God is Judge

Chapter 16

A Commentary on the book of Daniel

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The Seventy Prophecy

 

Montgomery states that “the history of the exegesis of the 70 weeks is the Dismal Swamp of O.T. criticism”.[1] This chapter will attempt to establish terra firma by draining the “Dismal Swamp”.  Admittedly, Daniel 9 poses unique textual and critical challenges but none as great as the burden of preconceptions and a priori assumptions that exegetes impose on the prophecy.  Critical scholars apply the prophecy to the desecrations caused by Antiochus Epiphanes, Christian dispensational interpreters apply the prophecy to Christ and Jewish scholars ancient and modern apply the prophecy to Antiochus or the Roman Empire (or sometimes to both). The exegesis presented here operates under the hypothesis that Daniel is of early provenance - a sixth century writing, although this does not preclude later editorialising and finalisation of the structure.  Therefore an immediate application to the exilic return in the Persian period is sought. However, the strength of evidence also points to an intermediate fulfilment during the Antiochene persecutions and finally, the importance of the prophecy in first century Judaism and to the N.T. indicates a longer term fulfilment. In order to do justice to the prophecy it is therefore necessary to adopt a multivalent approach that allows the prophecy to speak in each era.  The prophecy was flexible enough to offer hope to the Babylonian exiles, encouragement to the Maccabean resistance and vindication to first century Christians. The common thread linking each era (and each interpretation) is the temple. Concern for the temple is a central motif to Daniel as it symbolized God’s in-dwelling presence and therefore ensured that the restoration was complete.

 

A Fresh look at the Seventy Prophecy

 

Daniel’s temple theology is crucial to any interpretive investigation. Jesus Christ does not apply the prophecy to his crucifixion but to the destruction of the temple:

 

[1] Montgomery, Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1927),400 –  401

 

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Olivet Prophecy Daniel
Matt 24:3 Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? Dan 12:8 And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? (cf. Dan 12:6)
Matt 24:6 And ye shall hear of wars...these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. Dan 9:26 And unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
Matt 24:15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand) Lk 21:20 And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Dan 9:27 And for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate
Lk 21:24 Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Dan 12:7 for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.
Matt 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. Dan 12:1 And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time……
Matt 24:30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven…..and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Lk 21:27And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Dan 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven……..

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The Olivet prophecy mentions “Daniel the prophet” and includes a partial citation of Daniel 9:27 in Matthew 24:15 and is shot through with echoes and allusions to the book of Daniel.   The prophecy was given as a response to a question about the temple, a question which in some way is linked with the end of the age:

 

“Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down’.” (Matthew 24:1, 2)

 

In place of Matthew and Mark’s vivid apocalyptic imagery of the ‘abomination of desolation’, Luke 21:9 substitutes a factual account of ‘Jerusalem surrounded by armies’, its inhabitants ‘fallen by the edge of the sword’. For Jesus and for early Jewish interpreters like Josephus the prophecy found a fulfilment in the destruction of the temple by the Romans.[2] Jewish commentators such as Rashi and Metzudos, held that the 490 years ended with the destruction of the temple.

 

[2] Josephus was careful to mask his interpretation, Adler comments: “Sensing the obvious political overtones, Josephus carefully avoided any overt  reference to an interpretation of Daniel that he knew looked forward to the ‘good things’ of Daniel’s vision: that is, the inauguration of the eternal kingdom of God and the crushing of Rome, the kingdom of Iron”. (213)  On Josephus’ allusion to Dan 9:26 in Ant 10.276 Adler says; “The passage, Delphic in its double-edged ambiguity, could also be read to mean that Rome would be laid waste by the Jews”.(216) The destruction of the temple became the terminus of early Jewish interpretations;  “It is clear from the testimony of both Josephus and the Jewish chronicle Seder Olam that the process of updating and reinterpreting Daniel’s vision persisted up to the destruction of the temple in 70”. (209) William Adler, The Jewish apocalyptic heritage in early Christianity, (eds. James C. VanderKam, William Adler: Van Gorcum & Company B.V.; Netherlands,1996)

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However, Jesus’ interpretation did not end with the destruction of the temple it ends with his return, also described in Danielic terms, “the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven” (Dan. 7:13).  Jesus becomes the replacement for the temple (Rev. 21:20) and forms, with his “fellow servants” the eschatological New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2). This will be investigated in more depth anon, for now we work with the hypothesis that the Seventy Prophecy is about the temple (and by inference the city that housed the temple).  Jerusalem features prominently throughout this chapter of Daniel, being mentioned a total of six times (9:2, 7, 12, 16 [bis], 25) with specific attention drawn to its destruction, its period of desolation, and its reconstruction. Even though the Seventy Prophecy has important Christological implications it is not to be dated to the crucifixion – that is a red herring that has distracted many Christian interpreters.

 

Although this chapter proposes a “theological interpretation” centred on the temple the chronological element cannot be ignored. However, it is the contention of this interpretation that the periodization of the heptads (i.e. into 7 and 62) is secondary and forms a distraction to the original intent of the Seventy Prophecy.   The exegesis begins with a re-examination of the prophecy in its simplest form, namely Seventy Sevens.

 

Seven days or Seven years?

 

When Jesus is asked by Peter how many times he should forgive his brother when he sins against him (Peter suggests seven times) – Jesus replies that he should forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven.[3] Jesus is clearly alluding to Daniel’s Seventy Prophecy. In other words Jesus is saying; you will keep forgiving your brother until, “an end is made to transgression and iniquity and everlasting righteousness    Continued  ˃

 

[3] Matthew 18:21-22. Some translations have seventy-seven times instead of seventy times sevens. See L&N 60.74 and 60.77 for the two possible translations of the phrase.  The translation as seventy-seven is probably influenced by the Lamech poem; “If Cain is to be avenged seven times as much, then Lamech seventy-seven times!” (Gen. 4:24).

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is brought in.” (Dan.9:24) In other words, “You must keep forgiving your brother (as many times as is necessary) until God’s kingdom (as promised to Daniel) is established on earth”. In its simplest form the chronological reference of the prophecy is found within the seventy sevens framework. This leaves us with two questions, firstly; what do the “sevens” represent (days/months/years etc) and secondly; why “seventy” of them? Answering the second question first, the seventy is connected with the 70 years of exile prophesied by Jeremiah; “To fulfil the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfil seventy years”. (2 Chron.36: 21)

 

The 70-year exile is therefore punishment for missing the “Sabbaths” - - the length of the exile was determined by the amount of Sabbaths that had been neglected as specified in Leviticus: “Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies land; even then shall the land rest and enjoy her Sabbaths”. (Lev.24:34)   The “Sabbaths” here are Sabbath years or Jubilee years.  Every six years the land was meant to lie fallow for a year – effectively meaning no harvest for over two years. On the forty-ninth year the great Jubilee was celebrated with the restoration of land rights and liberation of captives.  So every six years a “Sabbath” year or for every forty-two years a cumulative seven “Sabbath” years (42+7=49); this means that for a period of 490 years the Jews had neglected correct Sabbath keeping for 70 years. The 490 years of Sabbath violations was corrected by the 70 year exile during which period the land obtained its Sabbath rest.

 

Biblical chronology is largely schematized, for example the figure 430 also reoccurs in the divine history of Israel and Judah: Ezekiel lies on his side 390 days for Israel and 40 days for the sins of Judah (390+40=430). The apostle Paul informs us that there were 430 years (Gal.3:17) between Abraham and the Exodus (till the building of the Temple?).[4]  Biblical numbers often carry specific symbolic meanings     Continued  ˃

 

[4] These periods sometimes overlap because they are counted from different starting dates, compare 1 Kgs.6:1 = 480 years; Acts 13:19, 20 = 450 years.

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the Danielic numbers of 1260 and 1290 are factors of three times 420 and three times 430.  Interestingly the 1260 days is expressed as 42 months in Revelation 11:6 – of immense symbolic significance.[5] The subject of Biblical Chronology (and numerology) is fraught with difficulties (more on this anon), for now the conclusion stands that the “seventy” unit in the prophecy are periods of seventy years – like the seventy year exile predicted by Jeremiah.[6] Having established the meaning of the “seventy” as periods of seventy years – what do the “sevens” symbolize? The normal biblical usage of shavua’ is “week” (of days), as is attested by every appearance of the noun by itself in Tanach (Genesis 29:27, 28; Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 12:5; Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 16:9 (2x), 10, 16; II Chronicles 8:13; Jeremiah 5:24; Ezekiel 45:21).

