Daniel, understanding from the prophecies of Jeremiah that the seventy years' captivity was now terminating, pours out his soul in fervent prayer to God, and earnestly supplicates pardon and restoration for his captive people, 1-12. When thus supplicating God in behalf of Israel, the angel Gabriel is sent to inform him of the seventy prophetic weeks, or four hundred and ninety natural years, which should elapse from the date of the edict to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple to the death of the Messiah, 20-27; a prophecy most exactly fulfilled by the event, according to the computation of the best chronologers. Dean Prideaux states the commencement of these seventy prophetic weeks to have been in the month Nisan, in the year of the Julian period 4256, which corresponds with A.M. 3546, B.C. 458, according to the Usherian account. How awfully are the Jews blinded, who, in contradiction to so clear a prophecy, still expect the Messiah who was cut off, and, after suffering, is entered into his glory! Notes on Chapter 9
In the first year of Darius
This is the same Darius the Mede, spoken of before, who succeeded Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans. See Daniel 5:31.
I Daniel understood by books
The prophecy referred to here is found Jeremiah 25:12;; 29:10. The people must have been satisfied of the Divine inspiration of Jeremiah, or his prophecies would not have been so speedily collected nor so carefully preserved. It appears that there was a copy of them then in Daniel's hands.
I set my face-to seek by prayer
He found that the time of the promised deliverance could not be at any great distance; and as he saw nothing that indicated a speedy termination of their oppressive captivity, he was very much afflicted, and earnestly besought God to put a speedy end to it; and how earnestly he seeks, his own words show. He prayed, he supplicated, he fasted, he put sackcloth upon his body, and he put ashes upon his head. He uses that kind of prayer prescribed by Solomon in his prayer at the dedication of the temple. See 1 Kings 8:47,48.
Keeping the covenant
Fidelity and truth are characteristics of God. He had never yet broken his engagements to his followers, and was ever showing mercy to men.
All Israel, that are near, and that are far off
He prays both for Judah and Israel. The latter were more dispersed, and had been much longer in captivity.
Mercies and forgivenesses
From God's goodness flow God's mercies; from his mercies, forgivenesses.
Therefore the curse is poured upon us
It is probable that he alludes here to the punishment of certain criminals by pouring melted metal upon them; therefore he uses the word tittach, it is poured out, like melted metal, for this is the proper meaning of the root nathach.
The Lord watched upon the evil
In consequence of our manifold rebellions he hath now watched for an opportunity to bring these calamities upon us.
And cause thy face to shine
Give us proof that thou art reconciled to us.
Thy city and thy people are called by thy name.
The holy city, the city of the great King. I think it scarcely possible for any serious man to read these impressive and pleading words without feeling a measure of the prophet's earnestness.
The man Gabriel
Or the angel Gabriel, who had appeared to me as a man. ish is the same here as person-the person Gabriel.
Being caused to fly swiftly
God hears with delight such earnest, humble, urgent prayers; and sends the speediest answer. Gabriel himself was ordered on this occasion to make more than usual speed.
Seventy weeks are determined
This is a most important prophecy, and has given rise to a variety of opinions relative to the proper mode of explanation; but the chief difficulty, if not the only one, is to find out the time from which these seventy weeks should be dated. What is here said by the angel is not a direct answer to Daniel's prayer. He prays to know when the seventy weeks of the captivity are to end. Gabriel shows him that there are seventy weeks determined relative to a redemption from another sort of captivity, which shall commence with the going forth of the edict to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, and shall terminate with the death of Messiah the Prince, and the total abolition of the Jewish sacrifices. In the four following verses he enters into the particulars of this most important determination, and leaves them with Daniel for his comfort, who has left them to the Church of God for the confirmation of its faith, and a testimony to the truth of Divine revelation. They contain the fullest confirmation of Christianity, and a complete refutation of the Jewish cavils and blasphemies on this subject.
Of all the writers I have consulted on this most noble prophecy, Dean Prideaux appears to me the most clear and satisfactory. I shall therefore follow his method in my explanation, and often borrow his words.
Seventy weeks are determined-The Jews had Sabbatic years, Leviticus 25:8, by which their years were divided into weeks of years, as in this important prophecy, each week containing seven years. The seventy weeks therefore here spoken of amount to four hundred and ninety years.
