My daily exploration of the Bible, taking it one chapter at a time. If I do it everyday, it'll take 1189 days.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Daniel 9

Prayers and sevens

Daniel knew from Jeremiah that the exile would last 70 years. Daniel confessed Israel's sins and rebellion. Israel had suffered just as Moses said. Daniel pleaded for forgiveness for Jerusalem.

When he was praying, Gabriel came and told Daniel that Israel had seventy 'sevens' (weeks?) to clean up their sin. After Jerusalem is ordered to be rebuilt there will be an anointed one after seven 'sevens' and sixty-two 'sevens'. After sixty-two 'sevens'', the anointed will have nothing. There will be an evil covenant for a seven, in the middle of which sacrifices will stop and the temple desecrated.

Key verse:
18. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.

My thoughts:
This key verse plays a big part in my prayers to God when I ask for stuff. I don't deserve it, but I know God is merciful.

Anywho, the 'sevens' stuff is intentionally cryptic by the author. There are many theories on the intertubes about what they mean, and many people will associate them with endtimes. You can look them up on the internet, as I don't have time. Either that, or you can wait a few hours for Deane's interpretation in a comment! Like clockwork.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete, its James from Soul Time. Just wanted to say good work on keeping this blog up. I am seriously impressed. I love you man.

10:57 am

Anonymous Deane said...

Anywho, the 'sevens' stuff is intentionally cryptic by the author ... you can wait a few hours for Deane's interpretation in a comment! Like clockwork.

I exist in order to enhance your reading pleasure, O Pete.

The 70 sevens may be just figurative of the time between 588 BC and 170 BC. That's a possibility. Apocalyptic writing is "cryptic" and polysemous, you're right. Yet, it can include quite specific references (see Rev 17). Given the closeness of the fit, I suspect the author of Daniel 9 may even have calculated the period at 490 (70 x 7) years.

Daniel 9.24-27 takes us from the time of Jeremiah's 'word' going out (588/87 BC), to the time of "an anointed prince" / "Messiah the Prince" / King Cyrus (538 BC), to a time after 62 weeks when "an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing." This final week commences with the cutting of an 'anointed one': from the time of the murder of Onias III (at the end of 170s BC) to the time of the purification of the Temple (in 164 BC).

The remainder of the ex eventu 'prophecy' in Daniel 9.24-27 is completely 'fulfilled' by Antiochus' actions. When Antiochus invades Israel and sacks the Temple, the 'prophecy' in Daniel 9.26 that stated "the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary" is fulfilled. When Antiochus chooses the Tobiad family and Jason as the new high priest to replace Onias III, he makes "a strong covenant with many for one week." After Jason wrongly hears that Antiochus had died in battle in Egypt, Jason forsakes his covenant with Antiochus (Daniel 11:30). So, midway through these seven years (Daniel 9.27; cf. 7.25; 8.14, 26; 12.7), the "enraged" Antiochus concludes there is a revolt, and makes a violent response: violating and plundering the Temple (Daniel 11.31; 1 Maccabees 1.20-23), and banning traditional Jewish practice by ordering an end to all sacrifice (Daniel 9.27; cf. 7.25; 8.11-13; 11.31; 1 Maccabees 1.41-53), and even making the Temple an altar for Baal / Zeus - the "abomination that desolates" or "desecrating sacrilege" (Daniel 9.27; 8.11-13; 11.31; 1 Maccabees 1.54-55).

Of course, the 69 sevens (490 years) do not fit into the 588 BC to 170 BC timeframe - the 69 sevens is 72 years too much. And we shouldn't expect them to get it right. The Jews couldn't count (at least when it came to dating). For example in Daniel 11.2 Daniel includes only four kings in the Persian Empire before the Macedonian conquest. Interestingly, this is a common problem for contemporary and later histories. In Bell Jud 6.4.8 Josephus calculates the time from the second building of the Temple (the second year of Cyrus) to the destruction of the Second Temple to be 639 years. He adds 33 years too many! In Ant 20.10 Josephus calculates the time from the return from Exile (the first year of Cyrus) to Antiochus V Eupator (164-162 BC) to be 414 years. He is 41 years out. And then in Ant 13.11.1 he calculates the time from the return to Aristobul I (105-104 BC) to be 481 years. He has added 49 years this time. Demetrius calculates 573 years from the exile of the 10 tribes (722 BC) to Ptolemaios IV (222 BC). He over-cooked it by 70 years (quite close to Daniel). So there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that the author of Daniel was working from an incorrect chronology.

And there is also the possibility that the 69 sevens were not interpreted literally at all. The 70 sevens are connected with the prophecy of Jeremiah that the Exile will endure 70 years. 2 Chronicles 36.21 interprets the Exile as a required period of righteousness for the country to "pay off its Sabbaths" - which is also taken up in Daniel 9.24 ("to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness"). Just as the regnal years of the Judean kings from Solomon to Zedekiah (who disobeyed Yahweh) totaled 434 years, the people were asked to live righteously according to the commandments of Yahweh for a compensating equal number of years. Whether this is the rationale for the 434 (62 sevens) period or not, it illustrates that there may have been some symbolic understanding to the period of 434 years, despite it not being literally true.

11:59 am

Blogger Pete W said...

Cheers James! Man, I so don't keep in contact with enough people from England. Send me an email sometime on with what you're up to!

Deane, interesting observations. BTW, I really do enjoy Hebrew. It is so much fun. Especially when James is teaching.

7:53 pm


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