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Daniel 9:25

25. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

25. Cognosces ergo et intelliges, 115115     Or, know and understand. — Calvin. ab exitu verbi de reditu, 116116     Or, concerning the bringing back of the people. — Calvin. et de aedificanda Jerosolyma usque ad Christum ducem hebdomadas septam, et hebdomadas sexaginta duas, et reducetur, 117117     Or, the people shall return. — Calvin. et re-aedificabutur platea, 118118     A plain, from the word to spread. — Calvin. et murus, idque in angustia temporum.


Daniel here repeats the divisions of time already mentioned. He had previously stated seventy weeks; but he now makes two portions, one of seven weeks, and the other of sixty-two. There is clearly another reason why he wished to divide into two parts the number used by the angel. One portion contains seven weeks, and the other sixty-two; a single week is omitted which will afterwards be mentioned. The Jews reject seven weeks from the rule of Herod to that of Vespasian. I confess this to be in accordance with the Jewish method of speech; instead of sixty-two and seven, they will say seven and sixty-two; thus putting the smaller number first. The years of man (says Moses) shall be twenty and a hundred, (Genesis 6:3) the Greeks and Latins would say, shall be a hundred and twenty years. I confess this to be the common phrase among the Hebrews; but here the Prophet is not relating the continuance of any series of years, as if he were treating of the life of a single man, but he first marks the space of seven weeks, and then cuts off another period of sixty-two weeks. The seven weeks clearly precede in order of time, otherwise we could not sufficiently explain the full meaning of the angel.

We shall now treat the sense in which the going forth of the edict ought to be received. In the meantime, it cannot be denied that the angel pronounces this concerning the edict which had been promulgated about the bringing back of the people, and the restoration of the city. It would, therefore, be foolish to apply it to a period at which the city was not restored, and no such decree had either been uttered or made public. But, first of all, we must treat what the angel says, until the Christ, the Messiah Some desire to take this singular noun in a plural sense, as if it were the Christ of the Lord, meaning his priests; while some refer it to Zerubbabel, and others to Joshua. But clearly enough the angel speaks of Christ, of whom both kings and priests under the law were a type and figure. Some, again, think the dignity of Christ lessened by the use of the word נגיד, negid, “prince” or “leader,” as if in his leadership there existed neither royalty, nor scepter, nor diadem. This remark is altogether without reason; for David is called a leader of the people, and Hezekiah when he wore a diadem, and was seated on his throne, is also termed a leader. (2 Samuel 5:2; 2 Kings 20:5.) Without doubt, the word here implies superior excellence. All kings were rulers over the people of God, and the priests were endowed with a certain degree of honor and authority. Here, then, the angel calls Christ, leader, as he far surpassed all others, whether kings or priests. And if the reader is not captious, this contrast will be admitted at once.

He next adds, The people shall return or be brought back, and the street shall be built, and the wall, and that, too, in the narrow limit of the times. Another argument follows, — namely, after sixty-two weeks Christ shall be cut off. This the Jews understand of Agrippa, who certainly was cut off when Augustus obtained the empire. In this they seek only something to say; for all sound and sensible readers will be perfectly satisfied that they act without either judgment or shame, and vomit forth whatever comes into their thoughts. They are quite satisfied when they find anything plausible to say. That trifler, Barbinel, of whom I have previously spoken, thinks Agrippa has just as much right to be called a Christ as Cyrus; he allows his defection to the Romans, but states it to have been against his will, as he was still a worshipper of God. Although he was clearly an apostate, yet he treats him as by no means worse than all the rest, and for this reason he wishes him to be called the Christ. But, first of all, we know Agrippa not to have been a legitimate king, and his tyranny was directly contrary to the oracle of Jacob, since the scepter had been snatched away from the tribe of Judah. (Genesis 49:10.) He cannot by any means be called Christ, even though he had surpassed all angels in wisdom, and virtue, and power, and everything else. Here the lawful government of the people is treated, and this will not be found in the person of Agrippa. Hence the Jewish arguments are altogether futile. Next, another statement is added, he shall confirm the treaty with many. The Jews elude the force of this clause very dishonestly, and without the slightest shame. They twist it to Vespasian and Titus. Vespasian had been sent into Syria and the East by Nero. It is perfectly true, that though a wish to avoid a severe slaughter of his soldiers, he tried all conditions of peace, and enticed the Jews by every possible inducement to give themselves up to him, rather than to force him to the last extremity. Truly enough, then, Vespasian exhorted the Jews to peace, and Titus, after his father had passed over to Italy, followed the same policy; but was this confirming the covenant? When the angel of God is treating events of the last importance, and embracing the whole condition of the Church, their explanation is trifling who refer it to the Roman leaders wishing to enter into a treaty with the people. They attempted either to obtain possession of the whole empire of the East by covenant, or else they determined to use the utmost force to capture the city. This explanation, then, is utterly absurd. It is quite clear that the Jews are not only destitute of all reason when they explain this passage of the continual wrath of God, and exclude his favor and reconciliation with the people, but they are utterly dishonest, and utter words without shame, and throw a mist over the passage to darken it. At the same time their vanity is exposed, as they have no pretext for their comments.

