Seventy weeks are determined - This is a most important prophecy, and has given rise to a variety of opinions relative to the proper mode of explanation; but the chief difficulty, if not the only one, is to find out the time from which these seventy weeks should be dated. What is here said by the angel is not a direct answer to Daniel's prayer. He prays to know when the seventy weeks of the captivity are to end. Gabriel shows him that there are seventy weeks determined relative to a redemption from another sort of captivity, which shall commence with the going forth of the edict to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, and shall terminate with the death of Messiah the Prince, and the total abolition of the Jewish sacrifices. In the four following verses he enters into the particulars of this most important determination, and leaves them with Daniel for his comfort, who has left them to the Church of God for the confirmation of its faith, and a testimony to the truth of Divine revelation. They contain the fullest confirmation of Christianity, and a complete refutation of the Jewish cavils and blasphemies on this subject.
Of all the writers I have consulted on this most noble prophecy, Dean Prideaux appears to me the most clear and satisfactory. I shall therefore follow his method in my explanation, and often borrow his words.
Seventy weeks are determined - The Jews had Sabbatic years, Leviticus 25:8, by which their years were divided into weeks of years, as in this important prophecy, each week containing seven years. The seventy weeks therefore here spoken of amount to four hundred and ninety years.
In Daniel 9:24; there are six events mentioned which should be the consequences of the incarnation of our Lord: -
II. To make an end of sins; rather חטאות ולהתם ulehathem chataoth, "to make an end of sin-offerings," which our Lord did when he offered his spotless soul and body on the cross once for all.
III. To make reconciliation (ולכפר ulechapper, "to make atonement or expiation") for iniquity; which he did by the once offering up of himself.
IV. To bring in everlasting righteousness, עלמים צדק tsedek olamim, that is, "the righteousness, or righteous One, of ages;" that person who had been the object of the faith of mankind, and the subject of the predictions of the prophets through all the ages of the world.
V. To seal up (ולחתם velachtom, "to finish or complete") the vision and prophecy; that is, to put an end to the necessity of any farther revelations, by completing the canon of Scripture, and fulfilling the prophecies which related to his person, sacrifice, and the glory that should follow.
VI. And to anoint the Most Holy, קדשים קדש kodesh kodashim, "the Holy of holies." משיח mashach, to anoint, (from which comes משיח mashiach, the Messiah, the anointed one), signifies in general, to consecrate or appoint to some special office. Here it means the consecration or appointment of our blessed Lord, the Holy One of Israel, to be the Prophet, Priest, and King of mankind.
Seventy weeks are determined - Here commences the celebrated prophecy of the seventy weeks - a portion of Scripture Which has excited as much attention, and led to as great a variety of interpretation, as perhaps any other. Of this passage, Professor Stuart (“Hints on the Interpretation of Prophecy,” p. 104) remarks, “It would require a volume of considerable magnitude even to give a history of the ever-varying and contradictory opinions of critics respecting this “locus vexatissimus; “and perhaps a still larger one to establish an exegesis which would stand. I am fully of opinion, that no interpretation as yet published will stand the test of thorough grammatico-historical criticism; and that a candid, and searching, and thorough “critique” here is still a “desideratum.” May some expositor, fully adequate to the task, speedily appear!” After these remarks of this eminent Biblical scholar, it is with no great confidence of success that I enter on the exposition of the passage.
Yet, perhaps, though “all” difficulties may not be removed, and though I cannot hope to contribute anything “new” in the exposition of the passage, something may be written which may relieve it of some of the perplexities attending it, and which may tend to show that its author was under the influence of Divine inspiration. The passage may be properly divided into two parts. The first, in Daniel 9:24, contains a “general” statement of what would occur in the time specified - the seventy weeks; the second, Daniel 9:25-27, contains a “particular” statement of the manner in which that would be accomplished. In this statement, the whole time of the seventy weeks is broken up into three smaller portions of seven, sixty-two, and one - designating evidently some important epochs or periods Daniel 9:25, and the last one week is again subdivided in such a way, that, while it is said that the whole work of the Messiah in confirming the covenant would occupy the entire week, yet that he would be cut off in the middle of the week, Daniel 9:27.
In the “general” statement Daniel 9:24 it is said that there was a definite time - seventy weeks - during which the subject of the prediction would be accomplished; that is, during which all that was to be done in reference to the holy city, or in the holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, etc., would be effected. The things specified in this verse are “what was to be done,” as detailed more particularly in the subsequent verses. The design in this verse seems to have been to furnish a “general” statement of what was to occur in regard to the holy city - of that city which had been selected for the peculiar purpose of being a place where an atonement was to be made for human transgression. It is quite clear that when Daniel set apart this period for prayer, and engaged in this solemn act of devotion, his design was not to inquire into the ultimate events which would occur in Jerusalem, but merely to pray that the purpose of God, as predicted by Jeremiah, respecting the captivity of the nation, and the rebuilding of the city and temple, might be accomplished. God took occasion from this, however, not only to give an implied assurance about the accomplishment of these purposes, but also to state in a remarkable manner the “whole” ultimate design respecting the holy city, and the great event which was ever onward to characterize it among the cities of the world. In the consideration of the whole passage Daniel 9:24-27, it will be proper, first, to examine into the literal meaning of the words and phrases, and then to inquire into the fulfillment.
Seventy weeks - שׁבעים שׁבעים shâbu‛ı̂ym shı̂b‛ı̂ym Vulgate, Septuaginta hebdomades. So Theodotion, Ἑβδομήκοντα ἑβδομάδες Hebdomēkonta hebdomades Prof. Stuart (“Hints,” p. 82) renders this “seventy sevens;” that is, seventy times seven years: on the ground that the word denoting “weeks” in the Hebrew is not שׁבעים shâbu‛ı̂ym but שׁבעות shâbu‛ôth “The form which is used here,” says he, “which is a regular masculine plural, is no doubt purposely chosen to designate the plural of seven; and with great propriety here, inasmuch as there are many sevens which are to be joined together in one common sum. Daniel had been meditating on the close of the seventy “years” of Hebrew exile, and the angel now discloses to him a new period of “seventy times seven,” in which still more important events are to take place. Seventy sevens, or (to use the Greek phraseology), “seventy heptades,” are determined upon thy people.
