The Daniel 9 prophecy was received soon after Babylon fell. Where do we fit the 70 years of Babylonian rule in history?

The Daniel 9 prophecy was received in the year after Babylon was conquered by Cyrus (9:1).  Daniel knew that LORD revealed to Jeremiah that Babylon will rule for 70 years.  These 70 years were from 609 BC to 539 BC.  Daniel also knew that God promised to restore Israel to Jerusalem after those 70 years (Dan 9:2).  These things caused him to pray for His people and for Jerusalem.

Daniel
Daniel reading the prophets

Daniel 9 opens with Daniel noticing that the LORD revealed to Jeremiah that Jerusalem will be desolated for a period of 70 years (Dan 9:2, compare Jer. 25:8-14; 29:10-14).  He then prayed earnestly and interceded with God concerning the tragic condition of His backslidden and disobedient people, and for the desolation of Jerusalem and the sanctuary (verses 3-19).  In this way the 70 years set the stage for Daniel’s prayer.

When did the 70 years start? 

Jeremiah wrote:

when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the LORD” (Jer. 25:11, 12, compare v1)

The prophecy of Daniel 9 was received “in the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans” (Dan. 9:1).  It was, therefore, received soon after the Medo-Persian Empire took over the Chaldean (Babylonian) Empire.  The king of Babylon was already punished.  This means that the 70 years has already come to an end.  But when did it start?

Jerusalem was finally destroyed in BC 586.  However, that was not the start of Jeremiah’s 70 years.  The 70 years were not the period of Jerusalem’s desolation, but the period of Babylonian rule over Judah and the surrounding nations, as indicated by the following:

“I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon … against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them … these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jer. 25:9, 11).

“For thus says the LORD, When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place” (Jer. 29:10).

Judah came under the Babylonian heel in 605 BC (Daniel 1:1), but Babylon’s ruling of nations actually dates from the overthrow of Assyria a few years earlier.  After the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC (to the allied forces of the Medes and Babylonians), the Assyrian king Ashuruballit established his government at Harran. This city fell to the Babylonians in 610 BC, and Assyria was finally obliterated when Ashuruballit failed to recapture it in 609 BC.  Seventy years later—in 539 BC—Babylon herself was conquered by Cyrus.  It is therefore possible to count the seventy years from 609 BC to 539 BC.

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Historic-Messianic interpretation of Daniel 9 24-27; Concluding thoughts

The essence of the Daniel 9 24-27 prophecy is that, within 500 years from the restoration of Jerusalem, and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Messiah would arrive.  While both the Liberal-critical and Dispensational interpretations of Daniel 9 24-27 effectively remove Jesus from the prophecy, in the historical-messianic interpretation the prophecy finds its fulfillment in the Christ-events 2000 years ago. Daniel 9 confirms that God knows the future precisely, conclusively proves Jesus Christ to be the true and only Messiah and affirms the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible.

490 years
Seventy Weeks of years

To summarize the messianic-historical interpretation, the decree of Artaxerxes in 478/7 restored Jerusalem to the Jews.  In AD 26 or 27, 483 years later, Jesus was baptized.  Three or four years later, in AD 30 or 31, He was crucified.   Another approximately three or four years later, in AD 33 or 34, the exclusive role which Israel played in the plan of God came to an end.  The period from 26/27 to 33/34 is seven years, with the crucifixion “in the middle of” these seven years.  Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, after the end of the seventy sevens.

This interpretation has been dominant over the centuries, but has, in recent centuries, been replaced by the Liberal Critical and the Dispensational views of Daniel.

Daniel 9:24 Goals

The fulfilment of the goals is discussed in When will the Daniel 9:24 goals, set by for the 490 years, be fulfilled?  In summary:

The first two goals, namely “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins do not mean that a complete and utter end will be made of sin.  In the context of the prophecy these goals given to Israel to fulfill.  They were to show their loyalty to God when the Messiah appears.  But Israel failed.

According to the New Testament the third and fourth goals—“to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness”—were fulfilled by Christ’s death.

The fifth goal—“to seal up the vision and prophecy”—is understood as that the events of the final week, particularly the Cross, would validate the Old Testament promises of the coming Messiah.

The sixth goal— “to anoint the most Holy” —refers to heaven itself.  Christ’s death was a great victory over evil, and as we read in Revelation 5 and 12, Satan was cast out of heaven as a result (Rev. 12:5, 7-9).