 

The Hebrew is expressed as שִׁבְעִים (shib`iym), seventy;    שָׁבוּעַ (shavua’), sevens. Whitcomb suggests that the “sevens” represent nothing more than a unit of seven, he suggests that on the basis of analogous Hebrew usage that shavua’ may be compared to asor, usually translated “ten days,” but in Psalm 33:2; 92:4 [English, verse 3]; 144:9 must be translated “ten strings” or “ten-stringed instrument.” This indicates that asor means literally a “decad” or “unit of ten,” and that the distinction in numerical measure must be derived from the context. In like manner, shavua’ literally means a “heptad”, or “unit of seven,” and has no intrinsic reference to time periods of any sort. Support for this may be seen in three appearances of shavua’ with yamim (“days”), the addition indicating that shavua’ alone was not sufficient to show that a    Continued  ˃

 

[5] 42 campsites in the wilderness (Numbers 33); 42 generations between Abraham and Christ (Matt.1:17; 3x14=42); at the dedication of the tabernacle (Num.7), each tribe brought instruments weighing 210 shekels (210x12=2520 shekels = 2x1260 shekels), denoting two time periods of 1260; Elijah’s drought for 3½ years = 1260 days = 42months (Lk.4:25, compare Rev.11:6)

[6] The apocryphal “Epistle of Jeremiah” (1:1) speaks of the Babylonian captivity lasting “up to seven generations.” A generation is unspecific but perhaps we should think here of seven periods (of seventy? i.e. the captivity lasts until the “Great Jubilee 490 years later?)

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period of seven days was meant (cf. Ezekiel 45:21; Daniel 10:2, 3). The fact that two of these three combinations occur in Daniel 10, immediately following the “Seventy Weeks Prophecy”, may be a signal to the reader that a different sense of shavua’ is now intended.[7] The “seven” might then refer to “sevens of days” (a week) or “sevens of years” – this allows the prophecy flexibility.  This flexibility has already been employed to demonstrate an initial application to Daniel’s time 490 days after he received the vision on the day before Hanukah.  However, this does not preclude a longer term fulfilment 490 years later.

 

Interim Conclusions

 

The following statements will be put to the test and will guide the remainder of the exegesis:

 

  • The prophecy is concerned with the temple
  • The “seven” is a flexible unit of periods of seven
  • The division of the heptads into 62 and 7 is secondary
  • The simplest form of the prophecy is 70 units of seven
  • The longer term fulfilment is 490 years (70 x 7)
  • The seventieth “Jubilee” marks significant events

 

The good word

 

“For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place”. (Jer. 29:10)

 

[7] John C. Whitcomb, “Daniel’s Great Seventy-Weeks Prophecy: An Exegetical Insight,” Grace Theological Journal 2:2 (Fall, 1981): 259-263. Culled from Footnote 16 by Dr. Randall Price, The Prophetic Postponement in the Prophecy of Daniel 9:27 (part 1-3, Prophecy Ministries,1999: cited online June 2009); Access here

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Daniel refers to “the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah” (Dan. 9:2).  As a prominent member of the exilic community Daniel was aware of the letters that Jeremiah had sent to the community.  Encouraged by false prophets the exilic community (Golah) expected an early return. P. Diamond observes; “The promise of a return from exile in seventy years ([Jer.]29:10-14), coupled with the admonition (vv.4-7) to settle into a normal life in Babylon, suggests that Jeremiah’s prophetic opponents have been agitating for an imminent return akin to similar themes heralded already in chs.27-28 by Jeremiah’s opponents. The point of prophetic dispute is the timetable for restoration, which importantly carries implications for legitimate claim to “Israel” and the fate of the currently splintered reality of the community in Judah and in Babylon.[8]

 

In such a situation it is easy to imagine the opponents of Jeremiah applying a novel reading to the prophecy of Isaiah in order to demonstrate that Cyrus was the “anointed” who would release the captives. Apparently they also distorted Jeremiah’s own prophecies, as noted by Diamond (2003:587); “Now this is not the first time that Jeremiah has announced a return for the Babylonian Golah (cf.  24:4-7), nor the note of the seventy-year time period for Babylonian imperial rule (cf. 25:11-12). But it is left to the exchanges in chs.27-29 to explicitly tie the two together in an effort to prevent the hope of an imminent fulfilment of Jeremiah’s vision in 24:1-10 (27:7 [three generations]; 29:10). No wonder, ironically, that survivors in Babylon or in Jerusalem might have seen no contradiction between Jeremiah's vision (24:4-7) and the announcements of a foreshortened timetable by Jeremiah’s prophetic opponents!”

 

The “word” that goes forth is therefore the “good word” vouchedsafe initially to Jeremiah, it is not related to any decree or command (Dan. 9:23) issued by a Persian monarch – the realization of the prophecy only occurred when the “word” went forth to angelic administrators     Continued  ˃

 

[8] A. R. Pete Diamond, “Jeremiah” in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible,(ed., James D. G. Dunn, ed., John W. Rogerson; Wm. B. Eerdmans,2003),587

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(‘princes’ cf. Dan.10:13) in the time of Darius. Ronald Pierce[9] comments on the misleading translation in Dan. 9:23; “Inasmuch as the term used in each of these references is the common rb'D' (“word”) and not hW"ïc;m (“command”), as many English versions imply,[10] there is no need to read into the passage the meaning of a “royal decree” issued by a Persian ruler”.[11]

 

The Prayer

 

Scholars give consideration to such things as whether the prayer is secondary – was the prayer added to the prophecy at a later stage (or vice versa)?   The literary character of the prayer is different from Daniel as it is much smoother and free of Aramaisms.  It is of course possible that Daniel was reciting a traditional exilic prayer which he then incorporated into his composition. Jones and Gilbert[12] advance evidence that establishes the authenticity of the prayer.  The Seventy Prophecy (Dan. 9:20-27) contains several allusions to the prayer; להשכיל (understand) in vv. 13 and 22; forms of return (שוב) and consider (שכל) occur in vv. 13 and 25; a form of desolate (שמם) occurs in v. 17, in connection with the desolation of the temple, and again in v. 27 (compare “desolations” in v. 18) in v. 11 an oath (שבעה) is poured (תתך) out  on the Jews,    whereas in v. 24 the weeks   (שבעים)        Continued  ˃

 

[9] Cited including footnotes see, Ronald W. Pierce, “Spiritual Failure, Postponement, And Daniel 9,” (Trinity Journal 10.2,1989: 211–222),213

[10] This rendering is sustained by the KJV, NKJV, NASV, and NIV, in contrast to the RSV which translates “word.”

[11] See Feinberg, “Exegetical” 191-95; G. L. Archer, “Daniel,” EBC 7 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985) 114. Although it is possible to render rbD by “command/decree,” it is highly unusual and therefore should not be done unless warranted by the context.

[12] B. W. Jones, “The Prayer in Daniel ix, ”VT 18 (1968) 488-93; “La Prière de Daniel,” 290-92

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are decreed (נחתך), and in v. 27 the end is poured out (תתך); both prayer and framework refer to Jerusalem, which is otherwise only mentioned in Dan. 1:1; the word “supplications,” (תחנונים) appears in Daniel only in chap.9 but in both prayer and framework (9:3,17,18,23); words of the root  חטא appear in the prayer and again in vv. 20 and 24 but otherwise only in 4:24 in Daniel.  In light of these correspondences Collins concludes that “although the prayer was not composed for the present context, it was included purposely by the author of Daniel 9 and was not a secondary addition”[13]  The prayer is integral to the prophecy and was not added as window dressing – this makes it more likely that the prophecy is of early provenance.

 

Which version of the “Seventy Weeks”?

 

Before an exegesis can be undertaken we must turn to the vexed problem of the different versions. The Old Greek (OG) version of the book of Daniel is the original (ca.150 BC) version in the Greek translation known as the Septuagint (LXX) but was replaced in the Septuagint[14] by Theodotion’s (Th) Greek version.  The Theodotion is a second century retranslation of the OG that was adopted by the early Church (for reasons unknown). Whether he was revising the Septuagint (OG), or was working from Hebrew manuscripts that represented a parallel tradition that has not survived, is debated. However, as first century NT citations from Daniel reflect knowledge of both the OG and the second century Th version, it is therefore apparent that the Th was at least proceeded  by a proto-Th (the Th has therefore a complex developmental history). The Th became the main Greek text that Origen relied upon in his Hexapla translation. The much later (ca.1000 AD) Masoretic text (MT) is a Hebrew text that has been punctuated and vowel pointed for pronunciation (the original    Continued  ˃

 

[13] John J. Collins, Daniel: Hermeneia, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1993),348

[14] The Septuagint Daniel (OG) survived in only a few MSS., including the Chigi codex, Codex Chisianus, and Papyrus 967

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Hebrew carried no vowels or punctuation).[15] A comparison of the MT with the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) that are dated much earlier (ca. 168 BC- 68 AD) has established that the MT is a reliable transmission (at least from the era of the DSS onwards) although Daniel poses unique challenges.[16] With respect to the text of Daniel, all eight scrolls reveal no major disagreements against the MT even the bilingual nature (Hebrew/Aramaic) is confirmed by the manuscripts. Dr. Emanuel Tov of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and one of the editors working on the DSS writes: “Of similar    Continued  ˃

 

[15] The Masoretic accents, called ta’mim (“meanings,” literally “taste”), are written signs designed to preserve the oral tradition of accentuation, which originally could not be introduced into the written text of the Bible itself (since it would be considered an addition to the sacred text), but later were incorporated into the text when it was transmitted in the form of a codex (a copy of the Bible not in scroll form), between the sixth to the ninth centuries A.D. The accents are helpful as musical notations (which indicated logical pauses), for punctuation, and as interpretive commentary, cf. further Aron Dotan, “Masorah,” Encyclopedia Judaica 16:1402-1482.

