‘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 9.2
For almost all his life Daniel had lived as a captive in Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple in 597 BC. By the time he received this prophecy he was an old man. He knew from the prophecies of Jeremiah that 70 years of ‘desolations of Jerusalem’ spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet were coming to an end (Jeremiah 25.11-12, 29.11), and it was time for God to restore the Jewish people to their land and the Temple.
So he made a prayer of confession of Israel’s sin in line with the words in the Torah in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 and 30. He asked God to forgive and to restore Jerusalem and ‘Your sanctuary which is desolate’ (i.e. the Temple) and to do this for the sake of ‘Your city and Your people are called by Your name.’ Daniel 9.16-19.
God’s response to Daniel’s prayer was to send the angel Gabriel with the ‘Seventy weeks of years’ prophecy: ‘Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.’ Daniel 9.24-27.
The subject of the prophecy is ‘your people’ (the Jewish people) and ‘your holy city’ (Jerusalem). By the time of its completion verse 24 tells us that this is what will be accomplished:
- Finishing transgression and making an end of sins.
- Making reconciliation for iniquity and bringing in everlasting righteousness.
- Sealing up the vision and prophecy and anointing the Holy of Holies.
At a specific point, which comes before the end of the 69 week of this prophecy, it is stated that ‘Messiah shall be cut off but not for himself.’ After this the ‘city’ (Jerusalem) and ‘the sanctuary’ (the Temple) will be destroyed. At the time when Daniel received this prophecy the Temple site was a ruin. Now he was hearing that there would be a Second Temple built on this site, but this Temple would also be destroyed as the First Temple had been. The fulfilment of this prophecy was the destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 AD. Some time before this event, Messiah would come and ‘be cut off.’ Who could this be?
Orthodox Jews are actively discouraged from looking for an answer to this question. In his book ‘What the Rabbis know about the Messiah’ Rachmiel Frydland describes how he was raised as a religious Jew in Poland before the war: ‘I knew that the secrets of Israel’s redemption and the Messianic Days lay hidden in the book of Daniel. I also knew that some of the great Talmudic and post-Talmudic Rabbis had plunged into the study of this book and even plummeted the hidden secrets of its symbolic signs and ciphers. The Talmud and Midrash, discussing Israel’s redemption often refer to the book of Daniel as the revealer of the secret time of Messiah’s coming. However at the yeshiva I was ominously reminded of a warning and a curse pronounced against those who try to figure out the end. The Talmud says: ‘May they drop who try to figure out the end; for they say, ‘Since the time of his (Messiah’s) coming has already arrived, yet he did not come. Therefore he will not come at all’’. (Sanhedrin 97b).
He goes on to say: ‘The study of our greatest sages brought them to the conclusion that if the dates in the Scriptures are correct, the Messiah should have come in the first century of our era, or thereabouts. In a Talmudic portion it is written concerning the timing of the Messianic Age: ‘The school of Elijah taught: The world is to be for six thousand years; two thousand years without Torah; two thousand years with Torah and two thousand years Messianic times (Midrash Rabba Gen.98.3).’ According to these dates Jewish writings confirm that the Messiah should have already come.
Jewish commentators often say that the word Messiah (Hebrew ‘mashiach’) means ‘anointed one’ and can be used of kings or the High Priest. On this basis the Jewish Publication Society puts forward the view that the ‘Anointed One’ is the high priest Onians III who died in 171 B.C. However this person and date has no connection to the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. The famous Jewish commentator Rashi wrote that the ‘Anointed One’ was Agrippa II, the son of Herod Agrippa, whose death is described in Acts 12.20-23. Agrippa was the nominal king of Judah (A.D. 27- 93), but was in league with Romans, spent much of his time in Rome and was despised by the Jews. He helped the Romans and their general Titus conquer Jerusalem and lived another 23 years after the fall of Jerusalem, which completely disqualifies him from having anything to do with this prophecy.
What date and person does Daniel’s prophecy point to?
