MESSIAH CUT OFF.THE HOUR
"And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and have nothing." (#Da 9:26 ) Marg.
The first clause of verse 26 focuses our attention upon the greatest of all events. It tells us definitely that Christ was to be "cut off, and have nothing" (the marginal reading, "and have nothing" is undoubtedly correct). He was to have no people, no throne, no place even, on earth. But to the Israelites the words "cut off and have nothing" would convey the meaning of dying without posterity, without a "generation, " with none to perpetuate his name. This was regarded by them as the greatest of all calamities; and there was a special provision of the law whereby, in case a man should die, leaving no seed, his brother or near kinsman should "raise up the name of the dead" (#De 25:5,6; Ru 4:10). But here is the astonishing statement that the long promised and ardently looked for Messiah was to be completely "cut off!"
There is, in these words, a striking agreement with the prophecy of Isaiah, which contains the following: "And who shall declare His generation? For He was cut off out of the land of the living" (#Isa 53:8). There could seemingly be no "generation" for one who was "cut off." Yet with that marvellous prophecy runs the apparently contradictory promise, "He shall see His seed" (#Isa 53:10).
Considering now the statement, "And after three score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, " the unity of the prophecy is seen in this, that the words, "after three score and two weeks, " bring us to the last of the "Seventy Weeks, " that is, to the period referred to in #Dan 9:24; and the words, "Messiah shall be cut off, " declare the means whereby the six predictions of that verse were to be fulfilled. Every part of this prophecy is thus firmly bound to every other part. It all has to do with the coming of Christ and what He was to suffer at the hands of His people; and it includes also a foretelling of the judgments that were to befall them for putting Him to death.
We would, therefore, fix our attention for a little while upon this special period of timethis three years and a halffrom the anointing of the Lord at His baptism to His crucifixion. That period is frequently referred to in the Gospels as the "time" or "this time, " meaning the time of the Messiah. Thus, when our Lord said, "The time is fulfilled" (#Mr 1:15), He doubtless had reference to the time revealed to Daniel, the time when Christ was to be made manifest to Israel. Again, in (#Lu 12:56), where He asked, "How is it that ye do not discern this time?" and in (#Lu 19:44, ) where He said, "Because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation, " we may properly conclude that He had in mind the same "set time, " which had been definitely marked off in the unchangeable counsels of God and which He had communicated to Daniel, the man who was greatly beloved. The last mentioned passage (#Lu 19:41-44) is very closely related to the prophecy of the seventy weeks, for it is itself a prophecy by Christ of the same destruction of Jerusalem which is foretold in the prophecy of the seventy weeks.
Surely there was no "time" like that, when Gods blessed Son, in lowly human form, went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil. Many prophets and kings had desired to see those things, and the angels desire to look into them. We should therefore be greatly impressed by the fact that God had, hundreds of years before, foretold that "time, " had given the measure of it, and had declared how it should end.
But more than this, the Lord made frequent reference also to a particular "hour, " calling it "My hour." The "time" was that of His personal ministry in Israel, according to this prophecy; and the "hour" was that of His being "cut off, " according to the same prophecy.
We would call to mind some of those passages, which must ever awaken love and praise in the hearts of those for whose sake He endured the agonies of that awful and mysterious "hour." Thus, when certain Greeks desired to see Him, their interest being prompted by the great commotion caused by the raising of Lazarus, and when crowds were thronging to see Him and Lazarus also (#Joh 12:9), He referred to the approaching "hour" when He, being lifted up from the earth, should draw "all men, " Greeks as well as Jews, unto Him, and said, "The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified"; and again, "Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour" (#Joh 12:20-27). Also in (#Joh 17:1) we read His words, "Father, the hour is come." And a little later that same evening He prayed in the garden, asking "that if it were possible the hour might pass from Him" (#Mr 14:35). It is plain that, in these passages, He was speaking of the hour when He should be made a sacrifice for sin upon the Crossthe hour when Messiah should "be cut off and have nothing."
THE JUDGMENT. "THE PRINCE THAT SHALL COME"
The verse we are now considering (#Da 9:26) foretells not only the crowning sin of Israel in putting their Messiah to death, but also the great and terrible judgment that was to follow the perpetration of that unspeakable deed. There is a direct logical connection between the two events, which will account for the fact that the chronological order is not strictly followed.
There are differences of opinion among competent scholars as to the proper translation of the latter part of verse 26. In the text of the A. V. it reads:
And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
The R. V. makes clearer the meaning of the last clause. It reads "and unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined."
Notwithstanding, however, the differences of translation, it is not difficult to gather the meaning of the passage. Indeed, so far as we are aware, all expositors agree that it foretells the exterminating judgment of God, which in due time was executed by the Roman armies under Titus, by whom the city was overwhelmed as "with a flood" (a figure often used for an invading army), and the city and the land were given over to the age long "desolations, " which had been "determined" in the counsels of God. Doubtless the Lord had this very passage in mind when, speaking of the then approaching siege and destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, He said: "For these be the days of vengeance, that all things that are written may be fulfilled" (#Lu 21:22). The "things that are written" were the things foretold in this verse of the prophecy (#Dan 9:26), which were "fulfilled" at that time. The Lords words recorded in (#Mt 23:32-36, ) and (#Lu 19:43,44) also refer to the calamities foretold in Daniel 9:26, as will be clearly seen by turning to those passages.
The following then is the meaning we derive from the text of the A. V. and R. V.: That the people of a "prince" (i.e., a leader or commander), who was to come with arms against Judea and Jerusalem, would utterly destroy both the city and the temple; that the destruction thereof should be as if a flood had swept everything away; that to the end there should be war; and that "desolations" for the land and city were definitely "determined."
