Daniel's Prophecy of The Seventy Weeks - Part 5
Andrew Wilson, Brisbane, Australia | Dunstable, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Daniel chapter 9
Daniel’s Seventieth Seven, verse 27
One over-riding consideration must drive our interpretation of this verse: what Christ Himself said about it on the Mount of Olives. Christ’s insistence that the ‘abomination of desolation’ was yet to be fulfilled, Matt. 24. 15, means that the critical/rationalist view (that Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled in 174 BC during Antiochus Epiphanes’ atrocities) is, at best, inadequate. Further, Christ said that His coming would occur ‘immediately after the tribulation of those days’, Matt. 24. 29. This means that the amillennial view (which argues that the prophecy was completely fulfilled in Christ’s first coming and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and, therefore, has no yet-future fulfilment) is also erroneous.
Approaching the prophecy from the standpoint of what Christ Himself said about it leaves us with no alternative but to view Daniel’s seventieth ‘seven’ as yet future. Thus, in this article, we shall concentrate mainly on a premillennial interpretation of the passage. Having surveyed the first four stages of the prophetic programme in the two previous verses, we come to the last three events in verse 27.
5. A Covenant is made for the final ‘seven’
Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one seven.
The prediction in verse 26 of continual wars over Jerusalem provides us with the setting for this final verse of the prophecy. The ‘Prince to come’, v. 26, will enforce a treaty with the Jews. ‘The unusual verb used is “make a strong covenant”, gabar, bears this out for it has the implication of forcing an agreement by means of superior strength’.1 Presumably this will involve a peace deal, solving the ‘Jewish problem’ in the Middle East, and giving the Jews protection from their enemies and the freedom to worship God in such a way that the sacrificial system is resumed in a Jewish temple.
Dennett writes, ‘What is asserted here is, that the future head of the revived Roman Empire will make a covenant with “the many”, that is, with the mass or majority of the Jews, who at that time will again be in their own land; the mention of the sacrifice and the oblation puts it beyond doubt that Jerusalem is in question, and that the temple has been rebuilt. This prince will enter into an alliance with the Jewish nation, apart from the godly remnant, professedly as befriending their cause, and as protecting them from their adversaries’.2
What, then, is the nature of the covenant established by the ‘Prince to come’ that this verse speaks of? Some commentators refer back to Isaiah chapter 28 verses 15 and 18 with its ‘covenant with death’, that protects against the ‘overflowing scourge’ which shall ‘pass through’. At first sight, connecting Isaiah with Daniel might sound a bit stretched: an ‘overflowing scourge’ might refer to any sort of plague or pestilence, and a ‘covenant with death’ might involve any sort of ‘deal with the Devil’.
However, the Assyrian invasion in the days of Hezekiah, 710 BC, seems to be the climactic event, not only of Isaiah’s life and prophecy, but of his view of the future course of Jerusalem’s history. Isaiah chapter 8 verses 5-8 speak of Sennacherib the Assyrian’s siege of Jerusalem as an ‘overflowing flood’ that ‘reaches to the neck’ and fills ‘Immanuel’s land’, while Isaiah chapter 10 verses 22-23, also uses the terms ‘destruction’, ‘decreed’, ‘overflow’ and ‘a determined end’ of the Assyrian invasion, terms which find an echo in Daniel chapter 9 verses 24-27.
The prophecy of Micah, Isaiah’s contemporary, also attaches enormous importance to this invasion. Thus, after the promise of the Messianic kingdom, Mic. 4. 1-8, the scene switches to the Babylonian captivity and return, vv. 9-10, and then to an Assyrian invasion, 4. 11 - 5. 5. Micah sees Messianic significance in this event, prophesying that ‘the Judge of Israel will be struck upon the cheek’, 5. 1 – a picture, perhaps, of the way Hezekiah was insulted by the Assyrian ambassadors, but continues by saying that ‘out of Bethlehem Ephrathah . . . shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting’, v. 2, and in verses 3 and 4, we are told of the magnificence of this One’s reign of peace. Quite obviously, Micah’s prophecy transcends Hezekiah’s situation, and anticipates Christ’s humiliation and ensuing glorious reign. But the following verses, vv. 5-15, again speak about a yet-future Assyrian invasion, involving terrible destruction, and the eventual peace and power of the Jewish people. Therefore, the Assyrian invasion under Sennacherib seems to be a prophetic picture of an end-time invasion of Immanuel’s land.
