Overview of the Prophecy
This extremely compact prophecy gave to Israel six glorious goals, and gave them 490 years to fulfill these goals, but also promised the messiah, through whom these goals would be fulfilled. However, both Critical scholars and Dispensationalism removes Jesus Christ from the prophecy. For more, read Overview Daniel 9 and the Four Major Interpretations.
Messiah after 49 Years (punctuation)
Daniel 9 prophecies a period of 490 years. It also predicts a messiah appears. In some Bible translations the messiah appears at the end of the first 49 years. Other translations the messiah appears near the end of the 490 years. This difference in the translations is due to assumptions with respect to punctuation, for there was no punctuation in the originally text of Daniel 9. The article When does the Messiah Appear? shows that the messiah appears near the end of the 490 years.
Does Daniel 9 describe the same crisis as the other prophecies in Daniel? Interpreters often assume that Daniel 9 predicts the same crisis. The article Same Crisis discusses the differences between the prophecies and concludes that Daniel 9 deals with Israel specifically, and with the 490 years allocated to her, while the other prophecies deal with all nations and covers the full period from the time of Daniel to the Return of Christ.
Jeremiah’s 70 years
Daniel 9 opens with Daniel noticing that the LORD revealed to Jeremiah that Jerusalem will be desolated for a period of 70 years (Dan 9:2, compare Jer. 25:8-14; 29:10-14). He then prayed earnestly and interceded with God concerning the tragic condition of His backslidden and disobedient people, and for the desolation of Jerusalem and the sanctuary (verses 3-19). In this way the 70 years set the stage for Daniel’s prayer.
“when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the LORD” (Jer. 25:11, 12, compare v1)
When the prophecy of Daniel 9 was received, the king of Babylon was already punished. This means that the 70 years has already come to an end. When did it start?
Jerusalem was finally destroyed in BC 586. However, this was not the start of Jeremiah’s 70 years. The 70 years is not the period of Jerusalem’s desolation, but the period of Babylonian rule over Judah and the surrounding nations:
“I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon … against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them … these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jer. 25:9, 11).
“For thus says the LORD, When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place” (Jer. 29:10).
Judah came under the Babylonian heel in 605 BC (Daniel 1:1), but Babylon’s ruling of nations actually dates from the overthrow of Assyria a few years earlier. After the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC (to the allied forces of the Medes and Babylonians), the Assyrian king Ashuruballit established his government at Harran. This city fell to the Babylonians in 610 BC, and Assyria was finally obliterated when Ashuruballit failed to recapture it in 609 BC. Seventy years later—in 539 BC—Babylon herself was conquered by Cyrus. It is therefore possible to count the seventy years from 609 BC to 539 BC.
The 490 years begin with a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Restore means to return the city to the Jews to serve as their capital from which they would rule their whole nation, according to their own laws. In the article Which Decree, four Persian decrees are considered:
(1) The decree by Cyrus in 538/7 BC allowed Jews to rebuild Jerusalem, but did not give Jerusalem back to the nation to serve as their national capital.
(2) The decree by Darius I 520 BC simply confirmed Cyrus’ edict.
(3) The decree by Artaxerses I 457 BC for the first time granted autonomy of Judah, and if we add 490 years to 457 BC, we come to the time of Christ.
(4) The second decree by Artaxerxes—in 445/4—was too late to fit the time of Christ and simply confirmed his previous decree.
Prayer and Prophecy form a unit.
Daniel 9 consists of two parts; the prayer by Daniel, and the prophecy which Daniel received even while he was still praying. A separate article shows Prayer and Prophecy form a unit: God promised, through Jeremiah, to bring Israel back from exile in Babylon after 70 Years (Jer. 29:10). When Daniel prayed, in Daniel 9, the 70 Years of Babylonian exile was nearly over and Daniel prayed for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophetic promise. In response God sent Gabriel to give Daniel the 70 Weeks prophecy as assurance that Jeremiah’s promise will be fulfilled.
The Covenant in Daniel 9
Leviticus 26 lists the covenant curses, climaxing in exile. They would be in exile one year for every Sabbath year not observed; “then the land will enjoy its sabbaths”. But if Israel in exile would confess its iniquity, then Israel would be restored to Jerusalem.
