Daniel 9:1-27

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The forces under the command of Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon in October of 539 BCE. This date provides a reference point for the first year of the reign of Darius over the realm of the Chaldeans. Darius is identified as the “son of Ahasuerus” (Xerxes [LXX, including P967]) and as a Mede (literally, “seed of the Medes” [also Theodotion]). No extant inscriptions or preserved historical writings dating from before the first century CE make mention of Darius the Mede or his being the “son of Ahasuerus” or “Xerxes.” Writing in the first century CE, Josephus (Antiquities, X, xi, 4) referred to Darius as the son of Astyages. Both Herodotus (I, 107, 108) and Xenophon (Cyropaedia, (I, ii, 1) identified Cyrus as the son of the Persian king Cambyses and Mandane, the daughter of Astyages. This would mean that Cyrus was the grandson of Astyages and that Darius the Mede was his uncle. Drawing on the sources available to him in the fourth century CE, Jerome, in his commentary on Daniel, concluded that Darius the Mede was the uncle of Cyrus. (9:1)

Based on the “word of YHWH to Jeremiah the prophet,” Daniel discerned that the “desolations [reproach (LXX); desolation (Theodotion)] of Jerusalem” would end after “seventy years.” It was then the first year of the rule of Darius the Mede or after the fall of Babylon in October of 539 BCE. (9:2; see the Notes section.)

The period of “seventy years” is mentioned three times in the book of Jeremiah. During the fourth year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah and the first year of the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Jeremiah foretold that Nebuchadnezzar and his forces would come against the land of Judah and against all the surrounding nations. He would then desolate the whole land of Judah, and “these nations” would “serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” At the end of the “seventy years,” YHWH would punish the “king of Babylon and his nation,” and the land of the Babylonians would be desolated, indicating that Babylon would be conquered. (Jeremiah 25:1, 8-12) Based on the context, the reference in the Masoretic Text to “these nations” is to the nations surrounding the land of Judah and included the regions of Egypt, Philistia, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Phoenicia. (Jeremiah 25:9, 17-22) In Jeremiah 25:11, the extant text of the Septuagint, however, does not say that “these nations” would serve the king of Babylon but indicates that the people of Judah would “serve among the nations.” (9:2)

After King Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, along with many others from his realm were taken into Babylonian exile in the seventh year of King Nebuchadnezzar (according to a cuneiform tablet [British Museum 21946] but the eighth year according to Jewish reckoning [2 Kings 24:12]), Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon. Jeremiah told them that they would be able to return to their own land after “seventy years” were fulfilled for Babylon. As they were then in servitude to the king of Babylon, the exiles would have understood that the “seventy years” had already started. (Jeremiah 29:10) If the years of servitude to the king of Babyhlon are reckoned from the time that Babylon became the dominant power in the region, this would have been when Nebuchadnezzar, in the final year of the reign of his Father Nabopolassar, defeated the Egyptians at the battle of Carchemish. (British Museum 21946; Jeremiah 46:2) Ancient extant sources indicate that between the start of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign until the forces under the command of Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon was a period of about 67 years, which brings the number of years close to 70 for the period of servitude to Babylon. (9:2; see the Notes section for details.)

His reading the words of Jeremiah would have reminded Daniel that calamity had befallen the people of Jerusalem and the land of Judah because of their unfaithfulness to YHWH. What he read, including the divine promise about the return of the Israelites to their land, appears to have moved him to turn to YHWH in prayer, to fast, and to put on sackcloth. The expression about “giving” his “face to the Lord God” (also LXX and Theodotion) doubtless included turning his face in the direction of Jerusalem, the place where YHWH’s temple or representative place of dwelling had been. (9:3; see 6:11.)

The reference to Daniel’s “seeking” God by “prayer and supplications” could have included his fervent appealing for a divine revelation that would clarify what he had read and what had subsequently come to occupy his thoughts. This aspect is suggested by the fact that, in response to his prayer, he did receive a revelation conveyed to him through the angel Gabriel. (9:21-23) Daniel may also have been deeply concerned that fellow Israelites might not have come to the full realization of the seriousness of their transgressions and might not have prepared themselves in their inmost selves to have YHWH’s favor and mercy extended to them. (9:3)

When seeking YHWH in prayer, Daniel accompanied this with the outward manifestations of repentance. He put on sackcloth (a coarse cloth commonly made of goats’ hair) over his bare skin, probably placed ashes on his head, and fasted. The Septuagint says that, when giving his “face to the Lord God,” Daniel did so “to find prayer and mercy in [by or through] fasting and sackcloth and ashes.” This rendering suggests that Daniel wanted to be in the right condition so as to “find prayer” or to be able to express his prayerful words aright and to be extended mercy or to receive a compassionate response to his supplication. (9:3)