[16] John Goldingay offers a consensus view of the Hebrew text, “To  the  Jewish  scholarship of  the  first millennium A.D, we owe  the  preservation  and  standardization  of  the  Hebrew Bible,  the  consonantal  text  over  the  first  five  centuries,  the  pointing over the succeeding five. Generally this scribal work was concerned to preserve one standard text of the Bible, but a distinctive feature with regard to Daniel is the number of alternative readings retained.  These  appear  in  margins  of extant  manuscripts  as  the  Masora  (tradition)  and  are reproduced  in  the  BHS:  almost  any  verse,  at  least  in  the Aramaic  chapters,  provides  examples.  Some represent expansions or abbreviations of the text; most are matters of spelling, pronunciation or morphology, though even these reflect an instinct to keep the text up-to-date and readable. It is  a  priori  likely  that  this  instinct  will  also  have  affected matters  of more  substance  in  the  text,  for  example,  in  the incorporation of explanatory glosses”. J. E. Goldingay, Daniel (London: Nelson, 1989), xxxii.

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importance are the new data about the context of the biblical scrolls, since different texts are recognizable. Some texts reflect precisely the consonantal framework of the medieval MT. Others reflect the basic framework of the MT, although their spelling is different. Still others differ in many details from the MT, while agreeing with the Septuagint or Samaritan Pentateuch. Some texts do not agree with any previously known text at all, and should be considered independent textual traditions. Thus, the textual picture presented by the Qumran scrolls represents a textual variety that was probably typical for the period.” [17] In the 8 copies of Daniel that we have in the DSS, none include the “Seventy Prophecy” of Daniel chapter 9 (although 4QDane does include an abbreviated, fragmentary text of the Prayer of Daniel).  Scholars often explain the differences between the OG and the MT as misreading (“mechanical” errors) by the translator of the OG when working from the original Hebrew/Aramaic. However, the possibility exists that the translator was working from an original that differed from the MT. Grabbe notes; “The earliest [Jewish] interpretation [of Daniel] was the Greek translation of the book.  Some of the differences between the Hebrew and Aramaic text of the MT and the earliest Greek version can be explained by textual development.  While the extent of interpretation in the LXX [OG] version needs further exploration, a number of recent studies have emphasized the interpretative aspects of the so-called “Theodotion” version”.[18]  Jeansonne[19] concludes that the OG does however preserve indications    Continued  ˃

 

[17] Emanuel Tov, Dead Sea Scrolls in The Oxford Companion to the Bible, (eds. Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan, Oxford University Press, New York,Oxford:1993:159-160),160

[18] Lester L. Grabbe, “A Dan(iel) for all seasons: for whom was Daniel important?”, in The Book of Daniel: Composition and Reception, Vol. 1, (eds. John Joseph Collins, Peter W. Flint, Cameron VanEpps; Brill Academic Publishers,2002: 229-246),236

[19] S.P. Jeansonne,“The Old Greek Translation of Daniel 7-12” (CBQMS 19; Washington, DC:1998) See also, T. McLay, The OG and Th Versions of Daniel (SBLSCS 43,Atlanta Scholars Press, 1996)

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that the MT is not identical to the Hebrew text that was available to the translator of the OG in the second century B.C.

 

The OG of Daniel 9 may have been working from a much older Hebrew original, or it may contain transmission errors or perhaps it is a freer paraphrase reflecting the bias of the translator – however, we cannot know with any certainty that the MT gives a more accurate rendering of the “Seventy Prophecy.”

 

The OG and Th provide many textual variants on the MT. For example, in the Seventy Weeks prophecy, the presence of the athnah accent in Dan. 9:25 causes problems. In Hebrew there are two types of accents and they act as punctuation marks. The strong accents serve as stops (periods), colons, and semicolons. One of these accents is called the ‘athnach. The function of the ‘athnach is to mark the first half of a verse and serves as a strong break within a sentence. The Hebrew  text  contains  an  ‘athnach    under the Hebrew word  for  seven, which  in  the  text  closes  the  first  period  of sevens.  Thus, in Hebrew, the accent makes a separation between the two periods of weeks. Translations  (e.g. RSV)  following  the Hebrew MT  accents  take  the  ‘athnach  into  account  and  adopt  a  disjunction, with a messiah  appearing  after  the  initial  7 weeks.    (7 weeks........ then after 62 weeks).  However,  the  KJV  is  influenced  by  Th  which  does  not reflect such an accent, and has ―until the Messiah shall come after 69 weeks (7 weeks and 62 weeks).

 

Eugene Nida observes that at times, translators purposely and consciously attempted to change a message in order to make it conform to his own  ...  religious predilections.  According  to  Nida, “These  are  particularly evident when  a  translator  feels  inclined  to  improve on  the original,  correct apparent  errors,  or  defend  a  personal  preference  by  slanting  his  choice  of words”.[20] Translators often employ Hebrew dictionaries and grammar written in English.  Thus,  the  structure  of  the  English  language  is  bound  to  be  an influence  in  any translation, regardless of the translator’s wish to    Continued  ˃

 

[20] Eugene Nida, Toward a Science of Translation, (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1964), 155

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avoid linguistic  contamination  (p.  148).   Nida notes that one basic requirement for a translator is that s/he must have empathy for the original author.  The words which  translators must  employ  to  translate  a  text  are  already  set out for  them  by  the  original  author.  Using this empathetic spirit, translators must  be  like  the  original  author;  translators must  not  try  to  improve  or  to excel  the  original  author. Nida wrote  that  the  translator  must  exert  every effort  to  reduce  to  a  minimum  any  intrusion  of  himself  which  is  not  in harmony with the intent of the original author and message (p. 154). Ronald W. Pierce [21] provides a literal translation of the MT Pointing of Daniel 9:25; in order to give the reader a more direct sense of the Hebrew text Pierce produces a wooden-literal translation avoiding lower/upper case distinctions. Disjunctive accents weaker than the rebia are represented only by a carriage return.

 

And you are to know and understand
from the going forth of a word to restore and to build Jerusalem
until an anointed one who is a ruler, [zaqeph qaton]
 there shall be seven weeks; [‘athnach]
… and for sixty-two weeks [rebia]
it shall be restored and built street and moat, [zaqeph qaton]
even in distressful times.

 

The RSV renders the text closer to the MT than do the KJV, NKJV, NASV, and NIV.[22] Therefore in the MT a differentiation is made between two “anointed” ones, the first coming 7 “weeks” after the “word” to rebuild Jerusalem and the next anointed appearing after a further 62 “weeks” of turmoil. The MT speaks of two anointed ones and two princes. In other words, in order to obtain a Christological interpretation of this passage, the MT must be emended. The readers of most English translations are unaware of this translatorial judgment    Continued  ˃

[21] Ronald W. Pierce, “Spiritual Failure, Postponement, And Daniel 9,” Trinity Journal 10.2 (Fall 1989): 211–222

[22] NKJV: Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.  RSV: to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks…

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(bias?) as many versions do not annotate the alternative reading.[1] Of course, one cannot assume that the MT punctuation is correct - we can speculate that it is a polemicizing reading against Christianity – in turn the Greek Th version may have been introduced into the early church in order to counter the early Hebrew reading that later became established in the MT – we simply do not know.    The OG version may throw more light on the issue. On the anomalies between the OG version and the MT Fitzmyer comments; “In the MT, the crucial part    Continued  ˃

 

[23] The Net Bible sets a good example with the following footnote: “The accents in the MT indicate disjunction at this point, which would make it difficult, if not impossible, to identify the “anointed one/prince” of this verse as messianic. The reference in v. 25 to the sixty-two weeks as a unit favors the MT accentuation, not the traditional translation. If one follows the MT accentuation, one may translate “From the going forth of the message to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince arrives, there will be a period of seven weeks. During a period of sixty-two weeks it will again be built, with plaza and moat, but in distressful times.” The present translation follows a traditional reading of the passage that deviates from the MT accentuation”. Net Bible [cited June 2009] online @ Access here. It is interesting to note that the earliest editions of the KJV (1611–1785) follow the MT punctuation and place a semi-colon after the “seven weeks,” thus separating the numerals. However, in 1785 an annotated edition appeared which retained the MT punctuation in its text, but added an explanatory note suggesting that “a colon should be placed at the end of this sentence,” that is, after the “seven weeks and  sixty-two weeks,” which in the opinion of the editor was, “wrong placed in the middle of it in our English Bibles (Ostervald, et al., The Holy Bible…with Annotations (London: Harrison, 1785) ad loc) and the telling assertion that the prophecy is then “justly allowed to be one of the noblest…in the Old Testament, as it is one of the strongest proofs against the Jews, in favour of Christianity … since it determines the very time Christ was to come into the world, enter into his ministry, and be cut off for the sins of the people.” Thirteen years later in 1798 the suggested emendation began to appear in the text of the KJV, although no longer with an explanatory note.

