The Dispensational Interpretation of Daniel 9

The full 44 page article on Daniel 9 has been summarized into a 22 page document.  Both articles have been published on this website.  This current article is another summary that focuses specifically on the dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9.

OVERVIEW OF THE TEXT

Daniel received the Daniel 9 prophecy in 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 his people (9:19).  While still praying, the angel Gabriel appeared to him (9:21) and gave him the prophecy contained in verses 24 to 27.

Verse 24

The prophecy starts in verse 24 with the announcement that 70 sevens have been decreed for Israel and their capital city, Jerusalem, listing 6 goals to be achieved through the 70 sevens:

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.

It is generally agreed that each seven represents seven years.  The 70 sevens consequently equal 490 years.

The next three verses describe the events through which the goals are to be achieved.

Verses 25 – 26

Verse 25 firstly explains that the 490 years began with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem and that the Messiah would appear 69 sevens (483 years) later.

Verse 25 continues to comment on the rebuilding of Jerusalem during the first 483 years; saying that it will be built “in troublous times”.

Verse 26 jumps forward in time to after the 483 years, stating that the Messiah would be cut off “after” the 69 sevens.

Verse 26 next returns to Jerusalem, stating that it will be destroyed again.  Since 70 sevens have been decreed for Jerusalem, this destruction must occur outside of the 70 sevens.

Notice how the prophecy moves back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  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 constructed to receive the Messiah, but is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.

Verse 27

The first part of verse 27 (27a) focuses on the final seven years; “he” will confirm the covenant for the full seven years and will cause sacrifices to stop in the midst of the seven years.

The second part of verse 27 (27b) describes destruction.

The only event during the first 483 years is the reconstruction of Jerusalem.  But much happens during the final seven years, as described by verse 27.  These final seven years are therefore the focal point/climax of the prophecy.

DISPENSATIONAL INTERPRETATION

In a typical dispensational interpretation the decree to restore Jerusalem (9:25) is the second decree of Artaxerxes I, dated to 445 BC or 444 BC.

The Messiah Prince that would appear 483 years later is Jesus Christ, but 483 years from 445/4 BC would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the time of Christ.  Consequently, the 483 years are understood as “prophetic years” of 360 days each.  This gives a total of 173,880 days (483 x 360), which is equal to 476 solar years plus some days.  In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 calendar years to fit the actual historical time from the decree to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before the Cross, assuming the crucifixion was in AD 33 or AD 32.

The 490 years are not viewed as continuous, but a “paren­thesis” or “gap” is proposed between the first 483 years and the final seven years.  The final seven years will not start until the end of the church age.  They are the last seven years before the return of Christ, and describe the acts of antichrist.  He is a prince of a revived Roman Empire that will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation.

STRUCTURE OF THIS ARTICLE

There is not much difference between the Dispensational and the traditional Protestant interpretations of the first 483 years.  Both start the 483 years with a decree of Artaxerxes and both end the 483 years in the time of Christ.  The major difference between the Dispensational and the traditional Protestant interpretations is with respect to the final seven years.  In the traditional interpretation the seven years reflect the time of Christ but in the Dispensational interpretation it is the final seven years before the return of Christ.  Most of this document therefore discusses those seven years, which are particularly described by the last verse of the prophecy:

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 (KJV)

The first main division of this article identifies the “he” that is responsible for the events of the final seven years.  The second main division discusses the time indications in the prophecy to locate those final seven years in time.  The third main division lists some other issues of the Dispensational interpretation.

HE

Verses 26 and 27 read:

26 … after 62 weeks shall Messiah be cut off … and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city … 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

Much of the discussion in this article revolves around the identity of the “he” in verse 27.

Dispensationalism assumes that the events in verses 25 to 27 are in chronological order.  Consequently:

The final seven years in verse 27 are placed in time after the destruction of Jerusalem in verse 26.  Since this destruction is dated to 70AD, the firm covenant of the 70th week (v 27) follows after AD 70.

This would necessitate a gap between the first 483 years and the final seven years.

This would also mean that “he”, that confirms the covenant for that final week, cannot be Jesus Christ, because Jesus was killed at least 40 years earlier.

Since “he” is not the Messiah, Dispensationalism argues that “he” refers to the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD70 (v26).

It should then logically follow that “he” was the Roman Caesar in 70 AD, and that the last week be identified as the time around 70AD.  But as already stated, Dispensationalism proposes that this prince will reign during the last seven years before the return of Christ.

These verses will now be analyzed to evaluate these arguments:

COVENANT

Dispensationalism interprets the covenant in 9:27 as a covenant with an end time antichrist, but this is God’s covenant with Israel, as indicated by the following:

God’s covenant with Israel included the following:

The land must have a Sabbath 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 chronological 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 amongst the nations (Lev. 26:33) to allow the land to have its rest (v34, 43) for a period of time equal to the 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:

The prophecy of Daniel 9 was received at the end of Israel’s exile of 70 years (Dan 9:2).  This 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).

In his prayer (9:4-19) Daniel confessed the justice of the sentence, the righteousness of Yahweh (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; Daniel prayed for the renewal of Israel’s covenant privileges.

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

God’s covenant with Israel is therefore the central theme in the entire Daniel 9.  With this understanding any reference in the prophecy to “covenant” should be interpreted as God’s covenant with Israel.  The promised 490 years is an extension of God’s covenant with Israel.  The “one week” (9:27) is the final seven years of that time-limited covenant.  It is this covenant which “he” shall confirm for one week.

Further indications that this is God’s covenant include the following:

Confirm:  The verb translated “make” in 9:27 by the NASB  means to “confirm” (KJV).  It means that an existing covenant is confirmed.  It is not a verb for the initial making of a new covenant as in the dispensational interpretation where a future antichrist will enter into some pact at the beginning of the last seven years.

The many: “The many” with whom the covenant is made most often refer to God’s people.  For instance, “the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities.” (Isa 53:11; see also Dan 11:33, 39; 12:3; Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 9:26-28; Rom 5:15, 19; 1Co 10:33)

Since the covenant in 9:27 is God’s covenant, it cannot be confirmed by an antichrist.  It must be confirmed by the Messiah.  It follows that the “he” in verse 27, Who confirms this covenant, is the Messiah.

The prophecy does not mention any specific event for the end of 490 years, but it also follows that the end of the 70 sevens is the end of God’s covenant with Israel.  In other words, we should be able to identify some event in history that indicates the end of God’s covenant with Israel.  This is discussed further below.

DESOLATION

The second part of verse 27 (27b) describes desolation and a complete destruction:

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

This may be understood as saying, that, due to much iniquity, he shall make the desolate completely desolate, as decreed.

This section repeats words and concepts used in 26b (the second part of verse 26) to describe the destruction of Jerusalem:

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 war desolations are determined. (9:26; KJV)

Both verses:

(A)      Refer to desolations (Strong number H8074) that are decreed (Strong number H2782).

(B)      Use water as symbol of the force of destruction.  In verse 26 the desolations will come with a flood, while they are poured out in verse 27.

(C)      Include the concept of completion.  Verse 27 refers to a “complete destruction” (NASB) while verse 26 mentions the end of the city (NASB).

Dispensationalism associates the desolation in verse 27 with an end time despot, but the similarity between the two sections implies that they refer to the same event, which is identified by verse 26 as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The Daniel 9 prophecy promises the reconstruction of Jerusalem to receive the Messiah, but it also promises the reverse: the destruction of Jerusalem as a consequence of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah.  The destruction of Jerusalem is therefore an integral part of the Messiah-events of 2000 years ago.  In the parallelism of the prophecy the destruction is described twice, with the description of the final seven years in-between.  Those final seven years must therefore be limited to the Messiah-events of 2000 years ago.  It cannot describe an end time antichrist.

POETIC STRUCTURE

The prophecy uses much parallelism, where two related words or phrases are used together to emphasize a point, for instance:

      • insight with understanding (v22)
      • give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision (v23)
      • your people and your holy city (v24)
      • to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin (v24)
      • know and discern (v25),
      • restore and rebuild (v25),
      • seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (v26)
      • the city and the sanctuary (v26) and
      • sacrifice and grain offering

This repetition of thought is also found in two adjacent verses:

      • I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding” (v22) and “I have come to tell you” (v23)

Perhaps the most important pattern in the prophecy is the way in which the focus shifts repeatedly back and forth between the two foci: Jerusalem and the Messiah:

    1. 25: from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem;
    2. until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
    3. it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
    4. 26: after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing,
    5. and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
    6. 27: he shall confirm the covenant …; and … cause the sacrifice … to cease
    7. … he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation …

Verses 25 and 26 explicitly shift the focus several times between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  The implication is that verse 27 continues this pattern.  This would prohibit the introduction of a new major role-player in verse 27.  Since verse 26 ends with a reference to Jerusalem, the first part of verse 27, which describes the “he” who confirms the covenant for seven years, is the Messiah, while the destruction in the second part of verse 27 should refer to Jerusalem.  This confirms the conclusion from the analysis of the desolation in 27b.

SUPERNATURAL BEING

The prince in verse 26 is described as follows:

the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.

In Daniel chapter 10 we read of a prince of Greece that is to come:

I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; … the prince of Greece is about to come.  … Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince. (10:20, 21; see also 12:1)

Since it is a supernatural being that is speaking here (10:16, 18), the prince of Persia against which he fights (10:20), the prince of Greece that is about to come and “Michael your prince” (10:21) that supports him are also supernatural beings.  The NASB quoted above interprets them as “forces”. They are not human beings.

Each of the princes (of Persia, of Greece and “Michael your prince”) represent a nation.  Michael can be called the prince of Israel (12:1).

The similarity implies that the prince of 9:26 is also a supernatural being or “force” that represents a nation.  This prince represents the Roman nation.

The “he” in verse 27 therefore cannot refer back to the prince in verse 26 because the “he” in verse 27 seems to be a human being.

DOMINANT FIGURE

Dispensationalism proposes that the “he” in verse 27 refers to the prince whose people destroy the city in verse 26 because this prince is the last person mentioned in verse 26.  However, the “prince that shall come” is not the subject of that clause in verse 26.  It reads “people of the prince”, not “the prince of the people”.   The “prince” in verse 26 is a subordinate figure.  The dominant figure in the entire prophecy and in verse 26 is the “Messiah”.  Based on grammar the Messiah should be preferred as the antecedent of the “he” in verse 27.

ROMAN PRINCE

The people that destroyed the city (9:26) were the Romans.  Their “prince” must therefore be the prince of the Roman Empire.  In the Dispensational system the “he” in verse 27 is this Roman Prince that will rule in the final years before the return of Christ.  This means that the Roman Empire must exist during those final years.  How can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it ceased to exist?  And how can one claim that the Roman Empire of ancient history was the people of an end time antichrist if the people and their prince live 2000 years apart?

It is proposed here that since the prince in verse 26 is the Roman Prince, and since no known ruler of the Roman Empire ever confirmed a covenant with the Jews for seven years, that this prince cannot be the “he” in verse 27.

STOP SACRIFICE

Daniel 9:27 reads:

in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering

In the dispensational interpretation this is the physical destruction of the sanctuary and its services by an antichrist, which means that the sanctuary is to be destroyed in the middle of the last seven years.  However, since the full 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people (9:24), the sanctuary and its services will not be destroyed during the 490 years, but only after the end of it.  This stop that is put to sacrifice and grain offering must therefore be something different from the physical destruction of the sanctuary and its services, as in the Dispensational interpretation.

To understand what the termination of sacrifices means requires an understanding of how it relates to the other aspects of the prophecy:

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 major events of verses 25 and 26 are the appearance (v25) and the killing of the Messiah (v26).

Verse 27 focuses on the final seven years, which is the climax of the 490 years, and says that an end will be put to sacrifices in the middle of those seven years.

The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore implies that this world’s sin problem would be solved through the appearance and killing of the messiah, while “sacrifice and grain offering” will be stopped (9:27).  In the view of New Testament this is a description of 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.  He fulfilled the goals in verse 24 through His death.  He made “atonement for iniquity” (John 1:29; Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 7:27, 9:26-28; Hebr. 9:12; 10:10, 12, 14) and brought 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 caused sacrifice to cease.  Jewish sacrifices continued until the destruction of Jerusalem forty years after the death of Christ, but these sacrifices pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Lamb of God.  When Jesus—the Lamb of God—died, 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.  When Jesus ascended to heaven and became High Priest (Hebr. 6:20), the law changed (Hebr. 7:12), including the sacrificial system (Hebr. 7:19; 8:4; 9:22).  Jesus set “aside the first [sacrifices and offerings] to establish the second” (Hebr. 10:9).  (See also Hebr. 8:13; Eph. 2:15)  In this way His death caused “sacrifice and the oblation (NASB: grain offering) to cease” (9:27).

This was strikingly confirmed by a miracle.  At the moment Jesus died “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51).  This signified the end of Israel’s sacrificial temple rituals.

Daniel 9 is therefore thoroughly a messianic prophecy and the termination of sacrifices in verse 27 refers to the sacrifice that ended all other sacrifices.  The “he” therefore refers to the Messiah.

