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 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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Antiochus and Daniel’s Evil King

A Word version of this
document is available here.

INTRODUCTION

Critical scholars are convinced that the evil king predicted by Daniel chapters 7, 8 and 11 points to Antiochus IV.

The article “Daniel’s evil king; Greek or Roman?”, published on this website, has shown that this evil king comes out of the Roman Empire. It therefore cannot refer to Antiochus IV. The current document supports this conclusion by comparing Antiochus IV with the following characteristics of the predicted evil king:

  1. His immediate predecessor was “a raiser of taxes” that was destroyed “within few days”.
  2. He becomes king and rules by deceit.
  3. He is greater than all his predecessors.
  4. He starts small, but expands exceedingly.
  5. He expands towards the south, east and towards Judea.
  6. He is a tyrant that opposes God and His saints as first principle.
  7. He kills “the prince of the covenant” (11:22), which is Jesus Christ.
  8. He appears on the scene 483 years after a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
  9. 30 days before he commences to persecute the saints he defiles the sanctuary by taking away the “daily” and by setting up the “abomination of desolation” (12:11).
  10. He distributes his plunder.
  11. He magnifies himself above every god.
  12. He serves and promotes a “strange god”, unknown to his fathers.

PREDECESSOR

It is agreed with the critics that 11:19 describes the death of Antiochus III.  If the vile person of 11:21 refers to Antiochus IV, then 11:20 refers to the person that reigned between Antiochus III and Antiochus IV, namely Seleucus IV Philopator; the eldest son of Antiochus III.  Antiochus IV became king after Seleucus IV was murdered.

But Seleucus IV does not fit the description in 11:20:

The king in 11:20 shall be destroyed “within few days”, while Seleucus IV reigned for 13 years. Literally interpreted the time periods in Daniel are short (about 6 years at the most). In comparison 13 years is a long time.

The king in 11:20 will be “a raiser of taxes”, but Seleucus IV did not raise taxes any more than his father.

DECEIT

Daniel 11:21 describes how the predicted evil person becomes king:

… a despicable person will arise, on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred, but he will come in a time of tranquility and seize the kingdom by intrigue.

“By intrigue” means by plotting, conspiracy or trickery. Antiochus IV did not seize the kingdom by intrigue. The following quote from ancientmacedonia.com describes how he became king:

Seleucus was murdered by Heliodorus, his treasurer (B.C. 176) … On the death of Seleucus, the throne was seized by Heliodorus; but it was not long before Antiochus, the brother of the late king, with the help of the Pergamene monarch, Eumenes, recovered it.

The predicted evil king not only becomes king through deceit; he also rules through deceit; he “cause deceit to succeed” (8:25). History does not identify Antiochus IV as any more deceitful than other Greek kings.

GREATER

In Daniel 7 the evil eleventh horn is much larger than the other 10 horns (7:20). In Daniel 8 the horn is larger even than Alexander the Great: Alexander is described as “very great” (8:8) but the horn is “exceedingly great” (KJV; RSV, 8:9).

This does not fit Antiochus IV. Antiochus IV cannot be described as greater than Alexander the Great. Antiochus IV can also not be described as greater that the Seleucid kings that preceded him. Seleucus I Nicator was the first king of the Seleucid branch of the Greek Empire after Alexander’s empire split up. He had significant military successes. A few generations later Antiochus III was called “the Great” because he expanded the domain of the Seleucid kingdom to close to its original size. His military successes are described in 11:15, but later in his career the Romans defeated him and left his empire, particularly in the west, subject to the threat of Rome’s growing power. His son, later to become Antiochus IV, grew up as hostage in Rome because of these defeats.

Antiochus IV was weak compared to Alexander the Great, Seleucus I and his father, Antiochus III the Great. He had success against the Ptolemy branch of the Greek kingdom (Egypt), but by the time Daniel was allegedly written (165 BC) the Romans had already ordered him to leave Egypt, and he had to oblige. On the eastern side of his kingdom the Parthians were taking Iran from his empire, and the need to attend to this threat later allowed the Jewish revolt to succeed; the Maccabees were soon able to drive his soldiers out of Israel and reinstate temple services.

STARTS SMALL

When the predicted evil king in Daniel first appears, it is small (7:8; 8:9) and weak (11:23; supported by few), but later expands to become “exceedingly great” (8:9), which means that it becomes mighty.

Antiochus IV did not start small. He was a Seleucid prince and the brother of the murdered king. After his brother’s murderer seized the throne, he was made king with the support of a neighboring king.

The word “elahah” is used to describe the growth of the four Greek horns (8:8). This describes vertical growth, which is an appropriate word for them because they did not expand the Greek territory. They simply subdivided the area already occupied by Alexander the Great amongst themselves. In contrast the word “yatsah” is used to describe the growth of little horn (8:9). This describes horizontal growth and implies that the horn expands the area it occupies. The horizontal expansion of the predicted evil king is more specifically described as “toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land (Judea)” (8:9).

