Who confirms the covenant and put an end to sacrifice in Daniel 9:27; the Messiah or the prince?

It is either the Messiah that is killed or the prince who destroys Jerusalem.  The Poetic Pattern and the messianic nature of the prophecy indicates that it is the Messiah.  He is also the dominant figure in the previous verse, and as argued in the previous article, it is God’s covenant with Israel.  It cannot be the prince, for he is a supernatural being.

Verse 26 refers to two people: the Messiah that is “cut off” and “the prince that shall come”.  Verse 27 continues with a “he”:

“… 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”

This article identifies of the “he” in verse 27.  Dispensationalism argues that “he” refers to the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD 70, and that this prince will reign during the last seven years before the return of Christ.

Poetic Pattern

Summary: The Poetic Pattern of the prophecy indicates that “he” in verse 27, who confirm the covenant for seven years, is the same as the Messiah who is cut off in verse 26.

Parallelism

parallelismThe prophecy in Daniel 9 uses much parallelism, where two related words or phrases are used together to emphasize a point, for instance:

Insight with understanding (v22);
Give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision (v23);
Your people and your holy city (v24);
To finish the transgression, to make an end of sin (v24);
Know and discern (v25);
Restore and rebuild (v25);
Seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (v26);
The city and the sanctuary (v26); and
Sacrifice and grain offering.

We also find this repetition of thought in two adjacent verses:

I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding” (v22) and
I have come to tell you” (v23)

Two foci

Jesus in JerusalemBut perhaps the most important pattern in the prophecy is the way in which the focus shifts repeatedly back and forth between the two foci; Jerusalem and the Messiah:

25: from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem;
until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
26: 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.
27: he shall confirm the covenant …; and … cause the sacrifice … to cease … he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation …

Verses 25 and 26 explicitly shift the focus four times between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  The implication is that verse 27 continues this pattern.  Since verse 26 ends with a reference to Jerusalem, the first part of verse 27, describing the “he” who confirms the covenant for seven years, but “cause the sacrifice … to cease” in the middle of that week, should be the Messiah.

Similarly, the destruction in the last part of verse 27 should refer to Jerusalem.  Also see Daniel 9: Chronological sequence for a further discussion.

Messiah is the Dominant Figure

Summary: The dominant figure in verse 26 and in the entire prophecy is the “Messiah”.  He is therefore the appropriate antecedent for “he” in verse 27.

The prince whose people destroy the city is the last person mentioned in verse 26.  Dispensationalism therefore proposes that the “he” in verse 27 refers to this prince.

However, the “prince that shall come” is not the subject of that clause in verse 26.  It reads “people of the prince”, not “the prince of the people”.   The “prince” in verse 26 is a subordinate figure.  The dominant figure in the entire prophecy and in verse 26 is the “Messiah“.  The Messiah should therefore be preferred as the antecedent for the “he” in verse 27.

Supernatural Being

Summary: The prince in 9:26 is a supernatural being, representing the Roman nation, while the “he” of verse 27 is a human being, and therefore cannot refer to a supernatural being.  The proper antecedent for “he” is therefore the Messiah.

The prince in verse 26 is described as “the prince who is to come”.  A few verses later we read of a prince of Greece who also is “to come”:

Michael the archangel“I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; … the prince of Greece is about to come.  … Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.” (10:20, 21; see also 12:1)

Since this is a supernatural being that is speaking here (10:16, 18), the princes against whom he fights, and the prince Michael who stands with him, are also supernatural beings.  The NASB, quoted above, calls them “forces”. They are not human beings.  Each of the princes (of Persia, of Greece and “Michael your prince”) represent a nation.  Michael is the prince of the nation of Israel (12:1).

Since both the “prince of Greece” and the prince of Rome are “to come” (10:20; 9:26), it is implied that the prince of Rome in 9:26 is also a supernatural being.  The “he” in verse 27, who is a human being, therefore cannot refer back to the prince in verse 26.

Messianic Prophecy

Summary: According to Daniel 9 this world’s sin problem would be solved by the killing of the messiah, while an end will be made to the sacrificial system.  In the light of the New Testament these refer to Jesus, and the “he”, who makes an end to the sacrificial system, is the Messiah.

