Daniel Chapter 9: The Dependence Of This Prophet!
“O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of face, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee” (Daniel Ch.9v7). Daniel Ch.8 has just concluded with the prophet feeling physically unwell because of the great burden on his heart for his beloved people Israel, so much so we discover Daniel Ch. 9 begins with what I have called the prayer of a prevailing prophet. Daniel’s heart breaks for God’s earthly people, again revealing to us the depth of love and concern he has for the chosen people, “Israel my Glory” Isaiah calls them in Isaiah Ch.46v13. Such is his depth of feeling he begins to read through the prophecy of Jeremiah and discovering that wonderful word of the prophet as we know it today “And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jeremiah Ch. 25v11) bringing to him great illumination; he begins to call upon God for a mighty deliverance of His people, thus begins the prayer of a prevailing prophet in deadly earnest. The ninth chapter of Daniel centers clearly upon the person of Jesus Christ and is one of the few places in Scripture where God ties himself to a definite timetable of events. This passage is therefore one of the strongest evidences to prove the divine inspiration of the Bible. Many of us are frequently asked why we believe the Bible to be the Word of God, and it is helpful to know certain passages, which clearly set forth predictive elements that, are unmistakable and which do indicate the ability of the Bible to predict events far in the distant future. This could only be by divine power.
The passage we are looking at is that kind of passage. It pinpoints the exact moment in history when the Jewish Messiah would present himself to the Jewish people, and it does so over five hundred years before the event took place. It is so plain and detailed that it has always been an acute embarrassment to Jewish commentators.
In the seventeenth century a very learned Jew published a book in which he set forth the claims of Jesus Christ to be the Jewish Messiah. In the preface to the book he told how he himself had been converted by listening to a debate between a knowledgeable Jew and a Christian convert from Judaism over the meaning of this passage in Daniel 9. The moderator of the debate was a learned rabbi, and as the Christian pressed the claims of this passage home it became so clear that the passage was pointing to Jesus Christ that the rabbi closed the debate with these words: "Let us shut up our books, for if we go on examining the prophecy we shall all become Christians."
This prophecy is neither a vision nor a dream. It was not given to Daniel through means that we have seen already in the book, but it is a direct message to the prophet from the angel Gabriel. This is the same angel that appeared to Joseph and to Mary, as recorded in the opening chapters of the New Testament. The angel Gabriel was sent to the prophet Daniel to give him clear and undisguised looks into the future in answer to a prayer of the prophet. The first part of the chapter is taken up with that prayer, which we shall not repeat here, for we want to focus on the prophetic elements of the chapter, but do read the prayer through. It occurred, Daniel tells us, "in the first year of Darius the king, the son of Ahasuerus, by birth a Mede." Therefore, at this time the Medes and the Persians had taken over the former empire of Babylon.
Daniel was himself an old man, almost ninety years of age. He had been reading, as he tells us, the prophet Jeremiah. It is interesting to note that Daniel also studied the Scriptures. Though he was a prophet and God spoke to him directly, yet he learned many things from the Scriptures. Where God has spoken in writing, he does not add a vision. From his study of Jeremiah, Daniel realized that he was nearing the time of the end for the predicted seventy years of Babylonian captivity. Daniel himself had lived through this whole period for he was but a teenager when he was captured and taken to Babylon. Now, almost seventy years later, he realizes that the time of predicted deliverance was near, and so he begins to pray on the basis of the promise of God, surely indicating to us that Daniel displays a deep determination through prayer.
That is very revealing, and it tells us an amazing amount about prayer. Prayer is not merely an exercise in asking God for things; prayer is primarily a means by which we get involved in God's program. When Daniel learned what God's program was he prayed that he might be involved in it, that he might have a part in it and thus co-operate with what God was doing. This desire is reflected throughout this beautiful prayer. He did not simply say, "Well, it is all going to happen anyway so there's no use in worrying about it or praying about it." Had he said that, the predicted events would have happened but Daniel would have had no part in them, thus this is a means by which the prophet gets involved in God's work.