Verse 27 refers to the death of Christ in this way to link it to the goals in verse 24.  Through the ritual animal sacrifices, sins were pardoned.  But these sacrifices were all made in expectation of the great and final sin offering which made a final “end of sins” (9:24), made final “reconciliation for iniquity” and brought in “everlasting righteousness” (9:24).  Jesus Christ is the messiah in verse 25 that was “cut off” (v26) to achieve the goals in verse 24, thereby causing the sacrificial system to cease (v27).

REPETITION

But then questions may arise: If 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)?  And why is the destruction of Jerusalem mentioned between the killing of the Messiah and the stop that is made to sacrifices?

The answer to this question is found in the repetition (parallelism) of the prophecy, as described in the section dealing with the poetic structure.  Since the prophecy so often repeats concepts, the repetition of the events of verse 26 by verse 27 is to be expected.  To understand this repetition requires a high level view of the prophecy.  It consists of three divisions; each provides information relative to a different period of time:

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

II.      Verses 25 and 26 describe events relative to the first 483 years, including the killing of the Messiah and the consequential destruction of the city after the end of the 483 years.

III.      Verse 27 describes the same events, but relative to the final seven years.

It has previously been shown that the desolations in 27b (the second part of 9:27) repeat the desolation of Jerusalem in 26b.  Since the termination of sacrifices in 27a (the first part of 9:27) is an explanation of the killing of the Messiah in 26a, verse 27 repeats verse 26:

A: Messiah B: Jerusalem
26 after the sixty-two weeksthe Messiah will be cut off and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary
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

CONCLUSION

The purpose of this first main division of this article is to identify the “he” in verse 27.

“He” is not the prince of verse 26 because:

      • The prince in 9:26 is not a human being.
      • The prince in 9:26 is not the main character in verse 26.
      • The covenant in 9:27 is God’s covenant with Israel, and cannot be confirmed by a prince of people that destroys Jerusalem.

“He” is not an end time antichrist because:

      • If “he” is an end time antichrist, then “he” refers to the prince in verse 26, but that is a prince of an empire that no longer exists, namely the Roman Empire.
      • If “he” is an end time antichrist, then he physically terminates the sacrifices in the midst of the last seven years, which implies the destruction of the temple, but since the full 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people (9:24), the sanctuary will not be destroyed during that period.
      • Both the sections immediately before and after the description of the last seven years in verse 27 describe the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  This limits verse 27 to the time of Christ.

 “He” is the Messiah because:

      • The Messiah is main character in verse 26 and in the entire prophecy.
      • The covenant in verse 27 is God’s covenant with Israel, which must be confirmed by the Messiah.
      • The prophecy of Daniel 9 has a poetic pattern: it repeatedly shifts the focus between the two foci of the prophecy; Jerusalem and the Messiah.  In this pattern “he” in the first part of verse 27 is the Messiah.
      • The termination of the sacrifices in verse 27 is the death of Christ because the goals in verse 24 and the arrival and killing of the Messiah (9:25-26) identify this as a messianic prophecy, and because the sacrifice of the Lamb of God caused all animal sacrifices, which pointed forward to this one astounding sacrifice of the Son of God, to cease to have meaning.

The Messiah appeared at the end of the long period of 69 sevens in about 26 or 27 AD.  Since this same Messiah confirms the covenant for the final seven years, these final seven years cannot refer to events after 70 AD.  The fundamental assumption in Dispensationalism (that the events are provided in chronological order) is therefore not correct.

TIME INDICATIONS

The previous main division discussed the identity of “he”.  The current main division investigates the time indications to identify the final seven years during which “he” works.  It shows that these seven years do not fit an end time antichrist, but that they do fit the time of Christ.

RESTORE

The 490 years begin with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (v25).  Dispensationalism identifies this as the second decree of Artaxerxes I in 445/4, but this decree did not “restore” Jerusalem.

Restore means to give the city back to be ruled by its previous owner.  For instance, the Aramean king said to Ahab, king of Israel that he will “return” (same Hebrew word shûb) the cities his father took from Ahab’s father (I Kings 20:34).  These cities have not been destroyed.  “Restore” does not include the idea of rebuilding.  Another example is 2 Kings 14:22.

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.  This the second decree of Artaxerxes I in 445/4 did not do.  This decree only dealt with the physical construction of the city walls.

The decree that did restore Jerusalem was the first decree of Artaxerses I in 458/7 BC (Ezra 7:1-26).  By decreeing that “Whoever does not obey the law of your God … must surely be punished by death …” the Persian king made the Mosaic Law part of his own law, and granted authority to the Jews to govern themselves on the basis of the law of God.  It provides for a measure of judicial and civil autonomy unknown since the Babylonian desolation of Jerusalem and Judea about 130 years earlier.

REBUILD

Dispensationalism claims that the second decree of Artaxerxes I for the first time authorised the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but that is not true.  Different decrees were issued by different Persian kings over a period of about 90 years prior to this decree, and all of them, by allowing the Jews to return to Judah and to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4; cf. Is. 45:1), implicitly allowed the Jews to rebuild their cities.  This is confirmed by the following:

Nehemiah expected the walls to be completed before the second decree of Artaxerxes I, as indicated by his reaction to the news that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the gates destroyed by fire (Neh. 1:3); he was deeply shocked and wept for days (Neh. 1:4).

Nehemiah found some work done on the walls when he arrived.  When he inspected the walls (Nehemiah 2:15), before he had done any work himself, he referred to “the Jews, the priests … who did the work” (v16).

Also, before the second decree of Artaxerxes I, a group of Persian officers wrote to Artaxerxes that “the Jews … are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city; they are finishing the walls …” (Ezra 4:12).  Artaxerxes then instructed that the rebuilding be stopped, which was done.  This must have been before Nehemiah because he completed the walls of the city within 52 days, with no interruption.

The second decree of Artaxerxes I therefore did not, for the first time, authorise the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

SEVENS

Verse 25 reads:

from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks

The Messiah would therefore appear 483 years after the decree, but 483 years from the second decree of Artaxerxes would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the time of Christ.  As stated above, Dispensationalism interprets the 483 years as “prophetic years” of 360 days each.  In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 years to fit the actual historical time from the second decree to the crucifixion, assuming the crucifixion was in AD 33 or AD 32.

However, as discussed above, the covenant pattern forms the framework for Daniel 9.  As “prophesied” by Leviticus and confirmed by 2 Chronicles 36:21, each of the 70 years of exile was a Sabbath year.  Therefore, each of the 70 years of exile represents 7 years of disobedience, and the 70 years of exile represent in total 490 years of disobedience.  The Daniel 9 prophecy therefore extends God’s covenant with Israel for a new cycle of 490 years.  Since the covenant timing is based on the seven year cycle, every seventh year would also be a Sabbath for the land (Lev. 25:2 ff.), and every year a normal literal solar year.

The covenant therefore links the seven year chronological cycle to the Daniel 9 prophecy.  There is no justification for a symbolic reading of these years as prophetic years of 360 days each, which means that the second decree of Artaxerxes does not fit the time of Christ.

TRIUMPHAL ENTRY

Daniel 9:25 reads:

from the issuing of a decree … until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks

The implication is that the Messiah will start to act as such at the end of the 69 sevens.

In the Dispensational interpretation the Messiah Prince is Jesus Christ and His first appearance, mentioned by 9:25, is His triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days before His crucifixion.  However, Jesus did not begin His work at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  His work began about three years earlier at His baptism when He was “anointed” and introduced to Israel (Acts 10:38; Mark 1:9-11; cf. Ps. 2:6, 7).

JEWISH PERIOD AFTER THE CROSS

In the Dispensational interpretation the first 483 years came to an end at Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (a few days before His death), with the last seven years postponed to the end of time.

However, the 490 years are promised by God as years of Jewish preference, and the preference which Jews enjoyed continued after the Cross.  During that period the Holy Spirit only came on Jews and the gospel was preached only to Jews.  The church consisted only of the “circumcised” (cf. 10:45); i.e. Jews and they did not associate with the uncircumcised (Act 10:34-35).

The period of Jewish preference came to an end about three or four years after the Cross, when the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.  This was preceded by the persecution of the believers by the Jews, commencing with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7; 8:1).  Immediately following this persecution (Acts 10) Peter received his dream of the unclean beasts (Acts 10:19-20), through which he was shown that it is okay to associate with people that were not circumcised (v34-35).  Simultaneously the Holy Spirit suddenly and powerfully led the Christians to take the gospel to the uncircumcised (non-Jews).

These three or four years after the Cross were therefore part of the 490 years.

This conclusion is supported by Stephen’s speech.  Both Daniel’s prayer and Stephen’s speech are based on God’s covenant with Israel.  While Daniel confessed the sins of his people and prayed for the mercy promised in the covenant, Stephen’s speech was an announcement of God’s judgment in terms of the covenant.  Stephen announced the end of the Seventy Weeks.

GAP

Dispensationalism puts a vast gap of 2000 years between the first 69 sevens and the last seven.  However:

The wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a gap.  There appears to be no defensible ground for separating the seventieth week from the previous 69.

To postpone the last seven years of final crisis to the end of the age is a form of exegesis without a precedent in all prophetic exposition.

It destroys the simple unity of the prophecy and divides it into two completely separate and unrelated prophecies; one about Christ 2000 years ago, and one about some future antichrist.  This gap redirects the focus of the prophecy from Jesus to an end time antichrist.

The last seven years is the climax of the 490 years because all important events occur after the long period of 483 years.  The only event during the previous 483 years is the construction of the city.  But the prophecy records significant events for the last seven years.  The covenant is confirmed for the last seven years and the sacrifices are caused to cease in the middle of these seven years.  The only purpose of the 483 years is therefore to foretell the timing of the final seven years.  Hence, to dislodge that final seven years from the previous 483 years and to propel it into the distant future is to defeat the purpose of the 483 years.

RETURN OF CHRIST

Dispensationalism maintains that the last week ends with the return of Christ, but the prophecy in no way indicates the return of Christ.  If the 490 years are to end with Christ’s return, would verse 27 not end with a description of His glorious return, as the other prophecies in Daniel do?  In contrast the Daniel 9 prophecy ends in the accumulation of desolations and chaos.

SUMMARY

The question in this second major division is where the final seven years fit in time.  This question has already been answered in the previous main section, where it was argued that the “he” that confirms the covenant for those seven years, is the Messiah.  Those seven years must therefore be the time of the Messiah.

The time-indicators in the text confirm this by identifying the final seven years as follows:

The 483 years, and therefore the full 490 years, began when Jerusalem was restored to Israel to serve as judicial capital, which was the first decree in 458/7 BC.

These 70 sevens are 70 seven-year-agricultural cycles, and therefore not symbolically interpreted as “prophetic” years of 360 days each.

Exactly 483 years after 458/7 BC Jesus was introduced to Israel at His baptism in AD 26/27, and began His work.  The Dispensational schema has to convert the 483 years into 360 day years to make them fit, but 483 normal literal years exactly fit the time from Artaxerxes’ first decree to the Messiah’s baptism.

To insert a gap between the first 483 years and the final seven years is to distort the prophecy.  The final seven years therefore began when Jesus was baptized.

The end of the seven years is not the return of Christ.  But, about seven years after His baptism, the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.  This was the end of God’s 490 year covenant for Jewish preference.  The kingdom of God was then taken away from them (Mat. 21:43).

In the midst of those seven years Jesus was killed, thereby causing the forward-pointing function of the sacrificial system to cease.

Jesus Christ confirmed God’s covenant with Israel during the final seven years through His personal preaching for 3½ years before His death and by sending His disciples to Israel only for a further 3½ years after His death.

Israel sealed the end of the covenant with their rejection of the Holy Spirit when they persecuted His Spirit filled disciples.  Since 490 years were decreed for Jerusalem (v24), Jerusalem was not destroyed during those 490 years, but only in 70 AD.

OTHER ANOMALIES

SECOND REBUILDING

The prophecy promises the rebuilding of the city and the sanctuary, followed by its destruction.  This was fulfilled with the rebuilding of Jerusalem a few hundred years before Christ and its destruction in 70 AD.  But the Dispensational interpretation requires the sanctuary to be rebuilt again in the future.  Such a second rebuilding is not promised by the prophecy.  If the intention was that the sanctuary would be rebuilt again after the destruction of the city in verse 26, but before the termination of the sacrifices in verse 27, then the prophecy would have explicitly stated this, given that it is so clear about the rebuilding in verse 25.

SACRIFICES RESUMED

In the Dispensational interpretation the Jewish sacrificial system will be revived, but there never can be a valid return to the old covenant and its earthly temple worship.  Christ, the Antitype, has terminated once for all the “shadow” and inaugurated a “better covenant” that offers His righteousness as the everlasting righteousness (see Hebr. 7:22; cf. chap. 10:12; Rom. 3:22, 25).  That is the very meaning of the statement:

in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering (9:27)

GOALS ACHIEVED

Daniel 9:24 lists 6 goals to be achieved by the events of the 70 sevens, including:

“to make atonement for iniquity” and

to bring in everlasting righteousness”.

In Dispensational interpretation the 69th week ends a few days before the death of Christ, namely at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, while the seventieth week still lies in our future.  Consequently the 70 weeks do not include the death of Christ, which means that the goals of 9:24 have not been fulfilled by Christ 2000 years ago.