Daniel 9:27 indicates:

… in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering

antichrist last seven years

In Dispensationalism this is the work of the Antichrist during the seven years prior to the return of Christ.  He will destroy the sanctuary and its services.

In Dispensationalism the first 7+62 weeks (483 years) came to an end the Sunday prior to the Cross, while the 70th week is still in our future.  The Cross therefore does not fall within the 490 years and none of the goals set for the 490 years, as listed in verse 24, have been fulfilled through the Cross, but will only be fulfilled at the end of the future 70th week.

Context

However, this “put a stop to sacrifice” must be understood within its context:

make atonement for iniquityVerse 24 lists six goals to be attained through Daniel’s people during the 490 years, including “to make atonement for iniquity” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness”.

The goals must be fulfilled through seven events listed in 9:25-26, including the appearance (v25) and the killing of the Messiah (v26).

Verse 27, saying that a stop will be put to sacrifices in the middle of the final seven years, is the core and purpose of the 490 years.

The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore implies that this world’s sin problem would be solved (9:24) through the appearance (v25) and killing of the messiah (v26), while “sacrifice and grain offering” will be stopped (9:27).

Fulfilled in Jesus

In the light of New Testament, this describes Jesus Christ:

He was “Jesus the Messiah” (Matt 1:1, cf. 1:16, 17; 2:4; John 1:41, 4:25).

He was killed.

He solved the sin problem of the world.  Through His death, He fulfilled the goals in verse 24 “to make atonement for iniquity” (John 1:29; Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 7:27, 9:26-28; Hebr. 9:12; 10:10, 12, 14) and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Heb. 9:12; Rom. 5:10, 11; Col. 1:20; 2Co 5:19; Col 1:22; Rom 5:18; John 3:17; Col 1:19-20).

His death caused sacrifice to cease.  Christ’s death did not cause the Jewish sacrifices to cease immediately.  The Jewish sacrifices continued until the destruction of Jerusalem forty years later.  But these sacrifices pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Lamb of God.  When Jesus—the Lamb of God—died, He fulfilled the significance of those sacrifices.  The Jewish sacrifices were consequently terminated at the death of Christ in the sense of its loss of meaning.

The letter to the Hebrews states this explicitly.  When Jesus ascended to heaven and became High Priest (Heb. 6:20), the law changed (Heb. 7:12), including the sacrificial system (Heb. 7:19; 8:4; 9:22).  Jesus set “aside the first [sacrifices and offerings] to establish the second” (Heb. 10:9).  (See also Heb. 8:13 and Eph. 2:15.)  In this way His death caused “sacrifice and the oblation (NASB: grain offering) to cease” (Daniel 9:27).

Conclusion

The Daniel 9 prophecy is therefore thoroughly messianic in nature.  In this context the statement that “he will put a stop to sacrifice” in verse 27 must be understood as referring to the sacrifice at the Cross which made an end to all other sacrifices.  The “he” therefore refers to the Messiah.  To allocate verse 27 to an end time antichrist does injustice to the overall gist of the prophecy.

pierced through for our transgressionsThe prophecy, received 500 years before the cross, discloses a most profound aspect of the Messiah’s mission, namely that His death would be the true sacrifice for sin.  As also disclosed by Isaiah 53, He was “pierced through for our transgressions”.  This is not only another proof of the existence of the supernatural, but also it tells us much about the nature of the universe.  God knows where we are.  He sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins.  We cannot understand why and how, for His thoughts are as high above our thoughts as the stars are above the earth, but it is wonderful to understand that the Source of all power and love feels this way about us; undeserving sinners.

Repetition

But then questions may arise:

If the termination of the sacrifices and the killing of the messiah is the same event, why is the one described as “after the 62 sevens”, (9:26) and the other as in the “midst of” the last seven (9:27)?

And why is the destruction of Jerusalem mentioned between the killing of the Messiah and the stop that is made to sacrifices?

The answer to this question is found in the repetition (parallelism) of the prophecy, as described above in the section dealing with the poetic structure.  Since the prophecy so often repeats concepts, the repetition of the events of verse 26 by verse 27 is almost to be expected.  The prophecy consists of three divisions; each providing information relative to a different period of time:

490 yearsVerse 24 announces the 490 years and sets the goals for that period.
483 years – Verses 25 and 26 describe events relative to the first 483 years, including the killing of the Messiah and the consequential destruction of the city after the end of the 483 years.
Final 7 years – Verse 27 describes the same events, but relative to the final seven years.

