One of the most important prophecies in the Bible appears in Daniel 9:24-27. In order to understand this prophecy, one must be very familiar with its context. Chapter nine opens up with Daniel trying to understand the prophecy of Jeremiah in which Jeremiah prophesied concerning the exiles that were taken to Babylon. Jeremiah says that the exiles would not return quickly, but would remain in Babylon for 70 years.
“Thus says the L-RD of hosts, the G-d of Israel, unto all the captivity, whom I have caused to be carried away captive from Jerusalem unto Babylon: Build houses, and dwell in them, and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; take wives, and bear sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there, and be not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray unto the L-RD for it; for in the peace thereof shall you have peace. For thus says the L-RD of hosts, the G-d of Israel: Let not your prophets that are in the midst of you, and your diviners, beguile you, neither listen to your dreams which cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in My name; I have not sent them, says the L-RD. For thus says the L-RD: After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will remember you, and perform My good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.“
Daniel thought about these words of Jeremiah during the days of Darius. Darius ruled prior to Cyrus. It was Cyrus who issued the edict that the exiles were able to return to the land of Israel. This fact is written in the book of II Chronicles,
” Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the L-RD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the L-RD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying: ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth has the L-RD, the God of heaven, given me; and He has charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whosoever there is among you of all His people–the L-RD his G-d be with him–let him go up.”
II Chronicles 36:22-23
It is important to note that King Cyrus issued this decree exactly 70 years after Nebuchadnezzar exiled the Jewish people to Babylon. Daniel knew this prophecy from Jeremiah and that the 70 years were coming to an end. Therefore, it was during this time that Daniel prayed and asked G-d to fulfill Jeremiah’s word. It was in the midst of this that Daniel received this important prophecy.
“Seventy weeks are decreed upon Your people and upon Your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to forgive iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy place. Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto one anointed, a prince, shall be seven weeks; and for sixty- two weeks, it shall be built again, with broad place and moat, but in troublous times. And after the sixty-two weeks shall an anointed one be cut off, and be no more; and the people of a prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; but his end shall be with a flood; and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease; and upon the wing of detestable things shall be that which cause destruction; and that until the extermination wholly determined be poured out upon that which cause destruction.“
This prophecy begins with the word “weeks”. The interpretation of this word is, indeed, week; but not a week of seven days, rather a week of seven years. This means that the expression “70 weeks” is speaking about a time period of 490 years. The reader needs to understand that nowhere in this prophecy does it state that these are 490 consecutive years.
The question that needs to be asked is, “What is the main issue in this prophecy”? The answer is that HaShem will establish His kingdom after a period of 490 years. In the 24th verse, it is written that HaShem has allotted 490 years concerning the Jewish people and the holy city of Jerusalem (70 years have been determined concerning your people and concerning your holy city). At the end of this period, G-d will rule in His kingdom, which will be established according to the Torah. Sin and transgression will cease (the transgression will cease and sin will be brought to an end). The verse continues and says, “And to make atonement for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness.” Here Daniel reveals to us that HaShem will make atonement for iniquity, with the result of this atonement being “everlasting righteousness”. What is this everlasting righteousness? The Hebrew term translated “everlasting” not only refers to time but also place; hence, there will be righteousness in the entire world for all of time. The verse concludes with the words, “and to seal the vision and the prophet and to anoint the Holy of Holies”. From this we learn that G-d will confirm this prophecy (vision) by means of the Messiah. Whereas many English translations translate the word “prophet” with the word “prophecy”, this is not correct. Daniel says and means prophet, referring to Messiah as did Moses,
“A prophet from your midst, from your brethren like me, the L-rd your G-d will establish for you, you shall listen to Him.”
There is a consensus among the commentators that the prophet to which Moses is referring is Messiah. Hence, it is Messiah that will make atonement for iniquity and will rule in G-d’s kingdom. Furthermore, it is the Messiah Who will rule according to the Torah and thereby bring in everlasting righteousness. The final expression in this verse is “and to anoint the Holy of Holies.” This expression causes the reader to learn that in the midst of G-d’s kingdom the temple will be established and it will function according to biblical law.
In the following passage Daniel says, “to return and rebuild Jerusalem unto the anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks.” This means that from the edict to return and to rebuild Jerusalem there shall be a period of 49 years. There is a disagreement in regard to this verse. There are many opinions in regard to the identity of the “anointed prince,” but it is clear that this verse is not referring to the messiah. There is also disagreement in regard to the phrase, “and 62 weeks, you shall return and be built, the streets and the square in difficult times.” Due to the fact that there is a lack of understanding in regard to these two statements, this article will not comment upon them, other than to say that a period of 62 biblical weeks, of 483 years, is being spoken of. Even though one cannot be dogmatic to what these two statements are referring, most of the commentators try to fix the beginning of when to calculate this time period. This desire to establish this time period of 483 years is important to them because if you know when this period ends, then one can know when to expect messiah and the destruction of the second temple. Why is this the case? Because the following verse says,
“After the 62 weeks, Messiah will be cut off but not for Himself; and the holy city shall be destroyed (by) the people of the coming prince and its end shall be in haste unto the end of war and its determined desolation.”