Antiochus IV did not expand his kingdom into those three directions. He did have some success to the south (Egypt), but in 165 BC, when the book was supposedly written, he was already ordered out of Egypt by the Romans. He also did not invade Judea. Judea was part of the kingdom when he became king. In the east he invaded nothing. At best he strengthened his control over the areas which his father already occupied. And if the south can be mentioned, then also the West, because he also invaded Cyprus when he invaded Egypt.

OPPOSES GOD

The predicted evil king in Daniel is a tyrant that opposes God and His saints as first principle. “His heart will be set against the holy covenant” (11:28, 30). He “will speak monstrous things against the God of gods” (11:36).

Antiochus IV was not principally opposed to the God of the Bible. His objective was merely to maintain authority over his empire. He ordered all peoples of his empire to abandon their particular customs; not only the Jews:

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, each abandoning his particular customs. All the Gentiles conformed to the command of the king, and many Israelites were in favor of his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath (1M1:41-43).

Antiochus IV did rob the Jewish temple, but he also robbed other temples (2 Macc 9:2) to pay his debt to the Romans.

After nearly 200 years of Hellenistic dominance over Israel the influence of the Hellenistic culture was strong, even without Antiochus IV forcing it down the throats of the peoples of his kingdom (1 Macc 1:11-14). Antiochus IV appointed rulers for all nations in his empire. He also appointed the high priest in Jerusalem. Since Judea was a temple kingdom, the high priest effectively was the king of Judea. A pro Hellenistic group of Jews ruled Judea. The Maccabean war began in 167 BC as a Jewish rebellion against the Jewish ruling party. When the Jewish rebels attacked Jerusalem and forced the high priest to hide in the citadel, Antiochus IV saw this as a revolt against his authority (2M 5:11). That is why he attacked Jerusalem. (II Macc 5:5-16) He did not attack Jerusalem because it worshipped God.

PRINCE OF THE COVENANT

The vile king “shattered … the prince of the covenant” (11:22). In the article on the horn-king of Daniel it has been shown, on the basis of word links, that “the prince of the covenant” is the same as the prince that “confirms the covenant with many for one week” (9:27). These are the only princes in Daniel that are linked to the covenant. In the article on Daniel 9 it was argued that the prince in 9:27 is our Creator Jesus Christ. “The prince of the covenant” is therefore also Jesus Christ.

This can be confirmed as follows: The “prince of the covenant” in Daniel 11 is arguable the same as the “the prince of the host” in 8:11 because both are the leader of God’s people. Critics propose that this prince is the high priest Onias III that was murdered during the reign of Antiochus IV. It is true that Bible sometimes refer to the high priest as a prince, but never as “prince of the host”. The only other reference in the Bible to the “prince of the host” is in Joshua 5:14-15, and here He is worshiped:

14 He said, “No; rather I indeed come nowas captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth … 15 The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” …

(The word translated “captain” in Joshua is the same word translated “prince” in Daniel 8:11, namely ‘sar’.)

This confirms that “the prince of the covenant” is Jesus Christ. Antiochus died 180 years before Jesus, and had nothing to do with His death.

Neither did Antiochus kill Onias III (eg NIV). The high priest was effectively the king in Israel, and in the same way that Antiochus IV appointed kings for other nations, he appointed the high priest in Israel. Antiochus replaced Onias III as high priest with Onias’s brother Jason and a few years later he replaced Jason with Menelaus. Menelaus did not like Onias’s criticism and had him killed in 171 BC. It would therefore not be valid to claim that Antiochus broke or shattered Onias. It was the Jewish leadership of the time that killed him.

TIME PERIODS

The purpose of the prophecies in Daniel is to identify the predicted evil king. He is the main character in Daniel. The preceding four kingdoms are only mentioned to allow us to identify him. All the time periods in Daniel relate to him:

The predicted evil king is not represented in Daniel 2 and there are no prophetic time periods in Daniel 2.

The first time period is the time and times and the dividing of time in Daniel 7, generally understood as 3½ years, during which the predicted evil king persecutes the saints (7:25).

The second time period is in Daniel 8, which announces that the sanctuary will be cleansed after 2300 “evening morning”; translated by the KJV as 2300 “days”. 2300 days is equal to more than 6 years, and does not fit the time of Antiochus IV. Critics read it as 2300 sacrifices, of which there was one each morning and one each evening, giving 1150 full days.

The third time period is the seventy sevens of Daniel 9, subdivided into 7 sevens, 62 sevens and the final seven.

To explain and to link the three major time periods, two further time periods are provided in Daniel 12, namely 1290 days and 1335 days.

Antiochus IV does not fit the time periods in Daniel. However, in the view of the critics, Daniel was written before the end of these time periods, and the writer was wrong with his predictions. Critics therefore do not require the time periods to fit history exactly. But at least two of the time periods precede the pollution of the temple by Antiochus, and these must fit the history exactly.

