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Chapter XVIII

The Mystery of the “Seventy Weeks” in Daniel 9

THE BOOKS BY WHICH DANIEL UNDERSTOOD THE DURATION OF THE DESOLATIONS (Daniel 9:1-3, continued)

It should be remembered well that these desolations which came upon Israel were no afterthought on the part of God, nor should we forget that God had definitely foretold the “desolations” which would come upon the land, the holy city, the temple, and the people of God! Often we do not read well, nor do we remember what we read!

Such was too the sin of Israel in their entire history.

And they tempted God to wrath (Ps. 78:32; II Kings 23:26-28).

But Daniel remembered the words of Moses, the man of God. He read and remembered the great and precious promises. He read with a glowing heart of the future of the church, that Japheth would dwell in the tents of Shem (Gen. 9:26-27). How he must have pondered the promise of God to Abraham, “in thee shall all nations be blessed” (Gen. 12:3; Gen. 28:3, 4)! And how could Daniel have overlooked, Bible-student that he was, the promise of the dying patriarch Jacob concerning the things which would surely come to pass in the future when he says, “Gather yourselves together, and hear, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days” (Gen. 49:1). How the prophetic meaning of the words of God through Jacob to Judah must have been a matter of deep meditation and prayer for Daniel: “Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise; thy hand shall be upon the neck of thine enemies: thy father’s children shall bow down before thee . . . The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering (see footnote) of the people be” (Gen. 49:10). Yes, the nations, the nations would come to Judah. Was this not the very warp and woof of the hymnology of Israel (Ps. 72:8-18; Ps. 87:3-7)? Yes, glorious things are spoken of Zion! Daniel could not have overlooked such beautiful Scripture promises concerning the future of Israel, in their being the salvation of the Gentiles, as we have in Psalm 18:4, 9: “that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy” (Rom. 15:9). David sang in the Sprit, “For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.” How often Daniel must have had in mind the unforgettable, brief but important Psalm 117:1: “O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise Him all ye people” (Rom. 15:11). And, not to quote more, notice such beautiful passages as are quoted in Romans 15:10, 12. Yes, there would be a root out of Jesse, and He shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in Him shall the Gentiles trust (Is. 11:1).

Great and precious promises in the “books.”

And these books were the canonical Scriptures!

By these he understood the number of the years of the Desolations upon Jerusalem. And Daniel, on the basis of these Scriptures, these “books,” believed in hope against hope. He did so, standing fearlessly before kings, yea, believing with a faith concerning things not yet seen, even in the lion’s den when already an old man!

What did Daniel understand? The term in the Hebrew translated “understand” is from a verb which means in the Kal degree “to distinguish, discern, to know, to have understanding, to be wise.” It is far more than merely “to read.” It is also far more than mere intellectual knowledge of some chronological data, or some important news. It meant that Daniel had a basic, correct and spiritual knowledge of the meaning of the “accomplishment” of the seventy years of the desolations upon Jerusalem. One can very well hear very emphatically and yet not understand the thing heard spiritually, even as one can very well see a thing without perceiving its meaning and God-intended import. A very clear example we find of this in Isaiah 6:9, 10, as this is quoted and applied by Jesus in Matthew 13:11-13. (Compare also John 12:37-41; Acts 28:25-28!)

Surely Daniel understood what God was “accomplishing” through these “desolations” in His sovereign mercy and love to Israel. When Judah goes down into Babylon in captivity a voice is indeed heard in Rama, weeping and lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, because they were not. But that is not the end according to the “books.” God will, finding fault with the former covenant, make a new covenant “after those days.” Things will be “better” then, in a better high priest, and better blood will be shed, and a better temple will be built (Jer. 31:33). And all Rachel’s tears shall be forever wiped away from her eyes! All this good is accomplished in Israel. This is the proclamation of a veritable chorus of prophetic voices in the “books.” Read Isaiah 2:1-6; Isaiah 65:1 ff.; Hosea 1:1 ff.

Yes, Daniel had in these “books” the more sure prophetic word, and he gave diligent heed to them until the day dawned and the day-star of hope arose in his heart—yea, in the dark place of Babylon!

He is not without hope in the world!

And he represents the true Israel of God, which hope in God’s mercy, and also cry unto Him, as God’s elect, day and night. God will surely hear them, although He is very longsuffering over them (Luke 18:7, 8).

Thus Daniel understands the text in Jeremiah 25:11, 12.

