James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;Daniel 9:1-27
THE SEVENTY WEEKS
Thus far in Daniel we have been dealing with the prophetic history of the times of the Gentiles, but now we return to that of his own people, the Jews.
Note the time and circumstances, Daniel 9:1-2. The prophet is studying such books of the Old Testament as he possessed, especially Jeremiah, and knows the seventy years captivity nears its end, therefore he is moved to offer one of the most notable prayers in the Bible. This prayer is divisible into confession, Daniel 9:3-15, and supplication, Daniel 9:16-19, and it is remarkable that in the former, holy man as Daniel was, he includes himself as a partaker in the national sins. It is equally remarkable that his supplication is based on desire for God’s glory, Daniel 9:17-18. Israel has no merit to claim, but the Lord’s honor is at stake. We have seen this before in the prayers of the patriarchs, the prophets and the psalmists, and we need to keep its lesson in mind.
GABRIEL’S VISIT (Daniel 9:20-23)
What mystery is shrouded in these verses! The nearness of heaven, the interest of God in the petition of His people, the nature and ministry of angels, the divine estimate of the saints, who can fathom these things?
ANSWER TO THE PRAYER (Daniel 9:24-27)
“Weeks,” Daniel 9:24, might be translated “sevens,” but whether is meant “sevens” of days, or weeks, or months or years must be determined by the context. The context points to years. “Seventy sevens” of years, i.e., 490 years, are decreed upon Israel and the city of Jerusalem is the sense of the first phrase of this verse. At the close of this period six things shall have
been accomplished for that people. In other words, Gabriel’s message is not merely an answer to Daniel’s prayer about the return from the seventy years’ captivity, but a revelation of the entire future of Israel from the end of that captivity to the end of the present age. This is evident from the nature of the six things mentioned:
1. To finish the transgression
2. To make an end of sins
3. To make reconciliation for iniquity
4. To bring in everlasting righteousness
5. To seal up the vision and prophecy
6. To anoint the Most Holy
The first three of the above refer to a time still future, for Israel’s transgression is not yet finished, nor her sins ended, nor her iniquity covered. The time, therefore, is that spoken of by all the prophets, and especially named in Zechariah 13:1 and Romans 11:26-27. This is the time, moreover, when “everlasting righteousness” shall be brought in, otherwise the blessings of the millennial age. The vision and prophecy will be sealed then, in the sense that their final accomplishment in the history of God’s earthly people shall have taken place. The most holy place will be anointed then in the new temple to be erected, as we saw in Ezekiel.
THE DIVISION OF THE SEVENS
“From the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem unto Messiah, the Prince, shall be seven weeks,” Daniel 9:25. This is the first of three divisions in this period of 490 years, and covers forty-nine years, seven weeks of years equalling that number. This division begins to be counted “from the going forth of the commandment to build Jerusalem,” which, it is commonly thought, means the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, king of Persia, who gave that authority to Nehemiah, in the month Nisan (Nehemiah 2). Historically, this was 454 B.C. During this period of forty-nine years the street and wall were built again even in troublous times.
But to this period of seven weeks, or forty-nine years, is added another of three-score and two weeks, or 434 years, a total of 483 years, “unto the Messiah the Prince,” i.e., until “Messiah be cut off,” Daniel 9:26.
Observe that this period extends not merely to the birth but to the death of Christ, when He is “cut off, but not for Himself.” It is now admitted that our Lord was crucified April A.D. 32, and those competent in such calculations show that this was precisely 483 years of 360 days each, allowing for leap years, changes in the Julian and Gregorian calendars and matters of that sort. That the Messiah was cut off, “but not for Himself,” has been translated, “and there shall be nothing for Him” which probably means that He did not then receive the messianic Kingdom.
Anstey maintains that the point of departure for the seventy weeks is the first year of Cyrus. However the outcome is not different so far as the fulfillment of the prophecy is concerned, as the calculation in the other case is based, in his judgment, on an error of eighty-two years in the Ptolemaic chronology.
“And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary,” refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans under Titus, A.D. 70. The Romans are “the people of the prince that shall come,” but this “prince” himself is identical, not with the Messiah, but with the little horn of Daniel 7, the terrible despot who will be at the head of the restored empire at the end of this age.
THE END PERIOD
We now come to the last of the seventy sevens, or the closing seven years of this age. In other words, there is a long ellipsis between the close of the sixty-ninth and the beginning of the seventieth week, indeed, the whole of the Christian age, of which more will be said later.
The events of the seventieth week begin with the words “and the end thereof shall be with a flood,” which should be, as in the RV, “his” end, not “the” end, for the allusion is still to the “prince that shall come,” i.e., the Antichrist. The word “flood” also might be rendered “overflowing,” which is doubtless the same overflowing as in Israel 10:22 and as that of the final crisis of Israel’s history at the end of the age. The interval until this time will be characterized by war and desolation (compare Matthew 24:3-8).