Summary

The previous verse identifies two options; the Messiah that is “cut off” and “the prince that shall come”.  The previous article found that it is God’s covenant.  It must therefore be the Messiah.  In this article:

Poetic Pattern – The prophecy has a poetic pattern which shifts repeatedly back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  In this pattern the “he” is the Messiah.

Dominant Figure – The dominant figure in verse 26 and in the entire prophecy is the “Messiah”.  He is therefore the appropriate antecedent for “he” in verse 27.

Supernatural Being – Comparison with the princes in Daniel 10 shows that the prince in 9:26 is a supernatural being, representing the Roman nation, while the “he” of verse 27 is a human being, and therefore cannot refer to a supernatural being.

Messianic Prophecy – The purpose of the events predicted by the prophecy is to solve this world’s sin problem (v24) through the killing of the messiah (v26), while an end will be made to the sacrificial system (v27).  This is a prediction of Christ’s mission.  Since the Lamb of God caused sacrifices to cease, the “he”, who makes an end to the sacrificial system, is the Messiah.

NEXT:  Is the last week the last seven years before Christ returns?  Dispensationalism claims it is.  However, the desolations in the last part of verse 27 is the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, also described by verse 26.  This is indicated by the Poetic Pattern and the repetition of words.  The last week, described earlier in verse 27, must therefore be prior to AD 70.

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

Whose covenant is confirmed in Daniel 9:27; God’s covenant with Israel or the devil’s?

Ark of the CovenantIt is God’s covenant with Israel, for Daniel 9 follows the covenant pattern of Disobedience – Repentance – Covenant Renewal.  The 490 years, including the last seven, therefore are a renewal of God’s covenant with Israel.  This is confirmed by the phrase “confirm the covenant”  and by “the many”, with whom the covenant is confirmed, who are God’s people. 

Central Theme

Summary: God’s covenant with Israel is the backbone of the entire Daniel 9.  The covenant in 9:27 must therefore also be God’s covenant with Israel.

7 year covenantDispensationalism interprets the covenant in 9:27 as a covenant of an end time antichrist, but it is proposed here that it is God’s covenant with Israel because God’s covenant with Israel is the central theme throughout the entire Daniel 9.  This is explained in The Covenant in Daniel 9, as well as in the previous article under the heading Prophetic Years, but this matter is critical for understanding Daniel 9.

Covenant with Israel in brief

God commanded Israel to allow the land to rest every seventh year (Leviticus. 25:1-2).  Israel was to work the land for six years (v3), but not on the seventh (v4).

God made this seven-year cycle part of the covenant by using it to count the number of years of exile (Lev. 26:35, 43).  Should Israel become unfaithful (Lev. 26:14-39), God will scatter them among the nations (Lev. 26:33) to allow the land to have its rest (v34, 43).  The period of exile would be equal to the number of years during which the land did not have its rest (v35, 43).

But if Israel confesses their sin (v40), God would renew His covenant with them (v42), that He might be their God (v45).

Daniel 9 follows this covenant pattern:

(1) The prophecy of Daniel 9 was received at the end of Israel’s exile of 70 years (Dan 9:2).  The exile was the covenant penalty for unfaithfulness: Israel was scattered to allow the land to have its rest (2Ch 36:21; Dan 9:11-13; cf. Lev. 25:2).

Daniel(2) In his prayer (9:4-19) Daniel confessed the justice of the sentence, Yahweh’s righteousness (9:7) and Israel’s guilt (9:5-11).  In this way Daniel fulfilled the condition for covenant renewal after exile (Leviticus 26:40-41).  On behalf of Israel, and he prayed for the renewal of Israel’s covenant privileges.

(3) The announcement “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city” (9:24) renewed God’s covenant with Israel in terms of Leviticus 26:42, 45, but limited to 490 years.

Conclusion

God’s covenant with Israel is therefore the central theme in the entire Daniel 9.  This implies that the promised 490 years is an extension of God’s covenant with Israel, and therefore that the last “one week” (9:27) is the final seven years of that time-limited renewed covenant.

