The Death of the Messiah and the Destruction of Jerusalem

The Death of the Messiah and the Destruction of Jerusalem Dan. 9:25-27 sermon notes I. Intro: The Rabbis and Daniel 9 In our first sermon in the book of Daniel, I quoted the words of a Jewish rabbi from Venice, Italy. In the early 1600s, Rabbi Simone Luzzatto said to some of his Jewish students about the book of Daniel, “The consequence of a too extended and profound investigation on the part of Jewish scholars would be that they would all become Christians; for it cannot be denied that according to Daniel’s limitation of the time, the Messiah must have already appeared.” This is exactly what happened to another Jewish rabbi in the late 1800s. Hungarian Rabbi Leopold Cohn (pronounced Coin) read Daniel 9:24 and concluded from the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks that the Messiah must have already arrived. This conclusion caused him to begin having doubts about the Jewish traditions enshrined in the Talmud, which served as much of his teaching material for his Jewish students. During one Hanukkah service, he became overwhelmed with the compulsion to share his recent wrestlings, but his listeners did not respond very well. What began as confused whispers in the congregation quickly escalated to loud shouts of angry protest. This experience crushed his spirit. He went to consult with an older rabbi. Cohn later recorded the older rabbi’s response. Angrily, he said, “So you have set out to find the Messiah, to uncover the inscrutable? You are hardly out of the shell and already you have the temerity to question the authority of the Talmud! The teachings of our masters are no longer good enough for you? You talk for all the world like the renegades across the sea, about whom I have recently read in a Vienna paper, who claim that our Messiah has already come. Better go back to your post, young man, and count yourself happy that you have not yet been deprived of it. And take my warning, if you persist in these unholy ideas, you will one day end your Rabbinate in disgrace and probably wind up among those apostates in America!” This rebuke from the elder rabbi had the opposite of its intended effect. Rabbi Cohn now recognized that there were others who believed that the Messiah had already come, and they were in America! So, he traveled to New York City, where he was welcomed by a Hungarian synagogue. Shortly after his arrival, he took a Sabbath afternoon stroll and happened to pass by a church with a sign, written in Hebrew, announcing “meetings for Jews” with the image of a cross on the sign. He stood transfixed. While he stood staring, one of his fellow Hungarian Jews happened to see him, and his kinsman got his attention and said to him, “Rabbi Cohn, better come away from this place. There are apostate Jews in that church, and they teach that the Messiah has already come.” Reluctantly and quietly, Rabbi Cohn walked away. But, secretly, he knew that is exactly what he was looking for! Two days later, he found the pastor of that church and told him of his wrestlings. Instead of a rebuke, he was offered a New Testament written in Hebrew. He took it home and read the opening words of the Gospel of Matthew: “The book of the generation of Yeshua the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” I’ll let Rabbi Cohn tell the rest of the story: “I began reading at eleven o’clock in the morning and continued until one o’clock after midnight. I could not understand the entire contents of the book, but I could at least see that the Messiah’s name was Yeshua, that He was born in Bethlehem of Judah, that He had lived in Jerusalem and communicated with my people, and that He came just at the time predicted in the prophecy of Daniel. My joy was boundless!” Leopold Cohn would later become the founder of Chosen People Ministries. Between the night of his conversion and the founding of this missions organization focusing on bringing the gospel to the Jewish people, Cohn would also personally experience the hostility, opposition, persecution, and tribulation depicted in the book of Daniel. But, through it all, he also personally introduced over 1,000 people to the Messiah who has already come, Jesus! II. Setting the Stage Now, let’s set the stage. We’ve spent the past few weeks talking about the Seventy Weeks prophecy. We’ve walked through the early part of Daniel 9, which contains Daniel’s prayer to which the angel Gabriel delivers God’s answer in terms of this Seventy Weeks prophecy. We’ve looked at some necessary biblical background with the concept of Sabbath-years and the Jubilee proclamation of liberty on the Day of Atonement. Last week, we looked at the stated purposes of the Seventy Weeks. Now, we need to open up the rest of Gabriel’s unpacking of the time frame, and we will see how the Seventy Weeks culminates with the Messiah’s arrival, what we think of now as Jesus’s first coming, particularly focusing on his death on the cross establishing the New Covenant for his people. As we do that, before we wade into what one commentator years ago described as “the dismal swamp” of Old Testament interpretation, let me share with you an old Peanuts comic strip that might reflect what you’ve been feeling as we’ve traipsed through some of the last few chapters of Daniel. Linus is there reflecting on a classic nursery rhyme. He says, “The way I see it, ‘the cow jumped over the moon’ indicates a rise in farm prices….The part about the dish running away with the spoon must refer to the consumer….Do you agree with me, Charlie Brown?” To which Charlie Brown replies, “I can’t