This prayer is one of the most impressive in the Bible. It is a model prayer for any who are concerned over national decay. If you are concerned about the state of our country today, I suggest that you read Daniel's prayer through and see how beautifully and wonderfully he gathers up the whole situation, realistically appraises it, and lays it before God. He did not pray, as some of us do, "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep." This is a searching, penetrating prayer of confession, of praise, and of earnest petition to God. To read it is a moving and powerful experience. So let us not pass by this amazing prayer but take time to examine it more fully. Dr. Harry Ironside called this chapter “the greatest of all time-prophecies”. Any individual, who will take a serious look into the book of Daniel and especially this particular chapter in the light of other Scripture references and history, will surely have to admit to its divine inspiration and amazing accuracy. Think with me just now about Daniel’s Prayer Dr. Lehman Strauss reminds us in his book “The Prophecies of Daniel” that there are three significant ninth chapters in the Old Testament, all of them containing a prayer of similar nature: Ezra Ch.9, Nehemiah Ch.9, and Daniel Ch. 9 in each instance says Dr. Strauss, the servant of God was on his knees before the Word of God, earnestly interceding for the people of God. The Old Testament prophets did not sit in a passive state waiting for a revelation from God through a dream, a vision, or a voice. They were “holy men of God” (2 Peter Ch.1v21) who spent much time in prayer, searching for the message and meaning of prophecy 1 Peter Ch.1vv10-12. When the deep things of God baffled them they followed the only true course, that of asking God James Ch.1v5 and trusting the Holy Spirit to show them 1 Corinthians Ch.2vv9-11. Prayer and understanding of God’s Word are intrinsically linked together. Let’s do a little in-depth examination here.
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 Ch9v1 Daniel makes it clear that the Darius that he is talking about is the son of Ahasuerus. This Darius succeeded Belshazzar, and was the immediate predecessor of Cyrus. The prophet is very precise in pinpointing the date in which he was privileged to read a copy of Jeremiah’s book. There were fourteen Monarchs who reigned 207 years till Alexander the Great subdued the last prince in 331 B.C. Here is the list of the Kings and the amount of years and or months they reigned.
- 538 BC Cyaxares II reigned 2 years.
- 536 BC Cyrus reigned 7 years
- 529 BC Cambyses reigned 7 years and 5 months
- 522 BC Smerdis reigned 7 months
- 521 BC Darius Hystaspis reigned 36 years
- 485 BC Xerxes I reigned 21 years
- 464 BC Artaxerxes Longimanus reigned 40 years & 3 months.
- 424 BC Xerxes II reigned 2 months
- 424 BC Sogdianus reigned 7 months
- 423 BC Darius Nothus reigned 19 years
- 404 BC Artaxerxes Mnemon reigned 46 years
- 358 BC Darius Ocius reigned 21 years (Took the name of Artaxerxes)
- 337 BC Arses reigned 2 months
- 335 BC Darius Codomanus reigned 4 months
It was during the reign of this last king that Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire.
“In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem” (Daniel Ch.9v2).
The Jews were forbidden to practice their religion in Babylon, however there must have been a private collection of the scrolls hidden somewhere; anyway Daniel has the privilege of reading from Jeremiah’s scroll. Daniel knew that the captivity had started in 606 B. C. he subtracts 70 years from that date and arrives with the year of 536 B.C.
“And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations” (Jeremiah Ch. 25v12).
“And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with much
fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel Ch.9v3). Both Nehemiah and Job do a similar thing. “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah Ch. 1v4). “And he took him a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and he sat down among the ashes” (Job Ch. 2v8). This is the amazing effect Daniel’s close examination of the Word of God had upon him. To set ones face unto the Lord is equal to saying that he made a firm resolution, or commitment. Daniel is requesting God’s grace, he will go without food, dressed in a hair cloth garment, this piece of cloth was woven from coarse animal hair and usually used for sacks, he would wrap a piece of it around himself and tie it with leather throngs placing ashes on his head. Notice, Daniel is not asking for new revelation, he faithfully searches the Scriptures to understand the meaning of the revelation already given. Beloved we too have God’s wonderful Word from which we may glean all we need to know with respect to the past, present and the prospective. God’s entire revelation is contained in the Bible we already have, Daniel knew this well and therefore was not tempted to be looking for something fanciful or sensational to excite the mind or cause the emotions to over react. The Holy Spirit gives us a very powerful lesson here, one we must not lose. The individual who loves God’s precious Word and spends time reading it will find themselves wanting to spend much more time in prayer. The two are inseparable; determined Bible students depend greatly on prayer. As Daniel searches the Scriptures it drives him to his knees knowing this exercise will deepen his personal walk with God. But notice also, not only does Daniel’s examination of the Scriptures have a profound effect upon himself, it displays an evil in the camp that desperately needs dealing with. “And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments” (Daniel Ch9v4). Daniel pleaded with the Great and dreadful God, his plea was like a lawyer in the courtroom who cites a precedent in order to get a similar ruling from the judge. He pleads with the God who keeps the covenant and mercy to them that love him. He is pleading that somehow God will not rescind the seventy-year agreement on the basis that his people have