This article shows that the covenant pattern (disobey – exile – repent – covenant renewal) is the framework that unites Daniel’s prayer and the prophecy. Through his prayer, Daniel appealed to God to renew His covenant. Consequently, with the 70-weeks prophecy, God extended His covenant with Israel.
A summary of this article is available HERE.
The purpose of this article is to show that, by determining “seventy weeks” for Israel, God promised to extend His covenant with Israel by 490 years. For that reason, and for other reasons listed in the article – Who Confirms What Covenant? – the covenant of the 70th week in verse 27 is still God’s covenant with Israel; not the covenant of an Antichrist.
God made a covenant with Israel that they will be His people and He will be their God. The Bible records several benefits that Israel will derive from this arrangement but the covenant also contained many “curses,” namely penalties for disobedience. Exile was the most severe of the covenant curses. God will lay waste their cities, make their sanctuaries desolate (Lev 26:31) and scatter the people among the nations (Lev 26:33).
THE COVENANT EXILE PATTERN
Leviticus 26, which lists the covenant promises (blessings) and warnings (curses), also provides the covenant exile pattern:
- Should Israel become unfaithful (Lev 26:14-39),
- God will send them into exile and scatter them among the nations (Lev 26:33). But
- If Israel in exile confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers (Lev 26:40, 41, 44),
- God will remember His covenants with Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (Lev 26:42) “that I might be their God” (Lev 26:45). In other words, God would renew His covenant with Israel.
See also Deuteronomy 30.
THE ANNUAL SABBATHS
God also commanded Israel that every seventh year must be a Sabbath year (Lev 25:2), comparable to the weekly Sabbath day. Israel had to work the land for six years (Lev 25:3) but, in the seventh year, the land had to rest (Lev 25:4). This divided the Jewish calendar into weeks (groups of seven years each), with each seventh year a sabbath.
God also said that, while Israel was in exile:
The land “will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it” (Lev 26:34-35).
And, “the land … will make up for its sabbaths” (Lev 26:43).
This made this Sabbath year cycle part of the covenant:
It implies that God measured faithfulness by their compliance with the annual Sabbaths. The weekly Sabbath was a perpetual sign of the covenant between Him and His people (Exo 31:13, 17; Ezek 20:12, 20). The above implies that the same applies to the annual Sabbaths.
It also implies that Israel would be in exile one year for every Sabbath year not observed. And since every seventh year was a Sabbath year, we can say that Israel would be in exile one year for every seven years of disobedience.
THE COVENANT IN DANIEL 9
Daniel 9 follows this covenant exile pattern:
(1) EXILE TO BABYLON
The prophecy was received at a time when Israel was in exile to Babylon and Jerusalem was in ruins (Dan 9:2, 7). Jeremiah and Chronicles confirmed that this exile was the consequence of the covenant. To explain:
Through Jeremiah, God promised to restore Israel to Jerusalem after 70 years “for Babylon:”
“Thus says … the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon … ‘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).
Chronicles referred to this prophecy and said that, during these 70 years, “the land had enjoyed its sabbaths” (2 Chron 36:21). By referring to the land enjoying “its sabbaths,” Chronicles interpreted the 70-year Babylonian exile as a covenant curse.
(2) WHY DANIEL PRAYED
Daniel 9 begins by saying that Daniel read in Jeremiah that the exile would come to an end after 70 years (Dan 9:2-3). Since Babylon fell the previous year (539 BC; cf. Dan 9:1) and since Jeremiah’s prophecy specifically described the 70 years as the period of Babylon’s dominance (Jer 29:10), Daniel knew that Israel’s deliverance was near.
Daniel prayed because he knew (a) that Israel was exiled by God in accordance with the covenant, (b) that God, in His covenant, promised to renew His covenant and (c) because He expected God to restore Israel soon.
(3) COVENANT TERMINOLOGY
Daniel’s prayer is replete with covenant terminology. This confirms that he put his trust, for the restoration of Israel, in God’s covenant. For example:
Daniel 9 is the only chapter in the book to use the peculiar covenant name YHWH (Dan 9:2, 4, 10, 13, 14, 20).
Daniel referred to God as the Lord who “keeps the covenant” (Dan 9:4).
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 Dan 1:2.
