Daniel 9

Daniel 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus

How old is Daniel in the first year of Darius’ reign?  The answer makes us wonder if the text is correct or has been altered. If Daniel was 16 when he was taken captive (in the third year of Jehoiakim, aka 606 BC), he would have been born about 622 BC.  According to the chronology in the Bible Dictionary, Darius’ reign starts in 521 BC.  If correct, Daniel would have been 101 years old in chapter 9.  So there must have been another Darius earlier than the one listed in secular histories.

“The name Ahasuerus is the Biblical equivalent or transliteration of the Greek name for Xerxes, both names were derived from the Old Persian language. Other than the Bible, no historical records account for him.  Daniel writes that he was a royal Mede and the father of Darius who was “made king” or the governor over the Babylonian Province. Darius was certainly an appointee of Cyrus, who ruled over the entire kingdom… This Ahasuerus, father of Darius, should not be confused with later Persian kings, Xerxes I associated with Esther (Esther 1-2).” (G. Erik Brandt, The Book of Daniel: Writings and Prophecies, 252)

Daniel 9:2  I Daniel understood by books the number of the years… seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem

Daniel did not have the book of Jeremiah when he was taken captive as a youth.  Most of it had not been written yet. It must have been brought by the captives that arrived when Jerusalem was destroyed in the days of Zechariah, circa 587 BC.  It is remarkable that the holy records of the Jews included Jeremiah’s writings by the time Lehi and his family left Jerusalem.  The Nephites had the contents of our Old Testament up to a portion of the prophecies of Jeremiah (1 Nephi 5:13).

Daniel would have been intrigued by the prophecies of Jeremiah.  It is easy to imagine him pouring over the prophets words trying to understand what happened to his boyhood home.  Therein, he found Jeremiah’s words, “this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jer. 25:11).  Or perhaps Daniel was reading the letter of Jeremiah to the Jews in Babylon after the sacking of the city, “Thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place” (Jer. 29:10).  Daniel was passionate about the redemption of the city of Jerusalem, especially the rebuilding of the holy temple, and he feels like he has unlocked a secret—the timing of the redemption of Jerusalem.

Daniel 9:5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly

Daniel had the correct attitude in prayer.  He was penitent even though he wasn’t responsible for the wickedness of his fathers.  He prayed with a sense of national guilt, as if representing the remorse of a humble nation.  Unfortunately, the number of penitent Jews was very few.  If the rest of the inhabitants of Jerusalem had the same humble, penitent attitude of Daniel, Jeremiah, and Lehi, the city would never have been destroyed. 

Daniel, on the other hand, saw that the destruction of the city was a direct result of turning from the Law of Moses, wherein the Lord promised the Jews what would happen to them if they didn’t stay true.

Daniel 9:8 O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face

It is hard to save face when you have “confusion of face.”  This is one of many intriguing biblical phrases, “confusion of face.”  We have all seen faces that look confused. The imagery is a face of consternation, divulging feelings of being lost, of unmet expectations, or of general bewilderment.  It is the natural consequence of sin and the direct opposite of one whose gaze is firm in the direction of faith and hope, whose trust is in a God who turns neither to the right hand nor to the left. It’s hard to have a face of confusion when your feet are on the covenant path, your hand is on the iron rod, and your eye is single to the glory of God.

Daniel 9:11-13 therefore the curse is poured upon us

Before entering the land of Canaan and after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the children of Israel were instructed one more time as to the Law of Moses.  In this repetition of the law, or deuteronomy, they were given promises for keeping the law and curses for disobedience.  Long before the Israelites turned from the Lord, Jehovah told them exactly what would happen if they did.  These prophetic curses are listed in Deuteronomy 28. 

   But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee…

   The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it.

   The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish.

   And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.

   The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed.

   The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.

   And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away.

   The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.

   The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart:

   And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee. (Deut. 28:15, 21-29)

Daniel 9:16-19  Praying for Jerusalem and the Temple

We should have the same desire as Daniel—the redemption of Jerusalem and the building of the Temple there.  The Second Coming can’t happen until there is a temple in Jerusalem!  So all of you who are looking forward to the coming of the Savior—all of you who think he can come any day now—there must be a temple in Jerusalem for the scriptures to be fulfilled.  There must be a sufficient gathering before the temple can be built.

In a sense, the return of the Jews from Babylon is a foreshadowing of the gathering of Israel in the latter-days.  First, Israel must be gathered, then the temple must be rebuilt.  We join Daniel in beseeching the Lord, “let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain.”