not kept their end of the agreement. Remember that agreements are between two parties, therefore if the party of the second part does not live up to the agreement then the party of the first part will not be obligated to keep his part of the bargain. Therefore, Daniel is going to plead the case in prayer and fasting and sackcloth and ashes that God will bring the people of Israel back to their homeland and restore the former things, although Israel has not done its part and is not worthy of being restored. “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments” (Daniel Ch9v5). Daniel confessed that he and his people had swerved from God’s injunctions and regulations, that they had rebelled, transgressed, backslid, apostatized, and turned from God’s ordinances. “Neither have we harkened unto thy servants, the prophets, who spoke in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land” (Daniel Ch9v6). Daniel states two very potent reasons why the Jews were suffering chastisement. First, they had sinned in their departure from the Word of God v5 and secondly, they had sinned by not listening to the prophets who had been responsible for bringing God’s Word to their attention and notice. Daniel did not pray they, he prayed we, you see beloved my sin affects you and your sin affects me. Sin has a debilitating effect upon all of us whichever one of us actually commits that sin as we discover in the book of Joshua “But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing; for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing; and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel” (Joshua Ch.7v1). Although it was Achan who actually, personally, committed the sin, the guilt was laid at the feet of all the children of Israel. Now having said all that, in Daniel we are dealing with a different kind of person altogether. There is no doubt; here is a man who throughout his whole life seeks to have an amazingly close walk with God. Look into the life of Abraham, Moses, Aaron, David, and some others as well and you can easily pick out their flaws and failures. Not so with Daniel, yet when he comes before God to confess the sin of his people, the prophet numbered himself among the transgressors. Oh dear people to have a disposition like Daniel, “But why doest thou judge thy brother? Or why doest thou set at naught thy brother? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ” (Romans Ch14v10). Every life has been marred by a besetting sin. What is the Christian supposed to do with his besetting sin? “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Hebrews Ch.12v1). It is not optional that we “lay aside” the besetting sin it is obligatory. How can we do this? Confession of that sin to God! If we do, He will forgive. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews Ch.12v2). David could say, “Thou hast beset me behind and before” (Psalm Ch.139v5).
With such an amazing promise, let’s work even harder to be over comers of evil. As we move a little further into this protracted prayer of Daniel notice the extremity he highlights. “O Lord, righteousness belongs unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee” (Daniel Ch.9v7). We know, that with the Lord there is righteousness and integrity. But, with us there is a look of shame, Daniel makes it plain that the whole country, including exiles and slaves and war prisoners, all were living a life of shame for their transgressions. Daniel is not merely confessing the sins of the nation at this moment and time but for eons past. Not only were the ordinary people suffering because of sin but those also who were highest in the land. “O Lord, to us belongs confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee” (Daniel Ch.9v8). No one is able to talk or buy his or her way out of this situation, see; Daniel begins at the top rung of the ladder and works his way down. He confesses that sin was not just among the lower class but that it had permeated the whole nation like a malignant cancer but then quickly adds, “To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness’s, though we have rebelled against him” (Daniel Ch.9v9). Although man had been a rebel God had shown mercy and forgiveness.
“Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets” (Daniel Ch.9v10). All of Israel had flouted the laws of God that had been handed down to them by the prophets.
“Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the Law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him” (Daniel Ch.9v11). God had rained down on them the curses that they had been warned about in the Law of Moses, which they had ignored. “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me” (Deuteronomy Ch. 28vv15-20).
“The LORD shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone” (Deuteronomy Ch. 28v36).
“The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand; A nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the person of the old, nor show favour to the young” (Deuteronomy Ch. 28vv 49,50).
“And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem” (Daniel Ch.9v12).
If God had failed to uphold his word then we could not put any reliability in any thing that he might have to say. It was imperative that God corroborate and substantiate what the prophets had uttered. It is noteworthy to see that God’s servants previously forecast everything that happened to Israel. The curse, embodied in the oath, was written by Moses, which left them with a written record of God’s wrath if they turned from him to the heathen practices.
“As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth” (Daniel Ch.9v13).
The misfortune that came upon them was clearly written in the Law of Moses, but this
people had ignored the warnings. They could have prevented the calamity but chose rather to plunge deeper into their iniquity. The prophets warned of the impending doom and disaster but instead of changing course they chose to kill the messengers. “Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice” (Daniel Ch.9v14).