Confirm the Covenant

Summary: The phrase “confirm the covenant” (9:27) means that this covenant existed prior to the 70th week.  Then it can only be God’s covenant with Israel.

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

The many

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

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

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

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

Summary

Dispensationalism argues that the covenant in verse 27 is a new covenant made by an end time Antichrist.  But it is God’s covenant with Israel, for the following reasons:

Central Theme – An analysis of the covenant in Leviticus 25-26 and of Daniel 9 shows that Daniel 9 follows the covenant pattern of Disobedience – Repentance – Covenant Renewal, and that the 490 years are a renewal of God’s covenant with Israel.

Confirm the Covenant – The phrase “confirm the covenant” (9:27 KJC) reflects the meaning of the verb gâbar.  It means that this covenant existed prior to the 70th week.

The manyThe many”, with whom the covenant is confirmed, most often refers to God’s people.

Of the six times that the word “covenant” appears in Daniel, it is four times explicitly God’s covenant with Israel.

NEXT:  Who confirms the covenant for seven years; the Messiah or the prince?  In the middle of these seven year he makes an end to sacrifice.  This article considers the poetic structure and messianic nature of the prophecy, and evaluates the possible antecedents in verse 26.

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

Seventy weeks have been decreed: WHEN did the 490 years begin and when did the first 483 years end?

DispensationalismThis second article in the series compares the time indications for the Seventy Weeks in Daniel 9 to the Dispensational interpretation.  Dispensationalism takes the second decree of Artaxerxes (445/4 BC) as the one that restored Jerusalem.  But since this decree does not fit the time of Christ, Dispensationalism reduces the 483 years by about 7 years by interpreting these as 360-day years.  This brings us to Christ’s  triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the appearance of the Messiah in 9:25.  Dispensationalism assumes that God suspended His covenant with Israel at the Cross.

Decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem

9:25 reads:

from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem …” (NASB).

Seventy WeeksThe Seventy Weeks began with this decree.  As stated in the previous article, restore, in the original text, does not mean the same as rebuild.  Restore means to give the city back to its previous owner.

In the article Which decree four decrees by three different Persian kings over a period of about 90 years, are considered.

Cyrus:

King CyrusThe decree by Cyrus in 538/7 BC allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem and therefore to rebuild Jerusalem, but it did not restore Jerusalem to the nation to serve as their national capital.

Darius:

The decree by Darius I 520 BC simply confirmed Cyrus’ edict.    

Artaxerxes in 457 BC (Ezra 7:1-26):

As discussed in the article Which Decree, this decree, for the first time, granted autonomy of Judah.  It restored Jerusalem as judicial and executive capital to the nation.  In this decree the king said, “Whoever does not obey the law of your God … must surely be punished by death …” The Persian king thereby made the Mosaic Law part of his own law, and granted authority to the Jews to govern themselves on the basis of the law of God.  It provides for a measure of judicial and civil autonomy unknown since the Babylonian desolation of Jerusalem and Judea about 130 years earlier.

A further indication that this is the decree intended by 9:25 is the fact that, if we add Seventy Weeks (490 years) to 457 BC, we come to the time of Christ.

Artaxerxes in 445/4 BC (Neh. 1-2):

Nehemiah, cupbearer to Artaxerxes IDispensationalism takes this as the decree that restored Jerusalem.  This decree, however, did not “restore” Jerusalem.  This decree only dealt with the physical construction of the city walls.  When Nehemiah asked for this decree, he did not even ask to rebuild the city.  He only asked for permission to go to Jerusalem (2:5) and for wood for the walls (2:8).  This decree was also too late to fit the time of Christ.

Dispensationalism claims that the second decree of Artaxerxes I for the first time authorized the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but that is also not true.  All four decrees above, by allowing the Jews to return to Judah and to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4; cf. Is. 45:1), implicitly allowed the Jews to rebuild their cities.  Please see the article Which decree for a fuller discussion.

