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31 December 2018

Seventy Weeks –Prayer and Visitation (Dan 9:1-23)

Synopsis:  Daniel prays a collective prayer of repentance after contemplating a prophecy of Jeremiah (Daniel 9:1-23)

Torah Scroll - Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash
The “first year” of Darius the Mede locates the vision of Daniel about the “Seventy Weeks” around 538-537 B.C., the period when Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians. This was approximately the time when Cyrus the Great decreed the release of Jewish captives from Babylon (536 B.C. See 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-2).
Daniel was studying a scroll that contained the book of Jeremiah and the passage that caught his interest was Jeremiah 25:9-11: “And this whole land shall be desolation and astonishment; these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy-years.”
The desolation of the kingdom of Judah began with the subjugation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 606-605 B.C. This means the seventy years of captivity was nearly over by the time Daniel consulted this text.
Setting and Chronology: (Daniel 9:1-2) – “In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans: in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood by the writings the number of the years as to which the word of Yahweh came unto Jeremiah the prophet, to accomplish the desolations of Jerusalem, seventy years.”
This vision was received in the “first year of Darius,” a verbal link to a later vision when an angel appeared to Daniel “in the first year of Darius the Mede,” who came to inform him of “what things will befall your people in later days.” The revelations of chapters 9 and 11 are, therefore, related. (Daniel 10:14, 11:1).
Daniel understood by the writings the number of the years “to accomplish the desolations of Jerusalem, seventy years.” “Writing” is a translation of sepher, meaning, “scroll”; “accomplish” represents the Hebrew verb mala or “complete,” and “desolations” the noun horbah. The terms are from Jeremiah 25:11-12, the original prophecy of the seventy-year captivity:
This whole land shall be desolation (horbahastonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years…And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished (mala) that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation for their iniquity, says Yahweh”.
The prophecy by Jeremiah is called “the word of Yahweh” or dabar. This term occurs again in verse 25, “the going forth of the word (‘dabar’) to restore and to build Jerusalem.” Jeremiah’s prophecy is the text from which Chapter 9 builds its picture and that prophecy uses the same Hebrew words for “scroll,” “accomplish” and “desolation.” Note as follows:
(Jeremiah 25:8-13) - “And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment; and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And when seventy years are accomplished, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation for their iniquity…I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this scroll that Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations.”
The prophecy of Jeremiah is dated to the “fourth year of Jehoiakim” and the “first year of Nebuchadrezzar.” That is, 606-605 B.C., the same year referred to in Daniel 1:1. Another word by Jeremiah set the conditions for Israel’s release, a prophecy made after the deportation of Jews to Babylon around 597 B.C. It now forms the basis of Daniel’s supplication.
(Jeremiah 29:10-14) - “For thus says Yahweh, After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you in causing you to return to this place…You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart…and I will turn again your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you.
Yahweh promised to release Israel after seventy years but only if she repented, an act Daniel carries out as the representative of his nation. For him, the Captivity began with Nebuchadnezzar’s first attack against Jerusalem in 606-605 B.C. (Daniel 1:1-2). The decree of Cyrus to release the exiles was issued in 536 B.C., seventy years after the deportation of Daniel and his companions to Babylon.
Confession of Sins
(Daniel 9:3-14) – “So I set my face to the Lord God to seek him by prayer and supplication, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes; Yea, I prayed unto Yahweh my God and made confession and said, ‘I beseech you, O Lord, the great and awesome God, keeping the covenant and the loving kindness to them who love Him and to them who keep His commandments. We have sinned and committed iniquity, and been guilty of lawlessness and rebellious, even departing from your commandments and regulations; and have not hearkened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, rulers, and fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us the shame of faces, as at this day, to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, the near and the far off, throughout all the lands whither you have driven them in their treachery wherewith they had been treacherous against you. O Yahweh, to us belong the shame of faces, to our kings, to our rulers and to our fathers, in that we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belongs compassions and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him; and have not hearkened to the voice of Yahweh our God to walk in his instructions which he set before us through means of his servants the prophets; yea, all Israel have transgressed your law, even going away so as not to hearken to your voice, therefore were poured out upon us the curse and the oath which had been written in the Law of Moses the servant of God, because we had sinned against him. Thus has he confirmed his words which he had spoken against us and against our judges who had judged us, by bringing in upon us a great calamity, as to which there had not been done under all the heavens, as has been done unto Jerusalem. Even as written in the Law of Moses has all this calamity come in upon us, yet entreated we not the face of Yahweh our God by turning away from our iniquities and by getting intelligence in Your truth. Therefore has Yahweh kept watch for the calamity and brought it in upon us, for righteous is Yahweh our God concerning all his deeds which he has done, seeing that we had not hearkened to his voice.”
Daniel’s prayer is comprised of two parts: a confession of sin (verse 4-14), and a supplication for mercy and restoration (Daniel 9:15-19). The prayer is not for revelation about the meaning of the prophecy by Jeremiah; Daniel understands its predicted time of fulfillment (“I, Daniel, understood by the writings the number of the years…”). What he does is confess the sins of Israel in response to the prophecy. Israel’s restoration would occur when it sought Yahweh “with all your heart.” In both Daniel and Jeremiah, “seek” translates the Hebrew verb baqash (see Jeremiah 29:10-14).
The confession expresses sorrow over Israel’s rebellious ways over many generations. Daniel acknowledges Yahweh’s covenant faithfulness, mercy, and His righteousness (“O Lord…keeping the covenant and the loving kindness to them who love him”). Israel failed to heed the prophets. No Jew of any social or political rank was exempt; all had rebelled against Yahweh. Righteousness belongs to God, but the “shame of faces to all Israel, the near and the far off,” on account of her “treachery.”
The Babylonian Captivity was the result of the national sins that spanned generations (“all Israel have transgressed your law”); it was the “curse that had been written in the Law of Moses poured out upon us”; “curse” has in view Leviticus 26:14-39 and 2 Chronicles 36:20-21:
(Leviticus 26:14-39) - “But if you will not hearken unto me and will not do all these commandments… I will give your cities to desolation…When I scatter you among the nations and make bare after you a sword. then shall your land become an astonishment and your cities become desolation. Then shall the land be paid her Sabbaths, all the days she lies desolate, while you are in the land of your foes, then shall the land keep Sabbath and pay off her Sabbaths.”
(2 Chronicles 36:20-21) - “And he exiled the remnant left from the sword into Babylon, where they became his and his sons as servants until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: to fulfill the word of God by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had paid off her Sabbaths, all the days of her lying desolate she kept Sabbath to fulfill seventy years.”
Daniel does not interpret the Captivity as a random event; it was God’s just punishment in accord with “the law of Moses."; however, despite this, Israel failed to “entreat the face of Yahweh our God by turning away from our iniquities and discerning your truth.” Daniel’s confession is the appropriate response to Israel’s plight.