Heptades of what? Of days, or of years? No one can doubt what the answer is. Daniel had been making diligent search respecting the seventy “years;” and, in such a connection, nothing but seventy heptades of years could be reasonably supposed to be meant by the angel.” The inquiry about the “gender” of the word, of which so much has been said (Hengstenberg, “Chris.” ii. 297), does not seem to be very important, since the same result is reached whether it be rendered “seventy sevens,” or “seventy weeks.” In the former ease, as proposed by Prof. Stuart, it means seventy sevens of “years,” or 490 years; in the other, seventy “weeks” of years; that is, as a “week of years” is seven years, seventy such weeks, or as before, 490 years. The usual and proper meaning of the word used here, however - שׁבוּע shâbûa‛a is a “seven,” ἐβδομάς hebdomas i. e., a week. - Gesenius, “Lexicon” From the “examples” where the word occurs it would seem that the masculine or the feminine forms were used indiscriminately.
The word occurs only in the following passages, in all of which it is rendered “week,” or “weeks,” except in Ezekiel 45:21, where it is rendered “seven,” to wit, days. In the following passages the word occurs in the masculine form plural, Daniel 9:24-26; Daniel 10:2-3; in the following in the feminine form plural, Exodus 34:22; Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 16:9-10, Deuteronomy 16:16; 2 Chronicles 8:13; Jeremiah 5:24; Ezekiel 45:21; and in the following in the singular number, common gender, rendered “week,” Genesis 29:27-28, and in the dual masculine in Leviticus 12:5, rendered “two weeks.” From these passages it is evident that nothing certain can be determined about the meaning of the word from its gender. It would seem to denote “weeks,” periods of seven days - “hebdomads” - in either form, and is doubtless so used here. The fair translation would be, weeks seventy are determined; that is, seventy times seven days, or four hundred and ninety “days.” But it may be asked here, whether this is to be taken literally, as denoting four hundred and ninety days? If not, in what sense is it to be understood? and why do we understand it in a different sense? It is clear that it must be explained literally as denoting four hundred and ninety “days,” or that these days must stand for years, and that the period is four hundred and ninety “years.” That this latter is the true interpretation, as it has been held by all commentators, is apparent from the following considerations:
(a) This is not uncommon in the prophetic writings. See the notes at Daniel 7:24-28. (See also Editor‘s Preface to volume on Revelation.)
(b) Daniel had been making inquiry respecting the seventy “years,” and it is natural to suppose that the answer of the angel would have respect to “years” also; and, thus understood, the answer would have met the inquiry pertinently - “ not seventy years, but a week of years - seven times seventy years.” Compare Matthew 18:21-22. “In such a connection, nothing but seventy heptades of years could be reasonably supposed to be meant by the angel.” - Prof. Stuart‘s “Hints,” etc., p. 82.
(c) Years, as Prof. Stuart remarks, are the measure of all considerable periods of time. When the angel speaks, then, in reference to certain events, and declares that they are to take place during “seventy heptades,” it is a matter of course to suppose that he means years.
(d) The circumstances of the case demand this interpretation. Daniel was seeking comfort in view of the fact that the city and temple had been desolate now for a period of seventy years. The angel comes to bring him consolation, and to give him assurances about the rebuilding of the city, and the great events that were to occur there. But what consolation would it be to be told that the city would indeed be rebuilt, and that it would continue seventy ordinary weeks - that is, a little more than a year, before a new destruction would come upon it? It cannot well be doubted, then, that by the time here designated, the angel meant to refer to a period of four hundred and ninety years; and if it be asked why this number was not literally and exactly specified in so many words, instead of choosing a mode of designation comparatively so obscure, it may be replied,
(1) that the number “seventy” was employed by Daniel as the time respecting which he was making inquiry, and that there was a propriety that there should be a reference to that fact in the reply of the angel - “one” number seventy had been fulfilled in the desolations of the city, there would be “another” number seventy in the events yet to occur;
(2) this is in the usual prophetic style, where there is, as Hengstenberg remarks (“Chris.” ii. 299), often a “concealed definiteness.” It is usual to designate numbers in this way.
(3) The term was sufficiently clear to be understood, or is, at all events, made clear by the result. There is no reason to doubt that Daniel would so understand it, or that it would be so interpreted, as fixing in the minds of the Jewish people the period when the Messiah was about to appear. The meaning then is, that there would be a period of four hundred and ninety years, during which the city, after the order of the rebuilding should go forth Daniel 9:25, until the entire consummation of the great object for which it should be rebuilt: and that then the purpose would be accomplished, and it would be given up to a greater ruin. There was to be this long period in which most important transactions were to occur in the city.
Are determined - The word used here (נחתך nechettak from חתך châtak ) occurs nowhere else in the Scriptures. It properly means, according to Gesenius, to cut off, to divide; and hence, to deterinine, to destine, to appoint. Theodotion renders it, sunetmeetheesan - are cut off, decided, defined. The Vulgate renders it, “abbreviate sunt.” Luther, “Sind bestimmet” - are determined. The meaning would seem to be, that this portion of time - the seventy weeks - was “cut off” from the whole of duration, or cut out of it, as it were, and set by itself for a definite purpose. It does not mean that it was cut off from the time which the city would naturally stand, or that this time was “abbreviated,” but that a portion of time - to wit, four hundred and ninety years - was designated or appointed with reference to the city, to accomplish the great and important object which is immediately specified. A certain, definite period was fixed on, and when this was past, the promised Messiah would come. In regard to the construction here - the singular verb with a plural noun, see Hengstenberg, “Christ. in, loc.” The true meaning seems to be, that the seventy weeks are spoken of “collectively,” as denoting a period of time; that is, a period of seventy weeks is determined. The prophet, in the use of the singular verb, seems to have contemplated the time, not as separate weeks, or as particular portions, but as one period.