Because Israel did nothing to appease, nothing to propitiate, did not supplicate His throne, God brought the evil that the prophets had warned them of upon them. God had warned them of the time and watched the right moment to bring this disaster upon them. The fact that God kept his word and brought the calamity upon them proves that he is a righteous God. Many today decry God bringing disaster upon people and nations saying: "If God is good and kind he could not punish people with disaster." If God had failed to do so then his word would be meaningless. Notice, as Daniel prays, he has absolutely no tone of complaint in his prayer, he did not believe that the chastisement of his people was a mistake or a miscarriage of justice, no, not at all. The children of Israel had broken the commands of God repeatedly but perhaps more to the point they had failed to confess their sin and claim forgiveness. The consequences of course must follow, which was the chastening hand of God. God is gracious and is always willing to forgive the true repentant but Israel had simply drifted further and further away into indifference therefore, Daniel prayed in his extremity, “hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the Lord our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.”
Now notice Daniel moves up a gear in his pleading with God. “And now, O Lord our God, that has brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly”
(Daniel Ch.9v15). Daniel in his plea before the Judge of all the earth is offering an impassioned plea reminding God that when He brought Israel out of Egypt He gained renown. But, the impoverished people in captivity have become a byword and a shame. Therefore, if God would hear his plea and answer his prayer he could bring the city that lies in ruins back to its former glory and grant favours upon his people. Daniel is not pleading with God to do this because they deserved to be rewarded but rather to give honour to God. “O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us” (Daniel Ch. 9v16).
Daniel acknowledges that the problems are their own fault, that they had brought it upon themselves. However, in view of the mocking from the heathen, the shame they had borne for seventy years, and had been a byword among the nations, he now asks God to remove the reproach. “Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake” (Daniel Ch. 9v17).
Make no mistake about it God was angry and furious about what Israel had done. I cannot over emphasize the fact that God is righteous, to do less than he had done would mean that he was unrighteous. When judges sentence criminals to the gallows or life in a goal it is righteous judgment. Daniel is in no way claiming that the punishment was too harsh or unjust. He now is asking Heavens court to cause "thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake." This was an earnest plea for God to favourably regard the temple, which was in ruins and, I hasten to add at this time, before the chapter is ended that Daniel will receive a favourable indication from the Judge of all the earth that he is going to restore the Temple. “O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness, but for thy great mercies” (Daniel Ch.9v18).
This is a passionate plea for God to open his eyes and see the miseries and the state of Jerusalem and then to respond, not because of their good works or holiness but rather out of his great compassion and tender mercy. “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name” (Daniel Ch.9v19).
The plea continues and now he offers a triple request. First he asks God to hear, second he asks God to pardon, and third he asks God to perform. Again he asks God to do it because they belong to him and it is his city and they are called by his name. Out of the many lessons of Daniel’s prayer, one, which must surely be taken on board by all of us today, is the lesson of fervency. Daniel when he comes to pray is absolutely and deadly serious, these are not simply idle and repetitious words, each word came from his heart out of a deep love for his people and an even deeper desire for the glory of God to light up their way once more. Jesus said, “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove from hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew Ch.17v20).
Dear brothers and sisters let us today, call upon God, as did Daniel, asking Him to cleanse us and make us a holy people. Interestingly though, Daniel was interrupted as he prayed and never finished. His report of that interruption “And while I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord, my God, for the holy mountain of my God; yea, while I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications, the commandment came forth, and I am come to show thee; for thou art greatly beloved. Therefore, understand the matter, and consider the vision” (Daniel Ch.9v20-23).
Notice especially the exhortation of the angel to understand the vision. "Consider he," he says, "think it through and understand it." This is especially significant in view of the reference Jesus himself makes in his famous prophetic message delivered on the Mount of Olives just before his crucifixion and recorded in Matthew 24. There he refers to this prophecy of Daniel and says, "When ye, therefore, shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place" (Matthew 24v15a), thus indicating how they would know that the time of the end had arrived. Matthew adds in parenthesis these words "(let the reader understand)" (Matthew 24v15b). There is thus a clear exhortation on the part of both the angel Gabriel and the Lord Jesus Christ that readers should carefully consider and understand this passage. This passage has been properly called it "the backbone of prophecy." Everything else must fit into the outline of this great prophetic revelation in Daniel Ch.9. There are two general parts to the prophecy. It occupies but a few verses in Daniel Ch.9vv24-27, and is divided into two sections. There is first a listing of the objectives that are to be accomplished during the course of the prophecy; and, second, there is a three-fold division of the time set forth. We have the first section in verse 24: "Seventy weeks of years are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place" (Daniel Ch.9v24). There are three wonderful things to note about that first section: First, there is a specific time period decreed. "Seventy weeks of years, "says the angel Gabriel. As we know, a week of days is seven days, and a week of years would be seven years, thus there would be seventy periods of seven years. If we multiply seventy times seven we have a total period of four hundred and ninety years which are decreed (literally, cut off or apportioned), unto a certain specified people; "your people," said the angel to the prophet. Daniel's people would clearly be the nation Israel. Furthermore, the prophecy would concern Daniel's holy city. There is only one holy city that Daniel was interested in and that was the city of Jerusalem.
