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Daniel 9

Chapter 9:

All the visions of Daniel seem to concern the coming of the Messiah and his eternal kingdom, the times that set the stage for his coming, or the times wherein the establishment of his eternal kingdom will take place.  Daniel is personally concerned, however, about when Jerusalem and the temple will be restored.  As a sign of this concern, note his custom of facing Jerusalem during prayer (Daniel 6).  Daniel understands from the book of Jeremiah[1] (Jeremiah 25:8-12) that the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years, and that time is approaching completion.  (If one begins counting the captivity from the first deportation of Jews to Babylon in 605 B.C., then the Jews have been captive now for 67 years.)

As it turns out, the Jews were restored to Jerusalem and the work on the temple did begin after 70 years, just as Jeremiah said, but this answer that Gabriel gives to Daniel is much more significant than simply to say that.  It is as if Daniel’s mind can only see and pray for his present circumstances, but God’s answer to his prayer, while acknowledging Daniel’s humble request, reveals events of far greater importance than even the restoration of Jerusalem: it reveals the establishment of the Eternal Kingdom (v. 24) under the Messiah and distinguishes between this kingdom and the physical kingdom of Judah by pointing out that, although Jerusalem will indeed be rebuilt (v.25), it will be destroyed again (v. 27) and thus cannot be the Eternal Kingdom referred to in previous dreams such as Daniel’s dream of the four beasts, and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue.

v. 23: This saying by Gabriel that Daniel is greatly loved and favored by God sounds remarkably similar to the words which Gabriel says to Mary when he tells her that she will give birth to Christ.

v. 24: I wonder if Christ was thinking of this part of Daniel when he said we should forgive 70 x 7 times (Matthew 18:22), especially in light of the fact that this verse seems to concern his life’s work: forgiveness of sin.  As for the interpretation of the number here, I believe most people agree that it refers to 70 weeks, or 490 days, and that each day represents a year.  The number continues the theme of “70” from Jeremiah’s prophecy, and the Oxford Bible commentary believes that it may also allude to the 49 years leading up to Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-10).

v. 25: Here he starts to break down the 70 x 7.  I think the time must begin with the restoration of the walls under Nehemiah rather than with the return of the captives and the building of the temple, which mark the end of Jeremiah’s “70 years” prophecy.  Note that the text says, specifically, “walls” of Jerusalem and mentions the troublesome times in which they were built, which fits the account of Nehemiah’s time.  See Nehemiah 4:1-3, 16-23.  As Barnes points out, these were two very separate events.  In Ezra 1:2-3, Cyrus commands only that the Hebrew temple be restored.  In Ezra 4:12, the enemies of Israel report to a subsequent Persian king (Artaxerxes I) that work on the walls of Jerusalem has begun, but this is a lie designed to make the Jews look rebellious and dangerous. (I cannot find any point in Ezra where any trustworthy voice, i.e., a faithful Jew within the narrative, or the narrator himself, says that work on the walls had actually begun.) Artaxerxes then issues a specific command for all building to stop.  Later, after Darius Hystaspis takes the throne, a new decree is issued wherein the initial decree of Cyrus to build the temple is honored.  However, it is only in the time of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:2-8) that the command to rebuild the city and walls is given.  Therefore the counting of these weeks should begin on the date that this command “to restore and build Jerusalem” goes forth: 444 B.C.

So the time of the dream is broken into three periods: “7 weeks” and “62 weeks” and “1 week.”  The beginning of the first period is marked by the command to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and the end of the second period is marked by the arrival of the Messiah. I think one could assume that the end of the first period and the beginning of the second period would be marked by the completion of work on the city of Jerusalem and its walls (Nehemiah 12:27) which was in 408 B.C. (Nehemiah 6:15 states that work on the walls was completed in 52 days, but I think the final dedication would work just as well to denote the official end of the project.  After all, that is what a dedication symbolizes, in part.) According to the dates I have given, then, the actual time between the command to restore Jerusalem and the completion of the work is 36 years (as opposed to “7 weeks” of years or 7×7=49 years).  Still, this is remarkably close when one considers that such ancient dates are almost always disputed due to the carelessly chronicled, or revisionist-style histories which some ancient courts kept; even where ancient chroniclers were consistent and careful, modern attempts to match ancient chronicles with our present timeline can be foiled by the scant availability of ancient timelines and the difficulty of deciding how any ancient timeline should correspond to our own method of counting time.  I think this is convincingly demonstrated in the dispute concerning the date of Christ’s birth.  There are arguments, based on events[2] measured by the Roman timeline, that place the birth of Christ before the year “zero” of our present timeline.  And yet we still say that the battle of Hastings took place 1,066 years after the birth of Christ, when in fact it may have taken place 1,070 years after the birth of Christ.  Now, should some later civilization attempt to calculate the actual time of the battle of Hastings, relative to whatever subjective method of counting time they may have, they may be off by four years if they begin counting at our officially marked year “zero.”  Thus, here in Daniel, I think we can expect there to be some reasonable mismatch of dates.  When the scope of the dream is nearly 500 years, I don’t think being ten or even twenty years off the mark is significant enough to discount any given interpretation.