Upon thy people - The Jewish people; the nation to which Daniel belonged. This allusion is made because he was inquiring about the close of their exile, and their restoration to their own land.
And upon thy holy city - Jerusalem, usually called the holy city, because it was the place where the worship of God was celebrated, Isaiah 52:1; Nehemiah 11:1, Nehemiah 11:18; Matthew 27:53. It is called “thy holy city” - the city of Daniel, because he was here making special inquiry respecting it, and because he was one of the Hebrew people, and the city was the capital of their nation. As one of that nation, it could be called “his.” It was then, indeed, in ruins, but it was to be rebuilt, and it was proper to speak of it as if it were then a city. The meaning of “upon thy people and city” (על ‛al ) is, “respecting” or “concerning.” The purpose respecting the seventy weeks “pertains” to thy people and city; or there is an important period of four hundred and seventy years determined on, or designated, respecting that people and city.
To finish the transgression - The angel proceeds to state what was the object to be accomplished in this purpose, or what would occur during that period. The first thing, “to finish the transgression.” The margin is, “restrain.” The Vulgate renders it, ut consummetur proevaricatio. Theodotion, τοῦ συντελεσθῆναι ἁμαρτίαν tou suntelesthēnai hamartian - to finish sin. Thompson renders this, “to finish sin-offerings.” The difference between the marginal reading (“restrain”) and the text (“finish”) arises from a doubt as to the meaning of the original word. The common reading of the text is כלא kallē' but in 39 Codices examined by Kennicott, it is כלה . The reading in the text is undoubtedly the correct one, but still there is not absolute certainty as to the signification of the word, whether it means to “finish” or to “restrain.” The proper meaning of the word in the common reading of the text (כלא kâlâ' ) is, to shut up, confine, restrain - as it is rendered in the margin.
The meaning of the other word found in many manuscripts (כלה kâlâh ) is, to be completed, finished, closed - and in Piel, the form used here, to complete, to finish - as it is translated in the common version. Gesenius (“Lexicon”) supposes that the word here is “for” - כלה kallēh - meaning to finish or complete. Hengstenberg, who is followed in this view by Lengerke, supposes that the meaning is to “shut up transgression,” and that the true reading is that in the text - כלא - though as that word is not used in Piel, and as the Masoretes had some doubts as to the derivation of the word, they gave to it not its appropriate “pointing” in this place - which would have been כלא keloh - but the pointing of the other word (כלה kalēh ) in the margin. According to Hengstenberg, the sense here of “shutting up” is derived from the general notion of “restraining” or “hindering,” belonging to the word; and he supposes that this will best accord with the other words in this member of the verse - “to cover,” and “to seal up.”
The idea according to him is, that “sin, which hitherto lay naked and open before the eyes of a righteous God, is now by his mercy shut up, sealed, and covered, so that it can no more be regarded as existing - a figurative description of the forgiveness of sin.” So Lengerke renders it, “Ura einzuschliessen (den) Abfall.” Bertholdt, “Bis der Frevel vollbracht.” It seems most probable that the true idea here is that denoted in the margin, and that the sense is not that of “finishing,” but that of “restraining, closing, shutting up,” etc. So it is rendered by Prof. Stuart - “to restrain transgression.” - “Com. on Daniel, in loc.” The word is used in this sense of “shutting up,” or “restraining,” in several places in the Bible: 1 Samuel 6:10, “and shut up their calves at home;” Jeremiah 32:3, “Zedekiah had shut him up;” Psalm 88:8, “I am shut up, and I cannot come forth;” Jeremiah 32:2, “Jeremiah the prophet was shut up.”
The sense of “shutting up,” or “restraining,” accords better with the connection than that of “finishing.” The reference of the whole passage is undoubtedly to the Messiah, and to what would be done sometime during the “seventy weeks;” and the meaning here is, not that he would “finish transgression” - which would not be true in any proper sense, but that he would do a work which would “restrain” iniquity in the world, or, more strictly, which would “shut it up” - enclose it - as in a prison, so that it would no more go forth and prevail. The effect would be that which occurs when one is shut up in prison, and no longer goes at large. There would be a restraining power and influence which would check the progress of sin. This does not, I apprehend, refer to the particular transgressions for which the Jewish people had suffered in their long captivity, but sin (הפשׁע hapesha‛ ) in general - the sin of the world.
There would be an influence which would restrain and curb it, or which would shut it up so that it would no longer reign and roam at large over the earth. It is true that this might not have been so understood by Daniel at the time, for the “language” is so general that it “might” have suggested the idea that it referred to the sins of the Jewish people. This language, if there had been no farther explanation of it, might have suggested the idea that in the time specified - seventy weeks - there would be some process - some punishment - some Divine discipline - by which the iniquities of that people, or their propensity to sin, for which this long captivity had come upon them, would be cohibited, or restrained. But the language is not such as necessarily to confine the interpretation to that, and the subsequent statements, and the actual fulfillment in the work of the Messiah, lead us to understand this in a much higher sense, as having reference to sin in general, and as designed to refer to some work that would ultimately be an effectual check on sin, and which would tend to cohibit, or restrain it altogether in the world. Thus understood, the language will well describe the work of the Redeemer - that work which, through the sacrifice made on the cross, is adapted and designed to restrain sin altogether.
And to make an end of sins - Margin, “to seal up.” The difference here in the text and the margin arises from a difference in the readings in the Hebrew. The common reading in the text is חתם châthēm - from חתם châtham - “to seal, to seal up.” But the Hebrew marginal reading is a different word - התם hâthēm from תמם tâmam - “to complete, to perfect, to finish.” The “pointing” in the text in the word חתם châtēm is not the proper pointing of that word, which would have been חתם chetom but the Masoretes, as is not unfrequently the case, gave to the word in the text the pointing of another word which they placed in the margin. The marginal reading is found in fifty-five manuscripts (Lengerke), but the weight of authority is decidedly in favor of the common reading in the Hebrew text - “to seal,” and not to “finish,” as it is in our translation.