Concerning the Messiah, one needs to understand that this verse is not speaking of the coming of Messiah, but of His death (Messiah will be cut off). And, at the end, the verse speaks of the destruction of the temple.
We shall return and discuss the 26th verse a little later in this article. However, now, we shall see the reason why it is not wise to follow after those commentators who try to calculate the dates of these events. According to the prophecy of Daniel, there are a couple of important events and dates.
1. The beginning of the Babylonian Exile
2. The destruction of the first temple
3. King Cyrus ascending to power (it is important to remember that Cyrus decreed the edict concerning the end of the Babylonian Exile and that Jeremiah the prophet reveals that this took place in the first year of his reign).
4. Edict of King Darius the Persian to rebuild Jerusalem.
5. Death of Jesus of Nazareth
6. Destruction of the Second temple
In regard to these dates and events, the reader must understand that there are two traditions; the accepted historical one or according to the famed biblical commentator, Rashi. The reader must understand that the given dates for these events are not exact. There is a possibility of error on one side or the other from a few years to as many as ten years.
Table of Dates and Events:
Start of Babylonian Exile 605 BC 441 BC
Destruction of First Temple 587 BC 423 BC
First year of King Cyrus 535 BC 370 BC
Darius’ Edict 445 BC 333 BC
Death of Jesus 30 AD 30 AD
Destruction of Second Temple 68 AD 68 AD
How do these dates relate to the prophecy of Daniel? Rashi says that the 70 years of exile in Babylon begins from the destruction of the temple. This is an error. It is clear from the Bible that the Babylonian exile ended in the first year of Cyrus’ reign. Therefore, there are only 52 years and not the full 70 that the word of G-d demands. The prophet Ezra also supports that it was in Cyrus’ first year that the exile ended.
“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the L-RD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the L-RD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying: ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth has the L-RD, the G-d of heaven, given me; and He has charged me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whosoever there is among you of all His people–his G-d be with him–let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the L-RD, the G-d of Israel, He is the G-d who is in Jerusalem. And whosoever is left, in any place where he sojourns, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill-offering for the house of G-d which is in Jerusalem.“
The reason that Rashi erred in his calculations is that he neglected to study Jeremiah’s prophecy sufficiently. Had he studied Jeremiah, he would have known that it was wrong to begin the Babylonian exile with the destruction of the first temple, for Jeremiah says that the beginning of the exile is when Nebuchadnezzar ascended to Jerusalem in the fourth year of the reign of King Yehoakim. King Yehoakim continued to rule an additional seven years, after which ruled his son, Yehoachin for just three months. After Yehoachin, King Tzeddekiah ruled for 11 years. This means that the Babylonian exile began 18 years prior to the destruction of the first temple. According to the historical calculations, the exile began in 605 BC and ended in 535 BC.
Daniel says, “from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem unto the messiah the prince, there shall be seven weeks (49 years).” It is important that the reader understand that Daniel is not speaking about the edict of King Cyrus, which spoke not of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but of the rebuilding of the temple.
“Thus says Koresh, King of Persia, ‘All the kingdoms of the earth, the L-rd G-d of heavens has given unto me, and He has charged me to build for Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.'”
Rather, Daniel is speaking about an edict to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. We have spoken previously concerning the difficulty of knowing just who Daniel is speaking about when referring to “the anointed prince.” Therefore there is no need to discuss this issue further. Let us return to our discussion of verse 26 and the period of 483 years. Even though one cannot be for certain when to begin the period, or whether these 483 years are consecutive, there is a tendency among the majority of the commentators to speak with certainty that Daniel was referring to the edict of King Artaxerxes,
“And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, when wine was before him, that I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been before sad in his presence. And the king said unto me: ‘Why is your countenance sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing else but sorrow of heart.’ Then I was very sore afraid. And I said unto the king: ‘Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ tombs, lie in waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?’ Then the king said unto me: ‘For what do you request?’ So I prayed to the G-d of heaven. And I said unto the king: ‘If it please the king, and if your servant have found favour in your sight, that you would send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may build it.’ And the king said unto me, the queen also sitting by him: ‘For how long shall your journey be? And when will you return?’ So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. Moreover I said unto the king: ‘If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the River, that they may let me pass through till I come unto Judah; and a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king’s park, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the castle which pertains to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into.’ And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon
The date of this event, according to the historians, is 445 BC, in the month of Nisan. Most Christian commentators say that from this date that Daniel prophesied concerning the exact time that Jesus was crucified. There are a couple of problems with this interpretation. First and foremost is that Daniel says “after“ the 483 years Messiah will be cut off. Before we speak about the significance of Messiah being cut off, we must first pay attention to the significance of the phrase “and after.” This phrase is not exact. There is no way that the reader can know with any certainty whether Daniel is referring to immediately after the 483 years or whether he is referring to a week, month, year or hundred years after. Nevertheless, there is a tendency among Christian commentators to say that it is immediately after the 483 years that Daniel is saying that Messiah will be crucified. The second major problem is if you add 483 years to the date 445 BC you come out with the date of 38 AD. This date is approximately 8 years too late for the date of Jesus’ crucifixion. Personally, because the 445 BC starting date can be a few years off, I believe it does not represent a problem. However, in an attempt to correct what many see as a discrepancy, Christian commentators have offered a solution. They say that there is a difference between a biblical year and a solar year. Although this is true, the Jewish calendar makes a correction so that when speaking about a period of more than a few years, there is the same number of days according to both calendars. Although the solution that many Christian commentators offer is flawed, it is important that the reader understand it. The solution hinges on a supposition that one must convert the 483 years to days. Hence, the Christians wrongly assume that a biblical year has 360 days. Therefore, they say, that Daniel is speaking about a period of 173,880 days. The assumption of 360 days in a biblical year is based upon 12 months of 30 days. This is not the case. Some months have 29 days; others have 30 days, because a regular biblical year has 354 days.