Through Jeremiah God informed Israel that they will be in exile for Seventy Years.
The Leviticus 26 covenant sequence of disobedience – exile – confession – restoration is the central theme in Daniel 9, and binds together prayer (confession) and prophecy (of restoration). For more information, please read The Covenant in Daniel 9.
The Covenant in Daniel 9:27
During the last of the seventy weeks “he” will “confirm the covenant” with “many”. The article Confirm the covenant shows that 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 God’s covenant with many from Israel. After that the covenant comes to an end.
Chronological sequence in Daniel 9
The prophecy lists 8 events, but not chronological. The prophecy has alternates between two foci—Jerusalem and the Messiah. The Jerusalem-events are in chronological order and the Messiah-events are in chronological order. For further information, see Chronological sequence in Daniel 9.
The end of the 490 years
The 490 years promised to Israel in Daniel 9 came to an end a few years after the Cross; at the stoning of Stephen: In those first few years after Jesus died, when the Holy Spirit worked with power through the disciples, the gospel was preached only to Jews. The Christian Jews continued to live like Jews. Christianity was a sect of Judaism, with its headquarters in Jerusalem. Two to four years after the Cross the Jewish persecution of the Jewish Christians commenced with the stoning of Stephen. This was the end of the 490 years which God added to His covenant with Israel through Daniel 9.
For more detail, please see the separate article Stoning of Stephen.
Consistent Symbolical Interpretation
The major interpretations all understand the Daniel 9 prophecy to be literal, in contrast to the other prophecies in Daniel that are symbolic. In the Consistent Symbolical Interpretation everything is symbolic.
Critical View of Daniel 9
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 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.
For a discussion of this view, read: The critical interpretation of Daniel 9
Dispensationalism; Summary of Objections
Seven articles are devoted to Dispensationalism Daniel 9. See Dispensationalism. The objections to this view in these articles may be summarized as follows:
This section is a summary of the article Time indications in Daniel 9.
The 490 years began with “a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem”. Dispensationalism takes this as Artaxerxes’ second decree.
However, the word “restore“, in the original text, does not mean to rebuild. Restore means to give the city back to its previous owner. Artaxerxes first decree in 458/7 BC already restored Jerusalem as judicial and executive capital to the nation. Artaxerxes second decree only dealt with the physical construction of the city walls.
Furthermore, adding 483 years to the second decree does not brings us to the time of Christ, while adding 483 years to his first decree does bring us to the time of Christ; more specifically, to His baptism. For detail, see Which decree.
Difference in dates
Different renowned Dispensational interpreters use different years for Artaxerxes’s decree and for the Cross. This raises some doubt over to the calculations.
Since the second decree of Artaxerxes is too late to fit the time of Christ, Dispensationalism reduces the first 483 years by about 7 years by interpreting these as “prophetic years” of 360 days each; rather than literal years of 365 days each.
However, the Jewish calendar was divided into cycles of seven years each, with each seventh year a Sabbath year. God warned Israel that they would be in exile one year for every Sabbath year not observed. They were in exile for 70 years, which therefore represent 70 weeks of years (490 years) of disobedience (prior to the exile). This implies that the 70 weeks of years promised by Daniel 9 is a renewal of God’s covenant with Israel for a further 490 literal solar year.
This is confirmed by the fact that the covenant pattern (disobedience – exile – repentance – covenant renewal) forms the framework for Daniel 9. For a discussion of this fundamental issue, see Covenant in Daniel 9 or the section Seventy Weeks in Time indications in Daniel 9.
“Messiah the Prince” will appear after 69 weeks (483 years – 9:25). Dispensationalism takes this as Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days prior to His crucifixion.
However, that was not His appearance, as required by 9:25; it was His disappearance. Jesus began His work as Messiah about three years earlier at His baptism, where He was anointed and introduced to Israel.
Covenant suspended at the Cross
Dispensationalism assumes that God suspended His covenant with Israel at the Cross.
