Daniel 9 is different than the rest of the chapters in the second half of Daniel in that there is something in the chapter other than just apocalyptic visions of the future. In Daniel 9, we have a beautiful and powerful prayer from Daniel, asking the LORD his God for mercy and forgiveness for “the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and for all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away (9:7).” As Daniel is praying and confessing sin before the LORD his God, “the man (which must be the angel) Gabriel” (see 8:16) comes to Daniel (9:23) and tells him the vision of the Seventy Weeks. This chapter, then, divides into two sections, Daniel’s prayer of confession (9:1-20) and the vision of the Seventy Weeks (9:24-27).
As a preliminary comment about the Seventy Weeks, these are difficult verses to understand, among the most difficult in the entire Bible, and so, again, humility and care are needed.
Also, during the study of Daniel chapters 7 and 8, we have developed some principles and tools to help us interpret these apocalyptic passages. I am treating those hard-won principles as territory that we have conquered, and we will use those principles as we work our way through this passage. In practice, that means that unless a contradiction arises from our view of this chapter, all previous interpretations remain intact. Enough of the preliminaries.
THE SEVENTY WEEKS – DANIEL 9:24-27
The major difficulties of Daniel 9 are contained in the last four verses, 9:24-27. My approach for understanding this section will be to gradually drill down into each verse in the context of the four verses together to gain an idea of what the verses are communicating. I will be using the NASB text.
Just to mention this up front, perhaps the greatest difficulty of this passage is what to do with the fact that there appears to be a large gap of time between the end of the sixty-nine weeks and the seventieth week. That difficulty will be addressed at length when we are studying the sixty-nine weeks in 9:25-26, and then later when we are studying the seventieth week in 9:27.
9:24 – The purposes and the outcomes of the Seventy Weeks
After announcing the “seventy weeks,” Gabriel declares what will be fulfilled in the seventy weeks.
- “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and the holy city.” Daniel 9:24a
- Gabriel mentions “seventy weeks.” What are “the weeks?” Most interpreters take “a week” to be a block of seven years, and I agree with that, but add the caveat that these do not need to mean exactly seven years. It is simply that Gabriel uses time blocks of approximately seven years to describe events in the future.
- Who is “your people?” It is apparent that these people are the same as the “holy people” of Daniel 8:24, which we said was “the saints of the Prince,” and the Prince is Christ. See also 7:21, 25. Thus “your people” is referring to individual believers.
- What is “the holy city?” Our interpretation of the phrase “the holy city” as used in Revelation 11:2 will determine our understanding of it here, with the principle that the latter interprets the former. In other words, since biblical revelation is progressive, the later appearances of a phrase make it possible to understand earlier appearances of the same phrase. In Revelation 11:2, “they (the nations) will trample ‘the holy city’ for forty-two months.” Simon Kistemaker correctly calls the holy city (the new Jerusalem – Rev 21:2) “the place God dwells with His covenant people (p. 327).” “The holy city,” then, is the figurative name for the Christian church. (Other words could be substituted here: the elect, all believers, Israel, Judah, etc.)
- The events which will be accomplished during the seventy weeks are:
- To finish the transgression. What is “the transgression?” Whose transgression is this? What does it mean to “finish the transgression?” The phrase “finish the transgression” is different from “make an end of sin (see below)” because one speaks of “transgression” and the other speaks of “sin.”. “Transgression” is here used for willful, knowing disobedience and defiance of the commandments of the Lord. “Transgression” speaks of the open, unashamed rebellion of the wicked and, specifically, of the rebellion of the “prince who is to come (9:26).” Remember that, based on Daniel 8:12, we understood the same word, “the transgression,” to be the full expression of the disobedience and evil of “the small horn” (antichrist or man of lawlessness). The same word is to be understood in the same way here, except that in Daniel 9, the personality is “the prince who is to come (9:26).” There will be time at the end of the Seventy Weeks when “the prince who is to come” (“the prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2; “the ruler (prince) of this world” in John 12:31; Greek word arXov) will appear to fulfill the darkest possibilities of human transgression. The “prince who is to come” will be the ultimate expression of transgression and will thus “finish the transgression.”
- To make an end to sin. There are three aspects to “making an end to sin.” First, the sins of all the elect must be atoned for. This was done at Calvary when Jesus died on the cross, but it will be applied and displayed at the end of the age when God’s elect will be declared “not guilty” because of the death of Jesus. Second, the sins of the unrighteous must be punished as an accounting is given for their sins. This will be done at the great white throne of Revelation 20:11-15. Third, sin itself must be done away with, so that it is no more. Sin must be destroyed. This will also be accomplished at the end of the age. Jesus Christ will be glorified in the redemption of all His people. An “end will be made to sin” because the sins of all the elect will be seen as paid for and God’s people will be glorified to sin no more and the sins of all the unrighteous will be judged and the unrighteous cast into the lake of fire.