Of course a solar year is 365.25 days. Therefore, the total amount of days in a 483 year period would be 176, 416 days, creating a difference of 2,536 days. This would represent a difference of approximately 7 years that one would have to subtract from the 483 years. This would allow a period of time much closer to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. Because most scholars see at least a couple of years leeway in knowing the exact year that Jesus was born, one could confidently assert that we are talking about a spring in approximately 31 AD. The error that many Christians make is that they fail to realize that the Jewish calendar has a leap year 7 times in every 19 years. Each leap year consists of an additional month of 30 days. Hence, a regular year has 354 days and a leap year has 384 days. As previously stated, there is no need to convert this time period into days rather than years.
The reason for this leap year is that, if it did not exist, the months of the Jewish calendar, and therefore the holidays, would change seasons. This is unacceptable to the Bible, for it tells us that some of the holidays are connected to specific seasons of the year. For example: Passover. Passover must be in the Spring, for scripture tells us,
“Keep the month of Aviv (Spring) and do the Passover to the L-rd your G-d (in it), for in the month of Aviv (in the Spring) the L-rd your G-d brought you out of Egypt.”
Now let us return and discuss verse 26 of Daniel chapter 9. It is important to note that in Daniel 12, as the prophecy concludes, G-d gives Daniel some important instruction in regard to calculating the time of the events mentioned.
“And He (G-d) said to you, O Daniel, for closed and sealed are (these) things unto the time of the end.”
This verse may very well be revealing that even at the present time it is not possible to perform the calculations and to discern the dates. But it is possible for one to make one very important conclusion. This conclusion is that after a period of 483 years Messiah will be cut off. The word that is used in Hebrew that is translated “to be cut off” has an important significance. The word is related to a covenant. In Hebrew, if one wants to make a covenant, one says, “to cut a covenant.” Therefore, the Messiah will offer up His life in order to establish a covenant. Which covenant does Messiah’s death establish? A covenant of peace—peace between HaShem and humanity.
Isaiah the prophet speaks about why humanity needs Messiah. Isaiah clearly teaches that it is Messiah Who will make peace between G-d and man; for he says,
“Behold, the arm of the L-rd is not so short that He cannot save, nor is His ear too heavy to be able to hear. Rather, your iniquities, they have separated you from your G-d and your sins have hidden (G-d’s) Face from you from saving (you).”
It is clear from this verse that man is in need of redemption; this is the reason why Isaiah proclaims at the end of this same chapter,
“And the Redeemer shall come to Zion to remove the sin from Jacob says the L-rd and I this is My covenant with them, says the L-rd. My Spirit which is upon you and My Word which I have set in your mouth and they shall not remove it from your mouth or from the mouth of your seed or from the mouth of your children’s children, says the L-rd from now and forevermore.”
Daniel continues in the 26th verse and says that the deed which Messiah did, when He offered Himself as a sacrifice, was “not for Himself.” This means that He did not do it for any personal interest because Messiah Himself is not in need of redemption. Messiah must be one that is without sin and completely righteous. This fact reveals to the reader why rabbis call him Messiah our righteousness. In other words, it is only Messiah Who is able to mediate righteousness upon the house of Israel.
The verse ends with the words,
“The city and the sanctuary will be destroyed by the prince (the anti-christ) who is coming. The end will come about in a flood (with haste) and until the end of war and the desolation is determined.”
From this sentence we learn the most important point in regard to the calculation of the timing of these events. The main conclusion which can be derived is that Messiah must come and redeem humanity by offering up His life prior to the destruction of the Second Temple. It has already been said that the Second Temple was destroyed in approximately 68 AD. Therefore, Daniel is revealing that the Messiah Who offered up His life to do the work of redemption had to come and make this sacrifice prior to 68 AD.
In the next article, G-d willing, we will investigate the relationship between the second half of Daniel 9:26 and Daniel 9:27.
Author: Rabbi Baruch