31 December 2018

The Seventieth Week – (Daniel 9:26-27)

Altar of Burnt Offering
We now come to the climax of the prophecy, the final or “seventieth seven” (Daniel 9:26-27). The preposition “after” locates the events of this last paragraph in the seventieth “week,” theoretically one of seven years duration.
     The text states an anointed one will be cut off “after the sixty-two weeks.” Note well the omission of the first “seven weeks” in this accounting, the forty-nine years leading up to “an anointed one, a leader.” Whether that period runs consecutively or concurrently with the sixty-two weeks, it is not figured into the chronology at this point. But its omission is noteworthy.
    An anointed one is to be “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 ruler” found in verse 25, for this one appears after the sixty-two “weeks.” 
After Sixty-two Weeks: (Daniel 9:26) – “And after the sixty and two weeks an anointed one is cut off and it is not to him: and the people of the coming leader will destroy the city and the sanctuary; and his end with a flood, and even to the end will be war; desolations are determined.”
     If the first two segments run consecutively, then this “cutting off” occurs 483 years after the start of the seventy weeks; if concurrently then after 434 years. Since the first “anointed one” appears at the end of the first seven “weeks,” or forty-nine years, the two cannot be identical. Moreover, a person distinct from the “anointed one” is now called a “leader” or nagid in verse 26, whereas in verse 25 one person was identified as “an anointed one, a leader (nagid).”
     “Cut off” may mean death but not necessarily so. Possibly the word is borrowed from Leviticus with its repeated warnings that “the soul” that violated ritual regulations such as eating blood would be “cut off” from the people of Israel, presumably cast out from the covenant community (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 justified by the Hebrew text. This translation reflects the later interpretation that identified the “anointed one” as Jesus who died for the sake of others.
     The clause more accurately reads, “will be cut off and will not be to him,” or, “and will have nothing.” The idea is this “anointed one” loses city and sanctuary, not that he dies or is “cut off” from the living. That is, he loses his place or function as an “anointed one.”
     The focus of the seventieth week is not the “cutting off” of this “anointed one,” and no connection is made between him and the redemptive goals of verse 24. From this point, attention is centered on the desolation of the city and sanctuary by a coming “leader”; the “anointed one” falls from sight.
     This event marks the commencement of the final or seventieth “week.” The passage does not attribute any of what follows to the “cutting off” of the anointed one. For example, it does not say that sacrifices ceased because he was cut off.


A Leader Corrupts City and Temple
     The people of the coming leader will corrupt the city and the sanctuary, “People” translates the common noun ‘am (עם). In Daniel the term can refer to pagan nations (3:4; 3:7; 4:1; 5:19; 6:25; 7:14) or to the “people” of Israel (9:6; 9:15; 9:16; 9:19; 9:20). Here “people” is connected to “the coming leader,” apparently the group that assaults the city and Temple for him.
     “Destroy” or “corrupt” (shahath) does not necessarily mean total destruction; it has the sense “corrupt, spoil, ruin, pervert.” It is the same term in Daniel 8:24-25 for the malevolent king who “corrupts mighty ones and the people of holy ones.”
     In the Hebrew text “leader” is modified by the participle “coming,” which also has the definite article. It is a known figure to Daniel, “the coming leader.” Based on verbal links this must refer to the malevolent figure in Daniel 7:8, 24, the “horn with a mouth speaking great things,” to the one in Daniel 8:9, 23 (“from one of them came a little horn”), or to both. Since both are named “little horn,” the same figure must be intended in both passages. “And his end with a flood.” The end of the “leader” is set against his “coming.”
     There are difficulties when attempting to link this prediction to a known event when Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed, such as the destruction of the city by a Roman army in 70 AD. In this passage, the cessation of the daily sacrifices and the pollution of the sanctuary occur AFTER “the Leader who will come corrupts the city and the sanctuary” (9:27). There would be no sanctuary to pollute or sacrifices to stop if the Temple was destroyed.

A problem with interpretations that links these predictions to the death of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem forty years later (70 AD) is that the sequences of events do not match. Further, in the prophecy, this corruption or “destruction” of the city occurs during the seventieth “week,” not forty years after it.
     “Determined” (harats) is an important word in Daniel’s visions; note its use here, in 9:27 (“even until the consummation, and that a determined one”), and 11:36 ("he will prosper until the indignation is accomplished, for that which is determined will be done”).
     “Until the end will be war.” The “end” refers to the close of the seventieth week. The vision of chapter 7 predicted a malevolent king, the “little horn” that would wage “war” against the saints and prevail over them (7:21-27). He would “wear out the saints” and endeavor to change “seasons and law” until a “time, times and part of a time.” Then judgment would come and this ruler’s dominion would be “destroyed unto the end.” The “time, times and part of a time” is enigmatic but may represent a three and a half year period (7:25).


