A Premillennial Historicist Study of the Book of Daniel
It has been almost 20 years since I wrote the main part of this article below. And more than 10 years since I updated it in 2006. However, in 2017 I will be preaching through the whole book of Daniel in the church where I serve as pastor. The results of my study will be made available in an edited collection of the Daniel sermons sometime in 2017. A lot of the details of interpretation havne't changed for me, but there have been some significant changes in my understanding of certain parts of the book of Daniel that have brought me a clearer understanding of the whole book: specifically of chapters 8, 11, and 12. So as you consider the interpretation of those chapters presented in this article below, please bear in mind that I have changed my mind in some ways. Thanks for your patience!
The book of
Daniel has been divided since it was written into 12 chapters. But the author
wrote the book in four distinct sections: chapter 1 - a narrative section introducing
the author and the setting; chapter 2 - a prophetic section introducing the
panorama of foretold history inaugurated in the events of Daniel's lifetime and
consummated in a future Kingdom of God; chapters 3-6 - a narrative section
detailing key events during Daniel's life in Babylon: the deliverance of three
of his friends from Nebuchadnezzar's idolatrous pride; the arrogance of the
king and the judgment of God upon him; the ruin of Belshazzar and the capture
of Babylon by the Persians; and the deliverance of Daniel from the plot of his
enemies. Chapters 7-12 contain the fourth section of the book which is
prophetic and the most difficult portion of the book to interpret. This section
includes a vision that parallels the vision of the statue in chapter 2 with
much added detail; a vision that traces foretold history from the rise to
dominance of the Greek Empire to the end of "the indignation" during
which the "holiness and host" are trampled; Daniel's prayer and the
answering "seventy weeks prophecy"; the last of the portions of the
long prophetic section in Dan 7-12 stretches from chapter 10 to chapter 12 in
an unusually literal and detailed foretelling of history terminating in the
event of the resurrection (12:2,3).
It is this entire prophetic section of chapters 7-12 which pose the greatest difficulty for interpreters and therefore my post will concentrate on this section while situating it for the sake of understanding in the context of what was revealed by God in the other prophetic section of Daniel (chapter 2) and illuminated by the narrative portions of the book. Any other approach to Daniel that rips certain (and extremely controversial and difficult) prophecies out of context without consideration to the message of the book as a whole must be judged as completely unsatisfactory. This, after all, is a debate about eschatology-concerning "last things". This portion of the debate is to present each eschatological system's interpretation of the prophecies in Daniel. To ignore certain prophecies as irrelevant is to dismiss them on the basis of a prejudiced assumption about their meaning. In other words, a conclusion is offered to the readers of this debate that these ignored sections have nothing to do with "last things" without offering any evidence or argument for that assumption.
The following discussion of the major prophecies in chapters 7-12 relies on the reader's familiarity with the introductory prophecy of chapter 2. It should be noted that the subsequent prophecies, following on the principle of progressive revelation, expand and add detail to the prophecy of chapter 2. In other words, the chronology prophesied in chapter 2 is the primary chronology--the schedule into which all the other prophecies in Daniel are placed.
Daniel begins with a historical reference:
Most evangelical scholars agree that this was around the year 606 B.C., or some 115 (of our) years after the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to the Assyrians. This historical context is extremely important for understanding Daniel's message since it situates the events of this book in the wider history of God's dealings with the nation of Israel. The disastrous history of the Nation and the consequences of their rebellion were foretold by Moses in Leviticus 26:14-39. A particular portion of Moses' prophecy here applies to the events of Daniel's lifetime:
The prophet Ezekiel, during his captivity in Babylon warned that the Temple in Jerusalem would shortly be destroyed because of the sins of the nation. His words offer a second and more explicit prediction of that in Lev 26:19:
But as was made clear by Moses and the prophets, the nation would persist in their rebellion until a final destruction and dispersion. The same passage in Leviticus 26 goes on:
This is the prophetic/historical place of Daniel in the life of the nation of Israel. It is at a point of crisis and judgment, but not the final point of ruin and desolation that had been foretold. That this was clear to the prophet Daniel is shown by his study of the prophecies of Jeremiah in chapter 9:
So Daniel prayed to the Lord repenting for himself and the exiled nation and pleading for restoration and forgiveness. In answer to his prayer, the angel came to Daniel to reveal to him that the nation would be restored (9:25) but that a time-limit is apportioned for
to bring their rebellion to an end-otherwise greater desolation would
follow as foretold by Moses. More will be said about the prophecy of chapter 9
This leads me to comment on the division of the book of Daniel into two languages: 1:1-2:3 are written in Hebrew; 2:4 to the end of chapter 7 are in Aramaic; and 8:1 to the end of the book are in Hebrew again. Thus it is reasonable given the content of these three sections to conclude that the Hebrew portions primarily concern Daniel's people Israel, while the Aramaic portions concern the Gentile nations that would for a time have dominion over the Jews.
Daniel 1:1-2:3 introduces the writings of this prophet and places them properly in the story of the nation of Israel. Israel has lost her king. She is now controlled by a foreign nation and will be until the last times. Individually, Daniel and his friends are now living in the house of a pagan king, in his service. This section tells the story of the Israelites. For this reason this section is written in Hebrew.
However, Daniel 2:4 begins a section written in Aramaic-a Gentile
language-that describes the actions of God through history as Gentile kingdoms
are allowed to trample under-foot the nation of Israel. The main characters are
now pagan Gentiles.
