When is the last week of Daniel 9:27? Is it the last seven years prior to Christ’s return?

Last seven yearsIn Dispensationalism the last week is the last seven years before Christ returns.  However, the Poetic Pattern and the repetition of words indicate that the desolations in verse 27 are the same as the destruction of Jerusalem in verse 26.  This happened in AD 70.  The last week, described earlier in verse 27, must therefore be prior to AD 70.  To propel the last seven years into the distant future defeats the purpose of the 483 years and converts this prophecy about the Christ into a prophecy about the antichrist.

Jesus and the Abomination of Desolation

Jesus teachingJesus said:

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

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

and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate” (NASB)

An abomination is some grave sin.  A desolation is a destruction.

Dispensationalism claims:

(1) That our Lord in Matthew 24:15 placed the “abomination of desolation” at ‘the end,’ just before His second coming in glory (Matthew 24:15, 21, 29, 30).
(2) That the “Abomination of Desolation” is the stop that will be put to sacrifice “in the middle of the week” (9:27).
(3) Therefore, that “he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering” at the end of the age; just prior to Christ’s return.

Abomination of DesolationHowever, Jesus, in Matthew 24:15, did not put the “abomination of desolation” at the end of the age, as the Dispensationalism claims.  To the contrary, He linked it to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  The parallel statement is Luke 21:20-23 (compare Mat 24:16-19).  Luke, writing to Gentiles, who were not familiar with the book of Daniel, interpreted Jesus’ reference to the abomination of desolation as the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem.  See Little Apocalypse.

Chronological Sequence

The question in this section relates to the chronological sequence of the destruction of the Jerusalem in 9:26 and the last seven years in verse 27.

Daniel's propheciesVerses 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

Notice the “he” used twice in verse 27.

Dispensationalism

The destruction of the city in 9:26 is dated to 70 AD.  Dispensationalism assumes that the events in verses 25 to 27 are presented in chronological sequence.  Consequently, since the last seven years (9:27) is mentioned after the destruction of Jerusalem (9:26), the last seven years follow after AD 70.  Since the first 483 years came to an end at the time of Christ, this necessitates a gap between the first 483 years and the last seven years.

Jerusalem destroyed
Jerusalem destroyed

It would also mean that the “he” of 9:27 cannot be the Messiah, for the Messiah died about four decades earlier.  The only remaining option is that “he” refers to the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD 70 (9:26).  It should logically follow that “he” is to the Roman Caesar in 70 AD, and that the last week is the time around 70 AD.  But, as already stated, Dispensationalism proposes that the Roman Empire will be revived in the years just prior to Christ’s return and that “he” (9:27) is the Roman Caesar at that time.

Not in strict chronological sequence

These proposals may be disputed in a number of ways:

parallelismFirstly, because of the poetic parallelism, as discussed in the previous article, the assumption of a strict chronological sequence is incorrect.  The following examples confirm that the prophecy is not presented in chronological sequence:

The rebuilding of the city (25c) is mentioned after the appearance of the anointed one (25b), while the city was rebuilt four hundred years before the Anointed.

The prince causes sacrifices to cease (9:27) after the sanctuary is destroyed (9:26).  But if the sanctuary is destroyed there does not remain a sacrificial system that can be ceased.

Since 70 weeks have been determined for the city of “your people” (9:24), the destruction of the city and the sanctuary in verse 26 must occur after the end of the 70 weeks, and therefore after the 70th week of verse 27.

Desolations Repeated

Summary: The last part of verse 27 describes the destruction of Jerusalem.  The covenant in verse 27 is therefore confirmed prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. 

Roman Empire Destroyed

The question in this section is what the last part of verse 27 refers to.  This verse describes undefined abominations and a complete destruction:

NASB:and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate

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

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

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

In the NASB translation desolations are poured out on a desolator which, in the context, refers to the people who destroy the city (9:26).  The NASB hereby introduces a concept not mentioned by the previous verses.

Dispensationalism uses the NASB-type translation to argue as follows:

(1) The last part of 9:27 refers to the destruction of the Roman Empire.
(2) Since the Roman Empire was not destroyed in Christ’s time, it must be in our future.
(3) Since 9:27 describes the last seven of the 490 years, the last seven years must be in our future today.

Dispensationalism further proposes that the Roman Empire will be revived in those last seven years, to be destroyed again at Christ’s return at the end of those last seven years.

Discussion

However, since different translations present 9:27 differently, we must assume that this verse may be translated in more than one way.  We should not rely too much on a specific translation.