say….I don’t pretend to be a student of prophetic literature.” Well, unlike Charlie Brown, we Christians are indeed summoned to be students of prophetic literature, since God has inspired so much of it in our Bibles. It is important to remember that Gabriel’s message is God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer. The time frame indicated as Seventy Weeks or, more literally, seventy sevens, would’ve connected with Daniel’s reading of his Bible. David Jeremiah has a helpful graphic displaying the significance of all of this. If we start in the middle, we recall that Daniel had read Jeremiah’s prophecies which indicated that the exile in Babylon would last 70 years. A few weeks ago, we turned to the end of 2 Chronicles, where the Chronicler gave us a theological explanation for why the exile must last 70 years, and it had to do with Israel’s failure to keep the law of the Sabbath Year from Leviticus 25. The logic of the Chronicler is that the land needed to rest the number of years that reflected the number of Sabbath Years that Israel failed to observe. Thus, 70 years represents 70 Sabbath Years, and since Sabbath Years occur every seven years, the 70 Sabbath Years they missed would’ve stretched over the course of 490 years. As Dr. Jeremiah’s chart indicates, Daniel’s prayer was focused on the past, in that Daniel was essentially asking, “Isn’t the time for the exile up? Haven’t we been in Babylon for about 70 years? Hasn’t the land had its rest? Can we go home now?” The answer provided by the angel Gabriel pushes Daniel’s gaze into the future. If the problem that caused the exile spanned the course of a full 490 years, then it makes sense for God, in his balancing justice, to bring the remedy for that problem over the course of 490 years. Thus, the end of the exile, shockingly for Daniel, will not be when the Jewish people return to the land of Judah and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. That’s what Daniel thought Jeremiah’s prophecies meant, but Gabriel is informing him that Jeremiah’s prophecies only specified the beginning phase of the return from exile. Getting the Jewish people back to the land and getting the temple rebuilt was only a stage-setting act, so that God could then fulfill the rest of his promises to deal with the problem that caused the exile in the first place: Jewish rebellion. But, in fixing the problem of Jewish rebellion, God’s design was actually to deal with human rebellion and sin, the sin of all people. Thus, the Seventy Weeks prophecy, as we looked at last week, is certainly for the Jews, but not for the Jews alone. How the seventy seven-year periods break down is the subject of Daniel 9:25-27. We zoomed in on verse 24 last week and looked closely at the sixfold solution that God was going to achieve in the midst of this period of time. Here’s my summary of the message of the whole chapter, with an emphasis on Gabriel’s answer to Daniel’s prayer: In response to Daniel’s prayer, God revealed the time when he would rescue his people from the exile of sin—completely by grace—by sending the Messiah to die for them, establishing the eternal New Covenant, and executing judgment against unbelieving Israel to fulfill the ultimate Jubilee. Let’s read Daniel 9:24-27. We looked closely at verse 24 last week, but we need to remember that verse as a summary heading to the rest of the passage. “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are 24 decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” III. The Structure of Daniel 9:25-27 I suggested last week that the sixfold solution, the six goals for the seventy weeks, would not be accomplished gradually throughout the 490-year period of time. Rather, the way the prophecy is introduced, and, as we’ll see today, the way the rest of the passage unfolds, makes it likely that these goals will be accomplished climactically in the seventieth week. My reading of this passage recognizes a certain structure that certainly impacts the way I understand the details. This chart on the next slide lays out that structure. Each verse has two halves, two sections, marked by the repetition of a particular word in Hebrew. It is common in the Bible for a story to be told this way, or an argument to be made this way. When two distinct but related topics are being discussed, rather than addressing topic A from start to finish before moving on to addressing topic B, it is common for ancient near eastern writers to introduce topic A and then introduce topic B, then elaborate on topic A, and then elaborate on topic B, and then return to topic A, and then return to topic B, going back and forth between the two topics. This helps strengthen the connection between the two topics in the mind of the reader. We in the modern west probably wouldn’t do it that way, but that is very common in the Bible. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem 25 And it will again be built with until an Anointed One, a Leader, 7 a plaza and a trench, but in sevens and 62 sevens. distressing times. and, as for the city and the And after the 62 sevens, an sanctuary, the people of the 26 Anointed One will be cut off, but coming Leader will destroy it, not for himself, and its end [will be] in a flood, and until the end [there will be] war, the decreed desolations! and upon the wing of And he will enact a covenant with abominations the one who the many [during] one seven, and desolates [will come], and 27 in the midst of the seven he will until destruction even what has put an end to sacrifice and been decreed will gush forth offering, against the desolator. The words in this chart reflect my own very literal translation of the Hebrew. I rarely offer my own translation as an alternative to what you have in your Bibles, and this is not intended to replace them in any way. However, by presenting this to you, I can more easily show you some of the pivotal things that stand out in how I understand this passage. The references to “sevens” are all in the left column, and they are all connected to the Anointed One and his work. The word “decreed” is the key word in the right hand column, and those statements all have to do with the city of Jerusalem and the temple. In verse 25, you won’t see the word “decreed,” but in Hebrew the word translated “trench” or “moat” is from the same root as “decreed,” and a Hebrew reader can catch the connection. The KJV and NKJV have the word “wall,” instead of “trench” or “moat,” but that is because they followed the Greek translation of this passage and they may not have known what the Hebrew word meant, since it only appears here in the Old Testament. So, with this structure, if you’re familiar with this passage, you can probably already see where I’m heading. Another way of viewing this structure, is as a chiasm, with the death of the Messiah in the very center, and you can see how the parallels would work out in the passage, when outlined like this next slide: A A′ Construction of Jerusalem (9:25a) B Coming of the Anointed One (9:25b) C Construction of Jerusalem (9:25c) D DEATH OF THE ANOINTED ONE (9:26a) C′ Destruction of Jerusalem (9:26b) B′ Activities of the Anointed One (9:27a) Destruction of Jerusalem (9:27b) Now, one issue I didn’t bring up last week is whether or not we should take this "seventy weeks of years” as a literal span of time. It may surprise you, but I believe we should take this as a literal 490-year period of time. Now, as we observed last week, in one sense, this is not taking Gabriel’s words literally; he refers to “seventy sevens,” and we interpret that figure of speech as referring to “seventy seven-year periods.” But because of the breakdown in verse 25, I believe he intends a real, historical span of time, and Gabriel focuses our attention on certain historical events within this timeframe. Let’s begin looking at the details. In verse 25, Gabriel gives us a starting point and an endpoint. IV. A Starting Point and an Endpoint (Dan. 9:25) Verse 25 says, in the ESV, “Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.” So, the start date, or starting event, is “the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem.” Four options are commonly suggested for this “word,” with four very different dates. You can see the four options on the screen: 1. 2. 3. 4. Cyrus’s decree in 538 BC (Ezra 1:1-4/2 Chron. 36:22-23) Darius’s decree in 520 BC (Ezra 6:1-15) Artaxerxes’ decree in 458 BC (Ezra 7:1-28; cf. 6:14b) Artaxerxes’ permission in 445 BC (Neh. 2:1-9) Accepting Cyrus’s decree as the one Gabriel refers to usually means an interpreter is taking the seventy weeks as a symbolic period of time, not actually reflecting 490 years of history. Some conservative, Bible-believing students of Scripture do take this approach, and I have held that view in the past. Gabriel’s description of the “word” as having to do with restoring and rebuilding Jerusalem makes Cyrus’s decree very attractive, especially when it is remembered that Isaiah the prophet had repeatedly spoken of Cyrus, by name, as the one Yahweh would use to restore the people to the land, allow the people to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, and enable them to rebuild the temple. The record of the decree in Ezra and 2 Chronicles focused on the rebuilding of the temple, but Isaiah’s prophecies emphasized the return to the land and the rebuilding of the city. Nevertheless, since I now see good reason to take the seventy seven-year periods as a literal 490-year period of history, I can’t accept option #1. Option #2, Darius’s decree simply reiterates Cyrus’s decree. After the Jewish people quit working on the temple because of some opposition they faced, the Persian king intervened on behalf of the Jews, after finding the archive records of Cyrus’s decree. With the king’s decree and the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah, the Lord got the people back to work. Very few interpreters look to this decree in connection with Gabriel’s words, mostly because the time frame becomes out of whack. Option #3 is similar to Option #2, in that it is a reiteration of Cyrus’s decree, this time allowing Ezra to lead more Jewish people back to the land to, as Ezra puts it, “beautify the house of Yahweh that is in Jerusalem.” But, in the conclusion of the decree, King Artaxerxes granted Ezra permission to “appoint magistrates and judges” which could be viewed as the final need for a functioning city, for a restored and rebuilt Jerusalem. The need for civil servants who would enforce law and order puts the crowning achievement on the restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem. I believe this decree to be what Gabriel has in mind. A very odd detail in the book of Ezra adds support for this one to be viewed as the final decree having to do with the rebuilding of Jerusalem. In Ezra 6:14, before we actually read about this decree, we read these summarizing words from the Spirit-inspired author of the book: “They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia.” In chapter 6 of Ezra, the story is progressing during the reign of Darius, and this summary statement has to do with the completion of the temple, which historically occurred in 515 BC, way before