Since the final seven years is the climax of the 490 years, these goals are particularly achieved by the events of the last seven years, as described by 27a:

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

But in the dispensational interpretation this is the work of an end time antichrist, and will not fulfill the wonderful goals of verse 24.  Dispensationalism therefore proposes that these goals will be fulfilled by the return of Christ, which will occur at the end of the last seven years.  Apart from the fact that the 490 years do not end with the return of Christ, this proposal denies the 70 sevens their purpose,  Daniel 9:24 declares that the 70 sevens were allocated to Israel to achieve the goals stated in verse 24 during the 490 years, through Daniel’s people, not by the end of the 70 sevens:

Daniel did not pray for a messiah.  He prayed for Jerusalem.  But the prophecy includes the Messiah because that was Jerusalem’s purpose: Jerusalem was to be rebuilt and 490 years were allocated to it to receive the Messiah.

Neither did Daniel pray for the goals in verse 24, but the goals were added because that was the purpose of the Messiah.   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.

OTHER OBJECTIONS

In the dispensational interpretation the antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel after 3½ years, but according to 9:27 the covenant is confirmed for the full seven years.

In the dispensational interpretation the return of Christ will make an end to sin, but Dispensationalism also proposes that sin will continue for 1000 years after the return of Christ.

Dispensationalism postulates the Millennium as a period of Jewish dominance, thereby allocating in total 1490 years to the Jews.  The prophecy allocates only 490 years.

GOALS FULFILLED IN JESUS CHRIST

Dispensationalism protests against the traditional Protestant interpretation of Daniel 9, as defended by this article, by claiming that Christ’s first advent did not fulfill the six goals for the seventy weeks (9:24).  A possible interpretation of these goals is therefore presented:

The first goal is “to finish the transgression”.  The definite article “the”, which is not used with the other goals, identifies the transgression as something specific.  The 490 years were a probation period for the Jews.  It is proposed that this goal was a challenge to the Jewish nation to manifest their loyalty toward Him and bring an end to the sinful state of their society that led to the exile.  As mentioned above, the 70 years of Babylonian domination represent 490 years of disobedience.  By awarding Israel an extension of their covenant for a further 490 years God gave Israel the opportunity to succeed where it previously failed.  This goal was not achieved.  Perhaps this goal was particularly relevant to the three years after the Cross when Israel received the Holy Spirit, and had a final opportunity for revival.  If they, as a nation, did receive the Christ in those final years, the history of the world would have been very different.  If they did receive Him, God might have again renewed His covenant with them, and used them mightily to take His word to the entire world, and Jesus might have returned long ago.

The second goal is “to make an end of sin”.  Jesus, as the second Adam and representative of the people of the world, made an end to sin.  By never committing a sin, He defeated the accuser (Rev. 12:10) by showing that it is possible for man to live a life free from sin through the power of God, thus nullifying Satan’s claim for dominion of this world.

The third goal is “to make atonement for iniquity”.  This Jesus did.  He was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, cf. Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 7:27, 9:26-28; 9:12 and 10:10, 12, 14).

The fourth goal is “to bring in everlasting righteousness”.  According to the Bible Christ did this as well.  According to the New Testament “eternal redemption” already exist (Heb. 9:12) and we are already reconciled to God by the death of His Son (Rom. 5:10, 11; Col. 1:20).  Justification of life to all men is already obtained (Rom 5:18), the world is already saved (John 3:17), God already reconciled all things to Himself, and already made peace through the blood of His cross (Col 1:19-20).

The fifth goal is “to seal up vision and prophecy” the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah were validated or authenticated by the Cross.

The sixth and last goal is “to anoint the most holy place”.  The phrase “most holy” occurs more than 40 times in the Old Testament, and always refers to the sanctuary, with one possible exception.  The “most holy” therefore refers to the most holy portion of the temple.  But it is not an earthly temple.  It was the temple in heaven (Hebrews 8:2); the “true tabernacle” (8:2), not made with hands (9:24; cf. 8:1-2), of which the earthly tabernacle was a copy (8:5; 9:24).  This temple was anointed with “better sacrifices” (9:19, 21, 23) “through His own blood” (Hebr. 9:12).  The anointing of the “most holy” in Daniel 9:24 points to the inaugura­tion of Christ’s priestly ministry in the heavenly temple following His ascension.

All six goals, with the exception of the first, were fulfilled through Jesus Christ on behalf of Israel (verses 25-27).  This Hebrew man atoned for the sin of the whole world.  Through Israel, and particularly through this Hebrew Man Jesus—that became the Lamb of God—God reconciled the world to Himself (Rom. 5:10, 11; 2Co 5:19; Col 1:19-20).

CONCLUSION

The vast majority of the people on earth do not believe in the supernatural, and since the Bible is a book about the supernatural, it is rejected.  Inside the Church one major school of thought shares this view, and believes that Daniel does not predict anything, but that it reflect the events of Antiochus, more than 100 years before Christ.

Dispensationalism is the other major system of belief within the Church.  The prophecies of Daniel are the foundation on which the book of Revelation has been built, as explained in other articles.  An incorrect interpretation of Daniel’s prophecies inevitably leads to a distortion of Revelation’s prophecies.  The typical dispensational interpretation puts everything in the last 19 chapters of Revelation in the final seven years of Daniel 9’s 490 years, which are interpreted as the final seven years before the return of Christ.  Since this article has shown that those seven years do not describe end time events, but the Messiah-events 2000 years ago, the view here is that the dispensational interpretation of Revelation is completely misguided.

The view of Daniel 9, as presented in this article, once was the majority view in the Church, but today is held by so few people that it is effectively non-existent.  But Daniel was promised:

… seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase. (12:4)

 

AVAILABLE ARTICLES Word documents
Daniel 9: Full 44 page article Daniel 9: Full document
Daniel 9: 22 page summary of the Full article Daniel 9: Summary
Daniel 9: The dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 Daniel 9: Dispensational
Daniel 9: The dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 – Summary Daniel 9: Dispensational summary

 

The Dispensational Interpretation of Daniel 9 – Summary

The full 44 page article on Daniel 9 has been summarized into a 22 page document.  Both articles have been published on this website.  This current article is a 6 page summary of a further summary that focuses specifically on the dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9.

TO: the more detailed discussion:
The Dispensational Interpretation of Daniel 9

OVERVIEW OF THE TEXT AND
THE DISPENSATIONAL INTERPRETATION

Daniel received the Daniel 9 prophecy in 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, the sanctuary and his people.  While still praying, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and gave him the prophecy in verses 24 to 27:

70 sevens have been decreed for Israel and their capital city, Jerusalem, to achieve 6 goals (v24).

It is generally agreed that each seven represents seven years.  The 70 sevens consequently equal 490 years.

The 490 years began with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (v25).

In a typical dispensational interpretation this is the second decree of Artaxerxes I, dated to 445 BC or 444 BC.

483 years later the Messiah Prince would appear (v25).

In Dispensationalism this is Jesus Christ, but 483 years from 445/4 BC would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the time of Christ.  Consequently, the 483 years are understood as “prophetic years” of 360 days each.  In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 calendar years to fit the actual historical time from this decree to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His death, assuming the crucifixion was in AD 33 or AD 32.

Jerusalem would be rebuilt “in troublous times” (v25).
After the 483 years the Messiah would be cut off (killed) (v26).
Jerusalem will be destroyed again.

Notice how the prophecy moves back and forth between the two foci; Jerusalem and the Messiah.  These two foci stand in cause-effect relationships; the city is constructed to receive the Messiah, but is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.

“He” will make strong a covenant for the full seven years and will stop sacrifices in the middle of the seven years (v27).

The only event during the first 483 years is the reconstruction of Jerusalem.  But much happens during the final seven years, as described by verse 27.  These final seven years are therefore the climax of the prophecy.

In Dispensationalism:

The 490 years are not viewed as continuous, but a “paren­thesis” or “gap” is proposed between the first 483 years and the final seven years, which will be the seven years before the return of Christ.

The final seven years describe the acts of antichrist.  He is a prince of a revived Roman Empire that will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation.

The second part of verse 27 describes destruction (v27).

HE

Verse 26 refers to two people: the Messiah that is “cut off” and “the prince that shall come”.  Verse 27 continues with a “he”:

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

Much of the discussion in this article revolves around the identity of the “he” in verse 27.  Dispensationalism argues that “he” refers to the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD70, and that this prince will reign during the last seven years before the return of Christ.

Covenant

God’s covenant with Israel included the following:

The land must have a Sabbath every seventh year (Leviticus. 25:1-4).  Should Israel become unfaithful (Lev. 26:14-39) God will scatter them amongst the nations (Lev. 26:33) to allow the land to have its rest (v34) for a period of time equal to the years during which the land did not have its rest (v35).  But if Israel confesses their sin (v40), God would renew His covenant with them (v42, 45).

Daniel 9 follows this covenant pattern:

The prophecy of Daniel 9 was received at the end of Israel’s exile of 70 years, which was the covenant penalty for unfaithfulness: Israel was scattered to allow the land to have its rest.

In his prayer Daniel confessed Israel’s guilt and thus fulfilled the condition for covenant renewal.

The announcement “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city” (9:24) was a renewal of God’s covenant with Israel; limited to 490 years.

God’s covenant with Israel is therefore the central theme in the entire Daniel 9.  Dispensationalism interprets the covenant in 9:27 as a covenant with an end time antichrist, but the covenant theme implies it is God’s covenant with Israel.  In particular, the final week is the final seven years of this renewed covenant.

This is confirmed by the word “confirm”, which means it is not a new covenant, and the phrase “the many” which most often refer to God’s people.

Since it is God’s covenant, the “he” that confirms it must be the Messiah.

DESOLATION IN 27b

Dispensationalism associates the desolation in 27b with an end time despot, but 27b repeats words and concepts used in 26b to describe the destruction of Jerusalem.  This implies that 27b also describes the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  In the parallelism of the prophecy the destruction is mentioned twice, with the description of the final seven years in-between.  Those final seven years must therefore be limited to the Messiah-events of 2000 years ago.  It cannot describe an end time antichrist.

POETIC PATTERN

The prophecy uses much parallelism, where two related words or phrases are used together to emphasize a point, for instance:”insight with understanding” (v22).  The most important pattern in the prophecy is the way in which the focus shifts repeatedly back and forth between the two foci: Jerusalem and the Messiah.  This pattern in clear in verses 25 and 26, which implies that verse 27 continues this pattern, which implies that the “he” who make strong the covenant for seven years, is the Messiah.

SUPERNATURAL BEING

The prince in verse 26 is described as “the prince who is to come”.  In Daniel chapter 10 we read about similar princes (10:20, 21; see also 12:1), but these are supernatural beings, represent nations, which implies that the prince of 9:26 is also a supernatural being that represents a nation; in this case the Roman nation.  The “he” in verse 27 therefore cannot refer back to the prince in verse 26 because the “he” in verse 27 seems to be a human being.

DOMINANT FIGURE

Dispensationalism proposes that the “he” in verse 27 refers to the prince whose people destroy the city in verse 26 because this prince is the last person mentioned in verse 26.  But the “prince that shall come” is not the subject of that clause in verse 26.  It reads “people of the prince”, not “the prince of the people”.  The “prince” in verse 26 is a subordinate figure.  The dominant figure in the entire prophecy and in verse 26 is the “Messiah”.  Based on grammar the Messiah should be preferred as the antecedent of the “he” in verse 27.

ROMAN PRINCE

The people that destroyed the city (9:26) were the Romans.  Their “prince” must therefore be the prince of the Roman Empire.  In the Dispensational system the “he” in verse 27 is this Roman Prince that will rule in the final years before the return of Christ.  This means that the Roman Empire must exist during those final years.  How can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it ceased to exist?  And how can one claim that the Roman Empire of ancient history was the people of an end time antichrist if the people and their prince live 2000 years apart?

STOP SACRIFICE

Daniel 9:27 indicates:

… in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering

In the dispensational interpretation this is the physical destruction of the sanctuary and its services by an antichrist in the middle of the last seven years.  However, since the 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people (9:24), the sanctuary and its services will not be destroyed during the 490 years.

The prophecy of Daniel 9 implies that this world’s sin problem would be solved (9:24) through the appearance (v25) and killing of the messiah (v26), while “sacrifice and grain offering” will be stopped (9:27).  In the view of New Testament this is a description of Jesus Christ.  He was “Jesus the Messiah”.  He was killed.  He fulfilled the goals in verse 24 through His death.  His death also caused sacrifice to cease.  Jewish sacrifices pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Lamb of God.  When the Lamb of God died, the Jewish sacrifices were terminated in the sense of its loss of meaning.  Daniel 9 is therefore thoroughly a messianic prophecy and the termination of sacrifices in verse 27 refers to the sacrifice that ended all other sacrifices.  The “he” therefore refers to the Messiah.

REPITITION

Verse 27 repeats the events of verse 26.  To understand this repetition requires a high level view of the prophecy.  It consists of three divisions; each provides information relative to a different period of time:

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

II.      Verses 25 and 26 describe events relative to the first 483 years, including the killing of the Messiah and the consequential destruction of the city after the end of the 483 years.

