The chronological sequence in Daniel 9 is important for a correct interpretation. The prophecy lists 8 events, but not in chronological sequence. The prophecy alternates between two foci—Jerusalem and the Messiah. The Jerusalem-events are in chronological order and the Messiah-events are in chronological order.
The destruction of the city and the sanctuary, which is interpreted as the destruction of AD 70, is mentioned in verse 26. The “firm covenant” of the 70th week is mentioned in the next verse (v27). Dispensationalism, therefore, argues that the 70th week, and therefore the covenant of the 70th week, must follow after 70 AD.
But the events in the prophecy are not presented in chronological sequence. Consider these examples:
(1) The sanctuary is destroyed in verse 26, but in the next verse (v27) the prince causes sacrifices to cease. After the sanctuary has been destroyed there remains no sacrificial system that can be ceased.
(2) Since 70 weeks have been determined for the city of “your people” (9:24), the destruction of the city and sanctuary, mentioned in verse 26, can only occur after the end of the 70 weeks, and therefore after the 70th week described in verse 27.
To determine the chronological sequence in Daniel 9, it must be noted that the prophecy is presented in a poetic form of parallelism with two foci—Jerusalem and the Messiah—and that the text alternates between the two foci:
9:25a Decree to restore
9:25b Until Messiah
9:25c Seven weeks
9:25c And 62 weeks
9:25d Built again
9:26a After 62 weeks Messiah cut off
9:27a Firm covenant – one week – sacrifice cease
9:27b Makes desolate
Because of this poetic parallelism, the assumption of a strict chronological sequence in Daniel 9 is incorrect. Rather:
Everything in the left column relates to the Jerusalem and is chronologically sequential.
Everything in the right column relates to the Messiah and is chronologically sequential.
Since the destruction of the city in verse 26 and the firm covenant in verse 27 fall in different columns, one should not assume that these events are chronologically sequentially.
But there is a relationship between the two foci—Jerusalem and the Messiah, namely a cause-effect relationship:
Verse 25, by mentioning the Messiah immediately after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, implies that the city was rebuilt to receive the Messiah.
Verse 26, by mentioning the destruction of the city immediately after the killing of the Messiah, implies that the city is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.
This cause-effect relationship was confirmed by Jesus:
“They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (Luke 19:44; cf. Luke 21:20-24).
Another way in which the structure of Daniel 9 can be explained is to note that verses 25 to 27 form a chiasm. This means that the first item corresponds to the last, the second to the second last, etc. The chiasm is as follows:
Messiah cut off 26a
Construction 25c —— Destruction 26b
and Unto Messiah 25b ———– Messiah covenant 27a
Construction 25a ———————- Destruction 27c
A chiastic structure is a literary device to emphasize the statement at the center of the chiasm. In the chiasm in Daniel 9, the central point or apex is the death of the Messiah. This chiasm supports the following conclusions:
That the last part of verse 27 describes the destruction of Jerusalem, for it corresponds to 25a;
That the “he” in the first part of verse 27 is the Messiah in 25b;
That the death of the Messiah is the great focus of the prophecy. His death would make atonement for all evil, and as a result, would bring in everlasting righteousness (9:24).
Below is a different presentation of the pattern. It shows the phrases referring to the Messiah in blue, while the phrases referring to Jerusalem in red.
25 So you are to know and discern that 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 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.“
Articles in this series
1. Summary of all Daniel 9 articles
3. When will the Messiah Appear? – Discussion of punctuation
4. Daniel 9 does not describe the same crisis
as the other prophecies in Daniel.
5. Where do we find Jeremiah’s 70 years in history?
6. With which decree do the 490 years begin?
7. Daniel’s prayer is part of the prophecy.
8. Daniel 9 extends God’s covenant with Israel.
9. Who confirms the covenant in week 70?
10. What is the real sequence of events?
11. The 490 years came to an end when they stoned Stephen.
12. Nehemiah gives context to Daniel 9.
13. List of articles
Four interpretations of Daniel 9
Consistent Symbolical Interpretation
Dispensationalism and Daniel 9
Historical Messianic Interpretation