The resemblance between Daniel’s prayer and those recorded in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Baruch will appear more distinctly from the following table:—
The resemblance is due to the fact that most of the corresponding thoughts are taken from earlier works, such as the Law of Moses, or prophetical writings. It will be observed that this similarity can be traced chiefly in Daniel 9:4-9; Daniel 9:13-19. The language, however, is very general, and can be traced for the most part to earlier sources. A short analysis of the prayers of Ezra and Nehemiah shows that the similarity of the prayers is less striking than appears at first sight. Ezra confesses the sins of the congregation from the early period of Israel’s history down to his own time; he blesses God for allowing a remnant to escape, he then confesses the special sin of which the nation was guilty at that time, and acknowledges that neither he nor his people are able to stand before God. Not once in the course of his prayer does he ask for forgiveness. Nehemiah, after thanking God for His mercies, using the language of Psalmists, proceeds to bless God for the mercies which He has showered upon his people in spite of their frequent relapses into sin. He frequently contrasts the righteousness of God with the guiltiness of the nation, and, like Ezra, does not pray for forgiveness or to be delivered from bondage. But Daniel’s prayer is just the reverse. Not only does he pray for the pardon and deliverance of his people, but he concludes with a petition that he himself may be heard (Daniel 9:17-18). It is therefore unreasonable to suppose that Daniel’s prayer should have been founded upon the model of the prayers of Ezra and Nehemiah. Still more improbable is the hypothesis that it was curtailed from the prayer of Baruch. The date of the book of Baruch is almost universally acknowledged to be late, and the prayer contained in it depends as much upon the book of Nehemiah as it does upon Daniel.
Daniel 9:1In 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;IX.
(1) On Darius the Mede see Excursus D.
Was made king.—The phrase corresponds with “took the kingdom” (Daniel 5:31), and shows that Darius was not king by his own right, but that he received his authority from another—i.e., Cyrus.
Seventy years.—It appears from Haggai 1:2, Zechariah 1:12, that considerable uncertainty prevailed as to the time whence the seventy years were to be reckoned. It has been pointed out (Professor Leathes’ Old Testament Prophecy, p. 179) that three periods of seventy years occur in connection with the Captivity:—(1) from B.C. 606, the date of Jeremiah’s prophecy, to B.C. 536, the edict of Cyrus; (2) from B.C. 598, Jehoiachin’s captivity, to B.C. 528, the period of Ezra 4:6; (3) from B.C. 588, the destruction of the Temple, to B.C. 518, the edict of Darius (Ezra 6:1). In the first year of Cyrus, seventy years had elapsed since the captivity of Daniel, but to him it was a question of melancholy importance whether his computation had begun at the right date.
All the countries.—See Isaiah 11:11-12. In the midst of his sorrow for the past, the mind of the prophet recurs unconsciously to the great promise of future deliverance by “the root of Jesse.”
For the Lord’s sake.—Comp. Daniel 9:19, “because Thou art the Lord.” Never does prayer rise higher, than when the soul humbly appeals to God as the sovereign lord of all, and patiently waits for Him to do as He pleases. (Comp. Psalm 44:9-26.)
Touched me.—Literally, reached me. (Comp. this use of the word, Jonah 3:6.) The time of the evening sacrifice Isaiah 3 P.M., being the hour of evening prayer. (See Exodus 29:39; Numbers 28:4.)
Are determined.—The word only occurs in this passage. Theod. translates συνετμήθησαν; LXX., ἐκρίθησαν; Jer. “abbreviatœ sunt.” In Chaldee the word means “to cut,” and in that sense “to determine.”
The object “determined” is twofold: (1) transgression and sin; (2) reconciliation and righteousness.
To finish.—The Hebrew margin gives an alternative rendering, “to restrain,” according to which the meaning is “to hold sin back” and to “prevent it from spreading.” If this reading is adopted it will be parallel to the second marginal alternative, “to seal up,” which also implies that the iniquity can no more increase. Although the alternative readings may be most in accordance with the Babylonian idea of “sealing sins,” the presence of the word “to seal” in the last clause of the verse makes it more probable that the marginal readings are due to the conjectures of some early critics, than that they once stood in the text. However, it must be observed that while St. Jerome translates the passage “ut consummetur prœvaricatio, et finem habeat peccatum,” Theodotion supports the marginal reading “to seal.”