It is appropriate that the Gentile section begins with a panoramic overview of Gentile history from that point forward to the last times. Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the statue foretells a succession of Gentile empires. The period starts with a relatively noble king and empire-the gold head personified by King Nebuchadnezzar. Then the empires deteriorate all the way to being poorly mixed with clay. Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The Roman dominion lasts until the Kingdom of God replaces and destroys all the kingdoms of men and extends its rule over all Creation. However, the Roman dominion goes through a dramatic transition: the first phase is as a solid, iron, unified empire; the second is as a divided, weakened entity mixed with other peoples. However, all of these centuries foreseen here are dominated by Gentile, not Jewish, rule-right up until the Kingdom of God. This whole period, then, is what Jesus referred to in Luke 21:24 as, "the times of the gentiles". It is during this long era of history characterized by Gentile dominance that Jerusalem, according to Jesus' prediction, would be trampled under foot by the Gentiles. At the end of this era Jerusalem would logically be freed from Gentile rule and alternatively be under Jewish rule. So there is a "sign of the times" to be learned here: the end of the Times of the Gentiles will coincide with the rise of the Jewish nation; the rise of the Jewish nation would accompany the decline of the last of the Gentile empires (the 10 kingdoms of Western Europe) and shortly precede the coming of the everlasting Kingdom of God.
Babylon did give way to the empire of the Medes and the Persians, and they were conquered by Greece. Greece in turn was conquered by Rome, which ruled and trampled down the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem until the fifth century AD. At that time Rome succumbed to the Barbarian tribes pressing in on her borders. The last of the Caesars fell in 476. The territory of Rome was claimed by various barbarian tribes. Within a short time the Western Roman Empire-the part that was never part of the Babylonian, Persian or Grecian empires-was controlled by the kingdoms of the Lombards, Franks, Burgundians, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vandals, Heruli, Sueves, Huns and Saxons. This state of affairs will continue, as predicted, until the Kingdom of God. There are still 10 "kingdoms" ruling the former Roman territory-the names and make-up of those nations have changed, but there are still 10: Italy, Austria, Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Luxemburg, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal. It will be during the time of these "kings" that God will set up His Kingdom which will never end.
Chapter 3 details the familiar story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and their refusal to worship any god except the LORD God. The first thing to notice is the similarity between the image of gold built by Nebuchadnezzar and the identification by Daniel, in chapter 2, of the head of gold. Daniel told the king that the head of gold in his vision represented the kingdom of Babylon under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar himself. So whether this knowledge went to the king's head or not, the similarity may be intended by Daniel as a type. If so, the type probably teaches that during the whole Times of the Gentiles, the era predicted by the statue in chapter 2, those Jews who are faithful to Yahweh alone will be preserved and not only preserved, but would enjoy the supernatural presence of Yahweh Himself with them in the midst of their tribulations.
Chapter 4 continues Nebuchadnezzar's story-in his words there came another time when he forgot that he ruled as YHWH allowed. Because of his pride and arrogance God gave him a "beast's mind" while "seven times" passed over him (4:16). The punishment would come to an end when the king recognized that the Most High is the King of kings and gives dominion over humankind to whomever He wishes (4:25). This happened to him as predicted, and he became like a beast while seven periods of time passed by (4:32), and then God gave him back his mind and he gave God the glory (4:34-37).
Chapter 5 narrates the decline and fall of the Babylonian kingdom (as predicted in the vision of chapter 2) and the rise of the Medes and the Persians (5:30-31).
Chapter 6 witnesses to the continued service of Daniel under Persian rule and the opportunity the people of God have to testify to the glory of the God of Israel in spite of their national humiliation (6:25-28).
Chapter 7 parallels chapter 2 in many ways: a panoramic vision of the
history of Gentile dominion over the Jews until the Kingdom of God. But some
important details are added. We have seen through chapters 2-6 that God
preserves a remnant of His faithful saints to bear witness to Him even while
the nation of Israel is punished and humiliated. Daniel served in this way in
his captivity. Chapter 7 adds the information that even at the end of the
kingdoms of the Gentiles there will still be a faithful remnant, the
"saints" (7:18, 21, 22, 25 and 27).
As Nebuchadnezzar became like a beast while he refused to acknowledge the Most High God, the Gentile empires are pictured as beasts. They would become more and more beast like until the last, the Roman, would not even resemble a created beast, but a man-made monster (7:19).
The beasts who are conquered, while losing their dominion, do remain in place submissive to those that follow. They are allowed to survive until the Kingdom of God replaces all human rule (7:12). Thus, the territory ruled by the 10 horns (ten kings) that grow out of the Roman monster is that area only ruled by Rome and never by Babylon, Persian, or Greece. They grow out of the Roman beast and none of the other beasts (7:20, 24). Therefore these 10 kingdoms are the same European kingdoms that rose up from the ruins of the Roman empire in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. AS you can see from verse 24, the number of kingdoms in the Roman territory would sometimes fluctuate, but by the coming of the Kingdom of God there would again be the full number of 10 (2:41-44 make clear that the Kingdom of God comes in the "days of those kings"; 2:34-35 picture the stone of God's Kingdom crashing down on the feet of ten toes).
The last Gentile power to have dominion over God's people is the little horn that grows up just after the 10 kingdoms appear.
