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This chapter is occupied with the prayer of Daniel, and with the famous vision of the seventy weeks which has led to such interminable controversies, but of which the interpretation no longer admits of any certainty, because accurate data are not forthcoming.

The vision is dated in the first year of Darius, the son of Achashverosh, of the Median stock.588588   Achashverosh, Esther viii. 10; perhaps connected with Kshajârsha, "eye of the kingdom" (Corp. Inscr. Sem., ii. 125). We have seen already that such a person is unknown to history. The date, however, accords well in this instance with the literary standpoint of the writer. The vision is sent as a consolation of perplexities suggested by the writer's study of the Scriptures; and nothing is more naturally imagined than the fact that the overthrow of the Babylonian Empire should have sent a Jewish exile to the study of the rolls of his holy prophets, to see what light they threw on the exile of his people.

He understood from "the books" the number of the years "whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet for the accomplishing of the desolation of Jerusalem, even seventy years."589589   By "the books" is here probably meant the Thorah or Pentateuch, in which the writer discovered the key to the mystic meaning of the seventy years. It was not in the two sections of Jeremiah himself (called, according to Kimchi, Sepher Hamattanah and Sepher Hagalon) that he found this key. Jeremiah is here Yir'myah, as in Jer. xxvii.-xxix. See Jer. xxv. 11; Ezek. xxxvii. 21; Zech. i. 12. In the Epistle of Jeremy (ver. 2) the seventy years become seven generations (Χρόνος μακρὸς ἕως ἑππὰ γενεῶν). See too Dillman's Enoch, p. 293. Such is the rendering269 of our Revisers, who here follow the A.V. ("I understood by books"), except that they rightly use the definite article (LXX., ἐν ταῖς βίβλοις). Such too is the view of Hitzig. Mr. Bevan seems to have pointed out the real meaning of the passage, by referring not only to the Pentateuch generally, as helping to interpret the words of Jeremiah, but especially to Lev: xxvi. 18, 21, 24, 28.590590   Dan., p. 146. Comp. a similar usage in Aul. Gell., Noct. Att., iii. 10, "Se jam undecimam annorum hebdomadem ingressum esse"; and Arist., Polit., vii. 16. It was there that the writer of Daniel discovered the method of interpreting the "seventy years" spoken of by Jeremiah. The Book of Leviticus had four times spoken of a sevenfold punishment—a punishment "seven times more" for the sins of Israel. Now this thought flashed upon the writer like a luminous principle. Daniel, in whose person he wrote, had arrived at the period at which the literal seventy years of Jeremiah were—on some methods of computation—upon the eve of completion: the writer himself is living in the dreary times of Antiochus. Jeremiah had prophesied that the nations should serve the King of Babylon seventy years (Jer. xxv. 11), after which time God's vengeance should fall on Babylon; and again (Jer. xxix. 10, 11), that after seventy years the exiles should return to Palestine, since the thoughts of Jehovah towards them were thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give them a future and a hope.

The writer of Daniel saw, nearly four centuries later,270 that after all only a mere handful of the exiles, whom the Jews themselves compared to the chaff in comparison with the wheat, had returned from exile; that the years which followed had been cramped, dismal, and distressful; that the splendid hopes of the Messianic kingdom, which had glowed so brightly on the foreshortened horizon of Isaiah and so many of the prophets, had never yet been fulfilled; and that these anticipations never showed fewer signs of fulfilment than in the midst of the persecuting furies of Antiochus, supported by the widespread apostasies of the Hellenising Jews, and the vile ambition of such renegade high priests as Jason and Menelaus.

That the difficulty was felt is shown by the fact that the Epistle of Jeremy (ver. 2) extends the epoch of captivity to two hundred and ten years (7 × 30), whereas in Jer. xxix. 10 "seventy years" are distinctly mentioned.591591   See Fritzsche ad loc.; Ewald, Hist. of Isr., v. 140.

What was the explanation of this startling apparent discrepancy between "the sure word of prophecy" and the gloomy realities of history?

The writer saw it in a mystic or allegorical interpretation of Jeremiah's seventy years. The prophet could not (he thought) have meant seventy literal years. The number seven indeed played its usual mystic part in the epoch of punishment. Jerusalem had been taken b.c. 588; the first return of the exiles had been about b.c. 538. The Exile therefore had, from one point of view, lasted forty-nine years—i.e., 7 × 7. But even if seventy years were reckoned from the fourth year of Jehoiakim (b.c. 606?) to the decree of Cyrus (b.c. 536), and if these seventy years could be made out, still271 the hopes of the Jews were on the whole miserably frustrated.592592   The writer of 2 Chron. xxxv. 17, 18, xxxvi. 21, 22, evidently supposed that seventy years had elapsed between the destruction of Jerusalem and the decree of Cyrus—which is only a period of fifty years. The Jewish writers were wholly without means for forming an accurate chronology. For instance, the Prophet Zechariah (i. 12), writing in the second year of Darius, son of Hystaspes (b.c. 520), thinks that the seventy years were only then concluding. In fact, the seventy years may be dated from b.c. 606 (fourth year of Jehoiakim); or b.c. 598 (Jehoiachin); or from the destruction of the Temple (b.c. 588); and may be supposed to end at the decree of Cyrus (b.c. 536); or the days of Zerubbabel (Ezra v. 1); or the decree of Darius (b.c. 518, Ezra vi. 1-12).