Seventy Weeks – Prophetic Years

9:25 continues:

 “until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (9:25 NASB)

Dispensationalism prophetic yearsDispensationalism proposes that the Messiah Prince is Jesus Christ and that He would appear 7+62=69×7= 483 years after the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (9:25), but 483 years from 445/4 BC brings us to about AD 40; far beyond the Cross.  Dispensationalism therefore proposes that the 483 years are “prophetic years” of 360 days each; not 365 days.  This gives a total of 173,880 days (483 x 360), which is equal to 476 solar years plus some days.  In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 years to fit the actual historical time from Artaxerxes’ second decree to the crucifixion, assuming the crucifixion was in AD 33 or AD 32.

However, as discussed in The Covenant in Daniel 9, the covenant pattern forms the framework for the Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9.  Since the covenant is based on Israel’s seven-year cycle, and since the Seventy Weeks are an extension of God’s covenant with Israel, these must be literal years.  To explain:

Sabbath Years

In Leviticus 25 God commanded Israel to allow the land to rest every seventh year (v2), similar to the weekly Sabbath day of rest.  Israel had to work the land for six years (v3), but in the seventh year the land had to rest (v4).  In this way the years on the Jewish calendar were divided into sevens, where each seventh year is a Sabbath.

Warning of exile

Leviticus 26, which contains the covenant promises and warnings, warned Israel that it would be in exile for every Sabbath year not observed.  While they are in exile, the land will enjoy its rest.  The Sabbath years were therefore made part of the covenant threat of exile.

490 years of disobedience

Jeremiah prophesied that Israel would be in exile for 70 years.  Each of Jeremiah’s 70 years of exile therefore was a Sabbath year.  This is confirmed by 2 Chronicles 36:21. Each of the 70 years therefore represent 7 years of disobedience.  Consequently, the 70 years represent the equivalent of Seventy Weeks (490 years) of disobedience, prior to the exile.

Seventy Weeks renewed covenant

The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore extended God’s covenant with Israel for a new cycle of Seventy Weeks, in which every seventh year will be a Sabbath year.  The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9 refer to these weeks of years, and therefore are literal solar years.

This confirms that the second decree of Artaxerxes does not fit the time of Christ.

Difference in dates

The second decree of Artaxerxes I is dated by most dispensationalists to 445 BC, but by some to 444 BC:

Interpreters that use March 14, 445 BC as the date of the decree (e.g. Sir Robert Anderson) count 173880 days to end on 6th April, AD 32 as the date for Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Interpreters that use March 5, 444 BC as the date of the decree (e.g. Hoehner) count 173880 days to March 30, AD 33 as the date for the triumphal entry, and the crucifixion six days later on April 5, AD 33.

Dispensationalism sometimes claims that its calculations fit the historical events precisely, but the difference in the dates places doubt over such claims.

Triumphal entry

Daniel 9:25 reads:

from the issuing of a decree … until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks“.

In other words, the Messiah would appear 483 years after the decree.

In Dispensationalism the “Messiah the Prince” (the anointed in the KJV) is Jesus Christ and 9:25 refers to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days before His crucifixion.  However, 9:25 refers to the appearance of the Messiah; not His disappearance.  It seems to say that the Messiah will commence His ministry at the end of the 69 weeks; not end His ministry.

Jesus baptizedJesus did not begin His ministry at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  He began His work as Messiah about three years earlier at His baptism, where He was “anointed” and introduced to Israel:

John the baptist said, “so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water” (John 1:31).

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power” (Acts 10:38).

God proclaimed this Anointed One to be His Son or King (Mark 1:9-11; cf. Ps. 2:6, 7) on the day of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist.

Covenant suspended at the Cross

As stated, in Dispensationalism the first 483 years came to an end at Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (a few days before His death), with the last seven years postponed to the end of the age.

However, Seventy Weeks (490 years) are promised by God as years of Jewish preference (“for your people and your holy city”), and the preference which Jews enjoyed continued after the Cross.

Early Church History

During the first few years after the Cross the Holy Spirit only came on Jews and the gospel was preached only to Jews.  The church consisted only of the “circumcised” (cf. 10:45; i.e. Jews) and they did not associate with the uncircumcised (Acts 10:34-35).  See Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church.

About three or four years after the Cross the Jews persecuted these Jewish Christians, commencing with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7; 8:1). See Judea and Samaria Phase of the Early Church.

