Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.
The Prophet Daniel
In my first article on Daniel’s prophecy about the seventy weeks, I explained the two prevalent Christian interpretations of the prophecy. In my second article, I explained that, although Christians begin counting the 490 years from Artarxerxes’ decree (444 BC), it is possible that the counting should begin from Cyrus’s decree (538 BC to 536 BC).
Of course, the main reason why Christians want to count the 490 years from the decree of Artarxerxes is that they want the count to end in the times of Jesus since they believe Jesus is the Messiah and since they believe the prophecy is about the Messiah.
In this article, I want to examine whether the prophecy is really about the Messiah. To do this, we are going to look at the context of the prophecy and at the content of the prophecy.
Context of The Prophecy
The ninth chapter in the book of Daniel begins by telling us that, by reading the book of Jeremiah, Daniel understood that the devastation of Jerusalem would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12, Jeremiah 29:10).
In Jeremiah 11-12, God said that He would bring Nebuchadnezzar against the nations of that land, and that the nations of the land (including Israel) would serve Nebuchadnezzar 70 years. Then, after the 70 years were fulfilled, God would punish the king of Babylon and the Babylon.
In Jeremiah 29:10. God said that He would bring Israel back to their land as soon as the 70 years had passed.
Now, the devastation of which Daniel spoke had taken place in 586 BC, when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and its temple. Moreover, the temple was rebuilt in 516 BC.
In response to Daniel’s prayers, Gabriel gave Daniel the prophecy about the 70 weeks (Daniel 9:24-27). According to Gabriel (Daniel 9:24), 70 weeks (or heptads) had been determined for the following things to happen:
- (1) Put an end to the transgression
- (2) Make an end of sin
- (3) Make atonement for guilt
- (4) Bring everlasting righteousness
- (5) Seal up the vision
- (6) Seal up the prophet
- (7) Anoint the holy place of holy places (the most holy place)
Notice that the things that would happen at the end of the 490 years are actually related to what Daniel requested:
- (1) Putting an end to Israel’s transgression
- (2) Making an end of Israel’s sin
- (3) Making atonement for Israel’s guilt
- (4) Bringing everlasting righteousness (the kingdom promised to Israel in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7)
- (5) Sealing up the vision and (6) the prophet (fulfilling the prophecies of Jeremiah and Daniel)
- (7) Anointing the holy place of holy places (the most sacred section of a temple)
Because Daniel had been praying for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its temple, it appears that the prophecy is telling Daniel that his prayers will be answered after 490 years (plus desolations) are accomplished.
Details of The Prophecy
As we look at the prophecy, we need to consider some important details.
Division of The Seventy Weeks (Heptads)
The seventy weeks are not necessarily divided into two periods (one period of 7 heptads and 62 heptads, and a second period of 1 heptad), as the King James Version and the New King James Version indicate.
Why would the first period be presented as 7 heptads and 62 heptads instead of being presented as 69 heptads? The more logical reason is that the 7 heptads are a distinct period from the 62 heptads.
In his article on Daniel’s 70 weeks, Rabbi Tovia Singer argues that the passage is talking about three distinct periods (one period of 7 heptads, another period of 62 heptads, and a third period of 1 heptad).
Moreover, The English Standard Version translates the passage has three periods: one period of 7 heptads, a second period of 62 heptads, and a third period of 1 heptad.
Assuming that the correct translation is that which points to three different periods of heptads, the anointed one in Daniel 9:25 cannot be the same anointed one as in Daniel 9:26. One anointed one came after 7 heptads (49 years), and the other anointed was cut off 62 heptads later (that is, 434 years later).
Although many Bible versions and translations follow the King James Version’s translation of this passage with good intentions, it is always best to provide the more precise translation of the passage.
Meaning of משיח
It is also important to notice that, although the King James Version and the New King James Version (along with other Bible versions or translations) use the word Messiah in this prophecy, the word that appears in the Hebrew text (משיח) can also simply mean anointed and refer to any prophet, king, or priest (they were literally anointed with oil to carry out their office).
The word Messiah (although it literally means anointed) stands for a specific biblical figure in Jewish and Christian eschatology. However, when the word משיח appears in the biblical text, the reader must decide (by understanding the context) whether the word stands for the Messiah or some other anointed one.
So then, by using the word Messiah in this chapter, the translators of the King James Version and the New King James Version have not only translated the passage for the reader, but they have also interpreted the passage for the reader. However, because many readers are not aware of this issue, they assume that the passage is really talking about the Messiah (The Christ), when it is completely possible that the passage is not talking about the Messiah.
In light of these considerations, it seems likely then that the correct translation of Daniel 9:24-27 is that provided by the English Standard Version:
"24 Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
Notice that, according to this translation, there are three periods:
- Period 1: The word is given, 7 heptads pass, an anointed one comes
- Period 2: For 62 heptads, the city stands built, and then an anointed one is cut off
- Period 3: He makes a strong covenant with many for one week; but, halfway through the week, he puts an end to sacrifice and offering.
- Afterwards, one who makes desolate comes until the decreed end is poured on him.
Notice also that, instead of the passage talking about the Messiah, it talks about 2 anointed ones.
Is Jesus The Most Holy in Verse 24?
It is also important to note that, although the King James Version and the New King James Version mention in here 24 the anointing of the Most Holy, the English Standard Version mentions anoint the “most holy place.” The reason for the English Standard Version translating it this way is that, literally, the passage actually says “anointing the holy of holies,” which is what the Hebrew Bible calls the most holy place in the tabernacle or temple.
What The Prophecy Does Not Say
Is the prophecy about Daniel’s 70 weeks really about the Messiah? Most likely, it is not. While the second anointed one could be the Messiah, he is not identified as such in the passage.
Moreover, elsewhere in the book of Daniel, the Messiah is not called "Messiah," but "one like a son of man" (Daniel 7:13, ESV)
Moreover, apart from the passage mentioning that the second anointed one would be “cut off”after week 69, there really is no mention about the Messiah being born of a virgin, living a sinless life, teaching about God, doing miracles, dying for our sins, and rising from the dead.
Instead, Gabriel appears to have been telling Daniel that, although the second temple would be rebuilt, it would also be destroyed; and that, after the 70 weeks (heptads) were over, Daniel’s prayer would be answered, and a new most holy place (a new holy of holies) would be anointed: in other words, there would be a third temple.
Of course, some will have a problem with what I have said so far: that this prophecy is not about the Messiah. However, consider this: the New Testament never uses Daniel 9:26-27 to argue that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah (the Christ). Maybe the writers of the New Testament knew something we do not.
At this point, then, we should realize that this prophecy is most likely not about the Messiah himself. This, of course, does not necessarily mean that Christianity is wrong and that Judaism is right. In reality, both religions have some explaning to do regarding this passage: for example, whether that third temple was ever built after the 490 years.
In reality, I think there are ways to tie this prophecy to the Messiah, so I invite you to follow my profile so you can receive a notification of when I publish my next article on this prophecy.
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© 2022 Marcelo Carcach