To make reconciliation—i.e., atonement. (Comp. Proverbs 16:6; Isaiah 6:7; Isaiah 27:9; Psalm 78:38.) The two former clauses show that during the seventy weeks sin will cease. The prophet now brings out another side of the subject. There will be abundance of forgiveness in store for those who are willing to receive it.
Everlasting righteousness.—A phrase not occurring elsewhere. The prophet seems to be combining the notions of “righteousness” and “eternity,” which elsewhere are characteristics of Messianic prophecy. (Isaiah 46:13; Isaiah 51:5-8; Psalm 89:36; Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:18; Daniel 7:27.)
To Seal Up.—σϕραγίσαι, Theod.; συντελεσθῆναι, LXX.; impleatur, Jer.; the impression of the translators being that all visions and prophecies were to receive their complete fulfilment in the course of these seventy weeks. It appears, however, to be more agreeable to the context to suppose that the prophet is speaking of the absolute cessation of all prophecy. (Comp. 1 Corinthians 13:8.)
To anoint the most Holy.—The meaning of the sentence depends upon the interpretation of the words “Most Holy” or “Holy of Holies.” In Scripture they are used of (1) the altar (Exodus 29:37); (2) the atonement (Exodus 30:10); (3) the tabernacle and the sacred furniture (Exodus 30:29); (4) the sacred perfume (Exodus 30:36); (5) the remnant of the meat offering (Leviticus 2:3; Leviticus 2:10); (6) all that touch the offerings made by fire (Leviticus 6:18); (7) the sin offering (Leviticus 10:17); (8) the trespass offering (Leviticus 14:13); (9) the shewbread (Leviticus 24:9); (10) things devoted (Leviticus 27:28); (11) various offerings (Numbers 18:9); (12) the temple service and articles connected with it, or perhaps Aaron (1 Chronicles 23:13); (13) the limits of the new temple (Ezekiel 43:12); (14) the sanctuary of the new temple (Ezekiel 45:3); (15) the territory set apart for the sons of Zadok (Ezekiel 48:2). Which of these significations is to be here adopted can only be discovered by the context. Now from the careful manner in which this and the following verse are connected by the words “Know therefore,” it appears that the words “most Holy” are parallel to “Messiah the Prince” (Daniel 9:25), and that they indicate a person. (See Leviticus 6:18; 1 Chronicles 23:13.) This was the opinion of the Syriac translator, who renders the words “Messiah the most Holy,” and of the LXX. εὐϕρᾶναι ἃγιον ἁγίων, on which it has been remarked that εὐϕρᾶναι would have no meaning if applied to a place, and the phrase employed in this version for the sanctuary is invariably τὸ ἃγιον τῶν ἁγίων. Any reference to Zerubbabel’s temple, or to the dedication of the temple by Judas Maccabæus, is opposed to the context.
EXCURSUS G: THE SEVENTY WEEKS (Daniel 9:24).
It may be questioned in what way this prophecy presents any meaning to those who follow the punctuation of the Hebrew text, and put the principal stop in Daniel 9:25 after “seven weeks,” instead of after “three score and two weeks.” The translation would be as follows, “From the going out . . . until Messiah the prince shall be seven weeks; and during sixty-two weeks the city shall be rebuilt . . . and after sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off” . . . This can only be explained upon the hypothesis that the word “week” is used in an indefinite sense to mean a period. The sense is then as follows:—The period from the command of Cyrus or of Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem, down to the time of Messiah, consisted of seven such weeks; during the sixty-two weeks that followed the kingdom of Messiah is to be established amidst much persecution. During the last week the persecution will be so intense that Messiah may be said to be annihilated by it, His kingdom on earth being destroyed. At the end of the last week the Antichristian prince who organises the persecution is himself exterminated, and destroyed in the final judgment.