A Good Fit

While objections can be raised against all four of the major interpretations of Daniel 9 24-27, the historical-messianic interpretation is not subject to the difficulties encountered by the other systems.  It recommends itself as the most adequate of the major interpretations.  The exact date of the crucifixion and of the end of the 490 years remains uncertain, but compared to the difficulties facing the other interpretations, the relative uncertainty of the chronology of the life of Christ and the events of the early church appears to be insignificant.

Reliability of Daniel

The essence of Daniel 9 24-27 is that, within 500 years from the restoration of Jerusalem (after the Babylonian captivity), and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Messiah would arrive.  It is understandable that the Talmud places a curse on those who attempt to compute the seventy weeks of Daniel (Sanhedrin 97b (Soncino ed.), p. 659).

Liberal scholars suppose that Daniel was compiled in the second century BC, as history written in the form of prophecy, but the events predicted by Daniel 9 24-27 were fulfilled more than 100 years later.  Copies of Daniel have been available to the Qumran sect (Dead Sea Scrolls) more than 100 years before the crucifixion.  The accurate fulfill­ment of the prophecy is therefore compelling support for the argument that Daniel is real prophecy written in the 6th century BC.

It is an irrefutable fact that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his public ministry 483 years (69 weeks) after Artaxerxes’ first decree.  Furthermore, the specifications of the prophecy find exact and complete fulfillment in the Christ-events of 2000 years ago.  This prophecy particularly points to His death:

(1) The nature of that death—murdered (cut off)
(2) His experience in that death—abandoned and rejected (not for himself), and
(3) The results of His death—atonement and everlasting righteousness

Supports our faith

A person who accepts Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of this prophecy is astounded by the mathematical exactness of the prophecy, received five hundred years prior to those tremendous events that changed the entire course of human history.  Daniel 9 24-27 confirms that God knows the future precisely.  It conclusively proves Jesus Christ to be the true and only Messiah.

It affirms the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible when predicting future events.  This gives confidence that we will one day see God with our own eyes.  The things that we read about in the Bible are really true.  There is a wonderful future ahead of us.

Means to and end

Daniel did not pray for a messiah of for the goals in verse 24.  He prayed for Jerusalem and the temple.  But the prophecy includes a Messiah and the goals because that was Jerusalem’s purpose.  Jerusalem was to be rebuilt to receive the Messiah.  490 years were awarded to Israel to fulfill  the goals in 9:24 through the Messiah,.  Israel would be restored, but as a means to an end.  The Messiah was the means and the goals were the end.  To remove these goals from Israel and Jerusalem is to remove the reason for Israel’s election.

Israel failed

Daniel must have been very sad to hear that the Messiah would be killed and the city would again be destroyed.  In his prayer he confessed that the destruction of Jerusalem in his time was the result of disobedience.  He must have realized that the prophesied destruction would also be the result of more disobedience.  And there is no mention of another restoration or reconstruction in the prophecy.  The prophecy ends in the accumulation of desolation and destruction.

If the Jews did not confirm their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by the persecution of His Spirit-filled representatives, but rather accepted Jesus after His death, history would have been very different.

Isaiah 53

The emphasis upon the Messiah and His experience ranks this passage alongside the other great Messianic prophecies of the OT that point to Him as the suffering servant of God (Ps 22. Isa. 53).  Daniel 9 24-27 complements Isaiah 53 by specifying when the Man of sorrow will arrive.  The following is an extract from Isaiah 53:

2 … He has no appearance that we should be attracted to Him.  3 He was despised and forsaken A man of sorrows … 5 He was pierced through for our transgressions … 6 … the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.  7 He was … afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth … 8 By oppression … He was taken away; … He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? 9 … He was with a rich man in His death … He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 11  … the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. … He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.

Consider some parallels between Daniel 9 24-27 and Isaiah 53:

In both the main character is “cut off”.  In Isaiah He is the man of sorrows (v3, 8).

Both refer to the atonement.  One of the goals of the seventy weeks is “to make atonement for iniquity” (v24) while “the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him” (Is. 53:6).  He Himself bore the sin of many (Is. 53:11).

In both this Person has a relationship with “the many”.  In Isaiah “the many” are justified (v11) and in Daniel He confirms a strong covenant with “the many” (v27).

Conclusion

There is no greater unfolding of the gospel provisions in all the prophetic Word than is revealed in Daniel 9 and in Isaiah 53.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 is precious because it sets forth Jesus Christ as our atoning sacrifice, made on Calvary 2000 years ago.   We are all sinners and do not deserve to live.  Through Him, through faith, we are justified from our sin.