Ezra Taft Benson

President Wilford Woodruff made his remarkable prophecy and statement regarding Judah when he said:

The Lord has decreed that the Jews should be gathered from all the Gentile nations where they have been driven, into their own land . . . and this is the will of your great Elohim, O house of Judah, and whenever you shall be called upon to perform this work, the God of Israel will help you. You have a great future and destiny before you and you cannot avoid fulfilling it; you are the royal chosen seed, and the God of your father's house has kept you distinct as a nation for eighteen hundred years, under all the oppression of the whole Gentile world. You may not wait until you believe on Jesus of Nazareth but when you meet with Shiloh your king, you will know him; your destiny is marked out, you cannot avoid it.

Then he concludes by saying the time is not far distant when the rich men of the Jews will be called upon to use their abundant wealth to gather the dispersed of Judah and purchase the ancient dwelling places of their fathers in and about Jerusalem and rebuild the holy city and temple. (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 96)

Russel M. Nelson

My dear young brothers and sisters, these surely are the latter days, and the Lord is hastening His work to gather Israel. That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty. And if you choose to, if you want to, you can be a big part of it. You can be a big part of something big, something grand, something majestic!

When we speak of the gathering, we are simply saying this fundamental truth: every one of our Heavenly Father’s children, on both sides of the veil, deserves to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. They decide for themselves if they want to know more. (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/broadcasts/worldwide-devotional-for-young-adults/2018/06/hope-of-israel?lang=eng&cid=rdb_v_hope-of-Israel)

Daniel 9:21 whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel… touched me

Cheiko Okazaki

When we think about commitment to prayer and perseverance in prayer, we often think of Daniel, who refused to cease praying to the true God morning, noon, and night, even when his king, seduced by false counselors, signed a proclamation that meant Daniel's death if he disobeyed it. You know the story of how Daniel persisted in prayer, was denounced by the false counselors, and was brought before the king, who finally realized the foolishness of his actions but still reluctantly ordered that Daniel be cast into the den of lions. You also remember how Daniel prayed, how the king also prayed all night and then hurried to the den of lions to call, with hope but not faith, for Daniel, and how Daniel answered out of the lions' den that he had been preserved by the power and love of his God, who had sent an angel to close the mouths of the lions.

I've often wondered what Daniel said in those prayers offered after the proclamation had been issued, when he knew that he was risking his life in praying. What did he talk with God about? I doubt very much that it was a routine recital about the weather and the success of the missionary program. No, I think Daniel expressed the feelings of his heart. And what were the petitions of his heart that ascended from that pit? I wish we knew what Daniel said and how he prayed at that time.

We do, however, have record of another prayer that Daniel offered later, after these alarming and dramatic adventures. He had received a vision that he did not completely understand and offered a prayer imploring the Lord's enlightenment. I'm very impressed by how hard he worked to understand the revelation he received and how willingly and graciously God worked to clarify his understanding. Let me read just a few sentences of his wise and humble prayer:

O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. (Daniel 9:18)

Do you understand what he was saying? He was saying, "We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy."

Then, he didn't just sit around and wait for an answer, but he continued "speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord." (Daniel 9:20.) While he was struggling thus in prayer, the Lord sent an angelic messenger to him. The messenger touched him to attract his attention. Daniel says, "And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. . . . For thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision." (Daniel 9:20, 22-23.)

How would you like to have an angel touch you gently and say, "O Chieko (or O Maryanne, or O Harold), I am now come to give thee skill and understanding . . . for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision."

We say that we believe that God "will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." (Article of Faith 9.) Revelation to the Church will come through the prophet, but doesn't that article of faith make you ask questions? What are those great and important things? And who will he reveal them to? Could you be one of those who is struggling to "understand the matter, and consider the vision"? If you are, then you're one of those worthy to receive an angelic visitor. Furthermore, the promise of Joseph Smith to the Nauvoo Relief Society on 28 April 1844 was this: "Angels cannot be restrained from being your associates." (Chieko N. Okazaki, Aloha! [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1995], 177) 

Daniel 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city

Seventy weeks means seventy years.  In Daniel’s chronologic codebook, you can switch days for years, weeks for years, weeks for decades,etc.  Usually the number is right and the day/week/decade/year is in code.  In this instance, we know that the period of time in exile is seventy years.

