The Case for Jesus the Messiah – Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists/Part 13

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©{{{copyright}}}
Daniel 9:24-27—Who Is the “Anointed One” to Be “Cut Off” After 483 Years? APPENDIX: What Was the Length of a Year in Daniel 9?

Editor’s Note: This material was first published in book form in 1989 by the John Ankerberg Evangelistic Association (now known as the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute).

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The Biblical Text

Seventy [weeks] are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven [weeks] and sixty-two [weeks.] It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two [weeks], the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. (Daniel 9:24-26a)

The Context of the Passage

Daniel lived during the Babylonian captivity. He tells us he wrote this passage in the first year of the reign of King Darius, son of Xerxes (Dan. 9:1). From history we know that the reign of King Darius began in the year 538/537 B.C.

Daniel informed us that he was reading the Scriptures which had foretold both the Babylonian captivity and the return of the captive Israelites to their land. Thus, he says, “…I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the Prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years” (Dan. 9:2, NIV).

Jeremiah also stated, “This whole land shall be a desolation and a horror and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jer. 25:11, NAS). At the end of this time, the Lord said, “When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place” (Jer. 29:10, NAS).

Daniel had been involved in the first deportation to Babylon. It had happened in 605 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, the king of Babylon, had invaded Palestine. Now, in 538 B.C. (67 years later), Daniel realized from Jeremiah that the 70-year captivity was nearing its completion.

He also realized the reason for Israel’s captivity was their refusal to obey God (Jer. 29:17-19). The prophets had continually warned Israel about the consequences of seeking false gods and of ignoring God’s commandments.

Specifically, Israel had ignored God’s command to give the land a sabbatical rest (2 Chron. 36:20-21). God had stated that because of Israel’s disobedience in this area, she would be removed from her land and scattered among the Gentiles until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths once more (Lev. 26:32-35).

According to Leviticus 25:2-5, a Sabbath year took place every seventh year. One year out of every seven was to be a year of rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord.

Because they had disobeyed, they were suffering one year of captivity for every Sabbath year they had neglected. Daniel realized the 70 years of punishment stood for each of the Sabbath years Israel had not kept over a 490-year period of time (490 years divided by 7=70 disobedient Sabbaths=70 years of captivity). Daniel concluded that before the exiles returned to their homeland, they needed to confess and repent of their sin of disobedience before God. He proceeded to confess the sins of the nation in prayer. At that point the angel Gabriel appeared and gave him the astonishing message about the Messiah in the future.

The Explanation of the Text

How do we know Gabriel’s message to Daniel in this prophecy is about the Messiah? Because the Hebrew word that is used is Mashiach, and must be translated “Messiah” or “the Anointed One.”[1] As the great Princeton scholar Professor R. D. Wilson (who was fluent in 45 languages and dialects) states, “Daniel IX, 25, 26 is one of the two [Hebrew] passages where the expected Savior of Israel is called Messiah.”[2]

Yet some have objected to this view, claiming that rather than speaking of the “Messiah,” the “Anointed One,” Daniel is instead referring to Cyrus, king of Persia. But this cannot apply to King Cyrus because, as we shall see, verses 25 and 26 declare that the “Messiah” will not arrive until some 400 years after Cyrus lived.

There have been others who have claimed “the Anointed One” is the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes. But this cannot be Antiochus since he died in 164 B.C. As we shall see, the prophecy talks about “the Messiah” coming to Jerusalem alive almost 200 years after that. Therefore, this One who is called Mashiach Nagid—Messiah the Prince—cannot refer to either Cyrus or to Antiochus Epiphanes. As Professor E. J. Young has said, “The non-Messianic interpretation is utterly inadequate.”[3]

Who then is the Messiah who will come? Whoever the Messiah is, He will appear on the scene after the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Dan. 9:25-26) and be killed before Jerusalem and the temple are again destroyed.

