A Study of Daniel – 27 - Part II
This article is the second of a four part series on Daniel 9:24-27. The previous article examined the first part of verse 24 and focused on a proper exegesis of “seventy sevens,” “to finish the transgression,” “to make an end of sin,” and “to make atonement for iniquity.” The present article begins with an analysis of “to bring in everlasting righteousness,” the fourth of six phrases outlining the details of what God has decreed (v. 24). The Introduction is repeated here as a review. It should be noted as well that a bibliography will appear at the end of Part IV.
Regardless of one’s theological persuasion, Daniel 9:24-27 is one of the most difficult passages to interpret. Challenges arise both in the area of linguistics and in theology, specifically eschatology. Some of the verbs are somewhat obscure, the chronological framework is not particularly easy to establish, and a dash of symbolism is thrown in the mix for good measure. The effort to unravel these four verses is worth it, however. Eschatological details are packed in them like sardines. A proper understanding of this highly scrutinized pericope will make end-time events less confusing.
The 490 years described here are broken down into three
stages: (1) 7 “weeks” = 49 years, (2) 62 “weeks” = 434 years, and (3) one
“week” = 7 years. An overview of the passage also reveals that v. 24 summarizes
all four verses, v. 25 concerns the 69 “sevens,” v. 26 notes the death of the
Messiah and the destruction of
In addition to being an amazing revelation, this portion of Holy Writ is one of the most wonderful answers to prayer in Scripture. Daniel had read in Jeremiah that the Jews’ captivity would last only 70 years, so “…it would be only natural for Daniel to inquire of God as to which of the three deportations marked the beginning of the seventy years of exile” (605, 597, or 586 B.C.). Daniel asks the Lord about ending the exile, but His response looks to the future instead. That is not to say the answer had nothing to do with his petitions. For example, the first triad of phrases (v. 24) addresses the wording of Daniel 9:5, and the last three his request of 9:7.
The verses will be discussed one by one yet their teachings will be brought together in the conclusion in Part IV.
At the cross, iniquity was ended in principle, yet only at
the second coming will “everlasting righteousness” (the fourth expression) be
“To bring in” (aYb!h*) is a Hiphil infinitive construct, resulting in “to cause to come in.” People cannot make themselves righteous or establish the kingdom; that is God’s doing. Indeed, Daniel had earlier prayed, “Righteousness belongs to Thee, O Lord..” (9:7). “The essential idea in the language is, that this would be introduced by the Messiah [from v. 25]; that is, that he would be its author.”
The next accomplishment will be “to seal up vision and prophecy.” As noted in the previous article (pp. 181, 182), the root is <Tj# (Qal infinitive construct, “to seal, seal up”), not <m^T*. In the ancient world, a seal, usually of wax, kept a scroll closed, and signified ownership, authenticity, and security. Much like a letter today, it was unlawful for anyone to open it (break the seal) except the person to whom it was addressed. However, the nuances of this term cannot be captured in a simple sentence for it is a multifaceted gem.
The implications of this phrase may include all of the following: (1) God will put His seal of authentication on all true revelations, (2) These forms of revelation will cease, (3) Prophecies will be fulfilled, and (4) Nothing else is to be added to His plans and revelations (as implied by the seal). When Christ comes back, there will be no more need for visions and prophecies. Feinberg elaborates, “the thought was to seal up the prophecy and make a permanent record of it, so that when it is fulfilled the event can be compared to the prophecy to show how completely the one corresponds to the other.” As a side note, since this sealing up won’t come to pass until the kingdom is established, Daniel 9:24-27 by necessity involves both advents. Wood remarks,
The premillennial view…sees the relation between the response of God to Daniel’s prayer as follows: that, whereas Daniel had been concerned regarding an early return of the Jews from their captivity to Babylon, God was interested in, first, their deliverance from a far more serious bondage to sin (which had caused their Babylonian captivity) through Christ’s work at His first coming and, second, their final release from earthly oppression through the power of Christ at His second coming.
The Hebrew word for “vision” comes from the root hz*j* and has a range of meanings including “look,” “see” (both literal and metaphysical), and even “prophesy” (Isa. 30:10 is an example). It is clear, then, that this is a revelatory term. Sometimes it is translated as “burden” or “oracle” (Nahum 1:1, NASB, NIV). These would not be just Daniel’s visions, but all visions the Lord has granted.