Surely then—so thought the writer—the real meaning of Jeremiah must have been misunderstood; or, at any rate, only partially understood. He must have meant, not "years," but weeks of yearsSabbatical years. And that being so, the real Messianic fulfilments were not to come till four hundred and ninety years after the beginning of the Exile; and this clue he found in Leviticus. It was indeed a clue which lay ready to the hand of any one who was perplexed by Jeremiah's prophecy, for the word שָׁבוּעַ, ἑβδομάς, means, not only the week, but also "seven," and the seventh year;593593   Lev. xxv. 2, 4. and the Chronicler had already declared that the reason why the land was to lie waste for seventy years was that "the land" was "to enjoy her Sabbaths"; in other words, that, as seventy Sabbatical years had been wholly neglected (and indeed unheard of) during the period of the monarchy—which he reckoned at four hundred and ninety years—therefore it was to enjoy those Sabbatical years continuously while there was no nation in Palestine to cultivate the soil.594594   2 Chron. xxxvi. 21. See Bevan, p. 14.


Another consideration may also have led the writer to his discovery. From the coronation of Saul to the captivity of Zachariah, reckoning the recorded length of each reign and giving seventeen years to Saul (since the "forty years" of Acts xiii. 21 is obviously untenable), gave four hundred and ninety years, or, as the Chronicler implies, seventy unkept Sabbatic years. The writer had no means for an accurate computation of the time which had elapsed since the destruction of the Temple. But as there were four hundred and eighty years and twelve high priests from Aaron to Ahimaaz, and four hundred and eighty years and twelve high priests from Azariah I. to Jozadak, who was priest at the beginning of the Captivity,—so there were twelve high priests from Jozadak to Onias III.; and this seemed to imply a lapse of some four hundred and ninety years in round numbers.595595   See Cornill, Die Siebzig Jahrwochen Daniels, pp. 14-18.

The writer introduces what he thus regarded as a consoling and illuminating discovery in a striking manner. Daniel coming to understand for the first time the real meaning of Jeremiah's "seventy years," "set his face unto the Lord God, to seek prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes."596596   The LXX. and Theodotion, with a later ritual bias, make the fasting a means towards the prayer: εὑρεῖν προσευχὴν καὶ ἔλεος ἐν νηστείαις.

His prayer is thus given:—

It falls into three strophes of equal length, and is "all alive and aglow with a pure fire of genuine repentance, humbly assured faith, and most intense petition."597597   Ewald, p. 278. The first part (vv. 4-14) is mainly occupied with confessions and acknowledgment of God's justice; the last part (vv. 15-19) with entreaty for pardon: confessio (vv. 4-14); consolatio (vv. 15-19) (Melancthon). At the same time it is the composition of a literary273 writer, for in phrase after phrase it recalls various passages of Scripture.598598   Besides the parallels which follow, it has phrases from Exod. xx. 6; Deut. vii. 21, x. 17; Jer. vii. 19; Psalm xliv. 16, cxxx. 4; 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, 16. Mr. Deane (Bishop Ellicott's Commentary, p. 407) thus exhibits the details of special resemblances:— Dan. ix. Ezra ix. Neh. ix. Baruch. Verse. Verse. Verse.   4 7 32 — 5 7 33, 34 i. 11 6 7 32, 33 — 7 6, 7 32, 33 i. 15-17 8 6, 7 33 — 9 — 17 — 13 — — ii. 7 14 15 33 — 15 — 10 ii. 11 18 — — ii. 19 19 — — ii. 15 It closely resembles the prayers of Ezra and Nehemiah, and is so nearly parallel with the prayer of the apocryphal Baruch that Ewald regards it as an intentional abbreviation of Baruch ii. 1-iii. 39. Ezra, however, confesses the sins of his nation without asking for forgiveness; and Nehemiah likewise praises God for His mercies, but does not plead for pardon or deliverance; but Daniel entreats pardon for Israel and asks that his own prayer may be heard. The sins of Israel in vv. 5, 6, fall under the heads of wandering, lawlessness, rebellion, apostasy, and heedlessness. It is one of the marked tendencies of the later Jewish writings to degenerate into centos of phrases from the Law and the Prophets. It is noticeable that the name Jehovah occurs in this chapter of Daniel alone (in vv. 2, 4, 10, 13, 14, 20); and that he also addresses God as El, Elohim, and Adonai.