III.      Verse 27 describes these same events, but relative to the final seven years.

It has previously been shown that the desolations in 27b are a repeat of the desolation of Jerusalem in 26b.  Since the termination of sacrifices in 27a further explains the killing of the Messiah in 26a, verse 27 repeats verse 26:

A: Messiah B: Jerusalem
26 Messiah cut 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

CONCLUSION

“He” is the Messiah because:

  1. The Messiah is main character in verse 26 and in the entire prophecy.
  2. The covenant in verse 27 is God’s covenant with Israel, which must be confirmed by the Messiah.
  3. In the poetic pattern “he” in the first part of verse 27 is the Messiah.
  4. This is a messianic prophecy, and because the sacrifice of the Lamb of God caused all animal sacrifices to cease to have meaning.

TIMING

The previous section discussed the identity of “he”.  This section investigates the time indications to identify the final seven years during which “he” works.

RESTORE

The 490 years begin with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (v25).  Restore means to give the city back to be ruled by its previous owner.  Dispensationalism identifies this as the second decree of Artaxerxes I in 445/4, but this decree did not “restore” Jerusalem.  The decree that did restore Jerusalem was the first decree of Artaxerses I in 458/7 BC (Ezra 7:1-26).

REBUILD

Dispensationalism claims that the second decree of Artaxerxes I for the first time authorised the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but that is not true.  Different decrees were issued by different Persian kings over a period of about 90 years prior to this decree, and all of them, by allowing the Jews to return to Judah and to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4; cf. Isa 45:1), implicitly allowed the Jews to rebuild their cities.  This is confirmed by evidence from the Old Testament.

SEVENS

The Messiah would appear 483 years after the decree (9:25), but 483 years from the second decree of Artaxerxes would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the time of Christ.  Dispensationalism therefore interprets the 483 years as “prophetic years” of 360 days each.  In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 years to fit the actual historical time from the second decree to the crucifixion.

However, as discussed above, the covenant pattern forms the framework for Daniel 9.  As “prophesied” by Leviticus and confirmed by 2 Chronicles 36:21, each of the 70 years of exile was a Sabbath year.  Therefore, each of the 70 years of exile represents 7 years of disobedience, and the 70 years of exile represent in total 490 years of disobedience.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore extends God’s covenant with Israel for a new cycle of 490 years.  Since the covenant timing is based on the seven year cycle, every seventh year would also be a Sabbath for the land (Lev. 25:2 ff.), and every year a normal literal solar year.

This means that the second decree of Artaxerxes does not fit the time of Christ.

TRIUMPHAL ENTRY

The Messiah will start to act as such at the end of the 69 sevens (9:25).  In the Dispensational interpretation this is His triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days before His crucifixion, but Jesus began His work as Messiah about three years earlier at His baptism when He was “anointed” and introduced to Israel.

JEWISH PERIOD AFTER THE CROSS

In the Dispensational interpretation the first 483 years came to an end at Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (a few days before His death), with the last seven years postponed to the end of time.

However, the 490 years are promised by God as years of Jewish preference, and the preference which Jews enjoyed continued after the Cross.  During that period the Holy Spirit only came on Jews and the gospel was preached only to Jews.  The period of Jewish preference came to an end about three or four years after the Cross, when the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.   These three or four years after the Cross were therefore part of the 490 years.

GAP

Dispensationalism puts a vast gap of 2000 years between the first 69 sevens and the last seven.  However, the wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a gap.  To postpone the last seven years of final crisis to the end of the age destroys the simple unity of the prophecy and divides it into two completely separate and unrelated prophecies; one about Christ 2000 years ago, and one about some future antichrist.  It redirects the focus of the prophecy from Jesus to an end time antichrist.

The last seven years is the climax of the 490 years because all important events occur after the long period of 483 years.  The only purpose of the 69 sevens is therefore to foretell the timing of the final seven years.  Hence, to dislodge that final seven years from the previous 483 years and to propel it into the distant future is to defeat the purpose of the 483 years.

RETURN OF CHRIST

Dispensationalism maintains that the last week ends with the return of Christ.  If this was the case, would verse 27 not end with a description of His glorious return, as the other prophecies in Daniel do?  In contrast the Daniel 9 prophecy ends in the accumulation of desolations and chaos.

THE TIME OF THE MESSIAH

The time-indicators in the text identify the final seven years as follows:

The 490 years began with the decree in 458/7 BC.

Exactly 483 literal years later the Messiah appeared at His baptism in AD 26/27.

This was also the beginning of the final seven years.

About seven years later the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.  This was the end of God’s promised 490 years of Jewish preference.

In the midst of those seven years Jesus was killed, thereby causing the forward-pointing function of the sacrificial system to cease.

Jesus Christ confirmed God’s covenant with Israel during the final seven years through His personal preaching for 3½ years before His death and by sending His disciples to Israel only for a further 3½ years after His death.

Since 490 years were decreed for Jerusalem (v24), Jerusalem was destroyed after those 490 years in 70 AD.

OTHER ANOMALIES

Second Rebuilding

The prophecy promises the rebuilding of the city and the sanctuary, followed by its destruction.  This was fulfilled with the rebuilding of Jerusalem a few hundred years before Christ and its destruction in 70 AD.  But the Dispensational interpretation requires the sanctuary to be rebuilt again in the future.  Such a second rebuilding is not promised by the prophecy.  If the intention was that the sanctuary would be rebuilt again after the destruction of the city in verse 26, but before the termination of the sacrifices in verse 27, then the prophecy would have explicitly stated this, given that it is so clear about the rebuilding in verse 25.

Sacrifices Resumed

In the Dispensational interpretation the Jewish sacrificial system will be revived, but there never can be a valid return to the old covenant and its earthly temple worship.  Christ, the Antitype, has terminated once for all the “shadow” and inaugurated a “better covenant” (see Hebr. 7:22; cf. chap. 10:12; Rom. 3:22, 25).

Goals Achieved

Daniel 9:24 lists 6 goals to be achieved by the events of the 70 sevens, including:

    • “to make atonement for iniquity” and
    • to bring in everlasting righteousness”.

Dispensationalism proposes that these goals will be fulfilled by the return of Christ, which will occur at the end of the last seven years.  Apart from the fact that the 490 years do not end with the return of Christ, this proposal denies the 70 sevens their purpose.  Daniel 9:24 declares that the 70 sevens were allocated to Israel to achieve the goals stated in verse 24 during the 490 years, through Daniel’s people, not by the end of the 70 sevens.

Other Objections

In the dispensational interpretation the antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel after 3½ years, but according to 9:27 the covenant is confirmed for the full seven years.

In the dispensational interpretation the return of Christ will make an end to sin, but Dispensationalism also proposes that sin will continue for 1000 years after the return of Christ.

Dispensationalism postulates the Millennium as a period of Jewish dominance, thereby allocating in total 1490 years to the Jews.  The prophecy allocates only 490 years.

GOALS FULFILLED IN JESUS CHRIST

Dispensationalism protests against the traditional Protestant interpretation of Daniel 9, as defended by this article, by claiming that Christ’s first advent did not fulfill the six goals for the seventy weeks (9:24).  A possible interpretation of these goals is therefore presented:

The first goal (to finish the transgression) was a challenge to the Jewish nation to manifest their loyalty toward Him and bring an end to the sinful state of their society that led to the exile.

The second goal (to make an end of sin), the third goal (to make atonement for iniquity) and the fourth goal (to bring in everlasting righteousness) were achieved by Jesus through His death.  According to the New Testament Bible “eternal redemption” already exist (Heb. 9:12).

The fifth goal is “to seal up vision and prophecy; the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah were to be validated by what the Messiah did.

The sixth and last goal is “to anoint the most holy place”.  The “most holy” refers to the most holy portion of the temple.  But it is not an earthly temple.  It was the temple in heaven (Hebrews 8:2); the “true tabernacle” (8:2), not made with hands (9:24; cf. 8:1-2) that was anointed with “better sacrifices” (9:19, 21, 23) “through His own blood” (Hebr. 9:12).

CONCLUSION

Verse 27 is the key verse of the prophecy and the major point of disagreement between the traditional Protestant and the Dispensational interpretations.  It has been argued above that this is a description of Jesus in His work as Messiah during the final seven years of God’s renewed but time-limited covenant with Israel, nearly 2000 years ago.

 

AVAILABLE ARTICLES Word documents
Daniel 9: Full 44 page article Daniel 9: Full document
Daniel 9: 22 page summary of the Full article Daniel 9: Summary
Daniel 9: The dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 Daniel 9: Dispensational
Daniel 9: The dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 – Summary Daniel 9: Dispensational summary

TO: General Table of Contents

Is the book of Daniel a fraud? – Summary

This high level summary provides an overview
of the types of evidence that are more fully
discussed in the main document.

TO the more detailed discussion: Is the Book of Daniel a Fraud?

Great Gulf: The book of Daniel claims that the visions recorded in the book were given by God to a person named Daniel who lived in the sixth century BC, disclosing God’s knowledge of the future. Critical scholars (liberals) believe that Daniel was written by an unknown writer after Antiochus IV desecrated the altar of the temple in Jerusalem around 167 BC, that its prophecies are by and large interpretations of past history and that the stories in the book are moral fables. In other words, Daniel is the result of pious fraud.

Bible falls: The accurate predictions in Daniel, written in the sixth century BC, are an amazing testimony of God’s complete control and comprehension over time and nations. But if this book was written in the second century BC, under a false name, then the book is a fraud. Then also Jesus made a mistake by accepting Daniel as true, and the reliability of other Bible books, particularly the book of Revelation, may also legitimately be questioned.

Precise date: Most commentators find a good resemblance between the first 35 verses of Daniel 11 and the history of the Greek kings up to Antiochus IV. Critical scholars therefore conclude that Daniel was written after the events of the first 35 verses, in particular after 167 BC, when Antiochus IV desecrated the sanctuary. But the subsequent verses do not mention the success of the Maccabean revolt in 164 BC. Critics therefore hold that the book was written before 164 BC.

EXTERNAL EVIDENCE

The first category of evidence is called “external”, namely what other documents say or not say about the book of Daniel:

It is part of the Bible, and the Bible was put together under the inspiration of God.

There is no indication of a controversy around Daniel in the first 400 years after the Antiochus IV. The book of First Maccabees, written before 100 BC, the Qumran community, within a generation of two after Antiochus IV, the translators of Daniel into Greek, prior to 40AD, the first century AD Jewish historian Josephus, our Creator Jesus and the authors of the Bible books Hebrews and Revelation all referred to the book of Daniel as an authoritative portion of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures.

Hundreds of years passed from the initial writing before a book was accepted as part of Scripture. There is not nearly enough time between 165 BC and the earliest sources in the previous paragraph for this process.

In the Jewish Bible Daniel is not among the prophets, but among the “Writings”, such as the Psalms and Proverbs. However, this is how the Masoretes divided the books of the Old Testament six or more centuries after Christ. The earliest sources, such as the Greek Bible and certain early writers listed Daniel with the prophets.

Ben Sirach, writing around 200-180 BC, lists many famous Jewish men, but he does not mention Daniel. However, Ben Sirach also fails to list dozens of other famous men. It is also possible that the book of Daniel only became fully accepted as part of Scripture when the oppressive reign of Antiochus IV fulfilled its prophecies, which is after the time of Ben Sirach.

Daniel achieved a high rank in both the Babylonian and Persian empires, but no archaeological records have ever been found that mention him. However, only some prominent government officials are mentioned in archaeological records. Further, Ezekiel, a contemporary of Daniel, mentions a righteous and wise Daniel, comparable to Noah and Job. No other such Daniel is known from Scriptures.

It is therefore concluded that good external evidence exists supporting a sixth century date.

INTERNAL EVIDENCE

The next category of evidence is called “internal”. This means that the text of Daniel is compared with circumstances and events in the second and sixth centuries BC to determine whether it betrays the time in which it was written.

Critics maintain that Daniel contains numerous historical inaccuracies when dealing with 6th century BC Babylonian history, and that those mistakes would not have been made by an important official in the employ of King Nebuchadnezzar. This section deals with such alleged inaccuracies.

The fifth chapter of Daniel states that Belshazzar was king the night that Babylon fell (5:30), but secular sources have, since ancient times, stated that Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon. The name “Belshazzar”, as well as his co-regency with his father Nabonidus, was only rediscovered when the Nabonidus Chronicle was published in 1882. This is proof of an early date for Daniel because a second century author would not have known about Belshazzar.

Various other instances of precision with respect to the sixth century argue that the writer was an eye-witness of that ancient culture. This includes knowledge of Ashpenaz, the master of the eunuchs, the categories of wise men, the practice of wives eating with the men, the practice of putting “Medes” first in the phrase the “law of the Medes and Persians”, the location of the city of Shushan and Nebucadnezzar’s building prowess.

Daniel says comparatively little about the earlier kingdoms and kings, but later becomes much more detailed, particularly when describing the evil king. This does not mean that the book was written in the time of the evil king. The purpose of the prophecies is to identify the evil king. The only purpose for describing the preceding kings and kingdoms is to enable us to do this.