So, as the second point of interest, we have a clear limitation of this prophecy to a time period involving only the people of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. In other words, this timetable has no effect if the Jews are not in Jerusalem. It is operative only when the Jewish people are in Jerusalem. Third, there are six goals to be accomplished during this stretch of four hundred and ninety years. They divide into two halves. The first three deal with the work of redemption: "to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity." Notice that they all have to do with solving the problem of sin. The next three deal with the final realization of the hopes and dreams of men. They are, specifically, "to bring in everlasting righteousness," i.e., to establish the kingdom of God, the kingdom for which we pray in the Lord's prayer, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done..." (Matthew Ch.5v10). That is what it means to bring in everlasting righteousness. Then, "to seal both vision and prophet. " Now the Hebrew phrase, "to seal" means to complete, to bring to an end. It means that all predictions are to be completed, fulfilled, and there is no longer any need to predict a future event. Finally, "to anoint a most holy place" can only refer to the temple in Jerusalem. It is clear from this that there must be a temple in Jerusalem in order for these four hundred and ninety years to be fulfilled. That gives us an overall view of the prophecy. The full course of it would cover four hundred and ninety years, and at the end of that period the problem of human sin would be solved, and the problem of human suffering would have ended. All this is to take place within the predicted time period.
The second section marks out for us a three-fold division of the four hundred and ninety years. The first two divisions are described in Verse 25:
"Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks..." (Daniel Ch.9v25aRSV).
The RSV is in error here. The King James Version is right in that it does not make a full stop after "seven weeks." It should go right on to read: "...there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time." (Daniel Ch. 9v25b RSV Modified).
What is Gabriel talking about here? He says there is a definite starting point when the four hundred and ninety years would begin. It is a clear-cut, precise act, recorded in history. It is the time when a decree should go forth to build the city and walls of Jerusalem. In the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are recorded several decrees by Persian kings concerning Israel, but two of them clearly relate to the building of the temple. The temple was built before the city walls were restored. There is only one decree, recorded in Nehemiah, Chapter 2, that gave permission to the Jews to rebuild the walls and city of Jerusalem, and that decree is precisely dated. It reveals one of those remarkable "coincidences" which are really not coincidences at all, to learn that the historian Herodotus (who is called the father of history) was a contemporary of the king, Artaxerxes, who issued that decree. Both Herodotus and the other famous historian of those ancient days, Thucydides, record the career and dates of this king, thus he is one ancient king whose dates are clearly and unmistakably recorded for us.
According to Nehemiah 2, the decree was issued in the twentieth year of the reign of Artaxerxes. We can pinpoint that precisely as occurring in the year 445 B.C. as recorded in this chapter. If you read some of the commentators you will find that they pick a different starting point. They recognize the same event, the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, but they date it at 454 B.C. That is because they are following Bishop Usher, the seventeenth-century Irish bishop who took it upon himself to insert dates into our Bible. But, like a young teenager, he had a great deal of trouble with his dates. It was he who dated creation at 4004 B.C. Bishop Usher has been proved wrong in a number of cases, and the interesting thing is that no secular historian has ever accepted the date 454 B.C. for Artaxerxes' 20th year. The secular historians all give the date 445 B.C. That is the correct starting point of the four hundred and ninety year period. Those who use 454 B.C. as the starting point find the termination for the first 69 weeks at 29 or 30 A. D., which is sometimes regarded as the date of the crucifixion. The angel also indicated that this 490-year period would be divided, first into two divisions, one of seven weeks, and then sixty-two weeks. Seven weeks of seven years each is forty-nine years. During that forty-nine year period the city was to be built again, "with squares and moat, but in a troubled time." History has clearly fulfilled that. The city of Jerusalem was built again. The walls were repaired and the entire city was restored once more. That carries us down to the close of the Old Testament period. Then would follow sixty-two weeks of years, which would be a period of four hundred and thirty-four years. Add this to the forty-nine years and there is a total of four hundred and eighty-three years unto the coming of one here called "an anointed one, a Prince." Now “anointed one” is the Hebrew word for Messiah. There are no articles in the Hebrew at all. It is not "an anointed one, a Prince," but it is simply, "Messiah, prince." So what the angel says is, from the going forth of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem unto the coming of Messiah Prince would be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks, or a total of four hundred and eighty-three years.