However, God continued His covenant with Israel for about four years after the Cross. Actually, God’s strongest effort ever for the hearts of the Jewish nation came in those years after the Cross. At that time God sent His Holy Spirit with power, but only to Jerusalem and only to Jews. See Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church. God’s covenant with Israel, and therefore the 490 years, only came to an end when the Jews rejected the Holy Spirit by persecuting His Spirit-filled disciples. Then, for the first time, God allowed the gospel to be preached to Gentiles. See Judea and Samaria Phase of the Early Church.
This section is a summary of the article Whose covenant is confirmed in Daniel 9:27; God’s covenant with Israel or the devil’s?.
Dispensationalism interprets the covenant in 9:27 as a covenant of an end time Antichrist.
However, it is proposed here that this is God’s covenant with Israel, for God’s covenant with Israel is the central theme throughout the entire Daniel 9. An analysis of the covenant in Leviticus 25-26 and of Daniel 9 shows that Daniel 9 follows the covenant pattern: Disobedience – Repentance – Covenant Renewal. See The Covenant in Daniel 9. This covenant theme binds together the prayer and prophecy into a single unit and implies that the 490 years promised by Daniel 9 are a time-limited extension of God’s covenant with Israel. The last part of it (the last week in 9:27) must therefore also be God’s covenant with Israel.
The word “confirm” (9:27) in the phrase “confirm the covenant” supports this conclusion, for it means that this covenant existed prior to the 70th week. Then it can only be God covenant with Israel.
The covenant in 9:27 is confirmed with “the many”, which also supports this conclusion, for this phrase most often refers to God’s people.
Who confirms the Covenant?
This section is a summary of the article Who confirms the covenant?
Dispensationalism assumes that the “he”, who will confirm the covenant with the many for seven years (9:27), is the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD 70 (9:26), and that this prince will reign during the last seven years before Christ returns.
However, it cannot be this prince, for he is a supernatural being, representing the Roman Empire.
The following indicates that the “he” is the Messiah that is cut off in 9:26:
The Daniel 9 prophecy has a poetic pattern: it repeatedly shifts the focus back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah. In this pattern “he” in the first part of verse 27 is the Messiah.
The Messiah is the dominant figure in the entire prophecy, and therefore the appropriate antecedent for “he” in verse 27.
The purpose of the 490 years is to solve this world’s sin problem (9:24) through the killing of the messiah (9:26), while an end will be made to the sacrificial system (9:27). In the light of the New Testament this is a prediction of Christ’s mission. The animal sacrifices pointed forward to the Lamb of God. This astounding sacrifice caused all animal sacrifices to cease in terms of meaning. In this context the “he”, who makes an end to the sacrificial system, is the Messiah; the Lamb of God.
When are the last seven years?
This is a summary of the article Last seven years.
In Dispensationalism the last week is the last seven years before Christ returns, when the Antichrist will rule. The entire church age is a gap or parentheses between the first 483 years and the last seven years, when the prophetic clock stopped.
Abomination of desolation
Dispensationalism finds support for a gap between the first 69 weeks and the 70th week in Matthew 24:15, where Jesus mentioned the “abomination of desolation”. Dispensationalism claims that Jesus here referred to the stop that will be put to sacrifice in the last week (9:27) and that Jesus put the “abomination of desolation” at the end of the age.
However, the parallel verses in Luke 21:20-23 shows that the abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15 refers to the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem in AD 70. See Little Apocalypse. If we assume that Jesus in Matthew 24:15 referred to Daniel 9:27, as Dispensationalism does, then Jesus’ statement in Matthew 24:15 confirms that the “abominations … desolate” in the last part of 9:27 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, which means that the last week must be prior to AD 70.
Dispensationalism assumes that there must be a gap between the first 69 weeks and the 70th week because the “firm covenant” (9:27) of the last week is mentioned after the destruction of the city in AD70 (9:26).
However, the events in the prophecy are not presented in chronological sequence. For example, the prince causes sacrifices to cease (9:27) after the sanctuary is destroyed (9:26). See Chronological Sequence in Daniel 9.
Destruction of the Roman Empire
Dispensationalism interprets the last part of 9:27 as referring to the destruction of the Roman Empire, and since the Roman Empire was not destroyed in Christ’s time, it argues that this verse must describe end-time events.