The marginal reading, “to finish,” was doubtless substituted by some transcribers, or rather “suggested” by the Masoretes, because it seemed to convey a better signification to say that “sin would be finished,” than to say that it would be “sealed.” The Vulgate has followed the reading in the margin - et finem accipiat peccatum; Theodotion has followed the other reading, σφραγίας ἁμαρτίας sphragisai hamartias Luther also has it, “to seal.” Coverdale, “that sin may have an end.” The true rendering is, doubtless, “to seal sin;” and the idea is that of removing it from sight; to remove it from view. “The expression is taken,” says Lengerke, “from the custom of sealing up those things which one lays aside and conceals.” Thus in Job 9:7, “And sealeth up the stars;” that is, he so shuts them up in the heavens as to prevent their shining - so as to hide them from the view. They are concealed, hidden, made close - as the contents of a letter or package are sealed, indicating that no one is to examine them.
See the note at that passage. So also in Job 37:7, referring to winter, it is said, “He sealeth up the hand of every man, that all men may know his work.” That is, in the winter, when the snow is on the ground, when the streams are frozen, the labors of the farmer must cease. The hands can no more be used in ordinary toil. Every man is prevented from going abroad to his accustomed labor, and is, as it were, “sealed up” in his dwelling. Compare Jeremiah 32:11, Jeremiah 32:14; Isaiah 29:11; Genesis 6:14; and hence, to cover over sin; that is, to atone for it, pardon it, forgive it. It is the word which is commonly used with reference to atonement or expiation, and seems to have been so understood by our translators. It does not necessarily refer to the means by which sin is covered over, etc., by an atonement, but is often used in the general sense of “to pardon or forgive.” Compare the notes at Isaiah 6:7, and more fully. See the notes at Isaiah 43:3. Here there is no necessary allusion to the atonement which the Messiah would make in order to cover over sin; that is, the word is of so general a character in its signification that it does not necessarily imply this, but it is the word which would naturally be used on the supposition that it had such a reference. As a matter of fact, undoubtedly, the means by which this was to be done was by the atonement, and that was referred to by the Spirit of inspiration, but this is not essentially implied in the meaning of the word. In whatever way that should be done, this word would be properly used as expressing it. The Latin Vulgate renders thus, et deleatur iniquitas. Theodotion, ἀπαλεῖψαι τὰς ἀδικίας apaleipsai tas adikias - “to wipe out iniquities.” Luther, “to reconcile for transgression.” Here are three things specified, therefore, in regard to sin, which would be done. Sin would be
These expressions, though not of the nature of a climax, are intensive, and show that the great work referred to pertained to sin, and would be designed to remove it. Its bearing would be on human transgression; on the way by which it might be pardoned; on the methods by which it would be removed from the view, and be kept from rising up to condemn and destroy. Such expressions would undoubtedly lead the mind to look forward to some method which was to be disclosed by which sin could be consistently pardoned and removed. In the remainder of the verse, there are three additional things which would be done as necessary to complete the work: -
To bring in everlasting righteousness;
To seal up the vision and prophecy; and
To anoint the Most Holy.
And to bring in everlasting righteousness - The phrase “to bring in” - literally, “to cause to come” - refers to some direct agency by which that righteousness would be introduced into the world. It would be such an agency as would cause it to exist; or as would establish it in the world. The “mode” of doing this is not indeed here specified, and, so far as the “word” used here is concerned, it would be applicable to any method by which this would be done - whether by making an atonement; or by setting an example; or by persuasion; or by placing the subject of morals on a better foundation; or by the administration of a just government; or in any other way. The term is of the most general character, and its exact force here can be learned only by the subsequently revealed facts as to the way by which this would be accomplished. The essential idea in the language is, that this would be “introduced” by the Messiah; that is, that he would be its author.
The word “righteousness” here also (צדק tsedeq ) is of a general character. The fair meaning would be, that some method would be introduced by which men would become “righteous.” In the former part of the verse, the reference was to “sin” - to the fact of its existence - to the manner in which it would be disposed of - to the truth that it would be coerced, sealed up, covered over. Here the statement is, that, in contradistinction from that, a method would be introduced by which man would become, in fact, righteous and holy. But the “word” implies nothing as to the method by which this would be done. Whether it would be by a new mode of justification, or by an influence that would make men personally holy - whether this was to be as the result of example, or instruction, or an atoning sacrifice - is not necessarily implied in the use of this word. That, as in the cases already referred to, could be learned only by subsequent develop. ments.
It would be, doubtless, understood that there was a reference to the Messiah - for that is specified in the next verse; and it would be inferred from this word that, under him, righteousness would reign, or that men would be righteous, but nothing could be argued from it as to the methods by which it would be done. It is hardly necessary to add, that, in the prophets, it is constantly said that righteousness would characterize the Messiah and his times; that he would come to make men righteous, and to set up a kingdom of righteousness in the earth. Yet the exact mode in which it was to be done would be, of course, more fully explained when the Messiah should himself actually appear. The word “everlasting” is used here to denote that the righteousness would be permanent and perpetual. In reference to the method of becoming righteous, it would be unchanging - the standing method ever onward by which men would become holy; in reference to the individuals who should become righteous under this system, it would be a righteousness which would continue forever.
This is the characteristic which is everywhere given of the righteousness which would be introduced by the Messiah. Thus in Isaiah 51:6-8: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished. Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings. For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be forever, and my salvation from generation to generation.” So Isaiah 45:17: “But Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded, world without end.”
Compare Jeremiah 31:3. The language used in the passage before us, moreover, is such as could not properly be applied to anything but that righteousness which the Messiah would introduce. It could not be used in reference to the temporal prosperity of the Jews on their return to the holy land, nor to such righteousness as the nation had in former times. The fair and proper meaning of the term is, that it would be “eternal” - what would “endure forever” - עלמים צדק tsedeq ‛olâmı̂ym It would place righteousness on a permanent and enduring foundation; introduce that which would endure through all changes, and exist when the heavens would be no more. In the plan itself there would be no change; in the righteousness which anyone would possess under that system there would be perpetual duration - it would exist forever and ever. This is the nature of that righteousness by which men are now justified; this is what all who are interested in the scheme of redemption actually possess. The “way” in which this “everlasting righteousness” would be introduced is not stated here, but is reserved for future revelations. Probably all that the words would convey to Daniel would be, that there would be some method disclosed by which men would become righteous, and that this would not be temporary or changing, but would be permanent and eternal. It is not improper that “we” should understand it, as it is explained by the subsequent revelations in the New Testament, as to the method by which sinners are justified before God.
