Leviticus 26 lists the covenant curses, climaxing in exile. They would be in exile one year for every Sabbath year not observed. But if Israel, in exile would confess its iniquity, then Israel would be restored to Jerusalem. Through Jeremiah God informed Israel that they will be in exile for Seventy Years. The Leviticus 26 covenant sequence [disobey – exile – confess – restore] is the central theme in Daniel 9 that binds together prayer (confession) and prophecy (of restoration).
The Covenant Curse of Exile in Leviticus 26
Before the covenant in Daniel 9 is discussed, an overview is provided of the covenant process, as recorded in Leviticus 26:
In Leviticus 25 God commanded Israel that, when they come into the land which He shall give them, the land shall enjoy a Sabbath year of 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).
Leviticus 26:14-39 records the covenant curses. These are the dreadful things that will happen to Israel should they fall into disobedience. These curses climaxed in the curse of exile. God will lay waste their cities, make their sanctuaries desolate (v31) and scatter the people among the nations (v33). We read:
“Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths … while you are in your enemies’ land … it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it” (Lev. 26:34-35).
This implies that the number of years of exile will be equal to the number of Sabbath years that the land did not get, while Israel lived on it (v43), which means that the Sabbath year cycle was made part of the curse of exile.
But, as the next step in the “covenant lawsuit process”, as scholars refer to it, Leviticus 26 records that if Israel in exile would confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers (v40), then YHWH will remember His covenants with Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham. He will also remember the land (v42). Israel’s repentant turning is, therefore, a prerequisite for the covenantal promise of restoration (cf. Deut. 30: 1 ff).
The covenant sequence is therefore as follows:
(1) Disobedience, signified by the Sabbath years not observed;
(2) Curses, climaxing in Exile; one year of exile for every Sabbath Year not observed;
(3) Confession of guilt by Israel; and
(4) God restores Israel to Judea.
Jeremiah’s Seventy Years were the specific implementation of the general covenant exile curse.
Jeremiah prophesied that Israel will be restored to Jerusalem Seventy Years after the exile:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon … For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place” (Jer. 29:10).
The Chronicles comment on this prophecy as follows:
“To fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete” (2Ch 36:21).
It is important to note the link between Leviticus 26 and this comment in Chronicles. Leviticus says, while Israel is in exile, “then the land will enjoy its sabbaths” (Lev. 26:34-35). Chronicles similarly say that during the Seventy Years of Jeremiah’s prophecy “the land had enjoyed its sabbaths”. Leviticus 26, which made the annual Sabbaths part of the curse of exile, may be viewed as a general prophecy. Jeremiah’s Seventy Years were the specific implementation of the general covenant exile curse.
Covenant in Daniel 9
With this background it can now be shown that the covenant sequence from Leviticus 26 is the central theme in Daniel 9 which binds together prayer and prophecy:
Daniel in his prayer confirmed that the exile was a fulfillment of the covenant curse:
“Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law … so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses” (Daniel 9:11).
In prayer, Daniel confessed Israel’s iniquity on behalf of the nation (Daniel 9:4 ff.), as required by the covenant (Leviticus 26:40-41).
“We have sinned … Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame … those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them” (Daniel 9:5-10).
Daniel fulfilled the requirement for covenant renewal by confessing the justice of the sentence, the righteousness of Yahweh (v7) and Israel’s guilt (v5-11), as required by the covenant (Lev. 26:40).
Daniel prayed for restoration and covenant renewal after the exile, as promised by the covenant.
Daniel 9 commences as follows:
“In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications“ (Daniel 9:2-3).
The word “so” indicates that Daniel prayed after reading Jeremiah’s prophetic promise. Later in the chapter, we will read that Gabriel arrived to give Daniel the prophecy even while Daniel was still praying (v21). The entire chapter 9, therefore, was a consequence of Daniel reading Jeremiah’s promise. Babylon fell the previous year (539 BC; cf. Dan. 9:1). Babylon’s reign of 70 years (Jer. 25:9, 11) has come to an end and Daniel prayed for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophetic promise, and that God would restore Israel:
“O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name … “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! … do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” (Dan.9:18-19)
Since Jeremiah’s seventy-year prophecy was the specific application of the general covenant curse of exile, Daniel, in reality, prayed for the restoration and covenant renewal promised by the covenant, as recorded in Leviticus 26:42 ft. and Deuteronomy 30:3 ft.