Immediately following this persecution (Acts 10) Peter received his dream of the unclean beasts (Acts 10:19-20).  Up to that point in time these Christian Jews kept their distance from Gentiles, as all Jews did.  But through this vision God told him, and the church, to preach the gospel also to Gentiles (v34-35).  Simultaneously the Holy Spirit suddenly and powerfully led the Christians to take the gospel to the uncircumcised (non-Jews).  At that time the period of Jewish preference came to an end.

End of the Seventy Weeks

The prophecy does not mention any specific event for the end of the Seventy Weeks, but it is more or less obvious that the end of the Seventy Weeks is also the end of God’s covenant with Israel.  In other words, we should be able to identify some event in history that indicates the end of God’s covenant with Israel.  It is proposed here that the Seventy Weeks came to an end when the Holy Spirit led the Christians to take the gospel to non-Jews.

Stoning of StephenThis conclusion is supported by Stephen’s speech.  Both Daniel’s prayer and Stephen’s speech are based on God’s covenant with Israel.  While Daniel confessed the sins of his people and prayed for the mercy promised in the covenant, Stephen’s speech was an announcement of God’s judgment in terms of the covenant.  In other words, Stephen announced the end of the Seventy Weeks.

These three or four years after the Cross were therefore part of the 490 years.  Please see the article, Stoning of Stephen, for more detail.

Summary

Decree The 490 years began with “a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem”.  Restore, in the original text, does not mean to rebuild.  Restore means to give the city back to its previous owner.  The decree of Artaxerxes in 457 BC restored Jerusalem as judicial and executive capital to Israel.  This decree also fit the time of Christ.  Dispensationalism takes the second of Artaxerxes (445/4 BC) as the decree that restored Jerusalem.  But this decree only dealt with the physical construction of the city walls.  This decree also does not fit the time of Christ.

Prophetic Years The second decree of Artaxerxes does not fit the time of Christ.  Dispensationalism therefore reduces the first 483 years by about 7 years by interpreting these as “prophetic years” of 360 days each; rather than literal years of 365 days each.  However, the covenant pattern forms the framework for Daniel 9.  Since the covenant is based on Israel’s seven-year cycle, and since the 490 years are an extension of God’s covenant with Israel, these are literal years.

Difference in datesDifferent Dispensational interpretations use different years for Artaxerxes’s decree and for the Cross.  This raises some doubt over to the calculations.

Triumphal entryMessiah the Prince” will appear after 69 weeks (9:25).  In Dispensationalism this is His triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days prior to His crucifixion.  But that was not His appearance; it was His disappearance.  Jesus began His work as Messiah about three years earlier at His baptism, where He was anointed and introduced to Israel.

Covenant suspended at the CrossDispensationalism assumes that God suspended His covenant with Israel at the Cross, but for three or four years after the Cross, when the Holy Spirit came with power on the disciples, the gospel was preached only to Jews.  This period of Jewish preference only came to an and when Stephen announced God’s judgment in terms of the covenant.  These three or four years after the Cross were therefore part of the 490 years.

NEXT:  Whose covenant is confirmed in Daniel 9:27; God’s covenant with Israel or the devil’s?  The 490 years are a renewal of God’s covenant with Israel.  The last seven therefore are also God’s covenant with Israel.

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

Dispensationalism and the Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9; An introduction

DispensationalismDaniel 9 allows Jerusalem a further 70 cycles of 7 years each—490 years—to achieve 6 goals.  The prophecy therefore promises that Jerusalem would be restored to Israel to serve as their executive capital.  The city is rebuilt constructed to receive the Messiah, but it is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.  In Dispensationalism the last seven years are the seven last years before the Return of Christ, when the antichrist rule.  In the traditional interpretations the last seven years revolves around the Cross. 

Articles

This is the first article in a series on the Dispensational Interpretation of Daniel 9:

(1) Introduction to Dispensationalism and Daniel 9: Overview of the text of Daniel 9 and of the Dispensational interpretation
(2) Time indications in Daniel 9: When was the decree issued, when did the Messiah appear and when did God suspend His covenant with the Jews?
(3) Whose covenant is confirmed in Daniel 9:27; God’s covenant with Israel or the devil’s?
(4) Who confirms the covenant for seven years; the Messiah or the prince?
(5) Is the last week the last seven years before Christ returns?
(6) Dispensationalism Daniel 9 and the Antichrist: Other inconsistencies compared to the text
(7) When will the Daniel 9:24 goals, set by for the 490 years, be fulfilled?