One also has to consider the significance of the numerology.  Often our methods of keeping time are slightly different, depending upon what we mean to communicate.  For instance, it may be honestly said that Jesus Christ was dead for three days; this is in spite of the fact that, if three days is exactly 72 hours, Jesus was not dead for exactly three days since he actually died Friday afternoon and was resurrected Sunday morning.  Still, from a certain perspective, one could honestly say that Jesus was dead three days, and, in so saying, attach the significance of the number three to Jesus Christ and his death.

v. 26: This talks about the final period of the 70 x 7.  It is one 7 (a week of years).  Notice how nicely the numbers work here, assuming that Jesus Christ is the Messiah who comes at the end of the second period and who “after the 62 weeks…shall be cut off, but not for himself.” The end of the second period, 62 weeks (62×7) of years from the time of the completion of the walls of Jerusalem is 434 years after 408 B.C.  This comes to the year 26 A.D.  If one were to interpret Jesus as the Messiah, who appears at the end of the second period, there would be two logical dates for his appearance: the date of his birth, or that of his baptism.  Of these two, the date of his baptism seems the most compelling to me since it is at his baptism that he is literally “anointed” by the Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) and by John the Baptist for his work as the Messiah. (Messiah[3] means, “anointed one” and refers to one who has been anointed for some office, either as king or priest.)  Jesus was baptized at about the age of 30 (Luke 3:23).  If in fact Christ was born on the year “zero” of our current timeline, then this date of 26 A.D. is only four years off.  If, on the other hand, one accepts that Jesus was actually born in 4 B.C. (as some people suggest) the date exactly marks the year of Jesus’s baptism.

If, however, one does not accept that the counting of the second period should begin with the completion of the walls of Jerusalem (since this is only implied as the end of the first period, not overtly stated in the text), then let the counting begin with the first period: 69 weeks (sevens) of years after the command to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem is issued is 483 years after 444 B.C., which comes to the year 39 A.D. This is only a few years off the mark.  In addition to this, while 444 B.C. seems to be the commonly accepted date, Barnes cites some scholars (Hengstenberg and Usher) who claim that the command to rebuild Jerusalem came in 454 B.C. (162), which would bring the end of the second period to 29 A.D.

I can see how some people would be inclined to interpret this second ruler, “the prince who is to come,” whose people “shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” as the little horn of chapter 8 (i.e., Antiochus Epiphanes) because of similar descriptions such as 8:11: “it took away the daily sacrifice” and 9:27: “he will put an end to sacrifice,” but I believe this second ruler should be viewed as a Roman (a representative of the fourth beast in Daniel’s dream of the four beasts) for the following reasons…

1) Interpreting him as a Roman fits well in the timeline.  Both skeptics and believers seem to agree on the notion that the 70 weeks should be interpreted as 490 years.  Likewise, they agree on the date of the command to rebuild Jerusalem (444 B.C.).  Thus, if one believes that the counting of the dream’s years should begin with the command to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (which seems the most honest conclusion to me), one should look for the end of the second period around the year 39 A.D., which is roughly 10 years off the mark if one considers Jesus to be the Messiah.  The second ruler, then, would be a contemporary of Christ’s.  However, if one interprets the 2nd ruler as Antiochus Epiphanes, who came to power in 175 B.C., then the date of 39 A.D. is off the mark by 214 years. Which requires a greater leap of faith, to believe the interpretation that is off by 10 years or the one that is off by 214 years?  Even if one accepts the conclusion of the Oxford commentary, that the counting of the dream’s years should begin with the edict of Cyrus to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem in 538 B.C., then the date for the end of the second period (483 years after 538 B.C. is 55 B.C.) is 120 years past the time of Antiochus.  It seems much more reasonable to believe that the Messiah referred to here is Jesus (and that the second ruler is a Roman in the time of Jesus) than that the Messiah referred to is Joshua the High Priest in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (who would be the second ruler), as the Oxford commentary suggests.

The Oxford commentary also suggests that the author of the book of Daniel was contemporary with Antiochus IV and intended to inspire the Jews of his day to resist the persecution of Antiochus by giving them the false hope of believing that the ancient prophet Daniel had predicted the ultimate demise of Antiochus.  Those who read Daniel in this way must consider it a given (and, I assume, indisputable) premise that Daniel could not truly foresee the future.  The force of their argument lies in the close match between all these dreams and the historical events they refer to.  “How else could chapters such as 8 and 11 so closely match the events of history unless they were written after historical events?” they ask.

