ABSTRACT: Daniel 9 mentions the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 first (v26) and then the “firm covenant” of the 70th week (v27) but the prophecy does not list events in chronological sequence. The poetic pattern shows that the prophecy alternates between two foci; Jerusalem and the Messiah. The Jerusalem-events are in chronological sequence. So also, the Messiah-events. But the poetic pattern and the chiasm show that verse 27 repeats verse 26.
A summary of this article is available HERE.
Daniel 9 mentions the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 first and then the “firm covenant” of the 70th week (Dan 9:26-27). On the assumption that the prophecy lists events in chronological sequence, Dispensationalism uses this to assert that:
Firstly, the 70th week will be later than AD 70. Since the first 483 years came to an end at the time of Christ, this requires a gap between the first 483 years and the last seven years.
Secondly, the “he” of verse 27 cannot be the Messiah, for the Messiah died about four decades earlier. Therefore, “he” refers to the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD 70 (verse 26). Dispensationalism proposes that the Roman Empire will be revived in the end-time and that “he” refers to the emperor of that revived empire. He will be the end-time Antichrist.
The purpose of this article is (1) to show that the prophecy does not list events chronologically and (2) to explain the structure of the prophecy.
Daniel 9 does not list events in chronologic sequence. For example:
Firstly, verse 26 mentions the destruction of the sanctuary first, and then, in verse 27, the prince causes sacrifices to cease. But after the sanctuary has been destroyed, there remains no sacrificial system that can be ceased.
Secondly, verse 25 mentions the appearance of the Messiah first and then the rebuilding of the city. However, the city was rebuilt four centuries before the Messiah appeared.
Thirdly, the city is destroyed in verse 26 while the final week is described in verse 27. But, since the full 70 weeks have been determined for the city of “your people” (v24), the city can only be destroyed AFTER the end of the 70 weeks and, therefore, after the 70th week.
The challenge, then, is to understand the logic behind the sequence in which the events are listed.
It is important to note that the prophecy alternates between two foci; Jerusalem and “Messiah the Prince” (Dan 9:25):
|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 …||26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off …|
|and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city …||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;|
|… complete destruction,
one that is decreed …
The Jerusalem-events are in chronological sequence. Daniel prayed for Jerusalem (Dan 9:18) and Gabriel told him that seventy weeks were decreed for the city, starting with “the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” (Dan 9:25). Then it is “built again” (v25) but, Daniel had to also hear that people “will destroy the city” (v26).
This pattern supports the proposal that the duration of the building project will be “seven weeks” (49 years).
The Messiah-events are also in chronological sequence. The Messiah will appear at the end of the 7+62 weeks (483 years) (v25) and later be “cut off” (v26), which means to be killed. This pattern identifies the “he,” who confirms the covenant and puts a stop to sacrifice (v27), as the Messiah (Jesus Christ). The article – Who confirms What – validates this conclusion with several other arguments.
But then, one may ask how “he” could confirm the covenant for “one week” (seven years) after He has been killed. But another article – The end of the 490 years – shows that Jesus confirmed the covenant during the last week both before and after His death. (He died in the middle of that week.) Before His death, He confirmed the covenant personally. After He died, He did it through the Holy Spirit, which He sent with power, but only to Jews.
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 sequential. The relationship between the Jerusalem-events and the Messiah-events is not chronology but cause and effect:
Verses 25-26, by twice mentioning the Messiah immediately after the rebuilding of 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 (accept) the Messiah. This cause-effect relationship was confirmed by Jesus when He said:
“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).
DESTRUCTION IN VERSE 27
The destruction in the last part of verse 27 should refer to Jerusalem because it falls in the Jerusalem column. The article – Destruction of Jerusalem – provides additional support for this conclusion.
Another insight into the structure of the prophecy is to note that Daniel 9:25-27 is also structured in 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
Messiah the Prince 25b ———– Covenant one week 27a
Construction 25a ———————- Destruction 27c
A chiasm is a literary device used by Bible writers to emphasize the statement at the center of the chiasm. In Daniel 9, the central point is the death of the Messiah in verse 26a. In other words, His death is the great focus of the entire prophecy. His death would “make atonement for iniquity … bring in everlasting righteousness” (Daniel 9:24). For this reason, we must reject any interpretation of this prophecy that does not put the main focus on His death.
This chiasm confirms that the “he” in verse 27 refers to the Messiah, for the chiasm links that part of the prophecy to the Messiah in 25b. It also confirms that the destruction in verse 27 is the destruction of Jerusalem, for it corresponds to 25a; the decree to rebuild Jerusalem.