Desolations
     “Desolations are determined”: “Desolations” (shamem) is the same word used four times in Daniel to refer to the “abomination that desolates” (8:13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). It does not mean “destroyed” but something “made desolate, deserted, abandoned.”
     In the vision of the Ram and the Goat the “little horn” removed the daily sacrifice and defiled the sanctuary, the “transgression that desolates.” The defilement of the sanctuary would continue for “two thousand and three hundred evenings-mornings,” or 1,150 days, then the “sanctuary will be cleansed” (8:13). In view is not the Temple’s destruction but its pollution, rendering it ritually unclean. The fact that it is “cleansed” after approximately three and a half years demonstrates it was not destroyed.
     In chapter 11 a malevolent king arrives in Jerusalem to “pollute the sanctuary, take away the daily sacrifice, and place the abomination that desolates.” He would “do wickedly against the covenant corrupt by flatteries” (11:31-34). This king would “speak marvelous things against the God of gods and prosper until the indignation was accomplished, for that which is determined (harats) will be done” (11:36).

     To this point, the verbal links in Daniel 9:26 connect it to the events described in Daniel 7:15-24 and 8:9-26. The “coming leader” is identical to the “little horn” of Daniel 7:15-24 that “made war with the saints and prevailed against them,” thought “to change seasons and law,” even “until the judgment was set to take away his dominion and to destroy it to the end.” He is also the same as the “little horn” in Daniel 8:9-26 that replaced the daily burnt-offering with the “transgression that desolates” and corrupted the holy people.

Covenant with the Many

(Daniel 9:27) – “And he will strengthen a covenant with the many for one week -- and in the half of the week he causes the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and on the wings of abomination he comes desolating; even until the end and that a determined one, which will pour down upon the desolater.”

     The “leader” is the subject who “confirms a covenant with the many.” He is other than the “anointed one” of verse 26. “Confirm” (gabar), or perhaps better, “strengthen.”
     “The many” refers to the majority of the city’s occupants (cp. Daniel 11:30-32; 12:10); the definite article signifies the many, the great mass of the people in contrast with the few who remain faithful to God. This “covenant” with the many has the same thing in view as Daniel 8:23-25 where the king with a fierce countenance “and skillful in dissimulation…corrupted the people of the saints; "by his cunning he caused deceit to succeed in his hand…and by their careless security will he destroy the many” (8:23-25).
     The “leader” strengthens the covenant for the entire “week,” the final seven-year period. This is problematic to interpretations that see this as a reference to the new covenant established by Christ’s death after a ministry of three and one-half years.
     That “the many” are still present demonstrates the “destruction” of the city in verse 26 was not the total ruination of Jerusalem; the city is still occupied.

Sacrifices Cease – Abomination Set Up
     “He causes the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” This is a verbal link to the previous and subsequent visions. In the vision of the ram and goat, the latter a descendant of the first Greek king (Alexander), the “little horn” that desecrates the Temple, removes the daily sacrifice and sets up “the transgression that desolates.”
     In chapter 11 a “king of the south” likewise sets up the “abomination that desolates” and removes the daily burnt offering. Note well the links from the following passages:
  • (Daniel 8:11-13) - “It took away from him the continual burnt-offering, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down…How long shall be the vision concerning the continual burnt-offering, and the transgression that desolates, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?”
  • (11:31) - “And forces shall stand on his part and they shall profane the sanctuary…and take away the continual burnt-offering, and they shall set up the abomination that desolates”.
  • (12:10-11) - “Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but they that are wise shall understand. And from the time that the continual burnt-offering shall be taken away, and the abomination that desolates set up, there shall be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days”.
    The verbal links make clear that the same historical events are in view in all three visions with a focus on the Sanctuary. These concluding events occur in “the half of the week.” This same period is mentioned elsewhere and becomes another verbal link to the present passage. 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. But the judgment will be set, and they will remove his dominion, to consume and to destroy it to the end.”
  • (12:6-8) - “How long shall it be to the end of these wonders? And I heard the man clothed in linen swore by him that lives for ever that it 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.”
  • (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, and understanding dark sentences will stand up…he also will stand up against the prince of princes but will be broken without hand (cp. Daniel 2:45)…but shut up the vision; for it belongs to many days to come.”
     “On the wings of abomination he comes desolating.” The Hebrew noun rendered “abomination” refers not to acts but to objects of abomination (e.g., idols, heathen altars, foreign sacrifices). “Wings” may refer to how a pagan altar or other unclean object helps implement the polluting thing, the “desolation” that afflicts the sanctuary.
     “Even until the end, and that a determined one, which will pour down upon the desolater.” This malevolent “leader” or Nagid who desolates the sanctuary consequently will be desolated as decreed or “determined” (harats), presumably by God. This term figures twice in the passage: “even to the end will be war, desolations are determined” (9:26), and, “even until the end and that a determined one, which will pour down upon the desolater” (9:27). The same term occurs in a similar context in chapter 11: “the king will do according to his will and exalt himself…he will prosper until the indignation be accomplished; for that which is determined (harats) will be done” (11:36).
     The several verbal links are important to establish that the same events and timeframe are in view in the visions of chapters 7, 8, 9 and 11. They include the rise of an arrogant tyrant, the desecration of the sanctuary, war against the saints of God, the installation of the “abomination that desolates,” the cessation of the daily burnt offering, a period of indignation of approximately three and a half years, and in the end judgment upon the “leader” or “king of fierce countenance.”
     The proposed identification of this leader and the things set in motion by him will be presented in the next article.

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