Artaxerxes was even king. But the author of the book of Ezra views the decree for rebuilding the temple and the city as one unified decree connected to the three Persian kings, Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes. And, he puts that singular decree underneath the heading of the decree of the true sovereign, Yahweh, the God of Israel. So, I am currently inclined to view this as the starting point of the seventy weeks period. Option #4 is favored by folks like Dr. Jeremiah and John MacArthur. The same Persian king we meet in Ezra 7 provides another letter, granting permission to Nehemiah to take people and resources to Jerusalem in order to build the wall of the city. The primary reason I am not convinced that we should view this as the starting point of the seventy weeks is because Nehemiah’s rebuilding is disconnected with the rebuilding anticipated by Daniel. By 445 BC, the city has been rebuilt and fully functional for many years. What prompts Nehemiah to request this permission was a report he had received that there had been some vandalism, some fresh destruction against the recently rebuilt walls of the city. Nehemiah is not grieving that the walls of Jerusalem that had been destroyed by Babylon had never been rebuilt. Rather, those rebuilt walls had been attacked and recently damaged, and Nehemiah desires to repair what has since been destroyed. That leads me away from considering what happens in Nehemiah 2 as a valid option for Gabriel’s word. So, if that’s the starting point, 458 BC, what’s the end point? Messiah. The ESV and most of our versions insert the phrase “the coming of,” but literally it’s just “until Messiah.” Gabriel doesn’t pinpoint any particular event in the Messiah’s life, and I think that’s because we shouldn’t be expecting to pinpoint the timeframe exactly. Rather, Gabriel has provided a window of time. The start date we can pinpoint, because a decree happens on a particular day, but the endpoint is a person, the Messiah. After noting the starting point and the endpoint, we get the time frame in view, not the full seventy weeks. Rather, he mentions seven weeks and sixtytwo weeks. There’s disagreement even in our Bible translations on whether or not the seven weeks and sixty-two weeks go together. I believe they do go together, as seen in the NASB. However, Gabriel doesn’t just say “sixty-nine weeks,” so there is some significance to the seven weeks standing alone, and I think the significance is just this. The first 49 years are the period of time related to the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. From Artaxerxes’ decree in 458 BC, 49 years takes us to the year 409 BC. There is some historical evidence, outside the Bible, that this year was the final year of Nehemiah’s final term of serving as governor of the Persian province of Yehud, what we more commonly think of as “Judah.” But, in any case, the Lord works through Nehemiah to bring final stability to the Jews who returned home and to the city of Jerusalem, especially. What of the 62 weeks, the 434 years on top of that? Well, that is what the rest of verse 25 is about. Jerusalem remains rebuilt, but the time period is filled with trouble and distress for the Jewish people. This period of time will feature in Daniel 11, where we’ll see the warfare within the Greek kingdom and on into the Roman Empire that made living in Israel in those days such a terrifying experience, much like it is today. But once the seven and sixty-two weeks of years end, the Jews should be expecting to see the Messiah, in the seventieth week. Verses 26-27 are both providing the details of the climactic seventieth week, the final week of years that would see the fulfillment of the sixfold solution laid out in verse 24. Verse 26 specifies the death of the Messiah and the destruction of the city. V. The Death of the Messiah and the Destruction of the City (Dan. 9:26) “And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war.” Many students of Scripture view the phrase “after the sixty-two weeks” indicating a gap before the introduction of the seventieth week. The final week will be mentioned explicitly in verse 27, so some see verse 26 as describing events that will take place in a gap between the 69 th week and the seventieth. I think it is far more likely that “after the sixty-two weeks” is simply another way of referring to “during the seventieth week.” Moreover, if this is describing the death of the Messiah, which most would agree is the event that guarantees the fulfillment of the sixfold solution of verse 24, I have a very hard time believing that the most important event in all of prophetic history occurs outside the timeframe of the seventy weeks laid out by Gabriel. The key event of all history is supposed to occur in a kind of parenthetical break in the outworking of God’s prophetic purposes? I just can’t believe that. The KJV probably has a better translation of the second part of that first sentence; it reads, “shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself.” By this ambiguous Hebrew phrase, Gabriel indicates that the Messiah will be executed as a criminal, but not because of crimes he himself committed; rather, his death will be substitutionary, to pay for the crimes of others. That is the linchpin of all of history; that is the most important event of all history; that is the guarantee and the cause of all of those wondrous goals of the seventy weeks listed in verse 24. And verse 24 certainly set us up to expect that this history-altering event would occur, not in the 69th week, not in some “unreckoned time,” as it