Daniel confirmed this, right at the beginning of his prayer, when he set his hope in the Lord who “keeps the covenant” (9:4). The covenant is both the ground of Daniel’s confidence and the basis for his plea.
Daniel’s prayer is replete with covenant terminology.
Daniel 9 is the only chapter in the book to use the peculiar covenant name YHWH (vv. 2, 4, 10, 13, 14, 20).
Equally appropriate to the covenantal context is the repeated use of Adonay (Lord); the characteristic designation of the dominant party in the covenant. In the book of Daniel, this name is used only in this chapter and in 1:2.
The many other covenant words found here are ‘ahab, “love” (vs. 4), hesed, “covenant loyalty” (vs. 4), sub, “turn” (vv. 13,16), and hata, “sin” (vv. 5,8, 11, 15). The prayer is indeed saturated with expressions drawn from the Mosaic treaties, particularly from the Deuteronomic covenant. [Compare verse 4 with Deut. 7:9, 21; 10:17; verse 5 with Deut. 17:20; verse 10 with Deut. 4:8, 30; 11:32; verse 11 with Deut. 29:20; 33:1; 34:5; verse 12 with Deut. 2:25; 4:19; 9:5; verse 15 with Deut. 6:21; and verse 18 with Deut. 28:10.]
It would, therefore, be fair to say that Daniel’s prayer was founded on the covenant. We should thus expect that God’s response through His angel Gabriel will also be based on the covenant.
The Seventy Weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) promises the covenant renewal of Leviticus 26:42, 45.
This statement is made up of two points:
A. The 70 weeks are weeks of years where every seventh year is a Sabbath.
The Seventy Weeks of the Prophecy are weeks of years; more specifically sabbatical weeks of years, which means that every seventh year was a Sabbath, as indicated by the following:
(a) The term “weeks” in the Seventy Weeks refer to the seven-year chronological cycle in which each seventh year was a Sabbath for the land (Lev. 25:2 ff.).
(b) As generally prophesied by Leviticus and as confirmed by 2 Chronicles 36:21, quoted above, each of the 70 years of exile was a Sabbath year. Each of the 70 years, therefore, represents 7 years of disobedience. Consequently, the 70 years represent the equivalent of 490 years of disobedience. The prophecy of Daniel 9, therefore, awards Israel with a new cycle of 490 years, which implies that each seventh year would also be a Sabbath.
B. This Sabbath year pattern of is part of the covenant.
(a) By using the Sabbath years to count the number of years of exile, God made it part of the covenant (Lev. 26:35, 43).
(b) The Lord elevated the weekly Sabbath to be a perpetual sign of the covenant between Him and His people (Ex. 31:13-17; Ezek. 20:12, 20). By implication, the same applies to the annual Sabbath, as confirmed by the fact that non-observance of the annual Sabbaths is regarded by the covenant as a sign of disobedience.
Since the Seventy Weeks are weeks of years where every seventh year is a Sabbath, and since this Sabbath year pattern is part of the covenant, we are able to conclude that the Seventy Weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) promises the covenant renewal of Leviticus 26:42, 45.
Daniel 9, as a whole, follows the covenant pattern of Leviticus 26. The covenant sequence is the central theme in Daniel 9, and binds together the prayer and prophecy:
(a) The historical setting of Daniel 9 is at the end of the Seventy Years of exile.
(b) The prayer (Daniel 9:4 ff.) corresponds to the confession required by the covenant (Leviticus 26:40-41).
(c) The Seventy Weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) corresponds to the covenant restitution and renewal of Leviticus 26:42, 45.
This pervasive covenant theme evidences the unity of the chapter as a whole. It is only by obscuring the obvious that one can fail to see that Daniel’s prayer and Gabriel’s response suit each other very well.
The covenant in Leviticus 25 and 26 is an important source standing behind the prophecy of Daniel 9. Leviticus 25 and 26 presents a prophetic overview of the history of Israel down to the exile and restoration after the exile, and Daniel’s prayer and the Seventy Weeks are fulfillments of that covenant.
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