Although speaking of YHWH in a personal way as “my God” (“the God” [LXX, P967]) to whom he prayed, Daniel included himself among his people the Israelites when making confession of transgressions. He acknowledged YHWH as the great God and the one who inspires fear, awe, or reverential regard. The Septuagint rendering also includes “strong” or “mighty” as applying to God. For those who love him and observe his ordinances or his decisions regarding what constitutes conduct that is acceptable to him, he keeps the covenant and shows kindness or compassion (cheséd, [éleos (mercy [LXX, Theodotion]). The covenant God concluded with the nation of Israel indicated that he would aid, protect, and guide them if they proved to be faithful to him. Therefore, for him to keep the covenant would mean that those who were devoted to him would be recipients of his loving care. The Hebrew word cheséd, is descriptive of a compassionate concern that is manifest in positive action and can always be depended upon. (9:4)

Including himself among his people who had made themselves guilty of serious wrongdoing, Daniel confessed, “We have sinned and committed wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled,” turning aside from “your commandments and your ordinances.” Instead of living up to the commands included in the law that the Israelites had been given at Mount Sinai and adhering to the divine decisions respecting acceptable conduct, the people turned aside from living up to the divine requirements, sinning seriously or missing the mark of moral rectitude that God required of his people. The gravity of the sin is emphasized through the use of differed verbs that designate wrongdoing. (9:5)

To the “kings” of Daniel’s people, to their “princes,” to their “fathers” or ancestors, and to “all the people of the earth” or “land” (“every nation on the earth” [LXX]). God had sent his “servants the prophets” who spoke in his “name” or as his direct representatives. The prophets announced what God required of the people and called upon them to repent and to change their ways. Whether they were kings or others in high station or persons among the lowliest ones of the people, all had been given an opportunity to hear. But as Daniel acknowledged regarding the people to whom he belonged, “We have not listened.” They paid no attention to YHWH’s word or message conveyed through his prophets. (9:6)

Daniel attributed “righteousness” to God, for the Most High is just in all his dealings. This included his withdrawing his protection and blessing from his wayward people. When forced to experience conquest and exile, they came to have “shame of face” as persons who had been humiliated and disgraced. At that very “day” or time, this was the shame of the “men” or people “of Judah,” the “inhabitants of Jerusalem,” and “all Israel” (Israelites from the former kingdom of Israel), “those nearby and those far away in all the lands” to which God had “cast them out” or permitted them to be scattered. The reason for the calamity was their having been unfaithful to him as the God to whom they should have been devoted. (9:7)

Daniel again acknowledged in prayer, “To us [belongs] shame of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers [ancestors].” The reason for the disgrace and humiliation was their having sinned against YHWH, seriously straying from the kind of upright conduct that he required from them as his people. (9:8)

“Mercy and forgiveness” (“righteousness and mercy” [LXX]) belong to God from the standpoint that he is the one who extends mercy or compassion and forgiveness to those who repentantly turn to him. His “righteousness” or justice is revealed in his impartial dealing at all times. Since the people had “rebelled against him,” they were in need of his mercy and forgiveness. (9:9)

“We [Israelites] have not listened to” or obeyed the “voice of YHWH our God.” The evidence that they had not obeyed was their failure to follow the laws he had set before their “faces” or before them, having done so “by the hand of” or by means of his “servants the prophets.” According to the Septuagint, God gave or set the law “before Moses and us” (Israelites) through [his] servants the prophets.” This is an unusual rendering, as the prophets were not involved in the giving of the law in the time of Moses. The role of Moses was that of mediator and prophet. (9:10)

“All Israel” had become guilty of transgressing God’s law. Instead of responding obediently, the people turned aside from listening to his voice. Because they had sinned against him, YHWH “poured out” the curse on the people and made them experience the fulfillment of the sworn oath contained in “the law of Moses the servant of God.” The “sworn oath” was a solemn declaration that calamities would befall the Israelites if they failed to observe the divine commands they had been given. Their suffering during the time of siege and conquest and exile proved to be like a curse that enveloped them as if it had been poured out upon them. (9:11; see Leviticus 26:14-45 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68; 29:14-21 regarding the calamities the people would experience on account of having the divine curse directed against them.)

