Commentary on Daniel 9

Notes (NET Translation)

1 In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, who was of Median descent and who had been appointed king over the Babylonian empire – 2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, came to understand from the sacred books that, according to the word of the LORD disclosed to the prophet Jeremiah, the years for the fulfilling of the desolation of Jerusalem were seventy in number.

The date is 539 BC, the first year of the Persian Empire in Babylon. Jeremiah’s prophecy of the seventy years can be found in Jer. 25:8-14 and 29:10-14. About 70 years had elapsed since Daniel had been deported in 605 BC.

3 So I turned my attention to the Lord God to implore him by prayer and requests, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.

4 I prayed to the LORD my God, confessing in this way: “O Lord, great and awesome God who is faithful to his covenant with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned! We have done what is wrong and wicked; we have rebelled by turning away from your commandments and standards.

Daniel’s confession follows the advice in Lev. 26:40-42 for what the people should do when the land lies desolate.

6 We have not paid attention to your servants the prophets, who spoke by your authority to our kings, our leaders, and our ancestors, and to all the inhabitants of the land as well.

7 “You are righteous, O Lord, but we are humiliated this day – the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far away in all the countries in which you have scattered them, because they have behaved unfaithfully toward you.

8 O LORD, we have been humiliated – our kings, our leaders, and our ancestors – because we have sinned against you.

9 Yet the Lord our God is compassionate and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him.

10 We have not obeyed the LORD our God by living according to his laws that he set before us through his servants the prophets.

11 “All Israel has broken your law and turned away by not obeying you. Therefore you have poured out on us the judgment solemnly threatened in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against you.

12 He has carried out his threats against us and our rulers who were over us by bringing great calamity on us – what has happened to Jerusalem has never been equaled under all heaven!

Daniel’s statement regarding the uniqueness of Jerusalem’s destruction strikes us as surprising. Certainly other nations had gone into captivity, and other cities and temples had been destroyed. Other nations had experienced defeat and deportation, but their gods were idols of lifeless wood, stone, and metal (cf. Ps 135:15-17; Isa 44:9ff.). Now the people of the true God were in exile, and his city and temple were in ruins. Truly nothing like this had ever happened in history.1

13 Just as it is written in the law of Moses, so all this calamity has come on us. Still we have not tried to pacify the LORD our God by turning back from our sin and by seeking wisdom from your reliable moral standards.

14 The LORD was mindful of the calamity, and he brought it on us. For the LORD our God is just in all he has done, and we have not obeyed him.

15 “Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with great power and made a name for yourself that is remembered to this day – we have sinned and behaved wickedly.

16 O Lord, according to all your justice, please turn your raging anger away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain. For due to our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors, Jerusalem and your people are mocked by all our neighbors.

17 “So now, our God, accept the prayer and requests of your servant, and show favor to your devastated sanctuary for your own sake.

18 Listen attentively, my God, and hear! Open your eyes and look on our desolated ruins and the city called by your name. For it is not because of our own righteous deeds that we are praying to you, but because your compassion is abundant.

19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, pay attention, and act! Don’t delay, for your own sake, O my God! For your city and your people are called by your name.”

20 While I was still speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and presenting my request before the LORD my God concerning his holy mountain – 21 yes, while I was still praying, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen previously in a vision, was approaching me in my state of extreme weariness, around the time of the evening offering.

The time of the evening sacrifice was around 3 or 4 pm.2

22 He spoke with me, instructing me as follows: “Daniel, I have now come to impart understanding to you.

23 At the beginning of your requests a message went out, and I have come to convey it to you, for you are of great value in God’s sight. Therefore consider the message and understand the vision:

The word that “went out” refers to the revelation that follows.

24 “Seventy weeks have been determined concerning your people and your holy city to put an end to rebellion, to bring sin to completion, to atone for iniquity, to bring in perpetual righteousness, to seal up the prophetic vision, and to anoint a most holy place.

Verses 24-27 are the most controversial in the Book of Daniel. There are a number of different interpretations and those interpretations can differ significantly. We shall proceed phrase by phrase and attempt to arrive at a likely, but by no means certain, interpretation of the passage.

The first issue is whether the seventy sevens (or seventy weeks) refer to a literal period of 490 years (70 x 7) or to a symbolic period of an indefinite length. Arguments for a literal period of 490 years include: (1) a literal 490 years could be arrived at if one thought Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding 70 years of punishment needed to be exacted sevenfold in accordance with Leviticus 26; (2) it is not clear why a period of indefinite length would be divided up into periods of seven, sixty-two, and one; and (3) a literal 490 years keeps each unit of the period proportional to the others, unlike most symbolic interpretations.3 Arguments for a symbolic period of indefinite length include: (1) neither Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding 70 years of punishment nor the sevenfold punishment of Leviticus 26 should be taken as prophecies concerning strictly chronological predictions; (2) the Book of Judges refers to 40 year periods of time that are not usually taken as precise chronological markers; (3) 1 Kings states that 480 years elapsed between the exodus and the building of the temple which is not true if the number is taken literally; and (4) the Book of Jubilees structures all of history into periods of 490 years.4 These arguments alone are not decisive either way. Based on the interpretation that follows, it seems that the reference is to 490 literal years.

The time is about Daniel’s people, the Jews, and Daniel’s holy city, Jerusalem. Attempts to interpret “your people” as the church and “your holy city” as the heavenly Jerusalem have no basis in the text. This revelation is given as an answer to Daniel’s prayer, which concerned the Jewish people.

The end of the 70 weeks will terminate the present age, an age of transgression, sin, and iniquity. A new age will be ushered in that is characterized by everlasting righteousness. Since an age of everlasting righteousness was not ushered in after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the 70 weeks were not entirely fulfilled in the first century AD.