And to seal up the vision and prophecy - Margin, as in the Hebrew, “prophet.” The evident meaning, however, here is “prophecy.” The word seal is found, as already explained, in the former part of the verse - “to seal up sins.” The word “vision” (for its meaning, see the notes at Isaiah 1:1) need not be understood as referring particularly to the visions seen by Daniel, but should be understood, like the word “prophecy” or “prophet” here, in a general sense - as denoting all the visions seen by the prophets - the series of visions relating to the future, which had been made known to the prophets. The idea seems to be that they would at that time be all “sealed,” in the sense that they would be closed or shut up - no longer open matters - but that the fulfillment would, as it were, close them up forever. Till that time they would be open for penusal and study; then they would be closed up as a sealed volume which one does not read, but which contains matter hidden from the view.
Compare the notes at Isaiah 8:16: “Bind up the testimony; seal the law among my disciples.” See also Daniel 8:26; Daniel 12:4. In Isaiah Isaiah 8:16 the meaning is, that the prophecy was complete, and the direction was given to bind it up, or roll it up like a volume, and to seal it. In Daniel 8:26, the meaning is, seal up the prophecy, or make a permanent record of it, that when it is fulfilled, the event may be compared with the prophecy, and it may be seen that the one corresponds with the other. In the passage before us, Gesenius (“Lexicon”) renders it, “to complete, to finish” - meaning that the prophecies would be fulfilled. Hengstenberg supposes that it means, that “as soon as the fulfillment takes place, the prophecy, although it retains, in other respects, its great importance, reaches the end of its destination, in so far as the view of believers, who stand in need of consolation and encouragement, is no longer directed to it, to the future prosperity, but to what has appeared.”
Lengerke supposes that it means to confirm, corroborate, ratify - bekraftigen, bestatigen; that is, “the eternal righteousness will be given to the pious, and the predictions of the prophets will be confirmed and fulfilled.” To seal, says he, has also the idea of confirming, since the contents of a writing are secured or made fast by a seal. After all, perhaps, the very idea here is, that of “making fast,” as a lock or seal does - for, as is well known, a seal was often used by the ancients where a lock is with us; and the sense may be, that, as a seal or lock made fast and secure the contents of a writing or a book, so the event, when the prophecy was fulfilled, would make it “fast” and “secure.” It would be, as it were, locking it up, or sealing it, forever. It would determine all that seemed to be undetermined about it; settle all that seemed to be indefinite, and leave it no longer uncertain what was meant. According to this interpretation the meaning would be, that the prophecies would be sealed up or settled by the coming of the Messiah. The prophecies terminated on him (compare Revelation 19:10); they would find their fulfillment in him; they would be completed in him - and might then be regarded as closed and consummated - as a book that is fully written and is sealed up. All the prophecies, and all the visions, had a reference more or less direct to the coming of the Messiah, and when he should appear they might be regarded as complete. The spirit of prophecy would cease, and the facts would confirm and seal all that had been written.
And to anoint the Most Holy - There has been great variety in the interpretation of this expression. The word rendered “anoint” - משׁח meshocha - infinitive from משׁח mâshach (from the word Messiah, Daniel 9:25), means, properly, to strike or draw the hand over anything; to spread over with anything, to smear, to paint, to anoint. It is commonly used with reference to a sacred rite, to anoint, or consecrate by unction, or anointing to any office or use; as, e. g., a priest, Exodus 28:41; Exodus 40:15; a prophet, 1 Kings 19:16; Isaiah 61:1; a king, 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 15:1; 2 Samuel 2:4; 1 Kings 1:34. So it is used to denote the consecration of a stone or column as a future sacred place, Genesis 31:13; or vases and vessels as consecrated to God, Exodus 40:9, Exodus 40:11; Leviticus 8:11; Numbers 7:1. The word would then denote a setting apart to a sacred use, or consecrating a person or place as holy. Oil, or an unguent, prepared according to a specified rule, was commonly employed for this purpose, but the word may be used in a figurative sense - as denoting to set apart or consecrate in any way “without” the use of oil - as in the case of the Messiah. So far as this word, therefore, is concerned, what is here referred to may have occurred without the literal use of oil, by any act of consecration or dedication to a holy use.
The phrase, “the Most Holy” (קדשׁים קדשׁ qôdesh qādāshı̂ym ) has been very variously interpreted. By some it has been understood to apply literally to the most holy place - the holy of holies, in the temple; by others to the whole temple, regarded as holy; by others to Jerusalem at large as a holy place; and by others, as Hengstenberg, to the Christian church as “a” holy place. By some the thing here referred to is supposed to have been the consecration of the most holy place after the rebuilding of the temple; by others the consecration of the whole temple; by others the consecration of the temple and city by the presence of the Messiah, and by others the consecration of the Christian church, by his presence. The phrase properly means “holy of holies,” or most holy. It is applied often in the Scriptures to the “inner sanctuary,” or the portion of the tabernacle and temple containing the ark of the covenant, the two tables of stone, etc.
See the notes at Matthew 21:12. The phrase occurs in the following places in the Scripture: Exodus 26:33-34; Exodus 29:37; Exodus 30:29, Exodus 30:36; Exodus 40:10; Leviticus 2:3, Leviticus 2:10, “et al.” - in all, in about twenty-eight places. See the “Englishman‘s Hebrew Concordance.” It is not necessarily limited to the inner sanctuary of the temple, but may be applied to the whole house, or to anything that was consecrated to God in a manner peculiarly sacred. In a large sense, possibly it might apply to Jerusalem, though I am not aware that it ever occurs in this sense in the Scriptures, and in a figurative sense it might be applied undoubtedly, as Hengstenberg supposes, to the Christian church, though it is certain that it is not elsewhere thus used. In regard to the meaning of the expression - an important and difficult one, as is admitted by all - there are five principal opinions which it may be well to notice. The truth will be found in one of them.