In the first division of the prayer (vv. 4-10) Daniel274 admits the faithfulness and mercy of God, and deplores the transgressions of his people from the highest to the lowest in all lands.

In the second part (vv. 11-14) he sees in these transgressions the fulfilment of "the curse and the oath" written in the Law of Moses, with special reference to Lev. xxvi. 14, 18, etc. In spite of all their sins and miseries they had not "stroked the face" of the Lord their God.599599   ix. 13 (Heb.). Comp. Exod. xxxii. 13; 1 Sam. xiii. 12; 1 Kings xiii. 6, etc.

The third section (vv. 15-19) appeals to God by His past mercies and deliverances to turn away His wrath and to pity the reproach of His people. Daniel entreats Jehovah to hear his prayer, to make His face shine on His desolated sanctuary, and to behold the horrible condition of His people and of His holy city. Not for their sakes is He asked to show His great compassion, but because His Name is called upon His city and His people.600600   Comp. Jer. xxxii. 17-23; Isa. lxiii. 11-16.

Such is the prayer; and while Daniel was still speaking, praying, confessing his own and Israel's sins, and interceding before Jehovah for the holy mountain—yea, even during the utterance of his prayer—the Gabriel of his former vision came speeding to him in full flight601601   ix. 21. LXX., τάχει φερόμενος; Theodot., πετόμενος; Vulg., cito volans; A.V. and R.V., "being made to fly swiftly"; R.V. marg., "being sore wearied"; A.V. marg., "with weariness"; Von Lengerke, "being caused to hasten with haste." The verb elsewhere always connotes weariness. If that be the meaning here, it must refer to Daniel. If it here means "flying," it is the only passage in the Old Testament where angels fly; but see Isa. vi. 2; Psalm civ. 4, etc. The wings of angels are first mentioned in the Book of Enoch, lxi.; but see Rev. xiv. 6—cherubim and seraphim have wings. at the time of the evening275 sacrifice.602602   In the time of the historic Daniel, as in the brief three and a half years of Antiochus, the tamîd had ceased. The archangel tells him that no sooner had his supplication begun than he sped on his way, for Daniel is a dearly beloved one.603603   ix. 23. Heb., eesh hamudôth; Vulg., vir desideriorum, "a man of desires"; Theodot., ἀνὴρ ἐπιθυμιῶν. Comp. x. 11, 19, and Jer. xxxi. 20, where "a pleasant child" is "a son of caresses"; and the "amor et deliciæ generis humani" applied to Titus; and the names David, Jedidiah, "beloved of Jehovah." The LXX. render the word ἐλεεινός, "an object of pity." Therefore he bids him take heed to the word and to the vision:—

1. Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people, and upon thy holy city604604   Daniel used Shabuîm for weeks, not Shabuôth.

(α) to finish (or "restrain") the transgression;

(β) to make an end of (or "seal up," Theodot. σφραγίσαι) sins;605605   In ver. 24 the Q'rî and Kethîbh vary, as do also the versions.

(γ) to make reconciliation for (or "to purge away") iniquity;

(δ) to bring in everlasting righteousness;

(ε) to seal up vision and prophet (Heb., nābî; LXX., προφήτην); and

(ζ) to anoint the Most Holy (or "a Most Holy Place"; LXX., εὐφρᾶναι ἅγιον ἁγίων).

2. From the decree to restore Jerusalem unto the Anointed One (or "the Messiah"), the Prince, shall be seven weeks. For sixty-two weeks Jerusalem shall be built again with street and moat, though in troublous times.606606   For charoots, "moat" (Ewald), the A.V. has "wall," and in the marg. "breach" or "ditch." The word occurs for "ditches" in the Talmud. The text of the verse is uncertain.

3. After these sixty-two weeks—

(α) an Anointed One shall be cut off, and shall have276 no help (?) (or "there shall be none belonging to him");607607   Perhaps because neither Jason nor Menelaus (being apostate) were regarded as genuine successors of Onias III.

(β) the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary;

(γ) his end and the end shall be with a flood, and war, and desolation;

(δ) for one week this alien prince shall make a covenant with many;

(ε) for half of that week he shall cause the sacrifice and burnt offering to cease;

(ζ) and upon the wing of abominations [shall come] one that maketh desolate;

(η) and unto the destined consummation [wrath] shall be poured out upon a desolate one (?) (or "the horrible one").

Much is uncertain in the text, and much in the translation; but the general outline of the declaration is clear in many of the chief particulars, so far as they are capable of historic verification. Instead of being a mystical prophecy which floated purely in the air, and in which a week stands (as Keil supposes) for unknown, heavenly, and symbolic periods—in which case no real information would have been vouchsafed—we are expressly told that it was intended to give the seer a definite, and even a minutely detailed, indication of the course of events.

Let us now take the revelation which is sent to the perplexed mourner step by step.

