31 December 2018

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

Daniel in Babylon's Courts
The “first year” of Darius the Mede locates this event in 538-537 BC when Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:28-6:1). This was about the time Cyrus the Great decreed the release of Jewish captives from Babylon (536 BC. cp. 2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-2).
     Daniel was studying a scroll containing the book of Jeremiah. The passage of 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 began with the subjugation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 606-605 BC. This means the seventy years captivity was nearly over by this time (536 BC).

     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.”
     The events of this passage occurred in the “first year of Darius,” a verbal link to Daniel 11:1 where an angel appears to Daniel “in the first year of Darius the Mede." That angel came to inform Daniel “what will befall your people in later days” (10:14). The revelations of chapters 9 and 11 are therefore related.

     Daniel “understood by the writings the number of the years…to accomplish the desolations of Jerusalem, even seventy years.” “Writing” is a translation of sepher or “scroll. “Accomplish” represents the Hebrew verb mala, “to complete,” and “desolations” the noun horbah. Both terms are from Jeremiah 25:11-12, the original prophecy of the seventy years captivity:
This whole land shall be desolation (horbah) astonishment, 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 from 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. The prophecy from Jeremiah 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 from Jeremiah is dated the “fourth year of Jehoiakim” and the “first year of Nebuchadrezzar.” That is, 606-605 BC, the same as in Daniel 1:1. Another prophecy from Jeremiah set the conditions for Israel’s release from Babylon. This second prophecy was made after the deportation of Jews to Babylon around 597BCc. It will now form 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 now carries out as the representative of his nation. For Daniel, the Captivity began with Nebuchadnezzar’s first attack against Jerusalem in 606-605 BC (Daniel 1:1-2). The decree of Cyrus to release the Jewish exiles was issued in 536 BC seventy years after the deportation of Daniel 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 (9:4-14) and a supplication for mercy and restoration (9:15-19).
     The prayer is not for revelation about the meaning of Jeremiah’s prophecy. Daniel understands its predicted time of fulfillment (Daniel 9:2, “I, Daniel, understood by the writings the number of the years…”). What he does now is to confess the sins of Israel and plead for her forgiveness and restoration.
     The confession is a response to Jeremiah’s prophecy and demonstrates Daniel’s correct understanding (“I set my face to the Lord God to seek him by prayer and supplication”). Israel’s restoration was to occur when “you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:10-14). In both Daniel 9:3 and Jeremiah 29:13 “seek” translates the Hebrew verb baqash.
     The confession expresses sorrow over Israel’s rebellious ways over generations. Daniel acknowledges Yahweh’s covenant faithfulness, mercy, and righteousness (“O Lord…keeping the covenant and the loving kindness to them who love him”).
     Israel failed to hear God’s prophets. No Jew of any social or political rank was exempt; all rebelled against Yahweh. Righteousness belongs to God but the “shame of faces to all Israel, the near and the far off,” on account of the nation’s “treachery.”
     The Babylonian Captivity was the result of national sins spanning generations (“all Israel have transgressed your law”) and represented “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 but as God’s just punishment of Israel. This accords with the book’s theme that God gives the nations to whomever he pleases, and He changes times and seasons as He sees fit (2:21). Yahweh was in control of events, not the Babylonian or Persian Empire.
     Despite the just punishment of God in accord with “the law of Moses,” 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 now supplicates God for Israel’s restoration. His past deliverance of Israel from Egypt was in fulfillment of His covenant promises to Abraham. Daniel’s supplication appeals to God’s proven covenant faithfulness. Daniel petitions God to turn away his anger from “your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain”. “Holy mountain” refers to MountZion and its associated 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 “desolate” and Israel’s “desolations,” from the Hebrew shamem. The verb form of this term is used in verse 27 for the “abomination that desolates” (cp. Daniel 8:13; 11:31; 12:11).
     The Temple lay in ruin and the city of Jerusalem was in a state of desolation. The words of Daniel’s prayer serve to anticipate a future desolation of city and Temple that will be 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 still praying, the same figure “seen in the vision at the beginning.” This links to the preceding vision in chapter 8 about Medo-Persia, Greece, the defilement of the Sanctuary, and “the transgression that desolates” (Daniel 8:15-18).
     “Wearied with weariness” refers not to Gabriel but to Daniel. The angel touched him to relieve his weariness. At the end of his last vision, Daniel found himself “faint and ill” (8:27). His weariness is another link to the preceding vision.
     Gabriel came to “cause this man to understand the vision” in the previous chapter (8:15-18), so now he arrives to teach Daniel “understanding.” The verbal parallels are deliberate to link the two visions.
     Gabriel once more arrives to give Daniel understanding of the vision. 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 recorded in chapter 8. The prophecy presented in Daniel 9:24-27 builds on the preceding vision concerning the time when the Sanctuary would be “put right” and events to transpire “in the latter part of the indignation” (8:14-19).
     A common error when interpreting Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy is to overlook the many verbal and conceptual parallels that link it to the previous two visions (7:1-8; 8:1-14) and the book’s final one (10:1-11:45). The visions of the last half of the book have several common themes, including the “abomination that desolates,” the cessation of the daily sacrifice and the defilement of the Sanctuary.

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