According to this view the seventy weeks occupy the whole period that intervenes between the times of Cyrus or Artaxerxes and the last judgment. The principal objection to it is that it gives no explanation of the numbers “seven” and “sixty-two,” which seem to have been chosen for some particular purpose. Nor does it furnish any reason for the choice of the word “weeks” instead of “times” or “seasons,” either of which words would have equally served the same indefinite purpose.
The traditional interpretation follows the punctuation of Theodotion, which St. Jerome also adopted, and reckons the seventy weeks from B.C. 458, the twentieth year of Artaxerxes. From this date, measuring seven weeks of years—that is, forty-nine years—we are brought to the date B.C. 409. It is predicted that during this period the walls of Jerusalem and the city itself should be rebuilt, though in troublous times. It must be remembered that very little is known of Jewish history during the times after Ezra and Nehemiah. The latest date given in Nehemiah is the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes, or B.C. 446. It is highly probable that the city was not completely restored till nearly forty years later. Reckoning from B.C. 409 sixty-two weeks or 434 years, we are brought to A.D. 25, the year when our Saviour began His ministry. After three and a half years, or in the “midst of a week,” he was cut off. The seventy weeks end in A.D. 32, which is said to be the end of the second probation of Israel after rejecting the Messiah. The agreement between the dates furnished by history and prediction is very striking, and the general expectation that there prevailed about the appearance of a Messiah at the time of our Saviour’s first advent points to the antiquity as well as to the accuracy of the interpretation. However, the explanation of the latter half of the seven weeks is not satisfactory. We have no chronological account of events which occurred shortly after the Ascension, and there are no facts stated in the New Testament that lead us to suppose that Israel should have three and a half years’ probation after the rejection of the Messiah.
The modern explanation adheres in part to the Masoretic text, and regards the sixty-two year-weeks as beginning in B.C. 604. Reckoning onwards 434 years, we are brought to the year B.C. 170, in which Antiochus plundered the Temple and massacred 40,000 Jews. Onias III., the anointed prince, was murdered B.C. 176, just before the close of this period; and from the attack upon the Temple to the death of Antiochus, B.C. 164. was seven years, or one week, in the midst of which, B.C. 167, the offering was abolished, and the idolatrous altar erected in the Temple. The seven weeks are then calculated onwards from B.C. 166, and are stated to mean an indefinite period expressed by a round number, during which Jerusalem was rebuilt after its defilement by Antiochus. This explanation is highly unsatisfactory. It not only inverts the order of the weeks, but arbitrarily uses the word week in a double sense, in a definite and in an indefinite sense at once. There is still a graver objection to assuming that the starting point of the seventy weeks is the year B.C. 604. No command to rebuild Jerusalem had then gone forth.
The commandment.—To be explained, as in Daniel 9:23, to mean revelation. But to what revelation is the allusion? Is it to the edict of Cyrus (Ezra 6:14), which Isaiah predicts (Isaiah 44:28)? Or are we to explain it of what happened in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes? (See Excursus G.) It is obvious that there is no reference to Jeremiah’s prophecy, for nothing is there stated which can be interpreted to be a command to rebuild Jerusalem.
Messiah the Prince.—Literally, an Anointed one, a prince, the two nouns being placed in apposition, and the article omitted before each, the person and the office of the person contemplated being sufficiently definite. He is to be “anointed,” that is, King and Priest at once (see 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 13:14; 1 Samuel 25:30); in fact, He is to possess those attributes which in other passages are ascribed to the Messiah. It is needless to point out that Cyrus, though spoken of (Isaiah 45:1) as an “anointed of Jehovah,” cannot be indicated here. By no calculation can he be said to have come either seven weeks or, sixty-nine weeks from the time of the commencement of the Captivity.
The street . . . the wall.—By the street is meant the large square, which, according to Ezra 10:9, was in front of the Temple. With this the “wall” is contrasted, but what is meant cannot be ascertained. According to the etymology, it means “something cut off.” The English Version follows the ancient translations.
