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31 December 2018

Seventieth Week

SynopsisAn analysis of the final week of the “Seventy Weeks” prophecy – Daniel 9:26-27.

Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash
By Eric Rothermel on Unsplash
We now reach the end of the “Seventy Weeks” prophecy, its final or so-called seventieth “week” (Daniel 9:26-27). This passage describes a set of events for which the preceding sixty-nine “weeks” have prepared. The text says nothing about the destruction of the city or the Temple. Instead, in this final “week,” the people of the city are “corrupted,” and the Sanctuary is defiled by the “abomination that desolates.

The interpreter must take care not to read common and oft-repeated assumptions into the text. The information provided by the text is minimal, in places cryptic or ambiguous, and, in the end, incomplete. The prophecy leaves as many questions unanswered as it answers. However, this is the next in a series of related prophecies and visions about “what things must come to pass in later days,” a process that culminates in the establishment of the everlasting kingdom of God and the vindication of the saints (Daniel 2:27-28, 2:40-45, 7:15-27).

The prophecy focuses on the Sanctuary, its coming desecration by a malevolent “leader.” Its geographical scope is localized. Described are not global events but, instead, developments in the city of Jerusalem.

The critical feature is the “abomination that desolates” implemented by a figure labeled a “leader” or nagid, one who “corrupts” many of the “people.” Whatever this “abomination” is, it causes the desecration of the Sanctuary, NOT its demolition and annihilation. Implicit in the conclusion of the prophecy is a predetermined endpoint for this desecration and, presumably, the subsequent restoration of the Sanctuary, not the destruction of the Temple and city. When and how this restoration is achieved is not stated at this point in the book of Daniel.

After Sixty-two Weeks:

(Daniel 9:26):
And after the sixty-two weeks shall the Anointed One be cut off, and have nothing,—and the city and the sanctuary will one destroy with the Prince, and so will his own end come with an overwhelming flood, howbeit, up to the full end of the war are decreed astounding things.(From the Emphasized Bible).

The Hebrew preposition rendered “after” locates the next set of events in the seventieth “week,” presumably, another period of seven years (Daniel 9:26-27).

An anointed one will be cut off, “after the sixty-two weeks.” Note well the omission of the first chronological division of the prophecy, the “seven weeks” or forty-nine years at the end of which an “anointed one, a leader” appeared (Verse 25).

Why the first “seven sevens” is not included in the statement is not stated. Possibly, Daniel expects the reader to infer the first “seven sevens” preceded the “sixty-two sevens” and add them together for a total of sixty-nine “sevens.” Or, alternatively, the passage may intend us to understand that the first two divisions ran concurrently. That is, both chronological divisions commenced with the “word to return and to build Jerusalem.” If the latter is correct, then this “anointed one” was “cut off” 434 years after the start of the “Seventy Weeks,” not 483 years later. Either way, the appearance of an “anointed one” at this point is problematic.

After the sixty-two “weeks” an anointed is “cut off and it is not to him.” As before, the text reads, “an anointed one,” not, “the anointed one.” This cannot be the same “anointed leader” as in Verse 25. That figure appeared after the first “seven sevens” or forty-nine years. This “anointed one” appears after the sixty-two “sevens,” at a minimum.

If the first two divisions of seven and sixty-twoweeks” ran consecutively, this “cutting off” occurred 483 years or sixty-nine “weeksafter the start of the “Seventy Weeks.” If the two divisions ran concurrently, then the “cutting off” happened 434 years later. Since the first “anointed one” appeared at the end of the first seven “weeks,” he is not identical to the “anointed one” who was “cut off” in the final “week,” whether the “cutting off” occurred after 434 or 483 afterward.

Moreover, a person who is distinct from this second “anointed one” is labeled a “leader” or nagid in Verse 26, whereas, the first “anointed one” who appeared at the end of the first “seven sevens” was called an “anointed oneand a “leader” or nagid (Verse 25).

Finding references to two “anointed ones” in the prophecy causes confusion. One way to resolve the difficulty is to move the first “anointed” one from the end of the first “seven sevens” to the end of the combined “seven sevens” and “sixty-two sevens” (49 + 434 = 483 years). This common proposal enables the two references to an “anointed one” to refer the same individual.