Secondly, according to the literary analysis of the text, the desolation in the last past of 9:27 refers to the destruction of the city, some 40 years after Christ’s death.  See Poetic Pattern in the previous article or the article Chronological sequence in Daniel 9.

Desolations repeated

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

MESSIAH CITY
26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

Note the key phrases from verse 26 that are repeated in verse 27:

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

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

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

Destruction JerusalemDispensationalism associates the desolation in verse 27 with an end time despot, but the similarity between the last parts of verses 26 and 27 implies that they refer to the same event, which is identified by verse 26 as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The last part of verse 27 does not deal with the destruction of the Roman Empire.

Conclusions

Above Matthew 24:15 is discussed.  If we do make the assumption that Jesus in Matthew 24:15 referred to Daniel 9:27, as Dispensationalism does, then Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:15 confirms that the last part of 9:27 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

In the parallelism of the prophecy, the destruction is mentioned twice, with the description of the last seven years in-between.  Those last seven years must therefore be limited to the time prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  It cannot describe an end time antichrist.

The Daniel 9 prophecy promises the reconstruction of Jerusalem to receive the Messiah, but it also predicts that Jerusalem will be destroyed as a consequence of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah.  The destruction of Jerusalem is an integral part of the Messiah-events of 2000 years ago.

Entire 9:26 repeated

The previous article concluded that it is the Messiah who dies in 9:26a, who confirms the covenant for the last seven years and who puts a stop to sacrifices in 9:27a.  Since we have now shown that the last part of 9:27 repeats the last part of 9:26, it follows that the entire verse 27 is a repeat of verse 26 (NASB):

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

To appreciate this repetition requires a high level view of the prophecy.  It consists of three divisions; each provides information from the perspective of a different period of time:

(24) Verse 24 sets the goals for that entire period of 490 years.

(25-26) Verses 25 and 26 describe events, including the killing of the Messiah and, consequently, the destruction of the city after the end of the 483 years, from the perspective of the first 483 years.

(27) Verse 27 describes these same events, but from the perspective of the last seven years.

What does the last part of 9:27 mean?

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

The Cross
The Cross of Christ

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

Above three arguments used by Dispensationalism, to show that there is a gap of 2000 years or more between the first 69 weeks and the 70th week, are discussed and opposed.  Other arguments against such a gap include:

Revived Roman Prince

The Romans destroyed the city (9:26) in AD 70.  Their “prince” must therefore be the Roman Caesar.  In Dispensationalism 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.  But 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 to the contrary proposed here that, since the prince in verse 26 is the Roman Caesar, 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.

Defeats the purpose

The only event during the initial 483 years is the construction of the city.  But the prophecy predicts 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 those last seven years.  The last seven years are therefore the core and purpose of the 490 years.   The only purpose of the first 483 years is to foretell the timing of the last seven years.  Hence, to dislodge that last seven years from the previous 483 years and to propel it into the distant future is to defeat the purpose of the 483 years.

No indication of a gap

The wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a break or gap.  There appears to be no valid reason, or defensible ground, for separating the 70th 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.  Dispensationalism places most of the prophecies in book of Revelation in the last seven years.  Because of this emphasis that is placed by Dispensationalism on the last seven years this prophecy about the Christ is effectively converted into a prophecy about the antichrist.

Summary

A major issue in this article is to identify the desolations in the last part of verse 27.  In this article it is argues that this refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  It then follows that the last week, described earlier in verse 27, must have been prior to AD 70:

Abomination of Desolation Jesus spoke about the “abomination of desolation” in Matthew 24:15.  The parallel verses in Luke 21:20-23 indicates that He referred to the Roman armies that surrounded Jerusalem in AD 70.  Since the phrase “abomination of desolation” could possibly be linked to the last part of Daniel 9:27, it is possible that the desolations in that verse might refer to the events of AD 70.

Desolations Repeated – The last part of verse 26 describes the destruction of Jerusalem.  The Poetic Pattern of the prophecy indicates that the destruction in verse 27 refers to the same event.  This is confirmed by the repetition of words and concepts from the last part of verse 26 in verse 27.

The covenant in verse 27 is therefore confirmed prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  It cannot be an end-time covenant.

Other arguments against such a gap include:

ChronologicalChronological Sequence The destruction of the Jerusalem is mentioned in 9:26 and the last seven years in verse 27.  Dispensationalism uses this to argue for a gap, but the prophecy is not given in strict chronological sequence, as implied by the poetic parallelism and as confirmed by examples from the prophecy.

Roman Empire be revived – How can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it ceased to exist?

Defeats the purpose The only purpose of the first 483 years is to foretell the timing of the last seven years.  Hence, to dislodge that last seven years from the previous 483 years and to propel it into the distant future is to defeat the purpose of the 483 years.