However, the prophecy has a Poetic Pattern, and in that patterns the last part of verse 27 is the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, already mentioned in 9:26. This is confirmed by the repetition of words from 9:26 in 9:27. The last week, described earlier in verse 27, must therefore be prior to AD 70.
Other arguments against an end-tem fulfilment of the last week include:
(1) How can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it ceased to exist?
(2) Verse 27 is the core of the Daniel 9 prophecy. All important events occur after the long period of 69 weeks (483 years). The purpose of the 69 weeks is therefore merely to foretell the timing of the events of the last week. Hence, to postpone that final week of years and to propel it far into the future is to defeat the purpose of the 69 weeks.
(3) The wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a break or gap.
(4) It has already been concluded above that it is the Messiah that confirms God’s covenant with Israel during the last week. The last week therefore cannot be the time of an end-time Antichrist.
Because of the emphasis which Dispensationalism places by on the Antichrist rule during the last seven years, the Daniel 9 prophecy is converted from a prophecy about Christ into a prophecy about the Antichrist.
This section is a summary of the article Other Inconsistencies.
The Daniel 9 prophecy explicitly promises that Jerusalem will be rebuilt. This was fulfilled with the rebuilding of Jerusalem a few hundred years before Christ. But Dispensationalism reads into 9:27 that the temple will be rebuilt again, namely during the last seven years before Christ returns. There is no evidence in the text for a second rebuilding. If the temple was to be rebuilt after the destruction of verse 26, would the prophecy not have explicitly stated this, given that it is so clear about the rebuilding in verse 25?
Furthermore, there can never be a valid return to the old covenant and its earthly temple worship.
Breaks his covenant
In Dispensationalism the Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel and “put a stop to sacrifice” in the middle of the last seven years.
However, according to 9:27 the covenant is confirmed for the full seven years.
Furthermore, since the full 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people (9:24), the sanctuary services will not be stopped during the 490 years.
Return of Christ
In Dispensationalism 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 with the accumulation of desolations and chaos.
In Dispensationalism the 70 weeks do not include the death of Christ, and the goals in 9:24 have not been fulfilled by the Cross. Dispensationalism proposes that these goals will be fulfilled at the end of the last seven years, with the return of Christ. But this proposal denies Israel its responsibility and it denies the 490 years their purpose. The goals in 9:24 were set for Israel to achieve, and Israel was given 490 years to accomplish those goals. In other words, these goals were to be achieved during the 490 years, through Israel.
The Goals of 9:24
Dispensationalism argues that the last week must be in our future because the goals set for the seventy weeks (9:24) have yet not been fulfilled. This is true, but remember, these goals were given to Israel and Israel was given seventy sevens (490 years) to fulfil them. But Israel failed. If Israel succeeded in their task, the Daniel 9:24 goals would have been fulfilled. Since they failed the kingdom of God has been taken away from them. For more detail on this important subject, see the article Daniel 9:24.
HISTORICAL-MESSIANIC INTERPRETATION OF DANIEL 9
This interpretation is called Messianic because it interprets this entire prophecy as pointing to Jesus Christ. It is called historical because the full 490 years is interpreted as past history. Daniel 9 has been understood this way ever since the early church. It is only in the recent centuries that dispensationalism and liberal criticism have dislodge the historical-messianic interpretation as the dominant interpretation. Although this view is now discredited in most circles, it is supported in this document.
This interpretation can be summarized as follows (Most of the reasoning behind these points is provided above.):
The “commandment” (9:25, RSV) that began the “seventy weeks” was Artaxerxes’s first “decree” of 458/7 BC. This decree restored Jewish self-rule through Jerusalem.
The events in the prophecy are not given in strict chronological sequence, but should be read as discussing two related topics in parallel—Jerusalem and the Anointed, as illustrated by the table above. The actual chronological sequence starts and ends with Jerusalem. (See the left column in the table above.) It starts with its construction and ends with its destruction. Between its construction and destruction we find the Anointed One—His appearance, His death, His upholding the firm covenant and the end that He put to the sacrificial system in the midst of the last week. (See the right column in the table above.)
There is no messiah after the first 49 weeks. The messianic-historical interpretation uses the punctuation as reflected in the NASB. The anointed one, the prince, which appear at the end of 483 years, is Jesus; the One that is called Christ.