God “established” (qum) “his words” (“his ordinances” [LXX]) or messages that he had conveyed through his prophets, words that were directed against the people and the judges who judged them. The common meaning of the Hebrew verb qum is “arise” or “stand” and may, in this context, mean “establish” or “confirm.” God caused his words to stand as true by having them unerringly fulfilled. Those doing the judging included kings, leaders in the nation, and elders. In keeping with the consequences for disobedience that he had revealed to the Israelites in his law and through the proclamations of the prophets, God brought great evil or calamity (evils [LXX and Theodotion]) upon them, letting them be conquered and exiled. Jerusalem was the place where the temple of YHWH was located. It was his representative place of dwelling. Therefore, his allowing Jerusalem and the temple to be destroyed is referred to as a great evil or calamity the likes of which had not been done under “all the heavens,” or on the earth beneath the sky. (9:12)

The evil or calamity (evils [LXX and Theodotion]) that the law (covenant [LXX]) of Moses set forth for disobedience came upon the Israelites. They had been warned that unfaithfulness would lead to their facing enemy invasions, destruction of their cities, and exile. The words of warning were fulfilled. (Leviticus 26:25, 31-33; Deuteronomy 28:49-53, 64-68) Nevertheless, despite what the law made clear and what the people had experienced, Daniel confessed, “We have not entreated the face of YHWH our God, turning back from our iniquity and being prudent [with reference] to your truth.” The people should have repentantly turned to YHWH, appealing to him to be shown favor and mercy, but they continued in their wayward course. Being prudent or understanding with reference to God’s “truth” would have meant conducting themselves as wise persons who recognized that the commands they had been given were trustworthy and, therefore, would lead to good results when obeyed. According to the Septuagint rendering, the people did not consider or understand God’s righteousness. They failed to conduct themselves in ways that would have demonstrated that they had considered or understood what God regarded as righteous or upright. (9:13)

In view of the unwillingness of the people to repent, YHWH “watched” with reference to the “evil” (evils [LXX]) or calamity. The thought appears to be that he kept ready for bringing it upon the people when he deemed it necessary. At his designated time, YHWH did bring the calamity upon the people in expression of his justice. Daniel acknowledged, “YHWH our God is righteous in all his works that he has done, and we have not listened to his voice.” The judgment that came upon the people was right or just, for they had refused to be obedient and lived contrary to his commands. (9:14)

The disobedience of the people could not be justified. YHWH, in his great mercy, had delivered their forefathers (his people) from the land of Egypt “with a mighty hand” (“with [his] raised” or “uplifted arm” [LXX]) or with his great might. Through his act of deliverance, YHWH made a “name” for himself, revealing to surrounding nations his matchless power. For Daniel and others of his people, the memory of this remained, accounting for the expression about YHWH’s having made a name for himself “as at this day.” Yet, as Daniel acknowledged respecting the people to whom he belonged, “We have sinned; we have acted wickedly [acted lawlessly (Theodotion); been ignorant (refused to understand) (LXX)].” (9:15)

Daniel appealed to YHWH to turn his anger away from Jerusalem, his “holy mountain.” As the former location of the temple, the elevated site of the city of Jerusalem was his “holy mountain” that he permitted to be desolated in expression of his wrath that was directed against the temple because the Israelites had defiled it by their sinful ways. The basis for Daniel’s plea for God’s anger to end is linked to his righteousness or justice (plural in Hebrew and so could be rendered “righteous deeds” (“all your [God’s] mercy” [Theodotion]). On account of their sins and the iniquities (“acts of ignorance” [LXX]) of their forefathers, the Israelites and the city of Jerusalem had become objects of reproach among all the surrounding peoples. The Israelites were known as God’s people; so the way in which they and the desolated site of the temple in Jerusalem came to be viewed also brought reproach upon their God. People of the nations wrongly came to regard him as as a God who was unable to come to the aid of his people. Therefore, it was righteous or just on God’s part to clear his name from reproach by turning his anger away from Jerusalem. (9:16)

Daniel pleaded for God to hear his prayer, or the entreaties he, as God’s servant, made. He wanted God’s “face to shine upon the sanctuary,” which then lay in ruins. This meant that his earnest desire was for YHWH to turn his favorable attention to the desolated site so that the temple would be rebuilt. According to the Masoretic Text and the Greek version of Theodotion, Daniel prayed that God would do so for his own sake, clearing his name from the reproach associated with the desolated site. The rendering of the Septuagint could be understood to mean that the desolation had occurred because of God’s servants, the unfaithful Israelites. It is also possible that the words constitute a plea for God to act for the sake of his servants and give his favorable attention to the “desolated holy mountain.” (9:17)

Besides petitioning God to incline his ear to hear his plea, Daniel prayed that he would “open [his] eyes” and see, or take note of, the “desolations” of his people (or of their humiliations as exiles in foreign lands) and the city upon which his name had been called. By reason of the temple in Jerusalem, God’s name was bound up with the city as the one that uniquely belonged to him. Daniel formulated his plea as a member of the people of Israel, “For not for our righteousness [plural in Hebrew, “righteous deeds”] do we present [literally, let fall] our petitions before you.” Instead, Daniel prayed for God to act on account of his “great mercies,” for the people had no record of righteousness that would have merited divine favor. (9:18)