No indication of a gap The wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a break or gap.

Previous articles – The previous articles already concluded that it is the Messiah that works in those last week and that He confirms God’s covenant with Israel.  The last week therefore cannot be the time of an end-time antichrist.

Conclusion

The last part of 9:27 links desolations (destruction) to abominations (severe sin).  The repulsive sin is here understood to be Israel’s rejection its Messiah.  The desolation refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans 40 years later.

Dispensationalism converts this prophecy about the Christ into a prophecy about the Antichrist.

NEXT:   Dispensationalism Daniel 9 and the Antichrist: Inconsistencies compared to the text  Various other differences between the text and the Dispensational interpretation are identified, such as that Jerusalem will be rebuilt twice, while the prophecy promises only one rebuilding.

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

The 490 years promised to Israel in Daniel 9 came to an end a few years after the Cross; at the stoning of Stephen.

Peter preaching at PentecostIn the first few years after Jesus died, under God’s guidance, the gospel was preached only to Jews.  The Christian Jews continued to live like Jews.  Christianity was a sect of Judaism and had its headquarters in Jerusalem.  Two to four years after the Cross commenced the Jewish persecution of the Jewish Christians, beginning with the stoning of Stephen.  This was the end of God’s covenant with Israel, which is also the end of the 490 years promised by Daniel 9.

Sect of Judaism

The first seven chapters of Acts do not mention non-Jews.  In those first few years after Jesus’s death the gospel was preached only to the “circumcised” (Acts 10:45 – i.e. Jews).  Christians continued to live practically like Jews.  Christianity existed as a sect of Judaism and the dramatic acts of the young church were confined to Jerusalem.  This is evidenced by following:

Jerusalem

Jesus explicitly told the apostles to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4).

Pentecost

PentecostThe apostles and other believers received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, when Jews from all every nation were gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:10, 5).  This implies that God chose that place and time to give the apostles the opportunity to preach repentance to the Jews.  Peter preached to the gathered Jews to repent (Acts 2:38) and on that day 3000 were added to the church (Acts 2:41, cf. 5:11).

Healing at the Temple

Peter preaching at the templeIn Acts 3 God gave Peter to heal a lame man at the temple (3:2, 7).  This implies that God chose this place for the healing to give Peter opportunity to preach the gospel at the temple.  All the people gathered around Peter and the apostles, full of amazement (Acts 3:11).  Peter urged them to “repent, so that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19).  Many believed, and the church grew to 5000 men (Acts 4:4).

Go again to the Temple

After the apostles were jailed (5:18), an angel released them and told them to go and speak to the people in the temple (5:20).  They preached every day in the temple (5:42).

Israel forgiven

Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Peter told the Jews that Jesus had been exalted by God “to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).

Peter’s vision 

Peter dreaming unclean animalsA few years after the cross God gave Peter the vision of unclean animals (Acts 10:19-20) to convince him to accompany “without misgivings” the uncircumcised men which Cornelius sent.  Many people suppose that that vision was about what Christians are allowed to eat, but when Peter arrived at Cornelius, he interpreted his vision himself.  He said, “God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (10:28).  Peter also declared “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (v34-35).  This implies that Peter previously thought that God was partial to the Jews.  He previously thought that non-Jews were unholy or unclean.  The fact that God had to give Peter this vision confirms that disciples and other believers did not associate with the “uncircumcised” in the first few years after the cross.

Holy spirit on gentiles

Cornelius receives the Holy SpiritA number of the circumcised Christians went with Peter to Cornelius (10:23, 45).  While Peter was speaking to the uncircumcised gentiles in Cornelius’ house, the Holy Spirit fell on them (10:44, cf. v45) and they spoke in tongues (10:45).  This amazed the “circumcised” that came with Peter (10:45).  The fact that they were amazed again shows that this was the first time that uncircumcised people received the Holy Spirit.

Back in Jerusalem

When “the circumcised” in Judea heard about these things, they took issue with Peter (11:2), asking why he went to uncircumcised men and ate with them (11:3).  After Peter explained what happened, they declared: “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (11:18).  This again confirms that, prior to this point in history, the believers did not associate with the uncircumcised, which means that the gospel was focused exclusively on the circumcised.

A series of articles is available that explains the history of the early church in more detail.  Please see Early Church Table of Contents.

Stoning of Stephen:
Turning point in history

In Acts 6 the gospel still focuses on the circumcised.  “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (6:7).  But in Acts 10 God, by giving Peter the vision, redirects the gospel to non-Jews.