His appearance was His anointing by the Holy Spirit at His baptism, which also marked the inauguration of His public ministry (Acts 10:37, 38; Mark 1:11-14; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38). He was baptized in AD 26/27, exactly 483 years after the decree in 458/7. He was baptized in the fifteenth year of the Roman emperor Tiberius (Luke 3:1, 5, 21). Finegan (Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Princeton, 1964, p265) dates His baptism to AD 26/27. (Remember, no year nil. From 1 BC to 1 AD is one year, not two.)
The last “one week” of years follows immediately after the 69th; therefore immediately after His baptism. There is no gap.
Anointed cut off
The “anointed one” that is cut off (killed) is our Lord Jesus Christ. 9:25 uses the word “unto” (until) to describe His public appearance at His baptism at the end of the 7+62 weeks (483 years), while 9:26 uses the word “after” to describe His atoning death; an unspecified period “after” the end of the 7+62 weeks. His atoning death links back to the purposes of the seventy weeks as listed in verse 24, namely to make “atonement for iniquity” and brought in “everlasting righteousness” (9:24). This was also predicted by Isaiah:
By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered That He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people … (Isa 53:8 NASB)
Cessation of the sacrifices
“In the midst of the week” (that is, 3½ years after His baptism), Jesus caused the cessation of the entire system of sacrifices appointed for Old Testament times by offering Himself as the once-for-all and all-sufficient sacrifice for sins. The sacrificial system lost its meaning at the Cross because it pointed forward to the Lamb of God. The supernatural rending of the Temple veil (Matt. 27:50, 51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45-46) was Heaven’s declaration that the typical Jewish animal sacrifices and oblations had ceased to have efficacy, and had forever ended in the plan of God.
Jesus died on a Passover, which is always the fourteenth of Nisan. But He also died on a Friday (Luke 23:56). Isaac Newton and many other scientists have tried to locate a fourteenth of Nisan that fell on a Friday in a year more or less when Jesus died. The ancient people calculated months on the basis of the phases of the moon. As a “moon” month is 29½ days, a typical month was therefore 29 or 30 days. Over time this would result in misalignment between months and the seasons. For that reason they added an additional month every third year or so, based on when the harvest ripens. The search for such a Friday Passover is complicated by the lack information on how extra months were inserted into the lunar calendar of Palestine in the first century. Given this and other uncertainties, the chronographer must be content to simply cite the range of possibilities and their likelihood.
Merrill C. Tenney in his book “New Testament Times) (Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), chapter 7) estimated that Jesus was crucified very probably on 7th April, AD 30. If Jesus was baptized in AD 27, then 7th April, AD 30 is at most one year from the exact middle of the last seven years. The best summary of modern scholarship is Jack Finegan’s Handbook of Biblical Chronology. He gave April AD 30 and Fri 1 Apr AD 33 as possible.
Through His atoning death the purposes of the seventy weeks, as listed in verse 24, have been fulfilled; namely to make “atonement for iniquity” and bring in “everlasting righteousness” (9:24). See below for a further discussion.
The “he” that makes a firm covenant with many for one week is still Jesus Christ, and the covenant is God’s covenant with Israel. The prophecy of Daniel 9 extended God’s covenant with Israel for a final 490 years. Jesus made the covenant strong (Young’s literal translation) through His personal preaching for 3½ years before His death. He also made the covenant strong after His death, while the infant church was still a Jewish sect, by sending His disciples to Israel, powered by the Holy Spirit. In those seven years the gospel went exclusively to Jews. God’s covenant with the Jews therefore did not come to an end when they crucified the world’s Messiah.
End of the 490 years
The prophecy does not singled out a specific event as marking the termination of the seventy weeks, but the 490 years end when “he” would no longer “confirm the covenant with the many” (9:27). The phrase “seventy weeks are cut off for your people and your holy city” (v. 24), also implies the end of all Jewish privileges as the covenant people at the end of that period.