Driver, a famous critic, once eloquently said: “The verdict of the language of Daniel is thus clear. The Persian words presuppose a period after the Persian Empire had been well established: the Greek words demand, the Hebrew supports, and the Aramaic permits, a date after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (BC 332).” However:

      • If Daniel was written in 167 BC it would have been saturated with Greek influence. Since it contains only three Greek words, and particularly because these three words are names of musical instruments, which easily move between cultures with the instruments themselves, the book must have been written much earlier.
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      • Daniel includes nineteen Persian words, but Daniel received many of his visions in the Persian period and placed the material in its final form in that period. Furthermore, the Persian words in Daniel are Old Persian words, which is rather strong evidence for an early date of composition.
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      • Daniel is partly written in Aramaic, which was the common language of the entire known world. The dialect of Aramaic in Daniel was written is Imperial Aramaic, which had currency in all parts of the Near East. The normal practice of the Aramaic used in Palestine was to put the verb first, while the Aramaic of Daniel refers the verb till later in the clause, exactly like the Aramaic as used in Babylonian.
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      • The first chapter and the last five chapters of Daniel are written in Hebrew, and it is also said that the Hebrew is more like 2nd century BC Hebrew than 6th century BC Hebrew, but it is very hard for anyone to show that Hebrew is earlier or later. Thousands of years can go by in Hebrew and nothing really changes.

Critics argue that, since most apocalyptic works date from the second century BC onwards, Daniel should be dated then too. However, the style of the many other apocalyptic writings may have been inspired by the book of Daniel.

Critics argue that some of the concepts in Daniel only developed later, but these new concepts are completely consistent with the New Testament, which verifies that Daniel was inspired by God.

Nabonidus was Belshazzar’s father but Daniel refers to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s father. This is not an error in Daniel because “father” is also used for a functional relationship.

Daniel 1:1 states that Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah in the third year of Jehoiakim, whereas Jeremiah announced the coming of the Chaldeans only in Jehoiakim’s fourth year. The authors used different dating systems. Daniel’s reference to Jehoiakim’s third year proves that the author of Daniel wrote from a Babylonian perspective. Daniel dates the siege of Jerusalem to Jehoiakim’s third year, but Chronicles dates it to Jehoiakim’s eleventh year. But this also is not an error in Daniel. Jerusalem was twice sieged by Nebuchadnezzar during Jehoiakim’s lifetime.

Nabonidus was Belshazzar’s father but Daniel refers to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s father. This is not an error in Daniel because “father” is also used for a functional relationship.

The Mede-Persian armies under Cyrus defeated Babylon in 539 BC, but the book of Daniel identifies “Darius the Mede” as the conqueror of Babylon and as its first ruler after the defeat of Babylonia (Dan. 5:30-31; 6:25). However, this does not necessarily indicate an error in Daniel. Darius is described by Daniel as a subordinate ruler, not the supreme ruler of the empire, and might have been the throne name for the person whom Cyrus appointed as governor of the province of Babylon, but who ruled only for (at most) three weeks.

The term “Chaldeans” refers in the first place to the ethnic race from which Nebuchadnezzar came, but Daniel uses this term to refer to wise men. The fifth century historian Herodutus uses this name for priests. It is therefore not impossible that this term already had this specialized meaning when Daniel wrote.

It is therefore also concluded that good “internal evidence” exists supporting a sixth century date. Many of the arguments used by critics for a late date support an early date, upon further reflection. Perhaps the only strong support the critics have for a late date is the absence of Darius the Mede in the archeological records, but the document on Darius the Mede, published on this website, provides a feasible explanation.

AFTER ANTIOCHUS

The prophecies in the first 35 verses of Daniel 11 closely resemble the history of the fragmented Greek empire and the reign of the Greek king Antiochus IV. According to Daniel itself these prophecies were received more than 300 years in advance, butcritical scholarship does not accept that it is possible to predict events centuries later so accurately.Using the arguments addressed above under internal and external evidence they must show that Daniel was written during or after the time of Antiochus IV.

But shifting the date of writing to the time of Antiochus does not entirely solve the problem for the critics. Since copies of Daniel and the undisputed references to the book of Daniel in other writings has been dated to 100 BC or earlier, they are obliged to date the writing of the book to no later than 100 BC. Three line of evidence will now be presented to show that Daniel does predict events after the time of Antiochus, and after 100 BC:

Firstly, the article “Daniel’s evil king; Greek or Roman?”, published on this website, shows that Daniel predicts that Rome would become an empire that would dominate the known world. To predict this, in 165 BC, when critics claim the book of Daniel was written, and further to predicts that it would not be followed by another empire, but be subdivided into various independent kingdoms, of which the predicted evil king would be the most powerful, is accurate long term prophecy.

Secondly, in another article published on this website, it has been shown that Daniel 9 predicts the appearance and the killing of the Messiah in the first century AD.

Thirdly, there are many similarities between Antiochus and Daniel’s predicted evil king, but in still another article published on this website it has been shown that Antiochus IV does not entirely fit the profile of Daniel’s predicted evil king. For the complete fulfillment of the prophecies we must search for a later and much more powerful evil king.

The rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the killing of the world’s Messiah and Daniel’s evil king all are predictions to be fulfilled after the time of Antiochus, and after 100 BC. Thereby the credibility of the prophecies and the supernatural inspiration of Daniel are verified. This implies that the references to Antiochus IV in Daniel are also supernaturally inspired.

CONCLUSION

Daniel is an amazing book. The symbolic, precise and succinct representation of future empires presents God as existing outside time, because He created time. The miracles in Daniel speak of a God that is in absolute and complete control of our physical environment.

But we do not like it because it implies that we should subject ourselves to this infinite Force. We avoid the demands presented by the supernatural predictions. We defend ourselves against the demands of God by rejecting the very good evidence for a sixth-century date of composition. We choose to embrace a liberal, naturalistic, and rationalistic philosophy.

But if Daniel is rejected because of miracles, then all of Scripture must be rejected. The Bible is a book of miracles. You will find a miracle on nearly every page.Judaism and Christianity are founded on the supernatural workings of a personal God who is in control of human history, and knows the future. Based on this assumption it is possible to allow the Book of Daniel to be a book written by a real sixth century Daniel containing real prophecies and telling of real miracles. To admit that Daniel was given amazing visions of the future is to acknowledge that an almighty, authoritative God exists.

TO the more detailed discussion: Is the Book of Daniel a Fraud?

TO: General Table of Contents

Is the book of Daniel a fraud?

A Word copy of this article is available here.

GREAT GULF

There is a great gulf between the claims of the book of Daniel and the liberal understanding of the book.

Daniel among the LionsThe book of Daniel claims that the visions recorded in the book were given by God (2:29ff.; 4:24; cf. 31ff.; 5:24-30; 9:21-22; chapters 7-12) to a person named Daniel (7:1, 28; 8:1, 9:2; 10:2; 12:5), who was a contemporary of Nebuchadnezzar (605-562), Belshazzar (556-539) and Cyrus (539-530) (2:1; 5:1; 10:1 etc.). Daniel therefore lived in the sixth century BC. The book claims the prophecies as proof of God’s knowledge of the future. The book further presents its stories as real events that occurred during and shortly after the Babylonian captivity in which God’s power was demonstrated.

Most modern non-conservative or critical scholars believe:

Writer: That Daniel (or at least the second half of Daniel) was written by an unknown writer, using Daniel as his pseudonym (false name);

167 BC: That Daniel was completed after Antiochus IV Epiphanes (a king from the Seleucid branch of the Greek Empire) desecrated the altar of the temple of Jerusalem around 167 BC, and that Daniel was written in reaction to the events of that time.

Prophecies: That its prophecies are by and large interpretations of past history.

Stories: That the stories in the book are parables or moral fables, perhaps with a historical core;

Few Christians are aware of the fact that this view is widely held in academic circles. The following is quoted here as proof that this is the view in academic circles (critical scholars):

The Book of Daniel presents a collection of popular stories about Daniel, a loyal Jew, and the record of visions granted to him, with the Babylonian Exile of the 6th century BCE as their background. The book, however, was written in a later time of national crisis—when the Jews were suffering severe persecution under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175–164/163 BCE). (Encyclopædia Britannica)

The Book of Daniel was written during the persecutions of Israel by the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes. (Jewish Encyclopedia)

This explains why university trained preachers so seldom preach from Daniel. They have been taught that this book is pious fraud.

IF DANIEL FALLS, THE BIBLE FALLS.

Daniel mentions the Mede-Persian and Greek* Empires by name and provides clear predictions of individual Greek kings up to Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century BC. This bolsters belief in the supernatural character of the book and in the unique predictive capability of God, the only uncreated Being, Who is therefore not subject to the constraints of time or space (Isaiah 46:9-10). The book is an amazing testimony about how God rules the universe. It demonstrates God’s complete control and comprehension over time and nations.

(*Daniel refers to the Macedonian Empire as the Greek kingdom. This article therefore also refers to it as the Greek kingdom. They did speak Greek!)

If this book was written at the time of Antiochus IV for the purpose of strengthening the morale of the Jews of that time—under a false name—creating the impression that the author was Daniel, a super-Jew of the sixth century BC, then the book is a fraud.

Jesus referred to Daniel as a prophet and put the fulfillment of some of its prophecies in the future (Matt. 24:15–16; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20). If the book of Daniel is a fraud, then Christ was mistaken concerning it. Then we should also doubt His other statements.

Due to the interwoven nature of the Scriptures an attack on any one book of the Bible is an attack upon all books of the Bible. Although written by many different authors of many different vocations in varied historical settings over a period spanning over a thousand years, the Holy Spirit guided the message of the Bible into an integrated whole. If Daniel is a fraudulent piece of literature, then the reliability of other books in the canon of Scripture may legitimately be questioned.

This applies particularly the book of Revelation, because Daniel is the foundation on which the book of Revelation has been built. For instance, the “time, times and dividing of a time” (Dan 7:25) is central to many of the visions in Revelation (11:1, 2; 12:6, 14; 13:5). Further examples are listed in the section titled “No Controversy”.

It is therefore important that every Christian be aware of the convincing evidence that Daniel was really written in the sixth century BC, and also understands that the scientific method, used in academic circles, cannot accept the supernatural as a founding principle. The purpose of this document is consequently to provide evidence that Daniel was written in the sixth century BC, and therefore contain real prophecy.

PRECISE DATE

This is an important concept to grasp in this context. Critical scholars believe that they are able to accurately date the finalization of the book of Daniel, for instance, as stated by the New Jerusalem Bible:

The book ‘Daniel’ must therefore have been written during the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes and before his death, even before the success of the Maccabaean [Hasmonean] revolt; that is to say between 167 and 164.

Antiochus Epiphanes IV desecrated the temple in 167 BC and tried to destroy the Jewish religion, but the Jewish rebels (the Maccabees) were able to drive Antiochus’s forces out of Israel by 164BC.

The first 35 verses of Daniel 11 closely resemble the history of the Greek kings up to and including Antiochus IV, such as the desecration of the sanctuary in 167 BC (11:31). Critical scholars therefore conclude that Daniel was written after the historical events of the first 35 verses. But the remainder of Daniel 11 and 12, which apparently continue the history of the same king, do not agree with known history. In particular, although it continues until the end of the current world history, there is no mention of the success of the Maccabean (Jewish) revolt. Critics therefore conclude that the remainder of Daniel 11 and Daniel 12 is the author’s own but incorrect predictions, and that Daniel was written before the success of the Maccabean revolt in 164 BC. They consequently date the writing of the book to shortly after 167 BC.

EXTERNAL EVIDENCE

The first category of evidence is called “external”, namely what other documents say or not say about the book of Daniel:

PART OF THE BIBLE

For those that accept that the Bible was put together under the inspiration of God it would be an unpleasant surprise to find a book written under a false name, falsely claiming divine foreknowledge and miracles, being accepted as Holy Scripture.

NO CONTROVERSY

To appreciate this point an overview of the history of the Maccabean Date Hypothesis (that the Book of Daniel was written when the Jews were suffering persecution under Antiochus IV Epiphanes between 167 and 164 BC) is first required:

The first person that proposed the Maccabean date hypothesis was the third-century AD philosopher Porphyrius of Tyre in his work entitled “Against Christians”. Porphyry’s goal was to discredit Daniel because its remarkably accurate predictions prove the existence of a God that knows the future. He contended that the remarkably accurate “predictions” contained in Daniel (esp. ch. 11) were the result of a pious fraud, perpetrated by some zealous propagandist of the Maccabean movement, who wished to encourage a spirit of heroism among the Jewish patriots resisting Antiochus IV.

Porphyry was more or less dismissed by Christian scholarship until the time of the enlightenment and scientific revolution in the eighteenth century, when naturalism and rationalism had an upsurge, and when all supernatural elements in Scripture came under suspicion. A series of authors revived Porphyry’s theory. They all agreed with Porphyry that such long-range prophecies are impossible. In 1890 Klaus Koch wrote a powerful book denouncing the exilic date of writing (sixth century BC), and proclaiming the Maccabean theory. Immediately following him, in 1900, came S.R. Driver’s commentary on Daniel, supporting the same theory. Since then, the majority of scholars generally accept the Maccabean date theory without much question.