I now come to the Ancient Writers. Jerome, as I stated shortly yesterday, recites various opinions. But before I treat them singly, I must answer in few words, the calumny of that impure and obstinate Rabbi, Barbinel. To deprive the Christians of all confidence and authority, he objects to their mutual differences; as if differences between men not sufficiently exercised in the Scriptures, could entirely overthrow their truth. Suppose, for instance, that I were to argue against him, the absence of consent among the Jews themselves. If any one is anxious to collect their different opinions, he may exult as a conqueror in this respect, as there is no agreement between the Rabbis. Nay, he does not point out the full extent of the differences which occur among Christians, for I am ready to concede far more than he demands. For that brawler was ignorant of all things, and betrays only petulance and talkativeness. His books are doubtless very plausible among the Jews who seek nothing else. But he takes as authorities with us, Africanus and Nicolaus de Lyra, Burgensis, and a certain teacher named Remond. He is ignorant of the names of Eusebius, 119119     See this verse quoted in Euseb., Hist. Ecc., lib. 1, chapter 6 and the Dissertations at the end of this volume, for an account of these writers. — Ed. Origen, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Apollinaris, Jerome, Augustine, and other similar writers. We here perceive how brazen this prater is, who dares to babble about matters utterly beyond his knowledge. But as I have stated, I allow many differences among Christians. Eusebius himself agrees with the Jews in referring the word “Christ” to the priests, and when the angel speaks of the death of Christ, he thinks the death of Aristobulus, who was slain, is intended here. But this is altogether foolish. He is a Christian, you will say; true, but he fell into ignorance and error. The opinion of Africanus is more to the point, but the time by no means accords with that of Darius the son of Hystaspes, as I shall afterwards show. He errs again on another chapter, by taking the years to be lunar ones, as Lyranus does. Without doubt, this was only a cavil of his; through not finding their own years suit, they thought the whole number might be made up, by using intercalary years together with the 490. For before the year was adjusted to the course of the sun, the ancients were accustomed to reckon twelve lunar months, and afterwards to add another. The whole number of years may be made up according to their imagination, if we add those additional periods to the years here enumerated by the Prophet. But I reject this altogether. Hippolytus also errs in another direction; for he reckons the seven weeks as the time which elapsed between the death and resurrection of Christ, and herein he agrees with the Jews. Apollinaris also is mistaken, for he thinks we must begin at Christ’s birth, and then extends the prophecy to the end of the world. Eusebius also, who contends with him in a certain passage, takes the last week for the whole period which must elapse till the end of the world shall arrive. I therefore am ready to acknowledge all these interpretations to be false, and yet I do not allow the truth of God to fail.

How, therefore, shall we arrive at any certain conclusion? It is not sufficient to refute the ignorance of others, unless we can make the truth apparent, and prove it by clear and satisfactory reasons. I am willing to spare the names of surviving commentators, and of those who have lived during our own times, yet I must say what will prove useful to my readers; meanwhile, I shall speak cautiously, because I am very desirous of being silent upon all points except those which are useful and necessary to be known. If any one has the taste and the needful leisure to inquire diligently into the time here mentioned, Oecolampadius rightly and prudently admonishes us, that we ought to make the computation from the beginning of the world. For until the ruin of the Temple and the destruction of the city, we can gather with certainty the number of years which have elapsed since the creation of the world; here there is no room for error. The series is plain enough in the Scriptures. But after this they leave the reader to other sources of information, since the computation from the overthrow of the Temple is loose and inaccurate, according to Eusebius and others. Thus, from the return of the people to the advent of Christ 540 years will be found to have elapsed. Thus we see how impossible it is to satisfy sensible readers, if we only reckon the years in the way Oecolampadius has done. 120120     See his Chronology at full length in his comment on this verse, lib.2. Edit. fol. 1567. The Editor ventures to recommend the readers of Calvin’s Daniel, to peruse the judicious comments of CEcolampadins. They are worthy of more attention than they have received in England. See our Dissertations throughout. — Ed.

