.  The subject of the clause is “the people.”

Dispensationalism proposes that the “he”, who will make a firm covenant with many in verse 27, is the “prince” of verse 26, and that this prince is an end time Antichrist.  He will enter into some pact at the beginning of the last seven years and then—in the course of those seven years—break his covenant.  Objections against this view:

(1) According to verse 26 “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary”.  This refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century.  If his people refer to the first-century Romans, and if the prince is an end-time Antichrist, then the people and their prince live 2000 years apart, which is an unnatural interpretation.

(2) If “he” makes a new covenant for one week, then he cannot break his covenant in the middle of the week.

Confirm the covenant

The verb translated “make a firm” in the NASB is “gâbar”.  Strong’s short definition of this word is “prevailed“.  Of the 25 times this word appears in the OT, the NASB translates it 14 times as prevail. The evidence of the usage of gâbar in the Bible (“The covenant of the Seventieth Week” by Meredith G. Kline) indicates that verse 27 has in view the enforcing of a covenant previously granted.  It is not a verb for the making of a new covenant.  It should therefore be translated as “make firm a covenant”, and not as “make a firm covenant”.  The KJV translates it as confirm the covenant and Young’s Literal Translation reads “strengthening a covenant”.  Confirm a covenant implies a covenant that existed prior to the last seven years.  If so, it can only refer to God’s covenant with Israel.

The Many

The many”, with whom he will confirm the covenant, most often refers to God’s people.  For instance:

The Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities“ (Isa 53:11)

Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days” (Dan 11:33; See also Dan 11:39; 12:3; Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 9:26-28; Rom 5:15, 19; 1Co 10:33).

The covenant in 9:27 is therefore God’s covenant with Israel.

End of the week

Seventy weeksDaniel 9 does not specify a specific event for the end of the Seventy Weeks.  However, the Seventy Weeks was an extension of God’s covenant with Israel, as also indicated by the phrase, “Seventy weeks are cut off for your people and your holy city” (9:24).  The seventy weeks therefore end when God’s covenant with Israel ends.  It will be the end of all Jewish privileges as the covenant people.

This is confirmed by verse 27, which reads, he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week.  This is last of the seventy weeks.  When that week comes to an end the messiah will no longer confirm the covenant with Israel.

NEXT:  Poetic Pattern and Chiasm
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