Dispensationalism Daniel 9 and the Antichrist: Inconsistencies compared to the text

Various other differences between the text and the Dispensationalism may be identified, such as:
– That Jerusalem will be rebuilt twice,
– That the Antichrist breaks his own covenant,
– That the sanctuary will be destroyed during the 490 years decreed for it,
– That the last week will end with the return of Christ,
– That the goals in 9:24 have not been fulfilled by the Cross and
– That Jerusalem is awarded a total of 1490 years. 

Rebuild again

The prophecy of Daniel 9 was given while Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins.  The prophecy promises that Jerusalem will be rebuilt (9:25), but it also warns that Jerusalem will be destroyed again (9:26).  This was fulfilled with the rebuilding of Jerusalem a few hundred years before Christ and its destruction in 70 AD.

rebuild the templeBut Dispensationalism requires the sanctuary to be rebuilt a second time in the future, and the sacrificial system to be revived.  However:

The prophecy explicitly promises only one rebuilding of the city and the sanctuary.  There is not the least bit of evidence in the text for a second rebuilding, or that sacrifices will be resumed.  If the temple was to be rebuilt after the destruction of verse 26, the prophecy would have explicitly stated this, given that it is so clear about the rebuilding in verse 25.

Since the sacrificial system has been abolished 2000 years ago, there can never be a valid return to the old covenant and its earthly temple worship.  Christ, the Antitype, has terminated once for all the “shadow” and inaugurated a “better covenant” that offers His righteousness as the everlasting righteousness (see Hebr. 7:22; cf. chap. 10:12; Rom. 3:22, 25).  That is the very meaning of the statement “in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering” (9:27).

The reinstatement of the sacrifices stems from the assumption that Daniel 9 covers the same ground as the other prophecies of Daniel, but this is not a valid assumption:  Daniel 9 is a literal prophecy, dealing with Israel only, and with the 490 years only.  The other prophecies in Daniel are symbolic and deal with all nations and with all time.

Breaks his covenant

Breaks his covenantIn Dispensationalism the Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel after 3½ years, but according to 9:27 the covenant is confirmed for the full seven years.

Destroyed in the middle of the last week

In Dispensationalism the sanctuary will be destroyed in the middle of the last week, when “he will put a stop to sacrifice”.  However, since the full 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people (9:24), the sanctuary and its services will not be destroyed during the 490 years, but only at or after the end of the 490 years.

Return of Christ

Armies of Heaven
Return of Christ

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

Goals fulfilled

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

to make an end of sin
to make atonement for iniquity” and
to bring in everlasting righteousness”.

triumphal entry into JerusalemIn Dispensationalism the 69th week ends a few days before the death of Christ, namely at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, while the 70th week still lies in our future.  Consequently, 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 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 Daniel’s people.

Since the final seven years is the core of the 490 years, these goals are particularly achieved by the events of the last seven years, as described by the first part of verse 27:

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

In Dispensationalism this describes the work of an end time Antichrist.  An Antichrist will certainly not fulfill the wonderful goals of verse 24.

Daniel did not pray for a messiah of for the goals in verse 24.  He prayed for Jerusalem.  But the prophecy includes the Messiah and the goals because that was Jerusalem’s purpose.  Jerusalem was to be rebuilt and 490 years were allocated to it to receive the Messiah, and through the Messiah to realize the goals.  The Messiah was the means and the goals were the end.  To remove these goals from Israel and Jerusalem is to remove the reason for Israel’s election.

Millennium

The complex dispensational view with respect to the sacrificial system is as follows:

Stopped by the Babylonian captivity (prior to receiving the prophecy)
Re-introduced when the sanctuary is rebuilt, as predicted by 9:25;
Stopped when the sanctuary is destroyed, as predicted by 9:26;
Re-introduced in the beginning of the last seven years (not explicitly in the prophecy);
Stopped by the Antichrist in the middle of the last seven years (assuming this is what 9:27 refers to);
Re-introduced at the end of the 70th week, at the visible return of Christ, after which the sacrificial system and the Jewish period will be continued for one thousand years. (No mention of this in the prophecy)

Dispensationalism postulates the Millennium as a period of Jewish dominance.  This allocates to the Jews not only 490 years, but 490 years plus the millennium; in total 1490 years.  But 70 weeks have been determined for the city of “your people” (9:24).  In other words, sacrifices will not be continued beyond the 70 weeks.