He is different from the other 10 kings (7:24). Much worse than simply refusing to acknowledge the Most High God, this king is more beast-like than all his predecessors: he will
However he impersonates a faithful servant of the Most High, claiming to serve while he blasphemes. In this way he has some of the look of a man (7:8). And the saints will be given into this blasphemous king's hand for 3 ½ times. In chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar became like a beast for 7 times. I believe he typified the entire history of Gentile dominion: it would all be beast-like in this way and its duration would be for a full "seven periods of time". The duration of this last blasphemous king having dominion over the saints would be for the last half of that whole 7 times of the Gentiles.
The sequence of the events of these prophecies suggest that the little blasphemous horn and the other 10 kings appear just after the collapse of the unified Roman Empire. That took place fully and finally in 476 AD. Historians agree that there have been an average of 10 kingdoms/countries in that formerly Roman territory ever since. The history of that period of the fall of Rome also testifies that in the vacuum of power left by the fallen caesars, the people of the city of Rome turned to the only other stable authority they knew: the Bishop of Rome. By the year 606 with the decree of the Emperor of Constantinople, Phocas, the Bishop of Rome was granted supreme religious authority over all of Europe and Byzantium. In this way the ruler of Rome became different from the other European kings: he was a political head in Rome, and he was a religious head in all of Europe. Called, "papa" or "pope" by the citizens of Rome, the Pope continued to be the ruler of the city of Rome until Victor Emmanuel, the King of Italy seized the city of Rome as the capitol of Italy in 1876. Since then, the Pope is only a religious figure-head. He no longer has military, political, temporal dominion. The time of his temporal reign, during which time he had dominion over God's people, can be measured, for example, from 606 AD until 1876 AD: 1260 years (Dan 7:25, 12:7, Rev 11:2-3, 12:6, 14, 13:5).
This period of the reign of what we call "the antichrist". Although this word does not appear in any apocalyptic prophecy at all, it is a fitting Christian description for the blasphemy of the little horn and the mouth-piece of the Beast (Rev 13:5). The word, "antichrist" does not simply mean "enemy of Christ" but by usurping or taking Christ's place he is manifestly Christ's enemy:
The Pope of the Roman Church does precisely this, and has long been recognized as a usurper within the Christian church:
However, it is now apparent that the time allowed by God for the Roman bishop/king to
is long over. The prophecy said nothing about the timing of his destruction, only of his dominion over the saints. So the persecution's over but he's still here. But the time is coming when the Son of Man will receive the Kingdom (7:13-14) and the saints, the people of the Most High, will reign with Him (7:18, 22, 27).
HEBREW SECTION For an updated and more thorough study of Daniel chapter 8, see An Historicist Exposition of Daniel 8, by Joe Haynes (2014)
Chapter 8 concerns the
For an updated and more thorough study of Daniel chapter 8, see An Historicist Exposition of Daniel 8, by Joe Haynes (2014)
The phrase can be more understood in English translated as,
The word, "place" is not in that verse any more than it is in Dan 9:24. The Aramaic in Dan 7:18 speaks of the saints as "holies of God" or "holy ones of God". Revelation 13:7 is equivalent where "holies" is translated, "saints". Here in Daniel 8 I believe the noun is collective to refer to the nation of Israel as a whole, but in connection with their land. The nation is trampled in the sense that their land is trampled underfoot by the enemy portrayed in chapter 8. In particular it is the "foundation of the holy place" or "the established place of the sanctuary" that falls into the hands of this enemy. The main thrust of chapter 8 is not about the enemy but about the trampling of Jerusalem. Verse 14 gives the duration of its trampling. The time would be 2300 mornings and evenings. The end of that time would see the restoration of Jerusalem-NOT the "temple". The word for "Temple", "hêkal" is not used in this passage. Instead simply "the foundation of the holy place" referring more generically to Jerusalem the headquarters, as it were, of the worship of the Most High by His people Israel. From the transition pictured in vv 4-5, the 2300 (lunar or solar) years might be measured from the beginning of the Persian offensive of Xerxes against the Greeks (480 BC) or from as late as Alexander's conquest of Persia (331 BC). 2300 lunar years from any of the major events within that range bring us to the era of gradual Jewish liberation and the Zionist movement in Europe and the Middle East. Jesus said Jerusalem would be
The horn that grows out of a horn that replaces Alexander's prominent horn on the Greek goat, I believe is Islam. It did arise out of the Arabian peninsula, a commercial territory of the Ptolemies-one of the four horns that replaced Alexander. And the important dates of Jewish restoration up until the Balfour Declaration do coincide with the demise and collapse of the last Islamic Empire, the Turkish Empire. Still there is much to study and learn here.
In the time since I first wrote the preceding paragraph, I believe the Holy Spirit may have given me a small insight into the beginning and ending points of the 2300 prophetic days (fulfilled as historic years). Verse 8 describes the breaking of the prominent horn representing the dynasty of Philip, Alexander's father, which included Alexander and his son. That dynasty was broken at the death of Alexander's son, at which time Alexander's four generals parcelled up the empire. The year of the formal division of the Greek Empire into four dynastic kingdoms was 301 BC. Dating from that year, 2300 calendar years (luni-solar harmonizations consisting of 360 days each, or 12 30-day months) comes to 1967 AD, the year of the famous "Six Day War" in which Israel gained control of the whole city of Jerusalem for the first time since the time of Daniel. Some people would object to this observation, but let me point out that at the time of Christ, for example, while Jews lived in and worshipped in Jerusalem and in the temple there, the city itself was under Roman rule. It was still being trampled by the Gentiles. After 1967, Jerusalem has been fully under Jewish rule, though it is still inhabited by many Muslims, and though the Muslims worship on the site of the old Jewish Temple. If the situation in 30 AD could be described as part of the "times of the Gentiles" by Jesus in Luke 21:24, the situation after 1967 could not.