The usual word for “prophecy” (haWbn=, found only three times in the OT) is not used here, but the term used comes from the same root (aYb!n*), and it actually means “prophet.” Again, the suggestion is that no more revelation is needed once Christ comes back. Young points out “vision” and “prophet” are OT terms and therefore they were “sealed” at Jesus’ first advent, a doctrine of preterism. That proposition cannot be correct, for visions and prophecies were presented in the NT and because many prophecies are yet to be fulfilled. For instance, very little in the book of Revelation has yet to come about.
The last achievement is the anointing of “the most holy” (<Yv!d*q* vd#q, a singular noun followed by its plural, literally “holy of holies”). The word “anoint” (j^v)m=, Qal infinitive construct, from which we get the word “Messiah”) is defined as “to smear,” especially in the sense of pouring oil on a king or priest for consecration. This term can be used for any ceremony that sets aside a person or a place for sacred use, regardless of whether or not oil is utilized.
Is “a most holy” (there is no definite article in the
Hebrew) a thing or a person? Some teach this statement alludes to Jesus being
anointed as King of kings and Lord of lords (most amillennarians
hold this view; the Vulgate also understands it to be a person), or to the New
Jerusalem of Revelation 21. Preterists claim this prediction was fulfilled at
Jesus’ baptism, whereas another theory states the
Each of the 39 occurrences of <Yv!d*q* vd#q
pertains to the Tabernacle,
If the seventy “sevens” concluded before Christ (as some
liberals espouse), then the anointing was the dedication of Zerubbabel’s
Since the passage encompasses both advents, the
Two final observations about verse 24 are in order. First,
Jesus’ sacrifice made these six tasks possible but the benefits will not be
applied until He returns and
The NASB renders v. 25a, “So you are to know and discern…” (“Know and understand this:”…NIV). The words are a follow-up to verse 23 (“so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision”). These verbs are not imperatives, but if Daniel pays close attention to Gabriel’s message, then he will be able to grasp its meaning. Hengstenberg and Theodotion translate it using a future tense (“will know…”). God’s messenger came with the express purpose of giving Daniel “insight with understanding” (v. 22). The prophet most likely did not understand all of it, but he grasped enough to receive comfort and reassurance.
The word for “know” is ud^t@ (Qal imperfect, 2ms) and can mean “know,” “perceive,” or “see.” “Discern” is a translation of lK@c=t^ (Hiphil imperfect, 2ms) and can be rendered “consider,” “ponder,” “understand,” or “be prudent.” “While B]n [a synonym for lK@c=t^] indicates ‘distinguishing between,’ s`K^l relates to an intelligent knowledge of the reason. There is the process of thinking through a complex arrangement of thoughts resulting in a wise dealing and use of good practical common sense.”
Although they are imperfects, they function like jussives, connoting a sense of urgent obligation. Gill paraphrases the verse as, “Take notice and observe, for the clearer understanding of these seventy weeks, and the events to be fulfilled in them…” Since lK@c=t^ is in the Hiphil, Gabriel may be saying Daniel will be caused to know these matters, or at least he will be “forced” to ponder them. Lastly, it could just be “know” and “discern” are synonyms; NIDOTTE puts them in the same semantic field.
One item Daniel is to know is the terminus a quo (beginning point) of the seventy “sevens.” It is the opinion of many that the key to comprehending this entire passage is to determine which decree (rb*d*, “thing, matter, word,” or even “commandment”) is alluded to here. (The usual word for “commandment,” though, is hw*x=m^). The text declares the 69 “weeks” (483 years) will encompass the time from the giving of this edict until the Messiah appears. Some critics argue there is no indication the subject has changed and that since the rb*d of v. 23 (“command,” NASB; “answer,” NIV) was sent by God, this one is, too. That line of reasoning does not harmonize with the natural sense of the pericope, and “[s]ince the issuance of this directive would mark the definite starting point of the seventy weeks, it follows that it should be an edict known generally, thus one set forth by an earthly monarch such as the Persian king.” Too, hw*x=m^ is far more commonly used for one of Jehovah’s edicts than rb*d* is.
Even though rb*d* is found in both verses, the tone of v. 23 makes it apparent the message is from the Lord, yet v. 25 is not that obvious as to the source. Indeed, Paul uses the same word (“head”) in two consecutive verses in 1 Corinthians 11:3,4 yet with different meanings. Lastly, this interpretation is far too subjective; it would be nearly impossible to know exactly when God gave the decree.