- To make atonement for iniquity This points unmistakably to Jesus and His atoning death on the cross. His sacrificial death paid the penalty for the sins of all His people and quenched the wrath of God for the elect. The phrase is located here in a verse that lists the concluding events of human history to show that Jesus’ once-for-all-time death on the cross has the abiding effect of atoning for all iniquity of all the elect, and this atonement will be displayed and fulfilled in the final acquittal and glorification of His people.
- To bring in everlasting righteousness. This event would seem to be at the end of time since this righteousness that is coming in is everlasting. This may be in keeping with “make an end of sin.” To bring in everlasting righteousness will occur when the New Heavens and the New Earth are ushered in (Revelation 21) and the innocence of Eden with the full righteousness of Christ are realized. Is that what is intended here or does this mean something else? See Daniel 8:14 when “the holy place will be restored.” We interpreted this as describing the same thing as the ushering in of the new heaven and the new earth in Rev. 21. “To bring in everlasting righteousness” would be the same thing from a different perspective.
- To seal up vision and prophecy. My understanding of this is that it tells of a time when all divine visions and prophecies have been fulfilled as this creation is destroyed. There are no more visions given and all the ones that had been given have come to pass. There is no more prophecy; rather all prophecy has been fulfilled. This, then, must be the time of the end, when Jesus has fulfilled all things written about Him (Matthew 5:17-18; significantly, Matthew 24:33-35; parallels in Mark 13;31; Luke 21:33)
- To anoint the most holy place. What is “the most holy place?” Literally this would be the Holy of holies in the tabernacle or the temple. Moses already anointed the Holy of holies when he sprinkled the tabernacle with blood. It is very unlikely, however, that this anointing of “the most holy place” is to be taken literally since the temple was last destroyed in 70 AD and the end of the age is at least two millennia beyond that. On the other hand, if this phrase “the most holy place,” is taken figuratively, which is probably the correct way to understand the phrase, then we would understand it to be referring to the church, as we have seen in Daniel 8. In the previous chapter, we saw that “the holy place” will be “trampled” (8:13) and then “the holy place will be properly restored (8:14).” So now, at the end, the most holy place will be “anointed.” As Moses literally anointed the original “most holy place” with blood to set it apart for holy use (Exodus), so at the time of the end the church will be anointed by the blood of the martyrs (Revelation 6:9-11; other references to the shedding of blood of the saints of the church at the end.).
9:25 – The “decree,” seven weeks and sixty-two weeks, and the Messiah
There are several interpretive difficulties in this verse. What is this “decree” that is issued at the appointed time? What are the seven weeks and what are the sixty-two weeks? Is it necessary to understand the seven weeks and the sixty-two weeks separately, or can we be satisfied with understanding the total sixty-nine weeks?
At the risk of missing some vital detail, I would say that knowing or not knowing precisely what “the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” is does not materially change the meaning of the verse. Likewise, knowing what exactly “the seven weeks” is and what exactly “the sixty-two weeks” is does not really matter. This verse states that after “the decree,” there will be a total of sixty-nine “weeks” “until Messiah the Prince,” during which Jerusalem will be rebuilt. This is all the information we need to understand this verse.
The interpretation, then, is this: At some point after the giving of this vision, there will be a decree issued, presumably by a powerful king or ruler, to rebuild and restore the city of Jerusalem in Judah. After the issuing of that decree, there will be “sixty-nine weeks” (69 x 7 is 483 years, but the “sixty-nine weeks” could be anything between, say, 460-500 years) until Messiah. This is certainly prophesying the Incarnation, although it is not clear whether this would correspond to Jesus’ birth or His death. Why does Gabriel present the sixty-nine weeks as “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks?” I have no idea, but he does.
9:26 – “The Messiah is cut off” and “the prince who is to come”
Thinking about this verse in light of other apocalyptic passages allows the interpretation to be straightforward. “The Messiah is cut off” refers to the crucifixion of Jesus. (The resurrection is not mentioned.) “The prince who is to come” refers to Satan, who is “the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4)” and “the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2).” Also, “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” who was withstanding the mighty angel in Daniel 10:13 is almost certainly a description of Satan. “The people of the prince” speaks of the Roman forces under Titus who, under the control of Satan “the prince,” destroyed Jerusalem and the temple (sanctuary) in 70 AD. After that event, “even to the end war will be decreed for desolations.” This prophecy of ongoing wars agrees with what Jesus said in Matthew 24:6, when He said, “You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. Those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.” In other words, wars will be commonplace on this fallen world all the way up to the end. The second seal of Revelation 6:4 also supports this idea: “A red horse went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth.”
