The Daily Sacrifice: Part 2
Seeking Context for Daniel's 70-Weeks
Mention the book of Malachi to a devout Christian and the first place his mind generally goes is to the passage “bring all the tithes into the storehouse” (Malachi 3:10). It’s likely that this is the only verse he knows because his leaders will have little to gain by explaining to him the other 54 verses of the book. Mention Daniel chapter nine to prophecy minded Christians and the first place that mind generally goes is to the passage “seventy weeks are determined upon thy people” (Daniel 9:25). From there comes a plethora of varying calculations generally used by Evangelical churches to predict future events.
The problem with many of these interpretations is they are based on the last four verses of Daniel (Verses 24-27). That itself is not a bad thing, but the entire chapter contains 27 verses that establish important context for those calculations. This means 15% of Daniel nine is devoted to calculations and the other 85% establish context for those calculations. Neglect to consider verses 1-23 and it is highly likely you will be misled by your own guess work. To help narrow down the meaning of the 70-week prophecy, I am going to provide critical observations concerning verses 1-23. In these observations I will not discuss specific dates to avoid unnecessary distractions in the points I need to make.
An answer to prayer:
It is tempting for readers to allow the Messianic prophecies of verses 24-27 overshadow the intended meaning for Daniel nine. To believe that its sole purpose was to predict the coming of Yeshua is a mistake, although it is an important secondary component. Carefully note that as the chapter unfolds, Daniel was not petitioning the Father to learn the date of the Messiah’s advent. On the contrary Daniel states, “I was … making my request to YHWH Elohim for His Holy Mountain” (Daniel 9:20).
Why was the state of the Holy Mountain (Jerusalem) so important to both Daniel and YHWH?
The Holy Mountain represents the seat of government and ultimately, the official communication center between heaven and earth. YHWH said to Moses, “Let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). If faithful to their instructions, not adding or taking away from them, Israel would be extremely blessed while emulating YHWH’s form of Government on earth. Unfortunately, 70 years before the time of Daniels’s prayer, YHWH had forsaken Jerusalem due to Israel’s violation of the Mosaic covenant. Consequently, YHWH withdrew His protection from His holy mountain and Israel’s seat of government (the Holy Mountain) was destroyed.
Daniel admitted that people of Israel brought these events upon themselves as he prays, “We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws … Therefore, the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you” (Daniel 9:11 NIV).
The Jewish exile to Babylon was not a mystery to anyone raised to study the Law of Moses. A close examination of the Covenant reveals that Daniel’s prayer was directly influenced by the warnings written in Leviticus chapter 26. (Please read this chapter!) It describes the very predicament Daniel and the Jewish people had caused. But Leviticus 26 also promised forgiveness and restoration should Israel repent and return to the grand aims laid out by the Covenant.
It says, “If they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers—their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant … and I will remember the land. For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees” (Leviticus 26:40-43 NIV).
Note that when Gabriel brings an answer to Daniel’s prayer, he does not simply say, “You and your people are returning to Jerusalem” but rather he says, “Seventy weeks are determined upon your people” (Daniel 9:24 KJV). But Gabriel does not stop there. He then relates six accomplishments that would be attained to during a specific segment of time. If we fail to decrypt the meaning of these six items, we will miss the relationship that the Messiah bears upon the 70 week prophecy.
The six components that would take place during the prophetic time are as follows:
To finish transgression
Put an end to sin
Atone for wickedness
Bring in everlasting righteousness
Seal up vision and prophecy
Anoint the most holy
In this presentation we will define what it means “to finish transgression”. It would be easy to associate the term “finish transgression” to the ministry of Yeshua the Messiah, believing that this was accomplished at the time of his death. He did say “it is finished” but did not say that he “finished transgression”. One can easily see that man’s transgression against the government of God did not cease at his death. It is difficult for us to find a meaning to these words if they are exclusively applied to the Messiah, especially if we employ them in English terms.
But we can better understand this prophecy in a Hebrew context. The English word used for “finish” is kawlah (H3607) in Hebrew and it means to restrain or restrict. The English word for transgression in Hebrew is peshwah (H6588) and it means “revolt”. Rephrase Gabriel’s proclamation to Daniel and he says “Seventy weeks are determined upon your people to restrain revolt”. Gabriel was informing Daniel that his prayer for the Holy Mountain would be answered. Jerusalem would be restored into a functional state; operating under the Mosaic Law and administrated by the Aaronic Priesthood.
But this development would not occur for another 80 years until King Artaxerxes implemented an important decree that would initiate the prophetic 490-year clock.
Artaxerxes’ decree called for Ezra the Priest to return to Jerusalem and establish the Law of Moses as the law of the land of Judah. The King decreed, “You, Ezra … appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them. Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment” (Ezra 7:25-26).
Prior to the reign of Artaxerxes, those returning to Jerusalem were confused about what law code they were to maintain and the Jewish community of Judea was in disarray. But after Artaxerxes decree (which occurred 80 years after Daniel’s prayer) penalties for rebellion against the Mosaic code were enforced with the backing of the King of Persia (the world leader at the time).
But according to Gabriel, restraining revolt was only one of the six aspects to be accomplished throughout the 490 years. There are another five characteristics mentioned by the angel. I will cover the next three which are:
Putting an end to sin
Atoning for wickedness
Bringing in everlasting righteousness
These following three aspects were able to be fulfilled in a full functioning Torah society:
1) “Putting an end to sin” is the remediation of shortcomings through the sacrificial system. 2) The “Atonement for wickedness” represents the removal of rebellion and perversity from the nation that took place on Yom Kippur at the temple once a year. 3) To “Bring in everlasting righteousness” is the ability to perform righteous acts of the Law without fear and shame.
None of these aspects listed by Gabriel could be accomplished by Daniel and his people while in Babylon. Daniel’s prayer begins while he is covered in sackcloth and ashes. This was indicative of a state of despair due to the sense of absence and incompleteness. Daniel and his countrymen were tolerated in Babylon, but the exiled Jews longed for the restoration of a society that welcomed those desiring to fulfill the Law of Moses and the ability to relieve the community of those in rebellion against it. Gabriel’s announcement confirmed that this was going to happen.
Confirmation regarding the restoration of the Holy Mountain came as good news to Daniel; but it equated to bad news as well. Unfortunately, the prophecy indicated that a revolt against the covenant would again erupt amongst the holy people at the close of the 490 years. Historically speaking, there were several revolts that occurred throughout the 2nd temple period yet were remediated over time. But the coming revolt that developed after the close of the 490 years would become impossible to restrain and would lead to the destruction of the Holy Mountain by the Roman armies.
As we read from verses 1-27 in context, we see that this is the narrative of the 70-week prophecy. The desertion of YHWH’s restraining spirit from Jerusalem dovetails with the prophetic themes laid out in the covenant drawn between Israel and YHWH through Moses. “They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. On that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and difficulties will come upon them, and on that day they will ask, 'Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?' (Deuteronomy 31:16-17).
But this does not explain the messianic involvement intermingled into the 70-week prophecy. This will be covered in the next portion of this series.