The first is the 483 years in Daniel 9. This prophecy requires 483 years from the “decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince” (9:25). In the schema proposed by critics the last week describes the time of Antiochus IV, which means that the preceding 483 years were past when their second century author wrote. The 483 years must therefore correspond to actual history, but to fit 483 years between the possible decrees and Antiochus is not possible. Critics have several very creative alternatives, but the article on Daniel 9 on this website shows clear flaws in such proposals.

The other time period that was past when the critics’ second century author wrote is the preceding 30 days of 12:11. This does not fit the time of Antiochus either. (This is a bit complex, and only a summary explanation will be provided here. A separate article on the time periods in Daniel and Revelation is planned which will explain this in more detail.)

Daniel 12:11 reads as follows:

And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. (KJV)

This explanation is given after Daniel asks for more information (12:8) after he was reminded of the 3½ years of persecution (12:7). The “1290 days” therefore explain the 3½ years of 12:7. Since 12:11 only specifies a start event, it is implied that the 1290 days and the 3½ years end at the same time. Since the 3½ years is equal to 1260 days (Rev. 12:6, 14), the 1290 days is 30 days longer than the 3½ years, and therefore start 30 days before the beginning of the persecution. (The alternative interpretation, which understands the 1260 days to be equal to 1290 days by playing around with leap years, makes a mockery of 12:11.)

The taking away of the “daily” and the setting up of the “abomination of desolation” (12:11), with which the 1290 days start, is the desecration of the sanctuary. Since the 1290 days start 30 days before the persecution commences, the sanctuary is desecrated 30 days before the saints are persecuted. In the view of the critics the second century author completed the book of Daniel while the sanctuary remained defiled and the saints were persecuted. These 30 days must therefore fit the history of Antiochus IV exactly, but it does not. It was rather the other way around. Accor­ding to I and II Maccabees the persecution of the Jews commenced before the temple was desecra­ted.

A related point is that, in the interpretation as proposed by the critics, the time periods in Daniel conflict with one another. Critics assume that the 2300 is equal to 1150 real days, and that this is the duration of the defilement of the sanctuary. But then the 1150 days and the 1290 days commence at the same time, namely when the sanctuary is defiled, which means that the 1150 days end 140 days before the end of the 1290 days. This means that the saints are persecuted for 140 days after the sanctuary has been cleansed. This is not logical. Critics have no acceptable explanation for the differences between the times periods; the 2300 “evening morning”, the 3½ times and the 1260, 1290 and 1335 days.

Lastly, the 1290 starts with “the abomination that maketh desolate set up”. Critics interpret this as the setting up of a statue of Zeus in the Jewish temple by Antiochus IV, but Jesus 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)

Jesus therefore placed the 1290 days in the future. It cannot refer to what Antiochus IV did.

OTHER DIFFERENCES

The following are further identifications that do not fit Antiochus IV:

Distribute the plunder: The predicted evil king “will distribute plunder, booty and possessions among them” (11:24). This was not true of Antiochus IV. To the contrary, he had owed huge sums of war debt to Rome following his father’s defeats against the Romans, and needed the money.

Magnify himself: The king … will exalt and magnify himself above every god and … He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers … nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all” (11:36-37). Antiochus did not “magnify himself above every god”. Neither did he had no regard the God of his fathers. To the contrary; he promoted the religion of his fathers. For instance, he set a statue of Zeus up in the temple in Jerusalem.

Strange god:But instead he will honor a god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know” (11:38). Antiochus’s aim was that all people should serve the gods of his fathers.

CONCLUSION

Critics may argue that Daniel describes Antiochus as more evil and powerful than he really was because their second century Jewish author was emotionally wrapped up in the destruction of everything sacred to the Jews, with a consequential loss of objectivity. For this reason, they may argue, he described Antiochus as ruling by deceit, more powerful than all other Greek kings and as apposing God as first principle. However, if the predicted evil king is supposed to be a description of Antiochus, then Daniel includes factually incorrect information that cannot be ascribed to a lack of objectivity, such as:

      • His immediate predecessor was destroyed within few days.
      • He started small, with few supporters, but eventually became exceedingly great.
      • He appeared on the scene 483 years after a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
      • He promoted a “strange god”, unknown to his fathers.

Daniel 11:2-19 correlates well with the history until the death of Antiochus III in verse 19 and there are many similarities between Antiochus and the predicted evil king, but Antiochus IV by no means exhausts the passage. Antiochus IV is not the complete fulfillment of Daniel’s predicted evil king. Antiochus IV is a type of the predicted evil king, but for the complete fulfillment of the prophecies we must search for a later and much more powerful evil king. Daniel 11 may therefore be understood as two stories intertwined.  The text seems to describe the history up to and including Antiochus IV, but while discussing Antiochus IV it jumps to a future and worldwide evil king.

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