We will now review the sources prior to Porphyry.

The book of First Maccabees was written before 100 BC. It cites history from the book of Daniel as actual historical events.

First Maccabees was written most likely near 166 BC and no later than 100 BC. It cites history from the book of Daniel as actual historical events:

Ananias, Azarias, and Misael, by believing were saved out of the flame. Daniel for his innocency was delivered from the mouth of lions. (1 Mac. 2:51-60)

In the Qumran community, within a generation of two after the Maccabean revolt, the book of Daniel was popular, and Daniel regarded as a prophet.

The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) are a collection of 972 documents discovered between 1946 and 1956 on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea at Khirbet Qumran. These are the oldest known surviving copies of biblical and extra-biblical documents. These manuscripts have been dated with paleography, which is the study of ancient style of writing, alphabetic characters and layout, to various ranges between 408 BC and 318 AD.

The Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) includes an extensive collection of manuscripts of the biblical book of Daniel — from every chapter of Daniel except one. The DSS also includes other works that discusses and references the book of Daniel, including references to “the book of Daniel, the Prophet” and the “Anointed of the Spirit, of whom Daniel spoke” (Dan. 9:25-26). Some of the documents (Items 4QDan(c) and 4QDan(e)) were copied (not written for the first time) between 150 and 100 BC. The book of Daniel was evidently popular at Qumran, and Daniel was regarded as a prophet.

Daniel was translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic into Greek in the translation now known as the Septuagint or the LXX.

The translation of Daniel into Greek was only widespread perhaps by c.40AD, but living much closer to the events in view than us today, these translators accepted Daniel as inspired.

The first century AD Jewish historian Josephus accepted the book of Daniel as an authoritative portion of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures.

Josephus mentions that Daniel’s prophecies regarding Alexander the Great were shown to the Greek general as he came toward Jerusalem in the 4th century BC, and that the illustrious commander was so impressed that he spared the holy city (Antiquities Xl, VIII, 3-5). The factuality of this story is disputed, but it highlights Josephus’s view and therefore the Jewish view at the time, namely that Daniel was the author of the work and that it was completed long before the time of Alexander (332 BC), and therefore long before the Maccabees. Living much closer to the Maccabean era than us, Josephus knows nothing of a Maccabean origin for Daniel or any alternative author than the biblical Daniel.

Josephus also wrote that no books were added to the Old Testament after the time of the Persian ruler Artaxerxes (464-424 B.C.) (Josephus, Against Apion 1.8).

Josephus interpreted the desolation of the temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes as the fulfillment of prophecies made by Daniel “according to Daniel’s vision and what he wrote many years before they came to pass” (Antiquities X.Xl.7).

Jesus believed Daniel was a real person that predicted future events.

Jesus said:

So, when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ of which the prophet Daniel spoke, standing in the holy place…then those who are in  Judea must take to the hills. (Matthew 24:15-16 cf. also Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20).

Jesus therefore believes that Daniel was an actual person named Daniel. Jesus also believed that Daniel was a prophet, and interpreted the “abomination of desolation” as a future event. The endorsement of Daniel and his book by Jesus settles the matter for those who place their faith in Christ.

In the New Testament Jesus refers to Himself more than 80 times as “the Son of man. There can be no doubt that Christ claimed Himself as fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14:

… one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him (7:13). And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Dan 7:14).

The reference in Daniel 7 to the Son of man coming with the clouds is in the context of judgment. Consistent with this Jesus said that He, as the Son of man, will come with the clouds of heaven (Mat 26:64) to judge (Mat 16:27; 25:31-32). This means that Jesus accepted Daniel as true.

The authors of the letter to the Hebrews and the book of Revelation accepted Daniel as factual.

In Hebrews 11:33, 34 we read:

prophets who…stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire …

Here we have a reference to Daniel chapter 6 with his encounter in the lions’ den and to Daniel 3 where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego are thrown into the blazing furnace in Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.

Many key concepts in the book of Revelation originate from the book of Daniel, which at least means that the author of Revelation (John) accepted the book of Daniel as an authoritative portion of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures:

Beast: In Revelation 13 a beast comes out of the sea. It was “like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion”. These are the same beasts (lion, bear, leopard and non-descript beast) that also come out of the sea in Daniel 7. Both the beast in Revelation 13 and the beasts in Daniel 7 have seven heads and ten horns.

Evil king: The beast from the sea (Rev. 13) corresponds to the evil king of Daniel—both blaspheme God, persecute the saints, pretend to be God and work for a “time, times and half a time”.

Times: The time, times and half a time (Dn7:25; 12:7), and alternative expressions of it (1260 days and 42 months), is found five times in Revelation (11:2, 3; 12: 6, 14; 13:6).

Oath: The oath in Revelation 10 continues the oath in Daniel 12.  Both are in the context of a book, with the emphasis on whether the book is sealed or open, in both the supernatural being is above water, in both he lifts up his hand to heaven and swears by “Him who lives forever and ever”, and in both he swears about time; when the end will be.

In Revelation 14:14 John wrote:

And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.

Note the link this creates between Daniel, Jesus and Revelation. Daniel prophesied about the Son of man that will come on the clouds of heaven to receive the eternal kingdom. Jesus said He is that One. John the revelator saw Him coming on the clouds of heaven to reap the earth (Rev. 14:15-16).

NO TIME

From the initial writing of an inspired book hundreds of years followed of copying, distribution, reading and discussions before it found a place in the hearts of the people as part of the Scriptures. The earliest sources discussed above, namely the book of First Maccabees, the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint, dated at latest to 100 BC, do not allow nearly enough time for this process if Daniel was written in 165 BC.

The time required for a book to become generally accepted as part of the Bible, followed by translation into Greek, is much more than the 200 years from 165 BC to 40 AD.

If Daniel was known in the Maccabean period to be written under a false name, falsely presenting history as prophecy and falsely claiming miracles, with an incorrect view of the history after 164 BC, and containing many historical errors (as the critics propose), then it is even more unlikely that it became accepted as inspired Scripture—while other such books were consistently rejected—within a generation of two by a community that were eyewitnesses of the Maccabean revolt. People first had to forget about its origins before it could slowly start to become accepted as inspired.

To this should be added the major new theological concepts in Daniel, such as that people will arise from death (12:2, 13), and the other concepts discussed below. These new concepts would also have prolonged the time required before the book was accepted as inspired.

The next three points are also classified as external evidence, but it is external evidence which critics offer to argue for a second century authorship. Responses to these arguments are provided, and the reader is urged to evaluate this evidence against the evidence above for a sixth century authorship.

WRITINGS

In English Bible, in the Latin Vulgate and in the Greek Septuagint we find the book of Daniel among the books of the Major Prophets. But in the Hebrew canon, which is divided into the Law (Pentateuch), the Prophets and the Writings (Kethubim), Daniel is included among the Writings, not in the Prophets.

A famous critic (Driver) once wrote:

…there are strong reasons for thinking that the threefold division represents three stages in the collection and canonization of the sacred books of the O.T.,–the Pent. being canonized first, then the ‘Prophets’ and lastly the Kethubim.

Critics propose that the collection of the ‘Prophets’ was completed by 200 BC, and conclude that if the Book of Daniel existed at the time it would have been included with the writings of the other prophets. Since it is found amongst the Writings, they conclude that Daniel must have been written after the collection of prophetic books had been closed; therefore after 200 BC.

However, Daniel was listed among the prophets in the time of Christ:

Daniel was listed among the prophets in the Greek Septuagint translation (hence its position in our English Bibles through the medium of the Latin Vulgate).

Daniel was regarded as a prophet in the New Testament, in the LXX, and at Qumran. Melito, bishop of Sardis (A.D.70), listed Daniel among the prophets. Origen (d. A.D. 254) listed Daniel before Ezekiel and the twelve prophets.

The first century AD Jewish historian Josephus mentioned the three divisions of the Hebrew canon, but included only four books in the Writings, rather than the thirteen assigned to it by the Masoretes of the late first millennium AD.

The Masoretic division of the Jewish canon, coming as it did six or seven centuries after Flavius Josephus, therefore has no bearing whatever on the date of Daniel’s composition. Driver’s fundamental assumption, that the Jewish threefold division represents three stages in the collection and canonization, is flawed.

The Masoretes may have been influenced in this reassignment by the consideration that Daniel served in a foreign court throughout his entire career and did not prophesy directly to the people of Israel. He was not a prophet in the strict Hebraic sense of the word. For the Jews a prophet was somebody that received messages from God and spoke to the nation, such as Isaiah or Jeremiah.

BEN SIRACH

Jesus Ben Sirach, writing in 200-170 BC, mentions all the Prophets, even the Minor Prophets, and many famous men, but he does not mention Daniel. This is taken to mean that Sirach was unaware of Daniel; hence, Daniel was written after 170 BC.

Critics also point out that Ben Sirach expressly said that he has never found a man who resembled Joseph. They conclude that he could not have made this statement if he knew of Daniel, since both Daniel and Joseph rose to be prime minister by virtue of their ability to interpret dreams.

In defense:

Dozens of other “famous men” are not listed, for instance Moses, Joshua, Solomon, Samuel, Job, Sampson and Ezra. Certainly this does not mean that these leaders were unknown to Jesus Ben Sirach.

As for one “not being like Joseph,” it should be noted that, unlike Joseph, Daniel did NOT save the entirety of Israel from extinction and did not do anything to raise the Jews as a whole to prominence. Far too much emphasis is placed on the fact that both received dreams as a prophetic tool; the differences between these two personages tend to be ignored.

But it is also possible that Sirach really did not know about Daniel. Daniel was told to conceal the words and to seal up the book until the end of time (12:4). A few verses later he was again told:

Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time … none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand (12:9-10)

From this it may be concluded that the book was not made publicly available very soon. And even when it was made available, it was not understood. It is possible that the book of Daniel only became (partly) understood and fully accepted as part of Scripture when the oppressive reign of Antiochus IV fulfilled its prophecies of an evil king, which is after the time of Ben Sirach.

DANIEL THE PERSON

Very soon after arrival in Babylon Daniel achieved a high rank in the Babylonian Empire (Dan 2:48). After the Persian conquest, he was immediately elevated to a role second only to the king (Dan 6:3). But although many archaeological records are available from both empires, none mentions Daniel.   There is also no mention of him in the Jewish (or other) literature before the Maccabean period (from 164 BC). For Critics this is strong circumstantial evidence that Daniel never existed and that the book was of later authorship.

In response; only some prominent government officials are mentioned in archaeological records. Further, Ezekiel, who, like Daniel, lived in the 6th century BC, mentions a Daniel who is, like the Daniel of our book, righteous and wise, comparable to Noah and Job (14:14, 20; 28:3). Since he mentions this Daniel without qualification, it must have been a well-known person, and there is no other famous Daniel.

Critics argue that in 591 and 586 BC—when Ezekiel wrote those passages—our Daniel had barely begun his career. However:

Quoting God: Ezekiel is simply quoting God, and God exists outside time.

Same character: The brief descriptions of Daniel in Ezekiel are consistent with the data in the book of Daniel. Both describe Daniel as righteous and extremely wise.

After Daniel 2: The events of Daniel 2, when the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and, on Daniel’s request, also appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, occurred in the 2nd year of Nebuchadnezzar (2:1), which would be around 604 BC. Daniel would have been the highest-placed and most recognized of the Jews of the Exile and well known by all Jews 14 to 20 years later, when Ezekiel wrote his book.

Who else?: Ezekiel uses the name “Daniel” without qualification, implying a well-known personality.   No satisfactory explanation exists for the use of the name Daniel by the prophet Ezekiel other than the Daniel in our book. Critics propose that Ezekiel here appeals to a pagan hero who was closely associated to Baal and Annath and did not believe in the God of Israel. This is hardly a respectable supposition.

The testimony of Ezekiel is that Daniel was a real person.

INTERNAL EVIDENCE

The next category of evidence is called “internal”. This means that the text of Daniel is compared with circumstances and events in the second and sixth centuries BC to determine whether it betrays the time in which it was written.

Critics maintain that Daniel contains numerous historical inaccuracies when dealing with 6th century BC Babylonian history, and that those mistakes would not have been made by an important official in the employ of King Nebuchadnezzar. This section deals with such alleged inaccuracies.

FIFTH CHAPTER

Belshazzar could only promise Daniel to be 3rd ruler in the kingdom (5:16). Why could Belshazzar not promise him the #2 position? Because Belshazzar himself was #2 as long as his father was still alive.

Scholars had to conclude:

Of all the non-Babylonian records dealing with the situation at the close of the Neo-Babylonian Empire the fifth chapter of Daniel ranks next to cuneiform literature in accuracy so far as outstanding events are concerned. The Scriptural account may be interpreted as excelling because it employs the name Belshazzar, because it attributes royal power to Belshazzar, and because it recognizes that a dual rulership existed in the kingdom. Babylonian cuneiform documents of the sixth century BC furnish clear-cut evidence of the correctness of these three basic historical nuclei contained in the Biblical narrative dealing with the fall of Babylon.