In Daniel 9:24there are six events mentioned which should be the consequences of the incarnation of our Lord:-
I. To finish ( lechalle, to restrain,) the transgression, which was effected by the preaching of the Gospel, and pouring out of the Holy Ghost among men.
II. To make an end of sins; rather ulehathem chataoth, "to make an end of sin-offerings;" which our Lord did when he offered his spotless soul and body on the cross once for all.
III. To make reconciliation ( ulechapper, "to make atonement or expiation") for iniquity; which he did by the once offering up of himself.
IV. To bring in everlasting righteousness, tsedek olamim, that is, "the righteousness, or righteous ONE, of ages;" that person who had been the object of the faith of mankind, and the subject of the predictions of the prophets through all the ages of the world.
V. To seal up ( velachtom, "to finish or complete") the vision and prophecy; that is, to put an end to the necessity of any farther revelations, by completing the canon of Scripture, and fulfilling the prophecies which related to his person, sacrifice, and the glory that should follow.
VI. And to anoint the Most Holy, kodesh kodashim, "the Holy of holies." mashach, to anoint, (from which comes mashiach, the Messiah, the anointed one,) signifies in general, to consecrate or appoint to some special office. Here it means the consecration or appointment of our blessed Lord, the Holy One of Israel, to be the Prophet, Priest, and King of mankind.
From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem
The foregoing events being all accomplished by Jesus Christ, they of course determine the prophecy to him. And if we reckon back four hundred and ninety years, we shall find the time of the going forth of this command.
Most learned men agree that the death of Christ happened at the passover in the month Nisan, in the four thousand seven hundred and forty-sixth year of the Julian period. Four hundred and ninety years, reckoned back from the above year, leads us directly to the month Nisan in the four thousand two hundred and fifty-sixth year of the same period; the very month and year in which Ezra had his commission from Artaxerxes Longimanus, king of Persia, (see Ezra 7:9,) to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. See the commission in Ezra, Ezra 7:11-26, and Prideaux's Connexions, vol. ii. p. 380.
The above seventy weeks, or four hundred and ninety years, are divided, in Daniel 9:25, into three distinct periods, to each of which particular events are assigned. The three periods are,-
I. Seven weeks, that is, forty-nine years.
II. Sixty-two weeks, that is, four hundred and thirty-four years.
III. One week, that is, seven years.
To the first period of seven weeks the restoration and repairing of Jerusalem are referred; and so long were Ezra and Nehemiah employed in restoring the sacred constitutions and civil establishments of the Jews, for this work lasted forty-nine years after the commission was given by Artaxerxes.
From the above seven weeks the second period of sixty-two weeks, or four hundred and thirty-four years more, commences, at the end of which the prophecy says, Messiah the Prince should come, that is, seven weeks, or forty-nine years, should be allowed for the restoration of the Jewish state; from which time till the public entrance of the Messiah on the work of the ministry should be sixty-two weeks, or four hundred and thirty-four years, in all four hundred and eighty-three years.
From the coming of our Lord, the third period is to be dated, viz., "He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week," that is seven years, Daniel 9:27.
This confirmation of the covenant must take in the ministry of John the Baptist with that of our Lord, comprehending the term of seven years, during the whole of which he might be well said to confirm or ratify the new covenant with mankind. Our Lord says, "The law was until John;" but from his first public preaching the kingdom of God, or Gospel dispensation, commenced.
These seven years, added to the four hundred and eighty-three, complete the four hundred and ninety years, or seventy prophetic weeks; so that the whole of this prophecy, from the times and corresponding events, has been fulfilled to the very letter.
Some imagine that the half of the last seven years is to be referred to the total destruction of the Jews by Titus, when the daily sacrifice for ever ceased to be offered; and that the intermediate space of thirty-seven years, from our Lord's death till the destruction of the city, is passed over as being of no account in relation to the prophecy, and that it was on this account that the last seven years are divided. But Dean Prideaux thinks that the whole refers to our Lord's preaching connected with that of the Baptist. vachatsi, says he, signifies in the half part of the week; that is, in the latter three years and a half in which he exercised himself in the public ministry, he caused, by the sacrifice of himself, all other sacrifices and oblations to cease, which were instituted to signify his.
In the latter parts of Daniel 9:26,27we find the THIRD PART of this great prophecy, which refers to what should be done after the completion of these seventy weeks.