is sometimes called, but in the climactic seventieth week. So much of the calendar-calculating work that is done in connection with this passage messes up right here. If you take Option #4 as the starting point and you add 483 years to get to the 69th week of years, everyone knows that you don’t get a possible date for the ministry or death of Jesus. One early church writer, known to us as Julius Africanus, seems to have been the first to introduce the idea that the Jews counted years differently than other cultures. He said that 483 years, counted in the Greek way, equals 475 years counted the Jewish way. That idea doesn’t seem to have been real convincing to his contemporaries in the 200s. But a similar idea came around in the late 1800s. Rather famously now, a fellow by the name of Sir Robert Anderson wrote a book about this passage entitled The Coming Prince. He introduced the idea of “prophetic years,” whereby he suggested Jews calculated their years in terms of 30-day months, totaling up for 360-day years, instead of the solar-calculated 365-day years. He based this, first of all, on a common observation from the book of Genesis; the global Flood of judgment is stated to have lasted 150 days in Genesis 7:24 and 8:3, and it is said to have lasted from the 17 th day of the second month to the 17th day of the 7th month. Dr. Jeremiah calls this “conclusive evidence to show that the prophetic year consisted not of 365 days but of 360 days,” and he sees this as proving that “the earliest known month in Bible history was thirty days in length, and twelve months of such length would be a period of 360 days, or a 360-day year.” There is a term for that line of argumentation. The Latin phrase non sequitur. It simply means “not sequential.” In other words, the conclusions being drawn from this biblical data simply do not follow. May I appeal to reason for just a moment? To say a period of 5 months that is said to equal 150 days must imply that each month lasted 30 days is easily disprovable. Do the math: count the days from February 17th to July 17th. It is 150 days. Do those five months all have 30 days? No. I am drawing this to your attention to challenge your thinking, to help you think about what you hear. I’m not wanting you to lose trust or respect for Dr. Jeremiah or John Macarthur or other authors and pastors that you have learned from. I respect and learn from these men, too. But all of us have blind spots, all of us can make mistakes, and all of us can do poor research at times. That’s why we need each other! I stumbled onto Max Lucado preaching this text last year on YouTube. He appealed to Sir Robert Anderson, and he said that his calculations have never been refuted. David Jeremiah similarly wrote just a few years ago, “The exact nature of [Anderson’s] computation has stood the test for over a century and has been corroborated by many biblical scholars.” I don’t know how these men can say this. Again, I am not wanting to impugn the character of these men in any way; I am genuinely flabbergasted! The fact is that Anderson’s computations were rigorously challenged pretty soon after they were published and gained steam originally in 1895. And, much more recently, in the 1970s, a professor from Dallas Seminary who agrees with Option #4 as the start date, agrees that there is a gap between the 69 th and 70th week, and agrees that a 360-day “prophetic year” is a real thing that should influence the way we understand this passage, showed conclusively several errors in Anderson’s computations. Recognizing the clarity with which this prophecy speaks of the death of Jesus, people want to make the dates line up just so. However, even the date of Jesus’s crucifixion is not absolutely certain. The best argumentation that accounts for all the biblical and historical and even astronomical data that we have today seems to suggest the year 33 AD. But these dating schemes that attempt to mark the arrival of the Messiah in verse 25 on the precise day of Jesus’s “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem as part of the 69 th week are all still too early, and that pushes some folks to ignore some data to conclude that Jesus died in the year 30, 31, or 32. The desire to make this prophecy line up with precise dates can push us into being careless with the data. I do not believe it is appropriate or historically justified to introduce a 360-day year into the interpretation of Scripture. I do not believe that we can or should disconnect the prophecy from real-life history and real-life dating. No one, not the Jews, not any other culture on the face of the planet, as far as we know, ever actually followed a calendar that had 360 days consistently. In fact, ancient cultures didn’t make calendars the way we tend to think of calendars. Instead, they simply followed the movements of the sun and the moon and the stars. Cultures experimented with different calendar systems to plan events and to track their history, but they constantly made adjustments to account for the real movements they observed in the sky. So, for me, I do not see a need to introduce a less-than-normal year into our understanding of Scripture at this point. And, under a normal reckoning of the years, starting with 458 BC means that the seventieth week would begin in the middle of the year 26 AD, which would place all of Jesus’s ministry and his death on the cross within the climactic seventieth week. Let’s continue looking at the text. To pile on the controversy, we have to consider the people of the prince who is to come. This is the phrase Sir Robert Anderson used to