c.f. Deut 16:20; Deut 25:15 only the "just" will inherit the
What is the "regular sacrifice" mentioned in verse 12 and elsewhere? In Hebrew, the word "sacrifice" is not present. The phrase is really just the Hebrew word meaning "continual". "The continual" is not burnt offerings, but the whole regular worship of God - in this case the regular public worship of God. Verse 12 says that the host, or the nation of Israel described in military terms, will be "trampled" as the result of their transgression. Verse 13 expands on this point of view to say that the vision is principally about the regular worship of God. During the Old Testament era we would think of that as consisting of the regular sacrifice and ritual temple worship in Jerusalem. In the New Testament era we would rightly interpret the same phrase as the regular and proper worship of Christ Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Covenant and the one who "did away" with the regular sacrifices in the temple:
The period during which regular worship in both eras is interrupted with regard to the nation of Israel is referred to as being "while the transgression causes horror", or the tribulations of ethnic Israel during their scattering among the nations of earth.
At Christ's instruction, Gabriel interpreted this vision for Daniel, beginning in verse 17. Verse 19 makes clear that this vision describes the final stages of Israel's tribulation and scattering. "The latter period of the indignation," the focus of the interpretation, is on the final stages of the Greek Empire and its demise, c.f., v 23.
Verses 20-22 briefly set the stage for the main focus of the vision, the last stages of Israel's tribulation, which begins in verse 23. In verse 23, the "latter part of their kingdom" refers to the time of the Byzantine Empire. It is not their "kingdoms" but their "kingdom" (singular) picturing a time when the four dynasties that succeeded Alexander would be collectively represented by a single Greek Kingdom. (Cachemaille, 61) It is during the time of the Byzantines that this "king will arise" who will be insolent and powerful, supernaturally powerful, and even outrightly opposed to Christ Jesus, the Prince of princes. This "king" is Islam under the headship of Mohammed and his successors, the Caliphs. Thus in verse 17, the "time of the end" refers to the final stages of the tribulations of Israel during which era Jerusalem would be under Muslim rule, i.e., the Turks and Ottomans. Verse 24 succinctly refers to the destruction of the old and powerful Byzantine Empire, unconquerable for over a thousand years, by the Muslims. This destruction also included many "holy ones" or saints, Christians living in Constantinople at the time. It also brought to an end the regular and proper worship of Christ in Constantinople, fulfilling the prediction of the removal of "the continual" in verse 11. As an example of this fulfillment, just note the former glory of the Hagia Sophia, the great Christian place or worship and how it was transformed into a mosque of Islam. Furthermore, note that although several centuries of history are compressed into this wonderfully brief narrative, the Spirit which inspired Daniel is very accurate: it was during the time of the Byzantines ("the latter part of their kingdom") that Islam arose; it was Islam which brought an end to Christian worship in Byzantium; it was Islam, during the same period, the time of the Byzantines, that built the Dome of the Rock, that great idolatrous indignation that "cast down" the foundation place of the ancient sanctuary in Jerusalem.
Verse 25 says that "he will be broken without human agency," i.e., not conquered by an empire, c.f., "drying up of the euphrates" in Rev. 16:12 (see Cachemaille, 67-70). The history of the decline of the Ottoman Empire shows exactly that. It was by internal decay, Divinely caused, that the Ottoman Empire collapsed. And indeed, this decline and eventual collapse, the "drying up of the Euphrates" did prepare the way for the "kings from the east" the scattered and exiled Israelites and Jews who began to return to Zion in the 19th century and established the new State of Israel in 1948.
That brings us to
How can we begin to make sense of this short but crucial prophecy when so many godly and highly educated scholars have made such a mess of their conflicting and contradicting interpretations of this passage? As always, real understanding can only come when we humbly rely on the Holy Spirit and do our very best to let the Scripture be our guide to interpretation. So let's start with a little biblical history…
This passage in 2 Chronicles really provides the historical backdrop to Daniel's prayer in Daniel 9, and the prophecy that was God's answer to that prayer, in verses 24-27. Notice in verse 14, the word, "abominations." And in verse 21, notice the word, "desolation." It was the "abominations" that caused "the desolation". In Daniel 9:1-19, the prophet explains the same thing: the people of Israel had been unfaithful and so they brought these "desolations" (Dan 9:2) on themselves. The biblical context of this prophecy in Dan 9:24-27 refutes efforts of many interpreters to pin this phrase, "abomination causing desolation," to the sacrifice of a pig or the erection of an idol in the inner sanctum of the Jewish temple.