The total information found in all available chronologically-fixed documents later than the sixth century BC … could not have provided the necessary material for the historical framework of the fifth chapter of Daniel.’ (R. P. Dougherty, Nabonidus and Belshazzar (New Haven: Yale, 1929), pp. 199f.)

To explain: Daniel states that Belshazzar was king the night that Babylon fell (5:30), but the two famous Greek historians of the fifth and fourth centuries BC (Herodotus and Xenophon) did not mention Belshazzar when they described the fall of Babylon. Annals in the Greek language are absolutely silent concerning Belshazzar. This situation goes right down to Josephus in the first century AD. Secular sources have, since ancient times, stated that Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon.

The name “Belshazzar” was not rediscovered until the Nabonidus Chronicle was published in 1882. With it Daniel was proven correct. It verified Belshazzar’s existence, as well as his co-regency during the absence of his father. The Nabonidus Chronicle states that Nabonidus (Belshazzar’s father) lived in Arabia during the last ten years of the Babylonian Empire, and that he left the kingship to Belshazzar during that period. (Hasel, pg. 155; New World Encyclopedia);

Nabonidus “entrusted the ‘camp’ to his eldest son [‘Belshazzar] …entrusted the kingship to him (Hasel, pg. 155; New World Encyclopedia) and himself … he turned towards Tema in the West.”

“when the third year was about to begin- he [Nabonidus] entrusted the army to his oldest son, his first born, the troops in the country he ordered under his command. He let everything go, entrusted the kingship to him.”

One tablet from the 12th year of Nabonidus calls for oaths in the names of both Nabonidus and Belshazzar. These are fairly strong evidence that Belshazzar was indeed the coregent in his father’s absence, and was in Babylon when it fell in 539 BC.

The very mention of Belshazzar by Daniel is proof of an early date for Daniel. Since the name of Belshazzar had been forgotten by the time of Herodotus (ca 450 B.C.), at least so far as the Greek historians were concerned, how would a second century author know of Nabonidus leaving Belshazzar in charge? The only conclusion that one can reach, other than some other information which has been lost to us today, is that the author was indeed alive during the events of 539 BC.

SIXTH CENTURY KNOWLEDGE

Various other instances of precision with respect to the sixth century argue that the writer was an eye-witness of that ancient culture:

Asphenaz is mentioned in the first chapter of Daniel as master of the Eunuchs. The following statement has been found on monuments of ancient Babylon which are now in the Berlin Museum: “Ashpenaz, master of eunuchs in the time of Nebuchadnezzar”.

Daniel is very detailed and, as confirmed by archaeological records, correct in his categories of wise men (cf. 2:2, 27).

The prophet describes the practice of Belshazzar’s wives eating with the men on festive occasions (5:1-4). This was the custom in ancient Babylon and Persia (Herodotus, History, V.18), but not in the period of the Greeks in the second century BC.

Daniel lists the Medes first in the phrase “law of the Medes and Persians” (5:28; 6:8, 12, 15). In later history, due to Persia’s ascendancy, it became “Persians and Medes” (cf. Esth. 1:19).

Daniel locates the city of Shushan in the province of Elam (8:2), whereas boundaries changes in the Persian period located Shushan in the province of Susiana.

It is commonly agreed that Daniel correctly represents Nebuchadnezzar’s building prowess – and his corresponding braggadocio. The East India House inscriptions in London has six columns of Babylonian writing bragging about building operations which Nebuchadnezzar carried on in enlarging the beautifying Babylon. Pfeiffer admits: “We shall presumably never know how our author learned that the new Babylon was the creation of Nebuchadnezzar (4:30) … and that Belshazzar … was functioning as king when Cyrus took Babylon in 538 (ch. 5).”

The following points are also classified as internal evidence, but it is evidence which critics offer to argue for a second century authorship. However, in many instances this evidence rather supports a sixth century authorship:

LATER MORE DETAILED

Daniel’s prophecies get more & more detailed all the way to 168-164 BC, as an analysis of the visions in Daniel 7, 8 and 10 to 12 will show. Daniel 7 and 8 say comparatively little about the earlier kingdoms and kings, but much about the little horn. The same applies to Daniel 11. In the beginning of chapter 11 many kings are described in a single verse, but later many verses describe a single king. About 8 verses describe Antiochus III, followed by more than 20 verses describing the evil king of Daniel 11.

However, the detail provided with respect to the evil king does not prove that the book was written in the time of the evil king. The purpose of the prophecies is to identify and describe this evil king. The only purpose for describing the preceding kings and kingdoms is to provide information to identify the evil king.

LANGUAGE

Driver, the famous critic mentioned above, once eloquently said:

The verdict of the language of Daniel is thus clear. The Persian words presuppose a period after the Persian Empire had been well established: the Greek words demand, the Hebrew supports, and the Aramaic permits, a date after the conquest of Palestine by Alexander the Great (BC 332).

GREEK

According to Driver’s statement the strongest linguistic support for a late date is the Greek words in Daniel. This refers to the names of three musical instruments in chapter 3 of Daniel, which appear to be Aramaic transliterations of their Greek names (Dan. 3:5, 7, 10, 15). Critics assert that these Greek words were not known in Babylon in the sixth century BC because Greek cultural influence upon other nations did not reach its zenith until after Alexander the Great (about 330 BC).

However, there are only three Greek words in the entire book – and all three refer to musical instruments (Kitharos, Psanterin, and Sumphonyah). The book of Daniel would have been saturated with Greek terms if it were written as late as 167 BC in Palestine, where Greek-speaking (Hellenistic) governments had control of the entire region for more than 160 years. The LXX (Greek translation of the OT) was begun c.260BC, which illustrates the influence of Greek.

Furthermore, the Greek kitharis appears in the Aramaic Homer (eighth century BC at the latest) [Dyer.Dan3, 430; MillS.Dan, 29]. Greek words also appear in the Elephantine Papyri dated to the fifth century BC. The names of musical instruments would circulate beyond national boundaries with these instruments themselves, just as foreign musical terms have made their way into English, like the Italian piano and viola.

PERSIAN

Driver’s second strongest linguistic evidence for a late date of composition is the Persian words in the text of Daniel. He noted, for instance, that “the mention of ‘satraps’ under Nebuchadnezzar (3:2, 3, 27) is alone a remarkable anachronism”. There are nineteen or fewer such Persian words.

The visions contained in the last four chapters of Daniel were received after Persian authority has been established over Babylonia (9:1; 10:1). The story of Daniel in the lions’ den (chapter 6) plays out in the same period. Daniel himself served as a very senior official in the Persian government (6:3, 28). The book of Daniel was therefore composed in its final form during the Persian period. There is no particular reason why Daniel should not have used in his language those Persian terms which had found currency in the Aramaic spoken in Babylon in the Persian period. At least twelve of the nineteen Persian loan words are technical terms used within government—just the sort of terminology which Daniel, in his administrative position under Persians, would have quickly acquired.

Further, of these Persian words, six are not found later than 330 BC, and all of them are what are called “Old Persian” words – which gave way to Middle Persian ca. 300 BC. [Baldwin, Joyce G. Daniel, Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1978] The Persian expressions in the book would seem to be rather strong evidence for an early time of composition.

ARAMAIC

The primary languages in Daniel are Aramaic and Hebrew. The first chapter of Daniel is written in Hebrew, but in the middle of 2:4 the Chaldeans (Babylonian wise men) start to speak in Aramaic:

Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.” (Daniel 2:4)

From this point onward, the book of Daniel continues in Aramaic until the end of chapter 7 and then resumes in Hebrew in 8:1 and continues in Hebrew for the remainder of the book.

It is said that the mere fact of Aramaic in the text indicates a late date, but Aramaic was the lingua franca (common language) spoken by the heterogeneous populations of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian Empires, especially in the realms of government and commerce. Aramaic was not the common language in the Maccabean period (166 BC), but rather Greek.

It is also said that the Aramaic of Daniel is a Western Aramaic dialect, of the type spoken in and about Palestine, not the Eastern dialect spoken in Babylon. However, “recent discoveries of fifth-century Aramaic documents” have shown quite conclusively that Daniel was written in a form of Imperial Aramaic, an official or literary dialect which had currency in all parts of the Near East (Archer, Gleason. A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1974, 397]. Even Driver eventually withdrew his conclusions on this point and admitted that the Aramaic belonged to an earlier period.

The Genesis Apocryphon that was discovered in Qumran Cave 1, from the third or second century BC, puts the verb first in sentence clauses. This was the normal practice of Western Aramaic used in Palestine during the Maccabean period (Archer). But, exactly like the eastern Aramaic as used in Babylonian, the Aramaic of Daniel shows a marked tendency for the verb to be referred till a later position in the clause. On the basis of the word order alone, it is safe to conclude that Daniel could not have been composed in Palestine. (Archer, Gleason. “Daniel” The Expositors Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985.)

It has been conceded by many scholars that the Aramaic of Daniel is much closer to the Elephantine Papyri, which has been dated to the 5th and 4th centuries BC.

The relatively later form of the spelling of some Aramaic terms does not indicate a Maccabean era composition.   Copies were made by hand, and the copiers would have updated the spelling as the spelling changed. For instance, Nebuchadrezzar is spelled Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel, which is the way the king’s name was spelled at a later time, under Greek influence.

HEBREW

It is also said that the Hebrew is more like 2nd century BC Hebrew than 6th century BC Hebrew, but it is very hard for anyone to show that Hebrew is earlier or later. Thousands of years can go by in Hebrew and nothing really changes.

For more information on the language in Daniel and many other aspects, please refer to the Tektonics website.

APOCALYPTIC STYLE

Both the book of Revelation and the book of Daniel are classified as apocalyptic. This term is a transliteration of the first Greek word in the book of Revelation (Apokalypsis), meaning ‘a revealing’.

Characteristics of apocalyptic literature include:

  • Extensive use of symbols or signs;
  • Visions that are recorded exactly as they were seen. (limited human design)
  • Focus on the end time;
  • Shows God’s people trampled in the short term, but victorious in the end;

Daniel is a prime example of apocalyptic literature. This writing style was quite common in Israel from the 2nd century BC to the 2nd century AD. These writings are often attributed to a famous historical hero in order to give them credibility. Critics argue that since most works of apocalyptic date from the second century BC onwards, Daniel should be dated then too.

But the style of the many other apocalyptic writings may have been inspired by the book of Daniel, which means that the other works would be later than the book of Daniel. Furthermore, some other OT passages, e.g. Isaiah 25-27 and Zechariah 9ff. have apocalyptic features yet can hardly be dated as late as the second century.

NEW CONCEPTS

According to the New World Encyclopedia the book Daniel was an important influence on later apocalyptic writing and attitudes in both Judaism and Christianity.

In the view of the critics the Bible has developed over a long period of time through small changes, similar to the concept of the evolution of life on earth. They argue that some of the concepts in Daniel have only developed much later than the sixth century BC.

Daniel is the only book in the Old Testament in which angels are given names (Gabriel in 8:16 and 9:21 and Michael in 10:13, 10:21, and 12:1). Elsewhere names for angels only appear in the Apocrypha and the New Testament.

In the sixth century BC Jews believed that all persons went to Sheol after death. Critics claim that the concepts of heaven and hell, which are found in Daniel (Dn12:2), was introduced centuries later by the Greeks, and that it did not appear in Israel until the time of the Maccabean revolt.

Other concepts that are new in Daniel, compared to the rest of the Old Testament, are the last judgment, the resurrection of the dead (Dn12:2), and the everlasting kingdom. These concepts may be new compared with the Old Testament, but they are completely consistent with the New Testament, which verifies that it was inspired by God.

THE SIEGE

JEHOIAKIM’S THIRD YEAR

Daniel 1:1 states that Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Judah and siege of Jerusalem took place in the third year of Jehoiakim, whereas Jeremiah 25:9 announced the coming of the Chaldeans only in Jehoiakim’s fourth year. Jeremiah 46:2 furthermore dates the first year of Nebuchadnezzar also in Jehoiakim’s fourth year.

This is not an error in Daniel. To the contrary, it supports an early date. The authors used different dating systems:

Jeremiah—a Palestinian—naturally used the Palestinian dating system, whereby the calendar year in which a new king acceded to the throne was reckoned as the first year of his reign (which, in the case of Jehoiakim, would have been 608 BC). His fourth year would therefore be 605 BC.

Daniel, used the Babylonian system, whereby the first year of a new king begins at the commencement of the next calendar year. Thus, by the Babylonian reckoning, Jehoiakim’s first year was 607; therefore Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion in 605 was Jehoiakim’s third year. (Harrison, R.K. Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1969, pg. 1112)

This apparent error actually supports a sixth century authorship. If Daniel was written by some Jew in the second century, he would have made his work to appear as Scriptural as possible, and refer to historical sources, such as Jeremiah. Why would he contradict Jeremiah—whom his readers knew well? Furthermore, the reference to the third year of Jehoiakim in Daniel 1:1 confirms that the author of Daniel wrote from a Babylonian perspective.

JEHOIAKIM’S THIRD OR ELEVENTH YEAR?

2 Chronicles 36:5-8 reports a siege by Nebuchadnezzar in Jehoiakim eleventh year as king, when Jehoiakim was carried off to Babylon. This was in 599 BC.