Daniel’s petitions reflect intensity and an ardent desire for a change to favorable circumstances for the Israelites and Jerusalem. “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O, Lord, grant attention and act. Do not delay.” In view of the time that had already passed, Daniel appears to have been concerned that God would not delay in forgiving the Israelites for their transgressions and in making it possible for Jerusalem and the temple to be rebuilt. Again the supplication is for YHWH his God to act for his own sake because his name had been called upon Jerusalem and upon his people. Restoration of the people and the city would put an end to any reproach that wrongly became attached to him because of the desolate state of the city and the captive condition of his people in exile. In the Septuagint, the city is identified as Zion (Sion) and the people as Israel. (9:19)

The answer to Daniel’s prayer came while he was still praying, “confessing” his own sin and that of his people and “presenting [his plea for] favor [literally, letting (his plea for) favor fall] before YHWH [his] God for the holy mountain of [his] God.” The petition was for the temple in Jerusalem or the temple on the “holy mountain” to be rebuilt. (9:20)

The angel Gabriel arrived while Daniel was still praying. When Daniel first saw him in connection with the vision about the ram and the he-goat and, according to the Septuagint, while he was asleep, Gabriel looked like a man. Apparently for this reason, the angel is here called “the man Gabriel” (just “Gabriel” in LXX). He arrived at the time when the evening sacrifice was formerly offered on the altar of the temple in Jerusalem. The phrase that literally reads “being wearied with weariness” does not have an antecedent, but it is not a phrase that could apply to Gabriel. He would not have been tired when he came. Therefore, the thought may be that Daniel was in an exhausted state after his having fasted. (9:3) The Septuagint refers to Gabriel as “being carried swiftly,” and the Greek text of Theodotion indicates that he was “flying.” (9:21)

The Masoretic Text says regarding Gabriel, “he made to understand, and he said to me.” This elliptical phrase probably means that the angel arrived to provide understanding to Daniel in answer to his prayer. According to the Greek text of Theodotion, Daniel is quoted as saying, “And he instructed me and spoke with me and said.” The Septuagint opens with the words, “And he approached and spoke with me and said.” Gabriel told Daniel, “I have now come out to give you insight [and] understanding [to show you understanding (LXX); to teach you comprehension (Theodotion)].” These words indicated that Daniel would gain a fuller understanding about future developments regarding his people and the city of Jerusalem. (9:22)

At the beginning of Daniel’s supplications, a “word went out.” The Masoretic Text and the Greek version of Theodotion do not identify the source of the “word,” but the Septuagint refers to it as an “ordinance from the Lord.” Gabriel came to Daniel to make known the message. The reason Daniel had this favor extended to him was because God had found him to be a “greatly desirable one” (a “man of desires,” possibly meaning a man possessing desirable qualities [Theodotion]). According to the Septuagint, Daniel was “one shown mercy.” Gabriel told Daniel to “consider the word” and to “understand the vision.” The Septuagint does not mention understanding the vision but refers to considering or thinking about the “ordinance.” In this context, “ordinance” may designate the divine revelation. (9:23)

Gabriel told Daniel that “seventy weeks” had been “determined” concerning his people and his “holy city” (Jerusalem). In view of all the developments to occur during this period, the designated time frame does not relate to seventy weeks of seven days but to weeks of years. Toward the end of the time he and his people were in servitude in Babylon, Daniel had seen the vision about the ram, the he-goat, and the “horn” that sprang up from one of the four horns of the he-goat that appeared after the first prominent horn was broken. (8:3-9) Then, after the forces of Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon, Daniel read the words of Jeremiah that referred to the “desolations of Jerusalem” as being “seventy years.” (9:2) Therefore, one may reasonably conclude that the answer to Daniel’s prayer included more details about when Jerusalem and the temple would again be fully restored as well as subsequent developments. (9:24)

If the phrase (in verse 24) about the anointing of the “holy of holies” applies to the inauguration of the completed temple, the other phrases could be understood to relate to the time after Daniel’s people would be able to return to their own land. The termination of the “transgression” could signify that God would forgive the transgression of his repentant people and make it possible for them to return to their land to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple there. Thus their sin would be “sealed up,” with their record of lawlessness being closed and no longer held against them. The divine discipline of being conquered and scattered among the nations as exiles would have served to atone for their iniquity. Eternal “righteousness” or justice would be brought in, for YHWH would, in expression of his eternal justice, effect the liberation of his people. The sealing of “vision and prophet” may be understood to mean that the unerring fulfillment of the divine revelation provided through “vision and prophet” would be confirmed. (9:24; see the Notes section for another possible explanation and also regarding the renderings of the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion.)