There is a much more obvious candidate for fulfilling this prophecy who came at the right time and did exactly what the prophecy says he would do – Yeshua / Jesus of Nazareth.
In this prophecy a ‘week’ is a 7 year period, as we see in Genesis 29.27-8 where the period Jacob worked for Rachel is described as a ‘week.’ The peoples of the ancient world calculated a year for the purposes of their festivals as a period of 12 x 30 days (360 days). In Daniel 9 the period of 70 x 7 years is divided into 3 sections, 7 + 62 + 1. The one identified as moshiach / Messiah would come at the end of the 69 th week (i.e. 7+62). Following this there would be the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and an unspecified length of time during with there would be wars and desolation. This would be followed by the 70 th week of the prophecy which would bring about the ‘consummation’, the completion of all that is described in verse 24.
At the time this prophecy was received, the city of Jerusalem was in ruins, but it was going to be rebuilt. In verse 25 we read of ‘the going forth of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem’ with a reference to the ‘street’ and the ‘wall’. Nehemiah 2.8 describes the decree to rebuild the walls of the city in ‘the month of Nisan in 20 th year of Artaxerxes’. In his book ‘The Coming Prince’, Sir Robert Anderson fixed this date as March 14, 445 BC and calculated the date from there to ‘Messiah the Prince’ as 7+62x7x360 = 173,880 days.
He worked out the date of the birth of Jesus as the autumn of 4BC. Based on Luke 3, which tells us that Jesus began His ministry in 15 year of Tiberius Caesar when He was ‘about 30 years old’, he calculates the beginning of Jesus’ ministry to be August AD 28 and fixes AD 32 as the year of the crucifixion.
The phrase ‘Messiah the Prince’ (or Messiah the King – Meshiach Nagid) relates to the claim of Messiah to the throne of David. Jesus never made this claim publicly during His ministry until the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9.9: ‘See your king coming to you … just and having salvation (Yeshua), lowly and riding on a donkey.’ On this event the crowds said ‘Hosanna (Hebrew ‘hoshienu’ – Lord save us) to the Son of David’ ‘Blessed be the King who comes in the name of the Lord’ (Matthew 21.15, Luke 19.38). These words point to Jesus being the promised Messianic King.
Jesus refuses the Pharisees’ request, ‘Rebuke your disciples’ saying ‘I tell you if these should keep silent the stones would immediately cry out.’ Luke 19 39-40. He was saying here that He is the King coming in the name of the Lord of the line of David. This was the revelation of Messiah the Prince.
We can work out from the Gospels (John 12.1-12) that the Triumphal Entry took place on the 10 Nisan according to the Jewish calendar. Exodus 12.3 tells us that the Passover Lamb was to be taken on 10 Nisan to be tested to see if it was perfect, before being slain on 14 Nisan. In ‘The Coming Prince’ Sir Robert Anderson works out the interval between the decree of Artaxerxes and the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem: ‘The Julian date of the 10 Nisan was 6 April AD 32. What was the length of the period intervening between the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and the public advent of ‘Messiah the Prince’ – between the 14th March BC445 and the 6 th April AD 32? THE INTERVAL CONTAINED EXACTLY AND TO THE VERY DAY 173880 DAYS, OR SEVEN TIMES SIXTY-NINE PROPEHTIC YEARS OF 360 DAYS, the first sixty-nine weeks of Gabriel’s prophecy.’ (The Coming Prince page 127-8).
On this occasion Jesus did not come to rule and reign as King David reigned. Psalm 118 shows that following the Messiah being greeted with the words ‘Hosanna,’ ‘Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord’ (Psalm 118.25-6), He would be bound with cords as a sacrifice (Psalm 118.27). Daniel 9.26 confirms this.