Stoning of StephenMost of the intermediate verses describe the persecution of the believers, starting with the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7 (8:1) and ended with the conversion of Paul (9:31).  This shift in gospel focus was therefore caused by the persecution of God’s Spirit filled people.

The stoning of Stephen was a turning point in the history of the early church:

Prior to that, the church functioned as part of Judaism, Christians lived practically as Jews and the church was confined to Jerusalem.

Through the persecution, which followed after his death, God dispersed the believers.  This reversed Jesus’s instruction to His followers to stay in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4).  The church was expelled from Judaism and Jerusalem.  The Christian message was taken to the Gentile world.  As was their habit previously, the fleeing believers at first took the message only to Jews (11:19).  But the Holy Spirit steered the gospel towards the non-Jews, particularly through the conversion of Paul; the apostle to the Gentiles.

Dating of the stoning of Stephen

The dating of Stephen’s death is entirely dependent on the date of Paul’s conversion.  Merrill C. Tenney, in his book “New Testament Times” (Inter-Varsity Press, 1967, chapter 7), gives 30 AD at the most probable year for the crucifixion and 32/33 as the most probable date for the stoning of Stephen and the conversion of Paul.  R. Jewett (A Chronology of Paul’s Life (Philadelphia, 1979), pp. 1-2.) dates Paul’s conversion to AD 34.  Since this should at the most months after the stoning of Stephen, the Stoning of Stephen could be as late as 34 AD.  Stephen therefore died about 2 to 4 years after the Cross.

End of the 490 years

As argued in the article Confirm the covenant, the Seventy Weeks (490 years) come to an end when the Messiah no longer maintains His covenant with Israel (Daniel 9:27).  Since the gospel went to Jews only during the first few years after the Cross, God’s covenant with the Jews did not come to an end at the Cross.  But since God suddenly redirected the gospel away from the Jews to all people, a few years after the cross, this must be the end of the Seventy Weeks.

It also seems appropriate that Israel would seal the termination of the covenant with the rejection and persecution of the people to whom God gave His Holy Spirit, just as they persecuted Jesus a few years before.

This conclusion also fits the time specifications exactly.  There was 483 years from the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (see Which Decree) to the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry at His baptism, as required by the prophecy.  3½ years later He offered Himself as the Lamb of God, “putting a stop to sacrifice and grain offering” (9:27).  Another 3½ years later, at the end of the 490 years, the covenant with Israel came to an end.

490 yearsTherefore, God’s covenant with Israel ended two to four years after the Cross.

Stephen announced the end of the covenant.

In an earlier article (The Covenant in Daniel 9) it was shown that the entire Daniel 9 is based on the covenant God made with Israel.  Stephen’s speech was similarly based on the covenant.  While Daniel confessed the sins of his people and prayed for the mercies of the covenant, Stephen’s speech was a pronouncement of God’s judgment in terms of the covenant.

In contrast to Peter some time earlier (cf. Acts 4:8-12), Stephen made no effort to defend himself.  In contrast to other speeches in Acts, Stephen did not call his hearers to repentance.  Rather, he cites God’s mighty acts on behalf of His people in the past—keeping His side of the covenant.  Then he lists the failures of the Jewish people—explaining that the Jewish people did not keep their side of the covenant.  After his long recital of Israel’s history, he announced his verdict:

You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it” (Acts 7:51- 53).

Jesus stood in judgment

Stephen then “gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (7:55).  The Bible consistently says that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God (Luke 22:69; Heb. 8:1-2; 10:12; cf. Col 3:1; Rom 8:34; Acts 2:33; 5:31; Mar 16:19; 1 Peter 3:22).  But Stephen saw Him standing.  It is therefore proposed that Jesus stood in judgment, and that Stephen was the conduit through which Jesus’ judgment was announced on the Jewish nation.  Stephen brought to the Jewish leaders not only another one of God’s covenant lawsuits, but the final one.

Israel no longer the covenant people

The period of privilege for the Jews did not end at the Cross.  After Christ’s death God offered them a last opportunity.  But they failed (Acts 7:53).  The seventy weeks which God decreed for Israel have come to an end.  They were now no longer the people of the covenant.  The change in Stephen’s speech of the pronoun from “our” (Acts 7:11, 19, 38, 44 and 45) to “your fathers” (v. 51) means more than a simple breakage in Stephen’s solidarity with his audience.  It also implies the definitive end of the covenant God made with Israel.