IMPLICATIONS OF THIS INTERPRETATION
If this interpretation of this verse is correct, then we have used up sixty-nine of our seventy weeks and are in the late First Century after the Messiah has been crucified (“made atonement for iniquity”) and resurrected, after the gospel commission has been issued by the risen Lord Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20; etc.), and after Jerusalem and the temple have been utterly destroyed (70 AD). In terms of redemptive events, there only remains the return of the glorified Lord Jesus for the final defeat of Satan and the glorification of all His holy ones. All “vision and prophecy (9:24)” has been fulfilled, except the prophecies about Christ’s return and God’s final judgment. In God’s redemptive plan, what remains undone? There yet remains “to finish the transgression,” “to make an end of sin,” “to bring in everlasting righteousness,” and “to anoint the most holy place.” According to Daniel 9:24 (see above), all these events were to be accomplished in the “seventy weeks.” But now we have used up sixty-nine weeks, and we have but one week left. Remembering that a “week” represents a block of seven years, we would anticipate an intense period of approximately seven years when all these remaining prophesied events would be accomplished.
Does the seventieth week need to be contiguous with the sixty-nine weeks? There is no reason that I can think of that necessitates contiguity. In fact, it is impossible that the seventieth week would follow right after the sixty-nine, because in redemptive history there was a long gospel age that followed the accomplishments of the sixty-nine weeks. Once “Messiah was cut off,” the harvesting of the elect through the preaching of the gospel had to follow. So far, that harvest has lasted almost 2,000 years. So, the seventieth week does not need to be contiguous with the sixty-nine weeks.
WHAT FOLLOWS DANIEL 9:26?
After all the events of Daniel 9:25-26, we would anticipate that 9:27 would be an intense period of approximately seven years when all these remaining prophesied events would be accomplished, and that is (almost) what we find.
9:27 – A firm covenant, stop the sacrifice, abomination of desolation
As we begin exegeting Daniel 9:27, the first question we need to answer is, “Who is the ‘he’ of this verse?” Perhaps the first place we would look is back to the previous verse where we find the nearest reference, “the prince who is to come.” Our interpretation of 9:26 revealed that this prince is Satan. It was Satan who controlled the Roman general Titus to cruelly destroy Jerusalem and the temple. In 9:26, we saw that General Titus was one of the people of the prince. So, is the “he” in 9:27 referring to Satan? No. While this interpretation works grammatically, it will not work exegetically. Why not? Ever since his curse in the Garden of Eden, Satan has worked behind the scenes through “his people (9:26).” By contrast, the “he” in 9:27 works directly with people. “He” is out in the open, a man, a human being. This would suggest that “he” is the same person as “the little horn” of Daniel 7 and “the small horn” of Daniel 8. It is also observed that “the small horn” of Daniel 8 “removed the regular sacrifice (8:11),” and now in this verse “he” will “put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering (9:27).” This would suggest that the same person does this activity, and that person is the antichrist/man of lawlessness/beast. The “he” in 9:27, then, is actually a pronoun without a reference in this verse, for it does not refer directly to the “prince who is to come” in 9:26, who is Satan, but it refers to one who speaks and acts with all the authority of Satan (Revelation 13:2, 4; 2 Thessalonians 2:9).
Next, there is the matter of the “firm covenant.” What is this “firm covenant?” I cannot discern what it is from Scripture, but whatever it is does not appear significant. What is significant is that the duration of the “firm covenant” is for one week, which signals that we are now in the seventieth week.
“He” makes a firm covenant for “one week.” Since a “week” is approximately seven years or 84 months, when we reach the “middle of the week (9:27),” the time remaining is 42 months, or “time, times, and half a time (Daniel 7:25),” or 1,260 days. These three expressions appear in Revelation 11, 12, and 13 and are explicit interpretive clues linking Daniel 9:27 to other passages elsewhere in Scripture where “42 months” appears.
SUMMARY TO THIS POINT
We now know that the one who is acting in Daniel 9:27 is the same person as the little horn (Daniel 7) and the small horn (Daniel 8), and who is elsewhere in Scripture called “the beast” or “the antichrist” or “the man of lawlessness.” The “intense period of seven years” that we had anticipated would be for accomplishing all the remaining prophesied events (9:24 and above for 9:26) has been compressed into 42 months (half a “week”), and the context of this verse is the same as the context for the other passages that take place during “the 42 months.”
The rest of the verse is difficult to interpret in detail but yields to a high-level understanding. “On the wing of abominations” suggests that “he” is defying all moral law and is proclaiming outrageous blasphemies as “he” intentionally produces widespread ruin and devastation and chaos. “He” does this until “he” is suddenly annihilated according to a destruction that is decreed. If this interpretation is correct, it agrees with Scripture about the rise and destruction of the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thessalonians 2, and with Scripture about the beast and the dragon in Revelation 13, 16, and 20, and with earlier passages in Daniel 7 and Daniel 8 describing the little horn and the small horn.
SDG rmb 9/18/2020