Now that is very precise, is it not? You do not find a more precise timetable of events anywhere in the Bible. If it began in 445 B.C., and you add to those four hundred and eighty-three years, to the exact month (because we know that the month in which the edict to rebuild Jerusalem was issued was the Hebrew month Nisan, which corresponds about to our April), then it brings us down to April 32 A.D. It is necessary to allow for a four-year error in dating the birth of Christ (4 B.C. rather than 1 A.D.), and to use, as the ancients did, a year of 360 days rather than 365. If we work this out carefully, as certain chronologist’s have done, we find that the four hundred and eighty-three years (seven years short of the full four hundred and ninety), was fulfilled on the very day the Lord Jesus entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey, with the multitude of disciples bearing palm branches in their hands going before him crying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!" Thus he fulfilled Zechariah's prophecy, "Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass" (Zechariah Ch.9v9b RSV).
Luke tells us that on that occasion the Lord said a most significant thing. Luke says, and when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace!" (Luke Ch.19vv41-42a RSV).
What kind of a triumphal entry is this? "He wept over it!" And what does it mean, "Would that even today...” Why "today"? Because that exact day was the fulfillment of the four hundred and eighty-three years. Jesus went on to say, “they will not leave one stone upon another in you" (Luke19v44b). "But now they are hid from your eyes, for the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you” (Luke Ch.19v42b-43).
Here is our Lord's prediction of the destruction of the city, fulfilled by Titus, the Roman general, forty years later. Then he said these very significant words. “All this will happen”, he said, "because you did not know the time of your visitation" (Luke Ch.19v44b RSV). They should have known. Daniel had indicated very plainly, exactly to the day, when Messiah would come, but they "did not know the time of their visitation." They prided themselves on being students of Scripture. Jesus had said to them, "You search the Scriptures and think in them to find eternal life, but you don't seem to understand that they testify of me," (John Ch.5v39). Thus they missed the time of their visitation. That brings us then to the remarkable events that follow, for, in the next section of Daniel 9, we read of what occurs after the four hundred and eighty-three years, but before the seven-year period begins. It is a very strange interlude.
"And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one [the Messiah] shall be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war; desolations are decreed" (Daniel Ch.9v26 RSV). "After the sixty-two weeks (i.e.. After the four hundred and eighty-three years), Messiah shall be cut off, and shall have nothing." The gospel accounts record that it was one literal week of seven days after the triumphal entry that the Lord Jesus was crucified on the little hill that stands outside the Damascus gate, north of the city of Jerusalem, and literally "had nothing." As John tells us in the opening words of his gospel, "He came unto his own, but his own received him not," (John Ch.1v11 KJV). He came to offer himself as king to the nation that had learned of his coming for many centuries from the prophets, but instead of a crown he received a wreath of thorns; instead of a scepter a broken reed was put into his hands; instead of a throne, he hung upon a bloody cross. He "had nothing" for which he came. But in that crucifixion the redemption of the nation Israel and of the whole world was accomplished. There he made an end of sin, he finished transgression and atoned for iniquity. That first part of the predicted accomplishments was fulfilled when our Lord was "cut off" on the cross, after the sixty-two weeks.