1. Seventy weeks are to elapse before any perfect deliverance is to come. We are nowhere expressly told that year-weeks are meant, but this is implied277 throughout, as the only possible means of explaining either the vision or the history. The conception, as we have seen, would come to readers quite naturally, since Shabbath meant in Hebrew, not only the seventh day of the week, but the seventh year in each week of years. Hence "seventy weeks" means four hundred and ninety years.608608   Numb. xiv. 34; Lev. xxvi. 34; Ezek. iv. 6. Not until the four hundred and ninety years—the seventy weeks of years—are ended will the time have come to complete the prophecy which only had a sort of initial and imperfect fulfilment in seventy actual years.

The precise meaning attached in the writer's mind to the events which are to mark the close of the four hundred and ninety years—namely, (α) the ending of transgression; (β) the sealing up of sins; (γ) the atonement for iniquity; (δ) the bringing in of everlasting righteousness; and (ε) the sealing up of the vision and prophet (or prophecy609609   Comp. Jer. xxxii. 11, 44.)—cannot be further defined by us. It belongs to the Messianic hope.610610   See Isa. xlvi. 3, li. 5, liii. 11; Jer. xxiii. 6, etc. It is the prophecy of a time which may have had some dim and partial analogies at the end of Jeremiah's seventy years, but which the writer thought would be more richly and finally fulfilled at the close of the Antiochian persecution. At the actual time of his writing that era of restitution had not yet begun.

But (ζ) another event, which would mark the close of the seventy year-weeks, was to be "the anointing of a Most Holy."

What does this mean?

Theodotion and the ancient translators render it "a Holy of Holies." But throughout the whole Old278 Testament "Holy of Holies" is never once used of a person, though it occurs forty-four times.611611   For the anointing of the altar see Exod. xxix. 36, xl. 10; Lev. viii. 11; Numb. vii. 1. It would make no difference in the usus loquendi if neither Zerubbabel's nor Judas's altar was actually anointed. Keil and his school point to 1 Chron. xxiii. 13 as an exception; but "Nil agit exemptum quod litem lite resolvit."

In that verse some propose the rendering, "to sanctify, as most holy, Aaron and his sons for ever"; but both the A.V. and the R.V. render it, "Aaron was separated that he should sanctify the most holy things, he and his sons for ever." If there be a doubt as to the rendering, it is perverse to adopt the one which makes the usage differ from that of every other passage in Holy Writ.

Now the phrase "most holy" is most frequently applied to the great altar of sacrifice.612612   It is only used thirteen times of the Debhîr, or Holiest Place. It is therefore natural to explain the present passage as a reference to the reanointing of the altar of sacrifice, primarily in the days of Zerubbabel, and secondarily by Judas Maccabæus after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes.613613   1 Macc. iv. 54.

2. But in the more detailed explanation which follows, the seventy year-weeks are divided into 7 + 62 + 1.

(α) At the end of the first seven week-years (after forty-nine years) Jerusalem should be restored, and there should be "an Anointed, a Prince."614614   Theodot., ἕως χριστοῦ ἡγουμένου.

Some ancient Jewish commentators, followed by many eminent and learned moderns,615615   Saadia the Gaon, Rashi, Von Lengerke, Hitzig, Schürer, Cornill. understand this Anointed One (Mashiach) and Prince (Nagîd) to be279 Cyrus; and that there can be no objection to conferring on him the exalted title of "Messiah" is amply proved by the fact that Isaiah himself bestows it upon him (Isa. xlv. 1).

Others, however, both ancient (like Eusebius) and modern (like Grätz), prefer to explain the term of the anointed Jewish high priest, Joshua, the son of Jozadak. For the term "Anointed" is given to the high priest in Lev. iv. 3, vi. 20; and Joshua's position among the exiles might well entitle him, as much as Zerubbabel himself, to the title of Nagîd or Prince.616616   Hag. i. 1; Zech. iii. 1; Ezra iii. 2. Comp. Ecclus. xlv. 24; Jos., Antt., XII. iv. 2, προστάτης; and see Bevan, p. 156.

(β) After this restoration of Temple and priest, sixty-two weeks (i.e., four hundred and thirty-four years) are to elapse, during which Jerusalem is indeed to exist "with street and trench"—but in the straitness of the times.617617   We see from Zech. i. 12, ii. 4, that even in the second year of Darius Hystaspis Jerusalem had neither walls nor gates; and even in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the wall was still broken down and the gates burnt (Neh. i. 3).

This, too, is clear and easy of comprehension. It exactly corresponds with the depressed condition of Jewish life during the Persian and early Grecian epochs, from the restoration of the Temple, b.c. 538, to b.c. 171, when the false high priest Menelaus robbed the Temple of its best treasures. This is indeed, so far as accurate chronology is concerned, an unverifiable period, for it only gives us three hundred and sixty-seven years instead of four hundred and thirty-four:—but of that I will speak later on. The punctuation of the original is disputed. Theodotion, the Vulgate, and our A.V. punctuate in ver. 25, "From the going forth of the commandment" ("decree" or "word") "that Jerusalem280 should be restored and rebuilt, unto an Anointed, a Prince, are seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks." Accepting this view, Von Lengerke and Hitzig make the seven weeks run parallel with the first seven in the sixty-two. This indeed makes the chronology a little more accurate, but introduces an unexplained and a fantastic element. Consequently most modern scholars, including even such writers as Keil, and our Revisers follow the Masoretic punctuation, and put the stop after the seven weeks, separating them entirely from the following sixty-two.