Gabriel wanted Daniel to “know and understand” that “from the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a leader,” would be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. The Masoretic Text is marked with a main stop under the Hebrew word for “seven,” but the Greek version of Theodotion does not support ending the sentence with the reference to “seven weeks.” It reads, “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks, and it will return.” The conjunction “and” after the words for “sixty-two weeks” makes it unmistakably clear that “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” apply to a total of sixty-nine weeks. At the end of the period of sixty-nine weeks of years, an “anointed one” would make his appearance. (9:25; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint reading.)

Throughout the centuries, different views have been expressed as to when the command to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem went forth. Julius Africanus, who wrote in the late second century or early third century CE, set forth an interpretation that appears to fit the preserved history in the biblical record. “Now the angel himself specified seventy weeks of years, that is to say, four hundred and ninety years from the issuing of the word that the petition be granted and that Jerusalem be rebuilt. The specified interval began in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, King of the Persians; for it was his cupbearer, Nehemiah, who, as we read in the book of Ezra [the Vulgate reckons the book of Nehemiah as 2 Esdras; Nehemiah 2:1-8 is 2 Esdras 12:1-8 (LXX)], petitioned the king and obtained his request that Jerusalem be rebuilt. And this was the word, or decree, which granted permission for the construction of the city.” (Quoted in Jerome’s commentary on Daniel; translated by Gleason Archer) Based on the sources available to him, Africanus calculated the time of the arrival of the “anointed one” to be the fifteenth year of Tiberias Caesar and thus identified Jesus as the foretold anointed one, for it was then that Jesus was baptized and began his public ministry as the Anointed One, the Messiah, or the Christ. (9:25; Luke 3:1-3, 21)

The city of Jerusalem “will return and be rebuilt,” coming to be an inhabited and restored city as it had been formerly. It would be rebuilt with a square and a defensive “trench.” The reference to “straits of the times” suggests that the workers would not be able to proceed without being confronted with serious obstacles. This is confirmed by the accounts in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. (Ezra 4:4-24; Nehemiah 2:19, 20; 4:1-16) It appears that the period of “seven weeks” or 49 years is here designated as a time that would pass for the transformation of Jerusalem from a desolated site to a thriving city. (9:25)

After the “sixty-two weeks” of years that would follow the “seven weeks” of years, an “anointed one” would be cut off. In the previous verse, an “anointed one” is referred to as coming at the end of this period. Therefore, one may reasonably conclude that this is the same “anointed one” who would be cut off or killed. Africanus and many since his time have identified the anointed one as being Jesus, the foretold Messiah or Christ. At the time of his death, Jesus had “nothing” that suggested royal splendor. (9:26; see the Notes section.)

The time would come when Jerusalem and the temple would again be reduced to ruins. This would be accomplished by the “people of a leader” who would be coming. The phrase “his end with a flood” probably refers to the destruction of the temple as by a flood, for the Hebrew word for “holy place” or sanctuary is masculine gender. Until the end for Jerusalem and the temple there would be war, and what had been decreed (probably meaning divinely decreed) was desolation. Although Josephus did not identify on which part of Daniel he based his conclusion, he did say, “Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them.” (Antiquities, X, xi, 7) The Roman military under the command of Titus completely destroyed Jerusalem and the temple as by a deluge. According to Josephus, Titus ordered that the entire city and temple be demolished. With the exception of a section of the wall and certain towers, nothing was left of the city that would have made those coming to the site “believe it had ever been inhabited.” (War, VII, i, 1) Those who do not believe that the book of Daniel contains reliable prophecy apply the words about the “leader” to Antiochus Epiphanes and his ruinous action against Jerusalem, including the desecration of the temple. (9:26; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

In the previous verse, two men are mentioned — the “anointed one” and the coming “leader.” Grammatically, the nearest antecedent is “leader.” If this one is correctly identified as Titus who led the Roman force against Jerusalem, the reference to his making a “covenant” would not agree with historical developments after the siege of the city had begun. Among those who believe the book of Daniel to contain true prophecy, there are those who regard the reference to be to Jesus, but others do not. (9:27)

An application to Jesus as the “anointed one” is possible when one considers the entire period of seventy weeks of years to be consecutive and without any gap. The covenant could then be the one that contained the promises and which God concluded with Abraham. On the basis of that covenant God dealt with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob almost exclusively at first. In his prophetic words regarding the work of his son John and the coming Messiah of the royal house of David, Zechariah specifically mentioned the “holy covenant” and referred to it as the “oath” sworn to Abraham. (Luke 1:67-73) In keeping with that covenant, Jesus gave full attention to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24) From this standpoint, one could conclude that he made the covenant strong with the many who put their faith in him. His causing “sacrifice and offering” to cease at the “half of the week” could be understood to signify that, after his sacrificial death, the sacrificial service at the temple in Jerusalem had served its purpose and so had no further value. (Compare Hebrews 9:24-10:23.) The week of favor for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, however, did not end, as the disciples of Jesus continued to testify exclusively to Jews and proselytes concerning him as the promised Messiah whom God had raised from the dead. (9:27; see Acts 3:13-26 and note particularly the reference to the covenant made with Abraham [verse 25] and who were “first” to be given the opportunity to receive the blessing [verse 26].)