In troublous times.—The whole history of the rebuilding of Jerusalem tells us one long tale of protracted opposition. Zerubbabel was compelled to undergo the persecution of his adversaries, and to bear their misrepresentations (Ezra 4:1-6). Attempts to delay the works were made in the reign of Darius (Ezra 5:6). In later times (Ezra 4:12) complaints were made that the walls were being rebuilt. Probably on this occasion the works that had been executed were destroyed (Nehemiah 1:3), and it was not until the twentieth year of Artaxerxes that Nehemiah succeeded in completing the walls, and not even then without the most indefatigable labours.
But not for himself.—On the marginal rendering comp. John 14:30. Literally the words mean, and He has not, but what it is that He loses is left indefinite. Taking the sense according to the context, the meaning is either that He has no more a people, or that His office of Messiah amongst His people ceases.
That shall come.—These words imply coming with hostile intent, as Daniel 1:1; Daniel 11:10. Two such princes have been already mentioned (Daniel 7:23, &c., Daniel 8:23, &c.), the one being Antiochus, the other his great antitype, namely, Antichrist. Are we to identify this “prince” with either of these? Apparently not. Another typical prince is here introduced to our notice, who shall destroy the city and the sanctuary after the “cutting off” or rejection of the Messiah. But it must be noticed that the work of destruction is here attributed to the “people,” and not to the “prince.”
The end thereof.—It is not clear what end or whose end is signified. According to grammatical rules, the possessive pronoun may either refer to “sanctuary, the last substantive, or to “prince,” the chief nominative in the sentence. The use of the word “flood” (Daniel 11:22) (comp. “overflow,” Daniel 11:26) makes it, at first sight, more plausible to think of the end of a person than of a thing. (Comp. also Nahum 1:8.) But upon comparing this clause with the following, it appears that by “the end” is meant the whole issue of the invasion. This is stated to be desolation, such as is caused by a deluge.
Unto the end.—That is, until the end of the seventy weeks, desolations are decreed. The words recall Isaiah 10:22-23.
In the midst of the week.—Or, during half the week (the latter half of the week, according to the LXX.), he will cause to cease all the Mosaic sacrifices (possibly those mentioned in Daniel 8:11), whether bloody or unbloody. The verb “cause to cease” is used here as in Jeremiah 36:29.
And for the overspreading . . .—The Greek versions agree in translating this as follows, καὶ ἐπὶ τὸ ἱερὸν βδελυγμα τῶν ἐρημώσεων, which St. Jerome follows, “et erit in templo abominatio desolationis. However, it is not possible to obtain any such meaning from our present Hebrew text without omitting the last letter and altering the last vowel of the word translated “abominations.” As the text stands it can be literally translated only as follows, “and upon the wing of abominations is a desolator.” The desolator, of course, is the person who causes the desolations mentioned in Daniel 9:26. But what is meant by the “wing of abominations?” The language is without parallel in the Old Testament, unless such passages as Psalm 18:10; Psalm 104:3 are adduced, where, however, the plural “wings,” and not the singular, is used. If the number is disregarded, the words before us are explained to mean that “the abomination” or idolatry is the power by which the desolator accomplishes his purposes. He comes riding on the wings of abominations, using them for his ministers as God does the winds or the cherubim. As it appears decisive against this interpretation that Daniel has written “wing,” and not “wings,” it is better to explain the words as referring to the “sanctuary” spoken of in the last verse. The sense is in that case, “and upon the wing—i.e., the pinnacle of the abominations (comp. the use of πτερύγιον, Matthew 4:5) is a desolator. The Temple is thus called on account of the extent to which it had been desecrated by Israel.
Until the consummation.—These words refer back to Daniel 9:26, and mean that these abominations will continue till the desolation which God has decreed shall be poured upon that which is desolated. Though the word “desolate” is active in Daniel 8:13; Daniel 12:11, it appears in this passage to be used in a passive sense, as also in Daniel 9:18. That which is foretold by Daniel is the complete and final destruction of the same city and temple which evoked the prophet’s prayer. There is no prophecy that the desolator himself is destined to destruction. Of his doom nothing is here stated. The “prince” appears merely as the instrument pre-ordained by God, by whose people both city and sanctuary are to be destroyed.