(1) That it refers to the consecration by oil or anointing of the temple, that would be rebuilt after the captivity, by Zerubbabel and Joshua. This was the opinion of Michaelis and Jahn. But to this opinion there are insuperable objections:
(a) That, according to the uniform tradition of the Jews, the holy oil was wanting in the second temple. In the case of the first temple there might have been a literal anointing, though there is no evidence of that, as there was of the anointing of the vessels of the tabernacle, Exodus 30:22, etc. But in the second temple there is every evidence that there can be, that there was no literal anointing.
(b) The “time” here referred to is a fatal objection to this opinion. The period is seventy weeks of years, or four hundred and ninety years. This cannot be doubted (see the notes at the first part of the verse) to be the period referred to; but it is absurd to suppose that the consecration of the new temple would be deferred for so long a time, and there is not the slightest evidence that it was. This opinion, therefore, cannot be entertained.
(2) The second opinion is, that it refers to the re-consecration and cleansing of the temple after the abominations of Antiochus Epiphanes. See the notes at Daniel 8:14. But this opinion is liable substantially to the same objections as the other. The cleansing of the temple, or of the sanctuary, as it is said in Daniel 8:14, did “not” occur four hundred and ninety years after the order to rebuild the temple Daniel 9:25, but at a much earlier period. By no art of construction, if the period here referred to is four hundred and ninety years, can it be made to apply to the re-dedication of the temple after Antiochus had defiled it.
(3) Others have supposed that this refers to the Messiah himself, and that the meaning is, that he, who was most holy, would then be consecrated or anointed as the Messiah. It is probable, as Hengstenberg (“Christ.” ii. 321,322) has shown, that the Greek translators thus understood it, but it is a sufficient objection to this that the phrase, though occurring many times in the Scriptures, is never applied to “persons,” unless this be an instance. Its uniform and proper application is to “things,” or “places,” and it is undoubtedly so to be understood in this place.
(4) Hengstenberg supposes (pp. 325-328) that it refers to the Christian church as “a” holy place, or “the New Temple of the Lord,” “the Church of the New covenant,” as consecrated and supplied with the gifts of the Spirit. But it is a sufficient refutation of this opinion that the phrase is nowhere else so used; that it has in the Old Testament a settled meaning as referring to the tabernacle or the temple; that it is nowhere employed to denote a collection of “people,” anymore than an individual person - an idea which Hengstenberg himself expressly rejects (p. 322); and that there is no proper sense in which it can be said that the Christian church is “anointed.” The language is undoubtedly to be understood as referring to some “place” that was to be thus consecrated, and the uniform Hebrew usage would lead to the supposition that there is reference, in some sense, to the temple at Jerusalem.
(5) It seems to me, therefore, that the obvious and fair interpretation is, to refer it to the temple - as the holy place of God; his peculiar abode on earth. Strictly and properly speaking, the phrase would apply to the inner room of the temple - the sanctuary properly so called (see the notes at Hebrews 9:2); but it might he applied to the whole temple as consecrated to the service of God. If it be asked, then, what anointing or consecration is referred to here, the reply, as it seems to me, is, not that it was then to be set apart anew, or to be dedicated; not that it was literally to be anointed with the consecrating oil, but that it was to be consecrated in the highest and best sense by the presence of the Messiah - that by his coming there was to be a higher and more solemn consecration of the temple to the real purpose for which it was erected than had occurred at any time. It was reared as a holy place; it would become eminently holy by the presence of him who would come as the anointed of God, and his coming to it would accomplish the purpose for which it was erected, and with reference to which all the rites observed there had been ordained, and then, this work having been accomplished, the temple, and all the rites pertaining to it, would pass away.
In confirmation of this view, it may be remarked, that there are repeated allusions to the coming of the Messiah to the second temple, reared after the return from the captivity - as that which would give a peculiar sacredness to the temple, and which would cause it to surpass in glory all its ancient splendor. So in Haggai 2:7, Haggai 2:9: “And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. - The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.” So Malachi 3:1-2: “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner‘s fire, and like fullers‘ soap,” etc.
Compare Matthew 12:6: “But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple.” Using the word “anoint,” therefore, as denoting to consecrate, to render holy, to set apart to a sacred use, and the phrase “holy of holies” to designate the temple as such, it seems to me most probable that the reference here is to the highest consecration which could be made of the temple in the estimation of a Hebrew, or, in fact, the presence of the Messiah, as giving a sacredness to that edifice which nothing else did give or could give, and, therefore, as meeting all the proper force of the language used here. On the supposition that it was designed that there should be a reference to this event, this would be such language as would have been not unnaturally employed by a Hebrew prophet. And if it be so, this may be regarded as the probable meaning of the passage. In this sense, the temple which was to be reared again, and about which Daniel felt so solicitous, would receive its highest, its truest consecration, as connected with an event which was to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and the prophecy.
(D) Simultaneously with this event, as the result of this, we are to anticipate such a spread of truth and righteousness, and such a reign of the saints on the earth, as would be properly symbolized by the coming of the Son of man to the ancient of days to receive the kingdom, Daniel 7:13-14. As shown in the interpretation of those verses, this does not necessarily imply that there would be any visible appearing of the Son of man, or any personal reign (see the note at these verses), but there would be such a making over of the kingdom to the Son of man and to the saints as would be properly symbolized by such a representation. That is, there would be great changes; there would be a rapid progress of the truth; there would be a spread of the gospel; there would be a change in the governments of the world, so that the power would pass into the hands of the righteous, and they would in fact rule. From that time the “saints” would receive the kingdom, and the affairs of the world would be put on a new footing. From that period it might be said that the reign of the saints would commence; that is, there would be such changes in this respect that that would constitute an epoch in the history of the world - the proper beginning of the reign of the saints on the earth - the setting up of the new and final dominion in the world. If there should be such changes - such marked progress - such facilities for the spread of truth - such new methods of propagating it - and such certain success attending it, all opposition giving way, and persecution ceasing, as would properly constitute an epoch or era in the world‘s history, which would be connected with the conversion of the world to God, this would fairly meet the interpretation of this prophecy; this occurring, all would have taken place which could be fairly shown to be implied in the vision.