Philip Melancthon, who excels in genius and learning, and is happily versed in the studies of history, fakes a double computation. He begins one plan from the second year of Cyrus, that is, from the commencement of the Persian monarchy; but he reckons the seventy weeks to be finished about the death of Augustus, which is the period of the birth of Christ. When he arrives at the baptism of Christ, he adds another method of reckoning, which commences at the times of Darius: and as to the edict here mentioned, he understands it to have been promulgated by Darius the son of Hystaspes, since the building of the Temple was interrupted for about sixty-six years. As to this computation, I cannot by any means approve of it. And yet I confess the impossibility of finding any other exposition of what the angel says — until Christ the Leader, unless by referring it to the baptism of Christ.

These two points, then, in my judgment, must be held as fixed; first, the seventy weeks begin with the Persian monarchy, because a free return was then granted to the people; and secondly, they did not terminate till the baptism of Christ, when he openly commenced his work of satisfying the requirements of the office assigned him by his father. But we must now see how this will accord with the number of years. I confess here, the existence of such great differences between ancient writers, that we must use conjecture, because we have no certain explanation to bring forward, which we can point out as the only sufficient one. I am aware of the various calumnies of those who desire to render all things obscure, and to pour the darkness of night upon the clearest daylight. For the profane and the skeptical catch at this directly; for when they see any difference of opinion, they wish to shew the uncertainty of all our teaching. So if they perceive any difference in the views of various interpreters, even in matters of the smallest moment, they conclude all things to be involved in complete darkness. But their perverseness ought not to frighten us, because when any discrepancies occur in the narratives of profane historians, we do not pronounce the whole history fabulous. Let us take Grecian history, — how greatly the Greeks differ from each other? If any should make this a pretext for rejecting them all, and should assert all their narrations to be false, would not every one condemn him as singularly impudent? Now, if the Scriptures are not self-contradictory, but manifest slight diversities in either years or places, shall we on that account pronounce them entirely destitute of credit? We are well aware of the existence of some differences in all histories, and yet this does not cause them to lose their authority; they are still quoted, and confidence is reposed in them.

With respect to the present passage, I confess myself unable to deny the existence of much controversy concerning these years, among all the Greek and Latin writers. This is true: but, meanwhile, shall we bury whatever has already past, and think the world interrupted in its course? After Cyrus had transferred to the Persians the power of the East, some kings must clearly have followed him, although it is not evident who they were, and writers also differ about the period and the reigns of each of them, and yet on the main points there is a general agreement. For some enumerate about 200 years; others 125 years; and some are between the two, reckoning 140 years. Whichever be the correct statement, there was clearly some succession of the Persian kings, and many additional years elapsed before Alexander the Macedonian obtained the monarchy of the whole East. This is quite clear. Now, from the death of Alexander the number of years is well known. Philip Melancthon cites a passage from Ptolemy which makes them 292; and many testimonies may be adduced, which confirm that period of time. If any object, the number of years might be reckoned by periods of five years, as the Romans usually did, or by Olympiads, with the Greeks, I confess that the reckoning by Olympiads removes all source of error. The Greeks used great diligence and minuteness, and were very desirous of glory. We cannot say the same of the Persian empire, for we are unable accurately to determine under what Olympiad each king lived, and the year in which he commenced his reign and in which he died. Whatever conclusion we adopt, my previous assertion is perfectly true, — if captious men are rebellious and darken the clear light of history, yet, they cannot wrest this passage from its real meaning, because we can gather from both the Greek and Latin historians, the whole sum of the times which will suit very clearly this prophecy of Daniel. Whoever will compare all historical testimony with the desire of learning, and, without any contention, will carefully number the years, he will find it impossible to express them better than by the expression of the angel — seventy weeks. For example, let any studious person, endued with acuteness, experience, and skill, discover whatever has been written in Greek and Latin, and distinguish the testimony of each writer under distinct heads, and afterwards compare the writers together, and determine the credibility of each, and how far each is a fit and classical authority, he will find the same result as that here given by the Prophet. This ought to be sufficient for us. But, meanwhile, we must remember how our ignorance springs chiefly from this Persian custom; whoever undertook a warlike expedition, appointed his son his viceroy. Thus, Cambyses reigned, according to some, twenty years, and according to others, only seven; because the crown was placed on his head during his father’s lifetime. Besides this, there was another reason. The people of the East are notoriously very restless, easily excited, and always desiring a change of rulers. Hence, contentions frequently arose among near relatives, of which we have ample narratives in the works of Herodotus. I mention him among others, as the fact is sufficiently known. When fathers saw the danger of their sons mutually destroying each other, they usually created one of them a king; and if they wished to prefer the younger brother to the elder, they called him “king” with the concurrence of their council. Hence, the years of their reigns became intermingled, without any fixed method of reckoning them. And, therefore, I said, even if Olympiads could never mislead us, this could not be asserted of the Persian empire. While we allow much diversity and contradiction united with great obscurity, still we must always return to the same point, — some conclusion may be found, which will agree with this prediction of the Prophet. Therefore I will not reckon these years one by one, but will only admonish each of you to weigh for himself, according to his capacity, what he reads in history. Thus all sound and moderate men will acquiesce, when they perceive how well this prophecy of Daniel agrees with the testimony of profane writers, in its general scope, according to my previous explanations.