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of the Hebrew of v.25 reads…להשיב ולבגות ירושלם עד-משיח נגיד שבעים שבעה ותדע ותשכל מן-מצא דבר “you [sing.] are to know and to understand (this): From the going forth of a word to rebuild Jerusalem up until an Anointed One, a Prince, (there shall be) seven weeks...”  This becomes in the LXX [i.e. the OG], καὶ γνώσῃ καὶ διανοηθήσῃ καὶ εὐφρανθήσῃ καὶ εὑρήσεις προστάγματα ἀποκριθῆναι καὶ οἰκοδομήσεις Ιερουσαλημ πόλιν κυρίῳ “you will know and understand and be gladdened, and you will discover (the) ordinances to reply, and you will build Jerusalem as a city for the Lord.” Such a version has misunderstood the preposition ער, “up until,” as the noun עיר, “city,” not only confusing the daleth with a resh, but interpreting   משיח נגיד as a title for God, as κυρίῳ is substituted. The change of what should be the infinitive οἰκοδομῆσαι to οἰκοδομήσεις, “you will build,” makes God address Daniel as the one who is to rebuild Jerusalem’s Temple. It has thus eliminated all mention of an Anointed One and substitutes for it “as a city for the Lord.” Obviously, this version manifests no “messianic” development”.[24] The versions of Daniel 9:25-26 read:

 

MT Daniel 9:25: [25] “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 threescore and two weeks, it shall be built again, with broad place and moat, but in troublous times. (26) And after the threescore and 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”.

 

OG Daniel 9:25: [26] “You will know and understand and be gladdened, and you will discover (the) ordinances to reply, and you will build    Continued  ˃

 

[24] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The One who is to come, ( Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2007),66

[25] Jewish Publication Society OT (1917)

[26] Translation taken from  Fitzmyer (2007:66-67)

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Jerusalem as a city for the Lord.” (26) And after seventy-seven and sixty-two [weeks?],[27] (the) anointing will be withdrawn, and it will be no more. A kingdom of Gentiles will destroy the city and the holy (place) together with the Anointed One. Then will come the end of it/him with wrath; and up until the time of the end from war war will be made”.[28]

 

Th Daniel 9:25: [29] “And thou shalt know and understand, that from the going forth of the command for the answer and for the building of Jerusalem until Christ the prince there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-    Continued  ˃

 

[27]Many scholars believe that the translator has misread “weeks” for “seventy” and therefore believe that the initial seven (שבע) was produced by dittography with the following (שבעים). However, Bruce attaches significance to the OG total of 139 (i.e. 7+70+62, the 139 years of the Seleucid calendar being equivalent to 172 BC [Bruce, “The Earliest OT Interpretation,” 37–52]). Bogaert finds two distinct fulfilments of Jeremiah’s prophecy [Bogaert, “Relecture,” 215–16] and argues that an accidental mistake would not have been repeated in v. 27.

 

[28] OGDan 9:25 καὶ γνώσῃ καὶ διανοηθήσῃ καὶ εὐφρανθήσῃ καὶ εὑρήσεις προστάγματα ἀποκριθῆναι καὶ οἰκοδομήσεις Ιερουσαλημ πόλιν κυρίῳ (26) καὶ μετὰ ἑπτὰ καὶ ἑβδομήκοντα καὶ ἑξήκοντα δύο ἀποσταθήσεται χρῖσμα καὶ οὐκ ἔσται καὶ βασιλεία ἐθνῶν φθερεῖ τὴν πόλιν καὶ τὸ ἅγιον μετὰ τοῦ χριστοῦ καὶ ἥξει ἡ συντέλεια αὐτοῦ μετ’ ὀργῆς καὶ ἕως καιροῦ συντελείας ἀπὸ πολέμου πολεμηθήσεται
Fitzmyer (2007:67) comments, “So an abstraction has been substituted for a personal Anointed One in what appears to be a corruptly transmitted Greek text”. For an assessment and discussion of the issues see, Grabbe, The Seventy Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) in Early Jewish Interpretation, in C.A. Carson and S. Talmon (eds.), The Quest for Context and Meaning: Studies in Biblical Intertextuality in Honor of James A, Sanders, (BIS 28;Leiden:Brill,1997:595-611), 598-99

[29] LXX English Translation (Brenton)

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two weeks; and then the time shall return, and the street shall be built, and the wall, and the times shall be exhausted. {1) Or, sevens} (26) And after the sixty-two weeks, the anointed one shall be destroyed, and there is no judgment in him: and he shall destroy the city and the sanctuary with the prince that is coming: they shall be cut off with a flood, and to the end of the war which is rapidly completed he shall appoint the city to desolations”. {1) Gr. anointing}” [30]

 

Strange numbers- diverse computations

 

A comparison between the versions (translations/interpretations) shows the differences clearly:

 

computations

 

Discussion

 

The MT discourages a single Messianic interpretation by delimiting the first seven weeks from the subsequent 62; the Th, on the other hand, encourages interpreters to assume that the 69 weeks formed a single block of time and that vv. 25 and 26 referred to the same anointed one (the Latin Vulgate, the Syriac text and the other Greek versions follow    Continued  ˃

 

[30] Daniel (TH) 9:25 καὶ γνώσῃ καὶ συνήσεις ἀπὸ ἐξόδου λόγου τοῦ ἀποκριθῆναι καὶ τοῦ οἰκοδομῆσαι Ιερουσαλημ ἕως χριστοῦ ἡγουμένου ἑβδομάδες ἑπτὰ καὶ ἑβδομάδες ἑξήκοντα δύο καὶ ἐπιστρέψει καὶ οἰκοδομηθήσεται πλατεῖα καὶ τεῖχος καὶ ἐκκενωθήσονται οἱ καιροί 9:26 καὶ μετὰ τὰς ἑβδομάδας τὰς ἑξήκοντα δύο ἐξολεθρευθήσεται χρῖσμα καὶ κρίμα οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ τὴν πόλιν καὶ τὸ ἅγιον διαφθερεῖ σὺν τῷ ἡγουμένῳ τῷ ἐρχομένῳ καὶ ἐκκοπήσονται ἐν κατακλυσμῷ καὶ ἕως τέλους πολέμου συντετμημένου τάξει ἀφανισμοῖς

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the same route). The OG translation was most likely influenced by the Antiochene crisis and the total of 139 was intended to indicate “year 139” in the Seleucid calendar[31] which equates to 172/3 BC  and coincides with Antiochus Epiphanes[32] who at about this time re-founded Babylon as a Greek colony and paid his first visit to Jerusalem.  Why not express it simply as 139?  Obviously the translator was working from an original and wished to preserve the 7 and 62 figures and felt that these figures were too important and well known to ignore so he simply “reinterpreted” them.  Adler sums up the translation succinctly when he states that, “In general, it may be said that the lexical choices of the OG reveal an orientation that is historical and retrospective, focusing far more on the cessation and Maccabean restoration of sacerdotal functions than on the coming of the eschatological age or a future ‘anointed one’. This perspective is sharply at variance with the later development”.[33]

 

[31] The Seleucid calendar was an enormous success which swept Asia; it was the first attempt on a comprehensive scale to reckon time from an Era, a fixed event (in this case Seleucus’ return to Babylon in October 312 BC), instead of by regnal years of kings or by annual magistracies in cities. The Macedonian or Syrian form of the calendar, began 1 Dios (October) 312; Babylonia had a form suited to her New Year’s Day 1 Nisan (March-April) 311. As the Macedonian months were lunar months, any system of lunar months could be fitted to the calendar; Babylonia, Judea, and Osrhoene used the Babylonian months. Condensed from W. W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria & India,(Cambridge University Publisher Archive, 1905),64

[32] From this period I Maccabees 4:52 notes 25 Kislev 148 as a ‘domestic’ date based on the Jewish version of the Seleucid count (which adhered to the Babylonian one) for the purification of the temple after the desecrations perpetrated by Antiochus Epiphanes.