“For more than half a century, the City of Jerusalem and the Temple of God lay in ruins. But the great exile in Babylon, as Jeremiah prophesied, was to endure only a generation or two: ‘For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place (Jer. 29:10; Dan. 9:2). By the time the exiles returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt and dedicated a second Temple (515 B.C.), exactly seventy years had passed away. ‘To fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years’ (2 Chron. 36:21). The Lord had said through Moses that if Israel desecrated the Sabbath Day and became rebellious and disobedient, ‘I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths’ (Lev. 26:33-34).”  (David B. Galbraith, D. Kelly Ogden, and Andrew C. Skinner, Jerusalem: The Eternal City [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1996], 117)

Daniel 9:24-27 The Seventy Weeks Prophecy

Scholars have debated for years how to interpret the numbers in verse 25 of this chapter, yet nothing really works because something is missing.  The text has been altered; something has been deleted.  In order to make sense of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy, we must first replace the missing parts and add some interpolation characteristic of the Joseph Smith Translation.  Apparently, Joseph never got to these passages or he would have fixed them for us.  So even though it may seem presumptuous, the following text and interpretation is offered after prayerful consideration.  We suggest the following:

   Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, but the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

   Seventy weeks are determined to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

   Know therefore and understand that I Gabriel received commandment to restore Jerusalem, and from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be threescore and two weeks, and seven weeks, and one week.

   And after threescore and two weeks shall be the sacrifice of the Son of God, for the Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself, and from the birth of the anointed One until the desolation appointed shall be seven weeks, and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

   And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

The Seventy Weeks Prophecy deals with three themes:  1) the 70 years of Babylonian Captivity, 2) the timing of the coming of the Messiah, and 3) the connection between the First Desolation of Abomination (587 BC) and the Second Desolation of Abomination (70 AD).

First of all, seventy weeks (70 years) are determined as a destruction on the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.  The Babylonian captivity started 587 BC and was accomplished by 517 BC, a span of 70 years.

Second of all, seventy weeks are determined to bring reconciliation and redemption at the hands of the Anointed One.  This is a prophecy about the redeeming sacrifice of the Son of God and the desolation that followed, as divided into three sections of time: 62 weeks, 7 weeks, and 1 week (62+7+1=70), which we will explain.  Naturally, scholars have studied the phrase, “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” as referring to the decree of Cyrus that the Jews could return to Jerusalem (Ezra 6:3), or perhaps the subsequent release of Nehemiah at the hands of King Artaxerxes to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of the city (Neh. 2).  The problem with these scholarly interpretations is that they ascribe a temporal fulfillment to a heavenly event.  The commandment must have come from God to Gabriel at the time the temple was destroyed—587 BC.  Cyrus made a decree; Artaxerxes made an allowance; but it was God who gave the commandment.

With that assumption as background, we can begin to understand the numbers: 70 weeks are divided into three sections.  First, 62 weeks (62 decades) spans the time between the Babylonian Captivity and the sacrifice of the Savior, from 587 BC to AD 33 equals 620 years. Second, and this was apparently deleted from the Book of Daniel, 7 weeks (7 decades) spans the time from the birth of the Messiah to the destruction of the Temple of Herod (AD 70).  Lastly, the term “in the midst of one week” refers to the middle of the week or 3.5 days (3.5 years).  Vespasian brought war to Jerusalem 66-67 BC which was finished by Titus 3.5 years later; it was 3.5 years from the attack of Vespasian to the interruption of the Temple sacrifice in 70 AD (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book VI, 2:1; [Grand Rapids, Kregel: 1960] footnote, page 574)  Now all the numbers make sense,  70 years captivity in Babylon, 620 years from the beginning of the captivity to the crucifixion of Christ, 70 years from the birth of the Messiah to the destruction of the Temple, and 3.5 years (one half of one week) from the beginning of the war against the Romans to the termination of temple sacrifice. 

Daniel 9:26 after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off

Where else in the Old Testament does is prophecy that the Messiah will be killed?  Never is it as clearly stated as here in Daniel’s prophecy.  Certainly, there were more prophets who clearly testified that the Holy One would suffer for sin to the point of sacrificing his life.  Yet almost none of them survived in our current Old Testament.  Why?  A crucified Messiah doesn’t fit the narrative of a Savior who saves Israel.  Nationalism and political freedom were emphasized more than freedom from sin and redemption of mankind.  It appears that somewhere along the way, even Daniel’s prophecies were altered to fit the narrative, but the phrase that the Messiah should be “cut off” survived censorship. Without such censorship, the prophecies are much clearer.  For example, consider the prophetic clarity from the Book of Mormon:

   wherefore they scourge him, and he suffereth it, and they smite him, and he suffereth it. Yea they spit upon him, and he suffereth it, because of his lovingkindness and his long suffering towards the children of men…

   [He] yieldeth himself, according to the words of the angel, as a man, into the hands of wicked men, to be lifted up, according to the words of Zenoch, and to be crucified, according to the words of Neum, and to be buried in a sepulchre, according to the words of Zenos, which he spake concerning the three days of darkness, which should be a sign given of his death… (1 Ne. 19:9-10)

The Old Testament paints the picture of a suffering Messiah (Isaiah 53), and a triumphant Messiah, one who destroys all of the enemies of Israel (Zech. 14:3).  But how could the Deliverer suffer and die?  It didn’t make sense.  Political deliverance was the focus of the philosophers and pundits in the days of Jesus.  His repeated prophecies concerning his own death fell on dead ears because Judaism was waiting for temporal not spiritual deliverance.  Unaltered, the Old Testament was certainly full of clear prophecies of not only a suffering Messiah, but one who would give his life as the ultimate sacrifice for sin.  Why else had they been sacrificing all those lambs all those years?  It was a daily practice among them, but the significance of the daily sacrifice was completely lost by the time the actual Messiah came!