3. After the sixty-two weeks is to follow a series of events, and all these point quite distinctly to the epoch of Antiochus Epiphanes.

(α) Ver. 26.—An Anointed One618618   LXX., ἀποσταθήσεται χρίσμα καὶ οὐκ ἔσται; Theodot., ἐξολεθρευθήσεται χρίσμα καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῷ; Aquil., ἐξ. ἠλειμμένος καὶ οὐχ ὑπάρξει αὐτῷ. shall be cut off with all that belongs to him.

There can be no reasonable doubt that this is a reference to the deposition of the high priest Onias III., and his murder by Andronicus (b.c. 171).619619   See xi. 22. Von Lengerke, however, and others refer it to Seleucus Philopator, murdered by Heliodorus (b.c. 175). This startling event is mentioned in 2 Macc. iv. 34, and by Josephus (Antt., XII. v. 1), and in Dan. xi. 22. It is added, "and no ... to him."620620   Syr. Aquil., οὐχ ὑπάρξει αὐτῷ; Theodot., καὶ οὔκ ἐστιν ἐν αῦτῳ; LXX., καὶ οὐκ ἔσται; Vulg., "Et non erit ejus populus qui eum negaturus est." The A.V. "and not for himself" is untenable. It would have been וְלֹא לוֹ. See Pusey, p. 182, n. Perhaps the word "helper" (xi. 45) has fallen out of the text, as Grätz supposes; or the words may mean, "there is no [priest] for it [the people]."621621   Steudel, Hofmann. So too Cornill, p. 10: "Ein frommer Jude das Hoher Priesterthum mit Onias für erloschen ansah." The A.V. renders it, "but not for himself"; and in281 the margin, "and shall have nothing"; or, "and they [the Jews] shall be no more his people." The R.V. renders it, "and shall have nothing." I believe, with Dr. Joël, that in the Hebrew words veeyn lô there may be a sort of cryptographic allusion to the name Onias.622622   Comp. ואין לו and חניו (Joël, Notizen, p. 21).

(β) The people of the coming prince shall devastate the city and the sanctuary (translation uncertain).

This is an obvious allusion to the destruction and massacre inflicted on Jerusalem by Apollonius and the army of Antiochus Epiphanes (b.c. 167). Antiochus is called "the prince that shall come," because he was at Rome when Onias III. was murdered (b.c. 171).623623   Jos., Antt., XII. v. 4; 1 Macc. i. 29-40.

(γ) "And until the end shall be a war, a sentence of desolation" (Hitzig, etc.); or, as Ewald renders it, "Until the end of the war is the decision concerning the horrible thing."

This alludes to the troubles of Jerusalem until the heaven-sent Nemesis fell on the profane enemy of the saints in the miserable death of Antiochus in Persia.

(δ) But meanwhile he will have concluded a covenant with many for one week.624624   Here again the meaning is uncertain; and Grätz, altering the reading, thinks that it should be, "He shall abolish the covenant [with God] for the many"; or, "shall cause the many to transgress the covenant."

In any case, whatever be the exact reading or rendering, this seems to be an allusion to the fact that Antiochus was confirmed in his perversity and led on to extremes in the enforcement of his attempt to Hellenise the Jews and to abolish their national religion by the existence of a large party of flagrant apostates. These were headed by their godless and usurping high282 priests, Jason and Menelaus. All this is strongly emphasised in the narrative of the Book of Maccabees. This attempted apostasy lasted for one week—i.e., for seven years; the years intended being probably the first seven of the reign of Antiochus, from b.c. 175 to b.c. 168. During this period he was aided by wicked men, who said, "Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen round about us; for since we departed from them we have had much sorrow." Antiochus "gave them licence to do after the ordinances of the heathen," so that they built a gymnasium at Jerusalem, obliterated the marks of circumcision, and were joined to the heathen (1 Macc. i. 10-15).

(ε) For the half of this week (i.e., for three and a half years) the king abolished the sacrifice and the oblation or meat offering.625625   Dan. ix. 27. Heb., Zebach oo-minchah, "the bloody and unbloody offering."

This alludes to the suppression of the most distinctive ordinances of Jewish worship, and the general defilement of the Temple after the setting up of the heathen altar. The reckoning seems to be from the edict promulgated some months before December, 168, to December, 165, when Judas the Maccabee reconsecrated the Temple.

(ζ) The sentence which follows is surrounded with every kind of uncertainty.