Origin

John Nelson DarbyEvangelical Christians today extensively hold to the Dispensationalism view on eschatology, in spite of its relatively recent origin.  Dispensationalism is often linked with the teachings on prophecy by John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)—from the 1830s on—and the Plymouth Brethren of Ireland.  Scofield (1843-1921) of the United States was influenced by Darby and presented the view of seven dispensations from Eden to the new creation in the notes of the widely used Scofield Reference Bible.

Overview of the Prophecy

Daniel the prophetsDaniel received the Daniel 9 prophecy in the year 538 BC.  At that time the Jewish nation was in Babylon in captivity, and Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins.  Daniel prayed for Jerusalem (9:16), the sanctuary (9:17) and for his people (9:19).  While still praying, the angel Gabriel appeared to him (9:21) and gave him the extremely compact and powerful prophecy contained in verses 24 to 27:

Verse 24

The prophecy commences with the announcement that 70 weeks have been decreed for Israel and for its capital city, Jerusalem, to achieve 6 goals:

Seventy WeeksSeventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to
   finish the transgression, and
   make an end of sins, and   
   make reconciliation for iniquity, and
   bring in everlasting righteousness, and
   seal up the vision and prophecy, and to 
   anoint the most Holy. (KJV)

Israel’s calendar followed a seven-year cycle in which every seventh year was a Sabbath for the land (Lev. 25).  The 70 weeks are 70 of those seven-year cycles, and consequently equal to 490 years.

The remaining three verses describe the events through which the six goals above were to be achieved.

Verse 25

This verse indicates when the 490 years start:

So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to Rebuild Jerusalem Jerusalem

To identify this decree, it is important to distinguish between “restore” and “rebuild”.  “Restore” in the original text means to give the city back to its previous owner.  “Restore” does not include the idea of rebuilding.  Jerusalem was the judicial and executive capital of the Israeli people.  To restore Jerusalem means that it will be returned to the Jews to serve as their capital from which they would rule their whole nation, according to their own laws as a theocentric society.

Verse 25 continues to say that the Messiah Prince would appear 69 sevens (483 years) after that decree:

from the issuing of a decree … until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (NASB).

Verse 25 concludes by adding that the rebuilding of Jerusalem would be “in troublous times”.

Verse 26

This verse shifts the focus back to the Messiah.  While verse 25 indicated that the Messiah will appear at the end of the first 483 years, verse 26 states that he would be cut off “after” the 69 sevens.

Verse 26 then again diverts the focus to Jerusalem, stating that it will be destroyed again.  Since 70 weeks have been decreed for Jerusalem, it must be this destroyed after the end of the 70 weeks.

The CrossIt is important to note how the prophecy repeatedly jumps back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  Verses 25 and 26 switch four time from the one to the other.  As discussed in the article Poetry and Chiasm in Daniel 9, the prophecy of Daniel 9 is a form of poetic parallelism in which Jerusalem and the Messiah are the two foci.  These two foci stand in cause-effect relationships; the city is rebuilt to receive the Messiah, but it is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.

Verse 27

The first part of verse 27 focuses on the final seven years:

And he shall with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease” (9:27 KJV)

The only event during the first 483 years is “restore and rebuild Jerusalem”.  The death of the Messiah, the “confirm the covenant” and the “cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease” (9:27) all happen during the final seven years.  These final seven years therefore are the core and the real purpose of the 490 years.  The first 483 years merely serve to locate the last seven years in time.

The last part of verse 27 describes unspecified destruction.

Conclusion

Daniel 9 is very different from the other prophecies in Daniel.  Daniel 9 is literal and only deals with Israel and the 490 years.  The other prophecies are symbolic and deal with all nations and with all time.

Dispensationalism: interpretation in brief

In Dispensationalism:

The 490 years start with the second decree of Artaxerxes I (Neh. 1-2), who gave Nehemiah permission to repair Jerusalem.

The first 483 years end with Jesus’ triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

The 490 years are not viewed as continuous, but a huge “paren­thesis” or “gap” is inserted between the first 483 years and the final seven years.  The entire “church age” is a gap during which the prophetic clock has stopped ticking.

