The Bible Monthly vol 1
In the former part of this paper, dealing with verse 24, we saw that Daniel was first instructed by the angel Gabriel, that a period of time, called seventy weeks (heptads, or hebdomads), had been marked off in the calendar of future history, in which important events bearing upon Daniel's people would occur. The expiration of this period would see the fulfilment of the divinely-founded hopes of the people, an end being made of sins, and everlasting righteousness being established in connection with the kingdom of Israel set up with Jerusalem as its centre. After giving, in this preliminary statement, the general scope of this particular prophecy, the angel added certain details which would serve as landmarks of the highest importance in the understanding of the coming events. After the introductory statement, three sub-divisions of the period of seventy weeks were enumerated. Gabriel explained that the whole span of this allotted time would consist of the following portions :—
making a total of four hundred and ninety years, or seventy heptads.
Regarding this prophetic era of severity weeks (heptads) as consisting of seventy sevens of years (70 sabbatical years, Exod. xxiii. 10, 11), then the intervening portions would be :
making a total of four hundred and ninety years, corresponding with the seventy heptads (see also p. 109).
THE SIXTY-NINE WEEKS.
It is necessary to observe carefully the language used with reference to the sub-divisions specified, since it indicates quite definitely what would be the starting-point from which the years composing the seventy weeks should be counted. Gabriel's words were, " From the going forth of the word t c restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah, the Prince, are seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks."
Here we find specified what event in the immediate future might be awaited, and its appearance regarded as the beginning of the deliverance of Jerusalem from her state of desolation, concerning which Daniel had set this inquiry afoot ever. 2). That event was to be the issue of a proclamation to restore and to build Jerusalem.
This word or proclamation would come, not directly from Jehovah, but from the Persian monarch. And this -Circumstance of divine aloofness is in perfect keeping -with the then condition of the people who had been cast off by Jehovah on account of their sins. The chosen nation are regarded as Lo-Ammi throughout the book of Daniel. The people are referred to as Daniel's people, not as Jehovah's. The prophetic unfoldings recorded in this book were given to Daniel at Babylon in visions, or communicated through an angel, and not direct from Jehovah, as in the case of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others. And the authority for the restoration of the desolate city would come through the Gentile sovereign, and not as Jehovah's expressed mandate. While God would work for the blessing of Jerusalem and the Jews, He would do so secretly, mediately, and in His providence.
The angel in the course of his
message to Daniel first
This period was to consist of two unequal parts, viz., " seven weeks and sixty-two weeks." Hence we gather that sixty-nine weeks, or four hundred and eighty-three years, would elapse from the issue of the aforesaid edict unto the coming of the Messiah who was the hope of Israel's nationhood.
It follows, therefore, that this prophetic message giving the date when the Messiah might be expected to appear was as carefully and precisely expressed as the seventy years of the people's servitude to the king of Babylon were stated by Jeremiah (Jer. xxv. 11, 1). Daniel and the faithful saints of God who followed him and cherished the words of this prophecy would be enabled to locate its fulfilment with accuracy. As Daniel " understood by books " in the first year of Darius that the close of the seventy years of desolation for Jerusalem was at hand (ver. 2), so Simeon, Anna, and others knew from this prophecy of the book of Daniel that the advent of the Messiah was at hand in their day (Luke ii. 25, 36-38).
THE FIRST SEVEN WEEKS.
It is a singular feature of the phraseology of the prophecy that the sixty-nine weeks should be separated into two parts of unequal duration, and that the shorter portion should be named first. Why was the sub-division made in this striking manner? And the following explanation, which is the most easy and natural, is the one that commends itself as being true.
Gabriel declared (1) that the word to rebuild Jerusalem was to be the initial event of this prophetic era, and (2) that seven weeks would follow that event, these weeks being distinguished b y this separate mention from the sixty-two that follow and complete the sixty-nine up to Messiah the Prince. It is simple and unforced to conclude that the interval of seven weeks following the word to restore Jerusalem would be the time occupied in fulfilling the word concerning the restoration of that city. They form a special allotment of seven out of the sixty -nine weeks, appropriated for the particular purpose of re-building the city of the Great King.