The many other covenant words found here include ‘ahab, “love” (Dan 9:4), hesed, “covenant loyalty” (Dan 9:4), sub, “turn” (Dan 9:13, 16), and hata, “sin” (Dan 9:5, 8, 11, 15). The prayer is indeed saturated with expressions drawn from the Mosaic treaties, particularly from the Deuteronomic covenant. Compare:
- Dan 9:4 with Deut 7:9, 21; 10:17;
- Dan 9:5 with Deut 17:20;
- Dan 9:10 with Deut 4:8, 30; 11:32;
- Dan 9:11 with Deut 29:20; 33:1; 34:5;
- Dan 9:12 with Deut 2:25; 4:19; 9:5;
- Dan 9:15 with Deut 6:21; and
- Dan 9:18 with Deut 28:10.
(4) DANIEL APPEALED TO THE COVENANT
That Daniel’s prayer, as recorded in the first part of Daniel 9, was an appeal to God, in terms of the covenant, to renew His covenant with Israel, can be seen in how his prayer followed the covenant pattern as set by Leviticus 26:
Following this pattern:
(a) Daniel acknowledged that the exile was the consequence of a 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).
(b) He fulfilled the covenant’s requirement for covenant renewal (Lev 26:40-41) by acknowledging that God had acted justly (Dan 9:4, 7, 14) and by confessing Israel’s guilt: “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; cf. 11, 15-16). In this way, Daniel fulfilled the condition for covenant renewal after the exile (Lev 26:40-41).
(c) On behalf of Israel, he prayed that God would renew His covenant with Israel and Jerusalem, as God had promised to do in the covenant itself: “O my God … see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name … O Lord, listen and take action! … do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name” (Dan 9:18-19; cf. 16-17).
(5) THE 490 YEARS ANSWER HIS PRAYER.
Gabriel arrived with the prophecy even while Daniel was still praying (Dan 9:20). That means that the prophecy was the answer to Daniel’s prayer. Since Daniel’s prayer was an appeal to God to renew His covenant with Israel, when Gabriel brought God’s answer, namely that “seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city” (Dan 9:24), that was the fulfillment of the promise in the covenant (Lev 26:42 and 45) that God would renew His covenant with Israel. In other words, the “seventy weeks” were a promise by God to renew the covenant for a further 490 years.
(6) “SEVENTY WEEKS” ARE COVENANT-TIME.
This is confirmed by the way in which the prophecy expresses the time period, namely as “seventy weeks” (Dan 9:24). Since these are weeks of years in which every seventh year was Sabbath for the land (Lev 25:2 ff.), and since God made the seven-year cycle part of the covenant, the phrase “seventy sevens” identifies this as ‘covenant-time’.
(7) REPLACING THE WASTED 490 YEARS
A final reason for saying that the “seventy weeks” is an extension of the covenant is because the “seventy weeks” serve as a replacement of the 490 years before the exile which Israel wasted through disobedience. To explain:
Jeremiah prophesied that Israel would return from exile after 70 years “for Babylon.” Note the relationship between the 70 years of exile and the 70 weeks of Daniel 9. That both are “70” units of time is not a coincidence. As discussed above, in terms of the covenant, Israel would be in exile one year for every seven years of disobedience. In other words, the 70 years of exile were the consequence of 70×7=490 years of disobedience before the exile. When Gabriel, then, brings the promise that Israel will receive a further “seventy weeks,” it is a promise that God will renew His covenant with Israel for a further 490 years as an opportunity for Israel to succeed where they failed before:
“To finish the transgression, and
to make an end of sins” (Dan 9:24).
(a) The covenant pattern (disobey – exile – repent – covenant renewal) is the framework that unites Daniel’s prayer and the prophecy. God’s covenant with Israel is the central theme in the entire Daniel 9.
(b) Therefore, the 490 years promised by Daniel 9 are a renewal or extension of God’s covenant with Israel.
(c) Consequently, the covenant that is confirmed during the “one week” (Dan 9:27) is the final seven years of God’s time-limited renewed covenant with Israel.
(d) God’s covenant with Israel comes to an end at the end of the 70 weeks of years.
(e) Since the 490 years of Daniel 9 are an extension of God’s covenant with Israel, and since the Sabbath year cycle is part of this covenant, every seventh year will be a Sabbath year. This means that these are 490 literal years, not prophetic years, as in Dispensationalism.