[33] William Adler, The Jewish apocalyptic heritage in early Christianity,(eds. James C. VanderKam, William Adler: Van Gorcum & Company B.V.; Netherlands,1996),208

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Interestingly, unlike the MT and Th, the OG version has no mention of the “age” of Darius being 62.  The OG was therefore a deliberate reinterpretation that attempted to disassociate the prophecy from having any application to Darius, or for that matter to Cyrus (7x7).  If the 139 does indeed represent a “fixed date” (in the Seleucid calendar) then the OG version of the prophecy does not require a terminus a quo (start date).  Although reuse of 7 and 62 by the OG translator indicates that the figures were established in the framework of the prophecy at an earlier period (before the Antiochene crisis) it is not necessarily evidence that the 7 and 62 are original to the prophecy as received by Daniel.

 

Alternative Translation vv. 25-26:

 

Montgomery, commenting on the proclivity for textual emendation repeats the scholar’s dictum that, “the more the difficulties in understanding an important passage… accumulate, the less we are permitted to make an attempt at overcoming them by mere alteration of the text. In such cases the text has been transmitted with especial care.”[34]  This is obviously true, but the passage in question has already undergone considerable alterations, reinterpretation and harmonization as witnessed by the different versions.  This may well make it impossible to reconstruct an “original” and we are therefore forced to make a choice among the versions, the usual outcome being the MT (employing Th punctuation); but even then the verses in question contain hapax legomenon (sole occurrences) and  difficult syntax that demand interpretive judgments. The alternative translation offered here is a compilation based on the versions, with the choices influenced by theology rather than by language or syntax.  As such it cannot escape the criticism of subjectivity but unfortunately the versions are also to an extent tendentious, with the unpointed, unpunctuated MT probably the closest to the original. The MT followed by the Th will form the bedrock of the translation (paraphrase) offered here - the main divergence being the treatment of the 7 and 62, which are regarded as glosses added to explain the two competing dates for the return of the exile (see the paragraph below the translation on the following page).

 

[34] J. A. Montgomery, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, (ICC; Edinburgh: Clark, 1927), 377

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Translation

 

v.25a)  Th: And you will know and understand, that from the going forth of the word for the answer [to your prayer] to restore [the remnant][35] and [re]build Jerusalem MT: until an anointed, a prince[36] shall be {7 and 62}[37] sevens. Parenthesis -{v.25b)  Th: And the [remnant] shall return [38] MT: and the broad [place/street] [39] and the wall [40] shall be built in troublous[41] times… Syriac: to complete the time. [finish transgression and bring sins to completion][42]}

 

[35] The Ellipses has been supplied

[36] This might be one person - “anointed prince” [Th: Christ the prince] or two people – most probably two….Joshua and Zerubbabel.  Collins specifies “anointed leader”, Daniel, 346, 55–56; also Seow, Daniel, 148. We should note that the phrase חישׁמ דיגנ is technically not attributive, but rather a phrase containing two nouns (חישׁמ and דיגנ) in apposition (literally ‘an anointed one, a leader’). An English attributive phrase, though, conveys the sense in translation.

[37] Here we treat the {7 and 62} as secondary

[38] The Ellipses has been supplied: Th has supplied time [time shall return]

[39] MT has “It (probably Jerusalem) will be restored and raised.” One of the difficulties of this verse is that after the introduction, only two finite verbs occur:  It is not quite clear what would be built (Th: “wall” Vulgate: “walls” Syriac: “streets” OG: “width and length” in v.27) NIV: “streets and trench” RSV: “squares and moat” NAS: “plaza and moat” NEB: “streets and conduits” JB: “squares and ramparts” K JV: “street and wall”

[40] The word for “wall” ץרוח is a hapax legomenon (sole occurrence). The exact translation is debated. Extra-biblical sources have, therefore, been brought to bear upon the translation. The closest cognate comes from the Copper Scroll (3Q15) where the twenty-sixth cache is described with reference to ץירחה לש מלש which appears to be a reference to ‘Solomon’s Canal’; see Wise, Abegg and Cook, The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2005), 194. It seems, therefore, to refer to a man-made construction which specifically held or conveyed water.

[41]Troublous,  צוּקָה is a hapax legomenon ( or hapleg)

[42] The Ellipses has been supplied by combining the OG with phrases from v. 24

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26a) MT: And after {62}[43] sevens the anointed will be cut off Th: even though there is no judgment against him.[44]

 

Competing chronological schemes?

 

The initial “anointed” referenced in Daniel is often thought to be Cyrus, Ronald Pierce sums up the position as follows; “The first period of seven weeks quite literally represents the forty-nine years which elapsed from the going forth of the word of Jeremiah to restore and build Jerusalem (605 BC) to the appearance of Cyrus the Persian in 556 BC, the year before his revolt against his Median overlord, Astyages. According to the prophecy of Isaiah (44:24–45:7) this ruler was YHWH’s “anointed one” (x;yvim') to effect the return of the repentant remnant to Judah, along with the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem    Continued  ˃

 

[43] Here we treat {62} as secondary

[44] The Theodotion explicates: He will have no judgement (i.e., grounds for condemnation, possibly = אין און לו )  Collins (1993:356) comments; “The MT ואין לו is a notorious crux. The OG reads or treats this as equivalent to איננו (so also Rashi). Theodotion’s interpretation, “there is no judgement against him,” has found some modern followers”. One of these is Porteous; “although there is nothing against him judicially.” Some prefer to understand the words of the MT as meaning ‘vicariously’, lit., ‘and not for himself’, but this seems highly unlikely. (142-3) See also, Montgomery, 381 and Declor Mathais, Le Livre de Daniel (SB; Paris: Gabalda, 1971) 

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and its temple. The connection between the person and the prediction is simply too clear to be missed”.[45]

seven times

Pierce himself admits that the 536 is somewhat arbitrary as the supposed date for the end of the captivity; “Although each of these sections focuses the reader’s attention on the seventy years of exile, it is important to note that those years (i.e., 605–536 BC) are not fulfilled exactly, in that the return is permitted by Cyrus in his first year (539 BC) and actually occurs shortly thereafter. In other words, the seventy years are generally symbolic of the period of the captivity, but cannot be calculated precisely with regard to their fulfilment”.[1] Another important “seven weeks” or 49 year period (Dan. 9:25) is found between the destruction of the temple (586/7) and the authorization granted by Cyrus at the conquest of Babylon in 537/8 (cf. Ezra 3.8; Chron.36.22, 23; Jos. Apion 1.21 implying that building began in the second month having remained waste 49 years 9 months). However, we know from Zechariah-Haggai that building only began in earnest some 64 years later and was finalized 70 years after the temple had been destroyed.  Despite elements among the Golah agitating for a    Continued  ˃

 

[45] Ronald W. Pierce, “Spiritual Failure, Postponement, And Daniel 9,”( Trinity Journal 10.2 ; 1989: 211–222), 216,217

[46] Ibid

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speedy building programme and an early resettlement, this was contrary to the divine will and their efforts were frustrated until Darius’ reign.

62 sevens

The hypothesis proposed here is that the 49 (7x7) and the 62 figures were both originally associated with the fall of Babylon. Babylon fell 49 years after the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar (586/7), when Cyrus captured the city (538/9).  Babylon also fell again 62 years after the last captives were deported by Nebuchadnezzar (581/2), when Babylon was again captured by Darius (520/1).  The suggestion is that these two figures reflect the tensions that existed within the exilic community (Golah) during the Persian period. From the book of Jeremiah we learn that some of the exiles were already (during Jeremiah’s lifetime) agitating for an early return and were interpreting Jeremiah’s prophecy to establish the argument, even though Jeremiah himself indicated that the exile would be of longer duration.  So these two periods, have two different terminus a quo (587/582) and two different terminus ad quem (538/520). Those who argued for an early return[47] obtained authority to send some priests and    Continued  ˃

 

[47] The false prophet Hananiah represented the faction in Judea that agitated for an early return: “Within two full years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the LORD’s house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon”. (Jer. 28:3) Although the false prophet died because of his rebellion (v. 17) he no doubt represented the opinion of many of the Judeans (in the land) and many who were already in captivity.

