From the Decree to the Messiah
Prophecy is a preview of history. History records the fulfillment of prophecy, assuming, of course, that the histories have been recorded accurately. When we look at the end of the seventy week period prophesied in Daniel 9:24, it is plain to see that the seventieth week began in April of 26 A.D. and ended in April of 33.
So what happened in that seven-year time period? History will tell us how to interpret Gabriel’s words, because history is the fulfillment of prophecy. If history overthrows our doctrinal views, then we ought not to try to impose our views on Scripture by changing the historical record. Instead, we should change our own interpretations to conform to the facts of history. Daniel 9:26 says,
26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
Gabriel’s revelation foretold both the coming of the Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem as if these events would occur virtually at the same time. No time is given to separate the events, but we know from history that Jerusalem was not destroyed until 70 A.D. But this interim was probably unknown to Daniel himself. Perhaps he wondered how the Messiah could come and reign in the midst of Jerusalem’s destruction.
A superficial reading of the passage seems to indicate that the Messiah would come after seven plus sixty-two years, and then Jerusalem would be destroyed one “week” of years later—and the Messiah would be killed as well. An army “of the prince” was to destroy the city and the temple, and the Messiah would be left with “nothing.” This could well have been how Daniel understood the prophecy. But we know from history that this did not happen.
The Messiah Judged Falsely
The Septuagint (LXX) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Its translation was begun about 280 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt, in order to provide the Scriptures for the Greek-speaking Jews who had settled in Alexandria at the invitation of its founder, Alexander the Great. By the first century A.D., the Septuagint was the common version of Scripture used by all who did not understand Hebrew, both Jews and Christians alike.
The Septuagint rendering of Dan. 9:26 is a little different from the Hebrew version. It says, “And after the sixty-two weeks, the anointed one shall be destroyed, and there is no judgment in him.” Based on the Septuagint rendering, The Concordant Version reads, “Messiah will be cut off, and there is no adjudication [justice] for Him.”
In other words, the rabbinical scholars who translated the Septuagint understood this to mean that the coming Messiah was to be mistreated and judged falsely. To adjudicate means to settle by judicial procedure. We know, of course, that Jesus was indeed tried by the high priest on the night before His crucifixion and falsely condemned on a charge of blasphemy. But such night trials were not lawful, so he sent Jesus to Pilate early the next morning for sentencing.
Gabriel’s prophecy implies a trial for the Messiah, but that He would not receive justice in the eyes of God.
The Seventieth Week
Dan. 9:26 tells us what was to happen “after the sixty-two weeks,” but it does not specify any specific timing for the cutting off the Messiah and the travesty of the judicial process. We know from history, of course, that He was crucified on Abib 14 of 33 A.D., precisely seventy weeks after Ezra set out on his journey to Jerusalem. Ezra’s preparations began on the first day of the first month (Abib 1), and he actually began his journey on Abib 12, as we already saw.
Jesus was crucified 490 years and 2 days after Ezra actually began his journey (reckoning by the Hebrew calendar).
Establishing the Covenant
Dan. 9:27 (LXX) gives more precise timing, while telling us of the covenant that the Messiah was to make:
27 And one week shall establish the covenant with many; and in the midst of the week my sacrifice and drink offering shall be taken away; and on the temple shall be the abomination of desolations; and at the end of the time an end shall be put to desolation.
The Hebrew version makes the Messiah the cause of these events, whereas the Septuagint just makes the event happen in a passive manner. Regardless, we know that all events are caused by something and do not just happen by themselves.
The first part of the verse tells us that “the covenant” would be established some time during this “week.” From a Christian perspective, we see this as the New Covenant, ratified by His blood on the cross. This is consistent with Dan. 9:24, where Gabriel said that the final purpose of the seventy weeks was “to anoint the most holy place.”
The Most Holy Place was “anointed” with blood each year on the Day of Atonement. I have found no record that any other agent was to anoint the Most Holy Place other than blood. It was a blood anointing, or baptism, because blood was what was needed to ratify the New Covenant. This was not a seven-year event, but a momentary ratification that occurred when He entered the Most Holy Place in the temple in heaven, carrying His own blood. We read of this in Heb. 9:11-15,
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is, to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant….
Gabriel says nothing of an “antichrist” making this covenant. Such a view destroys the entire context of the passage. The focus of the prophecy is entirely upon the work of the Messiah on the cross, as we have seen from verse 24. The only other people who figure prominently in the passage are “the people of the prince” who were to destroy the city and the sanctuary. We know from history that these were the Romans, so their “prince” was the Roman Caesar.
Gabriel also says that this covenant would be established “with many.” This prophetic term was used later in Rom. 5:15, 19. Paul shows that “the many” is to be contrasted with “the one.” He explains and defines these terms in Rom. 5:16-18. In essence, he shows how one man’s sin affected “the many,” and how one Man’s righteous act also affected “the many.” In both cases, “the many” are the same group of people. “Many” is not meant to be understood in a limited sense (i.e., many, but not all). In verses 18, in fact, Paul says,
18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
Hence, Paul applies Gabriel’s word about “the many” to “all men.” This is obvious, because Paul was comparing Adam to the Last Adam (Christ) and the effects of their actions upon all men. The point is that it appears that Paul was using Gabriel’s terminology about “the many” in showing that Christ’s work in establishing the New Covenant was to affect “all men.”
The Desolation of Jerusalem
Dan. 9:26 speaks of two events in some sort of sequence, but does not give us any clue about timing. First, the Messiah was to be “cut off and have nothing.” Secondly, the city would be destroyed by “the people of the prince,” which proved to be the Roman army. Daniel could not have known (apart from some unwritten revelation) that forty years would separate these two events (30-70 A.D.), as we will explain later.
Gabriel implies, by this sequence, that the two events are related by cause and effect. Certainly, Jesus took it in this way, for as we showed in our study of Luke, Book 5, The Warning, He warned the people of the coming destruction of Jerusalem on account of their rejection of the Messiah. In other words, the lack of justice at Jesus’ trial caused the destruction of Jerusalem and the land of Judea.
Speaking of Jerusalem, Gabriel said that “its end will come with a flood.” The Hebrew word picture presented here is not a literal flood of water, for history makes no mention of such an event in the destruction of Jerusalem. Nonetheless, it paints a picture of Noah’s flood that destroyed “all flesh” (Gen. 6:17). But Gabriel uses the term as a metaphor in the sense found in Prov. 27:4,
4 Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood; but who can stand before jealousy?
In other words, Jerusalem was consumed by a flood of soldiers, because the city had incurred the anger of the Roman government. This is supported by Gabriel’s next statement, “even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.”
The Septuagint reads, “and to the end of the war which is rapidly completed, he shall appoint the city to desolations.” In other words, the war would not drag on for a long time but would be “rapidly completed.” In 70 A.D. Jerusalem was surrounded on the morning of Passover, and it was destroyed on the 9th of Av just a few months later.
Perhaps the most significant part of this prophecy is that it speaks of the “desolation” of Jerusalem. This is the context in which we must understand the idea of the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15). To be desolate literally means to be deserted or devoid of something, such as vegetation or people. It can also be applied to one who is astonished, appalled, astounded, awestruck, or stunned. This gives the term a double meaning, because it implies that men will be stunned at the desolation of Jerusalem.
But Gabriel says that “desolations are determined.” The Hebrew word translated “determined” is from charats, which, as we have already shown, means to cut with a sharp instrument, or (legally) to decree a verdict. In this case, God was to decree this desolation upon Jerusalem by His verdict. From Jesus’ words in the New Testament, we see that this desolation decree was issued as a direct result of the nation’s rejection of Him as Messiah.