Gabriel's message to Daniel revealed that his people and his city would be restored (Dan 9:25) in answer to his prayer (Dan 9:16-19), but this is accompanied by a further revelation that a new deadline is allotted to the people and the city:
sevens" within which period, 1) they must finish or restrain their
transgression; 2) their sins would be sealed for their own judgment; 3)
atonement would be made for their iniquity, resulting in, 4) the provision of
everlasting righteousness for the faithful of Daniel's people (Heb 10:1-18); 5)
the sealing, authorizing and consummating, of prophetic revelation entrusted to
Daniel's people, and, 6) the anointing of the most holy prince who would be cut
off in the middle of the seventieth week, or 486.5 (approx.) years from the
issuing of a decree. It seems that the "introduction" of the prophecy
of Dan 9:24-27, the "seventy weeks" prophecy, contained in verse 24
is fulfilled in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus of
This is possibly the most difficult and controversial passage in the entire Christian Bible. But as we study these 4 verses honestly, looking carefully to see what we learn from the text itself, we come to some conclusions. The time period, "seventy weeks" (v 24) appears to be a deadline that applies to the Jews and the city of Jerusalem (v 24). Within this deadline six things must either be done by the Jews, or happen in Jerusalem:
1. the Jews must "complete their transgression,"
2. their sins must be sealed for future judgment,
3. their guilt would be atoned for,
4. everlasting righteousness would be provided (doing away with the Old Testament system of sacrifices),
5. the vision and prophecy of the Old Testament would be sealed (fulfilled and finished), and,
6. the Most Holy, Jesus, would be anointed.
The key to the interpretation of this prophecy begins, as always, with the context. In Daniel 9:2, we see that the desire of Daniel's heart, the desire that moved him to offer the prayer the answer to which includes our passage in verses 24-27, concerns the "desolations of Jerusalem". In Daniel 9:4-11, in his prayer to God, Daniel confesses that the "desolations" are the right and proper Divine response to the nation's transgression and rebellion.
The curse and oath from the Law of Moses that Daniel cites is found in Leviticus 26, the "desolations" are predicted specifically in Lev 26:31. Daniel was certainly familiar with this oath which Moses recorded in that passage. The surprising thing is that Daniel hoped for restoration after 70 years at all. Moses had predicted that the consequence to national rebellion was a complete destruction of the city and a scattering of the people of Israel throughout the earth for a very long time (Lev 26:33-45). Yet Daniel knew that because Jeremiah had prophesied restoration after 70 years of desolation, that God would keep His word (Dan 9:2; Jer 25:11; 29:10). The answer to the prayer that Daniel humbly pours out to God, therefore, answers very precisely these points of Daniel's concern.
Before going on, notice that several key words are semantically related to other key words in the passage. That means that just like the word "runner" (a noun) is closely related in meaning to the word, "running" (a participle") and the word, "to run" (an infinitive verb), closely related words in a difficult passage of Scripture are a good way to zero-in on the meaning of the passage.
· "people" (v 24) is repeated in verse 26;
· "city" and "holy" (v 24) are related and repeated, respectively, to "Jerusalem" (v 25), "city" and, "sanctuary" in verse 26;
· "to finish" (v 24) is related to "complete destruction" in verse 27;
· "to anoint" (v 24) is related to "anointed" or "Messiah" in verses 25 and 26;
· "Prince" (v 25) is repeated in verse 26.
And so, as a result, one of the implications of these relationships among the words in the passage is that, "Most Holy," (v 24) after being anointed, is called "Anointed Prince," (v 25) and, "the Prince who is coming," (v 26). You might find this difficult to see or accept right now, but hold the thought as a possibility while we explore the passage in more depth.
From a theological point of view it is a given that the ultimate transgression of the nation can be placed squarely on the acts of defiling whatever is Most Holy to God. The Mosaic covenant hinges on the right observance of the sacred. And so I find a great deal of insight into the prophetic passage in verses 24-27 in the proper interpretation of the "most holy" in verse 24. The phrase "Most Holy," or, "qodesh qodashim" is claimed by many to be the Temple and so they insert in most modern translations the word, "place" to read, "most holy place". But the phrase does not say, "place" in Hebrew. Some claim that this phrase, "most holy" always refers to the Temple, the Holy of Holies, or some other aspect of Temple worship and never to a person. But in 1 Chronicles 23:13, Aaron and his sons forever are set apart by God as "most holy". That Aaron's priesthood is a type of Christ is established beyond debate by the author of Hebrews. So if Aaron is "most holy" certainly that greater Reality which was signified in him is also "Most Holy". I am suggesting that the prediction at the end of verse 24 is regarding the anointing of the person of the Son of God, known here as, "Most Holy".
Verse 25 refers to Most Holy again, but this time from the perspective that He is now anointed, looking forward to the time when verse 24 is fulfilled and the Most Holy is anointed. Verse 25 predicts the time from a certain decree until "the anointed Prince." In fact this is the basis for the title, "Christ" or "Messiah" in reference to Jesus. Both the Greek and the Hebrew words mean "Anointed One". If in verse 24 someone's anointing is predicted, namely the "Most Holy," then it is appropriate in the next verse that this Most Holy be titled "The Anointed Prince"-remembering, of course, that "prince" in Hebrew does not mean "son of a king" but "ruler," and that "anointing" was most often a condition of "kingship."