title his book, The Coming Prince, and for him, that is a reference to the Antichrist who will come in the future. I remain uncertain about the identity of the prince of verse 26. I have bounced between three options: 1) a Jewish zealot known as John of Gischala, who elevated himself as ruler of the Jews in Jerusalem and transformed the temple into a military fortress and escalated the Jewish Revolt between 67 and 70 AD that resulted in the destruction of the temple, a man I believe to be depicted in Daniel’s final vision in chapter 11; 2) the Roman general Titus who led the Roman armies into Jerusalem to destroy the temple in 70 AD; and 3) Jesus the Messiah, whom I still see to be the most natural understanding from the grammar of the passage. In verse 25, we see “an anointed one, a prince,” or “Messiah, a Ruler or Leader.” The word translated “prince” is a word that refers to someone who has been put out in front of other people, a leader. In the Old Testament, it often is used to refer to Israel’s kings and often in connection with anointing. It is featured in the promise of the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7. It is used only one time in the Old Testament clearly referring to a pagan king. But, in Daniel 9:26, we see the people of a “leader” destroying Jerusalem and the temple. For some, this makes identifying this “leader” as Jesus just too difficult. But, the word translated “who is to come” is actually an important Messianic term in one other passage. The words sung in praise of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey are taken from Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh!” “He who comes” is the exact same form we have attached to the word translated “leader” in Daniel 9:26. Both of these words have clear connections to the Messiah in other passages in the Old Testament, so it is very difficult for me to see any other reference here than to the coming king, Jesus. I can see no strong reason, either contextually or grammatically in Daniel 9 to view this as anyone other than Jesus. And that makes what Gabriel says so shocking! It is the Messiah’s people who will destroy the city and the temple! The temple will remain standing, rebuilt, as Gabriel said in verse 25, all the way through the end of the 69th week. But at some point later, perhaps even beyond the scope of the seventy weeks, the people of the Messiah—who will have already come and accomplished his work—ironically, shockingly, the people who should’ve trusted him, should’ve followed him will be guilty of causing the destruction of the city and the temple…again. This is the “bad news” side of Gabriel’s announcement. Daniel is focused on hopes for the return of the Jews to the land and the rebuilding of the temple. All that will happen. But Daniel is also hoping that the Jewish rebellion will end, and that will happen, too, in part. Many Jews will turn away from their sin and to their Messiah, but many will not, and those who do not will continue in their rebellion in such a way that will cause the city to be laid waste and the temple to be destroyed again. This will come to pass in 70 AD, outside the scope of the seventy weeks, in one sense. The city’s end will be preceded by a flood of Roman soldiers and about 3 ½ years of warfare between zealous Jews and Romans, and the Jews will lose. Notice that “the coming prince,” the leader who is to come is not the one who brings destruction in this verse; it is the people, a term in Daniel that almost always refers specifically to the Jewish people! It’s important to remember that “the actions of a king’s subjects are not necessarily endorsed by the king.” Now, let’s turn to verse 27, where Gabriel returns to talking about the Messiah’s work in the seventieth week, the making of a covenant, the ending of sacrifice, and the defeat of the desolator. VI. The Making of a Covenant, the Ending of Sacrifice, and the Defeat of the Desolator (Dan. 9:27) “And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” Who puts in force this covenant? If we’re reading straight through and not recognizing how Gabriel goes back and forth between topics, we’d assume that it must be “the coming prince,” “the leader who is to come,” from the second half of verse 26. And, that could be possible, and, in my view, that still means it’s Jesus who puts this covenant in force. But, going back to that alternating structure of Gabriel’s words, the “he” who puts in force the covenant is the anointed one who was cut off in the first half of verse 26. The phrase the ESV translates as “make a strong covenant” is unique in Scripture. It’s not the normal phraseology for initiating a covenant or affirming a previously-ratified covenant or confirming a covenant. That should give us all pause. However, it does seem that Daniel’s Aramaic provides a parallel idea in chapter 6 when Darius was challenged by his counselors to “establish the injunction,” whereby he signed into irrevocable law the edict that got Daniel thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel was praying about the broken covenant between Yahweh and the people, and the other prophets announced the coming of a New Covenant as the fulfillment of all the previous covenants between God and his people. I believe this passage fits well with those other passages. Who is the covenant with? Literally, “the many.” This little phrase probably would’ve brought to Daniel’s mind Isaiah 53, the song about the Suffering Servant. The cutting off of the Messiah in verse 26 is the death of the Suffering Servant. Isaiah’s song actually begins in Isaiah 