In Daniel 9.26 we read that after the 62 nd week Messiah shall be cut off (Hebrew ‘karath’). The most common use of this word is of those who are cut off from Israel as a judgement for sin (Exodus 12.15, Leviticus 18.29, Numbers 15.30). The prophecy goes on to say that Messiah would be ‘cut off’, but ‘not for himself’ (Hebrew ve’ein lo). The Hebrew has a double meaning ‘not for himself’ (Authorised Version translation) or ‘shall have nothing’ (NIV translation). Both apply to Jesus. He was cut off / suffered as a judgement for sin not as a result of his own sins, but the sins of others, fulfilling Isaiah 53.6: ‘All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’ In the Hebrew prophets there are two sets of prophecies about the Messiah. One set shows him as the Suffering Servant and the other set as the Reigning King. On the occasion of His first coming, Jesus would fulfil the prophecies of the Suffering Servant, not those of the Reigning King.
As a result of this He had no visible kingdom – i.e. He did not rule from David’s throne in Jerusalem. Contrary to Jewish Messianic hopes, the Messiah would not defeat Israel’s enemies, bring in the age of world peace and govern the world from Jerusalem at this time. Instead He would be put to death and rise from the dead. He would give forgiveness of sin and eternal life to all who call on his name for salvation. This is the meaning of Isaiah 53 where we read that after the Servant of the Lord (the Messiah) has been ‘cut off from the land of the living’ (verse 8) He will ‘see his seed’ and ‘prolong his days’ (verse 10). He will then ‘see the labour of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities’ (verse 11).
According to Daniel’s prophecy, Messiah being ‘cut off’ would be followed by the destruction of the city and the sanctuary (Jerusalem and the Temple). Jesus prophesied this also in Luke 19.41-44, 21.20-24: ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.’ Jesus said Jerusalem would be ‘trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled’ – i.e. the end of Gentile domination which takes place when the stone smites the image of Daniel 2.44-5 at the second coming of Messiah.
During this time Israel would be set aside as far as the salvation purposes of God are concerned and would endure a long unspecified time without a king or a priest or revelation from the Lord: ‘For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim.’ (Hosea 3.4, see also Isaiah 29.9-13). Nevertheless this time would come to an end and God would again turn to Israel revealing the Messiah in the latter days: ‘Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days.’ (Hosea 3.5). The New Testament shows that in dispersion the Jewish people would remain a people and in the purposes of God would come to salvation in the last days of this age (Romans 9-11).
The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple following Messiah’s first coming would take place at the hands of the ‘people of the prince to come’. The prince to come is the same figure as the ‘little horn,’ which comes out of the fourth beast (Rome) in Daniel 7.7- 8, 19-28. In the Book of Revelation he is revealed as the beast / Man of Sin or Antichrist.
The people who destroyed the city and the sanctuary were the Romans. Therefore there is a connection between the coming Antichrist and a revived Roman Empire. The destruction of the Temple will be accompanied by a flood (a figure often used in prophecy for an invasion) and wars and desolations. Jesus warned that the age following His first coming would be characterised by ‘wars and rumours of wars’ (Matthew 24.6), the opposite of the hoped for age of peace. It would reach its climax with the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place spoken of by Daniel (Matthew 24.15). Therefore Daniel tells us that the period which comes after the conclusion of the 69 the week will be an indeterminate one characterised by wars and the desolation of Jerusalem.
So what about the 70th week and the period in between the end of the 69th week and the 70th week? The intervening age begins with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Jewish festival of Shavuoth, 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus. It ends with the rapture of the church as described in 1 Thessalonians 4: ‘For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.’ This means that it covers the present age in which the true church of Jesus the Messiah brings the message of salvation to the world.
Following this period the focus of God’s redemptive purpose will go back to Israel and the final 7 year period of the 70th week will begin. Israel will make a covenant with the ‘prince to come’ who is the Antichrist. It is most likely that this will be a peace treaty which gives a promise of deliverance from the threat of destruction but turns out to be a ‘covenant with death’ (Isaiah 28.13-22) and leads to ‘the time of Jacob’s trouble’ (Jeremiah 30) or the ‘great tribulation’ described by Jesus in Matthew 24.15-31. The climax of this period will be the second coming of Jesus as the reigning king Messiah when He will cause all the things described in Daniel 9.24 to be fulfilled.