Jew First

The gospel … is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

The covenant which God made with Israel was not synonymous of salvation. The purpose of the covenant was to take God’s salvation to the entire world (cf. Genesis 12:1-3).  God elected Israel for Himself and conferred to them a series of privileges, such as the multiplication of their seed, the gift of the land, and His own presence in blessing and protection, in order to enable them to be the channel for His blessing to all other nations.  Thus the covenant must be understood in terms of mission.

So to state that the Jews are no longer the people of the covenant does not mean that God has rejected them (cf. Romans 11:1–10).  Rather, God has chosen another method to execute His missionary plan.  God’s covenant with Israel was established on a corporate basis—i.e., it involved the entire nation as an entity.  The end of the covenant with Israel does not imply the end of God’s interest in the Jews as individuals.  Because of this, the gospel was still preached to them even after the stoning of Stephen (cf. Acts 28:17-28) (92).  But the privilege of being “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9) was no longer theirs.  The people of the covenant are now not defined by bloodline, but by faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26-29; cf. Romans 11:25-32).

In his last moments Stephen prayed: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60).  These words were much more than a prayer.  They were the genuine expression of God’s will in relation to the Jews. “If they do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again” (Romans 11:23).

What if Israel accepted the Messiah?

What would have happened if Israel accepted the message brought by the Holy Spirit?  It would have proclaimed “the excellencies of Him” to the entire world in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the goals for the seventy weeks would have been attained:

Finish the transgression,
Make an end of sin,
Make atonement for iniquity,
Bring in everlasting righteousness,
Seal up vision and prophecy and
Anoint the most holy place.

For more on this controversial subject, please see the series of articles on the return of Christ, concluding with Why did He Not Return in the First Century as He promised?.

NEXT:  The Consistent Symbolical Interpretation
TO:  Daniel 9 Interpretations Overview
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The Liberal Critical Interpretation of the 490 years promised by Daniel 9 to Israel

The book Daniel was written during the Babylonian Empire in the sixth century BC and contains very precise predictions of the later Medo-Persian and Greek Empires.  The liberal critical view of the Bible, which dominates the academic centers of the world, makes the a priori assumption that knowledge of the future is impossible.  It therefore must show that Daniel was written after the events it predicts.  Its proposed solution is that Daniel was written during the second century BC crisis under Antiochus IV, and that Daniel contains no predictions of events beyond than time.  But then Daniel 9 predicts 490 years from the decree to restore Jerusalem until Antiochus, while there are less than 400 years between the Babylonian Empire and Antiochus.  These scientists therefore propose creative solutions.

This article explains the critical interpretation of Daniel 9, phrase by phrase, but also provides objections to it.

The point of departure

Holy BibleThe point of departure in the critical perspective is:

(1) That the book of Daniel was written during the persecution of the Jews by the Greek king Antiochus IV, somewhere between 168 and 163 BC.
(2) That all the visions in Daniel, even Daniel 9, describe the conflict under Antiochus.
(3) That the prophecies in Daniel are actually recorded history in the form of prophecy.

Antiochus desecrated the temple and killed many Jews.  But soon the Jews, through the Maccabean revolt, were able to defeat Antiochus’ army, run them out of their country and rededicate their temple.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 ends with the accumulation of desolations. In Daniel 9 there is no indication of a rededication of the altar.  For this reason critical scholars propose that the book of Daniel was put in its final form prior to the success of the revolt and prior to the restoration of the sanctuary services.  On this basis critical scholars believe they are able to date the compilation of the book precisely.

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city (9:24)

490 yearsThe 490 years must not include the 70 years.  Since Critics must fit the 490 years of Daniel 9 before the time of Antiochus, they must start the 490 years as early as possible.  They therefore start with the destruction of Jerusalem. But this was also when Jeremiah’s 70 years start.  In other words, Jeremiah’s 70 years of desolation are made part of the 490 years (the seventy weeks).  For the following reasons the seventy weeks should not include the 70 years:

Firstly, the Daniel 9 prophecy was received at the end of the 70 years.

Secondly, the 70 years were years of covenant curse, while the 490 years were years of covenant renewal.  The 70 years were years of exile, which was the covenant curse for disobedience.  The promise of the 490 years renewed the covenant.  As stated by 9:24, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city”.  It is not logical to include the 70 years of covenant curse into the 490 years promised “for your people and your holy city”.

Thirdly, the Jewish calendar was divided into weeks of years in which the seventh and last year was a Sabbath year during which the land had to rest.  The promise of 70 weeks is Daniel 9 is based these weeks of years.  God used the Sabbath years to measure Israel’s obedience.  The covenant promises and curses, recorded in Leviticus 26, linked the exile to the weeks of years.  It warned Israel that they would be in exile one year for every Sabbath year not observed.  During exile “the land will enjoy its sabbaths” (Lev. 26:34-35; cf. 2Ch 36:21).  After Israel went into exile, God sent a message to Israel through Jeremiah that the exile would be 70 years.  In other words, the 70 years of exile were the penalty for 490 past years of disobedience.  The 70 years were not part of the 490 past years of disobedience.  Neither should the 70 years be part of the new cycle of 490 years.