2 Kings 24:1 also implies a siege:

During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he changed his mind and rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar.

The invasion in Kings is not the same as the one in Chronicles because in Chronicles Jehoiakim was carried away, while he remained as vassal king after the invasion in Kings. For the same reason it is also clear that the siege in Chronicles was at least three years later than the invasion in Kings, and that the three years that Jehoiakim was vassal king for the Babylonians were before 599 BC.

With the assistance of secular history the events can be reconstructed:

Jehoiakim had been put on the throne by the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco (2 Kings 23:34). In the year 605 Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptian army. The Egyptians retreated to Egypt and “The king of Egypt did not come out of his land again, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates“ (2 Kings 24:7). He therefore also took control of the king of Judah. On this expedition Nebuchadnezzar probably besieged Jerusalem, took hostages and looted treasures from the temple. Among the hostages were Daniel, Shadrach, Mishach and Abendgo; descendants of the Royal family.

When Nebuchadnezzar returned to Palestine in 601, his army was defeated by the Egyptians. It is consequently possible that the Egyptians returned to Palestine in 602 and that Jehoiakim at that time rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. He therefore could have been a vassal to the Babylonians from 605 to 602.

The Chronicles-siege was a few years later in 599 BC, when Jehoiakim was carried off to Babylon.

There was actually a third siege, namely the siege in 2 Kings 24:10 and following. By that time Jehoiakim was already dead (v6). After this siege Nebuchadnezzar led the entire Jerusalem into exile (v14).

A siege in 605 is therefore quite possible.

BELSHAZZAR’S FATHER

Belshazzar is represented by Daniel as the son of Nebuchadnezzar (5:2, 11, 13, 18, 22), but he was the son of Nabodinus. Critics propose that, during the long period of oral tradition, the unimportant kings of Babylon were forgotten, and the last king, who was vanquished by Cyrus, have been taken by the second century writer as the successor of the well-known Nebuchadnezzar. (JE)

However, by ancient usage, the term ‘son’ was also used for a successor in the same office, whether or not there was a blood relationship. Archer, Gleason. A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1974, 391-2 lists examples. The terms ‘father’ and ‘son’ are used figuratively in the Old Testament. Elisha called Elijah ‘my father’ (2 Kings 2:12).

Nabodinus was not related to Nebuchadnezzar, but Herodotus reports that Nebucadnezzar’s wife was the “mother” of Nabodinus [Town.Dan – Towner, W. Sibley. Daniel. Atlanta: John Knox, 1984, 70]. Oriental monarchs who were usurpers commonly tried to legitimate their claim to the throne by marrying their predecessor’s wife or daughter. A literal blood relationship is therefore also possible.

DARIUS THE MEDE

Persian records identify Cyrus as king of Persia when Babylon was captured, after he conquered the Medes eleven years earlier in 550 BC. These records also identify a Gubaru (Greek: Gobryas), a Persian, as the governor of the province of Babylon after the Babylonian Empire was defeated.

Apart from the book of Daniel, only Josephus refers to Darius the Mede. Critics therefore regard Darius the Mede as a fictional character, or at the very best a confusion of Cyrus’ third son with the same name – who was not a Mede, but a Persian. They propose that this mistake by the second century writer was the result of predictions in Isaiah and Jeremiah that the Medes will conquer Babylon (Jeremiah 51:11; Is. 13:17; 21:2; Jer. 51:28). They therefore propose that the author of the book of Daniel, contrary to historical evidence, inserted a separate Median empire between the Babylonian and Persian empires, and created the fictitious figure of Darius the Mede to fit this schema.

The fact that this mighty king Darius is not mentioned by non-biblical sources is perhaps the best support the critics have for historical inaccuracies in the book of Daniel. But:

Firstly, it is very unlikely that a second century author would have made the mistake of inserting a Median Empire. Such an author must have been of the most educated class and could hardly be expected NOT to be aware of the actual history. Ezra 4:5-6 has a listing of the Persian kings, and as Josephus’ work indicates, there were many histories in circulation at the time of the Maccabees which would include information on the Persian Empire. We know some of these histories today: Herodotus, Xenophon, Berosus, and even the OT outside of Daniel (Is. 45:1, 2 Chron. 36.20-3) make it quite clear that Cyrus was the conqueror who took Babylon, and who freed the Jews and other peoples to return to their homes. If he did make such an error, it would have been pretty obvious to his contemporaries.

Secondly, it is adequately clear that the book of Daniel always represents the Medes and the Persians as a single empire. The “Writing on the Wall” was interpreted as “your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians” (5:28). This directly indicates a dual monarchy. (See also 6:8, 12, 15, 8:20). Daniel never mentions a war, after the defeat of Babylon, between the Medes and the Persians, through which Cyrus became king. The author therefore did not think of Darius as king of a separate Median empire. His rule must have coincided with that of Cyrus. Darius was either another name of Cyrus, or he ruled only in the province of Babylon.

Thirdly, Darius is never described as king of the Medes, only as king of the Chaldeans (Dan 5:30-1, 9:1), which would be limited to the province of Babylon. Darius has also been “made king” and he “received” the kingdom when Babylon was defeated (5:31). These indicate that Darius was a subordinate ruler.

A separate article has been published on this website in which it is argued that Darius was the throne name for Ugbaru. Ugbaru was the general whose troops conquered Babylon for Cyrus. He was made regional governor by Cyrus over the province of Babylon. He appointed his own supervisors over his dominion, holding the power of life and death over them, but unexpectedly died three weeks after Babylon was captured. It is possible that he is not mentioned as Darius in other literature because he ruled only for a very limited period.

CHALDEANS

Daniel uses the term “Chaldeans” for both the ethnic race from which Nebuchadnezzar came (5:30) and as a specialized term for wise men (2:2, 4, etc.). Apparently Nebuchadnezzar reserved the positions of wise men for people from his race. In this way “Chaldeans” over time became a synonym for “wise men”. Critics maintain that the word only attracted this additional specialized meaning much later than the sixth century, but Herodutus (vol. 1, sec 181-183) already in the fifth century BC refers to the priests of Bel as Chaldeans. It is therefore not impossible that this term had this meaning in the middle of the sixth century, when Daniel wrote.

AFTER ANTIOCHUS

Daniel predicts the Greek Empire by name. Most liberal and conservative scholars agree that the prophecies in the first 35 verses of Daniel 11 closely resemble the history of the fragmented Greek empire. This includes a minutely accurate portrayal of the Seleucid-Ptolemaic wars, which seems to culminate in the reign of the Greek king Antiochus IV. According to Daniel itself these prophecies were received more than 300 years in advance of these events. However, critical scholarship does not accept that it is possible to predict events centuries later so accurately:

We need to assume that the vision [of Daniel 8] as a whole is a prophecy after the fact. Why? Because human beings are unable accurately predict future events centuries in advance [Towner, Daniel, Interpreter’s Bible, John Knox: 1984, p. 115, cited in [DLIOT:332]]

Critics therefore need a solution for Daniel. They must show that Daniel was written during or after the time of Antiochus IV. This they do by arguing that Daniel contains many errors with respect to the sixth century and by pointing to other indications (such as the language), arguing that Daniel was actually written in the second century. (These arguments have been addressed above by discussing the internal and external evidence for when Daniel was written.)

But shifting the date of writing to the time of Antiochus does not entirely solve the problem for the critics. Since the death of Antiochus IV does not agree with the death of the evil king as described in the latter portion of Daniel 11, and because Daniel does not mention the Maccabean revolt or the success of that revolt, they have to conclude that Daniel was written before the death of Antiochus IV and before the success of the Maccabean revolt in 164 BC, and that in the latter portion of Daniel 11 the author ventured his own predictions of the future, but got it hopelessly wrong. The copies of Daniel and the undisputed references to the book of Daniel in other writings dated in 100 BC or earlier also oblige critics to date the writing of the book to no later than 100 BC.

Therefore, if it can be shown that Daniel predicts events after the time of Antiochus, and after 100 BC, the credibility of the prophecies in Daniel is confirmed. Then the attempt of the critics to push the date of writing forward avails nothing because the supernatural inspiration of Daniel is verified. Then the fundamental assumption of the critics, on which their entire theory is based, namely that accurate long term predictions are impossible, is shown to be false.

Three line of evidence will now be presented to show that Daniel does predict events after the time of Antiochus, and after 100 BC:

Firstly, the article “Daniel’s evil king; Greek or Roman?”, published on this website, has shown that the evil king comes out of the Roman Empire. Daniel therefore predicts that Rome would become an empire that would dominate the known world. In the time of Antiochus Rome was a growing threat, but it did not yet dominate. To predict, in 165 BC, when critics claim the book of Daniel was written, that Rome would one day dominate, and further that it would not be followed by another empire, but be subdivided into various independent kingdoms, of which the predicted evil king would be the most powerful, is accurate long term prophecy, which verifies the supernatural character of the book.

Secondly, in another article published on this website, it has been shown that Daniel 9 predicts the appearance and the killing of the Messiah in the first century AD. This also supports the proposal that Daniel contains accurate long term prophecies, as copies of Daniel (Dead Sea Scrolls) have been available to the Qumran sect before the crucifixion.

Add to this the fact that the Jews expected a Messiah that would lead the nation to world dominance. But Daniel predicts that the Messiah will be killed (Dan 9), only to receive the eternal kingdom at the end of the current world history (7:13). It is unlikely that an uninspired second century BC author, writing under a false name, falsely predicting the future, would represent their national hero thus. The suffering Messiah underscores the divine inspiration of the book of Daniel.

Thirdly, Daniel 11:2-19 correlates well with the history until the death of Antiochus III in verse 19 and there are many similarities between Antiochus and the predicted evil king, but in still another article published on this website it has been shown that Antiochus IV does not entirely fit the profile of Daniel’s predicted evil king. Antiochus IV is not the complete fulfillment of Daniel’s predicted evil king. Antiochus IV is a type of the predicted evil king, but for the complete fulfillment of the prophecies we must search for a later and much more powerful evil king.

These three predictions of events after 164 BC verify Daniel’s supernatural inspiration. We can safely conclude that the references to Antiochus IV in Daniel are also supernaturally inspired.

CONCLUSION

Daniel is an amazing book. The symbolic, precise and succinct representation of future empires presents God as existing outside time, because He created time. It reminds us that we are infinitely small, drifting around on a particle of dust in a small galaxy, swirling around in a universe of infinite size, not knowing where we came from or where we are going. In the immense infiniteness of time our existence is like a fraction of a second. The miracles in Daniel, such as the three Jews that came unscathed out of a sevenfold intensified fire without even the smell of fire on them, or a hair on their bodies scorched (Daniel 3), speak of a God that is in absolute and complete control of our physical environment. Through Daniel a Force that is infinite in time and space has burst into our microscopic existence.

But we do not like it because it implies that we should subject ourselves to this infinite Force. If Jesus came with the same ambitions as Israel, presenting Himself as a warrior, ready to defend and fight for the supremacy of Israel, Israel would have accepted Him gladly. But He came as a servant, respecting the poor and outcast, criticizing pride and haughtiness. Therefore they killed Him. Similarly God is humble in the sense that He grants each of His intelligent creatures complete freedom to decide for or against Him. He does not override our personal inclinations by force. Sufficient evidence exists of God’s existence and power, but that evidence is not presented in such a way that it will limit our freedom to decide for ourselves according to what principles we will organize our lives. We are free to live our earthly lives ignoring the demands of the humble Creator (Mat 11:29). The infinite source of all life and power does not want to rule the universe by fear, but through love. In fact, the only service He can accept is the service of love, and love requires complete freedom.

We are different. We want to rule. We want to force our will down on the people around us. To do that we must avoid the demands presented by the supernatural predictions. We must kill God. Very good evidence exists for a sixth-century date of composition, but we defend ourselves against the demands of God by rejecting it in favor of an unsupportable Maccabean hypothesis. We choose to embrace a liberal, naturalistic, and rationalistic philosophy. Like Porphyry the intellectual leaders of this world, steeped in human reason and intellectual vanity, refuse to recognize the miracle of Daniel. Rationalistic naturalism does not accept the possibility of an all-powerful God Who intervenes in the course of history, even declaring in advance through chosen individuals what will transpire in the future. Critics do not subject their views to a reality beyond that which man can rationally investigate and measure. We angrily attack Daniel by rejecting its supernatural aspects. It is not a question of evidence. It is a question of faith. Faith does not depend on evidence, but seeks evidence to justify it.

For that reason we push forward the writing of Daniel a few centuries and claim that some unknown, well-meaning—but very decep­tive—Jew fabricated the visions after the events happened. Similarly the miracles such as Daniel in the lions’ den are pushed aside as mere children stories.

But if Daniel is rejected because of miracles, then all of Scripture must be rejected. The Bible is a book of miracles. You will find a miracle on nearly every page.  Judaism and Christianity are founded on the supernatural workings of a personal God who acts in human history, is in control of human history, and is knowledgeable about human future. Based on this assumption it is possible to allow the Book of Daniel to be a book written by a real sixth century Daniel containing real prophecies and telling of real miracles. To admit that Daniel was given amazing visions of the future is to acknowledge that an almighty, authoritative God exists.

TO: General Table of Contents