As discussed above, the period of special privileges for the Jewish nation came to an end about 3 years after Jesus was crucified. The last week comes to an end when God no longer work through Israel. Peter and his fellow Jews were reluctant to let go of the exclusive privilege, but through visions and miracles God led them to accept gentiles as equals. At this point in history the kingdom of God was taken away from the Jews (Mat. 21:43). Through the persecution of particularly the Greek speaking believers the gospel was carried to “all the world” (Col. 1:6).
God’s covenant with the Jews therefore did not come to an end when they crucified their Messiah. While the church still was a Jewish sect, God gave them another opportunity by pouring out the Holy Spirit on His Jewish disciples. The message continued to go to Jews only (Acts 10:47-11:3, 18, 19) until Peter had the dream of the animals (Acts 10:11, 12), whereby God showed him not to “call any man common or unclean” (Acts 10:28). The purpose of God’s powerful working through the primitive Jewish church may have been that the Jews would repent and preach the gospel to the world, so that Jesus may return in the first century. But, by persecuting the people that received the Holy Spirit, the Jews for the last time broke the covenant with God. There was nothing more that God could do for or through the Jewish nation, and they lost their special place in the plan of God. This was the end of the last seven years.
Destruction of the City
Since seventy weeks were decreed for Jerusalem (v24), the city would not be destroyed during the seventy weeks. God did not purpose the Jewish nation to fail, but through their rejection of the Holy Spirit they lost their divine protection. The destruction of “the city and the sanctuary”, the scattering of the Jewish people, and the succession of calamities sweeping over the Jewish people (9:27) was the consequence of the Jewish rejection of firstly the Messiah and secondly the Holy Spirit. As our Lord looked into the immediate future, He wept over the city (Luke 19:21), saying:
If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:42-44)
The phrase “upon the wing of” in verse 27 appears to be an idiom to express immediate consequences. The passage may be understood as “on the heels of abominations shall follow a desolator”. The literary analysis (of the poetic structure) above and the similarity of the words used identify this destruction (desolations) in verse 27 as the destruction of the city in the previous verse.
Beginning in AD 66, wars broke out between the Jews and the Romans. A few days before the AD 70 Passover, the Roman destroyers attacked Jerusalem, breached the wall and overwhelmed the city. The Temple was fired and destroyed. The Jews were ruthlessly slaughtered. Their blood, according to Josephus, flowed in streams down the steps. The desolater had come. The city and temple were in ruins; the desolation accomplished. Hundreds of thousands were slain, tens of thousands sold into slavery, and war followed upon war.
To summarize the messianic-historical interpretation, the decree of Artaxerxes in 478/7 “restored” Jerusalem to the Jews. In AD 26/27, exactly 483 years later, Jesus was baptized. About 3½ years later, in AD 30/31, He was crucified. Another 3½ years later, in AD 33/34, the exclusive role Israel played in the plan of God came to an end. The period from 26/27 to 33/34 is seven years, with the crucifixion “in the midst of” these seven years. Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, after the end of the seventy sevens.
The historical-messianic interpretation has been the dominant one over the centuries, and has offered those that accept it a testimony to God’s foreknowledge revealed through this prophecy.
The events in verses 25 to 27 form a chiasm. This means that the first item corresponds to the last, the second to the second last, etc. The chiasm is as follows:
Messiah cut off 26a
Construction 25c —— Destruction 26b
and Unto Messiah 25b ———– Messiah covenant 27a
Construction 25a ———————- Destruction 27c
A chiastic structures is a literary device to place emphasis upon the statements at the center of the chiasm. In this chiasm the central point or apex is the death of the Messiah. Thus the chiastic structure of this prophecy emphasizes the importance of His death. This chiasm also supports the following conclusions:
- that 27c is the destruction of the city because it corresponds to 25a;
- that the “he” in verse 27a is the same as the Messiah in 25b;
Just as the death of the Messiah is placed at the center of the chiasm, so the real significance of His death is identified at the center of the chiasm of verse 24. His death would make atonement for all evil, and as a result, would bring in everlasting righteousness.
The essence of Daniel 9:24-27 is that within 500 years from the restoration of Jerusalem (after the Babylonian captivity) and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Messiah would arrive. It is understandable that the Talmud places a curse on those who attempt to compute the seventy weeks of Daniel (Sanhedrin 97b (Soncino ed.), p. 659).