He notices that this is altogether according to the promise of God to Israel already spoken by Moses in the plains of Moab, before they enter into the promised land. In that remarkable chapter, Leviticus 26, there are two sins singled out which would be of such a nature that Israel would come under the curse of the Lord and under His hot displeasure, in ever intensifying degrees. However, if they repent in the “land of their enemies,” when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled—then “will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember: and I will remember the land” (Lev. 26:40-42).

There were to be four such visitations upon Israel in the backslidings of idolatry and of not keeping the Lord’s Sabbaths, and the desecrations of the service of God in His temple. First, there would be the curse for contempt of God’s law. God would appoint over Israel “terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, cause sorrow of heart.” They would sow their seed in vain, for their enemies would take it. (Confer Judges 6:11, etc.) If Israel did not heed these judgments there would be a second degree of the wrath of God. The “I will punish you seven times more for your sins.” Then God will break the pride of their power, make their heaven as iron (no rain) and earth as brass (famine in the land). (Confer: I Kings 8:35, 36; I Kings 17:1; I Kings 18:1; II Chron. 7:13.)

But God will turn down the thumbscrews of His judgments if they do not repent. More and more, as Israel departed, God’s judgments increased in intensity. They were increased “sevenfold.” Then God would bring “seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins.” God will walk contrary to Israel and “I will bring the sword upon you, and I will avenge the quarrel of My covenant.” And if they continue to walk contrary, God will in His fury chastise them seven times more for their sins. Finally, God will scatter them among the heathen, and draw the sword after them, and the land shall be desolate and the cities shall be waste.

Thus Daniel read in the “books.” He understood the nature of the desolations as coming from the scourging hand of God! But Daniel also knew what the “books” said concerning the return of Israel, when God would remember His covenant of old. For God will not cast Israel away, neither abhor them to destroy them utterly. A remnant will return of Judah from which Shiloh shall come and to whom the peoples shall be obedient, worshipping Him in spirit and in truth.

The time has come!

It is the time when Cyrus’ command shall “go forth.” It is the time that the “command goes forth to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah” (Dan. 9:25). And in the hope of the sure fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel, Daniel prays. It is the only ground for his supplications, the sure mercies of the Lord. God becomes the pleading ground, the rock-bottom basis for Daniel’s fervent supplications.

DANIEL’S PRAYER AND CONFESSION OF SIN (Dan. 9:3-19)

This prayer of Daniel uttered before the face of God is as fervent as it is historic in nature. There are prayers and prayers. There are the general prayers which fit the needs of every hour and time. The model prayer which Jesus teaches His disciples fits every need and every hour, and is a model for every generation of the church. However, there are also prayers which are uttered in times of deep need and distress in .a particular age and hour. Think of the prayers of Abraham, pleading for the birth of a promised son (Gen. 15:2), or pleading that Ishmael might live before the LORD (Gen. 17:18). Or again, think of the prayer of Isaac for his barren wife, Rebecca (Gen 25:21). Later we see Jacob agonize in prayer before the Lord at the river Jabbok, when Esau is approaching with four hundred men. See him, humbled before the face of the Lord, confessing his sin and all his unworthiness; and in that same night hear the great cryings and supplications when the angel of the LORD wrestles with him, and Jacob triumphs in the prayer of faith that will not, will not let the angel go, until he blesses him (Gen. 32:25).

These latter prayers are unique. They cannot be prayed by every saint as they were by these mighty wrestlers in prayer.

Then there are the prayers of other saints. Think of the prayer of Samson when he would pull down the walls of the palace of the Philistine merrymakers in honor of Dagon. What a mighty prayer of faith. And it was heard. Or think of the penitential prayer of David as so unforgettably expressed in Psalm 51. And then, lastly, think of the prayers of Hezekiah in the temple when 185,000 soldiers surround Jerusalem (Is. 37:14-20).

Yes, many more prayers at special occasions could be mentioned. However, what we have cited makes it unnecessary to remind the reader of the great prayers of Moses as he stands in the “breach” pleading for Israel’s salvation at the time of the making of the golden calf, or to refer to the great prayer of Solomon at the dedication of the temple (Ex. 32:30-35; Ex. 33:12-17; II Chron. 6:12-53).


*Footnote: The term “gathering” is the translation of a feminine noun “yiqqehah” which really means: obedience, submission. The “peoples” shall give willing obedience to Shiloh, the new obedience of faith. This shall be in the “last times.” (See Is. 2:3; Joel 2:30; Acts 2:17-21.) Jacob, in the prophetic Spirit, sees vistas of distant Pentecost, fully come.