A modified version proposes Gabriel was really talking
about Jeremiah’s seventy years of captivity, but that confuses two entirely
different prophecies. Jeremiah said nothing about rebuilding
To suggest there is here an extension of the exile is
ridiculous. Porteous, for example, intimates the
seventy years had passed and Daniel was asking the Lord to end the exile.
Instead of doing so, Yahweh declares the Jews must remain in exile another 490
years. This interpretation is borderline blasphemy, for God cannot go back on
His word (Jer. 25:11, 12). Besides, it is an
historical fact that Cyrus permitted the Jews to return to
There were four major decrees concerning the Jews issued
by Persian rulers that can be considered possibilities with reference to this
verse. Wood contends all four could qualify because each deals with the
The first was in 538 B.C. by Cyrus (II Chron.
36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1-4, ). The
second was by Darius I (Darius Hystaspes) in 512 B.C.
(Ezra 6:1, 6-12), yet it was mostly a confirmation of the first one. This
“decree grows out of the question of Tattenai,
sent forth the third edict in 457 B.C. “
This document was given to Nehemiah (Neh.
2:1-8) and it specifically designated
Those facts would seem to clear things up, but that is not
the case with some scholars. Young, Leupold, Keil, and Calvin back the idea that the 490 years begin
with the decree of 538 B.C. One obstacle to that suggestion is
A second decree of Artaxerxes I issued
to Nehemiah (445 BC) is a popular view (e.g., Walvoord, Whitcomb, Sir Robert
Anderson, Hoehner). Actually, this does not seem to
have been a formal decree but involved permission for Nehemiah to visit
Miller makes the same mistake all the others of this persuasion make. They defend their position by assuming that the rebuilding of the city is implied in the previous decrees. That is a rather unstable foundation on which to erect one’s theology.
Two passages in Ezra (-23 and 9:9) are thrown into relief to shore up the viewpoint of Miller, et al. Those verses apparently prove some building on the city walls took place about 457 B.C., and thus before Nehemiah came on the scene, but further study shows that this conclusion is not necessary.
First, the -23
passage is a letter written by Ezra’s enemies back to King Artaxerxes
to inform him he must take action because the Jews were fortifying
His reply to the letter offers no substantial clue toward
solving this puzzle of whether or not the walls were being fortified (Ezra -24). Ezra reports (v. 24) work on the
“house of God’ has ceased but no mention of the city/walls. Artaxerxes
does command the city to not be rebuilt until he issues a decree to do so (v.
21), which does not prove the case either way. It seems best, however, to
understand the situation thus: the Jews were constructing walls but they were
not supposed to, and so Artaxerxes was alarmed. A
Persian monarch is unlikely to permit a people to return home and build their
city walls, for that would amount to a military threat. On the other hand, just
The other verse is
9:9. It talks about the many things God has provided the exiles, including “a
Williamson further remarks Ezra may view the king of
It is noteworthy that the word for wall here (rdn) is not the
usual one (hmwj).
refers to a low wall or fence, such as around a vineyard, sheepfold (Num.
32:16), or along a road (Num. ).
It is possible, but not probable, its occurrence in Micah means “city wall.”
rdn is the
better term for this context anyway because
Again, as noted above, it is likely the Jews did begin to reconstruct the walls but actually did not have permission to do so. Therefore, the edict of v. 25 has to be the one to Nehemiah since it alone specifies the walls.
Two verses in Ezra 7 also seem to suggest the walls were constructed early in the scribe’s tenure. He was given permission to do whatever he wanted with the leftover silver and gold (Ezra ). He was to appoint civil authorities too (), who naturally would desire to construct defense walls. But that is mere speculation. No passage directly declares those treasures were used for such a purpose, and the appointed authorities served as judges.
Isa. 44:28 and 45:1-4, 13 are two other passages critics (especially amillennarians) emphasize to confirm that Cyrus did order the walls’ reconstruction. Isa. 45:13 has the Lord declaring that Cyrus “will build My city.” This idea is beset with the same problems as the “Ezra passages” theory is. There is no evidence the walls were restored until Nehemiah’s efforts. The Isaiah passages simply announce this king will open the door for Persian favoritism toward the Jews, who will later on raise the city walls. Again, granting permission in 538 B.C. would eventually evolve into a military menace for Cyrus.