A strange aspect of Dispensationalism is the proposal that sin will continue for 1000 years after the return of Christ.  This is inconsistent with the goal “to make an end of sin” (9:24).

Two completely separate and unrelated prophecies

To postpone the last seven years to the end of the age destroys the simple unity of the prophecy.  It divides the prophecy into two completely separate and unrelated prophecies:

One about Christ 2000 years ago, and
One about some future Antichrist.

The last seven years are the core of the prophecy, but Dispensationalism allocates those seven years to the Antichrist.  This converts a prophecy about the Christ into a prophecy about the Antichrist.

Summary

Rebuild again – The prophecy promises that Jerusalem will be rebuilt, which happened before the time of Christ, but Dispensationalism requires the sanctuary to be rebuilt a second time, namely during the last seven years before Christ Returns.

Breaks his covenantIn Dispensationalism the Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel after 3½ years, but according to 9:27 the covenant is confirmed for the full seven years.

Destroyed in the middle of the last weekIn Dispensationalism the sanctuary will be destroyed in the middle of the last week, but since the full 490 years have been determined for the city, the sanctuary will not be destroyed during the 490 years.

Return of Christ – Dispensationalism maintains that the last week ends with the return of Christ, but according to the prophecy the last week ends in chaos.

Goals fulfilledIn Dispensationalism the goals in 9:24 have not been fulfilled by the Cross, but will be fulfilled at the end of the last seven years, with the return of Christ.  This proposal denies the 70 sevens their purpose.  The goals in 9:24 were given to Israel to fulfill, and Israel was given 490 years to fulfill those goals.

MillenniumThe prophecy promised that sacrifices will be revived when Jerusalem is rebuilt, but also predicts that the sacrifices will be stopped.  In contrast, the complex Dispensational view proposes that the sacrifices will be stopped three times and again revived three times; the last time at the beginning of the Millennium.  But there can never be a valid return to the old covenant and its earthly temple worship.

By picturing the Millennium as a period for Jewish dominance, Dispensationalism awards the Jews a total of 1490 years.

Two completely separate and unrelated propheciesTo postpone the last seven years of final crisis to the end of the age divides the prophecy it into two completely separate and unrelated prophecies; One about Christ 2000 years ago, and one about some future Antichrist.

NEXT:   When will the Daniel 9:24 goals, set by for the 490 years, be fulfilled?  The seventh and last article explains why the six goals in verse 24 have not been all fulfilled at the time of Christ.

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
TO:  Daniel 9: List of available articles

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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Does Daniel 9 describe the same crisis as the other prophecies in Daniel?

Book of DanielInterpreters often assume that Daniel 9 predicts the same crisis as Daniel’s other prophecies.  This article 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.

Same Crisis

Many interpreters argue that the “2300 evening morning” of Daniel 8 and the “time, times and a half” of Daniel 7 and 12 describe the same crisis as the last 3½ years of the 490 years allocated to Israel in Daniel 9.  This is done on the basis of the similarities:

In both sacrifices cease.  In Daniel 9 sacrifice and oblation cease, while in Daniel 8 “the continual burnt offering was taken away”.

Sacrifices cease for more or less the same length of time:

Time, Times, Half a TimeIn Daniel 9 sacrifices cease in the “midst” of the last seven years.  It is then often assumed that the sacrificial system is reinstated at the end of the last seven years, even though Daniel 9 says nothing about it.  Sacrifices therefore “cease” for more or less 3½ years.  This is then interpreted as the same as the 3½ times (time, times and a half) in Daniel 7 and 12.

In Daniel 8 the sanctuary is cleansed 2300 “evening morning” after the daily sacrifice is taken away (8:11, 14).  Interpreters often interpret the 2300 “evening morning” as 2300 sacrifices, of which there were two each day, which then converts the 2300 “evening morning” into 1150 days, which is roughly 3 years and 2 months, which is again more or less 3½ years.