In verses 25 and 26, the text states that once the decree is issued to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, the Messiah will come after 69 “weeks” (483 years—see below). Then, He will be “cut off and have nothing.” The verb rendered “to cut off” has the meaning, “to destroy; to strike, to smite; to punish with death.”[4] Leupold correctly states, “The verb used [here], (karath)… frequently refers to a form of violent death.”[5]

Next, the angel tells Daniel that the Messiah will come after a period of time that he refers to as seven “weeks” plus 62 “weeks.” “After the sixty-two weeks [i.e., after the 69th week—referring to that time which includes the seven previous weeks plus 62 weeks] the Messiah will be cut off.”

But what is the meaning of the term “weeks”? For us today, the term “week” is restricted to mean a period of seven days. But the Hebrew word is not so restricted and instead stands for “units of seven.” The Hebrew word that is used is shabuim, the plural form of the word shabua, translated as “sevens” in the NIV and as “weeks” in the NAS. As we shall see, the context must determine which “units of seven” is meant—whether it refers to units of “seven” days, weeks, years, etc.

In context Daniel 9:23-27 demands that the plural word shabuim must refer to units of seven years. Thus, Daniel would be speaking of 70 units, or periods of seven years, or a total of 490 years. Here are the reasons why the context of Daniel demands this conclusion:

1. Daniel tells us he has been thinking in terms of “years.” He says in verse 2, “I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah” (Dan. 9:2, emphasis added).
2. Daniel had been considering the 70-year captivity. Each year of captivity represented one seven-year “period” or “unit” in which the Sabbath year had not been observed. Thus the context again is in reference to years, not to days.
3. In Daniel 10:2, 3, in the Hebrew text, Daniel carefully inserted the word “days” with shabuim to indicate the term weeks is referring to a period of seven days. But the fact that he deliberately excluded the word “days” with shabuim in Daniel 9 clearly indicates he did not intend to refer to days there. Rather, he was speaking about years. Dr. Alva McClain agrees. He has said,

[in Dan. 9:24-27] Daniel used the Hebrew shabua alone when referring to the well-known “week” of years, a customary usage which every Jew would understand; but in chapter 10, when he speaks of the “three weeks” of fasting, he definitely specifies them as “weeks of days” in order to distinguish them from the “weeks” of years in chapter 9.[6]

4. It would have been utterly impossible to restore and rebuild Jerusalem in seven literal weeks (Daniel 9:25 says the city will be rebuilt). Daniel must be referring to years. Again, the context demands seven units of seven “years” (or 49 years).
5. The term “shabua” has the meaning of “years” in the Mishna.[7]

In light of these facts found in the context, Hoehner agrees, “the term shabuim in Daniel 9 most reasonably refers to a unit of seven years. To make it anything else does not make good sense.”[8]

Now let’s examine the meaning of this prophecy. Gabriel tells Daniel: “You are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks, the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing….”

According to this, the Messiah will appear at the end of the 69 weeks (the seven weeks [49 years] plus 62 weeks [434 years] or a total of 483 years). After the 69 weeks (483 years) the destruction of the city and the temple will take place. (We know from history this took place in 70 A.D. under Titus and his Roman legions who destroyed Jerusalem.)

But from what year and what decree (the decree “to restore and rebuild Jerusalem”) are we to begin to count the number of years until Messiah? There are four possibilities to consider.

First, it could not be Cyrus’ edict issued in 539 B.C.[9] because Cyrus’ command refers to the rebuilding of the temple and not to the city. Also, the inhabitants that occupied the city and rebuilt the temple did not erect natural defenses around the city to defend themselves. In other words, this was not a complete rebuilding of the city that was prophesied (Dan. 9:25 says, “from the issuing of the decree to restore the rebuild Jerusalem…”).

Second, it could not be the decree given by Tattenai, governor of Judah, who made a search for Cyrus’ decree and then issued a decree himself about 519/18 B.C. (Ezra 5:3-17). His decree simply confirmed Cyrus’ and again only refers to the temple, not to the city.

The third decree was the decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra in 457 B.C.[10] But once again, this decree does not say one word about the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, only about the temple in Jerusalem.

