Seventy Weeks - Prayer and Visitation

SynopsisDaniel prays a collective prayer of repentance after contemplating a prophecy of Jeremiah - Daniel 9:1-23. 

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash
The “first year” of Darius the Mede locates the vision of the “Seventy Weeks” in approximately 538 to 537 B.C. This is the same period when Babylon fell to the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians,” as well as the release of the Jewish exiles from Babylon by the decree of Cyrus the Great (536 B.C. - 2 Chronicles 36:22-23Ezra 1:1-11).

The chapter begins with Daniel studying a scroll that contained the book of Jeremiah and the passage that promised the end of the Captivity after seventy years:

(Daniel 9:1-2):
In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerusˎ of the seed of the Medes,—who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans: in the first year of his reignI, Daniel perceived by the writings,—the number of the years as to which the word of Yahweh came unto Jeremiah the prophet, to fulfil the desolations of Jerusalem, seventy years.” – (From the Emphasized Bible).

(Jeremiah 25:8-13):
And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment; and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And when seventy years are accomplished, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation for their iniquity…I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this scroll that Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations.” – (Adapted from the American Standard Version).

For the Prophet Daniel, the “desolation” of the kingdom of Judah began with the subjugation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 606-605 B.C. This means the period of seventy years was nearly over by the time Daniel consulted this text (Daniel 1:1-2).

Daniel understood from the “writings” the number of the years Yahweh required “to accomplish the desolations of Jerusalem, seventy years.” “Writing” is a translation of sepher (Strong’s #H5612), meaning, “scroll.” “Accomplish” represents the Hebrew verb mala or “complete” (Strong’s #H4390), and “desolations” the noun horbah (Strong’s #H2723). The terms “desolation” and “accomplish” are prominent in the prophecy from Jeremiah 25:11-13 (“This whole land shall be desolation (horbah) and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years…And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished (mala)…”).

Daniel refers to the prophecy from the book of Jeremiah the “word of Yahweh,” that is, the dabar (Strong’s #H1697). This term occurs again in Verse 25, “The going forth of the word (‘dabar’) to restore and to build Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:24-27). In fact, the prophecy by Jeremiah is the text on which Chapter 9 begins to build its interpretation of events.

The prophecy from Jeremiah is dated to the “fourth year of Jehoiakim” and the “first year of Nebuchadrezzar.” That is, in 606-605 B.C., the same year referred to at the opening of the book of Daniel. A related word by Jeremiah set the conditions for the release of Judah, a prophecy made after the main deportation of the Jews to Babylon (597 B.C.). It now forms the basis of Daniel’s supplication.

(Jeremiah 29:10-14):
For thus says Yahweh, After seventy years are accomplished for Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word toward you in causing you to return to this place…You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart…and I will turn again your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you.” – (The American Standard Version).

Yahweh promised to release Israel after seventy years but only if she repented, an act Daniel carries out as the representative of his nation. For him, the Captivity began with Nebuchadnezzar’s first attack against Jerusalem in 606-605 B.C. The decree of Cyrus to release the exiles was issued in 536 B.C., that is, seventy years after the deportation of Daniel and his companions to Babylon.

The Confession of Sins

(Daniel 9:3-14):
“So I set my face to the Lord God to seek him by prayer and supplication, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes; Yea, I prayed unto Yahweh my God and made confession and said, ‘I beseech you, O Lord, the great and awesome God, keeping the covenant and the loving kindness to them who love Him and to them who keep His commandments. We have sinned and committed iniquity, and been guilty of lawlessness and rebellious, even departing from your commandments and regulations; and have not hearkened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, rulers, and fathers, and to all the people of the land. To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us the shame of faces, as at this day, to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, the near and the far off, throughout all the lands whither you have driven them in their treachery wherewith they had been treacherous against you. O Yahweh, to us belong the shame of faces, to our kings, to our rulers and to our fathers, in that we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belongs compassions and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him; and have not hearkened to the voice of Yahweh our God to walk in his instructions which he set before us through means of his servants the prophets; yea, all Israel have transgressed your law, even going away so as not to hearken to your voice, therefore were poured out upon us the curse and the oath which had been written in the Law of Moses the servant of God, because we had sinned against him. Thus has he confirmed his words which he had spoken against us and against our judges who had judged us, by bringing in upon us a great calamity, as to which there had not been done under all the heavens, as has been done unto Jerusalem. Even as written in the Law of Moses has all this calamity come in upon us, yet entreated we not the face of Yahweh our God by turning away from our iniquities and by getting intelligence in Your truth. Therefore has Yahweh kept watch for the calamity and brought it in upon us, for righteous is Yahweh our God concerning all his deeds which he has done, seeing that we had not hearkened to his voice.”

This prayer is comprised of two parts – First, a confession of sin (verses 4-14); second, a supplication for mercy and restoration (verses 15-19).

Daniel did not pray for revelation into the meaning of the original prophecy; he understood its predicted time of fulfillment (“I, Daniel, understood by the writings the number of the years…”). Instead, he confessed the sins of Israel in response to the instructions of Jeremiah’s prophecy. The restoration of exiles would occur when they sought Yahweh, “with all your heart.” In both the books of Daniel and Jeremiah, “seek” translates the Hebrew verb baqash (Jeremiah 29:10-14).

The confession expressed sorrow over Israel’s rebelliousness. Daniel acknowledged Yahweh’s covenant faithfulness, mercy, and His righteousness (“O Lord…keeping the covenant and the loving kindness to them who love him”). Israel failed to heed the prophets. No Jew of any social or political rank was exempt from judgment – The entire nation rebelled against Yahweh. Righteousness belonged to God but, the “shame of faces to all Israel, the near and the far off,” all this on account of her “treachery.”