Then, Daniel was told, "the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city." That occurred in 70 A.D., forty years after our Lord's crucifixion. If the seventieth week, the final period of seven years, had followed the sixty-ninth week without a break then the whole period of four hundred and ninety years would have ended sometime in the period of the book of Acts. But there is no account in Acts to indicate when this period ended. It is very clear that there is some kind of gap between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week, a gap of indeterminate length. There is a long period during which the Roman people would destroy the city of Jerusalem. As we shall see, "the prince to come" is a reference to the Antichrist who, as we saw in Daniel Ch. 7, is Roman, the last Caesar of the Roman world. But the city was not to be destroyed by him, but by "the people of the prince who is to come." That the Romans would destroy the city, but not the final Roman head, is very clear from this prophecy. This, of course, is exactly what happened. Roman armies under Titus came in and surrounded the city and its end came with a flood. Josephus, the historian who was present and saw it as an eyewitness, records one of the most horrible sieges of all history for us. He describes the terrible days in which Jerusalem was under siege by the Roman armies, and how starvation and famine stalked the streets of the city; people died by the hundreds and bodies were stacked up in the streets like cardboard. Mothers ate their own children in order to survive. But finally the city was overthrown. The walls were breached and the Romans entering in were so angered by the stubborn resistance of the Jews that they disobeyed the orders of their general and burned the temple, melting the gold and silver so that it ran down between the cracks of the stones. In order to get at the metal they prized the stones apart with bars and thus fulfilled our Lord's prediction that not one stone would be left standing upon another. All this is history and it all happened during a time gap in the seventy weeks. The seventieth week has not even yet come. The gap has covered over 2000 years. This is not new teaching. There are some who would say that Dr. Scofield originated this and put it in his reference Bible and all of us have been following him ever since. But Dr. Scofield did not originate this teaching. It was held by some of the earliest church fathers. For instance, at about the beginning of the third century Hippolytus, speaking of this very prophecy said. "By 'one week' he meant the last week which is to be at the end of the whole world." So it is very clear that there is to be a gap in time of indeterminate length. That brings us to the last week.
"And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator" (Daniel Ch.9v27). Who is this strange individual referred to as he? "He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week." He must have already been referred to in this prophecy or the angel would not have simply used a pronoun to identify him. The nearest antecedent and the only one, which matches grammatically, is the reference to "the prince that shall come." "He shall make a strong covenant with many [this refers to the nation Israel, the mass of the Jews] for one week", i.e., for seven years. In the midst of that seven-year period, after three and a half years have run its course, "he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease", and set up what is called here "the abomination which makes desolate." That is what Jesus meant when he said, "When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place...[then don't wait; get out of Jerusalem as fast as you can] for there will be a time of trouble such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never shall be" (Matthew Ch.24vv15-21). This clearly indicates that this last week of Daniel's prophecy lies yet unfulfilled. We can expect to see the rise of a Western confederacy of nations, which is in fact even taking shape today, and although it is displaying all kinds of cracks and divisions will ultimately be dominated by this strange individual who has appeared in these prophetic sections, is not this the cry of our European Union just now, give us a man to lead us, well they may get him sooner than they imagine. He will make an agreement with the Jews as a nation, possibly to allow the construction of a temple once again. This is why the whole Christian world is watching Israel constantly and hanging on every rumor concerning the building of a temple again on the ancient site. There must be a temple in the days when these final events occur. "He shall make a covenant with many," evidently refers to an agreement to allow the restoration of Jewish worship in Jerusalem. In the midst of the week, after three and a half years, "he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease," and, as we have learned from previous prophecies, shall set up an image in the temple, an image of himself, the Roman ruler, to be worshipped as God. This is what Jesus called "the abomination of desolation." This shall go on "until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator." We know what that end is. Both John, in Revelation, and Paul, in Second Thessalonians, have told us his end will be at the appearance again of Jesus Christ. Zechariah says, "On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives" (Zechariah Ch.14v4 RSV), the very Mount from which He left the earth. He will wreak vengeance upon the nations assembled against Jerusalem and especially against this blasphemous individual who has come into control of the world. This all fits in very closely with other prophetic portions. We do not have any doubts about its general thrust. The passage is so tremendously significant because it already has been partly fulfilled in precise accuracy concerning the first coming of the Lord Jesus. Therefore, we can rest assured that the rest of it will be as fully and accurately fulfilled as the first part was. This is a helpful passage to use with those who deny the supernatural element in the Scriptures. But, someone may ask, how do you explain this long gap? Why does this great parenthesis of time come between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week? The only explanation seems to be that there is a note of contingency about God's predicted events. God says that something is going to happen, and the ultimate fulfillment of it is sure, but the time of its fulfillment relates to the behaviour of those concerned and their reaction to the prophecy. You