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temple vessels back to the land at the commencement of Cyrus’ reign – however, nothing came of this early forced attempt at restoration[48] and it probably proved to be counterproductive with the priests intermarrying natives (this definitely occurred later on in the time of Ezra) – one can imagine that this aborted attempt would discourage any further attempts to return.  Restoration proper only occurred when Joshua the priest and Zerubbabel the governor were authorised to return by Darius but even here we detect tensions within the Golah when Joshua is accused of ritual uncleanness caused by the exile and therefore “unfit” for the office of high priest (cf. Zech ch.3).[49] 

 

[48] Elements were aggressively pushing for restoration as early as Jeremiah’s ministry; “Also I spoke to the priests and to all this people, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Do not listen to the words of your prophets who prophesy to you, saying, “Behold, the vessels of the LORD’s house will now shortly be brought back from Babylon”; for they prophesy a lie to you”. (Jer. 27:16)

[49] In Zechariah, Yahweh justifies Joshua and “purifies him” –indicating that problems existed with the exilic priesthood, though not necessarily with the personal righteousness (or otherwise) of Joshua. 4Q390 a Qumran scroll probably written just before the Hasmonean revolt reflects disapproval of the priests throughout the Second Temple period as they “forget law, festival, Sabbath, and covenant”. Just as the “Seventy Prophecy” of Daniel ch. 9 is an “update” of Jeremiah’s seventy years (in effect extending it) so this scroll seems to be a further (sectarian) “update”. Eshel notes that; “The beginning of Fragment 1 implies that the misbehaviour of the priest during the Second Temple period is not surprising, since even during the “seventy years” mentioned in line 2, that is, the Babylonian Exile, the priests did not “walk in God’s ways.” The account  reflects the idea that after the destruction of the First Temple the leadership of the people of Israel, previously entrusted to the house of David, fell into the hands of priests who sinned by continuing to lead the exiles in Babylon in the same sinful way as when they were in the land”. Hanan Eshel, The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Hasmonean State,(Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008),24

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Therefore, tensions existed in the Golah between advocates for an early return and those who hoped for a later return, between true prophets and false prophets, between those who had become established in Babylon[50] and did not want to return at all and between those who had the faith to leave Babylon and “come out of her.”  Tensions also existed with those who had previously returned and made alliances with the surrounding peoples; finally tensions existed with the surrounding people themselves who saw the returning Jews as a threat. The prophecy reflects these tensions by using two different dates calculated from two different starting points reflecting two different kings who both destroyed Babylon and who both released captives.

 

Prophetic Postponement in the Persian era

 

“O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” (Dan. 9:19)

 

The “Seventy Prophecy” should not be isolated from the other visions.  Daniel refers to “the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning” (Dan. 9:21) and Gabriel responds with; “At the beginning of your supplications the word went forth” (Dan. 9:23).  Goldingay (1989:256) comments, “There has been disagreement over which figure in which previous vision is alluded to here. If בתחלה    Continued  ˃

 

[50] This is the essence of the prophecy in Zechariah ch. 5, “wickedness,” became established in Babylon.  The Second Temple (built under Darius) would again be destroyed (this occurred in AD 70) and temple worship was replaced by Rabbinical religion promulgated by the Babylonian “schools” and the Babylonian Talmud. This process was the natural culmination of what had begun during the exile.

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means “previously,” it is natural to take the vision to be that of chapter 8, where Gabriel first specifically appears (v 16). If בתחלה means “original,” the vision must be that of chap. 7; chap. 9 then identifies the unnamed interpreter as Gabriel, who regularly fulfils this role (Day, Conflict, 171-2; but on בתחלה, see n. 8:1.d). Zevit (VT 28 [1978] 490) implies that this cannot be, on the grounds that the interpreter appears outside the vision in chap 7; but the interpreter, while outside the symbolic vision, is within the interpretative vision, as Zevit grants Gabriel is in 8:15-18”.  There are obvious parallels with the previous vision:

 

Dan. 8 (vision) Dan. 9:27 (Seventy Prophecy)
v.24) He will become very strong but not by his own power  (NIV) He will strengthen a covenant with many for one ‘seven’
v.24) He will cause astounding destruction War will continue to the end, and desolations have been decreed
v.24) He will destroy the mighty men and the Holy people Will destroy the city and the sanctuary
v.12) Because of rebellion the host [of the saints] and the daily sacrifice were given over to it He will put an end to sacrifice and offering

 

Both chapters 8 and 9 make use of Jeremiah’s prophecy demonstrating inner biblical correspondence – ch.9 helps clarify the previous vision. However, the previous vision in ch. 8 is not chronologically sequential with ch.9. The Seventy Prophecy was received in the first year of Darius, chronologically this follows the vision received in the third (OG: first) year of Cyrus in 10:1.  Daniel 10 should therefore be regarded as a parenthesis that has been placed out of chronological sequence in order to achieve structural balance.  Therefore, the vision of ch. 10 (Cyrus) occurs in the interval between ch. 8 (Belshazzar) and ch.9 (Darius).  In other words Daniel is being informed in ch.10 that the expected restoration at the commencement of Cyrus’ reign was frustrated by a 21 year delay (21 days in 10:13) until the reign of Darius.

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Daniel’s (chronologically) previous vision in ch. 10 indicates a 21 year delay and coincides with Darius’ succession to the throne which occurred 21 years later in a Jubilee year.[51] The Jubilee year pointed forward to the imminent release of the captives and restoration of the land.  Instead Daniel is informed that complete restoration would have to wait until the “Great Jubilee/Day of Atonement”………. a further 10 Jubilees (490 years) of waiting!  A central motif to the “Seventy prophecy” (and the book of Daniel) is the sanctuary, [52] the expectation that restoration would occur under Cyrus resulted in a faulty computation - the terminus a quo was not 605 (start of the exile), but 586/587 (destruction of the temple). The temple was built 70 years after it was destroyed, a period contemporary with Zechariah’s night visions, in which “these seventy years” are again mentioned (Zech. 7:5).

 

Having failed to experience a meaningful restoration under Cyrus, Daniel appeals (again?) to the prophecy of Jeremiah in the first year of Darius to seek clarification for the “number of the years” (i.e., the seventy years) that Jerusalem and the sanctuary would remain desolate (Dan. 9:2).  Sixty-two years had passed since the last captives had been deported from the land – surely the time of release was about to be accomplished?[53] At the very least the prophecy had a partial fulfilment    Continued  ˃

 

[51] Margaret Barker reasons; “Reckoning from Ezekiel’s Jubilee vision in 572BCE gives another Jubilee year in 522BCE, a possible date for Zerubbabel and Joshua’s coming to Jerusalem and attempting to re-establish worship there. There were also forty nine year Jubilees in 473BCE and 424BCE.  One possible date for Ezra’s return to Jerusalem is 428BCE, and it could well have been the Jubilee in 424BCE that prompted both this return and the covenant renewal when all ‘foreign’ wives were abandoned (Ezra 10)”.  Margaret Barker, 1999 The Time is Fulfilled.  Jesus and the Jubilee SJT 53.1 (2000), 22-32(24)

 

[52] “Anoint the/a most Holy” (Dan.9:24)…. “...destroy the city and the sanctuary.” (Dan.9:26)

[53]  The motif of prophetic postponement can be found in other prophetic literature from the same period: “For I am the LORD. I speak, and the word which I speak will come to pass; it will no more be postponed; for in your days, O rebellious house, I will say the word and perform it,” says the Lord GOD.’ ”(Ezek. 12:25)

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in the Persian era. It has already been demonstrated that in all probability the prophecy was initiated 490 days (70x7) after Daniel received the prophecy - commencing on Hanukkah during the second year of Darius Hystaspis as the restoration was blessed from that day onwards (Hag.2:10).

 

Seven periods of Seventy years

 

The word of blessing went forth 490 days after Daniel received the Seventy Prophecy – the restoration project was blessed from Hanukah onwards during the prophetic careers of Haggai and Zechariah. Bedford states that Haggai and Zechariah can be securely dated to the early years of Darius I (Hystaspis).[54]  The temple was completed in the twelfth month of the sixth year of Darius I (515/6) – seventy years after it had been destroyed (586/7).

 

v.25a)  Th: And you will know and understand, that from the going forth of the word for the answer [to your prayer] to restore [the remnant] and [re]build Jerusalem MT: until an anointed, a prince shall be {7 and 62} sevens.

 

The ambiguity of the phrase; “until an anointed, a prince shall be {7 and 62} sevens” –allows multiple applications in the Persian era; (1) Sheshbazzar, who is given the title (‘the prince of Judah’) in Ezra 1:8 and (‘governor’ or ‘commissar’) in Ezra 5:14. It was into his custody that the temple paraphernalia were delivered in c. 539 BC; and (2) Zerubbabel and Joshua ben-Jozadaq, both of whom were acknowledged leaders of the post-exilic community in Jerusalem during the reign of Darius I and who are described with messianic overtones in Zech.4:14.  The {7 and 62} also allows a dual application, firstly to Sheshbazzar and a deferred application to Zerubbabel and Joshua. If the {7 and 62} is indeed a secondary clarification it allows for a further    Continued  ˃

 

[54] Peter Ross Bedford, Temple Restoration in the Early Achaemenid Judah (Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, Brill Academic Publishers, The Netherlands: Leiden, 2001),32

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application to an anointed (messiah) prince after an indeterminate period of sevens.

