Daniel 9:3
And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
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(3) I set my face.—Comp. Daniel 6:11. Probably he prayed, as on that occasion, with his face towards Jerusalem. The prayer of Daniel bears some resemblance to those offered by Ezra and Nehemiah, while that of Baruch resembles it much more closely. (On this see Excursus F.)

Daniel 9:3. I set my face unto the Lord God — This expression does not merely mean, that he directed his face to the place where the temple had stood: it signifies also his resolution to apply to God with the utmost seriousness, fervency, importunity, and perseverance, for the accomplishment of his promises respecting the restoration of his people. It denotes, says Henry, “the intenseness of his mind in this prayer, the fixedness of his thoughts, the firmness of his faith, and the fervour of his devout affections in the duty.” To seek by prayer and supplication, &c. — God’s promises, in general, are conditional, and intended, not to supersede, but to excite and encourage our prayers: this was especially the case with regard to God’s promise of restoring the Jews from captivity after seventy years, and this condition was particularly expressed when the promise was made by Jeremiah 29:10-14, where God says, Ye shall call upon me, and I will hearken unto you, &c., and will turn away your captivity, &c. Here we see Daniel complied with the condition; he sought unto the Lord with all his heart, (and undoubtedly excited others to do the same,) and the Lord was found of him. With fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes — In token of humiliation, sorrow for their sins, and grief for the duration of their captivity.

9:1-3 Daniel learned from the books of the prophets, especially from Jeremiah, that the desolation of Jerusalem would continue seventy years, which were drawing to a close. God's promises are to encourage our prayers, not to make them needless; and when we see the performance of them approaching, we should more earnestly plead them with God.And I set my face unto the Lord God - Probably the meaning is, that he turned his face toward Jerusalem, the place where God had dwelt; the place of his holy abode on earth. See the notes at Daniel 6:10. The language, however, would not be inappropriate to denote prayer without such a supposition. We turn to one whom we address, and so prayer may be described by "setting the face toward God." The essential idea here is, that he engaged in a set and formal prayer; he engaged in earnest devotion. He evidently set apart a time for this, for he prepared himself by fasting, and by putting on sackcloth and ashes.

To seek by prayer and supplications - To seek his favor; to pray that he would accomplish his purposes. The words "prayer and supplications," which are often found united, would seem to denote "earnest" prayer, or prayer when mercy was implored - the notion of "mercy" or "favor" implored entering into the meaning of the Hebrew word rendered "supplications."

With fasting - In view of the desolations of the city and temple; the calamities that had come upon the people; their sins, etc.; and in order also that the mind might be prepared for earnest and fervent prayer. The occasion was one of great importance, and it was proper that the mind should be prepared for it by fasting. It was the purpose of Daniel to humble himself before God, and to recal the sins of the nation for which they now suffered, and fasting was an appropriate means of doing that.

And sackcloth - Sackcloth was a coarse kind of cloth, usually made of hair, and employed for the purpose of making sacks, bags, etc. As it was dark, and coarse, and rough, it was regarded as a proper badge of mourning and humiliation, and was worn as such usually by passing or girding it around the loins. See the notes at Isaiah 3:24; Job 16:15.

And ashes - It was customary to cast ashes on the head in a time of great grief and sorrow. The principles on which this was done seem to have been,

(a) that the external appearance should correspond with the state of the mind and the heart, and

(b) that such external circumstances would have a tendency to produce a state of heart corresponding to them - or would produce true humiliation and repentance for sin.

Compare the notes at Job 2:8. The practical truth taught in this verse, in connection with the preceding, is, that the fact that a thing is certainly predicted, and that God means to accomplish it, is an encouragement to prayer, and will lead to prayer. We could have no encouragement to pray except in the purposes and promises of God, for we have no power ourselves to accomplish the things for which we pray, and all must depend on his will. When that will is known it is the very thing to encourage us in our approaches to him, and is all the assurance that we need to induce us to pray.