William Kelly writes, ‘They had hoped to escape by making a covenant with this prince [i.e., the ‘Prince to come’ of Daniel 9:26-27]; they fondly thought, as it is said in Isaiah, to be thus delivered from the overflowing scourge, i.e., I suppose, the king of the north that becomes the great head of the eastern powers of the world arrayed against the western. The mass of the Jews will make a covenant with the great prince of the west, who will then be nominally their friend’.3
Interestingly, the Romans first intervened in the affairs of Jewish national life in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, Dan. 11. 30, insisting that Antiochus’ forces should leave Egypt, which Antiochus had virtually conquered, and which had appealed to Rome for help. The Roman Senate’s representative, Popilius Laenas, famously drew a circle around Antiochus in the sand, and insisted that Antiochus should not step outside the circle until he had given assurance that he would withdraw from Egypt. Although Antiochus’ subsequent withdrawal from Egypt prompted him to ransack Jerusalem as he returned home, setting up an altar to Zeus in the temple and persecuting the Jews, the Roman intervention as international powerbroker is, perhaps, a picture of the way that the future ‘Prince to come’ will intervene in the affairs of the Jews, and a coming ‘King of the North’.
6. Sacrifices will be brought to an end and an abomination will be set up
But in the middle of the seven He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering
In the middle, properly, the half-way point, of the seven-year deal, the ‘Prince to come’ will forcibly intervene to halt the Jewish temple sacrifices. He will usher in a period described in terrible terms: the ‘great tribulation’, Rev. 7. 14, also spoken of by Christ in Matthew chapter 24 verse 21, ‘a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time’, Dan. 12. 1, the ‘time of Jacob’s trouble’, Jer. 30. 7. As we see from the foreshadowing in Antiochus Epiphanes in Daniel 8, there will be fierce persecution of the Jews, and an idolatrous system of worship set up in the temple.
For Christians who accept the New Testament witness, we are assured that the ‘Prince to come’ will indeed set up an idol in the Jewish Temple, and will force the entire world to worship it, 2 Thess. 2. 4; Rev. 13. 14-15. This is what our Lord Jesus referred to when he spoke about the abomination of desolation in the Olivet Discourse, Matt. 24. 15; Mark 13. 14.
Most commentators suggest that the ‘Prince to come’ will break the treaty he made with the Jews. Anderson writes that his establishment of the abomination of desolation is ‘in violation of his treaty obligations to respect and defend the religion of the Jews’.4 Perhaps this would account for the attack from a ‘King of the North’, for, with the protection of the ‘Prince to come’ withdrawn, the northern army advances. However, some argue against this idea,5 insisting that the treaty will stand firm to the end. Certainly, we would expect the false Prince to continue to protect the idolatrous worship in the Temple.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate
Commentators struggle to explain what the ‘wing’ of abominations refers to. Some surmise that it refers to the wing of an army, or means the ‘extreme’ example of abomination. Others suggest the ‘wing’, or pinnacle, of the temple, mentioned in Luke chapter 4 verse 9, as the place where the idol will be set up. The ancient Greek and Latin translations simply say, ‘and in the temple’, as does Paul, 2 Thess. 2. 4, ‘in the temple of God’, while the Lord says ‘in the holy place’, Matt. 24. 15. Others take the word ‘wing’ in the metaphorical sense of ‘affording protection’ JND, and speak of the ‘protection, or wing, of these idols’ being ‘sought by the people . . . the apostate masses, who bow before the Antichrist’. However, the preposition ‘under’ would perhaps have been used instead of ‘upon the wing’ if protection was intended. Other translations suggest the idea of ‘the ensuing result swiftly coming’ – that is, because of the abomination, the desolator shall come in judgement, presumably like a swift eagle to the prey.