 

The alternative translation offered in this chapter treats the next clause concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem in “troublous” times (v.25b) as a parenthesis.  This will be examined separately, for now we turn directly to v. 26b which continues the theme of the “anointed”;

 

v.26b) “And after {62} sevens the anointed will be cut off even though there is no judgment against him”.

 

Here we understand a primary realization (this leaves the prophecy still open) in the failed attempt to exclude Joshua ben-Jozadaq from the office of high priest with the charge that he was ritually unclean. Joshua, the anointed priest, was “cut off” until his position was justified by God through the prophet Zechariah (this probably occurred in the first year of Darius – year “62” in the “sevens”, 62 years after the last captives were taken from Jerusalem):

 

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.” (Zech. 3:1-4)

 

Elements within the Golah resented the choice of Joshua as high priest – the prophet Zechariah relates a vision wherein Yahweh answers the charge by justifying Joshua.  The prophecy is indeed flexible enough to allow a further application to the corruption of the priestly office during the Antiochene crisis, including the assassination (“cutting off”) of the high priest Onias. Ultimately, the prophecy speaks of a messianic fulfilment where the legitimacy of another priest called Joshua (Jesus) is questioned during a trial (kangaroo-court) that results in him being “cut-off” even though “there is no judgement against    Continued  ˃

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him” - Pilate said to them, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.” (John 19:6)

 

The Nehemiah restoration

Our attention now turns to the parenthesis - usually regarded as the restoration in the Ezra-Nehemiah period.

 

v.25b) And the [remnant] shall return MT: and the broad [place/street] and the wall shall be built in troublous times… Syriac: to complete the time. [finish transgression and bring sins to completion]

 

The Ezra-Nehemiah chronology is fraught with difficulties (It is sometimes contested that Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries - dating Ezra’s ministry is controversial) and is widely debated in scholarly circles, fortunately the date for the Nehemiah restoration is not in dispute. Leslie McFall notes; “Scholarly opinion since the turn of the century has accepted the immovability of Nehemiah. He has become the fixed point in the discussion”.[55] The date 444/445 BC is therefore our “fixed” point which finds consensus agreement across all parties.  In his commentary on Ezra-Nehemiah, Joseph Blenkinsopp notes that, “the author may be looking forward to the completion of the temple in 516/15, almost exactly seventy years after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 (cf. Zech.1:12; 7:5; perhaps also Hag.1:2); and it may not be pure coincidence that Nehemiah arrived to complete the rebuilding program exactly seventy years later, in 445.”[56] This confirms our proposal that in its simplest terms the prophecy consists of “seventy” year periods.  The other driver of our hermeneutic approach is the centrality of the temple – but the    Continued  ˃

 

[55] E. W. Hamrick noted that “all critics are  agreed  that his  [Nehemiah’s]  journey  to Jerusalem in the 20th year of Artaxerxes  is  an  authentic  historical  event” in  “A New  Study  of  the  Ezra Problem”  [Ph.D. Diss.: Duke University,  1951]; Leslie McFall, Was Nehemiah Contemporary with Ezra in 458 BC? (Westminster Theological Journal, Vol. 53, 1991, 263-293), 263

[56]Joseph Blenkinsopp, Ezra-Nehemiah, (Westminster/John Knox Press, U.S., 1998),75

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restoration undertaken by Nehemiah has seemingly little to do with the temple but rather emphasizes the rebuilding of the wall.  Surprisingly the word “wall” is not even in the MT.

Nehemiah wall

 

Nehemiah and the wall

 

Verse 25b contains two hapleg’s, which adds to the interpreter’s difficulty. One of them is the word ḥārûṣ (חָר֔וּץ) which literally means “cut,” “sharp,” “determine” or “decision” (nom. in Joel 3:14[4:14]).  Except for the solitary instance in Daniel 9:25 it is never translated “wall” but significantly, the root ḥrṣ is used in two other places in Daniel 9 in an usual, though secondary meaning of determine (or decree). In verse 26 we are told that the desolations of Jerusalem had previously been determined, a thought which is repeated in verse 27. The basic idea is that of an execution of a judgment which had previously been decreed or decided by God.  Why, then, is the word translated “wall” in this solitary instance? It seems that the building of the wall by Nehemiah after the captivity influenced the translation. The Theodotion translates ḥārûṣ (חָר֔וּץ) with teichos (τεῖχος) which clearly means “wall” in Greek. And Jerome’s Latin Vulgate picked up on the Greek translation by rendering the word muri (“walls”) transforming the singular to a plural in order to better fit the work of Nehemiah.

 

Are the translators of the versions justified in their choice of the word “wall”? It is quite clear that the verse speaks of substantial reconstruction as the other word connected with this period in the MT is רְחב (rechob) translated “street” but literally meaning “broad” as in an open space (or square?). This word is also associated with the Ezra-Nehemiah restoration (cf. Neh. 8:1; 8:16 also Esther 4:6, 9, 11);    Continued  ˃

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“So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain”. (Ezra 10:9)

 

In Ezra 10:9 the phrase is literally; in-square-of-house-of-Elohim - denoting the temple courtyard – elsewhere it refers an open place in a city (plaza, square etc).  Therefore the translation of ḥārûṣ with “wall” (instead of decree/determine) fits the historical context of Ezra-Nehemiah. Emile Nicole observes that “Daniel’s use of the term clearly stems from Isaiah: “Though your people, O Israel, be like sand by the sea, only a remnant will return. Destruction has been decreed (killāyōwn ḥārûṣ/kālâ wĕneḥĕrāṣâ) upon the whole land” (Isa. 10:22-23). The stereotyped pair derived from ḥrṣ, determine, and klḥ, complete or destroy forms a hendiadys in Isaiah (10:22-23; 28:22) and Daniel (9:27; 11:36), as in the NJPSV translation of Isa. 10:22-23; “destruction is decreed….a decree of destruction” (NJPSV; cf. J.D.W. Watts, Isaiah 1-33, WBC, 1985, 152)”[57]

 

The enigmatic verse, which speaks of the building of the wall in “troublous” (distressful/constrained) times, is therefore an intentional echo of the ḥrṣ in vv. 26 and 27  (and  that of v. 24, although a different word for determine is employed) and the “time” element echoes the completion (constraining) of sin and finish of transgression mentioned in v. 24.  This suggests that the building of the wall has eschatological significance and is in some way linked with the “sealing of the vision and the prophecy” in v. 24. This exegesis proposes that v. 25b is a parenthesis with an initial application to the Ezra-Nehemiah restoration and a further application to the eschatological “New Jerusalem” (this will be examined later). The relevant text is in Nehemiah is 6:15;    Continued  ˃

 

[57] Emile Nicole, NIDOTTE Vol I., 286,287

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“So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days”.

 

Completion of the wall occurred in 444/5 BC, or seventy years after the second temple was built, moreover, the twenty–fifth day of Elul is a date that resonates with eschatological significance when placed alongside Daniel’s strange computations. Employing the Jewish Lunar Calendar[58] it emerges that 1260 days after the completion of the “wall” takes us to the feast of Purim, moreover an additional 1335 days ends the evening before the “day of blessing” (cf. Hag 2:19; “from this day will I bless you” compare, Dan 12:12; “Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the 1335 days”), which day is itself the precursor to the rededication of the temple celebrated by Hanukah.[59]  Schematically this can be represented as follows:

 

feasts

 

The feast of Purim is central to the book of Esther which presents the story of an unsuccessful attempt to kill Persian era Jews. One of the purposes of the book is to describe the origin of the festival of Purim. A central motif of Esther is that of peripety, a dramatic series of reversals. It reflects the experience of diaspora Jews, many of whom rose to prominence in the Persian court and who for reasons of envy were persecuted.  Towner remarks; “The same kind of story in this same form is told of Joseph in Genesis 39-41, of Esther and the Jews    Continued  ˃

 

[58] See, Appendix 2 Chapter 9: The calendar for the Jewish year

[59] The period from 25th of Elul (completion of the wall) is calculated as follows: (182 + 385[intercalary year] + 355 + 336) = 1260 days (inclusive) to “Nicanor Day” 13th Adar.  Purim is celebrated on the 14th and 15th Adar. From the 14th Adar onwards: (14 + 354 + 354 +354 + 260) = 1335 days, day 1336 is the “day of blessing” (Hag. 2:19) day 1337 is the commencement of Hanukkah – the feast of lights commemorating the rededication of the Temple.