3. prayer … supplications—literally, "intercessions … entreaties for mercy." Praying for blessings, and deprecating evils. Observe two things:

1. That deep revolting, and deep afflictions, call for deep and solemn humiliation.

2. God’s decrees and promises do not excuse us from duty and prayer, but include it and require it. God will be inquired of for those things which he hath purposed and promised to give his people, Ezekiel 36:37. And if it be objected by any, (as it is by Calovius,) that both God’s threats and promises are absolute, and not hypothetical, as they will prove by Jeremiah 25:11,12 29:10; it is answered that,

1. Though it be spoken peremptorily and absolutely, yet not without a tacit condition and secret reserve in God, Jonah 3:4.

2. God often speaks positively to put sinners in the more awe of his judgments, and to drive them to repentance, Jeremiah 18:7-10.

3. If God give a reason of his threatening, viz. because they have despised his word and abused his patience, 2 Chronicles 36:15,16 Lu 19:42-44; then the threat is absolute.

4. And if God add upon his threatenings such words as these, I will not hear you, pray not for this people, of which we have many instances, then it is peremptory.

5. When the threat and the judgment threatened are the fruit of God’s decree, then it is irreversible; not else. Mind all these rules well in this case.

And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications,.... He set apart some time on purpose for this service, distinct from his usual stated times of prayer, as well as from his civil business and employment; and he not only set his face toward Jerusalem, as he used to do, Daniel 6:10, the more to affect his mind with the desolations the city and temple lay in; but towards the Lord God, the sovereign Lord of all, who does according to his will in heaven and in earth, the Governor of the universe, the one true God, Father, Son, and Spirit: and this denotes the intenseness of his spirit in prayer; the fixedness of his heart; the ardour of his mind; the fervency of his soul; his holy confidence in God; the freedom and boldness he used in prayer, and his constancy and continuance in it; which is a principal means, and a proper manner of seeking God. The Septuagint version, agreeably to the Hebrew text (d), renders it, "to seek prayer and supplications"; such as were suitable and pertinent to the present case; most beneficial and interesting to him and his people, and most acceptable to the Lord:

with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes; as was usual on extraordinary occasions, in times of public mourning; and this he did, to show his sense of the divine Being, and of his own unworthiness to ask or receive anything of him; his great humiliation for the sins of the people; and to distinguish this prayer of his from ordinary ones, and to affect his own heart in it, with the sad condition his nation, city, and temple were in; and therefore abstained from food for a time, put sackcloth on his loins, and ashes on his head, or sat in them.

(d) , Sept; "ad quaerendum orationem et deprecationes", Montanus; "ad quaerendam orationem et supplicationem", Cocceius.

And I set my face unto the Lord God, to {d} seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:

(d) He does not speak of that ordinary prayer, which he used in his house three times a day, but of a rare and vehement prayer, lest their sins should cause God to delay the time of their deliverance prophesied by Jeremiah.

3. set my face] i.e. directed myself: cf. 2 Chronicles 20:3 (lit. ‘set his face to seek unto Jehovah’).

to seek prayer, &c.] i.e. to apply myself to prayer, &c.

with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes] marks of mourning, and the usual accompaniments of supplication, penitence, and confession. Cf. Isaiah 58:5; Ezra 8:23; Nehemiah 9:1; Jonah 3:5-6; Esther 4:1; Esther 4:3; Esther 4:16.

3–19. Daniel’s prayer, consisting (1) of a confession of national transgression, and of the justice of God’s punishment (Daniel 9:4-14), and (2) of a supplication for mercy and restoration (Daniel 9:15-19). The prayer evinces great depth and fervour of religious feeling. In style it is Deuteronomic; in fact, it is composed largely of reminiscences of Deut., the prayer of Solomon in 1 Kings 8, and (especially) of Jeremiah (in particular, of Jeremiah 26, 32, 44): there are also some noticeable parallels with the prayers in Nehemiah 1, 9, and Ezra 9 (see on Daniel 9:4; Daniel 9:6-7; Daniel 9:9; Daniel 9:14-15; Daniel 9:18). The most striking resemblances are, however, with parts of the confession and supplication in Bar 1:15 to Bar 3:18; on which see further the Introd. p. lxxiv f.