This information concerning the immediate future of Daniel's city and people would allay his personal anxiety or this account which he had so feelingly expressed in his prayer (Dan. ix. 4-19) to which this message was sent as an answer. During the first seven weeks (forty-nine years, or seven sabbatical years, see Lev. xxv. 8) thus specified, the street of the city and the moat should be built again, though the times would be troublous on account of many adversaries. The work of restoration would be accomplished, but the face of great difficulties and opposition, as the book of Nehemiah shows.
Thus " we see these seven weeks are singled out that God might give us not merely a history but a prediction of the troubles. The derision, the hatred, the enmity , the endeavcurs to destroy, the continual intrigues and plottings in and around the land, the efforts to stir up the court of Persia against them, the carelessness of the people, the faults of the princes, the unfaithfulness of the priests—all these things counter-worked, the bitterest and most humiliating of all their sorrows being found among themselves—Daniel's people, not the Gentiles, nor even the Samaritans. Here then we have the prediction, not only the history of it ; so much does God think of His people in the day of small things. "
THE EDICT TO BUILD JERUSALEM.
A few words may be of service in determining the point of time from which the prophetic period began to run its course. The words of the angel are precise, and refer to the licence or firman relating to the re-building of Jerusalem, which would be issued by the Persian monarch. And our inquiry will be whether Scriptural history contains the record of any such permission.
On examination of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah we discover that three distinct decrees were promulgated by the kings of Persia in connection with the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity to which reference is made by the inspired writers.
(1) The first of these decrees was issued by Cyrus in his first year (B.C. 536), and it authorised the Jews in all parts of his dominions to return to Judah for the building of the house of the Lord God at Jerusalem (Ezra i. 1-3). This decree coincided with the conclusion of the seventy years of the Jews' captivity.
This decree of Cyrus was confirmed about seventeen years later by Darius the son of Hystaspes in his second year (Ezra iv. 24). The work of re-building the temple of God, which had in the interval been interrupted by command of an unfriendly king, Artaxerxes (Ezra iv. 19), was resumed seventy 'ears after its destruction (Zech. i. 12), the people being encouraged in this work by the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah. Four years later, in the sixth year of this king (Ezra vi. 15), the house of God was completed and dedicated to the service of God with joy (B.C. 515).
Though sometimes regarded as a separate Persian edict, this decree is a ratification of the original one by Cyrus (Ezra vi. 3), and related to the erection of the temple-buildings only.
(2) The second decree or commandment (Ezra vii. 7-28) as issued b y Artaxerxes Longimanus in his seventh year of rule (B.C. 468). In this case the commission was granted to Ezra the scribe, empowering him " to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem " (Ezra vii. 11-28). Permission was thereby given for the sacrifices to be re-established, for the temple furniture and its services to be restored. and for the people to be taught in the law of God.
Clearly, both these edicts (1 and 2) have reference to the restoration of the temple and the worship of Jehovah at Jerusalem rather than to the city itself. Indeed the Persian policy was to forbid the reconstruction of the city and its walls (Ezra iv. 16). These decrees, therefore, do not correspond with the chronological sign given to Daniel, which was a royal warrant to build and restore Jerusalem.
(3) The third decree was issued a few years later b y the same king-, and this applied specifically to the building of the city and its defences (B.C. 445). In the twentieth year of his reign (Neh. ii. 1), Artaxerxes gave letters, or warrants, to Nehemiah, authorising him to build the city of his " fathers' sepulchres " (Neh. ii. 5). In this " word of the Persian monarch was found the appointed indication that the seventy weeks of Daniel were beginning.
