This morning we continue our study of Daniel. And the chapter we are ready to deal with is chapter nine. In this chapter we find a third vision that God gave to Daniel during King Balshazar’s reign. The first, found in chapter seven, was of four beasts. And when we studied that vision, we noted certain parallels between it and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two, including an apocalyptic leap to the end-time.
The second, recorded in chapter eight, was a vision of a ram, a he-goat and a horn. The interpretation of the main parts of that vision were clearly set forth, so that the meaning of some of the symbolism in Daniel at the historical level became clear. The ram symbolized Media-Persia. The he-goat symbolized Greece under Alexander the Great. The four horns that grew up when the first horn (Alexander) was broken represented the four generals who divided Alexander’s empire after he died. And with some deductions, we concluded that the little horn symbolized Antiochus IV. Then once again we observed an apocalyptic leap to the end-time.
Now in chapter nine we see a third vision. The first two verses supply the setting. They tell us that this vision was given in the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, on an occasion when Daniel was meditating on Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding the duration of the Babylonian Exile (Jer. 25:11-12). As Daniel reflected on the prophecy, he realized that the 70 years were about up. Darius the Mede was the first ruler of Babylon after Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire in 538 B.C. And verse one tells us that Daniel was given this vision in Darius’ first year.
The Babylonians had taken Daniel and others captive by in the first phase of their conquest of Palestine in 605 B.C. So when Daniel saw this vision, it had been about 67 years since his personal captivity began.
But Daniel not only was aware that the 70 years were near an end. He also was aware that the chastisement of the Exile had not produced fruits of repentance among the people. So Daniel prayed. In his prayer Daniel confessed the sins of Israel. But Daniel had read more in the prophets than the promises of chastisement. He also had read about the expected restoration of Israel. Undoubtedly he understood Jeremiah’s prediction of the duration of the Exile in that light. And thus he was hopeful. So in verses 16-19 Daniel petitioned God on behalf of Israel.
First he recalled what God did for the people earlier, when he brought them out of Egypt “with a might hand” (v. 15). Then he boldly asked for an end to God’s wrath (v. 16), and pleaded for mercy and forgiveness (vv. 18-19).
Suddenly things began to happen! In verses 20-24 we see that God began to answer Daniel’s prayer even before he finished it. The angel Gabriel suddenly appeared to Daniel. Daniel evidently recognized the angel from his appearance in the previous vision (8:15-17).
Gabriel gave Daniel a vision of seventy weeks, which has proven exceedingly controversial among Christian interpreters. In verses 24-27we see that there is a lot packed into those few verses. I want us to look at four interpretive approaches to the vision. In the next study we will work through the details, putting our emphasis on the two views most widely held among evangelicals.
The first of the four interpretive approaches is typical of liberals. Therefore I will call it the liberal view. Liberal scholars tend to say that all of the events of the seventy weeks were fulfilled in the days of Antiochus IV. Their reason is simple. They believe that the book of Daniel was written after the second-century B.C. events it supposedly predicts took place.
The second approach we will call the symbolic. These interpreters think of the term “weeks” in the phrase “seventy weeks” as though they were in quotation marks. That is, they view Daniel’s seventy weeks as a symbolic, rather than literal, measure of time. They understand the “seventy weeks” to be coming from Jeremiah’s seventy years, on which Daniel had been meditating.
Thus in their interpretation, the first week symbolizes the period from the Babylonian Exile to the first coming of Christ. The sixty-two weeks symbolize the period from the first coming of Christ to the coming of the Antichrist. And the seventieth week symbolizes the rise and fall of the Antichrist. There is no connection to actual weeks or years. Only periods of time are intended. [Keil held this view.]
The third approach is that of the dispensationalists. Dispensationalists interpret the seventy weeks as weeks of years. That is, these are not regular weeks of seven days each, but they are weeks of years, containing seven years each.
They arrive at this conclusion, because the context itself rules out seven-day weeks. There is no way that all of the things indicated could have happened in 490 days. Thus they conclude that the seventy weeks represent weeks of years, that is, a period of 490 years.
We will get the details in the next essay, but the basic view is that the first sixty-nine weeks go from the time of Daniel to the time of the death of Jesus and the destruction of the Temple in the first-century A.D. And the seventieth week is still in the future. That is, there is a long separation between sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. And the events of the seventieth week have not yet happened.
The fourth approach I will call the traditionalist. The traditionalist view has some things in common with that of the Dispensationalists, such as an understanding of the weeks as weeks of years. But there are major differences as well.
In this view, the seventy weeks are consecutive. That is, there is no separation between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. Further, the events of the seventy weeks all were fulfilled historically by the first century A.D. In addition, prophetic perspective allows for additional historical fulfillments at the time of Antiochus IV and the end-time Antichrist.
Most evangelicals would hold to one of the latter two positions. I have no way of determining the percentages, but both views are widely held.