Daniel 9 – “A Reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s Prophecy”

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I. Summary
Daniel is perplexed by Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jeremiah had said that Jerusalem would only suffer 70 years of desolation). Daniel petitions God on behalf of Jerusalem, and the angel Gabriel comes to speak with him. Among other predictions, Gabriel tells Daniel that when Jeremiah said “seventy years” he actually meant “seventy weeks of years,” i.e. 490 years.

II. Photo
Daniel describes the holy city’s fate: “[God] carried out the threat that He made against us, and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring upon us great misfortune; under the whole heaven there has never been done the like of what was done to Jerusalem.” (v. 12)

III. Important Verses
vv. 1-2: In the first year of Darius son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans — in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, consulted the books concerning the number of years that, according to the word of the LORD that had come to Jeremiah the prophet, were to be the term of Jerusalem’s desolation — seventy years.
vv. 4-6: I prayed to the LORD my God, making confession thus: “O Lord, great and awesome God, who stays faithful to His covenant with those who love Him and keep His commandments! We have sinned; we have gone astray; we have acted wickedly; we have been rebellious and have deviated from Your commandments and Your rules, and have not obeyed Your servants the prophets who spoke in Your name to our kings, our officers, our fathers, and all the people of the land.
vv. 11-13: All Israel has violated Your teaching and gone astray, disobeying You; so the curse and the oath written in the Teaching of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured down upon us, for we have sinned against Him. He carried out the threat that He made against us, and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring upon us great misfortune; under the whole heaven there has never been done the like of what was done to Jerusalem. All that calamity, just as is written in the Teaching of Moses, came upon us, yet we did not supplicate the LORD our God, did not repent of our iniquity or become wise through Your truth.
v. 21: while I was uttering my prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had previously seen in the vision, was sent forth in flight and reached me about the time of the evening offering.

IV. Outline
1-2. Daniel wonders about Jeremiah’s prophecy
3-19. Daniel’s confession/petition
20-27. Gabriel relates the course of history

V. Comment
In chapter 9 Daniel is concerned with the prophecies of Jeremiah, which are spelled out in Jer. 25:11-12, 29:10-14: “This whole land shall be a desolate ruin. And those nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. When the seventy years are over, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation and the land of the Chaldeans for their sins — declares the LORD — and I will make it a desolation for all time… For thus said the LORD: When Babylon’s seventy years are over, I will take note of you, and I will fulfill to you My promise of favor — to bring you back to this place. For I am mindful of the plans I have made concerning you — declares the LORD — plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a hopeful future. When you call Me, and come and pray to Me, I will give heed to you. You will search for Me and find Me, if only you seek Me wholeheartedly. I will be at hand for you — declares the LORD — and I will restore your fortunes. And I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places to which I have banished you — declares the LORD — and I will bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you.”

In regards to Daniel and Gabriel’s discussion, Collins writes: “After Daniel has finished his prayer, an angel appears to him and explains the prophecy. The seventy years are really seventy weeks of years, or 490 years. After seven weeks, the initial restoration of Jerusalem takes place. Then sixty-two weeks pass uneventfully. At the end of this period, an anointed one is cut off. The reference is not to the messiah in the usual sense of the term, but to the anointed high priest Onias III, who was murdered in 171 B.C.E. (see 2 Macc 4:23-28). Then, in the last week, troops come to destroy the city and the sanctuary. They disrupt the sacrificial cult for half of the week. The implication is that from the time that the cult is disrupted, and the ‘desolating abomination’ is installed in the temple, the time remaining is half a week or three and a half years (a time, times, and half a time).” (568)

Collins notes that Daniel 9 is an early and significant example of Biblical interpretation. He writes, “The interpretation of Jeremiah’s prophecy is an important text for the history of apocalyptic speculation about the time of the end. It serves as the basis for such calculations already in the Dead Sea Scrolls… Daniel had discovered a way to defend the reliablity of any prediction. If seventy years could mean seventy weeks of years, could not the weeks of years also have a symbolic value? Speculation as to when the prediction would be fulfilled continued down through the Middle Ages.” (ibid.)

VI. Works Used

(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneaolis: Fortress Press, 2004).

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