Thus the entire prophecy of the Seventy Weeks embraces in its scope the rebuilding of the city and the temple, and the final destruction of both. It covers the stretch of time from the restoration of the people to their land and city in the first year of Cyrus, down to their dispersion by the Romans among all the nations of the world.
In this connection we would again call the readers attention to the striking agreement between this part of the prophecy and the word of God to Isaiah (#Isa 6:9- 13).
WHO IS "THE PRINCE THAT SHALL COME"?
At this point we are confronted with a question which very seriously affects the interpretation of the prophecy. Taking the words according to their apparent and obvious meaning (which should always be done except where there is a compelling reason to the contrary) it would seem quite clear that "the prince, " whose people were to destroy the city and the sanctuary, was Titus, the son of the then emperor Vespasian, he (Titus) being the "prince" or "leader" who was in actual command of those armies at the time. In fact we are bold to say that the words of the prophecy, which are the words of God sent directly from heaven to Daniel, do not reasonably admit of any other interpretation. Nor, so far as we are aware, was any other meaning ever put upon them until within recent years, and then only by those belonging to a particular "school" of interpretation. According to the "school" referred to, the words "the prince that shall come" do not mean the prince who did come, and whose armies fulfilled this prophecy by destroying the city and the temple, but they mean some other "prince, " who in fact has not yet come, and who (of course) could have nothing whatever to do with the subject of the passage, to wit, the destruction of the city and the temple.
According to the view we are now considering, the passage is taken to mean that there is a "prince" who is to "come" at some unknown time yet future, which prince will be of the same nationality as the people (the Roman armies) by whom the city and the Sanctuary were to be destroyed. It is further assumed, and taught with much confidence, that this "coming prince" will be in league with Antichrist, if indeed he be not Antichrist himself. This is a very radical idea, one which changes the entire meaning of this basic prophecy, and affects the interpretation of all prophecy. It transfers the main incidents of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks from Christ to Antichrist, and removes them bodily from the distant past to the uncertain future, thus separating them far from all connection with the period of seventy weeks to which God assigns them. This manner of dealing with Scripture is, so far as our experience goes, without parallel or precedent in the field of exegesis. Is it sound and sober interpretation of Scripture, or is it playing pranks with prophecy?
For, with all due and proper respect for those who hold this view, we are bound to say that it does the greatest possible violence to words which are not at all obscure or of uncertain meaning. There is no conceivable reason why any prince (i.e., commander) should be mentioned in this passage except the one whose armies were to accomplish the destruction of the city and temple, that being the subject of the passage. The words are appropriate to convey one meaning and one only. It is simply unthinkable that the destroying agency would be identified by reference to some prince who was not to come upon the scene for several thousand years, or that the Romans of the first century could be called his "people." Nor would anyone who possessed the slightest understanding of the use of language employ the words of the text in order to convey the information that the people, by whom the city was to be destroyed, would be of the same nationality as some "prince" who was to "come" (without saying whence, or whither, or for what) at some remote and unspecified time. And finally, even if it were supposable that such an utterly foreign subject as a prince, who was to come many centuries after the event prophesied, would be lugged into such a passage, then it would have been made to saynot "the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city, " butthat a prince of the people who destroyed the city shall come.
Furthermore, we know that the armies of prince Titus did destroy the city and temple, and that to this day the seven branched candlestick, which was carried in his triumphal procession, is sculptured on the arch which was erected at Rome in his honour. But we know nothing of any Roman prince who is to "come" (come where?) in the future. The term "Roman" pertains to nothing now except the papacy.
And besides all this, if any "prince" should hereafter "come" (it matters not whence or whither) it could not properly be said that the people who destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70 were his people. The plain and simple words of the prophecy are "the people of the prince who shall come." Those words can only mean the man who was the prince or leader of the people at the time they destroyed the city and temple. Those Roman legions and auxiliaries were the people of prince Titus. But in no sense are they the people of some prince who may arise several thousand years later. The French armies which invaded Russia were the people of Napoleon their commander; but in no proper sense were they the people of General Foch. They were all dead long before he was born.
This prophecy has nothing whatever to do with any future Roman prince; nor is there, so far as we are aware, any ground for saying that a Roman prince will arise to play a part in the time of the end of this age. During the centuries that have now elapsed such changes have taken place that no potentate of the approaching end times could be described as the prince of the people by whom Jerusalem was destroyed.
The prophecy of the Seventy Weeks is manifestly an account, given beforehand, of the second period of the national existence of the Jewish people. They were to last as a nation only long enough to fulfil the Scriptures, and to accomplish the supreme purpose of God, in bringing forth the Messiah, and putting Him to death. The time allotted for this was 490 years. This being accomplished, God had no further use for Israel. His dealings thenceforth were to be with another people, that "holy nation" (#1Pe 2:9), composed of all who believe the gospel, and who "receive" the One Who was rejected by "His own" (#Joh 1:11-13).
Yet the predicted judgment did not immediately follow; for Christ prayed for His murderers in His dying hour, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (#Lu 23:34). In answer to that prayer the full probationary period of forty years (A.D. 30 to A.D. 70) was added to their national existence, during which time repentance and remission of sins was preached to them in the Name of the crucified and risen One, and tens of thousands of Jews were saved.
The perfect accuracy of Scripture is seen in this, that while it was definitely stated that the six things of (#Daniel 9:24) were to be accomplished within the determined period of seventy weeks, and while the destruction of the rebuilt city and temple was also predicted, that event is not among the things which were to happen within the seventy weeks.
In this connection it is important to observe that, while the predicted events of verse 24 were to happen within the measured period of seventy weeks, and the events of verse 27 were to happen in the midst of the last week of the seventy, the time of the predicted judgments is not specified. Thus the prophecy left room for the exercise of mercy even to that evil generation.