The fourth decree was given by Artaxerxes to Nehemiah in 444 B.C.[11] In all probability, this is the decree to rebuild Jerusalem that Gabriel described to Daniel and which began the seventy weeks of time. Most importantly, in Artaxerxes’ decree to Nehemiah, there is a direct reference to the restoration of the city and of the city gates and walls (Gabriel said in vs. 25 Jerusalem “will be rebuilt with streets and a trench” [actually a moat, a defensive structure, going around the outside of the city]).

In addition, Artaxerxes wrote a letter to Asaph specifically asking for materials which would be used to build the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 2:8). In the book of Nehemiah and Ezra we are told that the restoration of the walls was done in the most distressing circumstances (Ezra 4:7-23)—exactly as predicted by Daniel (Dan. 9:25). No later decrees were given by the Persian kings pertaining to the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

Finally, we are ready to determine how long it was from the decree of Artaxerxes (444 B.C.) until after the 69th week (483 years later) when Gabriel announced the Messiah would be killed in Jerusalem. It turns out to be 33 A.D., the very time in which Jesus Christ lived and was crucified in Jerusalem! (For those who wish a more detailed analysis as to how we arrived at these dates, see below the Appendix: What Was the Length of a Year in Daniel 9?)

The important point in this prophetic passage is this: clearly, the Messiah had to come by the end of the 69th week, 483 years later. Remember, the time between the decree authorizing Jerusalem to be rebuilt (Dan. 9:25—444 B.C.) and the coming of the Messiah, was to be 69 “sevens” ([7+62=69] X 7) or 483 years. That is the exact time that Jesus Christ was alive and ministering.

Again, Jesus Christ is the only possible candidate to be the Jewish Messiah. No other person of any period, or for that matter in human history, (1) claimed to be the Messiah, (2) fulfilled such detailed Messianic prophecies made hundreds of years in advance and (3) rose from the dead to prove the truth of His claims and Person.

Was Daniel 9:24-27 Recognized by the Jews as Messianic?

Since this text explicitly speaks of the Messiah it would be difficult for Jewish rabbis to deny it; Still, because this prophecy predicted the Messiah was to be “cut off” (die), some denied that it referred to the Messiah.[12]

But, on the other hand, many rabbis boldly stated this passage predicted the time of the Messiah’s appearing so exactly that if Christ was not the Messiah, then Israel had no Messiah. Further, if Messiah was to come, it had to be at the exact same time period as that in which Christ lived.

The Talmud advises, “In Daniel is delivered to us the end [‘the time of His appearance and death’—Rabbi Jarchi] of the Messiah.”[13]

The Talmud records that at about the time of Titus (70 A.D.) it was believed that the Messiah had already come. But His appearance was concealed from the Jews until they were rendered more worthy of His appearance.[14]

Rabbi Nehumias, who lived some 50 years before Christ, is cited by Grotius as saying that the time fixed by Daniel for the Messiah could not go beyond fifty years.[15]

Clues to Identify the Messiah

Whoever the Messiah is, He must fit the following descriptions:

Clue #1—He, a male child (the Hebrew text specifically uses a 3rd person, singular, masculine pronoun—”he”), will be born of the seed of the woman.

Clue #2—He will come from the race of the Jews, and specifically from the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Clue #3—He will be a great prophet, with the authority to teach like Moses.

Clue #4—He will be mocked, and people will cast lots for His garments while He suffers.

Clue #5—He will be David’s Lord.

Clue #6—He will be the child born who is God, and will have an everlasting kingdom.

Clue #7—He will be wounded and bruised, smitten and spit upon, mocked, killed with thieves, bear the sins of many, be rejected by His own people, pierced for our transgressions, be buried in a rich man’s tomb, and come back to life after His death.

Clue #8—He will be Jehovah our Righteousness.

Clue #9—He will be the Messiah who comes to Jerusalem 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem is given. At that time He will be killed.

Appendix : What was the length of a year in Daniel 9?

As we have already seen, the “weeks” are “years.” But what is the length of the year? How many days?

The calendar year used in the Scriptures must be determined from the Scriptures themselves. We will show why Daniel’s figures were based on a year of 360 days.

In the Scriptures we find a historical example in Genesis 7. Comparing Genesis 7:11 with Genesis 8:4 and the two of these with Genesis 7:24 and Genesis 8:3, it is apparent that the flood began on the seventeenth day of the second month and came to an end on the seventeenth day of the seventh month, a period of exactly five months.