(E) We are to expect a reign of righteousness on the earth. On the character of what we are fairly to expect from the words of the prophecy, see the notes at Daniel 7:14. The prophecy authorizes us to anticipate a time when there shall be a general prevalence of true religion; when the power in the world shall be in the hands of good men - of men fearing God; when the Divine laws shall be obeyed - being acknowledged as the laws that are to control men; when the civil institutions of the world shall be pervaded by religion, and moulded by it; when there shall be no hinderance to the free exercise of religion, and when in fact the reigning power on the earth shall be the kingdom which the Messiah shall set up. There is nothing more certain in the future than such a period, and to that all things are tending. Such a period would fulfill all that is fairly implied in this wonderful prophecy, and to that faith and hope should calmly and confidently look forward. For that they who love their God and their race should labor and pray; and by the certain assurance that such a period will come, we should be cheered amidst all the moral darkness that exists in the world, and in all that now discourages us in our endeavors to do good.
Such are the first words the angel utters to Daniel, toward imparting to him that instruction which he came to give. Why does he thus abruptly introduce a period of time? We must again refer to the vision of chapter 8. We have seen that Daniel, at the close of that chapter, says that he did not understand the vision. Some portions of that vision were at the time very clearly explained. It could not have been these portions which he did not understand. We therefore inquire what it was which Daniel did not understand, or, in other words, what part of the vision was there left unexplained. In that vision four prominent things are brought to view: (1) The Ram; (2) The He-goat; (3) The Little Horn; (4) The period of the 2300 days. The symbols of the ram, the he-goat, and the little horn were explained. Nothing, however, was said respecting the time. This must therefore have been the point which he did not understand; and as without this the other portions of the vision were of no avail, he could well say, while the application of this period was left in obscurity, that he did not understand the vision.DAR 191.2
If this view of the subject is correct, we should naturally expect, when the angel completed his explanation of the vision, that he would commence with the very point which had been omitted; namely, the time. And this we find to be true in fact. After citing Daniel's attention back to the former vision in the most direct and emphatic manner, and assuring him that he had now come forth to give him understanding in the matter, he commences upon the very point there omitted, and says, âSeventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city.âDAR 191.3
But how does this language show any connection with the 2300 days, or throw any light upon that period? We answer: The language cannot be intelligibly referred to anything else; for the word here rendered determined signifies âcut off;â and there is no period from which the seventy weeks could be cut off but the 2300 days of the previous vision. How direct and natural, then, is the connection. Daniel's attention is fixed upon the 2300 days, which he did not understand, by the angel's directing him to the former vision; and he says, âSeventy weeks are cut off.â Cut off from what? â The 2300 days, most assuredly.DAR 192.1
Proof may be called for that the word rendered determined signifies to cut off. An abundance can be given. The Hebrew word thus translated is ?????????, nehhtak. This word Gesenius, in his Hebrew Lexicon, defines as follows: âProperly, to cut off; tropically, to divide; and so to determine, to decree.â In the Chaldeo-Rabbinic Dictionary of Stockius, the word nehhtak is thus defined: âScidit, abscidit, conscidit, inscidit, exscidit â to cut, to cut away, to cut in pieces, to cut or engrave, to cut off.â Mercerus, in his Thesaurus, furnishes a specimen of Rabbinical usage in the phrase, hhatikah shel basar, âa piece of flesh,â or, âa cut of flesh.â He translates the word, as it occurs in Daniel 9:24, by praecisa est, is cut off. In the literal version of Arias Montanus it is translated âdecisa est,â is cut off; in the marginal reading, which is grammatically correct, it is rendered by the plural, âdecisae sunt,â are cut off. In the Latin version of Junius and Tremellius, nehhtak (the passive of hhathak) is rendered âdecisae sunt,â are cut off. Again, in Theodotion's Greek version of Daniel (which is the version used in the Vatican copy of the Septuagint, as being the most faithful), it is rendered by ???????????? (sunetmethesan), were cut off; and in the Venetian copy by ????????? (tetmentai), have been cut.â The idea of cutting off is preserved in the Vulgate, where the phrase is âabbreviatae sunt,â are shortened.DAR 192.2
âThus Chaldaic and Rabbinical authority, and that of the earliest versions, the Septuagint and Vulgate, give the single signification of cutting off, to this verb.âDAR 192.3
âHengstenberg, who enters into a critical examination of the original text, says: âBut the very use of the word, which does not elsewhere occur, while others much more frequently used, were at hand if Daniel had wished to express the idea of determination, and of which he has elsewhere, and even in this portion availed himself, seems to argue that the word stands from regard to its original meaning, and represents the seventy weeks in contrast with a determination of time (en platei) as a period cut off from subsequent duration, and accurately limited.'â â Christology of the Old Testament, Vol. II, p. 301. Washington, 1839.DAR 193.1
Why, then, it may be asked, did our translators render the word determined, when it so obviously means cut off? The answer is, They doubtless overlooked the connection between the eighth and ninth chapters, and considering it improper to render it cut off, when nothing was given from which the seventy weeks could be cut off, they gave the word its tropical instead of its literal meaning. But, as we have seen, the construction, the context, and the connection require the literal meaning, and render any other inadmissible.DAR 193.2