Verse 3. - And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. The Septuagint Version here is slavishly close; it renders אֶתְּנָא ('etruria) in accordance with its more common meaning, ἔδωακ, and the idiomatic phrase, "to seek prayer and supplication," is rendered εὑρεῖν προσευχήν. The true rendering is, as Professor Bevan points out," to set to prayer." Theodotion is nearly as slavish; only he omits "ashes," and has "fastings." The Peshitta is close, but does not follow the change of construction in the last clause. Jerome seems to have read, "my God." The cessation of the temple-worship, with its sacrifices, was naturally fitted to bring prayer as a mode of worship into a prominence it bad not before. Yet we find prayers made while the first temple was yet standing, as the prayer of Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:15), of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:6). The comparison more naturally stands with the prayers of Ezra and Nehemiah, as the subject of their supplication is similar to that of the prayer before us. Daniel 9:3Daniel's prayer. This prayer has been judged very severely by modern critics. According to Berth., v. Leng., Hitzig, Staeh., and Ewald, its matter and its whole design are constructed according to older patterns, in particular according to the prayers of Nehemiah 9 and Ezra 9:1-15, since Daniel 9:4 is borrowed from Nehemiah 1:5; Nehemiah 9:32; Daniel 9:8 from Nehemiah 9:34; Daniel 9:14 from Nehemiah 9:33; Daniel 9:15 from Nehemiah 1:10; Nehemiah 9:10; and, finally, Daniel 9:7, Daniel 9:8 from Ezra 9:7. But if we consider this dependence more closely, we shall, it is true, find the expression הפנים בּשׁת (confusion of faces, Ezra 9:7, Ezra 9:8) in Ezra 9:7, but we also find it in 2 Chronicles 32:21; Jeremiah 7:19, and also in Psalm 44:16; סלחות (forgivenesses, Daniel 9:9) we find in Nehemiah 9:17, but also in Psalm 130:4; and על תּתּך (is poured upon, spoken of the anger of God, Daniel 9:11) is found not only in 2 Chronicles 12:7; 2 Chronicles 34:21, 2 Chronicles 34:25, but also Jeremiah 42:18; Jeremiah 44:6, and Nahum 1:6. We have only to examine the other parallel common thoughts and words adduced in order at once to perceive that, without exception, they all have their roots in the Pentateuch, and afford not the slightest proof of the dependence of this chapter on Nehemiah 9.

The thought, "great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy," etc., which is found in Daniel 9:4 and in Nehemiah 1:5, has its roots in Deuteronomy 7:21 and Daniel 9:9, cf. Exodus 20:6; Exodus 34:7, and in the form found in Nehemiah 9:32, in Deuteronomy 10:17; the expression (Daniel 9:15), "Thou hast brought Thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand," has its origin in Deuteronomy 7:8; Deuteronomy 9:26, etc. But in those verses where single thoughts or words of this prayer so accord with Nehemiah 9 or Ezra 9:1-15 as to show a dependence, a closer comparison will prove, not that Daniel borrows from Ezra or Nehemiah, but that they borrow from Daniel. This is put beyond a doubt by placing together the phrases: "our kings, our princes, our fathers" (Daniel 9:5, Daniel 9:8), compared with these: "our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers" (Nehemiah 9:34, Nehemiah 9:32), and "our kings and our priests" (Ezra 9:7). For here the naming of the "priests" along with the "kings and princes" is just as characteristic of the age of Ezra and Nehemiah as the omission of the "priests" is of the time of the Exile, in which, in consequence of the cessation of worship, the office of the priest was suspended. This circumstance tends to refute the argument of Sthelin (Einl. p. 349), that since the prayers in Chron., Ezra, and Nehem. greatly resemble each other, and probably proceed from one author, it is more likely that the author of Daniel 9 depended on the most recent historical writings, than that Daniel 9 was always before the eyes of the author of Chron. - a supposition the probability of which is not manifest.

If, without any preconceived opinion that this book is a product of the times of the Maccabees, the contents and the course of thought found in the prayer, Daniel 9, are compared with the prayers in Ezra 9:1-15 and Nehemiah 9, we will not easily suppose it possible that Daniel depends on Ezra and Nehemiah. The prayer of Ezra 9:6-15 is a confession of the sins of the congregation from the days of the fathers down to the time of Ezra, in which Ezra scarcely ventures to raise his countenance to God, because as a member of the congregation he is borne down by the thought of their guilt; and therefore he does not pray for pardon, because his design is only "to show to the congregation how greatly they had gone astray, and to induce them on their part to do all to atone for their guilt, and to turn away the anger of God" (Bertheau).