The R.V. renders it, "And upon the wing [or, pinnacle] of abominations shall come [or, be] one that maketh desolate."

The A.V. has, "And for the overspreading of abominations" (or marg., "with the abominable armies") "he shall make it desolate."626626   The special allusion, whatever it may precisely mean, is found under three different designations: (i) In viii. 13 it is called happeshang shomeem; Gk., ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐρημώσεως; Vulg., peccatum desolationis. (ii) In ix. 27 (comp. ix. 31) it is shiqqootsîm m'shomeem; Gk., βδέλυγμα τῆς ἐρημώσεως; Vulg., abominatio desolationis. (iii) In xii. 11 it is shiqqoots shomeem; Gk., τὸ βδέλυγμα ἐρημώσεως; Vulg., abominatio in desolationem. Some traditional fact must (as Dr. Joël says) have underlain the rendering "of desolation" for "of the desolator." In xi. 31 Theodotion has ἠφανισμένων, "of things done away with," for ἐρημωσέων. The expression with which the New Testament has made us so familiar is found also in 1 Macc. i. 51 (comp. 1 Macc. vi. 7): "they built the abomination of desolation upon the altar." There "the abomination" seems clearly to mean a smaller altar for heathen sacrifice to Zeus, built on the great altar of burnt offering. Perhaps the writer of Daniel took the word shomeem, "desolation," as a further definition of shiqqoots, "abomination," from popular speech; and it may have involved a reference to Lev. xxvi. 15-31: "If ye shall despise My statutes ... I will even appoint over you terror ... and I will make your cities waste, and appoint your sanctuaries unto desolation." The old Jewish exegetes referred the prophecy to Antiochus Epiphanes; Josephus and later writers applied it to the Romans. Old Christian expositors regarded it as Messianic; but even Jerome records nine different views of commentators, many of them involving the grossest historic errors and absurdities. Of Post-Reformation expositors down to the present century scarcely two agree in their interpretations. At the present day modern critics of any weight almost unanimously regard these chapters, in their primary significance, as vaticinia ex eventu, as some older Jewish and Christian exegetes had already done. Hitzig sarcastically says that the exegetes have here fallen into all sorts of shiqqootsîm themselves.


It is from the LXX. that we derive the famous expression, "abomination of desolation," referred to by St. Matthew (xxiv. 15: cf. Luke xxi. 20) in the last discourse of our Lord.

Other translations are as follows:—

Gesenius: "Desolation comes upon the horrible wing of a rebel's host."

Ewald: "And above will be the horrible wing of abominations."

Wieseler: "And a desolation shall arise against the wing of abominations."


Von Lengerke, Hengstenberg, Pusey: "And over the edge [or, pinnacle627627   Comp. πτερύγιον (Matt. iv. 5).] of abominations [cometh] the desolator";—which they understand to mean that Antiochus will rule over the Temple defiled by heathen rites.

Kranichfeld and Keil: "And a destroyer comes on the wings of idolatrous abominations."

Kuenen, followed by others, boldly alters the text from ve'al k'naph, "and upon the wing," into ve'al kannô, "and instead thereof."628628   Kuenen, Hist. Crit. Onderzook., ii. 472.

"And instead thereof" (i.e., in the place of the sacrifice and meat offering) "there shall be abominations."

It is needless to weary the reader with further attempts at translation; but however uncertain may be the exact reading or rendering, few modern commentators doubt that the allusion is to the smaller heathen altar built by Antiochus above (i.e., on the summit) of the "Most Holy"—i.e., the great altar of burnt sacrifice—overshadowing it like "a wing" (kanaph), and causing desolations or abominations (shiqqootsîm). That this interpretation is the correct one can hardly be doubted in the light of the clearer references to "the abomination that maketh desolate" in xi. 31 and xii. 11. In favour of this we have the almost contemporary interpretation of the Book of Maccabees. The author of that history directly applies the phrase "the abomination of desolation" to the idol altar set up by Antiochus (1 Macc. i. 54, vi. 7).

(η) Lastly, the terrible drama shall end by an outpouring of wrath, and a sentence of judgment on "the desolation" (R.V.) or "the desolate" (A.V.).

This can only refer to the ultimate judgment with which Antiochus is menaced.


It will be seen then that, despite all uncertainties in the text, in the translation, and in the details, we have in these verses an unmistakably clear foreshadowing of the same persecuting king, and the same disastrous events, with which the mind of the writer is so predominantly haunted, and which are still more clearly indicated in the subsequent chapter.