Then in Genesis 8:3, the length of the five-month period is given in days, and it is stated to be exactly “150 days.” Dividing 150 days by five months leads to the conclusion that thirty days was the length of a month. Twelve such months would be a 360-day year.

The second example is found in the prophetical passages of Daniel and Revelation. As we have already seen, a “week” in Daniel 9 stood for a period of seven years. In Daniel 9:27 a future persecution is said to begin in the “middle” of the seventieth week. Obviously, the middle of a week (a seven-year period of time) is three and one-half years.

Two chapters earlier in Daniel 7:24-25, the same persecution is spoken of. There the duration of persecution is also given as “a time, times, and half a time,” or three and a half years.

Then, Revelation 13:4-7 speaks of the same future persecution lasting “forty and two months.” Forty-two months is exactly three and a half years.

Finally, Revelation 12:13,14 refers to the same event, and states the duration of time in the exactly same words used in Daniel 7:25—”a time, times, and half a time.” In Revelation 12:6 this period is given an exact number of days—one thousand two hundred and sixty days, which is exactly three and a half years or forty-two months.

Therefore, it is clear that the number of days in a year used by Daniel in the seventy-weeks prophecy is fixed by Scripture itself as exactly 360 days.

The Church Father Jerome, writing in 406-408 A.D., agreed. He acknowledged that “the Hebrews,… did not number their months according to the movement of the sun [365 days], but rather according to the moon [360 days].”[16] (Israel had various methods of intercalating [adjusting] their 360 days so the year would come out correctly with a solar year. A 360-day year is strange to our ears, but it was the common calendar of those times.[17]

Thus, from the decree of Artaxerxes in 444 B.C. until after the 69th week, 483 years later, when Gabriel announced the Messiah would be killed in Jerusalem—we discover this turns out to be the very time in which Christ Himself lived.

Professor Harold W. Hoehner, in his Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ explains in detail the calculations:

Using the [accepted] 360-day [lunar] year the calculation would be as follows. Multiplying the 69 weeks by seven years for each week by 360 days gives a total of 173,880 days. The difference between 444 B.C. and A.D. 33, then, is 476 solar years. By multiplying 476 by 365.24219879 or by 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 45.975 seconds, one comes to 173,855.28662404 days or 173,855 days, 6 hours, 52 minutes, 44 seconds. This leaves only 25 days to be accounted for between 444 B.C. and A.D. 33. By adding the 25 days to March 5 (of 444 B.C.), one comes to March 30 (of A.D. 33) which was Nisan 10 [Jewish calendar] in A.D. 33. This is the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem…. As predicted in Zechariah 9:9, Christ presented himself to Israel as Messiah the King for the last time and the multitude of the disciples shouted loudly by quoting from a Messianic psalm: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” (Ps. 118:26; Mt. 21:9; Mk. 11:10; Lk. 19:38; Jn. 12:13). This occurred on Monday, Nisan 10 (March 30) and only four days later on Friday, Nisan 14, April 3rd, A.D. 33, Jesus was cut off or crucified.[18]

Read Part 14

Notes

  1. E. W. Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament (MacDill AFB, FL: MacDonald Publishing, nd.), p. 833.
  2. Robert Dick Wilson, Studies in the Book of Daniel, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 138.
  3. E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978), p. 193.
  4. Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, p. 106.
  5. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1981), p. 427.
  6. A. J. McClain, Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan nd), pp. 20-21.
  7. Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan/Academie, 1977), pp. 117-118.
  8. Ibid., p. 118.
  9. J. D. Douglas, New Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 286; 2 Chron. 36:22)
  10. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects, pp. 126-129; Frank Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, Daniel and the Minor Prophets (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985), p. 114; Ezra 7:12-26).
  11. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects, pp. 126-128; Neh. 2:1-8).
  12. Delitzsch and Gloag, Part 2, p. 223.
  13. Ibid., p. 226.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Gleason L. Archer, Jr. (Tr.), Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977), p. 97.
  17. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects, p. 136.)
  18. Ibid., pp. 138-139.

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