The word ‘abomination’ is usually used in the Old Testament with reference to idols. The phrase ‘abomination of desolation’, Dan. 11. 31 and 12. 11, refers to the idolatrous worship set up by Antiochus Epiphanes in Jerusalem, and which is a foreshadowing of what Antichrist will likewise do. The Hebrew word ‘desolation’ can either mean ‘devastation’ or, in the subjective sense ‘astonishment’, 8. 27. Thus, some translate the expression, ‘the appalling abomination’. However, the five references in Daniel chapter 9, vv. 17, 18, 26, 27, 27, appear to mean ‘desolation’ in the objective sense of what will befall Jerusalem.
The verse speaks of ensuing desolation, or literally, a person who brings desolation: ‘one who makes desolate’. Some identify this one as ‘the Prince to come’; however, others take this to be the King of the North. Thus Gaebelein writes, ‘Who is the desolator? The King of the North, the Assyrian of the endtime; he is the one of whom we read in a previous chapter and whose terrible work against the apostate nation is here once more touched upon as falling into the second half of the last prophetic week’.7 Tregelles offers a third mediating option, ‘an abomination . . . that on account of which, God brings in desolation’.8 That is, God, through His agent of destruction, punishes the majority of the Jews because they follow the Antichrist, and worship his image, for Daniel chapter 12 verse 11 says that it is the ‘abomination that maketh desolate’ KJV.
7. The Desolator will be destroyed
Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolator
Whoever the desolator is, he will be destroyed. Keil and Delitzsch write, ‘The words [the consummation determined] remind us of Isaiah 10:23 and Isaiah 28:22, and signify . . . the inflexibly decreed judgment of destruction’. A few versions speak of the consummation being poured out upon the desolate (KJV, JND, NKJV, NASB), but most translate the participle here the same way as it was translated earlier in the verse, ‘upon the desolator’. Taking it as ‘the desolate’, i.e., Jerusalem, presents the problem that God’s purposes for Daniel’s people, and holy city, are eventually for their good, not their destruction.
Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 similarly refer to an attack from the far north, of Gog from the land of Magog, who leads a huge army against the land of Israel just before the setting up of the millennial temple, chapters 40-48. References from this passage are carried over to Revelation chapter 19, and suggest that the destruction of the ‘desolator’ will be accomplished by the return of Christ at the Battle of Armageddon.
Critical and Amillennialist Interpretations
Critical interpreters of Daniel’s prophecy find in verse 27 the strongest arguments for their viewpoint. In particular, the fact that the verse speaks of: (a) the bringing ‘an end to sacrifice and offering’; (b) ‘abominations’; and (c) ‘desolation’ enables them to cross-reference chapter 8 verse 11, where ‘by him the daily sacrifices were taken away and the place of His sanctuary was cast down’, and chapter 11 verse 31, which speaks of the taking ‘away of the daily sacrifices’, and the placing ‘there the abomination of desolation’. In these verses, of course, Antiochus Epiphanes’ actions, replacing Jewish worship with an altar to Zeus, are clearly in view. The parallels could hardly be stronger. Indeed, the very same expression ‘abomination of desolation’ is used in 1 Maccabees chapter 1 verse 54 of the altar to Zeus that Antiochus set up in the Jewish temple.
From one angle, of course, this helpfully shows that the amillennial interpretation, which attempts to find references in chapter 9 verse 27 to Christ’s New Covenant and the cessation of the animal sacrifices of Judaism, is imposition not exposition.
The amillennial idea that the ‘he’ who shall ‘confirm a covenant’, v. 27, refers to Christ establishing His (New) covenant is also strained and unnatural, for we would expect the ‘he’ to refer back to the last mentioned person in verse 26, that is, the ‘Prince to come’. Ignoring the grammatical link between ‘he’, v. 27, and ‘the Prince to come’, v. 26b, amillennial commentators justify switching the subject to Christ, by arguing that ‘this entire passage is Messianic in nature’, Young. This is less than the whole truth, of course, for a second ‘Prince’ has been introduced, setting him and Messiah the Prince in obvious contrast. Thus, to simply assume that Christ is in view in verse 27 is unwarranted, nor would we expect the prophecy to jump back and forth between the two central figures without specifying which ‘Prince’ was in view.