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Daniel 9:27c – Destruction of Jerusalem: And on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.

Jerusalem surrounded

This is the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, as indicated by the Poetic Pattern and chiasm structure, and as confirmed by the repetition of ideas from verse 26. Verse 27c says that a desolator will arrive shortly after a repulsive sin, which was the killing of the Messiah.

Difference in Translations

This describes undefined abominations and a complete destruction.  The title of this article shows the NASB.  The KJV reads:

and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate

Notice the difference in the final words of the two translations:

In the KJV translation desolations are poured on the desolated one which, in the context, seems to refer to the city Jerusalem, which is destroyed in verse 26.

In the NASB translation desolations are poured out on a desolator which, in the context, refers to the people who destroy the city (9:26).  The NASB thereby seems to refer to the destruction of the Roman Empire.  It thereby introduces a concept not mentioned by the previous verses.

Destruction of Jerusalem repeated

For the reasons below this destruction (desolations) in 9:27 is the same as the destruction mentioned in the previous verse (9:26), namely the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70:

(1) In the Poetic Pattern of the prophecy this is the destruction of Jerusalem.  (See Daniel 9:27 The Covenant.)

(2) The events in the Daniel 9 prophecy are described in the form of a chiasm.  A chiasm is a literary structure in which the last item corresponds to the first, and the second to last item corresponds to the second, etc.  In the Daniel 9 chiasm the desolation in the last part of Daniel 9 corresponds to Jerusalem.   (See Poetic Parallelism and Chiasm in Daniel 9)

Phrases repeated

(2) The last part of 9:27 repeats the main words and concepts from the last part of verse 26, which describes the destruction of Jerusalem.  Below verses 26 and 27 are compared:

MESSIAH CITY
26 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 And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

Key phrases from verse 26 are repeated in verse 27:

Both verses refer to desolations (Strong number H8074) that are decreed (Strong number H2782).  The NASB in v26 reads “desolations are determined” and in v27 “desolate … one that is decreed”.

Both verses use water as symbol of the force of destruction.  In verse 26 desolations will come with a flood, while they are poured out in verse 27.

Both verses include the concept of completion.  Verse 26 refers to the end (of the city) (NASB).  Verse 27 similarly refers to a “complete destruction” (NASB), which is another way of expressing the end of the thing that is destroyed.

The similarity between the last parts of verses 26 and 27 implies that they refer to the same event, which is the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Abomination of Desolation

Jesus teaching
Jesus teaching

(3) Jesus associated the last part of 9:27 with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  He said:

Therefore when you see the Abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand) …” (Mat. 24:15)

Here Jesus by name refers to Daniel and to the “abomination of desolation”.  This phrase is used a number of times in Daniel.  It is not used in Daniel 9 in that format, but the last part of verse 27 does refer to both desolation and abominations.  It is therefore possible that Jesus was referring to the part of Daniel 9:27 that is discussed in this article.

What did He mean?  The parallel statement to Matthew 24:15 is Luke 21:20-23 (compare Mat 24:16-19).  Luke, writing to Gentiles, who were not familiar with the book of Daniel, interpreted Jesus’ reference to the abomination of desolation as the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem.  See Little Apocalypse.

This provides tentative support for the conclusion that the last part of 9:27 refers to the events of AD 70.

Entire 9:26 repeated

The sequence in verses 26 and 27 therefore are:

The killing of the Messiah (“cut off” 9:26),
The destruction of Jerusalem (9:26),
The killing of the Messiah (“stop to sacrifice” 9:27) and
The destruction of Jerusalem (9:27).

This back and thro between the Messiah and Jerusalem was already discussed under the heading Poetic Pattern

Verse 27 is therefore a repeat of verse 26 (NASB):

A: Messiah B: Jerusalem
26 Messiah cut off after the sixty-two weeks people … will destroy the city
27 he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week … in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction

Time Perspectives

490 yearsIf the termination of the sacrifices and the killing of the messiah is the same event, why is the one described as “after the 62 sevens”, (9:26) and the other as in the “midst of” the last seven (9:27)?  To understand this, think of the prophecy consisting of three divisions; each providing information from a different time perspective:

490 yearsVerse 24 announces the 490 years and sets the goals for that period.

483 years – Verses 25 and 26 describe events relative to the first 483 years, including the killing of the Messiah “after” this period and the consequential destruction of the city.

Final 7 years – Verse 27 describes the same events, but from the perspective of the final seven years.