Haggai 1:2-4 is a third piece of evidence that allegedly
attests to this speculation. The people were chided for living in nice homes
Miller lists some obstacles to the 444 B.C. theory,
pointing to Sir Robert Anderson’s computations in particular. His numbers place
Jesus’ death in A.D. 32, a date that Miller says contradicts the A.D. 30 date
held by most scholars.
Miller is too picky. Our knowledge of
Archer’s main point is this: Most, if not all, of
Hoehner and Archer agree lunar years were known in the ancient East, and that a “prophetic” year in Scripture often consists of 360 days. But Hoehner asserts the lunar year is found outside of prophetic literature. The time measurements encountered in Genesis chapters 7 and 8 are the result of a lunar calendar. Genesis states the flood began on the seventeenth day of the second month, and it ended on the seventeenth day of the seventh month (8:4), exactly five months. Both and 8:3 declare the waters were upon the earth 150 days. Assuming each month is the same length, they would have 30 days apiece. Skeptics say that is a big assumption because the story does not cover an entire year, and thus doesn’t take into account any days the ancients may have added on to their year. Nevertheless, that the years in Daniel are lunar is not out of the ordinary.
Archer, Payne, and Wood all teach the terminus a quo is 458/457 B.C. R. J. M. Gurney concurs but is also of the opinion all 70 “weeks” were fulfilled by A.D. 33. Payne agrees, adding A.D. 33 was the year Paul converted. Daniel makes it clear a man will make a “firm covenant” with the Jews, yet Gurney and Payne do not account for that event.
Miller confesses that a hurdle in the 458 B.C. proposition
is that the edict does not address the restoring of
Miller crowns this theory by espousing these details: 49
years after 458 B.C. would be 409, and that is about the time Ezra and Nehemiah
terminated their ministry. “In the Elephantine Papyri another man is stated to
be governor of
Wood’s variation on this matter is the significant event of 409 must have to do with the city since the next phrase discusses the plaza and moat. He also cites an “outstanding” 18th century historian named Prideaux who claims Nehemiah’s work continued until the fifteenth year of Darius Nothus (423-404 B.C.) which would be about 409 B.C. “The significance of the forty-nine-year grouping may have been, then, a setting off of the period of Ezra and Nehemiah and their efforts toward the reestablishment of the Judean capital.” Sixty-two “weeks” after that brings one to A.D. 26, the “accepted” date of Jesus’ baptism and anointing (cf. Acts 10:38).
A resolution proposed by Allan MacRae
is a combination of some of these theories, and in that sense is unique.
He perceives two intervals, not just one, in this passage, and thus his
suggestion is commonly referred to as the double interval view. The decree in
question is actually God’s command to rebuild
About a century later (437 B.C.), the second (62-week)
stage would begin with no particular event to mark it. During this period
MacRae offers further reasons for his position. Since prophecies are general anyway, his theory is as literal as it needs to be. This proposal also has the advantage of being in harmony with the Masoretic pointing, which creates the need for two anointed rulers. Dozens of times j^Yv!m* (messiah) does not refer to the Christ, and thus Cyrus could fill the bill here.
Despite these factors, the suggestion must be thrown out. It is most unusual for a terminus ad quo of a prophecy to be placed chronologically before the prediction is given. Too, prophecies are not general. In almost every case they are quite specific. To assert two intervals are intended is not easily defendable. An era for the Church Age can be demonstrated, but no solid reasons exist for inserting another one.
In summary, holding to a 444/445 B.C. terminus a quo for
the seventy “sevens” is confirmed by the following considerations. (1) The most
severe “times of distress” took place during Nehemiah’s day. (2) No decrees
were later issued by Persian monarchs concerning the rebuilding of the
(3) It is not probable the parties involved in the first three decrees would
(6) The 4th decree best explains Luke 19:42. As
This student is bothered, however, by one as yet unmentioned snag. Most would agree Jesus was born about 5 B.C., and He was baptized at age 30 (Luke ), which would be about A.D. 25. If His ministry lasted about three and one-half years, then He would have been crucified about A.D. 28/29. How can a date of A.D. 32/33 be reached? Nevertheless, the decree of 444/445 B.C. is the suggestion with the fewest difficulties.
|Continue to Part 3.|