Plea for Restoration
(Daniel 9:15-19) – “Now therefore, O Lord our God, who brought forth your people out of Egypt with a firm hand and made for yourself a name as at this day, we have sinned, we have been guilty of lawlessness. O Lord, according to all your righteousness I beseech you, let your anger and your indignation turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain, because of our sins and because of the iniquities of our fathers Jerusalem and your people have become a reproach to all who are round about us. Now, therefore, hearken to the prayer of your servant and to his supplications, and let your face shine upon your Sanctuary that is desolate for the sake of your servants, O Lord. Incline, O my God, your ear and hearken, open your eyes and behold our desolations, and the city on which has been called your name; for not on the ground of our own righteousness are we causing our supplications to fall down before you, but on the ground of your abounding mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hearken and perform! Do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, because your own name has been called upon your city and upon your people.”
Daniel supplicates God for Israel’s restoration. His past deliverance of Israel from Egypt was in fulfillment of His covenant promises to Abraham. His supplication appeals to God’s proven covenant faithfulness. Daniel petitions Him to turn away his anger from “your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain.” “Holy mountain” refers to Mount Zion and its Temple. Daniel places responsibility for Israel’s plight on her sins, not on the Babylonians.
Daniel appeals for God to hear his prayer concerning the Sanctuary that is lying “desolate” and Israel’s “desolations,” both words derived from the Hebrew shamem, the verb used in verse 27 for the “abomination that desolates” (Daniel 8:13, 11:31, 12:11). The Temple lay in ruin and the city was desolate. The words of the prayer anticipate a future desolation of the city and Temple that is predicted in verses 26-27.
Daniel bases his plea for forgiveness and restoration on the covenant faithfulness of Yahweh (“for not on the ground of our own righteousness are we causing our supplications to fall down before thee, but on the ground of your abounding mercies”).
Gabriel’s Visitation
(Daniel 9:20-23) – “And while yet I was speaking and praying and confessing my own sin, and the sin of my people Israel, and causing my supplication to fall down before Yahweh my God concerning the holy mountain of my God; while yet I was speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, wearied with weariness, touched me about the time of the evening offering. Yea, he came and spoke with me and said, O Daniel, now have I come forth to teach you understanding. At the beginning of your supplications came forth a word, I, therefore am arrived to tell because you are a man delighted in, mark then the word and have understanding of the vision.”
Gabriel appeared while Daniel was praying, the same figure “seen in the vision at the beginning.” This links it to the preceding vision in Chapter 8 about the “little horn” and the defilement of the Sanctuary, the “transgression that desolates” (Daniel 8:15-18).
Wearied with weariness” refers to Daniel, not to Gabriel. The angel touched him to relieve his weariness. At the end of his last vision, Daniel found himself “faint and ill.” His weariness is another link to the preceding vision. Gabriel came so Daniel would “understand the vision” in the previous chapter, so now he arrives to teach Daniel “understanding.” The verbal parallels are deliberate and link the two visions (Daniel 8:15-18, 8:27).
Gabriel arrives once more to give Daniel understanding. The text refers to “the vision” but no vision is described in Chapter 9. The revelation about to be given is so Daniel might “understand” the significance of the vision he received and recorded in Chapter 8. The prophecy about to be presented builds on the preceding vision about the time when the Sanctuary would be “put right” and the events to transpire “in the latter part of the indignation” (Daniel 8:14-19).
A common error when interpreting the “Seventy Weeks” of Daniel is to overlook the verbal and conceptual links to the previous two visions, as well as to the book’s final vision (Daniel 10:1-11:45). The several visions of the last half of the book have common themes and terms, including the “abomination that desolates,” the cessation of the daily sacrifice, and the defilement of the Sanctuary.

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