This sheds light on the difficult issue of who is "he" in verse 26. Understanding comes when "nagid habbo'" (prince who is coming) is seen as the substantive referring to 'ad-mashiach nagid (until the anointed prince). "habbo'" (coming) refers in context to the person whose "coming" was just predicted. The "coming" verb in Dan 9:25 is not explicit, to be sure, but by the use of the temporal clause in 25a the anointed Prince's coming is clearly implied. Moreover, as Most Holy, "qodesh qodashim," is predicted to be "anointed", (velimshoach) in 24, verse 25 predicts the timing of His "arrival" having been "anointed" and now described as "Prince", nagid. The word "anointed" connects the Subject of both verses (24-25). In 25-26, the word "prince", nagid, likewise holds the single Subject in view. To put it plainly, "Most Holy" is predicted to be "anointed" in verse 24, He is called the "Anointed Prince" in verse 25, and the "coming Prince" in verse 26. Then the people will CAUSE (the verb is in the hifil stem, which is causative) the city, and that which makes it holy, i.e., the Temple (c.f., "your people and your holy city" v. 24) to be corrupted/destroyed. But whose people? Not just Daniel's people (v 24), but the coming anointed Prince's people (v 26). As much as Daniel cares for and intercedes on behalf of his people, The coming Prince cares for them more; intercedes for them more; and so when THEY reject HIM they become the cause of their own destruction. The Romans are present in this verse only insofar as they are glimpsed as one of the parties who will "war", and as the agents, not the cause, of "desolations". Hence the order of v 27:
- He, the Anointed Prince, the Most Holy, will "confirm a covenant with the many" (KJV);
- the "many" is a specific term associated with Christ's New Covenant denoting the Jews and Gentiles under one heading-Matthew 20:28; 26:28; Mark 14:24; Romans 5:15, 19; 1 Corinthians 10:33
- This covenant referred to here is not any antichristian covenant, any peace treaty with Israel or any other idea that is read into the text. Rather, when we carefully draw the meaning out of the text, we find the covenant is intimately connected with the Most Holy, the Anointed Prince, the Coming Prince, Jesus the Anointed (Christ)-it is the new covenant in His blood, the ransom for many.
- The text does not say that He will confirm the covenant for one week, but that He will confirm a covenant with the many one week, or translated more freely, "during a certain week He will confirm a covenant with the many". Compare 1 Sam 1:1; 2 Sam 18:10; Est 3:8 for the same use of the number "one" in Hebrew. When it says, "during a certain week" of course the certain week intended by the text is the one that fits the context of the preceding verses. Verse 25 gives 7 weeks + 62 weeks until the Anointed Prince comes. Verse 26 says that after that second period of 62 weeks (i.e., after the 69 weeks), the Anointed One, the coming Prince, will be "cut off". After the 69 weeks logically indicates a time during the 70th week. In verse 27, then, when it says "during a certain week" it means that this confirmation of the covenant to the many will take place during the 70th week.
- The anointed Prince causes sacrifice and offering to stop.
- See Heb 10:8-9, esp. 9b. Therefore the subsequent temple rituals of the Jews are idolatrous abominations (shiqqutsim) since they took place after the permanent sacrifice of the Son of God had taken place. It is comparable to Abraham going ahead and killing Isaac even after the ram had been provided.
- When exactly does Christ (the Anointed One) cause the sacrifice and offering to stop, or when does He "put an end" to this old order? The text precisely says that this would take place "in the middle of the week." Not "in the middle of a week" but, "in the middle of the week", i.e., the seventieth week, the certain week during which Messiah was confirming a covenant with the many. Is it a coincidence that Jesus' public ministry lasted exactly three and a half years-"half a week"? Is it coincidence that it was exactly at the end of His three-and-a-half year ministry that He was crucified, sealing the covenant in His blood and putting an end to sacrifice and offering forever (c.f., Heb 10:9b)? No, this is no coincidence: this is a Messianic prophecy of the highest order.
- "On the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate" (NASB).
- "…until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate" (NASB).
"sevens" or "weeks" literally means "sabbaths",
the way of counting days by sevens. Looking to history, we discover that the
actual time period from both the decrees (that are most commonly suggested as
the decree mentioned in verse 25), 69 weeks, or 483 days, was fulfilled in real
years. The first was from the decree to Ezra in 458 BC (Ezra 7:11ff) and was
fulfilled in 486.5 of our solar years until Jesus' crucifixion in 29-30 AD.
Verse 26 adds that after the 69th consecutive "week", i.e., sometime
after 483 years, the one who is anointed (verse 24, "Messiah") would
be killed. The second decree was from the decree to Nehemiah in 444 BC (Neh
2:4-9) and was also fulfilled at the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus in lunar
years: the middle of the seventieth week would be 486.5 years, which, dating
from from 444 BC, comes to 29 AD, the year of Jesus' crucifixion. Then we are
told that His people would be responsible for destroying the city and the
temple (literally the city and the "holy"). The whole period after
Messiah's death would be filled with an increasing "flood" of
destruction (desolations) until the city's ultimate destruction in A.D. 70.
Verse 25 expands on the introduction in verse 24, and verse 27 functions as an explanation of the desolations in verse 26. It tells us why the city would be destroyed; in what way the people of Jerusalem were responsible for its destruction. It also gives a more precise time frame. First, in this specific week (literally in Hebrew it reads, [Dan 9:27 direct translation] "...and he will strengthen a covenant with the many one week…") Messiah will "strengthen" or "make strong" a covenant with "the many", i.e., the nations and not just the Jews. Then, in the middle of the week Messiah would cause the system of sacrifices and offerings to end-He did this by the permanent, once-and-for-all sacrifice of His death (Hebrews 10:8-12). Hebrews 10:9 even says that He takes away the first system to establish the permanent sacrifice. This means that the apostles understood this fulfillment. The last important idea in verse 27 is that on the "skirts" or "wings" of the "detestable things" or "abominations" of the Jews there would result "desolations" or "appalling horrors" right up until the final destruction of those responsible. The abominations in question are the idolatrous sacrifices and offerings of the Jewish people who rejected God's permanent provision of the sacrifice of the Messiah.