have this clearly set forth in the book of Jonah. Jonah went to Nineveh and prophesied; "Yet forty days and the city will be overthrown" (Jonah Ch.3v4). But the people of Nineveh repented. They stopped dead in their tracks, and from the king down to the humblest citizen they put on sackcloth and ashes, stopped all the business of the city, and repented before God of their wickedness. The result was, forty days went by and nothing happened. God delayed, postponed, the fulfillment. As you know, Jonah was unhappy about that. He did not like God's postponement, but God showed him that his own heart was hard and callous. All this confirms what we have here. There is a strange element of contingency in Prophecy, perhaps a word of Peter's from the third chapter of Acts will help us here. Remember that after the day of Pentecost, Peter was preaching to the people in connection with the healing of a lame man at the temple gate. He said a very unusual and strange thing to them, as recorded in the book of the Acts. "And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and then he may send the Christ [Messiah] appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old" (Acts Ch.3vv17-21 RSV). This is the reason why the gospel historically was preached to the Jew first and then to the Greek, as recorded in several places in the epistles of Paul. It had to go to the Jew first, after the day of Pentecost, in order that these people would be given an opportunity to repent. Had they done so, this whole prophetic scheme of the full seventy weeks would have been fulfilled in that day, and long, long ago earth would have moved into the millennium. We would be beyond it now, for a thousand years would have been over by now. But God's program in time hangs upon human reaction. This is very important to see, for once again we are facing the likely fulfilment of these things. What will happen? Is it all going to be fulfilled in our day? Who can say for sure? We can never say, yes, this is the final fulfilment; these events are moving surely and unmistakably to the end. Perhaps not enough people may take this seriously and change their lives to set themselves in tune with God's program and stop living for themselves to such a degree that God will change his schedule, hold off the end for awhile, and let us go on. Sometime, of course, the end will come. It will be marked, as Jesus indicated, by a failure of people to take warnings seriously. He said once to his disciples, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke Ch.18v8). Will he find people who believe God, and act accordingly? Who can say what these days are going to bring. It may be that the present turning away, the present refusal to take these warning events seriously is of sufficient intensity to precipitate the final end. Who knows? Only God! When Israel turned away from God and refused the offer of the Saviour, God's countdown stopped. It is like the launching of rockets today, with which we are so familiar. There is a final countdown, but at any moment something can go wrong and delay the countdown and it is not resumed till the trouble is corrected. God has been counting ever since the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, counting away year after year. Four hundred and eighty-three years ran their course, and then the Saviour came. It was almost the end. Seven more years were to follow, but something happened and the countdown has been delayed. It will be resumed again when there is a temple in Jerusalem and an agreement between Israel and the Western ruler. What does this do to you? It says to me that it is time to take seriously the days in which we live. It does not make any difference whether we are in the last days or not, we are responsible to act according to the Word of God, and to understand that God's program is going to run its course exactly as predicted. Our relationship to it will be determined by how seriously we identify ourselves with what God is doing in our day and give ourselves to the advancement of his work, not ours. Oh the precious privilege of being chosen to be a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, may we strive to be vessels unto honour in the house of our God, who said of David, when speaking with his son Solomon, that he was a man of integrity and uprightness of heart, what a testimony!
1 Kings Ch.9v4 The destined end of man is not happiness, nor health, but holiness. God's one aim is the production of saints. He is not an eternal blessing machine for men; he did not come to save men out of pity; he came to save men because he had of course created them to be holy. Oswald Chambers.
It appears that Themistocles, when a boy, was full of spirit and fire, quick of apprehension, naturally inclined to bold attempts, and likely to make a great statesman. His hours of leisure and vacation he spent not--like other boys--in idleness and play, but he was always inventing and composing declamations, the subjects of which were either impeachments or defenses of some of his schoolmates, so that his teacher would often say, "Boy, you will be nothing common or indifferent. You will either be a blessing or a curse to the community." So remember, you who profess to be followers of the Lord Jesus, that to you indifference is impossible! You must bless the church and the world by your holiness, or you will curse them both by your hypocrisy and inconsistency. In the visible church it is most true that "no man liveth unto himself, and no man dieth unto himself." Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990).
God is holy and holiness (is) the moral condition necessary to the health of his universe. ....Whatever is holy is healthy, ...the holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the health of creation are inseparably united. God's wrath is his utter intolerance of whatever degrades and destroys. He hates iniquity as a mother hated the polio that would take the life of the child. A. W. Tozer.
God is holy with an absolute holiness that knows no degrees, and this he cannot impart to his creatures. But there is a relative and contingent holiness, which he shares with angels and seraphim in heaven and with redeemed men on earth as their preparation for heaven. This holiness God can and does impart to his children. He shares it with them by imputation and by impartation, and because he has made it available to them through the blood of the Lamb, he requires it of them. A. W. Tozer.
May I suggest here two books for your thoughtful reading by A.W.Tozer: “The Pursuit Of God” and “The Knowledge Of The Holy”