52:13. In 52:14, he indicates that “many” would be astonished at this Servant, because his appearance would become so marred. In 52:15, he indicates that the Servant would “sprinkle many nations.” Then, in Isaiah 53:11-12, the climactic conclusion of the song, we read these glorious words: 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; 12 by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. Jesus pulls all this together at the Last Supper. In Matthew 26:28, we read, “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” A fellow by the name of Philip Mauro, writing in 1923, summarized the point well, “In these words we find four things which agree with the [seventy weeks] prophecy: 1 st, ‘the One’ who was to confirm the covenant, Christ; 2nd, ‘the covenant’ itself; 3rd, that which ‘confirmed’ the covenant, the blood of Christ; 4th, those who receive the benefits of the covenant, the ‘many.’ The identification is complete; for the words correspond perfectly with those of the prophecy, ‘He shall confirm the covenant with many.’” Thus, the covenant Gabriel speaks of is the New Covenant, prophesied elsewhere by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, most plainly. Allow me to quote Philip Mauro once more, at length, on the importance of “the many” as a biblically-recognizable phrase: “It is further to be noted that, although the promise of the New Covenant was made to the entire ‘house of Israel and house of Judah,’ [according to Jeremiah 31:31], not all of them entered into its benefits. Those who rejected Christ were…as branches, ‘broken off’ (Rom. 11:17). We see then the accuracy of Scripture in the words of the prophecy ‘with many,’ and those of the Lord Jesus ‘shed for many.’ This use of the word ‘many’ is found in other like scriptures. Thus, in a similar prophecy it is written: ‘My righteous Servant shall justify many’ (Isa. 53:11). Again, ‘And many of the children of Israel shall [John] turn to the Lord their God ([Luke] 1:11; 1:16). This was said by the same heavenly messenger, Gabriel, when he announced to Zacharias the birth of his son. And yet again-this time from the lips of Simeon-‘This Child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel’ (Lu. 2:34). And yet once more, in the words of the Lord Jesus, ‘For the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many’ (Matt. 20:28). In each of these scriptures the word ‘many’ applies to those who receive by faith the benefits of the New Covenant which Christ made sure by the shedding of His blood upon the Cross.” Thus, I see no evidence for believing that the Bible teaches that Antichrist will make some kind of peace treaty with the nation of Israel in the end times. This is the only verse used to build that doctrine, and I believe it is without warrant. I believe verse 27 begins by indicating that the cutting off of the Messiah, his sacrificial death stated in verse 26, is also to be viewed as the establishing of the New Covenant, which other passages tell us is an eternal covenant. Certainly, the New Covenant isn’t to last only for one week. The problem is that the word “for” in the phrase “for one week” is not reflected in Hebrew. The grammatical construction could imply a duration, but normally a preposition is included to make that clear. Here, the plainest way to take the Hebrew is as, “And he will enact a covenant with the many during the one week.” Likewise, we tend to overread the next phrase, “and for half of the week.” Again, there is no “for” in the text. The word translated “half,” when it’s attached to a time span, like “week,” can just mean “in the midst of,” without intending to specify the precise midpoint. Look to Psalm 102:24 or Jeremiah 17:11, if you want an example where you’ll find the phrase “in the midst of” reflecting this same construction. Thus, what happens “in the midst” of the final week? He, the Messiah, shall put an end to the offering of sacrifices. Now that the Suffering Servant has provided the once-for-all sacrifice to end all sacrifices, so that forgiveness of sins may be offered to all who believe, the author of Hebrews can say in Hebrews 10:18, “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” And, the context of that verse in Hebrews 10 has the author drawing implications from the New Covenant having been established in Jesus’s death! God has not accepted a single animal sacrifice as payment for sin since the day Jesus died on the cross! And he never will again! The popular interpretation of verse 27 pushes folks to suggest that Daniel’s seventieth week is equivalent to “The Tribulation.” Then, the identification of “the coming prince” as the Antichrist at the end of history pushes folks to see the Antichrist making some kind of seven-year peace treaty with the nation of Israel. Then, at the halfway point of the week, after 3 ½ years, the Antichrist will break this treaty and cause the sacrifices to stop being offered at the temple, and the final 3 ½ years are called “The Great Tribulation,” where the suffering and persecution of the Jews is escalated by the Antichrist and his forces. This then pushes folks to assume that the temple must be rebuilt again in Jerusalem before “The Tribulation” can begin. All of this is based on Daniel 9:26-27 and only on Daniel 9:26-27. So, to be clear, let me state what I do not believe this passage or the Bible anywhere teaches. I do not believe the Bible teaches that there will be a period of tribulation that will last exactly seven years. I do not believe the Bible teaches definitively that the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. I do not believe