Notes on the Book of Daniel: Chapter 9, Part 3

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem by Francesco Hayez // Larry Hunt Bible Commentary

Destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem

by Francesco Hayez

v. 26: This talks about the final period of the 70 x 7.  It is one 7 (a week of years).  Notice how nicely the numbers work here, assuming that Jesus Christ is the Messiah who comes at the end of the second period and who “after the 62 weeks…shall be cut off, but not for himself.” The end of the second period, 62 weeks (62×7) of years from the time of the completion of the walls of Jerusalem is 434 years after 408 B.C.  This comes to the year 26 A.D.  If one were to interpret Jesus as the Messiah, who appears at the end of the second period, there would be two logical dates for his appearance: the date of his birth, or that of his baptism.  Of these two, the date of his baptism seems the most compelling to me since it is at his baptism that he is literally “anointed” by the Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) and by John the Baptist for his work as the Messiah. (Messiah[3] means, “anointed one” and refers to one who has been anointed for some office, either as king or priest.)  Jesus was baptized at about the age of 30 (Luke 3:23).  If in fact Christ was born on the year “zero” of our current timeline, then this date of 26 A.D. is only four years off.  If, on the other hand, one accepts that Jesus was actually born in 4 B.C. (as some people suggest) the date marks the year of Jesus’s baptism.

If, however, one does not accept that the counting of the second period should begin with the completion of the walls of Jerusalem (since this is only implied as the end of the first period, not overtly stated in the text), then let the counting begin with the first period: 69 weeks (sevens) of years after the command to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem is issued is 483 years after 444 B.C., which comes to the year 39 A.D. This is only a few years off the mark.  In addition to this, while 444 B.C. seems to be the commonly accepted date, Barnes cites some scholars (Hengstenberg and Usher) who claim that the command to rebuild Jerusalem came in 454 B.C. (162), which would bring the end of the second period to 29 A.D.

I can see how some people would be inclined to interpret this second ruler, “the prince who is to come,” whose people “shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” as the little horn of chapter 8 (i.e., Antiochus Epiphanes) because of similar descriptions such as 8:11: “it took away the daily sacrifice” and 9:27: “he will put an end to sacrifice,” but I believe this second ruler should be viewed as a Roman (a representative of the fourth beast in Daniel’s dream of the four beasts) for the following reasons…

1) Interpreting him as a Roman fits well in the timeline.  Both skeptics and believers seem to agree on the notion that the 70 weeks should be interpreted as 490 years.  Likewise, they agree on the date of the command to rebuild Jerusalem (444 B.C.).  Thus, if one believes that the counting of the dream’s years should begin with the command to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (which seems the most honest conclusion to me), one should look for the end of the second period around the year 39 A.D., which is roughly 10 years off the mark if one considers Jesus to be the Messiah.  The second ruler, then, would be a contemporary of Christ’s.  However, if one interprets the 2nd ruler as Antiochus Epiphanes, who came to power in 175 B.C., then the date of 39 A.D. is off the mark by 214 years. Which requires a greater leap of faith, to believe the interpretation that is off by 10 years or the one that is off by 214 years?  Even if one accepts the conclusion of the Oxford commentary, that the counting of the dream’s years should begin with the edict of Cyrus to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem in 538 B.C., then the date for the end of the second period (483 years after 538 B.C. is 55 B.C.) is 120 years past the time of Antiochus.  It seems much more reasonable to believe that the Messiah referred to here is Jesus (and that the second ruler is a Roman in the time of Jesus) than that the Messiah referred to is Joshua the High Priest in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (who would be the second ruler), as the Oxford commentary suggests.

The Oxford commentary also suggests that the author of the book of Daniel was contemporary with Antiochus IV and intended to inspire the Jews of his day to resist the persecution of Antiochus by giving them the false hope of believing that the ancient prophet Daniel had predicted the ultimate demise of Antiochus.  Those who read Daniel in this way must consider it a given premise that Daniel could not truly foresee the future.  The force of their argument lies in the close match between all these dreams and the historical events they refer to.  “How else could chapters such as 8 and 11 so closely match the events of history unless they were written after historical events?” they ask.

But there is another question that those who hold this view must answer:  why is the timeline so inaccurate when other details are so compellingly accurate?  To believe that Antiochus Epiphanes is the second ruler here, and that the book was written at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, is to believe that the writer, whose narrative details match history so well in every other area (and who had the perspective of time) miscounted the years between Antiochus Epiphanes and the beginning of the dream by at least 120 years and by at most 214 years.

2) The city and the sanctuary are said to be destroyed by the people of the second ruler.  Romans destroyed the actual temple in 70 A.D., and they destroyed Christ’s body, a type of the temple (John 2:19), four decades earlier under Pontius Pilate, whereas in the previous vision (chapter 8), the sanctuary was only defiled, which more accurately reflects the actions of Antiochus Epiphanes. (In 8:14 the sanctuary is cleansed, not rebuilt.)

3) Christ, I believe, cites this passage in reference to times that were to come after the time he spoke (Matthew 24:15).  Now, admittedly, Matthew 24 is a difficult chapter to understand, and Christ may mean that the desolation caused by Antiochus Epiphanes was a kind of foreshadowing of his own crucifixion and/or the desolation which the Romans would cause in 70 A.D. when they destroyed the temple, but I believe it makes more sense to claim that Christ believed this passage of Daniel refers directly to the Romans rather than to the Greeks under Antiochus Epiphanes.

v. 27: It seems to me that this “he” should refer to the second ruler since the second ruler is the last one talked about.  That would mean that the covenant spoken of would be his; thus, it would be an evil covenant.  This one week, which measures the time in which he will “confirm a covenant with many,” should be the last period in the dream, the 1 week  left in the 70 weeks.  I am the least certain about this period of the dream, but here is my best interpretation.