However, this proposed solution violates the syntax of the Hebrew sentence in Verse 25, which reads - “From the going forth of the word to return and to build Jerusalem until an anointed one, a leader, seven weeks.” That is, the “anointed one,” who is also a “leader,” appears at the end of the first division of “seven sevens,” not at the end of the next “sixty-two sevens” or the sum of the first two divisions.

Cut off” may mean death, however, not necessarily so (karath - Strong’s #H3772). Quite simply, the verb means, “to cut.” To add “off” to the translation is to render it into idiomatic English intended to reflect the assumption that the term refers to the violent death of this “anointed one.” This is the same Hebrew verb for “cutting” a covenant (Genesis 15:18). Like its English counterpart or “cut,” the verb may be used for “cutting” something off; a head, limb, whatever, or to “cut” something or someone into pieces.

Abraham's Covenant with Yahweh -
Considering the immediate context, a more probable explanation is based on the frequent use of the verb when someone was “cut” or separated from the covenant of Yahweh. For example, the “uncircumcised male child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised shall be cut from his people; he hath broken my covenant.” The book of Leviticus warned repeatedly that the man who violated ritual regulations would be “cut off” from the covenant community (Genesis 17:14, Leviticus 7:20-27).

The King James Version renders the clause, “Shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself.” Neither the reflexive pronoun “himself” nor the preposition “for” is in the Hebrew text. The KJV translation reflects a later interpretation that identified the “anointed one” and his being “cut off” with Jesus and his death on behalf of others.

Unfortunately, the Hebrew particle 'ayin in the sentence is often left untranslated in English versions (meaning, “not, nothing” – Strong’s #H369). The clause reads, more accurately, “an anointed one is cut off, not the city and the sanctuary.” No verb is supplied with the second clause. The sense may be that the “anointed one” is “cut off” from the city and Temple, or, more likely, that he is “cut off” but not the city and Sanctuary; at least, not for now. As for the “anointed one,” the statement is not about his being “cut off” from the land of the living or killed, but instead, he loses his place, standing, access, or function.

The “sanctuary.” The Hebrew noun rendered “sanctuary” or qôdesh (“holy place”) refers to the Sanctuary proper, not to the entire Temple complex (Strong’s #H6944), among other things, the location of the daily burnt offering in front of the curtain that closed off the “Holy of Holies.” This location and its desecration were discussed previously in the vision of the Ram and the Goat:

(Daniel 8:13-14):
Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” – (American Standard Version – Emphasis added).
The coming leader was destroying [the] people.” The Hebrew term rendered “destroy” or shahath does not mean destruction or annihilation; instead, the sense is "corruption." The destruction of the city at this point makes little sense since this “leader” implements the “abomination that desolates” the Sanctuary in the very next verse.

The meaning of the verb is, “to decay,  spoil, ruin, corrupt, pervert” (Strong’s #H7843). It is the same term verb applied previously to the malevolent king who “corrupted mighty ones and the people of holy ones”:

(Daniel 8:24-25):
And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; and he shall corrupt wonderfully and shall prosper and do his pleasure; and he shall corrupt the mighty ones and the holy people. And through his policy he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and in their security shall he corrupt many: he shall also stand up against the prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.”

Note well:  The coming “king with a fierce countenance” corrupted the “mighty ones and the hole people,” that is, the “saints.” The stress is on his corruption of the people of God, not the destruction of the Temple, city, or its inhabitants.

Leader” or nagid is rendered “prince” in the King James Version. This is too specific and reflects interpretations that assume the reference is to Jesus. The Hebrew noun is generic for one who is a “leader,” a “ruler.” It could be the “leader” of the Temple, the city, the nation, or any number of things. Only context can determine the sense.

In the Hebrew clause, “leader” is modified by the participle rendered “coming” in English, which also has a definite article or “the” - He is a known figure – He is, “the leader, the coming one.” Based on verbal links, he must be identical to the malevolent figure represented by the “horn with a mouth speaking great things”; that is, the “little horn” and the malevolent king of the preceding two visions (Daniel 7:7-8, 8:8-14).