The expression “upon the wing of abominations” is followed by the Hebrew participle meaning “desolating.” In the Septuagint and the Greek version of Theodotion, the reference is to an “abomination of desolations” that will be “in the temple” even “until an end of time [until an end (LXX)].” The concluding phrase is, “an end will be given for the desolation,” and the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase in the Septuagint. Based on the Greek renderings, possibly the designation “wing” applies to a physical feature or part of the temple. The “abominations” or the “abomination of desolations” could then mean a defilement of the sacred precincts that would terminate in destruction. (Compare Matthew 24:15, 16.) This could have been when the Zealots seized control of the temple precincts prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and made it the base of operations for violent actions. According to Josephus, the high priest Ananus, when appealing to the populace to rise up against the Zealots, said that it would have been better for him to have died than to see “the house of God full of so many abominations, or these sacred places that ought not to be trodden upon at random, filled with the feet of these blood-shedding villains.” (War, IV, iii, 10) The effort to dislodge the Zealots failed. With the aid secretly obtained from a force of about 20,000 Idumeans, the Zealots secured their position, and Ananus and his supporters were killed in the ensuing slaughter. (War, IV, iii, 11-14; iv, 1-7; v, 1, 2) The concluding part of the Hebrew text could be understood to mean that the destruction that God had decreed would come upon Jerusalem. As the city would be reduced to total ruins, it would be as if the decreed desolation had been “poured out” on the site. (9:27; regarding the Septuagint rendering and other interpretations, see the Notes section.)


In Rahlfs’ printed Greek text of verse 2, the reference is to the number of “years,” but the oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) says “number of days.” Another difference in the reading of the printed text (which has the support of ninth-century Codex Chisianus 88) is the rendering “ordinance for the earth” instead of “word of YHWH.” P967 says, “word of the Lord,” and the Greek word for “Lord” is written in its abbreviated form (kappa [K] and an upsilon [Y], with a line above the two letters). The unusual rendering “for the earth” (te ge) may originally have arisen from an erroneous transcription of the Hebrew letters of the tetragrammaton (the divine name) appearing in the Greek manuscript that the copyist used.

In his Against Apion (I, 20), the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, on the basis of the writings of Berosus (a Babylonian priest believed to have written his account in the third century BCE), listed the length of the reigns of the Chaldean monarchs — 43 years for Nebuchadnezzar, 2 years for Evil-Merodach (Amel-Marduk, Amil-Marduk, or Awil-Marduk), 4 years for Neriglissar (Nergal-sharezer), 9 months for Labashi-Marduk. After Labashi-Marduk was killed, Nabonidus began to rule. In the seventeenth year of the reign of Nabonidus, Cyrus the Persian with his forces came against Babylon.

Second Kings 25:27 indicates that the thirty-seventh year of the exile of King Jehoiachin of Judah corresponded to the first year of Evil-merodach’s rule. According to Jewish reckoning, Jehoiachin was taken into Babylonian exile in the eighth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. (2 Kings 24:12) This means that the biblical record and other ancient sources are in agreement in assigning a length of 43 years to the rule of King Nebuchandezzar. Ptolemy’s Canon (originating in the second century CE) and the Uruk King List (tablet IM 65066 from a time after 225 BCE) agree with Berosus in assigning two years to the reign of Evil-merodach (Amel-Marduk). The Uruk King List is not clear regarding the rule of Neriglissar, but Ptolemy’s Canon indicates it to have been four years. Two stelae inscribed with the expressions of the mother of Nabonidus likewise support Berosus in attributing a reign of four years to Neriglissar. Ptolemy’s Canon does not include the short reign of Labashi-Marduk, and the Uruk King List indicates that it lasted three months. In the Uruk King List, the reference to the reign of Nabonidus is incomplete, but Ptolemy’s Canon indicates it to have been 17 years. Accordingly, based on extant ancient sources, the time between the start of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and the conquest of Babylon was about 67 years.