Is it necessary, after an inquiry inevitably tedious, and of little or no apparently spiritual profit or significance, to enter further into the intolerably and interminably perplexed and voluminous discussions as to the beginning, the ending, and the exactitude of the seventy weeks?629629   Any one who thinks the inquiry likely to lead to any better results than those here indicated has only to wade through Zöckler's comment in Lange's Bibelwerk ("Ezekiel and Daniel," i. 186-221). It is hard to conceive any reading more intolerably wearisome; and at the close it leaves the reader in a state of more hopeless confusion than before. The discussion also occupies many pages of Pusey (pp. 162-231); but neither in his hypothesis nor any other are the dates exact. He can only say, "It were not of any account if we could not interpret these minor details. De minimis non curat lex." On the view that the seventy weeks were to end with the advent of Christ we ask: (1) Why do no two Christian interpreters agree about the interpretation? (2) Why did not the Apostles and Evangelists refer to so decisive an evidence? Even St. Jerome gives, by way of specimen, nine different interpretations in his time, and comes to no decision of his own. After confessing that all the interpretations were individual guesswork, he leaves every reader to his own judgment, and adds: "Dicam quid unusquisque senserit, lectoris arbitrio derelinquens cujus expositionem sequi debeat."

I cannot think that the least advantage can be derived from doing so.

For scarcely any two leading commentators agree as to details;—or even as to any fixed principles by286 which they profess to determine the date at which the period of seventy weeks is to begin or is to end;—or whether they are to be reckoned continuously, or with arbitrary misplacements or discontinuations;—or even whether they are not purely symbolical, so as to have no reference to any chronological indications;630630   On this, however, we may remark with Cornill, "Eine Apokalypse, deren ἀποκαλύψεις unenthülbar sind, wäre ein nonsens, eine contradictio in adjecto" (Die Siebzig Jahrwochen, p. 3). The indication was obviously meant to be understood, and to the contemporaries of the writer, familiar with the minuter facts of the day, it probably was perfectly clear.—or whether they are to be interpreted as referring to one special series of events, or to be regarded as having many fulfilments by "springing and germinal developments." The latter view is, however, distinctly tenable. It applies to all prophecies, inasmuch as history repeats itself; and our Lord referred to another "abomination of desolation" which in His days was yet to come.631631   Luke ii. 25, 26, 38; Matt. xxiv. 15. Comp. 2 Thess. ii.; Jos., Antt., X. xxii. 7.

There is not even an initial agreement—or even the data as to an agreement—whether the "years" to be counted are solar years of three hundred and forty-three days, or lunar years, or "mystic" years, or Sabbath years of forty-nine years, or "indefinite" years; or where they are to begin and end, or in what fashion they are to be divided. All is chaos in the existing commentaries.

As for any received or authorised interpretation, there not only is none, but never has been. The Jewish interpreters differ from one another as widely as the Christian. Even in the days of the Fathers, the early exegetes were so hopelessly at sea in their methods287 of application that St. Jerome contents himself, just as I have done, with giving no opinion of his own.632632   "Scio de hac quæstione ab eruditissimis viris varie disputatum et unumquemque pro captu ingenii sui dixisse quod senserat" (Jer. in Dan., ix.). In other words, there was not only no received interpretation in St. Jerome's day, but the comments of the Fathers were even then a chaos of arbitrary guesses.

The attempt to refer the prophecy of the seventy weeks primarily or directly to the coming and death of Christ, or the desolation of the Temple by Titus, can only be supported by immense manipulations, and by hypotheses so crudely impossible that they would have made the prophecy practically meaningless both to Daniel and to any subsequent reader. The hopelessness of this attempt of the so-called "orthodox" interpreters is proved by their own fundamental disagreements.633633   Pusey makes out a table of the divergent interpretation of the commentators, whom, in his usual ecclesiastical fashion, he charitably classes together as "unbelievers," from Corrodi and Eichhorn down to Herzfeld. But quite as striking a table of divergencies might be drawn up of "orthodox" commentators. It is finally discredited by the fact that neither our Lord, nor His Apostles, nor any of the earliest Christian writers once appealed to the evidence of this prophecy, which, on the principles of Hengstenberg and Dr. Pusey, would have been so decisive! If such a proof lay ready to their hand—a proof definite and chronological—why should they have deliberately passed it over, while they referred to other prophecies so much more general, and so much less precise in dates?

Of course it is open to any reader to adopt the view of Keil and others, that the prophecy is Messianic, but only typically and generally so.

On the other hand, it may be objected that the Antiochian hypothesis breaks down, because—though it288 does not pretend to resort to any of the wild, arbitrary, and I had almost said preposterous, hypotheses invented by those who approach the interpretation of the Book with a-priori and a-posteriori634634   Thus Eusebius, without a shadow of any pretence at argument makes the last week mean seventy years! (Dem. Evan., viii.). assumptions—it still does not accurately correspond to ascertainable dates.

But to those who are guided in their exegesis, not by unnatural inventions, but by the great guiding principles of history and literature, this consideration presents no difficulty. Any exact accuracy of chronology would have been far more surprising in a writes of the Maccabean era than round numbers and vague computations. Precise computation is nowhere prevalent in the sacred books. The object of those books always is the conveyance of eternal, moral, and spiritual instruction. To such purely mundane and secondary matters as close reckoning of dates the Jewish writers show themselves manifestly indifferent. It is possible that, if we were able to ascertain the data which lay before the writer, his calculations might seem less divergent from exact numbers than they now appear. More than this we cannot affirm.

