on Daniel 9 :24
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: -
I. To finish (לכלא lechalle, to restrain), the transgression which was effected by the preaching of the Gospel, and pouring out of the Holy Ghost among men.
II. To make an end of sins; rather ולהתם חטאות 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, צדק עלמים 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, קדש קדשים 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.
on Daniel 9 :24
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.
on Daniel 9 :24
9:24 Seventy weeks - These weeks are weeks of days, and these days are so many years. To finish the transgression - The angel discovers first the disease in three several words, which contain all sorts of sin, which the Messiah should free us from by his full redemption. He shews the cure of this disease in three words. To finish transgression. To make an end of sin. To make reconciliation: all which words are very expressive in the original, and signify to pardon, to blot out, to destroy. To bring in everlasting righteousness - To bring in justification by the free grace of God in Christ, and sanctification by his spirit: called everlasting, because Christ is eternal, and so are the acceptance and holiness purchased for us. Christ brings this in, By his merit. By his gospel declaring it. By faith applying, and sealing it by the Holy Ghost. To seal up - To abrogate the former dispensation of the law, and to ratify the gospel covenant. To anoint - This alludes to his name Messiah and Christ, both which signify anointed. Christ was anointed at his first conception, and personal union, Luke 1:35. In his baptism, Matt 3:17, to his three offices by the holy Ghost, King, Matt 2:2. Prophet, Isa 61:1. Priest, Psal 110:4.