The “leader” will “destroy” the “people.” “People” translates the common Hebrew noun ‘am. In the book of Daniel, it may refer to pagan nations or to the “people” of Israel. Since this “coming leader” corrupts the people, it is difficult to conclude he is identical to the “anointed one,” either one, let alone to the future Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Its end [with] flood, and unto [the] end of war, desolations are decreed.” This is the only mention of a “flood” up to this point in the Book of Daniel. Very likely, it is used metaphorically in the sense “overwhelming” (but compare – Daniel 11:22). “End” occurs twice in the sentence and was used in the interpretation of the vision of the Ram and the Goat to refer to the “end” of the appointed “indignation” or “desolation”:

(Daniel 8:18-19):
So he came near where I stood; and when he came, I was affrighted, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man; for the vision belongeth to the time of the end. And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the latter time of the indignation; for it belongeth to the appointed time of the end.”

Desolations” or shamem. This is the same word used four times in Daniel for the “abomination that desolates” (Strong’s #H8074). The Hebrew term does not mean to “destroy” but, instead, to desolate something, to leave it abandoned or deserted. Note well the repeated references in the Book of Daniel to the “abomination that desolates”:

(Daniel 8:13):
Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said unto that certain one who spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the continual burnt-offering, and the transgression that maketh desolate, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” – (American Standard Vision).
(Daniel 11:31):
And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt-offering, and they shall set up the abomination that maketh desolate.
(Daniel 12:11):
And from the time that the continual burnt-offering shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days.

In the vision of the Ram and Goat, the “little horn” removed the daily sacrifice and defiled the Sanctuary, what the interpreting angel labeled, the “transgression that desolates.” This points to the desecration of the Sanctuary, not to its destruction. The fact that it was later “cleansed” demonstrates this. Likewise, in Chapter 11, a malevolent king arrived in Jerusalem to “pollute the sanctuary, take away the daily sacrifice, and place the abomination that desolates” in it.

Decreed” or “determined” (harats). This is an important word in the visions of the book of Daniel. The verb means, “to sharpen, decide, determine, decree” (Strong’s #H2782). The term occurs in one other passage in the book where it also refers to the “abomination that desolates” caused by a malevolent leader:

(Daniel 11:31-36):
And forces shall stand on his part, and they shall profane the sanctuary, even the fortress, and shall take away the continual burnt-offering, and they shall set up the abomination that makes desolateAnd the king will do according to his own pleasure, and will exalt himself, and magnify himself against every GOD, yea, against the GOD of GODS will he speak wonderful things,—and will succeed until exhausted is the indignation, for what is decreed must be done.”

The focus of the prophecy is not on the “anointed one.” The “leader” who corrupts the saints is of far more concern. No connection is made between the “anointed one” and the redemptive goals from Verse 24. From this point, the attention is on the desolation of the Sanctuary caused by this “leader.” The “cutting off” of the “anointed one” was a chronological marker for the start of this final period.

The Abomination that Desolates

(Daniel 9:27):
And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate.” – (From the American Standard Version).

The “leader” is the subject of the verb here rendered “confirm” – That is, he “confirms” (gabar) or, perhaps better, “strengthens” a covenant (Strong’s #H1396). “The many” refers to the occupants of the city who willingly submit to him, in contrast to those who do not - The same group “corrupted” by the “leader” in the preceding verse. Note the following parallel passages:

(Daniel 11:30-32):
Then will come in against him the ships of Cyprus, and he will be disheartened, and again have indignation against a holy covenant, and will act with effect,—and again gain intelligence, concerning them who are forsaking a holy covenant. And arms from him will arise,—and will profane the sanctuary, the fortress, and will set aside the continual [ascending-sacrifice], and place the horrid abomination that astoundeth. And them who are ready to deal lawlessly with a covenant will he make impious by flatteries,—but the people who know their God will be strong and act with effect.” (The Emphasized Bible).
(Daniel 12:10-11):
Many will purify themselves and be made white and be refined, but the lawless will act lawlessly, and none of the lawless shall understand,—but they who make wise shall understand; and from the time of the taking away of the continual [ascending-sacrifice], and the placing of the horrid abomination that astoundeth, [shall be] one thousand two hundred and ninety days.” (The Emphasized Bible).