The Babylonian Captivity was the result of the national sins that spanned generations (“all Israel have transgressed your law”). It was the “curse that had been written in the Law of Moses poured out upon us.” The “curse” has in view earlier warnings:

(Leviticus 26:14-39):
But if you will not hearken unto me and will not do all these commandments… I will give your cities to desolation…When I scatter you among the nations and make bare after you a sword. then shall your land become an astonishment and your cities become desolation. Then shall the land be paid her Sabbaths, all the days she lies desolate, while you are in the land of your foes, then shall the land keep Sabbath and pay off her Sabbaths.” – (A.S.V.).
(2 Chronicles 36:20-21):
And he exiled the remnant left from the sword into Babylon, where they became his and his sons as servants until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: to fulfill the word of God by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had paid off her Sabbathsall the days of her lying desolate she kept Sabbath to fulfill seventy years.” – (A.S.V.).

Daniel does not interpret the Captivity as a random event; it was God’s just punishment in accord with “the law of Moses."; however, even after Yahweh’s repeated warnings and punishments, Israel failed to “entreat the face of Yahweh our God by turning away from our iniquities and discerning your truth.” The confession by Daniel is the appropriate response to Israel’s plight.

A Plea for Restoration

(Daniel 9:15-19):
Now therefore, O Lord our God, who brought forth your people out of Egypt with a firm hand and made for yourself a name as at this day, we have sinned, we have been guilty of lawlessness. O Lord, according to all your righteousness I beseech you, let your anger and your indignation turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain, because of our sins and because of the iniquities of our fathers Jerusalem and your people have become a reproach to all who are round about us. Now, therefore, hearken to the prayer of your servant and to his supplications, and let your face shine upon your Sanctuary that is desolate for the sake of your servants, O Lord. Incline, O my God, your ear and hearken, open your eyes and behold our desolations, and the city on which has been called your name; for not on the ground of our own righteousness are we causing our supplications to fall down before you, but on the ground of your abounding mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hearken and perform! Do not delay! For your own sake, O my God, because your own name has been called upon your city and upon your people.” – (A.S.V.).

Daniel supplicated God for the restoration of Israel. His past deliverance of Israel from Egypt was in fulfillment of His covenant promises to Abraham. This supplication appealed to the proven covenant faithfulness of Yahweh. Daniel petitioned Him to turn away his anger from “your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain.
In this context, “holy mountain” refers to Mount Zion and its Temple. Daniel placed the responsibility for Israel’s plight on her sins, not on the Babylonians.
Daniel also pleaded for God to hear his prayer concerning the Sanctuary that was lying “desolate,” as well as concerning the “desolations” of the nation. Both words are derived from the Hebrew term shamem, the verb used in Verse 27 of this chapter for the “abomination that desolates” (Daniel 8:13, 11:31, 12:11). The Temple lay in ruins and the city was left “desolated.” These repeated words not only appeal for the reversal of the “desolation” already afflicted on Israel, furthermore, they anticipate a future “desolation” of the city and Temple that is predicted at the end of this chapter:

(Daniel 9:26-27):
The end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined. And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate

Daniel bases his plea for forgiveness and restoration on the covenant faithfulness of Yahweh (“for not on the ground of our own righteousness are we causing our supplications to fall down before thee, but on the ground of your abounding mercies”).

Gabriel’s Visitation

(Daniel 9:20-23):
And while yet I was speaking and praying and confessing my own sin, and the sin of my people Israel, and causing my supplication to fall down before Yahweh my God concerning the holy mountain of my God; while yet I was speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, wearied with weariness, touched me about the time of the evening offering. Yea, he came and spoke with me and said, O Daniel, now have I come forth to teach you understanding. At the beginning of your supplications came forth a word, I, therefore am arrived to tell because you are a man delighted in, mark then the word and have understanding of the vision.”

Gabriel appeared while Daniel was still praying, the same figure “seen in the vision at the beginning.” This visitation, along with several verbal links, connects this vision to the preceding one about the “little horn” and the defilement of the Sanctuary, the “transgression that desolates.” The connection is critical when interpreting the prophecy of the “Seventy Weeks” (Daniel8:8-18).

The clause, “wearied with weariness” refers to Daniel, not to Gabriel. The angel touched him to relieve his weariness. At the end of his last vision, Daniel found himself “faint and ill.” His weariness is another (conceptual) link to the preceding vision. Gabriel came so he would “understand the vision” from the previous chapter, so now, also, the angel arrives to teach the prophet “understanding.” The verbal and conceptual parallels are deliberate (Daniel 8:15-18, 8:27).
Again, Gabriel is sent to give Daniel understanding. The text refers to “the vision,” however, no vision is described in Chapter 9. The explanation of the “Seventy Weeks” is so he might “understand” the significance of the vision he received already as recorded in Chapter 8.
The prophecy of the “Seventy Weeks” is not a vision but, instead, is given verbally. Furthermore, it builds on the preceding vision about the time when the Sanctuary would be “put right” and the “latter part of the indignation” (Daniel 8:14-19).

A common error when interpreting the “Seventy Weeks” is to overlook the verbal and conceptual links to the previous visions of the book, as well as to its final vision (Daniel 10:1-11:45).

The visions of the last half of the book have common themes and terms, including the “abomination that desolates,” the cessation of the daily sacrifice, and the defilement of the Sanctuary. The explanation of the “Seventy Weeks” is not given in isolation from the rest of the book of Daniel.

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