Seventy weeks, then, or 490 days of the 2300, were cut off upon, or allotted to, Jerusalem and the Jews; and the events which were to be consummated within that period are briefly stated. The transgression was to be finished; that is, the Jewish people were to fill up the cup of their iniquity, which they did in the rejection and crucifixion of Christ. An end of sins, or of sin-offerings, was to be made. This took place when the great offering was made on Calvary. Reconciliation for iniquity was to be provided. This was made by the sacrificial death of the Son of God. Everlasting righteousness was to be brought in; the righteousness which our Lord manifested in his sinless life. The vision and the prophecy were to be sealed up, or made sure. By the events given to transpire in the seventy weeks, the prophecy is tested. By this the application of the whole vision is determined. If the events of this period are accurately fulfilled, the prophecy is of God, and will all be accomplished; and if these seventy weeks are fulfilled as weeks of years, then the 2300 days, of which these are a part, are so many years. Thus the events of the seventy weeks furnish a key to the whole vision. And the âmost holyâ was to be anointed; the most holy of the heavenly sanctuary. In the examination of the sanctuary, on chapter 8:14, we saw that a time came when the earthly sanctuary gave place to the heavenly, and the priestly ministration was transferred to that. Before the ministration in the sanctuary commenced, the sanctuary and all the holy vessels were to be anointed. Exodus 40:9, 10. The last event, therefore, of the seventy weeks, here brought to view, is the anointing of the heavenly tabernacle, or the opening of the ministration there. Thus this first division of the 2300 days brings us to the commencement of the service in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary, as the whole period brings us to the commencement of the service in the second apartment, or most holy place, of that sanctuary.DAR 193.3
The argument must now be considered conclusive that the ninth chapter of Daniel explains the eighth, and that the seventy weeks are a part of the 2300 days; and with a few extracts from the writings of others we will leave this point.DAR 194.1
The Advent Shield in 1844 said: âDAR 194.2
âWe call attention to one fact which shows that there is a necessary âconnection' between the seventy weeks of the ninth chapter, and something else which precedes or follows it, called âthe vision.' It is found in the 24th verse: âSeventy weeks are determined [are cut off] upon thy people, ... to seal up the vision,' etc. Now there are hut two significations to the phrase âseal up.' They are, first, âto make secret,' and second, âto make sure.' We care not now in which of these significations the phrase is supposed to be used. That is not the point now before us. Let the signification be what it may, it shows that the prediction of the seventy weeks necessarily relates to something else beyond itself, called âthe vision,' in reference to which it performs this work, âto seal up.' To talk of its sealing up itself is as much of an absurdity as to suppose that Josephus was so much afraid of the Romans that he refrained from telling the world that he thought the fourth kingdom of Daniel was âthe kingdom of the Greeks.' It is no more proper to say that the ninth chapter of Daniel âis complete in itself,' than it would be to say that a map which was designed to show the relation of Massachusetts to the United States, referred to nothing but Massachusetts. It is no more complete in itself than a bond given in security for a note, or some other document to which it refers, is complete in itself; and we doubt if there is a schoolboy of fourteen years in the land, of ordinary capacity, who would not, on reading the ninth chapter, with an understanding of the clause before us, decide that it referred to something distinct from itself, called the vision. What vision it is, there is no difficulty in determining. It naturally and obviously refers to the vision which was not fully explained to Daniel, and to which Gabriel calls his attention in the preceding verse, â the vision of the 8th chapter. Daniel tells us that Gabriel was commanded to make him understand that vision (8:16). This was not fully done at that interview connected with the vision; he is therefore sent to give Daniel the needed âskill and understanding,' â to explain its âmeaning' by communicating to him the prediction of the seventy weeks.âDAR 194.3
âWe claim that the ninth of Daniel is an appendix to the eighth, and that the seventy weeks and the 2300 days, or years, commence together. Our opponents deny this.â â Signs of the Times, 1843.DAR 195.1
âThe grand principle involved in the interpretation of the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14, is that the seventy weeks of Daniel 9:24 are the first 490 days of the 2300 of the eighth chapter.â â Advent Shield, p. 49.DAR 195.2
âIf the connection between the seventy weeks of Daniel 9 and the 2300 days of Daniel 8 does not exist, the whole system is shaken to its foundation; if it does exist, as we suppose, the system must stand.â â Harmony of the Prophetic Chronology, p. 33.DAR 195.3
Says the learned Dr. Hales, in commenting upon the seventy weeks, âThis chronological prophecy was evidently designed to explain the foregoing vision, especially in its chronological part of the 2300 days.â â Chronology, Vol. II, p. 517.DAR 195.4
“I set my face unto the Lord God,” the prophet declared, “to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession.” Verses 3, 4. Though Daniel had long been in the service of God, and had been spoken of by heaven as “greatly beloved,” yet he now appeared before God as a sinner, urging the great need of the people he loved. His prayer was eloquent in its simplicity, and intensely earnest. Hear him pleading: PK 555.1
“O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love Him, and to them that keep His commandments; we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from Thy precepts and from Thy judgments; neither have we hearkened unto Thy servants the prophets, which spake in Thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. PK 555.2
“O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto Thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither Thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against Thee.... PK 555.3Read in context »
But he was greeted with the joyful assurance: “Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.... And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.” DA 98.1
Zacharias well knew how to Abraham in his old age a child was given because he believed Him faithful who had promised. But for a moment the aged priest turns his thought to the weakness of humanity. He forgets that what God has promised, He is able to perform. What a contrast between this unbelief and the sweet, childlike faith of Mary, the maiden of Nazareth, whose answer to the angel's wonderful announcement was, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word”! Luke 1:38. DA 98.2
The birth of a son to Zacharias, like the birth of the child of Abraham, and that of Mary, was to teach a great spiritual truth, a truth that we are slow to learn and ready to forget. In ourselves we are incapable of doing any good thing; but that which we cannot do will be wrought by the power of God in every submissive and believing soul. It was through faith that the child of promise was given. It is through faith that spiritual life is begotten, and we are enabled to do the works of righteousness. DA 98.3
To the question of Zacharias, the angel said, “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings.” Five hundred years before, Gabriel had made known to Daniel the prophetic period which was to extend to the coming of Christ. The knowledge that the end of this period was near had moved Zacharias to pray for the Messiah's advent. Now the very messenger through whom the prophecy was given had come to announce its fulfillment. DA 98.4Read in context »