Daniel must have understood that the Messiah would be killed.  He was even privileged to learn that 62 weeks (62 decades) would be the span of time between the destruction of Jerusalem and the offering of Christ’s atonement.

Daniel 9:26 the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary

In 66 AD, the Roman general Vespasian was sent to Judea to put down a rebellion. Vespasian brought his son Titus with him as second in command.  Titus was only 26 years old but he had already been successful leading Roman legions in Germany and England.  In 69 AD, Emperor Nero died, leaving a power vacuum in Rome.  After a failed power grab by other candidates, the Senate declared Vespasian Emperor.   As he left for Rome and glory, he left his son Titus in charge of the troops in Judea.  Determined to prove himself and with more to prove as the emperor’s son, Titus turned his troops against the walled city of Jerusalem.  He was the “prince” that came to “destroy the city” and the temple.

Having breached the outer walls, Titus struggled to enter the city fortress so he placed a strangling siege around the city.  Inside the walls, civil unrest, robbers, and hunger took their toll.  Rebels fought to protect the temple while families starved to death.  Others resorted to cannibalism; some sought to flee the city but were taken and killed, often by crucifixion.  Inside Jerusalem, everything was falling apart.  Josephus, allied with the Romans at this point, called on the inhabitants to give up, to make peace with the Romans if only for the sake of their own lives.  He pleaded with his own people, “O hard-hearted wretches as you are!  Cast away all your arms, and take pity of your country already going to ruin; return from your wicked ways and have regard to the excellency of that city which you are going to betray, to that excellent temple… And if you cannot look at these things with discerning eyes, yet, however, have pity upon your families and set before every one of your eyes your children, and wives, and parents, who will be gradually consumed either by famine or by war.”  (Wars of the Jews, XI 9:4)  He warned, “It is God himself who is bringing on this fire to purge that city and temple by means of the Romans, and is going to pluck up this city, which is full of… pollutions.”  “Josephus spoke these words with groans, and tears in his eyes, his voice was intercepted by sobs.” (Wars of the Jews, VI, 2:1-2)

Titus intended to take the city and preserve the Temple, but the enemy would not relent.  At length, the Roman soldiers, weary of the war and the fanatical Jewish rebels became convinced that no mercy should be shown.  The temple was burned, the inner wall was breached, and the Romans filled the lanes of the city killing all who were not already dead by famine or plunder.  This was the Second Abomination of Desolation which overcame Jerusalem as a flood until the desolations determined by God were fulfilled to the last.

temple burnt

 

Daniel 9:27 he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease

One theme of Daniel’s prophecy is the interruption of temple sacrifice.  Nothing could stop Daniel from offering his prayers to God, and he was horrified at the thought that the nations offerings, in the form of temple worship, would end.  Because of the siege an in the midst of the chaos inside Jerusalem, the priests could not keep up with their priestly duties.  Some were trying to escape; others were surrendering to the Romans.

Josephus

“[In 70 AD, on] the seventeenth day of Panemus, [Tamuz,] the sacrifice called ‘the Daily Sacrifice’ had failed, and had not been offered to God for want of men to offer it, and… the people were grievously troubled at it, and [Titus] commanded him [Josephus] to say the same things to John (the leader of the rebels) that he had said before that if he had any malicious inclinations for fighting, he might come out with as many of his men as he pleased , in order to fight without the danger of destroying either his city or temple; but that he desired he would not defile the temple, nor thereby offend against God.” (Wars of the Jews, VI, 2:1)

Of course, John denied this entreaty and mocked Josephus as a traitor.  He claimed that Jerusalem was God’s city and trusted that God would save it.  But the wickedness of the city was as Sodom and Gomorrah, and God had seen enough.  And so, in the midst of one week (3.5 years), from Vespasian in 66 AD to Titus in 70 AD, the desolation determined upon the city, the Temple, and the daily sacrifice were fulfilled according to the prophecy of Daniel.  Since that day, over 1950 years ago, the Jews have not offered any animal sacrifice in the Temple.  They still anxiously await the building of the Third Temple so that their ancient rites of sacrifice may resume.