the Bible teaches that the final Antichrist will establish peace in the Middle East for Israel. And, it follows that I do not believe that the Antichrist will betray the Jewish people in some specific way that will result in their increased persecution. Now, I’m sure that raises some questions in your mind. Perhaps you can ask me sometime. But let’s close out the passage for today. The last sentence of verse 27 everyone agrees is very difficult to translate and to interpret. I believe it is likely describing the destruction of Jerusalem that occurred in 70 AD. It was the Roman armies under the leadership of General Titus who slaughtered many, laid waste to the city, and flattened the temple once again. However, even the Jewish historian Josephus affirmed that the blame for this destruction falls squarely on the Jews themselves. While Josephus looks to the historical causes, the Jewish zealots’ violent refusal to cooperate any longer with Roman policies, we can see the ultimate theological reason: God used the Roman armies, as he had used the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Greeks to bring judgment against the Jewish people, this time for murdering their Messiah. Moreover, the language of abominations causing the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple echoes the prophet Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 8, God showed Ezekiel the idolatry of the Jewish leaders, going on in the temple, and the Lord referred to it as abominations that would drive Yahweh to abandon his sanctuary. As we conclude, let’s consider Jesus’s usage of this passage. VII. Conclusion: Jesus’s Usage of This Passage It is curious that no New Testament author ever refers specifically to “the seventy weeks” of Daniel or “the seventieth week.” That would’ve been helpful for us, but there are other ways that this passage seems to feature in the New Testament. The fact that the time frame is not mentioned directly suggests that it’s the events featured in the passage that are more important than the calculations. Jesus seems to draw on this passage in his teaching on the Mount of Olives, just a few days before his death. For example, in Luke 21:20, Jesus says, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near.” That’s probably an indication that Jesus saw Daniel 9:27 as referring to the impending destruction of the temple, which would take place in 70 AD. Moreover, this qualifies something we noted a few weeks ago. When we see the connection between the seventy weeks and the fulfillment of the ultimate Jubilee, as prophesied in Isaiah 61, and, in Luke 4, we hear Jesus quote those words from Isaiah 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth, we made the point that he stops short of referring to the “day of vengeance,” which ultimately points forward to his second coming to bring final judgment against those who remain in rebellion against him. But, here in Luke 21, as he warns his disciples of the coming judgment of Jerusalem, he adds in verse 22, “for these are days of vengeance, to fulfill all that is written.” So, as was the day of Babylon’s destruction of Solomon’s temple, so would be the day of Rome’s destruction of Herod’s temple, and so will be the return of Jesus leading his armies against all unbelievers—these are all days when God executes his judgment, his vengeance against those in rebellion against him. During this same teaching, as recorded in Matthew 24, Jesus also seems to refer specifically to Daniel 9:27. In Matthew 24:15, we read, “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Jesus is instructing his disciples, some of whom would still be alive in 70 AD, and he points back to this passage in Daniel 9, and I believe he and Daniel both are referring to the events that would unfold in 70 AD. The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple are not, strictly speaking, to be viewed as part of the seventy weeks period of time. This judgment wasn’t listed as part of the sixfold solution, the six goals of the seventy weeks period, which Gabriel outlined in Daniel 9:24. However, the judgment of Jerusalem and the temple is to be understood as a direct result of the Jewish leadership’s murder of the Messiah. Ironically, the very event that achieves their redemption, their salvation, includes their own hard-hearted rejection of that redemption. Nevertheless, as thousands of Jews, including some of the Jewish leaders, came to trust Jesus as their Messiah, the purposes of the seventy weeks began to have their fulfillment. The final Jubilee had come! The ultimate Day of Atonement sacrifice had been offered, and now freedom from slavery to sin, Satan, and death was available to all, both Jews and Gentiles. Those who reject the Jubilee proclamation, the preaching of the gospel, remain under the judgment of God, both Jews and Gentiles. But the eternal New Covenant has been enacted in the death of Jesus, and so forgiveness of sin can be offered to Jew and Gentile alike. Since the final week of the seventy weeks period involves the fulfillment of the ultimate Jubilee, we might need to understand the final week as not being limited to a literal sevenyear period. Rather, we might need to view that final, climactic seventieth week as an eternal week, so that the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD did indeed occur in the seventieth week, and the seventieth week will continue until Jesus returns to execute final judgment and to rescue and resurrect all those who are waiting for him, both in heaven and on earth.
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