And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary
By the "prince" Titus, the son of Vespasian, is plainly intended; and "the people of that prince" are no other than the Romans, who, according to the prophecy, destroyed the sanctuary, hakkodesh, the holy place or temple, and, as a flood, swept away all, till the total destruction of that obstinate people finished the war.
And for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate
This clause is remarkably obscure. kenaph shikkutsim meshomem, "And upon the wing of abominations causing amazement." This is a literal translation of the place; but still there is no determinate sense. A Hebrew MS., written in the thirteenth century, has preserved a very remarkable reading here, which frees the place from all embarrassment. Instead of the above reading, this valuable MS. has ubeheychal yihyey shikkuts; that is, "And in the temple (of the Lord) there shall be abomination." This makes the passage plain, and is strictly conformable to the facts themselves, for the temple was profaned; and it agrees with the prediction of our Lord, who said that the abomination that maketh desolate should stand in the holy place, Matthew 24:15, and quotes the words as spoken διαδανιηλτουφροφητου, by Daniel the prophet. That the above reading gives the true sense, there can be little doubt, because it is countenanced by the most eminent ancient versions.
The Vulgate reads, Et erit in templo abominatio, "And in the temple there shall be abomination."
The Septuagint, καιεπιτοιερονβδελυγματωνερημωσεων, "And upon the temple there shall be the abomination of desolation."
The Arabic, "And upon the sanctuary there shall be the abomination of ruin."
The above reading is celebrated by J. D. Michaelis, Epist. De Ebdom. Dan., p. 120: Vix insignius exemplum reperiri posse autumem, ostensuro in codicibus Hebraeis latere lectiones dignissimas quae eruantur, think, hardly be found, to show that various readings lie hid in Hebrew MSS., which are most worthy of being exhibited." Vid. Bib. Hebr. KENNICOTT, Dis. Gen.
I have only to add that this mode of reckoning years and periods by weeks is not solely Jewish. Macrobius, in his book on Scipio's dream, has these remarkable words: Sed a sexta usque ad septimam septimanam fit quidem diminutio, sed occulta, et quae detrimentum suum aperta defectione non prodat: ideo nonnullarum rerumpublicarum hic mos est, ut post sextam ad militiam nemo cogatur; Somn. Scip., lib. i. c. vi., in fine. "From the sixth to the seventh week, there is a diminution of strength; but it is hidden, and does not manifest itself by any outward defect. Hence it was the custom in some republics not to oblige a man to go to the wars after the sixth week, i.e., after forty-two years of age."
Having now gone through the whole of this important prophecy, and given that interpretation which the original seemed best to warrant, I shall next proceed to notice the principal various readings found in the Collections of Kennicott and De Rossi, with those from my own MSS., which the reader may collate with the words of the common printed text.
Of the whole passage Houbigant gives the following translation:-
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and the city of thy sanctuary:
That sin may be restrained, and transgressions have an end;
That iniquity may be expiated, and an everlasting righteousness brought in;
That visions and prophecies may be sealed up, and the Holy of holies anointed.
Know therefore and understand:-
From the edict which shall be promulgated, to return and rebuild Jerusalem, there shall be seven weeks.
Then it shall be fully rebuilt, with anxiety, in difficult times.
Thence, to the Prince Messiah, there shall be sixty-two weeks.
And after sixty-two weeks the Messiah shall be slain, and have no justice.
Afterwards he shall waste the city and the sanctuary, by the prince that is to come.
And his end shall be in straits; and to the end of the war desolation is appointed.
And for one week he shall confirm a covenant with many;
And in the middle of the week he shall abrogate sacrifice and offering;
And in the temple there shall be the abomination of desolation,
Until the ruin which is decreed rush on after the desolation.
In this translation there are some peculiarities.
Instead of "the street shall be built again, and the wall," Daniel 9:25, he translates (with the prefix beth instead of vau in the latter word,) "it shall be fully (the city and all its walls) rebuilt with anxiety."
Instead of "but not for himself," he translates, "Nor shall justice be done him; " supposing that "justice" was originally in the verse.
Instead of "the people of the prince," Daniel 9:26, he translates "by the prince," using im as a preposition, instead of am, "the people."
Instead of "and for the overspreading," he translates "in the temple; " following the Septuagint, καιεπιτοιερον. This rendering is at least as good as ours: but see the marginal readings here, and the preceding notes.