In the event verse 24 also relates to the coming of the “anointed one,” the Messiah, or Christ, the anointing of the “holy of holies” could point to the inauguration of a new arrangement for worship. This would be the arrangement to which Jesus referred when speaking to a Samaritan woman and making it clear to her that it would be a worship in “spirit and truth,” not dependent on any specific edifice or geographical location. (John 4:21-24) According to verses 11 and 12 of Hebrews chapter 9, the new arrangement for worship is linked to a “greater and more perfect tent” than the “tent” or tabernacle that was constructed in the time of Moses and the later temple that was built in Jerusalem and which replaced the tabernacle. When Jesus, in the capacity of high priest, appeared before God “with his own blood,” or with its precious value, by means of which he obtained eternal redemption or liberation from the condemnation of sin for all who accept his sacrifice, that new arrangement was inaugurated. From this standpoint, it could be said that the true “holy of holies” in heaven was anointed.

Jesus’s sacrificial death provided the basis for humans to be forgiven of their sins. This terminated “transgression” and made an end to sin, for all who responded in faith were freed from the condemnation to which sin leads. By surrendering his life, Jesus also made atonement for iniquity and brought in “eternal righteousness.” Those who put faith in him had his righteousness imputed to them and ultimately will enjoy the sinless state for all eternity. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies about the Messiah or Christ, and this sealed or fully confirmed “vision and prophet.”

With few exceptions, the Greek version of Theodotion reads much like the Masoretic Text of verse 24. The Greek text refers to the “seventy weeks” as having been “shortened” for Daniel’s people and the “holy city.” This reading suggests that a shorter period would be involved for the future developments to be completed than might otherwise be expected. In the Septuagint, the city is identified as Zion (Sion). The text refers to the decision respecting the “seventy weeks” as serving to end sin, to make injustices uncommon, to wipe out injustices, to cause the vision to be understood (seemingly on the basis of its fulfillment), to give eternal righteousness (through God’s action in expression of his righteousness or justice), to consummate the vision (by causing it to be fulfilled) and to make the “holy of holies” rejoice (as a rebuilt temple).

In verse 25, the Septuagint, including P967, contains a very different reading. “And you will know and will understand and will rejoice and will find ordinances to answer [to understand (P967)], and you will build Jerusalem as a city for the Lord.” These words could be understood to mean that Daniel is being addressed as representing all his people. Upon their return to the land and the start of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the people would know and understand that the word of the prophets was being fulfilled. Having been liberated from exile and freed to return to their own land, the people would rejoice. Because it was God’s will for Jerusalem and the temple to be rebuilt, those sharing in the work would find ordinances or commands to which to respond or to understand so as to continue with their labor despite enemy opposition.

The different reading of the Septuagint illustrates that it is difficult to come to a definitive conclusion about the meaning of the concluding verses of Daniel chapter 9. Persons who do not treat Daniel as a prophetic book opt for interpretations that do not resemble the interpretations of those who consider the book of Daniel as containing reliable prophecy. Those who regard Daniel as having been compiled in the second century BCE suggest that the “anointed one” of verse 25 could be the Persian monarch Cyrus or the high priest Joshua (Jeshua) who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. (Ezra 3:2), and they consider Onias III (who served as high priest in the second century BCE) as probably being the “anointed one” of verse 26. These suggested identifications require that one consider the word about the restoration of Jerusalem to be the prophetic word through the prophet Jeremiah proclaimed decades before the destruction of the city by the Babylonians. Additionally, time features mentioned in the Hebrew text of Daniel would need to be regarded as approximate.

When Jerome wrote his commentary on the book of Daniel, he quoted a number of interpretations and acknowledged that men of the “greatest learning” had presented various arguments. He continued, “Each of them has expressed his views according to the capacity of his own genius. And so, because it is unsafe to pass judgment upon the opinions of the great teachers of the Church and to set one above another, I shall simply repeat the view of each, and leave it to the reader’s judgment as to whose explanation ought to be followed.” (Translated by Gleason Archer) The first view Jerome quoted was that of Africanus. In more recent times, a number of commentators have basically followed his interpretation. There is a problem, however, associated with the date for the twentieth year of the reign of Artaxerxes. The commonly accepted date for the twentieth year is 445 BCE, and sixty-nine weeks of years thereafter would not coincide with the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Therefore, arguments have been presented for an earlier date for the accession year of Artaxerxes. (For a detailed presentation of these arguments, see Artaxerxes.) By using a different way to calculate the 69 weeks of years while retaining the year 445 BCE as the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, some have concluded that the termination point was when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, presenting himself as the Messiah or Christ.

In verse 26, the Septuagint rendering refers to the destruction of the city and the temple, but the time feature and other details correspond neither to the extant Hebrew text nor to the Greek version of Theodotion. The Septuagint reads, “And after seven and seventy and sixty-two, an anointing will be removed and will not be. And a king of the nations will destroy the city and the holy place along with the anointed one, and his end will come with wrath even until the end time. With war he will be warred against.”