The phrase “to seal up the prophetic vision” means that the prophet and his vision will be authenticated at the end of the 70 weeks. It is not clear whether a specific vision and prophet are in mind (e.g., Jeremiah or Daniel) or whether all eschatological prophecies are in view. It makes little difference as the new age will authenticate all prophecies given by God.

25 So know and understand: From the issuing of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince arrives, there will be a period of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will again be built, with plaza and moat, but in distressful times.

The starting point of the 70 weeks is when word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. To “restore and rebuild” refers to the restoring of the community and the city.5 The gap between the command to rebuild and the coming anointed one is literally “seven sevens and sixty-two sevens.” The verse is predicting that 69 weeks will elapse between the command to rebuild and the coming anointed one. The Hebrew word for “prince” refers to a leader of some kind, but probably not to a priest.6 To say that the city will be built with “plaza and moat” means that the city will be fortified (the exact meaning of the Hebrew words is not certain).7

The anointed one is Jesus Christ. Jesus was “cut off” (v 26) when he was crucified. His death atoned for sins and he will bring in an age of everlasting righteousness at his second coming (v 24). The decree to rebuild Jerusalem can be identified as the decree of Artaxerxes I to Ezra in 458/7 BC (Ezra 7:11-26). Taking the 69 weeks as 483 literal years would bring us to AD 26, the year Jesus was baptized and thus anointed for his ministry. Taking the seven weeks as 49 literal years would take us to 409 BC and the completion of the building projects in Jerusalem.8 The “distressful times” refers to the struggles involved in rebuilding Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:1ff.; 9:36-37).

26 Now after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one will be cut off and have nothing. As for the city and the sanctuary, the people of the coming prince will destroy them. But his end will come speedily like a flood. Until the end of the war that has been decreed there will be destruction.

After the 62 weeks an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. This refers to the execution of Jesus Christ in AD 30. Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed in AD 70 by Titus and the Roman legions. “Commentators who argue that Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled this prophecy are at a loss to account for the fact that he destroyed neither the Temple nor the city of Jerusalem.”9 Note that the subject of the second sentence is the people of the prince who is to come.

The “people” who would destroy Jerusalem and temple were the Romans, but v. 27 makes clear that this “ruler” will be the future persecutor of Israel during the seventieth seven. “The people of the ruler” does not mean that the people “belong to” the ruler but rather that the ruler will come from these people. If the text is to be taken literally at this point, this future ruler will come out of the peoples and nations that made up the ancient Roman Empire. Daniel already had divulged in chap. 7 that the Antichrist’s origin will be from the fourth empire, Rome.

In this context “the end” alludes to the end of the city, that is, its destruction. “Flood” is a figure emphasizing the magnitude of the devastation (cf. Isa 8:7-8; 28:2; Dan 11:10, 22, 26, 40). The Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 did indeed come like a great “flood” that swept over the city and destroyed it.

War probably is the subject of “decreed” rather than “desolation.” The translation would then be, “And until the end, war has been decreed with (or “and”) desolations.” Still the meaning would be virtually the same as that in the NIV text.

This war will be “decreed” by the Lord as a judgment upon Israel. Jerusalem will experience a period of conflict that will include a series of desolations. This war and the desolations brought about by it will continue until the end, that is, until the city is completely destroyed.10

27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one week. But in the middle of that week he will bring sacrifices and offerings to a halt. On the wing of abominations will come one who destroys, until the decreed end is poured out on the one who destroys.”

The events of verse 26 were said to happen after the 69 weeks but not during the 70th week. An indefinite gap is envisioned between the 69th and 70th weeks. A gap of about 40 years elapsed between Jesus’ ministry and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.11 The “he” of this verse is the “prince who is to come” from the last verse, the Antichrist. That he confirms a covenant may imply that he can force an agreement due to his superior strength.12 The covenant is to last for seven years. The “many” may be a reference to the Jews (v 24). The covenant will be broken after 3.5 years.

That there will be “an end to sacrifice and offering” does not necessarily mean that the sacrificial system will be reinstated in Israel, as Whitcomb thinks, although this is possible. It may only indicate that worship in general is forbidden. Reasons for this order are not stated, but evidently religious Jews will be persecuted because they will oppose the Antichrist’s evil administration.13

The Hebrew behind the phrase “wing of abominations” is not clear. Perhaps it should be taken as a figure of speech referring to great abominations. Ultimately, the Antichrist’s abominations will come to an end.

Bibliography

Baldwin, Joyce G. Daniel. InterVarsity Press, 1978.

Collins, John Joseph, Frank Moore Cross, and Adela Yarbro Collins. Daniel: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1994.

Goldingay, John. Daniel. Dallas Tex.: Word Books, 1989.

Miller, Stephen R. Daniel. Holman Reference, 1994.

Walvoord, John F. Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation: A Commentary. Moody Publishers, 1971.


  1. Miller 1994, p. 247 
  2. Miller 1994, p. 251 
  3. Miller 1994, p. 257-258 
  4. Goldingay 1989, p. 257-258 
  5. Goldingay 1989, p. 260 
  6. Baldwin 1978, p. 170; Miller 1994, p. 264 
  7. Collins 1994, p. 356; Miller 1994, p. 266-267 
  8. Miller 1994, p. 262-266 
  9. Baldwin 1978, p. 171 
  10. Miller 1994, p. 268-269 
  11. Walvoord 1971, p. 230-231 
  12. Baldwin 1978, p. 171 
  13. Miller 1994, p. 272 
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2 thoughts on “Commentary on Daniel 9

  1. Pingback: Review of Chapter 2 of The End of Christianity | Biblical Scholarship

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