For a further elaboration of these principles, please read The Covenant in Daniel 9.

To finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness … (9:24)

Daniel 9 goalsThe interpretation does not fit the goals.  Why would a faithful Jew, compiling the book of Daniel in the second century, during the period of temple desecration under Antiochus, give these 6 goals for the 8 events predicted in the prophecy?   It would require substantial creativity to find application for goals such as “to make an end of sin” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (9:24) to the time of Antiochus, particularly on the basis of the critical assumption that Daniel was written prior to the success of the Maccabean revolt.

The conflict in the time of Antiochus IV was more of the nature of a civil war between pro-Hellenistic and an anti-Hellenistic Jewish factions, than it was a conflict with an external oppressor.  “The severest condemnation of the writer of I Maccabees goes, not to the Seleucid politicians, but to the lawless apostates among his own people” (The introduction to I Maccabees in the NAB).  It is difficult to see how a second century writer could link the goals listed in 9:24 a Jewish civil war.

From the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (9:25)

Decree to restore JerusalemCritical scholars believe that the second century writer of Daniel obtained the idea of the 70 weeks from Jeremiah’s prediction of 70 years of captivity (Jer. 25:11-13; 29:10), referred to in Daniel 9:2.  The standard critical approach is that the 70 weeks of years is a reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s prophecy.  Consequently, critical scholars begin the 490 years with the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

No decree – But then the 490 years do not start with such a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, as required by 9:25, but with the destruction of Jerusalem.  There was no “decree” which speaks of a rebuilding of Jerusalem at that time.

Critics therefore propose that the announcement by God through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:1-2, 11-12; 29:10) was the “decree” (NASB) specified by Daniel 9:25, but Jeremiah received this word from God 19 years earlier (in 605 BC – year one of Nebuchadnezzar Jer. 25:1, 12).  Furthermore, Jeremiah’s prophecy was not a “decree to rebuild and restore Jerusalem

Until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (9:25)

Masoretic TextIn the Critical Interpretation Cyrus is the messiah in this verse and he appears at the end of the first seven weeks (49 years).  In the NASB, quoted in the heading above, the messiah appears at the end of 7 and 62 weeks, but critical scholars rely on the Masoretic punctuation—as for instance used in the RSV—which places the appearance of the messiah in verse 25 at the end of the first 49 years.  Critical scholars obtain support for this view from Isaiah 45:1, where Cyrus is called the anointed of the Lord:

Thus says the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held“.

(The Hebrews word translated messiah in the NASB is mashiach, and means anointed, and in translated as “anointed one” in some translations (e.g. RSV).)

.  The next year Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.  In the critical interpretation the first seven weeks are then the period from the Chaldean destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC to Cyrus’s decree of liberation for the Jews in 538 BC.  From 586 to 538 is 48 years, which is only one year short of the required 49 years (7 x 7).

There is only one messiah. – In the Critic’s view there are two messiahs: The messiah of 9:25 is Cyrus and the messiah in 9:26, who will be cut off, is the Jewish high priest Onias III.  (See below.)  However:

According to the discussion of the punctuation in the article When does the Messiah Appear, there is no messiah after the first seven weeks.  There is only one messiah, and he appears after 7 + 62 weeks.

Two different messiahs in two consecutive verses are unlikely.  9:25 and 9:26 must refer to the same person because both are described as “messiah”.

Why 49 years, and not 70? Critics view the 490 years as a reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s seventy years.  If that was true, should the first subdivision of the 490 years not be 70 years, rather than 49?

Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing (9:26a)

As stated, the Masoretic punctuation has two messiahs in the prophecy of Daniel 9; one after 49 years and another one that is cut off 62 weeks (434 years) later (9:26).  Critical scholars use this punctuation and identify the first messiah as Cyrus and the second as the Jewish High Priest Onias III, who was murdered in 171/0 BC.  They find support in the fact that priests are called “anointed” in Leviticus 4:3 and following. In this view Daniel 9 does not refer to Jesus at all.

Onias was no messiah – The Bible uses the term “messiah” exclusively for people that rescue Israel from danger.  Cyrus might be described as a messiah, but Onias was no messiah.  He did not rescue Israel from anything.  Antiochus IV replaced him as high priest with his more liberal brother Jason. A few years later, in 171/0, he was killed.  It was only 4 years later that Antiochus IV desecrated the temple.