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in the court of Ahasuerus, and of course of the three men in the fiery furnace of Daniel 3.” [60]

 

However, the Purim festival has significance beyond the Babylonian exile – even after they returned to the land the Jews still considered themselves in “exile”, existing under Gentile domination until the Seventy Prophecy inaugurated the messianic age. Both Purim and Hanukkah feature prominently in the accounts of the Maccabee revolt.[61] Nicanor was defeated.... “on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month - which is called Adar in the Syrian language - the day before Mordecai’s day [Purim] and from that time the city has been in the possession of the Hebrews”. (2 Macc. 15:36-37). Notably the defeat of Nicanor occurred at Adasa which is very similar to the “Jewish name” for Esther - Hadasah (Esther 2:7).[62]  

 

[60] W. Sibley Towner, Daniel, (John Knox Press, Louisville,1933),79

[61] Under Judas the Temple that had been profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes was rededicated at Hanukkah. This closed the first period of the Maccabean revolt. However, the citadel (Acra) remained in the hands of the Syrian garrison; with them, probably, were also the Jewish traitors led by Alcimus. Some two years later, taking advantage of the political vacuum Judas besieged the Acra. The Syrian general Nicanor was appointed to resolve the problem. The accounts of 1 and 2 Maccabees differ, as Nicanor was a Syrian general under Antiochus Epiphanes and after his death (possibly another Nicanor?) was general to Demetrius Soter. In any case, Nicanor, who was known for his deadly hatred of the Jews was sent to pacify the Jews and slay Judas (2 Macc. 14:12; 1 Macc. 7:26). Nicanor retired to Jerusalem, insulted the priests and threatened the destruction of the temple unless they delivered up Judas. Judas encamped against him at Adasa. The battle that ensued was desperate, and ended in a glorious victory for the Jews; Nicanor fell, and his troops to the number of 9,000 were put to flight (1 Macc. 7: 39-50; Antiq. 12.10.5; 2 Macc. 15; 1-36). Judas appointed the 13th of Adar, the day of the victory (161 BC), as a feast-day, and it still has a place in the calendar of special days (“Megillat Ta’anit”).

[62] The Greek for the location Adasa is Αδασα - the LXX version does not mention the Greek alternative to Esther’s Hebrew name, Hadasah (הֲדַסָּה), but instead calls her the “daughter of Aminadab.” The Modern Greek version renders Hadasah as Ἀδασσά

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An intertextual approach sets Daniel firmly in the Persian era as a contemporary of the prophets Haggai/Zechariah, but it seems that the Maccabee’s deliberately reinterpreted the “days” in Daniel and the “day of blessing” in Haggai in order to legitimize their revolt and introduce the festival of Light’s (Hanukkah). Hayes and Mandell remark that, “Judas [Maccabee] is depicted as the “successor” to Nehemiah, who, it was argued, had restored the original fire upon the rebuilt Jerusalem altar and founded a library housing the sacred books.”[63] Bergren notes; “Namely, the letter [2 Maccabees] exhorts the Egyptian Jews to observe the aforementioned “festival of fire given when Nehemiah, who built the Temple and the altar, offered sacrifices” (1:18) and goes on to identify Nehemiah as the one who dedicated the altar of the Second Temple (1:19-36). This is, of course, in obvious contradiction to other accounts of the origins of the Second Temple, which credit Zerubbabel and Jeshua, or Sheshbazzar, with its building and dedication. Furthermore, the elaborate story of how Nehemiah obtained hidden sacred petroleum and initiated the cultus is unparalleled in other early sources. The question is, where did all of this material come from?” [64] After rejecting the later-known practice of Jewish exegetes to identify Nehemiah with Zerubbabel (see b. Sanh. 38a), Bergen offers two reasons for the anomaly (1); to associate Judas Maccabaeus with Nehemiah (2); to legitimize the Second Temple which unlike the first had not been visited with divine fire (cf. 2 Chr 7:1-3; Lev 9:24). Of course this would also help with the introduction of a “new feast” (Hanukkah) in order to rededicate the temple. The letter is then predominately pro-Judas, Hasmonean propaganda.

 

[63] John Haralson Hayes, Sara Mandell, The Jewish people in classical antiquity: from Alexander to Bar Kochba, (Westminster John Knox Press, USA, 1998), 74

[64] Michael E. Stone, Theodore A. Bergren, Figures Outside the Bible,(Trinity Press International, USA,1998),357

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Finally, we ask the question, “How is the restoration of the wall by Nehemiah connected with the temple?”  (Concern for the temple is one of the “key drivers” that we have identified).  It is clear that, in spite of the assertion in 2 Maccabees, Nehemiah did not build the temple. However, Lisbeth Fried notes that, “For the redactor [of Ezra-Nehemiah] there is no discrepancy; the city and the temple are one” (Eskenazi: 1988). The confusion is apparent even in Nehemiah’s memoir—Nehemiah’s dedication of the city wall seems to include a dedication of the temple (Neh. 12:31-44); “Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great companies that gave thanks and went in procession. One went to the right on the wall to the Dung Gate. ... The other company of those who gave thanks went to the left, and I followed them with half of the people on the wall. .. . and they came to a halt at the Gate of the Guard. So both companies of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God.. .. On that day men were appointed over the chambers for the stores”. Fried stresses the close association between the wall and the temple; “Those that gave thanks during the dedication of the wall continued around the wall until they stood in the temple, the House of God (Neh.12:40). The temple appears to be part of the wall. Further, it was only then, after the wall-dedication ceremony, that men were appointed over the temple chambers and storerooms (12:44). It is no wonder that the redactor of Ezra 1-6, who surely had Nehemiah’s memoir in front of him (Williamson 1977, 1983, 1985), assumed that the accusations to the king that delayed building the city wall also delayed the completion of the temple”. [65]

 

The association of the “wall” with the “temple” is also apparent in other exilic writings (Ezek. 40:5; 43:12), where the city is “holy” and de facto the whole city becomes Yahweh’s dwelling place (cf. Zech. 14:20, 21). The “wall” has obvious eschatological significance which is explored in the NT: “Also she had a great and high wall with twelve

 

[65] Lisbeth S. Fried, The cam ha’ares in Ezra 4:4 and Persian Imperial Administration, (University of Michigan; Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2006),135, Fried cites Tamara C Eskenazi, The Structure of Ezra-Nehemiah and the Integrity of the Book, (JBL 107:4, 1988, 641-656)

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gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel” (Rev. 21:14-21) – the Gospel writers, particularly Matthew, understood the building of the “wall” by Nehemiah as typifying the crucifixion as demonstrated in the following table: 

 

Nehemiah Christ
“At that time I had not set up the doors on the gates” (6:1). Possess the gates of his enemies, hell and death (Rev.1:18; Gen.22:17).
Asked four times to come down off the wall… “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down” (6:3). Asked four times to come down off the cross (Mtt.27:41-43).
Accused of wanting to be king of the Jews (6:6). Crucified as king of the Jews (Mtt.27:37).
“Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done.  Now, therefore, O God, strengthen my hands” (6:9). His hands strengthened for the cross. “And there appeared an angel from heaven strengthening him” (Lk.22:43 – Gethsemane).
“And I said, should such a man as I flee?  And who is there, that being as I am, would go into the Temple to save his life?  I will not go in” (6:11). “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” (Mtt.26:53,54).
“For they perceived that this work was wrought of our God” (6:16). “Truly this was the Son of God” (Mtt.27:54).

 

In conclusion, verse 25b concerning the “wall”– is a parenthesis with an initial application to the Ezra-Nehemiah mission (70 years after completion of the temple under Darius). The completion of the wall is an aspect of temple restoration that transforms Jerusalem into a holy temple-city. However, Dan.9:24-27, is not limited to the return under Zerubbabel/Joshua or, to the Ezra-Nehemiah mission, as the prophecy was employed after the Antiochene desecration as Hasmonean

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propaganda for rededicating the temple. Furthermore, the completion of the “wall” by Nehemiah is engaged by the NT writers, who interpret the death and resurrection of Jesus parabolically as the construction of a new temple-city - - “New Jerusalem”, built using the glorified saints as stones and Jesus Christ as the temple. Schematically the prophecy (so far) can be represented as follows:

 

schema

 

To this point the Seventy Prophecy supplies us with 6x70 leaving a single 70 remaining.  If the next 70 is sequential to 164/5 the terminus ad quem of the prophecy would be 94/95 BC a date that holds no relevance. This is obviously a problem that requires us to re-evaluate our exegesis.  This will be done in the next section.