Daniel 9 consists of two parts; the prayer by Daniel, and the prophecy which Daniel received even while he was still praying. The 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 unity of Daniel 9 questioned
Modern higher criticism does not accept that Daniel 9 forms a unit. According to such scholars, Daniel’s prayer and prophecy do not fit, and the prayer was added later. Their argument goes as follows:
(a) Axiomatically (as point of departure) they reject the sixth century origin of the book as a whole. They believe the book was compiled in the second century BC, during the persecution of the Jews by the Greek king Antiochus.
(b) They must therefore find a reason for the inclusion of Daniel 9 in the book by a second century writer. A proposed solution is that the 70 Weeks-prophecy was produced to clarify the meaning of, or to reinterpret, Jeremiah’s 70 Years prophecy (Daniel 9:2).
(c) But then, they argue, Daniel, in his prayer recorded in Daniel 9, should have asked for such illumination. Since he did not, it does not correspond to the prophecy and must have been added later.
The purpose of this article is to show that Daniel 9 does indeed form a unit.
No uncertainty about Jeremiah’s prophecy in the second century BC
Firstly, the assumption that the prophecy of the 70 Weeks is a reinterpretation of the Jeremiah’s 70 Years, should not be accepted because, in the second century BC, there was no need for perplexity over the plain words of Jeremiah:
Jeremiah prophesied that the end the 70 Years would be associated with the fall of Babylon (Jer. 25:11 ff.). Consistent with this, Cyrus issued a decree in the first year after the fall of Babylon, allowing the Jews to return, and soon the restoration of the temple was actually under way.
The rebuilding of the temple and the city was completed hundreds of years before the crisis in the second century. There was no failure in the historical realization of the 70 Years prophecy that called for an embarrassed reinterpretation of its simple sense.
The link between the prayer and prophecy is clear: Daniel prayed for fulfillment and the prophecy promised fulfillment.
Secondly, if one accepts that the book was written in the sixth century BC, as claimed by the book itself (9:2), then the link between the prayer and prophecy is clear:
The urgency of Daniel’s prayer is understandable. Babylon fell the previous year (539 BC; cf. Dan. 9:1). Babylon’s reign of 70 years (Jer. 25:9, 11) has come to an end. The clear meaning of Daniel 9:2 ff. is that Daniel prayed for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophetic promise.
God gave the prophecy in Daniel 9 through “the man Gabriel”. It is clear from the prophecy (Dan. 9:20 ff.) that Gabriel did not interpret or reinterpret Jeremiah’s prophecy of restoration, but through the 70 Weeks prophecy assured Daniel that it was about to be fulfilled.
Various expressions link prayer and prophecy.
Thirdly, there are various other links between the prayer and prophecy that indicate the unity of Daniel 9. Gabriel provides assurances (vs. 24) which answer Daniel’s plea for forgiveness. The prophecy repeats or plays on the sound of various words in the prayer. The two parts of the chapter share certain expressions not found elsewhere in the book.
But the most persuasive evidence for the unity of Daniel 9 is the fact that Yahweh’s covenant is the thread that binds both prayer and prophecy together in a single unit:
(1) The Babylonian exile was the covenant curse.
(2) Jeremiah’s Seventy Years was the duration of exile determined by the covenant.
(3) Daniel’s prayer was Israel’s confession of guilt, as required by the covenant.
(4) The prophecy promises covenant renewal.