A long time had elapsed since the overthrow of Babylon, and the consequent release of the people of Israel from servitude to that Gentile empire. The authority of Artaxerxes (B.C. 445) for the restoration of Jerusalem was granted about ninety years after the prophecy of the seventy weeks, and the commandment of Cyrus to build the temple (B.C. 536, and about seventy years after the dedication of the temple in the reign of Darius (B.C. 313).
Why was there such a considerable interval as this? The answer appears to lie in the lethargy and indifference of the people to the divine claims. We gather from the exhortations of Haggai and Zechariah what was their prevailing spirit. The people said that the time had not come that the house of Jehovah should be built (Hagg. i. 2). Many did not even return from the land of their captivity when per-. mission to do so was given by Cyrus. The y had settled down in their place of exile, and were content to remain where they had acquired houses and lands. And when the house of the LORD was dedicated, there seems to have been little regard for the city of their fathers.
But God was gracious in spite of the apathy of His people, and 1--le eventually overruled matters at the seat of the Persian Government so that Nehemiah was appointed Tirshatha or governor in the land of Judah (Neh. v. 14). Nehemiah was entrusted with the work of restoring a measure of civil order in Jerusalem, so that the repatriated Jews might dwell there in safety, even as Ezra had many years previously been commissioned to reinstate the worship of Jehovah in a newly built temple.
Nehemiah set to work with great energy and organising ability to make the city secure from its enemies, and in fifty-two days the walls were completed (Neh. vi. 15), though the gates were not finished in that -time (N eh. vi. 1). The prophecy of the seventy weeks foretold that the interior of the city (the street, or open places; see Ezra x. 9 ; Neh. viii. I, 3, 16 ; Zech. viii. 4-, 5) and the moat or trench outside the walls would occupy seven heptads or forty-nine years in all. The entire completion of Jerusalem as a habitable city is not recorded in scripture, but the Jews would learn from the prophecy in Daniel that the work of re-building the city would be more expeditious than the reconstruction of the temple.
THE THREESCORE AND TWO WEEKS.
The next instalment of time after the seven weeks mentioned by the angel was sixty-two weeks, and this interval would bring the watchers among the people of God to the time of Messiah the Prince : 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." " It cannot be," the Lord Jesus said, that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem " (Luke xiii. 33). Hence in the counsels of God it was to be that Jerusalem should be re-established as a city of habitations, so that there the promised Prince might come in the fulness of time, and present Himself to the nation as the Son of David.
It will be remarked with what care the Spirit of prophecy indicated by this break (1) the reparation of the city in seven weeks, and then (2) the stretch of a further sixty-two weeks until Messiah came to the place where God had set His name, where, alas, when He offered Himself to the Jews for their reception He would be rejected and slain.
Zechariah, who prophesied soon after this message was sent to Daniel, was full of allusions to the city and its future. In his short book, the name itself, Jerusalem, occurs thirty-nine times. And it was that prophet who foretold in exact terms the formal presentation of Messiah's claims to the people at Jerusalem : Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem : behold, thy King cometh unto thee : He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt, the foal of an ass " (Zech. ix. 9). This was fulfilled, with the exception of the fourth clause which is omitted by Matthew in his quotation (Matt. xxi. 4, 5), with reference to the occasion when the Lord rode into Jerusalem a few days before His crucifixion.
It is further to be noted that the lengthy period named precludes the application of the prophecy to a Persian prince. The term, Messiah, means the anointed one, and it is used n scripture to distinguish those marked out in that manner for the kingly or other office. In one of his prophecies, Cyrus, king of Persia, is spoken of b y Isaiah as the anointed of Jehovah (Isa. xlv. 1). But this instance is an exceptional one, Cyrus being anointed for the special purpose of the subjugation of Babylon, and is mentioned by name. Ordinarily, the Messiahs or anointed ones were those called to rule in Israel, and pre-eminently the term is applied in promise and prophecy to Him who would be anointed by the Spirit of God to be the Prince of Peace.