Onias was not cut off “after the sixty-two weeks”.  According to the NASB translation of Daniel 9:25 the messiah appears at the end of “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (9:25) and is cut off some undefined period “after the sixty-two weeks” (9:26).  But in the critics’ scheme the messiah (Onias) disappears (is cut off) immediately at the end of the 483 years.

Does not fit the timelineThe second division (the 62 weeks), in the critical interpretation, extends from Cyrus (539/8 BC) to Onias (171/0 BC).  This is only 367 years, 67 years short of the predicted 434 years (62 x 7).  Consequently, the full period of 490 years is actually only 586-164 = 422 years.  Critics believe that 9:24-27 is history written down after the events, in the form of prophecy.  If this was true, then one could rightly expect that the “prophecy” would fit the figures of 49 + 434 + 7 years (7 + 62 + 1 weeks) perfectly, but this difference is accepted by scholars on the assumption that the chronological knowledge, when Daniel was written, was not very exact.

Daniel is historically accurate.  It should be noted that the book of Daniel indeed contains amazingly accurate historical information (although poorly known during the later pre-Christian centuries).  For example:

The author of Daniel is correct in his description of Nebuchadnezzar as the builder of Babylon (4:30).  RH Pfeiffer was compelled to concede, “We shall presumably never know how our author learned that the new Babylon was the creation of Nebuchadnezzar, as the excavations have proved.”

The author was correct in his knowledge that Belshazzar, mentioned only in Daniel and in cuneiform records, was functioning as king when Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC.

On the basis of cunei­form evidence the vexing chronological problem between Daniel 1:1 and Jeremiah 25:1; 46:2 has been solved without any discrepancy.  (See the article Is the Book of Daniel a Fraud? for more information.)

These exam­ples show that the writer of Daniel knew history quite well, and would not have made such a massive mistake with the dates.

The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary (9:26b).

Antiochus IVAntiochus did not destroy the sanctuary.  In the critical interpretation Antiochus Epiphanes is this “prince”, but Antiochus never destroyed the sanctuary.  He turned it into a temple of his own god.  Neither did Antiochus destroy Jerusalem.  He destroyed only part of Jerusalem and massacred many of its inhabitants.  A second century author would have seen with his own eyes that Antiochus did not destroy the temple, but only defiled it (1Macc.1:30-31, 39).

And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week (9:27a)

In the critical interpretation this “firm covenant” is the cooperation between Antiochus and the Hellenizing Jews.  The Hellenizing Jews are the Jews that adopted Greeks customs at the expense of Jewish customs.

Prince of the covenant – Surely the “prince of the covenant” in 11:22 must be the same as the prince that confirms the covenant for one week (9:27).  But in the critical interpretation the one that makes a firm covenant in Daniel 9 is Antiochus, while Antiochus kills the “prince of the covenant” in Daniel 11.

Antiochus did not make a seven-year pact with anybody.  Critics argue that Antiochus made an agreement with the Hellenizing Jews for one week, but Antiochus IV did not conclude or confirm an agreement with anybody for one week.  His general support for the pro-Seleucid faction cannot be limited to one week.  For instance, he replaced Onias with his pro-Seleucid brother a number of years before Onias was killed.

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

In the critical interpretation Antiochus is also the one who put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering in the middle of the last week (9:27).  Antiochus did stop the Jewish sacrifices.  According to the book of 1 Maccabean the “desolating sacrilege“—a heathen altar—was erected on the great altar of burnt sacrifice on December 4, 167 BC (15 Kislev, 145; 1 Maccabees 1:54).  This was about in the middle of the seven years after Onias was murdered.  In the critical interpretation the abomination of desolation, mentioned elsewhere in Daniel, is assumed to be this heathen altar which Antiochus Epiphanes erected in place of the Lord’s altar for burnt offering (see I Macc. i. 54). (Jewish Encyclopedia).

Jesus put the abomination in His future.  Critics limit the events of Daniel to the time of Antiochus, but Jesus put the abomination of desolation Daniel’s prophecies in His future (Mat 24:15).

Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)” (Mat 24:15)

Daniel’s prophecies therefore cannot be limited to the time of Antiochus, approximately 200 years before Jesus spoke.  For many people this is sufficient evidence against the critical interpretation.  Daniel is the only book in the Bible which Jesus by name recommended that we understand.