What was the date from which the writer calculated his seventy weeks? Was it from the date of Jeremiah's first prophecy (xxv. 12), b.c. 605? or his second prophecy (xxix. 10), eleven years later, b.c. 594? or from the destruction of the first Temple, b.c. 586? or, as some Jews thought, from the first year of "Darius the Mede"? or from the decree of Artaxerxes in Neh. ii. 1-9? or from the birth of Christ—the date assumed by Apollinaris? All these views have been adopted by various Rabbis and Fathers; but it is obvious that not one of them accords with the allusions of the narrative289 and prayer, except that which makes the destruction of the Temple the terminus a quo. In the confusion of historic reminiscences and the rarity of written documents, the writer may not have consciously distinguished this date (b.c. 588) from the date of Jeremiah's prophecy (b.c. 594). That there were differences of computation as regards Jeremiah's seventy years, even in the age of the Exile, is sufficiently shown by the different views as to their termination taken by the Chronicler (2 Chron. xxxvi. 22), who fixes it b.c. 536, and by Zechariah (Zech. i. 12), who fixes it about b.c. 519.

As to the terminus ad quem, it is open to any commentator to say that the prediction may point to many subsequent and analogous fulfilments; but no competent and serious reader who judges of these chapters by the chapters themselves and by their own repeated indications, can have one moment's hesitation in the conclusion that the writer is thinking mainly of the defilement of the Temple in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes, and its reconsecration (in round numbers) three and a half years later by Judas Maccabæus (December 25th, b.c. 164).

It is true that from b.c. 588 to b.c. 164 only gives us four hundred and twenty-four years, instead of four hundred and ninety years. How is this to be accounted for? Ewald supposes the loss of some passage in the text which would have explained the discrepancy; and that the text is in a somewhat chaotic condition is proved by its inherent philological difficulties, and by the appearance which it assumes in the Septuagint. The first seven weeks indeed, or forty-nine years, approximately correspond to the time between b.c. 588 (the destruction of the Temple) and b.c. 536 (the decree of Cyrus); but the following sixty-two weeks should290 give us four hundred and thirty-four years from the time of Cyrus to the cutting off of the Anointed One, by the murder of Onias III. in b.c. 171, whereas it only gives us three hundred and sixty-five. How are we to account for this miscalculation to the extent of at least sixty-five years?

Not one single suggestion has ever accounted for it, or has ever given exactitude to these computations on any tenable hypothesis.635635   Jost (Gesch. d. Judenthums, i. 99) contents himself with speaking of "die Liebe zu prophetischer Auffassung der Vergangenheit, mit möglichst genauen Zahlenagaben, befriedigt, die uns leider nicht mehr verständlich erscheinen."

But Schürer has shown that exactly similar mistakes of reckoning are made even by so learned and industrious an historian as Josephus.

1. Thus in his Jewish War (VI. iv. 8) he says that there were six hundred and thirty-nine years between the second year of Cyrus and the destruction of the Temple by Titus (a.d. 70). Here is an error of more than thirty years.

2. In his Antiquities (XX. x.) he says that there were four hundred and thirty-four years between the Return from the Captivity (b.c. 536) and the reign of Antiochus Eupator (b.c. 164-162). Here is an error of more than sixty years.

3. In Antt., XIII. xi. 1, he reckons four hundred and eighty-one years between the Return from the Captivity and the time of Aristobulus (b.c. 105-104). Here is an error of some fifty years.

Again, the Jewish Hellenist Demetrius636636   In Clem. Alex., Strom., i. 21. reckons five hundred and seventy-three years from the Captivity of the Ten Tribes (b.c. 722) to the time of Ptolemy IV.291 (b.c. 222), which is seventy years too many. In other words, he makes as nearly as possible the same miscalculations as the writer of Daniel. This seems to show that there was some traditional error in the current chronology; and it cannot be overlooked that in ancient days the means for coming to accurate chronological conclusion were exceedingly imperfect. "Until the establishment of the Seleucid era (b.c. 312), the Jew had no fixed era whatsoever";637637   Cornill, p. 14; Bevan, p. 54. and nothing is less astonishing than that an apocalyptic writer of the date of Epiphanes, basing his calculations on uncertain data to give an allegoric interpretation to an ancient prophecy, should have lacked the records which would alone have enabled him to calculate with exact precision.638638   Schürer, Hist. of Jewish People, iii. 53, 54 (E. Tr.). This is also the view of Graf, Nöldeke, Cornill, and many others. In any case we must not be misled into an impossible style of exegesis of which Bleck says that "bei ihr alles möglich ist und alles für erlaubt gilt."

And, for the rest, we must say with Grotius, "Modicum nec prætor curat, nec propheta."

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