This number of weeks carried the prophetic period up to the time of the Messiah which is stated generally. It is not specifically stated what exact point of time in the life of the Messiah would be their termination. The sixty-nine weeks might be regarded as extending
As, however, this prophecy relates to the Messiah as the Ruler of God's -appointing and anointing whom He thus promised to raise up in substitution for the Gentile rulers who held sway over Israel, the last meaning seems most appropriate to the scope of the prediction.
It is undeniable that the Lord was born King of the Jews, as the Magi acknowledged (Matt. ii. 2). After the Lord's baptism in Jordan, Andrew expressly confessed Him as the Messiah (John i. 41). But it was not until the close of His ministry that the Lord definitely presented Himself- to Jerusalem and the Jews as the Anointed of Jehovah, and He was then crucified as the King of the Jews (cp. Acts x. 37, 38),
It would appear, therefore, though some reckon otherwise, that the Sixty-nine weeks extended from the decree to re-build Jerusalem (the twentieth year of Artaxerxes) unto the date of the Lord's public entry into the city of David, though the latter point of time is not so precisely stated in the prophecy as the former.
MESSIAH CUT OFF.
The next event foretold to Daniel by the angel's word of prophecy was the violent death of the Messiah when He should come at the pre-arranged time. Daniel in his prayer had besought the Lord that His anger and fury might be turned away from His city, Jerusalem, but by this communication he was instructed that the cup of Israel's iniquity was not yet full. He learned that though the city would be restored at the defined date, that work would be executed in troublous times, and, moreover, that though Messiah would also come at the defined date, the sinful hearts of His people would be unchanged, and the blessings of the kingdom could€ not then be introduced, for the Messiah Himself would be cut off. Gabriel's words were : And after the threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing,"
The presence of the definite article before the " sixty-two weeks " identifies the period with the one named in the preceding sentence. As this term of years reached on to the Messiah, we must consider them to have been completed in the days of His flesh, and for the reasons already stated, they were completed at the public presentation of Himself as King to the daughter of Zion. Now, it was " after " the expiry of these weeks that Messiah was cut off, and while the prophecy did not state how long afterwards, the date must coincide with His crucifixion and death.
The word, cut off," used by Gabriel to describe the result of the advent of the Messiah, frequently occurs in a judicial sense. It is employed throughout the Old Testament for the punishment by death of offenders in Israel (see Exod. xii. 15, 19, and a number of other passages). This penalty being prescribed by the law of Moses, the Jews pleaded the fact in their hatred of the Lord Jesus, saying to Pilate, " We have a law, and by our law He ought to die,. because He made himself the Son of God " (John xix. 7).. And as their King, therefore, He was crucified, His title, King- of the Jews, being owned only on the cross, and there in derision by a Gentile.
MESSIAH TO HAVE NOTHING.
It will be observed that the phrase which follows in our ordinary version, " but not for Himself," is rendered, with greater correctness and propriety, in the Revised and other versions, " and shall have nothing."
The former phrase implies that Messiah was cut off for others, and suggests a reference to the atoning death of our Lord. But while it is undeniably true that atonement was involved in the death of Christ, there is not sufficient ground for assuming it to be in view in this connection, nor for assigning this sense to the original text.
Here the immediate subject of the prophecy is the reception of the Messiah when He shall come. Strange as it would appear to the prophet sorrowing over the miserable condition of his people, the declaration to him was that when the One anointed to rule should come to the city and people of God, He would be subjected to the death penalty prescribed by the law of Jehovah for civil and religious offenders. Messiah would be cut off, and have nothing.
And this was the result historically after the sixty-two weeks. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. After His crucifixion His very garments were claimed by His executioners, and His sepulchre was another's : He had nothing. It is written that His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth (Psalm lxxii. 8). Yet, in Jerusalem, He found no throne, no temple, no priesthood—nothing that was His by right of inheritance, as the Anointed of the Lord.