“And he,” i.e., “the prince that shall come,” “shall confirm the covenant with many for one week.” The “many” refers to the people of Israel then to be in their own land, but still in an unconverted state as far as the acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah is concerned. It will be to the mutual interest of the “little horn,” i.e., the Antichrist, and Israel to enter into this covenant for seven years. There will be a faithful remnant, however, who will not bow the knee to him the covenant will be made with “man” but not all (compare Isaiah 25:15).
He will break this covenant after three and one-half years and “cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease,” no longer permitting them to worship God in their newly-erected temple. Now begins their great tribulation, “a time and times and the division of time” named in Daniel 8:25 (compare Revelation 13:5; Revelation 13:11-17).
The latter part of this verse has been translated thus: “And upon the wing [or pinnacle] of abominations [shall be] that which causeth desolation, even until the consummation and that determined shall be poured out upon the desolator.”
The “abominations” are doubtless idols that shall be set up by this wicked prince to be worshipped in the temple, when the true God has been set aside. The “consummation” comes and with it the judgment and desolation of the “desolator.”
1. With whose history are we dealing in this lesson?
2. What great feature marks the prayers of God’s people in the Bible?
3. What are some of the suggestions growing out of Gabriel’s visit?
4. What period of time is covered by the “seventy weeks”?
5. To what place and people does this period apply?
6. Name the six important things which will be accomplished in the people at its close.
7. When does this period begin and end?
8. Divide it into its three parts.
9. What event is identified with the first part?
10. With what event does part two close?
11. Explain the allusion to “the prince that shall come.”
12. What age intervenes between the last two parts?
13. Tell what you know about the covenant of Daniel 9:27.
SUPPLEMENT ON BIBLE CHRONOLOGY
The last lesson referred to the lapse of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks, and as other lapses have been noted in the sacred chronology, it is desirable to devote a lesson to that subject.
CYCLES OF YEARS
To take an illustration, God’s dealings with Israel are in cycles of 490 years: (1) the period from Abram to Exodus was 490 years, plus the fifteen years during which the bondwoman and her child (Hagar and Ishmael) dominated in Abram’s tent, which are not counted; (2) the period from Exodus to the dedication of Solomon’s temple was 490 years, plus the 131 years of captivity in the time of the Judges, which are not counted; (3) from the dedication to the return from Babylon was 490 years, plus the seventy years of that capacity not counted; and (4) from the return from Babylon to the beginning of the millennial age is 490 years, plus the dispensation in which Israel is dispersed, which is not counted.
WHEN GOD DOES NOT COUNT TIME
Prophetically speaking, God does not count time with reference to Israel while she is in captivity, or dispersion, or dominated by another nation. In evidence of this, note that 1 Kings 6:1 mentions the fourth year of Solomon as being 480 years after the Exodus. But we know from Numbers 14:33 that they were forty years in the wilderness; then, according to the Book of Joshua, they were thirty-seven years in conquering Canaan and up until the period of the Judges; Acts 13:20 shows that they were 450 years under the Judges; then they were forty years under Saul (Acts 13:21), and forty years under David (1 Samuel 5:4-5). These periods total 607 years, to which should be added the four years of Solomon referred to, totalling 611 years.
How shall we explain this discrepancy, of which infidels and others have made so much? The answer has been stated above, that God does not count time prophetically while Israel is in captivity. For example, seven captivities are mentioned in the Book of Judges, one of eight years (3:8); eighteen years (3:14); twenty years (4:3); seven years (6:1); eighteen years (10:8); forty years (13:1), and twenty years (1 Samuel 7:2), making a total of precisely 131 years. The above is a sufficient illustration of the principle.
We close this lesson with a rough diagram of the 490 years covered by Daniel 9:24-27, which may aid in memorizing that important prediction:
Seventy Sevens: 490 Years. From the twentieth year of Artaxerxes to the end of this age.
7 weeks, or 49 years.
62 weeks, or 434 years.
The Uncounted Period
1 week, or 7 years.
The street and wall of Jerusalem built
At the close of this period the Messiah is cut off and has nothing. A.D. 32.
1. Jerusalem destroyed, A.D. 2. Jews dispersed 3. Jerusalem trodden down 4. The church called out. 5. Apostasy of Christendom. 6. Jews in part return to Jerusalem in unbelief. 7. Coming of Christ for the Church.
1. The Roman prince, or little horn in covenant with the Jews. 2. The covenant broken in the midst of the week. 3. The great tribulation begins. 4. Antichrist in power. 5. Christ appears to deliver Israel.
1. What is peculiar to the chronology of the Bible?
2. What appears to be the central date between creation and the Cross?
3. How are God’s dealings with Israel chronologically identified?
4. Name some of the cycles referred to.
5. When does God not reckon time prophetically in the case of Israel?
6. Can you illustrate this?
7. Name the chief events tied to the four time periods in the following diagram.