Daniel 9 begins with the prophet meditating on what God told Jeremiah regarding Israel’s captivity in Babylon (9:1–2). He understood that the 70 years of captivity in Babylon was nearing its end. Yet, thirteen years earlier the vision he saw in chapter 8 foretold yet more trouble for Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple.
Daniel’s inability to make sense of these two seemingly conflicting truths from God moved him to pray (9:3–19). In response to his prayer Gabriel revealed to Daniel clarifying information regarding these future troubles of Israel (9:20–27).
First, Gabriel revealed the time involved, “seventy weeks.” Literally “seventy units of seven,” this means the same as seventy times seven or 490. Thus, 490 units of time are “decreed.” But how much time is this?
The prophecy declares that the Messiah would be present in Israel before the 490 time units would end (9:25). The Messiah would not be present within 490 days, months, or weeks after that time. Thus, “weeks” refers to units of seven years.
Some additional reasons why “seventy weeks” means 490 years—(1) In 10:2 Daniel specified weekdays. If days were meant in 9:24–27, he could have said so. (2) 490 days is meaningless in this context; 490 years fits the context well. (3) Daniel had been thinking of God’s dealings with Israel in terms of years (9:2), and thus “years” would be the most natural understanding.
Next, Gabriel says that this prophecy specifically involves Israel (“your people”) and Jerusalem (“your holy city,” 9:24), and identifies six actions—
(1) “Finish the transgression,” refers to the Jews’ rebellion against God’s rule. Israel would not stop its rebellion against God’s rule until these 490 years ended. Other Scriptures show that Israel will not repent, turn to God, and be saved until the Second Coming of Christ at the end of these 490 years (Zech 12:10–13:1; Rom 11:25–27). Israel’s restoration, which Daniel prayed for, will ultimately be fulfilled.
(2) “Make an end of sin”—this speaks of the degree which transgression is “finished.” Sin will be “put to an end.”
(3) “Make atonement for iniquity”—final atonement for sin was made by Jesus Christ on the cross, but this atonement is only applied to individuals as they believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and Savior.
These first three actions were accomplished in principle by Christ on the cross, but their historical fulfillment with reference to Jews will occur only when they turn to Christ (Jer 31:33–34; Ezek 37:23; Zech 13:1). Don’t forget who this prophecy involves—Israel!
(4)“Bring in everlasting righteousness”—literally, this is “to bring in righteousness of ages,” and refers to the righteous character of the Messiah’s rule after the completion of the seventy weeks (Isa 11:1–5; 53:11; 23:5–6; Jer 33:15–18).
(5) “Seal up vision and prophecy”—upon the completion of the seventy weeks all prophecy will be fulfilled, so the functions of revelation and prophecy will no longer be needed and thus will cease.
(6) “Anoint the most holy place”—“anoint” means to consecrate to religious service. The Temple will be consecrated for worshipping God after the end of the seventy weeks (Ezek 41–46).
Gabriel told Daniel that from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the Messiah there would be “sixty-nine weeks,” 483 years (9:25). The decree refers to Artaxerxes’ decree in 445 B.C. (Neh 2:1–8).
At the end of the 69 weeks the Messiah would come but be “cut off,” meaning he would suffer a violent death (9:26; cf. Lev 7:20, 21, 25, 27; cf. 1 Sam 17:51; Obad 9; Nah 3:15). Jerusalem and the Temple would then be destroyed (9:26, “the city and the sanctuary”).
Although Gabriel had just said Jerusalem and the Temple would be rebuilt (9:25), he then reveals that it would yet be destroyed again. This would help Daniel understand why the vision he saw in chapter 8 involved more suffering for Israel—God would chasten Israel for rejecting the Messiah at His first coming.
The degree of Jerusalem’s (“its,” 9:26) destruction is said to “come with a flood,” “war,” and “desolations,” all indicating extensive destruction. History indicates that this event took place by the Romans in 70 A.D. in response to the Jewish revolt.
As the actions of 9:24 have not occurred and require both Christ’s first and Second Coming, there is a gap of time of unknown duration (no one knows the hour of His coming, Matt 24:36). Jesus said that the abomination prophesied in 9:27 will not happen until shortly before His Second Coming (Matt 24:15–21, 29–31). Additionally, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 70 A.D., not 39 A.D. (which would have happened if the 70th week followed immediately after the 69th). Last, it is not unusual for biblical prophecies to contain gaps of time (Isa 9:6; 61:1–3; Zech 9:9–10).
The context makes clear that “the people of the prince who is to come” (9:26) does not refer to the Messiah. The Messiah was not a Roman, nor did the Romans claim the Messiah as their Prince. As well, the Messiah never made a 7 year covenant (9:27).
The closest previous reference is the Roman Prince (Antichrist) of verse 26. This “prince”—the coming Antichrist—will enforce a “one week” (7 year) covenant with Israel; cause Jewish worship to cease half-way through that 7 year covenant; demand exclusive worship; and persecute Israel (9:27).
To Summarize and Conclude—
- Gabriel thus helps Daniel see that God will restore Israel at the end of the 70 year captivity, but Israel also has additional chastening that it must endure (9:26–27).
- Note that in this prophecy the time of Messiah’s first coming was definitely made known (483 years), but the establishment of His kingdom is not—there is a gap of unrevealed time between the 69th (Christ’s first coming) and 70th weeks (Christ’s Second Coming). No one knows when Christ will return.
- This revelation sets forth the time-table of God’s future plan for Israel. All prophecy must be understood in light of this prophecy.