The "abominations" of the Jews, i.e., their idolatrous sacrifices offered in the name of God after He has already provided the final and ultimate Sacrifice in His Son, once again brought "desolation" on their city, Jerusalem, and the temple in AD 70, when the Romans besieged and levelled the city in a massive slaughter. War led up to the final, complete destruction of Jerusalem, in 70. Desolation resulted and continued century after century for most of the subsequent 2000 years. This was the terrible punishment that God had warned Israel about in the second half of Leviticus 26. And so we can see how important this prophecy, in Daniel 9:24-27, really is, when properly interpreted. It explains why the Jewish nation has suffered so much, and for so long, with no country to call their own until 1948 and the re-birth of the State of Israel. It was not the first time God had allowed "desolations" to come upon the people of Israel. But these "desolations" since Israel rejected their Anointed One, their Messiah, their Anointed Prince, their Most Holy One, have turned out to be "a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will [again]" (Mat 24:21). Isn't it amazing how even the most tragic history makes sense, and how the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, when Scripture is carefully studied and allowed to interpret itself?
Finally, this profound prophecy has a Christological focus throughout it. Christ is always the Subject. Christ's atonement is the theological centre of this prophecy and the culmination of the prophets' hopes for the nation of Israel-all "vision and prophecy" are indeed "sealed up" in Him (Dan 9:24). Christ, or Messiah, is also revealed here as the "Most Holy" the ultimate Reality to which the entire Temple system pointed; the "Coming Prince," or Ruler, anointed by God to rule the nations (Dan 7:13-14) and the Agent of God's saving covenant providing "everlasting righteousness" for all who believe. No wonder we call Him, "Jesus"-Yahweh Saves!
Chapter 10 details the intervention of God in the affairs of His people, even as they suffer being trampled down by the Gentiles. The focus here is on the transition from Persia to Greece, and that God has not forgotten Israel. Michael (10:21) in Hebrew is "one compared to God" or literally "from like God". He is none other than the preincarnate Christ as can be seen from His title, "ruler of your people", and a close comparison of Jude 9 with Zechariah 3:2, where YHWH speaking is later said to be "Michael". As to the description of Michael as an "angel", in both Hebrew and Greek the word means "messenger". This is equivalent to the Greek concept "logos" in John 1-Jesus is the Messenger of God; HE is also the Message. The Christ intercedes for Daniel's people during this dark period of history (Dan 10:20-21).
In verse 21, the
KJV refers to the rise of a "vile person". Who is this person? Is he
the Beast or the Antichrist, or someone else on the stage of history?
This "vile person" is not the beast. There are lots of vile people in the Bible, lots of vile people in the history of the nation of Israel: Nebuchadnezzar was at first vile; Antiochus Epiphanes was vile; the Caesars were vile; the Muslim Caliphs were vile.
I am inclined to agree with much of what John Gill has to say about this chapter in his exposition of the Old and New Testaments. To summarize, mixing his points with some of my own:
Verse 21 probably refers to Antiochus Epiphanes.
Verse 25 describes his invasion of Egypt against Ptolemy Philometor (see 1 Macabees 1), who was defeated because of the treachery of his own people.
Verse 28 see 1 Macabees 1:20-23.
Verse 30 the Roman Senate sent ships to force Antiochus to leave Alexandria alone. He was so furious about that defeat that he sent Appolonius to take his vengeance out on the Jews (1 Macabees 1:30; 2 Macabees 5:24).
Verse 31 "forces from him will arise" refers not to Antiochus' armies but the word "from him" (mimenu) usually means "than him" as in Genesis 48:19 where it is used to say that the younger brother shall be greater "than him"--not from him. So in verse 31 it means "forces other than his shall arise" or "after him forces shall arise" or "apart from him other forces shall arise", meaning the rise of the Roman Empire. this verse includes a brief reference to AD 70 and the destruction of Jerusalem.
The rest is, as they say, history. Verse 33 speaks of the early church spreading the Gospel to the Gentiles ("the many") in the face of persecution and martyrdom. Verse 34 predicts, with great economy of words, the conversion of the Empire to "Christianity" under Constantine, in the fourth century, but points out that it will be a corrupt form of Christianity, or "hypocritical". Verse 35 acknowledges that the centuries following the rise of Catholic Christianity would bring suffering for the saints: not what Christians would have expected in the optimistic decades of the fourth century! Verse 36 explains why: the new Roman leader, that is the ecclesial head of Rome, the Bishop of Rome, or the "Pope", will be fundamentally anti-Christian. He will exalt himself as "God on Earth". And he would "prosper" for a long, long time. Verse 37 shows the true spiritual reality behind the Roman antichristian Popes: they do not serve God at all, but themselves. They teach celibacy, in contradiction to the teaching of Scripture. Instead, in verse 38, we see that their ambition is for strength, power and wealth.
Verses 40-45 may cover the history of the Middle East from the Balfour Declaration to the Six Day War in 1967, but it is still probably too early to tell. At least I am uncomfortable attaching any level of dogmatism to the interpretation of these verses since I suspect they have not been completely fulfilled yet. What I will do is identify the characters in verse 40: there are three. The Antichrist is present, or at least his "empire" is represented probably in the form of the European Union. I would expect that when this happens, France will take a lead role since France is most likely what is today to be attached to the name, "Gomer" in Ezekiel 38. Secondly the "King of the South" is present. This probably refers to the United States or Atlantic Powers in general. Thirdly, the King of the North could refer to Syria, the true King of the North before the rise of the Roman Empire, to the former Ottoman Empire, which had its seat in modern-day Turkey, or to Russia, which is probably what Ezekiel 38 identifies as "Gog".