The seven years are the final seven years before the Return of Christ, commencing with the rapture of the church.  The rapture includes the resurrection of dead saints and the translation of living saints.  They will secretly be removed from the earth.

Confirm the covenantDuring the 70th week the antichrist will arise; a revived Roman empire whose prince will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation during the latter half of the seven years.

Traditional Interpretation

There is not much difference between Dispensationalism and the traditional Protestant interpretations of the first 483 years.  Both start the 490 years with a decree of Artaxerxes and both end the first 483 years in the time of Christ.  The major difference is with respect to the final seven years. In the traditional interpretation:

From a decree to restore – The 490 years began with Artaxerxes’ first decree in 458/7 BC.

Baptism of Jesus ChristUntil Messiah the Prince – 483 literal years later the Messiah appeared at His baptism in AD 26/27.  This was also the beginning of the final seven years.

Sacrifice cease – 3½ years later, in the midst of the final seven years, Jesus was killed, causing “the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”.  These sacrifices pointing forward to His death and lost their purpose and meaning when He died.

Last seven yearsConfirmed – Jesus Christ confirmed God’s covenant with Israel during the final seven years:

First through His personal preaching for 3½ years before His death;

Then, for a further 3½ years after His death, by sending His disciples with the power of the Holy Spirit to Israel only.  In those 3½ years the church consisted only of Jews and it still adhered to all Old Testament laws.  It was a sect of Judaism.  See Early Church.

The End – God’s 490-year covenant with Israel came to an end 3½ years after His death, when Israel rejected Him by persecuting His Spirit-filled disciples.  After this the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.

Jerusalem destroyed – Since 490 years were decreed for Jerusalem (v24), Jerusalem was not destroyed during those 490 years, but only in 70 AD.

Importance of Daniel 9 in Dispensationalism

The importance of the Seventy Weeks prophecy for Dispensationalism can hardly be exaggerated.  Dispensationalism often appeals to Daniel 9 as the clear proof that the entire Church Age is a parenthesis in the prophetic program which is found between verses 26 and 27 of Daniel 9.  The other schools of Christian thought on eschatology are able to survive even when their views of Daniel 9 are proven false, but Dispensationalism eschatology stands or fall on its interpretation of Daniel 9.

Summary

Daniel 9 goalsDaniel 9 sets 6 goals for Israel.

For this purpose it grants Jerusalem a 70 weeks.  Israel’s calendar was divided into groups of seven-years, where every seventh year was a Sabbath.  The 70 weeks are 70 of those seven-year cycles, and consequently equal to 490 years.

Jerusalem was to be restored.  “Restore” does not mean rebuilding.  In the original text to restore means that Jerusalem will be returned to the Jews to serve as their capital to rule the whole nation.

The prophecy repeatedly jumps back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 is poetic parallelism in which Jerusalem and the Messiah are the two foci.  The city is restored and rebuilt to receive the Messiah, but it is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.

The final seven years are the core and the real purpose of the 490 years.  The first 483 years merely serve to locate the last seven years in time.

Daniel 9 is very different from the other prophecies in Daniel.  Daniel 9 is literal and only deals with Israel and the 490 years.  The other prophecies are symbolic and deal with all nations and with all time.

In Dispensationalism the first 483 years end with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but the last week is the final seven years before the Return of Christ, when the antichrist will bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation.

There is not much difference between Dispensationalism and the traditional Protestant interpretations of the first 483 years.  Both start the 490 years with a decree of Artaxerxes and both end the first 483 years in the time of Christ.  The major difference is with respect to the final seven years. In the traditional interpretation the final seven years include the 3½ years that Jesus preached in person and the 3½ years after His death, when He preached through His Holy Spirit to Israel only.

Dispensationalism is highly dependent on its interpretation of Daniel 9.  If the dispensational interpretation is Daniel is proven false, the entire Dispensational scheme collapses.

NEXT:   Time indications in Daniel 9: When was the decree issued?  Are these 490 years of 360 days each?  When did the Messiah appear and when did God suspend His covenant with the Jews?  The last seven years, which are the core of the prophecy, is identified by these time indications.

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