This “covenant” has, in view, the same event described in the interpretation of the vision of the Ram and Goat - The king who “corrupted” the people of the saints (“By his cunning he caused deceit to succeed in his hand…and by their careless security will he corrupt the many” - Daniel 8:23-25). Apparently, he fashions an agreement of some kind with some of the inhabitants of the city.

He causes the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” A clear verbal link to the previous (and the next) vision. In the vision of the Ram and Goat, the “little horn” desecrated the Temple, removed the daily sacrifice, and set up the “transgression that desolates.” In Chapter 11, a “king of the south,” likewise, set up the “abomination that desolates,” and removed the daily burnt offering (Daniel 8:8-14, 11:31,12:10-11). This “abomination” is a result of the “covenant” the “leader” made with the “people.”
The same main event is in view in all three visions, especially, the defilement of the Sanctuary.

The concluding events of this action occurred in the last “half of the week”; that is, in the latter part of the final “seven,” the third division of the “Seventy Weeks.” This period is described elsewhere, although with different terms. It is another verbal link between the present passage and the other visions. Note well the following:

(Daniel 7:25-26):
And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time.” – (American Standard Bible – Emphasis added).
(Daniel 8:19-26):
Behold, I will make you know what will be in the latter time of the indignation; for it belongs to the appointed time of the end…And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance…he also will stand up against the prince of princes but will be broken without handbut shut up the vision; for it belongs to many days to come.” – (American Standard Bible – Emphasis added).
(Daniel 12:6-8):
How long shall it be to the end of these wonders? will be for a time, times and a half; and when they have made an end of breaking in pieces the power of the holy people, all these things will be finished.” – (American Standard Bible – Emphasis added).

On the wings of abomination he comes desolating.” The Hebrew noun rendered “abomination” refers to ritually unclean objects (e.g., idols, heathen altars, foreign sacrifices), not to unrighteous human actions. “Abomination” or shiqquts means that which is “detestable, abominable” (Strong’s #H8251). In the Hebrew Bible, the term is applied to idolatrous objects (Deuteronomy 29:17 – “And ye have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them”).

What “wing” refers to is not clear (kânâph - Strong’s #H3671). The Hebrew clause reads, literally, “And upon wing of abominations, desolating.” Kânâph is the common noun for the “wing” of a bird, insect, or other winged creature. Possibly, it is used here metaphorically for an “extremity” of something (but the “extremity” of what?).

Even until the end, and that a determined one, which will pour down upon the desolater.” More accurately, “and until the end, what was decreed was pouring out upon he who was desolating.” The “leader” who desolated the Sanctuary would himself be desolated, as “decreed,” presumably, by God. The Hebrew term is applied twice in the passage: “desolations are determined…until the end, a determined one.”

Determined” occurs in a similar context in Chapter 11: “The king will do according to his will…he will prosper until the indignation be accomplished; for that which is determined (harats) will be done” (Daniel 11:36). “Poured down” refers to the same reality as “flood” in the preceding verse. In the end, the one who “desolated” the Sanctuary will himself be overwhelmed with desolation.

The verbal links are important, especially, the references to the “abomination that desolates.” They demonstrate the same events are in view in the visions of chapters 7, 8, 9 and 11, and in the conclusion of the book (Daniel 12:10-11).

Thus, the “Seventy Weeks” prophecy ends with an ambiguous conclusion and several unanswered questions. A common error is to impose later interpretations into the text at this point to achieve a satisfactory explanation of the prophecy. However, the “Seventy Weeks” prophecy is neither the highlight nor the conclusion of the Book of Daniel.

The prophecy provides additional and expanded chronological clues, and it keeps the focus on the “abomination of desolation” inflicted on the Sanctuary by a malevolent figure. However, the reader must continue to read on in the book to gain further insight and information.

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