But there is another question that those who hold this view must answer:  why is the timeline so inaccurate when other details are so compellingly accurate?  To believe that Antiochus Epiphanes is the second ruler here, and that the book was written at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, is to believe that the writer, whose narrative details match history so well in every other area (and who had the perspective of time) miscounted the years between Antiochus Epiphanes and the beginning of the dream by at least 120 years and by at most 214 years.

2) The city and the sanctuary are said to be destroyed by the people of the second ruler.  Romans destroyed the actual temple in 70 A.D., and they destroyed Christ’s body, a type of the temple (John 2:19), four decades earlier under Pontius Pilate, whereas in the previous vision (chapter 8), the sanctuary was only defiled, which more accurately reflects the actions of Antiochus Epiphanes. (In 8:14 the sanctuary is cleansed, not rebuilt.)

3) Christ, I believe, cites this passage in reference to times that were to come after the time he spoke (Matthew 24:15).  Now, admittedly, Matthew 24 is a difficult chapter to understand, and Christ may mean that the desolation caused by Antiochus Epiphanes was a kind of foreshadowing of his own crucifixion and/or the desolation which the Romans would cause in 70 A.D. when they destroyed the temple, but I believe it makes more sense to claim that Christ believed this passage of Daniel refers directly to the Romans rather than to the Greeks under Antiochus Epiphanes.

v. 27: It seems to me that this “he” should refer to the second ruler since the second ruler is the last one talked about.  That would mean that the covenant spoken of would be his; thus, it would be an evil covenant.  This one week, which measures the time in which he will “confirm a covenant with many,” should be the last period in the dream, the 1 week  left in the 70 weeks.  I am the least certain about this period of the dream, but here is my best interpretation.

Each period directly follows the preceding one, so, according to the timeline one chooses, the events of this final week should play out between the years 26 A.D. and 46 A.D. (The “week” would then be from 26-33 A.D., or from 29-36 A.D., or from 39-46 A.D.) I’m not sure who this second prince is, but it should be a Roman who, within the designated dates, had considerable influence over the Jews, and whom pious Jews would have considered an evil man.  To me, the surest contender for this role would be Pontius Pilate.  He served as procurator of Judea from 26-36 A.D. and was ordered by Caligula to commit ritual suicide in 38 A.D.  He was considered in every record of his administration (except the gospels) to have been a cruel and severe ruler.  I don’t know enough of his historical circumstances (there do not seem to be many detailed records of him) to know exactly how his career might fit the events associated with the second ruler in this dream.  For instance, what would the seven year covenant be?  What were the political details of his rise to power?

Assuming Pilate is the second ruler, here is how one might match up his role with that of Jesus as the Messiah in the dream: the second period ends soon after the coming of the Messiah.  The third period begins with the making of Pilate’s “covenant,” whatever that might be.  three and one half years into the time of this covenant, Pilate “puts an end to sacrifice” by condemning Jesus (the last blood sacrifice) to death and unintentionally completing the old law of Judaism. (See Hebrews 10:1-4, 12.)  In killing Jesus, he also destroys the temple, in a sense (John 2:19).

Barnes believes that the “he” does not refer to the second ruler but rather to the Messiah because of the religious terminology such as covenant, sacrifice, and offering, associated with the actions of “he.”   Assuming that this is true, here is how the events would match up with the dream: the second period ends with the coming of the Messiah (26 A.D. or 30 A.D.) and begins with a covenant he will establish with the people; this covenant will last for seven years. (I don’t know what would mark the end of this seven year period.)  In the middle of this covenant (three and one half years into it) he will “put an end to sacrifice” through his own death on the cross, which brings about the completion of the old law of Judaism. (Again, see Hebrews 10:1-4, 12.)

Regardless of how one interprets this whole dream, it is only fair to say that the end of the time designated (70 x7 years) is marked by joy and blessedness, in which “everlasting righteousness” will be brought in, as v. 24 indicates.  Therefore, one must conclude that the destruction of the city and sanctuary does not mark the end of the third period.  It may mark the middle, but if the temple to which this dream refers is the actual building that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., then the timeline seems off by three or four decades.  If the temple is Christ’s body (John 2:19), then the timeline is very accurate and the time of righteousness is the Christian era.  If destroying the city and sanctuary refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D., perhaps the dream alludes to this event parenthetically as something beyond the scope of the dream’s timeline but associated, nevertheless, with the second ruler. (They are his people who will destroy the city and sanctuary.)  This would allow one to account for the destruction of the temple and city in 70 A.D., decades past the end of the timeline.  In other words, since it is not a part of the dream’s timeline, it would not need to happen around the time of Jesus.[4] As for the “then” in the beginning of the NKJ translation of Daniel 9:27 (which could indicate a basic chronological ordering of the narrative) I do not know how the original Hebrew looks[5] I do know that the RSV does not have “then” there.