It is an irrefutable fact that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his public ministry exactly 483 years (69 weeks) after Artaxerxes’ first decree. Furthermore, the specifications of the prophecy find exact and complete fulfillment in the life, ministry, death and present ministration of Christ, and in the subsequent desolation of the Jewish nation as a result of their rejection of the promised Messiah. This prophecy particularly points to His death:
- the nature of that death—murdered (cut off)
- His experience in that death—abandoned and rejected (not for himself), and
- the results of His death—atonement and everlasting righteousness
While objections can be raised against all four of the major interpretations of Daniel 9:24-27, the historical-messianic interpretation is not subject to the difficulties encountered by the other systems. It thus recommends itself as the most adequate of the major interpretations. The exact date of the crucifixion and of the end of the 490 years remains uncertain, but compared to the difficulties facing the other interpretations, the relative uncertainty of the chronology of the life of Christ and the events of the early church appears to be insignificant.
Dispensational eschatology, which fits most of Revelation into the 70th week of Daniel, stands or falls at its interpretation of Daniel 9, and it has been adequately shown above that its interpretation of Daniel 9 cannot stand careful scrutiny.
A person that accepts Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of this prophecy is astounded by the mathematical exactness of the prophecy, received five hundred years prior to those tremendous events that changed the entire course of human history. Daniel 9 confirms that God knows the future precisely. It conclusively proves Jesus Christ to be the true and only Messiah.
It affirms the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible when predicting future events. This gives me confidence that we will one day see God with our own eyes. The things that we read about in the Bible are really true. There is a wonderful future ahead of us.
The accurate fulfillment of the prophecy is compelling support for the argument that Daniel is real prophecy written in the 6th century BC, and not in the second century BC, as copies of Daniel (Dead Sea Scrolls) have been available to the Qumran sect more than 100 years before the crucifixion.
The 490 years could well represent the “one more chance” which God gave the Jews in Jesus’s parable of Luke 13:6-9:
A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’
If the Jews did not confirm their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by the persecution of His Spirit-filled representatives, but rather accepted Jesus after His death, history would have been very different.
Daniel did not pray for a Messiah. He prayed for Jerusalem and the temple. But the prophecy he received includes a Messiah because the purpose of the additional period awarded to Israel was to bring fourth the Messiah, and through the Messiah, to achieve the goals listed in verse 24. Israel would be restored, but as a means to an end.
Daniel must have been very sad to hear that the Messiah would be killed and the city would again be destroyed. He confessed in his prayer that the destruction of Jerusalem in his time was the result of disobedience. He must have realized that the prophesied destruction would also be the result of more disobedience. And there is no mention of another restoration or reconstruction in the prophecy. The prophecy ends in the accumulation of desolations and destructions.
The emphasis upon the Messiah and His experience ranks this passage alongside the other great Messianic prophecies of the OT that point to Him as the suffering servant of God (Ps 22. Isa. 53). Daniel 9 complements Isaiah 53 by specifying when the Man of sorrow will arrive. Consider the parallels between Daniel 9 and Isaiah 53. In both the main character is “cut off”. In Isaiah it is the man of sorrows (v3, 8) and in Daniel it is the anointed prince (v26). Both refer to the atonement. One of the goals of the seventy weeks is “to make atonement for iniquity” (v24) while “the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him” (Is. 53:6). He Himself bore the sin of many (Is. 53:11). In both this Person has a relationship with “the many”. In Isaiah “the many” are justified (v11) and in Daniel He confirms a strong covenant with “the many” (v27). The following is an extract from Isaiah 53:
2 … He has no …appearance that we should be attracted to Him. 3 He was despised and forsaken … A man of sorrows … 5 He was pierced through for our transgressions … 6 … the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. 7 He was … afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth … 8 By oppression … He was taken away; … He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? 9 … He was with a rich man in His death … He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 11 … the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. … He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.
There is no greater unfolding of the gospel provisions in all the prophetic Word than is revealed here and in Isaiah 53. The prophecy of Daniel 9 is precious because it sets forth Jesus Christ as our atoning sacrifice, made on Calvary nineteen centuries ago. We are all sinners and do not deserve to live. Through Him, through faith, I am justified from my sin and you from yours.
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