End of the 490 years

Judas Maccabeus
Judas Maccabeus

In the critical interpretation the last week concludes with the rededication of the altar of sacrifice by the victorious Judas Maccabeus.  This is the “anointing of a most holy place” listed as one of the purposes of the seventy weeks (9:24).  The altar of sacrifice was rededication on December 14, 164 BC (25 Kislev, 148; 1 Maccabees 4:52), exactly 3 years after the first heathen sacrifice in the temple.

But do the critics not also say that Daniel was written before the success of the Maccabean revolt?  How would the uninspired writer know about the rededication?  And why would Daniel 9 then end in the accumulation of desolations?  Why does Daniel 9 not mention the rededication?

Why an end?  If the book of Daniel was completed before the end of the 490 years, and if the writer did not foresee the success of the Maccabean revolt, why would he postulate a period of 490 years?  The Critical Interpretation fails to explain what end the writer has in mind.  What was envisaged after the end of the 490 years?

Review of the timeline

The standard critical timeline, discussed above, is as follows:

586 BC: The destruction of Jerusalem and the start of the 490 years
538 BC: The liberation for the Jews and the end of the first 49 years (7 weeks): This was 48 years later; not 49.
171/0 BC: The murder of Onias III and the end of the second 434 years (62 weeks): This was 368 years later, not 434.
167 BC: Abomination of desolation
164 BC: Temple rededicated

One proposed variation on the critical schema is as follows:

The first 7 weeks are from the Captivity in 587 BC until 538 BC: Exactly 49 years.
The next 62 weeks (434 years) are from the date Jeremiah prophesied in 605 BC (Jeremiah 25:11-12) to Onias’ death in 171 BC: Exactly 434 years

The advantages of this proposal are:

It exactly fits the 49 and 434 years required by the prophecy.
It starts the 62 weeks with a “word” (KJV).

The disadvantages are:

(1) Jeremiah 25:11-12 does not speak of the rebuilding of Jerusalem at all.
(2) The first two divisions (7 + 62) run parallel to each other rather than in sequence.  Israel therefore never received its promised 490 years.
(3) The wording of 9:25 requires “seven and sixty-two weeks” (that is, 69 weeks) and not just 62 weeks from “the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” until Messiah the Prince.

Anchor Bible Commentary
Anchor Bible Commentary

A slight variation from the standard critical schema is proposed by the influential Anchor Bible Commen­tary by Hartman and Di Lella.  They do not start the 490 years with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, but with Jeremiah’s later announcement, as recorded in 29:10, which they date to 594 BC.  Otherwise they remain with the standard critical schema.  The benefit of this proposal is that the 490 years do not start with the destruction of Jerusalem, but with a “word”, as required by Daniel 9.  However:

(A) Jeremiah 29:10 was also not a “word to rebuild and restore Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:25 KJV).  Jeremiah 29:10 only speaks of bringing back exiles to Judah.
(B) From 594 BC to 538 BC is 56 years, not 49 years.  Hartman and Di Lella suggest that 56 years is “sufficiently close to the quasi-artificial figure of ‘seven weeks’ of years.  Not everybody would accept the 7 weeks as “quasi-artificial.”
(C) The second section remains too short.  The full period from 594 BC to 164 BC is only 430 years; 50 years short of the required 490 years.

Conclusion

The critical interpretation is today the standard view of modern liberal scholarship, but it is not an unbiased interpretation.  Critical scholars believe that the Bible developed through a process of evolution, with various people over the centuries editing the text.  They also believe, as a priori assumption, that knowledge of the future is impossible.

But the book of Daniel claims that it was written in the six century before Christ, and contains amazingly accurate predictions of the history after the sixth century.  Liberal scholarship must therefore prove that Daniel was written after these events.  Their solution is that it was written during the crisis under Antiochus IV and that the book only focuses on that conflict.   All the prophecies of Daniel are interpreted as referring to that conflict; even Daniel 9.

But if one counts 490 years back from the time of Antiochus you arrive at the year 655 BC; 50 years before the Babylonian exile.  At that time there was no “decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.”  Therefore critics have creative solutions to shorten the 490 years, as discussed above.  No critical scheme reaches 490 years.   There is no critical scheme of interpretation that is able to harmonize 9:24-27 with actual history.

A separate article is available which contains more than sufficient evidence that Daniel must have been written in the sixth century BC, and therefore must be inspired prophecy.  See Is the Book of Daniel a Fraud?

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

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

Daniel 9:27 reads:

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

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

The Covenant of God

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

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

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

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

He” refers to the Messiah.

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

Jerusalem destroyed
Jerusalem destroyed

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

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

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

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

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

Confirm the covenant

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

The Many

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

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

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

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

End of the week

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

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

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