What does it mean
in Daniel 12:7 when it says that, "…as soon as they finish shattering the
power of the holy people, all these events will be completed"?
The first thing to notice is that the word, "events" is not in the Hebrew. It is a translator's interpretation. Daniel 12:7 and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.
The word, "kala" is the root word for both the verbs translated in the NASB as "they finish" (regarding the 'shattering of the power of the Holy People') and "will be completed" (regarding, probably, 'these wonders' in verse 6). The first verb is an infinitive, so no tense or time can be attached to WHEN the shattering will be finished--I think the majority translations are right to take this as a temporal clause, e.g., "as soon as they finish..."
So the key to understanding the passage then must come from the last verb, "will be completed". The verb itself has a wide range of possible meanings or translations (see the only other two times this precise form of the verb is used in Job 11:20, "...will fail..." and Lamentations 4:17, "...failed..." NASB). But the basic meaning of the root is, according to Harris et. al. in The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, "to bring a process to completion." They go on to say, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, 982g wrote:
The processes which are brought to an end may be either positive or negative. That is, something may be continually added to until it is full or complete, or something may be taken away from until there is nothing left. The English word "finish" coincides very nicely with k¹lâ in that it too can have either positive or negative connotations.
Processes which are brought to completion include the building of the temple (2Chr 8:16; etc.), speaking (Gen 17:22; etc.), eating (1Kings 1:41; etc.), drinking (Gen 24:19; etc.), offering (1Sam 13:10; etc.), harvesting (Ruth 2:21; etc.) and numerous others. There seems to be an emphasis upon totality in these references. It is not that a person simply came to a certain point in the process and stopped, but that he or she carried it out in full. An example is found in Ruth 3:18 where Naomi tells Ruth that Boaz will not rest "until he has finished the thing." The noun k¹lâ demonstrates the same point in that it must often be translated "full end" to differentiate it from some other end which may be merely a stopping place. On the other hand, to say that k¹lâ means "to bring to perfection" is somewhat misleading in modern English idiom. "Perfect" implies "without flaw" whereas "complete" does not address the question of flaws.
Since, therefore, the basic meaning of this verb at the end of Daniel 12:7 is "to bring a process to completion" the key to its interpretation will now be the tense of the verb. Unlike English and Greek, Hebrew does not have past, present and future tenses. It has perfect, imperfect and imperative conjugations. The perfect and imperfect conjugations usually limit the time or kind of situation described by the verb. Here, in Dan 12:7, the verb kala at the end of the verse is in the imperfect. Because it is in a temporal construction--relating elements of time--it should probably be translated as a future tense. We should note also that the verb is third person plural and feminine. The other main thing to notice is that the verb is not passive but active (in the qal stem): the action of the verb will not likely be done to the subject but by the subject.
To make this plainer, I will substitute another, ordinary, English verb, just off the top of my head, in the same tense and see what the passage would say:
shattering of the power of the holy people is finished, they will paint all
It does not say how long it will take to paint all these, just that the process of painting "all these" will begin when the shattering of the holy people is finished. So when we substitute "complete" for "paint" we see the meaning more clearly. It is not at that time that "all these will be completed" but that at that time "they will complete all these".
Furthermore, who or what is the subject of "they will complete"? It is third person plural and feminine. The rules of grammar usually require us to look at the immediate context to find the closest noun that matches the number and gender of the verb: in this case plural and feminine. This gender and number only matches the noun at the end of verse 6: "the wonders" (not "these" but just "the" in Hebrew), which is here plural and feminine in form.
So then, supplying the subject from verse 6, into the grammar of verse 7, we get:
Now we must ask what are "all these"? Normally in Hebrew the grammar of a sentence goes, 1) verb 2) subject 3) object / direct object. For example, Genesis 1:1 reads "breshit bara elohim et hashamayim v'et haaretz" or literally, "in the beginning created God the heavens and the earth". Here in Daniel 12:7, the text at the end of the verse reads, "...tikleynah kol elleh" or literally, "will complete all these". I suggest that the meaning is the same: "all these" is the subject of the verb and the antecedent of "all these" is "the wonders". So we should translate the passage literally like this:
Now that doesn't make a lot of sense in common English, but when we remember that the word "wonders" always (except once) refers to what God does then things start falling into place. The power of God acts within history as "wonders"--events caused by His hand, historical events that form a process, a process that God will complete. God's wondrous acts within human history will eventually complete the purpose and goal that He wills.
Zechariah 7:13-8:8 describes the very shattering of the power of the holy people and the wonders to follow that complete the process of God's purpose and plan for history with regard to Israel--even the same word is used for "wonders":
The word "pala" in Daniel 12:7 or "wonders" is translated above as "wondrous". The passage in Daniel 12 refers to the tribulation of the Jews, the period of their being scattered and trampled in the nations of the earth, as coming to an end after a "time, two times and half a time". After that period of their tribulation runs its course, God will do His wonders and bring the Jews back to Israel, restore them and ultimately save them by His grace before resurrecting those whom He saves. We have seen in the history of the 20th century that much of this has passed from prediction into history, from prophecy to fulfillment: the Jews' tribulation and scattering among the nations is largely finished and has been marked by noteworthy events like the birth of the state of Israel in 1948 and the military supremacy in the Middle East won by Israel in 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982 and even today.
I have a chart on my "time charts" page from my main site, www.historicism.com that describes much of this in a visual format.
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