Jerusalem destroyedIn both destruction is predicted:  In Daniel 8 “the place of his sanctuary was overthrown” while in Daniel 9 “the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary”.

A different crisis.

In spite of the evidence above it is proposed here that Daniel 9 does not refer to the same crisis as the other prophecies.  This proposal is based on the following evidence:

Absent from Daniel 9

The following, found in the other prophecies, are absent from Daniel 9:

(1) In the other prophecies the saints are persecuted (7:25; 8:24; 11:33; 12:7).  In Daniel 9 only the messiah is persecuted..

(2) In Daniel 8 the sanctuary will be restored after the prophesied destruction (8:14), but there is no mention of this in Daniel 9.  Daniel 9 ends in chaos and desolation.

(3) In the other prophecies kings (beasts 7:17 and horns 7:24) precede the evil power.  No such kings are mentioned in Daniel 9.

Time of the End(4) The other prophecies end in the “time of the end” (8:17), with the destruction of the evil one (7:26; 8:25; 11:45), the return of Christ and the eternal kingdom (2:44; 7:18, 27; 8:25 (without human agency, compare 2:45); 12:2), the resurrection of the dead (12:2) and “everlasting life” (12:2).
None of these are found in Daniel 9.  There is no indication in Daniel 9 that this vision goes to the “time of the end”.  Daniel 9 ends with “desolate, even until a complete destruction” (9:27).

[Note: Some translations end 9:27 with destruction on the one who makes desolate (NASB, GNB), but that is an interpretation.  There is nothing in the original about a desolator that is made desolate.  The KJV, YLT and other translations end Daniel 9 simply with complete desolation on the desolate one.]

Absent from the other prophecies

The following, found in Daniel 9, is absent from the other prophecies:

The destruction of the city (9:26);

The killing of the Messiah;

Other Differences

The following are further differences between Daniel 9 and the other prophecies:

(A) What happens to the temple is different: In Daniel 9 the temple is destroyed (9:26) while in the other chapters it is not destroyed; only profaned by taking away the continual (11:31).

[Note: The “cast down” of the place of his sanctuary in 8:11 should not be understood literally, because the stars and the truth are also “cast down” (8:10, 12).  In contrast to Daniel 8, Daniel 9 does not use symbols.  It has been received in clear, literal language.]

Jerusalem rebuild(B) The sequence of events is different: The prophecy in Daniel 9 promises the restoration of the temple, but also predicts that it will again be destroyed.  It says nothing about another restoration.  The sequence is rebuild-destroy.  In the other prophecies the sequence is reversed, namely desecrate-restore (8:14).

1260 Days(C) The time periods are different.  One could possibly argue that the time, times and a half, which is found elsewhere in Daniel (7:25; 12:7), is equal to half of the last seven years, but the 490 years, 49 years, 434 years and 7 years are not found elsewhere in Daniel and the 1290 days and the 1335 days (12:11, 12) are not found in Daniel 9.  If the 2300 “evening morning” (8:14) is converted to 1150 days, it is equal to 3 years and 55 days, which still does not equal to anything in Daniel 9.  Why would the time periods vary from 1150 days (8:14) to 1260 days (7:25 and 12:7) to 1290 days and to 1335 days, if they all refer to the same period?

(D) Daniel 9 is a literal prophecy; the others are symbolic. The time periods in the other prophecies are all given in a symbolic context, and form part of long range prophecies.  Daniel 9 uses no symbolic language, and the last 7 years are seven literal years.

(E) Daniel 9 focusses specifically on the Jewish nation, the Holy City, and the sanctuary (9:24), while the other prophecies predict a series of heathen empires and kings.  The horns in Daniel 7 and 8 are preceded by beasts (kings 7:17) and horns (kings 7:24).  Daniel 11 also describes the preceding empires and kings, but in more literal terms.  There are no preceding empires or kings in Daniel 9.

Daniel 9 therefore does not describe the same crisis as the other prophecies.

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