Each period directly follows the preceding one, so, according to the timeline one chooses, the events of this final week should play out between the years 26 A.D. and 46 A.D. (The “week” would then be from 26-33 A.D., or from 29-36 A.D., or from 39-46 A.D.) I’m not sure who this second prince is, but it should be a Roman who, within the designated dates, had considerable influence over the Jews, and whom pious Jews would have considered an evil man.  To me, the surest contender for this role would be Pontius Pilate.  He served as procurator of Judea from 26-36 A.D. and was ordered by Caligula to commit ritual suicide in 38 A.D.  He was considered in every record of his administration (except the gospels) to have been a cruel and severe ruler.  I don’t know enough of his historical circumstances (there do not seem to be many detailed records of him) to know exactly how his career might fit the events associated with the second ruler in this dream.  For instance, what would the seven year covenant be?  What were the political details of his rise to power?

Assuming Pilate is the second ruler, here is how one might match up his role with that of Jesus as the Messiah in the dream: the second period ends soon after the coming of the Messiah.  The third period begins with the making of Pilate’s “covenant,” whatever that might be.  three and one half years into the time of this covenant, Pilate “puts an end to sacrifice” by condemning Jesus (the last blood sacrifice) to death and unintentionally completing the old law of Judaism. (See Hebrews 10:1-4, 12.)  In killing Jesus, he also destroys the temple, in a sense (John 2:19).

Barnes believes that the “he” does not refer to the second ruler but rather to the Messiah because of the religious terminology such as covenant, sacrifice, and offering, associated with the actions of “he.”   Assuming that this is true, here is how the events would match up with the dream: the second period ends with the coming of the Messiah (26 A.D. or 30 A.D.) and begins with a covenant he will establish with the people; this covenant will last for seven years. (I don’t know what would mark the end of this seven year period.)  In the middle of this covenant (three and one half years into it) he will “put an end to sacrifice” through his own death on the cross, which brings about the completion of the old law of Judaism. (Again, see Hebrews 10:1-4, 12.)

Regardless of how one interprets this whole dream, it is only fair to say that the end of the time designated (70 x7 years) is marked by joy and blessedness, in which “everlasting righteousness” will be brought in, as v. 24 indicates.  Therefore, one must conclude that the destruction of the city and sanctuary does not mark the end of the third period.  It may mark the middle, but if the temple to which this dream refers is the actual building that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., then the timeline seems off by three or four decades.  If the temple is Christ’s body (John 2:19), then the timeline is very accurate and the time of righteousness is the Christian era.  If destroying the city and sanctuary refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D., perhaps the dream alludes to this event parenthetically as something beyond the scope of the dream’s timeline but associated, nevertheless, with the second ruler. (They are his people who will destroy the city and sanctuary.)  This would allow one to account for the destruction of the temple and city in 70 A.D., decades past the end of the timeline.  In other words, since it is not a part of the dream’s timeline, it would not need to happen around the time of Jesus.[4] As for the “then” in the beginning of the NKJ translation of Daniel 9:27 (which could indicate a basic chronological ordering of the narrative) I do not know how the original Hebrew looks[5] I do know that the RSV does not have “then” there.

But in looking at all of the verses after v. 24, one will be hard pressed to find a moment depicting the establishment of eternal bliss and righteousness.  I believe this is because Daniel assumes that the establishment of eternal righteousness will naturally take place after the destruction spoken of here in v. 27.  According my best interpretation, Christ’s sacrifice is the destruction spoken of; it should fall in the middle of the week and put and “end to sacrifice and offering.”  The establishment of Christianity, then, is synonymous with the establishment of eternal righteousness.  As I say, this last verse is confusing to me and nearly every explanation of it seems stretched a bit. Nevertheless, it is still amazing that the timeline indicates that the establishment of eternal righteousness should fall between the years 26 A.D. and 46 A.D., and that these dates encompass the time of Christ’s work and the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ (i.e. Christianity).  For comments on this period of half a week, or 3 ½ days, or “time, times, and half a time,” see notes on 8:14.

[1] Jeremiah, although much older, was a contemporary of Daniel and had been warning Judah about its sin years before the first wave of captives, including the young boy Daniel, was taken to Babylon as punishment for Judah’s sin.  Having been called to be a prophet in the thirteenth year of Josiah, King of Judah (Jeremiah 1:2), which was the year 627 B.C., Jeremiah has probably been dead for some time by this point in Daniel’s life.

[2] Such events might be the taking of the Roman census, or Roman accounts of the dates that certain governing officials took office.

[3] “Christ” comes from the Greek and also means “anointed one.”

[4] There are other examples in the Old Testament of similar parenthetical insertions like what I am suggesting here.  Consider 2 Samuel 21.  In v. 15 there is an insertion that says that God commanded the angel to stop destroying Jerusalem, but in v. 16 we find the angel still attacking.  The parallel passage in 2 Samuel 24 says that the angel was still striking the people. So the statement in v. 15 actually would belong around v. 27 if the events of the narrative were to be arranged purely chronologically.

[5] Daniel 2:4-chapter 7 is in Aramaic.  The rest of the book is Hebrew.


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