Houbigant contends also that the arrangement of the several members in these passages is confused. He proposes one alteration, which is important, viz., From the promulgation of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem shall be seven weeks; and unto Messiah the prince, sixty-two weeks. All these alterations he vindicates in his notes at the end of this chapter. In the text I have inserted Houbigant's dots, or marks of distinction between the different members of the verses.
weeks written full, so to prevent mistakes, in thirteen of Kennicott's, four of De Rossi's, and one ancient of my own.
Seventy-one of Kennicott's, and one of De Rossi's, have "weeks, weeks, weeks;" that is, "many weeks:" but this is a mere mistake.
"to restrain." "to consume," is the reading of twenty-nine of Kennicott's, thirteen of De Rossi's, and one ancient of my own.
"and to seal up." Forty-three of Kennicott's, twelve of De Rossi's, and one of my own, have "to make an end." One reads more full.
"sins." "sin," in the singular, is the reading of twenty-six of De Rossi's; and so, in the second instance where this word occurs, two of my MSS.
"everlasting." Two of my oldest MSS. read and so in the next instance.
"and the prophet." The conjunction is omitted by two of Kennicott's.
"and understand." One of my MSS. has.
"from the publication." One MS. of De Rossi's omits the "from," and instead of either, one of my oldest MSS. has "to the publication."
"Messiah." Nine MSS. read the word with the point sheva, which makes it read, in regimine, "the anointed of the prince." But this is evidently the effect of carelessness, or rather design.
"seven." Two MSS. add the conjunction vau, "and."
"and to build." One of mine omits the conjunction.
"seven weeks." One of Kennicott's has "seventy years."
"and weeks." One of Kennicott's has and a week."
"sixty." A few add the conjunction vau, "and sixty;" and another has "six;" and another "seventy." Wherever this word signifies weeks, two of my oldest MSS. write it full. In one of my MSS. are omitted in the text, but added by a later hand in the margin.
"and the ditch." One MS. has "the city." And for "street," one of mine has of the same meaning, but more full.
"and in straits," or anxiety. One MS. without and, as the Vulgate and Septuagint.
"and the holy place or sanctuary." But two of my most ancient MSS., and four of Kennicott's, leave out the vau, and read "and the holy city," or "city of holiness," instead of "the city and sanctuary." In one MS. is omitted in.
"and its end." One MS. omits the conjunction and; one omits the following "the end;" reading thus: "and unto the war." But a more singular reading is that of one of my own MSS. written about A.D. 1136, which has "and its summer."
"sixty." But one of Kennicott's MSS. has "sixty weeks;" and another adds the conjunction, AND sixty.
shall destroy." But one of De Rossi's has "shall be destroyed."
"the people." im, "with," is the reading of one of Kennicott's, with the Septuagint, Theodotion, Syriac, Hexapla, Vulgate, and Arabic.
"with a flood." One MS. has "the flood."
"and upon the wing." Nearly twenty MSS. have "and unto,"
"and unto the end." "to the end;" and one has "and upon."
"the end." One has "the time; " and another both, "the time of the end."
"and upon the wing (or battlement) abomination." Instead of this, one of the Parisian MSS. numbered three hundred and thirteen in Kennicott's, has "and in the temple there shall be abomination." See the preceding notes. This is a similar reading to Theodotion, the Vulgate, Septuagint, Syriac, Hexapla, and the Arabic; and is countenanced by our Lord, Matthew 24:15. After all that has been said on this reading, (which may be genuine, but is less liable to suspicion, as the MS. appears to be the work of some Christian; it is written from the left to the right hand, and is accompanied by the Vulgate Latin,) if this be an attempt to accommodate the Hebrew to the Vulgate, it should be stated that they who have examined this MS. closely, have asserted that there is no evidence that the writer has endeavoured to conform the Hebrew to the Latin text, unless this be accounted such. The ancient versions give this reading great credit.
"abominations." One of mine has less fully.
"desolation." One of mine has more fully.
"and unto," is wanting in one of mine; "and upon" is the reading in one other.
"until the desolation." "the desolation." One of mine has without the vau. is wanting; but is added in the margin, by a later hand, in another of these ancient MSS.
I have thus set down almost all the variations mentioned by Kennicott and De Rossi, and those furnished by three ancient MSS. of my own, that the learned reader may avail himself of every help to examine thoroughly this important prophecy. Upwards of thirty various readings in the compass of four verses, and several of them of great moment.