I stated that we must begin with the monarchy of Cyrus; this is clearly to be gathered from the words of the angel, and especially from the division of the weeks. For he says, The seven weeks have reference to the repair of the city and temple No cavils can in any way deprive the Prophet’s expression of its true force: from the going forth of the edict concerning the bringing back of the people and the building of the city, until Messiah the Leader, shall be seven weeks; and then, sixty-two weeks: afterward he adds, After the sixty-two weeks Christ shall be cut off When, therefore, he puts seven weeks in the first place, and clearly expresses his reckoning the commencement of this period from the promulgation of the edict, to what can we refer these seven weeks, except to the times of the monarchy of Cyrus and that of Darius the son of Hystaspes? This is evident from the history of the Maccabees, as well as from the testimony of the evangelist John; and we may collect the same conclusion from the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, as the building of the Temple was interrupted during forty-six years. Cyrus permitted the people to build the Temple; the foundations were laid when Cyrus went out to the war in Scythia; the Jews were then compelled to cease their labors, and his successor Cambyses was hostile to this people. Hence the Jews say, (John 2:20,) Forty-six years was this Temple in building, and wilt thou build it in three days? They strive to deride Christ because he had said, Destroy this Temple, and I will rebuild it in future days, as it was then a common expression, and had been handed down by their fathers, that the Temple had occupied this period in its construction. If you add the three years during which the foundations were laid, we shall then have forty-nine years, or seven weeks. As the event openly shews the completion of what the angel had predicted to Daniel, whoever wishes to wrest the meaning of the passage, only displays his own hardihood. And must we not reject every other interpretation, as obscuring so clear and obvious a meaning? We must next remember what I have previously stated. In yesterday’s Lecture we saw that seventy weeks were cut off for the people; the angel had also declared the going forth of the edict, for which Daniel had prayed. What necessity, then, is there for treating a certainty as doubtful? and why litigate the point when God pronounces the commencement of this period to be at the termination of the seventy years proclaimed by Jeremiah? It is quite certain, that these seventy years and seventy weeks ought to be joined together. Since, therefore, these periods are continuous, whoever refers this passage to the time of Darius Hystaspes, first of all breaks the links of a chain of events all connected together, and then perverts the whole spirit of the passage; for, as we yesterday stated, the angel’s object was to offer consolation in the midst of sorrow. For seventy years the people had been miserably afflicted in exile, and they seemed utterly abandoned, as if God would no longer acknowledge these children of Abraham for his people and inheritance. As this was the Almighty’s intention, it is quite clear that the commencement of the seventy weeks cannot be otherwise interpreted than by referring it to the monarchy of Cyrus. This is the first point.

We must now turn to the sixty-two weeks; and if I cannot satisfy every one, I shall still content myself with great simplicity, and I trust that all sound and humble disciples of Christ will easily acquiesce in this exposition. If we reckon the years from the reign of Darius to the baptism of Christ, sixty-two weeks or thereabouts will be found to have elapsed. As I previously remarked, I am not scrupulous to a few days or months, or even a single year; for how great is that perverseness which would lead us to reject what historians relate because they do not all agree to a single year? Whatever be the correct conclusion, we shall find about 480 years between the time of Darius and the death of Christ. Hence it becomes necessary to prolong these years to the baptism of Christ, because when the angel speaks of the last week, he plainly states, The covenant shall be confirmed at that time, and then the Messiah shall be cut off As this was to be done in the last week, we must necessarily extend the time to the preaching of the Gospel. And for this reason Christ is called a “Leader,” because at his conception he was destined to be king of heaven and earth, although he did not commence his reign till he was publicly ordained the Master and Redeemer of his people. The word “Leader” is applied as a name before the office was assumed; as if the angel had said, the end of the seventy weeks will occur when Christ openly assumes the office of king over his people, by collecting them from that miserable and horrible dispersion under which they had been so long ground down. I shall put off the rest till to-morrow.

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