The prayer, Nehemiah 9:6-37, is, after the manner of Psalm 105 and 106, an extended offering of praise for all the good which the Lord had manifested toward His people, notwithstanding that they had continually hardened their necks and revolted from His from the time of the call of Abraham down to the time of the exile, expressing itself in the confession, "God is righteous, but we are guilty," never rising to a prayer for deliverance from bondage, under which the people even then languished.

The prayer of Daniel 9, on the contrary, by its contents and form, not only creates the impression "of a fresh production adapted to the occasion," and also of great depth of thought and of earnest power in prayer, but it presents itself specially as the prayer of a man, a prophet, standing in a near relation to God, so that we perceive that the suppliant probably utters the confession of sin and of guilt in the name of the congregation in which he is included; but in the prayer for the turning away of God's anger his special relation to the Lord is seen, and is pleaded as a reason for his being heard, in the words, "Hear the prayer of Thy servant and his supplication (Daniel 9:17); O my God, incline Thine ear" (Daniel 9:18).

(Note: After the above remarks, Ewald's opinion, that this prayer is only an epitome of the prayer of Baruch (1:16-3:8), scarcely needs any special refutation. It is open before our eyes, and has been long known, that the prayer of Baruch in the whole course of its thoughts, and in many of the expressions found in it, fits closely to the prayer of Daniel; but also all interpreters not blinded by prejudice have long ago acknowledged that from the resemblances of this apocryphal product not merely to Daniel 9, but also much more to Jeremiah, nothing further follows than that the author of this late copy of ancient prophetic writings knew and used the book of Daniel, and was familiar with the writings of Daniel and Jeremiah, and of other prophets, so that he imitated them. This statement, that the pseudo-Baruch in ch. 1:15-3:8 presents an extended imitation of Daniel's prayer, Ewald has not refuted, and he has brought forward nothing more in support of his view than the assertion, resting on the groundless supposition that the mention of the "judges" in Daniel 9:12 is derived from Bar. 2:1, and on the remark that the author of the book of Baruch would have nothing at all peculiar if he had formed that long prayer out of the book of Daniel, or had only wrought after this pattern - a remark which bears witness, indeed, of a compassionate concern for his protge, but manifestly says nothing for the critic.)

The prayer is divided into two parts. Daniel 9:4-14 contain the confession of sin and guilt; Daniel 9:15-19 the supplication for mercy, and the restoration of the holy city and its sanctuary lying in ruins.

The confession of sin divides itself into two strophes. Daniel 9:4-10 state the transgression and the guilt, while Daniel 9:11-14 refer to the punishment from God for this guilt. Daniel 9:3 forms the introduction. The words, "Then I directed my face to the Lord," are commonly understood, after Daniel 6:11, as meaning that Daniel turned his face toward the place of the temple, toward Jerusalem. This is possible. The words themselves, however, only say that he turned his face to God the Lord in heaven, to האלהים אדני, the Lord of the whole world, the true God, not to יהוה, although he meant the covenant God. "To seek prayer in (with) fasting," etc. "Fasting in sackcloth (penitential garment made of hair) and ashes," i.e., sprinkling the head with ashes as an outward sign of true humility and penitence, comes into consideration as a means of preparation for prayer, in order that one might place himself in the right frame of mind for prayer, which is an indispensable condition for the hearing of it - a result which is the aim in the seeking. In regard to this matter Jerome makes these excellent remarks: "In cinere igitur et sacco postulat impleri quod Deus promiserat, non quod esset incredulus futurorum, sed ne securitas negligentiam et negligentia pareret offensam." תּפלּה and תּחנוּנים equals תּחנּה, cf. 1 Kings 8:38, 1 Kings 8:45, 1 Kings 8:49; 2 Chronicles 6:29, 2 Chronicles 6:35. תּפלּה is prayer in general; תּחנוּנים, prayer for mercy and compassion, as also a petition for something, such as the turning away of misfortune or evil (deprecari). The design of the prayer lying before us is to entreat God that He would look with pity on the desolation of the holy city and the temple,and fulfil His promise of their restoration. This prayer is found in Daniel 9:15-19.

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