Amillennialist commentators attempt to deal with the mention of the abomination of desolation, v. 27, by arguing that the Jews themselves, in continuing to offer sacrifices after Christ’s death, offered abominations, and that this brought upon themselves the desolation of AD 70. However, the word ‘abomination’, as we have seen, usually refers to idols, not to animal sacrifices, which even Paul offered in Acts chapter 21. Others argue for some ‘abomination’ sometime during the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, but, as Anderson says, ‘That this prophecy was not fulfilled by Titus is as certain as history can make it’, adding, ‘making all allowance for the contemptible time-serving of Josephus and his admiration for Titus, his testimony on this point is too full and explicit to admit of doubt’.9
Amillennial commentators also argue that the ‘desolation’ of verse 27 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus which, according to their theology of replacement, did away with Judaism forever, and its special ethnic, national, religious and territorial position, being fulfilled by the church in God’s plans. However, ‘the figment that a prophecy of temporal and spiritual good for the Jews was fulfilled by their rejection and ruin is one of the very wildest vagaries of interpretation’.10
The critical interpretation, on the other hand, can point to obvious and forceful parallels between verse 27 and Antiochus’ reign of terror, although there are problems too. Foremost among them is the question of what is the ‘covenant’ that Antiochus made with the ‘many’ for ‘one seven’? Some suggest that this may refer to the harsh edict imposed by Antiochus upon the Jewish people, which forbad the worship of God, circumcision, dietary laws, reading the scriptures, and so on. However, it is hard to understand in what way this was a ‘covenant’.
Others latch onto the fact that 1 Maccabees chapter 1 verses 11-15 speak of some of the ‘wicked men’ among the Jews ‘who persuaded many, saying, Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about us: for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow. So this device pleased them well. Then, certain of the people were so forward herein, that they went to the king, who gave them licence to do after the ordinances of the heathen’.
The problems with this suggestion, are: (1) despite the use of the word, what was described hardly amounts to a ‘covenant’, patronage and permission from Antiochus does not amount to a covenant; and (2) the order of events is back to front, for verse 27 places the ‘covenant’ after the destruction of the city and sanctuary mentioned in verse 26, while the ‘covenant’ that Maccabees mentions occurred long before Antiochus’ attack upon the city. The critical scholar might argue that verse 27 is to be explained as a reiteration of the same events as verse 26, or that the prophecy is incoherent or jumbled up. However, to blame the prophecy when it does not fit a scheme of interpretation is begging the question; rather, it is the interpretation that is confused. Thus, while there are definite parallels between verse 27 and the career of Antiochus Epiphanes, the match-up is less than perfect.
For critical scholars, near enough is good enough when interpreting scripture. However, for the humble believer who trembles at God’s word, the fact that Antiochus presents strong parallels but not perfect alignments, means that, like all other biblical types, he is but a foreshadowing of what the scripture is pointing to. Only the prophetic antitype, the ‘Prince to come’, will perfectly fulfil Daniel’s prophecy.
Our Lord Jesus Christ’s own words about a future abomination of desolation require that Daniel chapter 9 verse 27 is telling of the career of the yet-future Antichrist, of whom Antiochus was but a foreshadowing.
- J. G. Baldwin, Daniel, TOTC, IVP, 1978, pg. 191
- Edward Dennett, Daniel the Prophet and the Times of the Gentiles, Central Bible Truth Depot, 1967, pgs. 153-4
- William Kelly, The Great Prophecies of Daniel, Pickering and Inglis, 1897, pg. 163
- Sir R. Anderson, The Coming Prince, Kregel Publications, 1984, pg. 84
- H. S. Paisley, This Daniel, Olive Press, 1991, pg. 137
- A. C. Gaebelein, The Prophet Daniel, Pickering and Inglis, n.d., pg. 149
- Gaebelein, pgs. 149-150
- S. P. Tregelles, Remarks on the Prophetic Visions in the Book of Daniel, Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1852, pg. 114
- Anderson, The Coming Prince, pgs. 84-5 and footnote
- Sir R. Anderson, Daniel in the Critics Den, Nisbet, 1909, pg. 137
AUTHOR PROFILE: Commended by the assembly at Bexley, Sydney, Australia, in 1994, and together with his wife, Gillian, has sought to serve the Lord in New South Wales, Australia, and then London, UK. Involved in evangelistic, children's and Bible teaching ministries. He now resides in Brisbane, Australia.