There is a possibility that the translator of the Septuagint worded verse 26 in support of an interpretation that the removal of the “anointing” referred to the murder of Onias III, the high priest. “Seven and seventy and sixty-two,” when added together come to a total of 139 years, which is thought to be the approximate number of years between the start of the Seleucid dynasty in 312 BCE and the death of Onias III. If this was the intent of the translator, this would indicate that he understood the “king of the nations” to have been Antiochus Epiphanes and that the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple meant the ruin that this ruler caused to the city and the temple when he defiled it. Nevertheless, this “king of the nations” would come to his end, and experience wars resulting in defeat for his forces.

Hippolytus, a contemporary of Julius Africanus, considered the final week of the seventy weeks of years (verse 27) as yet future and as relating to the coming of the Antichrist. This view continues to have considerable support among many who regard the book of Daniel to be prophetic. They believe that, during this last week of seven years, Antichrist will make a covenant with the Jews and then break it.

Menasseh ben-Israel, a prominent rabbi who lived in the seventeenth century CE, wrote that among the Jews in the first century CE were those who believed that, “after the conclusion of the 70 weeks, the Messiah would appear and deliver to them the dominion of the whole world. This was the opinion of all those who fought against the Romans at that time. And though they were exposed to many great dangers and hardships, yet their expectation of the Messiah continued because they imagined that he would come in the midst of all their afflictions.” They expounded the words, “to finish the transgression” (Daniel 9:24), to mean that, “after the end of the 70 weeks, their sins should be forgiven them.” Others understood the prophecy to refer to “the destruction of the Jews; and for that reason would not fight at all. But when Titus was successful, they acknowledged him as their sovereign.” (Book III of a work titled “Of the Term of Life”)

Commentators who regard everything as applying to Antiochus Epiphanes commonly explain that he is the one who made the covenant strong with unfaithful Jews. (1 Maccabees 1:11-15) By putting an end to the proper services at the temple and replacing them with idolatrous worship, including the offering of pigs on the altar, he caused sacrifice and offering to cease in the middle of the week of seven years. (1 Maccabees 1:41-50) When choosing not to emend the expression “on the wing of abominations,” they interpret this expression to refer to a winged image or to a section of the temple where the abominations would be. The Hebrew text is understood to say that these “abominations,” or idolatrous representations and practices, would exist until the coming of the decreed end that is poured out on the one desolating or on Antiochus Epiphanes.

In the Septuagint, the first sentence of verse 27 could be understood to mean that the “covenant” would have control over many. Then the thought about rebuilding the city (previously mentioned in verse 25) is repeated in an elliptical manner (“and it will return and be rebuilt in width and length”). The time period that is mentioned next is basically repeated from verse 26 but does not correspond to anything in the Hebrew text nor in the Greek version of Theodotion. “And at the end of times and after seven and seventy times and sixty-two years until the time of the end of war, then [kaí, often meaning and] the desolation will be removed when the covenant prevails for many weeks.” Thereafter the ceasing of “the sacrifice and the libation” at the “end of the week” (ninth-century Codex Chisianus 88) or in “half of the week” (P967) is linked to the existence “in the temple” of the “abomination of desolations.”

The Septuagint rendering of verse 27 may reflect the translator’s interpretation of past developments, and a record of many of these developments has been preserved in 1 Maccabees. On the basis of 1 Maccabees 2:43-48, the “many” for whom the covenant was the controlling force could include the priest Mattathias, his sons, their associates, and a group of valiant Hasideans who later joined them. All of them adhered to the “law” (the covenant that God concluded with the ancestors of the Israelites at Mount Sinai). According to 1 Maccabees 2:7, Mattathias referred to the ruin Antiochus Epiphanes caused as the “destruction” of his people and the “destruction of the holy city” (Jerusalem). Therefore, with the end of this ruination or destruction, the city would return to its former state and be rebuilt. After the period of “seven and seventy times and sixty-two years” (or 139 years) and thereafter until the time of warfare under the leadership of the sons of Mattathias to regain control of Jerusalem ended, the desolation of Jerusalem would be removed or would terminate when the “covenant” prevailed “for many weeks” or when it came to be adhered to over a significant period of time. (1 Maccabees 4:34-58) The “abomination of desolations” could be understood to refer to the defilement of the temple, with the sacrificial services being made to cease at the “half of the week” (P967) when Antiochus Epiphanes erected an idolatrous altar over the altar of burnt offering at the temple and ended the proper arrangement for worship. (1 Maccabees 1:54) This situation, however, would not continue, as it is referred to as being “until the end,” with an “end” being made of the desolation (literally, “and an end will be given upon the desolation”).