What does the last part of 9:27 mean?

9:27c reads “On the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate” (NASB).  In other words, a desolator will arrive shortly after (on the wing of) abominations.  A desolator is a person; a destroyer.  An abomination is some repulsive sin.  The desolator in 9:27 therefore arrives after some repulsive sin to make “desolate, even until a complete destruction”.

In the context the repulsive sin is Israel’s rejection, first of its Messiah and later of the Holy Spirit.  The desolation refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans 40 years later.

Conclusion

The prophecy repeatedly move back and forth between the Messiah and Jerusalem.  The Messiah and Jerusalem must not be separated.  The Daniel 9 prophecy promises the reconstruction of Jerusalem to receive the Messiah, but it also predicts the destruction of Jerusalem because it did not receive the Messiah.

The last seven years are mentioned between two references to the destruction of Jerusalem.  Those last seven years therefore must not be separated from the Christ-event 2000 years ago.

490 years

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Daniel 9:27 But in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering.

The prophecy of Daniel 9 says that this world’s sin problem would be solved (9:24) through the appearance (v25) and killing of the messiah (v26), while he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering (9:27).  In the light of New Testament, this describes Jesus Christ.

The Context

This stop to sacrifice must be understood within its context:

make atonement for iniquity
To make atonement for iniquity

Verse 24 lists six goals to be attained through Daniel’s people during the 490 years, including “to make atonement for iniquity” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness”.

The goals must be fulfilled through seven events listed in 9:25-26, including the appearance (v25) and the killing of the Messiah (v26).

Verse 27, saying that he will put a stop to sacrifices in the middle of the final seven years, is the core and purpose of the 490 years.  According to the chiastic structure of the prophecy, the killing of the Messiah is the main event through which the goals are fulfilled (see Poetic pattern and Chiasm).

In conclusion, the prophecy of Daniel 9 says that this world’s sin problem would be solved (9:24) through the appearance (v25) and killing of the messiah (v26), while he will put a stop to sacrifice (9:27).

Fulfilled in Jesus

In the light of New Testament, this describes Jesus Christ:

He was “Jesus the Messiah” (Matt 1:1, cf. 1:16, 17; 2:4; John 1:41, 4:25).

He was killed.

He solved the sin problem of the world.  Through His death, He fulfilled the goals in verse 24 “to make atonement for iniquity” (John 1:29; Matt. 26:28; Heb. 7:27, 9:12; 10:10, 12, 14, 26-28;) and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Heb. 9:12; Rom. 5:10, 11; Col. 1:20; 2Co 5:19; Col 1:22; Rom 5:18; John 3:17; Col 1:19-20).

His death put a stop to sacrifice.  Christ’s death did not put a stop to sacrifice immediately.  The Jewish sacrifices continued until the destruction of Jerusalem forty years later.  But these sacrifices pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Lamb of God.  When Jesus—the Lamb of God—died as the once-for-all and all-sufficient sacrifice for sins, He fulfilled the significance of those sacrifices.  The Jewish sacrifices were consequently terminated at the death of Christ in the sense of its loss of meaning.

The letter to the Hebrews states this explicitly.  When Jesus ascended to heaven and became High Priest (Heb. 6:20), the law changed (Heb. 7:12), including the sacrificial system (Heb. 7:19; 8:4; 9:22).  Jesus set “aside the first [sacrifices and offerings] to establish the second” (Heb. 10:9).  (See also Heb. 8:13 and Eph. 2:15.)  In this way His death caused “sacrifice and the oblation (NASB: grain offering) to cease” (Daniel 9:27).

Conclusion

The Daniel 9 prophecy is therefore thoroughly messianic in nature.  In this context the statement that “he will put a stop to sacrifice” in 9:27 must be understood as referring to the sacrifice at the Cross which made an end to all other sacrifices.  The “he” therefore refers to the Messiah.  “In the middle of the week” was when He died; about 3 or 4 years after His baptism.

The prophecy, received 500 years before the cross, discloses a most profound aspect of the Messiah’s mission, namely that His death would be the true sacrifice for sin.  As also disclosed by Isaiah 53, He was “pierced through for our transgressions”.  This is not only another proof of the existence of the supernatural, but also it tells us much about the nature of the universe.  God knows where we are.  He sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins.  We cannot understand why and how, for His thoughts are as high above our thoughts as the stars are above the earth, but it is wonderful to understand that the Source of all power and love feels this way about us; undeserving sinners.

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