But in looking at all of the verses after v. 24, one will be hard pressed to find a moment depicting the establishment of eternal bliss and righteousness.  I believe this is because Daniel assumes that the establishment of eternal righteousness will naturally take place after the destruction spoken of here in v. 27.  According my best interpretation, Christ’s sacrifice is the destruction spoken of; it should fall in the middle of the week and put and “end to sacrifice and offering.”  The establishment of Christianity, then, is synonymous with the establishment of eternal righteousness.  As I say, this last verse is confusing to me and nearly every explanation of it seems stretched a bit. Nevertheless, it is still amazing that the timeline indicates that the establishment of eternal righteousness should fall between the years 26 A.D. and 46 A.D., and that these dates encompass the time of Christ’s work and the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ (i.e. Christianity).  For comments on this period of half a week, or 3 ½ days, or “time, times, and half a time,” see notes on 8:14.


[1] Jeremiah, although much older, was a contemporary of Daniel and had been warning Judah about its sin years before the first wave of captives, including the young boy Daniel, was taken to Babylon as punishment for Judah’s sin.  Having been called to be a prophet in the thirteenth year of Josiah, King of Judah (Jeremiah 1:2), which was the year 627 B.C., Jeremiah has probably been dead for some time by this point in Daniel’s life.

[2] Such events might be the taking of the Roman census, or Roman accounts of the dates that certain governing officials took office.

[3] “Christ” comes from the Greek and also means “anointed one.”

[4] There are other examples in the Old Testament of similar parenthetical insertions like what I am suggesting here.  Consider 2 Samuel 21.  In v. 15 there is an insertion that says that God commanded the angel to stop destroying Jerusalem, but in v. 16 we find the angel still attacking.  The parallel passage in 2 Samuel 24 says that the angel was still striking the people. So the statement in v. 15 actually would belong around v. 27 if the events of the narrative were to be arranged purely chronologically.

[5] Daniel 2:4-chapter 7 is in Aramaic.  The rest of the book is Hebrew.

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13 Responses to “Daniel 9”

  1. […] Pilate or the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. (see notes on 9:27).  I also believe that the destruction of the temple itself (whether metaphorically in Jesus’s […]

  2. […] custom of facing Jerusalem during prayer (Daniel 6).  Daniel understands from the book of Jeremiah[1] (Jeremiah 25:8-12) that the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years, and that time is […]

  3. […] custom of facing Jerusalem during prayer (Daniel 6).  Daniel understands from the book of Jeremiah[1] (Jeremiah 25:8-12) that the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years, and that time is […]

  4. […] in the dispute concerning the date of Christ’s birth.  There are arguments, based on events[2] measured by the Roman timeline, that place the birth of Christ before the year “zero” of our […]

  5. […] in the dispute concerning the date of Christ’s birth.  There are arguments, based on events[2] measured by the Roman timeline, that place the birth of Christ before the year “zero” of our […]

  6. […] Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) and by John the Baptist for his work as the Messiah. (Messiah[3] means, “anointed one” and refers to one who has been anointed for some office, either as king […]

  7. […] Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) and by John the Baptist for his work as the Messiah. (Messiah[3] means, “anointed one” and refers to one who has been anointed for some office, either as king […]

  8. […] Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) and by John the Baptist for his work as the Messiah. (Messiah[3] means, “anointed one” and refers to one who has been anointed for some office, either as king […]

  9. […] it is not a part of the dream’s timeline, it would not need to happen around the time of Jesus.[4] As for the “then” in the beginning of the NKJ translation of Daniel 9:27 (which could indicate […]

  10. […] a basic chronological ordering of the narrative) I do not know how the original Hebrew looks[5] I do know that the RSV does not have “then” […]

  11. […] [1] Jeremiah, although much older, was a contemporary of Daniel and had been warning Judah about its sin years before the first wave of captives, including the young boy Daniel, was taken to Babylon as punishment for Judah’s sin.  Having been called to be a prophet in the thirteenth year of Josiah, King of Judah (Jeremiah 1:2), which was the year 627 B.C., Jeremiah has probably been dead for some time by this point in Daniel’s life. […]

  12. […] because the middle of Daniel’s week seems to fall between the years 26 A.D. and 46 A.D. (see notes there) whereas the middle of John’s week falls sometime after 81 A.D.  (see Order of Events […]

  13. […] because the middle of Daniel’s week seems to fall between the years 26 A.D. and 46 A.D. (see notes there) whereas the middle of John’s week falls sometime after 81 A.D.  (see Order of Events […]

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