In the year 426 B.C., Cyrus, or Darius the Median of Persia, conquered Babylon and slew Belshazzar, and Daniel would then have been in his eighty-seventh year. It was to become a momentous year in the history of Israel, for God had raised up this Persian king to fulfil His purpose concerning His people. We read of this in the opening chapter of Ezra:
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build Him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah (Ezra 1:1,2).
Before this was known by Daniel, however, we find in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 9 that he read in the prophecy of Jeremiah and came to understand that the captivity was to last for seventy years, not from when he was captured, but as from the complete destruction of Jerusalem. This took place some twenty years later when Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, who then finally razed the city to the ground, and completely destroyed the temple. The words in Jeremiah's prophecy that Daniel would read include chapters 25:10-13 and 29:10-14. As a result of his understanding of the prophecy of Jeremiah, Daniel prayed to the Lord God of Israel, which is recorded in verses 3-19 of this chapter.
Daniel's prayer centres on the fact that Israel's terrible desolation is the outcome of rebellion against the Word of God, sent from time to time through the prophets. It is but the fulfilment of the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses. God evidently keeps His word, and Israel have most surely merited their punishment. Yet Daniel reminds the Lord of the mercy He showed to their fathers when He brought them out from the bondage of Egypt, and gave them, as he puts it, 'Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain' (verse 16). God was true to His covenant promises, even though Israel had failed.
There is a beautiful progression in this prayer, and see how Daniel, although remaining absolutely faithful himself both in manner of life and witness in service, associates himself with the idolatrous nation of Israel. 'We have sinned ...' in verse 5: 'Neither have we hearkened ...' in verse 6: '... unto us ...' in verses 7 and 8: 'all Israel near and far' in verse 7: (and so right down to verse 16).
Not until verse 10 is there any link established between Jehovah and His people, then in verse 15 a fuller claim is made: 'This rebellious people' become 'Thy people'. In verse 16 'the desolate city' becomes 'Thy city', 'Thy holy mountain'; in verse 17, 'Thy sanctuary'. Then it all comes pouring out, reserve is abandoned, and before this covenant-keeping God, Daniel pours out his petition in verses 18 and 19:
O my God, incline Thine ear, and hear; ... O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not ....
He throws himself and the people upon the mercies and forgiveness of God, remembering those gracious words recorded in Jeremiah chapter 31, verses 28 and 31-40. So Daniel based his prayer solely on covenant grace, and how swiftly God answers him. Look at verses 20 to 23:
And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.
What a wonderful thing to say about a man -- 'thou art greatly beloved'! Abraham was called 'the friend of God'; David 'a man after God's own heart', and now Daniel -- 'greatly beloved'. What a gracious God we have to speak such words of sinful human beings! 'God so loved the world', that is men and women who live in it, 'that He gave His only begotten Son ...'. That is our God. Can we ever plumb the depth of His love, or the abundance of His grace?
Daniel was then given understanding of what follows:
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression ... and to anoint the most Holy (verse 24).
If we understand the word 'week' in this verse to mean seven days, we have a period of one year and a little over four months are 'determined', or 'cut off', that is divided off from all other years, 'upon thy people', this nation of Israel, 'and upon thy holy city', Jerusalem. If seven days had been intended, however, Daniel would have used the same word as he did in the next chapter 10, verses 2 and 3 -- 'I Daniel was mourning three full weeks' (literally weeks of days) ... 'till three whole weeks were fulfilled' (again weeks of days).
As we have seen, Daniel had come to know from the prophecy of Jeremiah that the captivity would be ended in seventy years after the destruction of Jerusalem in 477 B.C. when king Zedekiah was deported and taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. The revelation given to Daniel, however, was that 'from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks' (verse 25). Then we read 'And after sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off ...'. We know that our Lord was crucified in A.D. 29, and we also know the date when the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem was given. We find this in the Book of Nehemiah 2:1-6.
Nehemiah was one of the princes of Judah who had been taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, but now held the responsible position of cup-bearer to the mighty Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, in the palace of Shushan. This name was merely a title, like the modern word 'Shah'. He was Astyages who married Esther, whose son was Cyrus. The twentieth year of his reign was 454 B.C., but at this time, Jerusalem was still desolate, the bulk of the nation still in captivity, and the temple in ruins.
Now God's prophetic clock does not commence to tick until His people Israel are in covenant relationship with Him. While they are in unbelief, as they are today, and as they were during their captivity in Babylon and Persia, God's prophetic times are not in operation. Not until the people are back in their land, Jerusalem rebuilt, and the temple ready for the presence of the Lord, symbolised by the cherubim and the mercy seat in the holy of holies, can we reckon God's prophetic times. These conditions were fulfilled in 405 B.C. The cutting off of the Messiah took place in 29 A.D., which is four hundred and thirty-four years from 405 B.C. This represents sixty-two sevens, or 62 x 7 years, and therefore the word 'weeks' in Daniel 9:25,26 and 27 must mean weeks of seven years.
In A.D.29 Israel did not become 'lo ammi' -- not My people -- after crucifying their Messiah, for they were, in the mercy of God, given a second chance during the Book of the Acts. This covered a period of thirty-five years, or 5 x 7 of years. 62 + 5 are sixty-seven, so there are still 3 x 7 of years to run their course before Christ returns, rescues his people Israel from their foes, and sets up His kingdom on the earth. As we read in verse 27, the final seven years are divided into two. For three and a half years the world will know peace and plenty, but then Satan's world dictator will show his hand. He will cause 'the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate'. This, as we have read in Daniel 8:9-14, is the little horn that waxes great and magnifies himself against God, His temple, and His sanctuary:
How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed (8:13,14).
Satan's king breaks his word with the people of Israel, and attempts to blot out all signs and evidences of Israel's God. Some authorities of the Hebrew text suggest that 'AL KANAPH' translated 'overspreading' in verse 27, could read 'AL KANNO', 'in its stead'. We would then read 'He shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and in its stead shall stand in the holy place the abomination that maketh desolate'. When the disciples asked the Lord privately 'What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world (age)?', He answers by quoting from the prophet Daniel in Matthew 24.15-31 -- 'When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place ...'. Paul too has this to say in 2 Thessalonians chapter 2:
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God (verses 3,4).
This blasphemy and wicked opposition lasts for a period of three and a half years, as is confirmed in the Book of Revelation 13:5 :
And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.
The prophecy of Daniel chapter 9 ends with the final destruction of the evil one who was the cause of this desolation.