The King Comes to Jerusalem: Prophecies of the Messiah in Daniel Chapter Nine,
by John M. Oakes
Chapter nine of Daniel can easily be divided into two parts. It begins with
a prayer of Daniel in which he begs God, both in his own name and in the name
of his fellow Israelites, for forgiveness for the sins which had brought them
into captivity in Babylon. In the prayer, he also calls for God to deliver
Israelfrom its current bondage. In the second part of chapter nine, Daniel receives
a vision concerning the future of the kingdomof God. At first glance, the two
sections seem to be unrelated.
While it is easy to separate the two sections, it is wise to deal with them
together. This is seen by considering Daniel 9:21, 23, ?while I was still in
prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, instructed me and
said to me… As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have
come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed.? Therefore, it can be seen that
the vision given to Daniel in this chapter is given to him in direct response
to his prayer. Taking a cue from the Bible here, the chapter will be studied
as a unit.
When did Daniel offer this prayer to God and receive the vision? ?In the first
year of Darius son of Xerxes? (Daniel 9:1). The prayer and the vision occurred
in the first year of Darius. This is either the year that Belshazzar was killed
and the Persian/Median Empire came to control Babylon(539 BC), or possibly soon after
that, when Darius was made ruler of the provinceof Babylon. The wording here,
?who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom,? supports the claim made earlier
that Daniel views Darius, not as the ruler of the entire Persian/Median Empire,
but rather as the ruler of the province of Babylon only.
Daniel is having his ?quiet time? when he comes across a scripture in Jeremiah. The
scripture he is reading is what we call Jeremiah 25:11,12. In this passage,
Jeremiah prophesied that the captivity of God?s people and the desolation of
the Promised Land was to endure for seventy years. Jeremiah also said that at
the end of the seventy years, Babylonwould be destroyed. Can you picture Daniel
seeing Babylonoverthrown by Cyrus and doing a little math problem. Jerusale
mwas defeated and the captives were taken to Babylonin 605 BC. The year is now
about 538 or 537 BC. Daniel realizes that within a couple of years, the prophecy
should be fulfilled. He decides it is time to pray for God to intervene on behalf
It was the ardent desire of a many of the Jews in captivity in Babylonto retur
n to the glory days when Israelhad gone up to God?s city, Jerusalem, and worshipp
ed at the temple on MountZion. Psalm 137 illustrates the feelings of many Jews
at that time:
How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you,
O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the
roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalemmy
?highest joy (Psalm 137:4-6).
One can assume that although Daniel was never able to return to Jerusalem, he
?had feelings similar to those of the psalmist. So rather than get depressed
about the situation, Daniel ?turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in
prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes? (v. 3). The setting
and the response are similar to what is recorded in Nehemiah chapter one. The prayer
in Daniel 9:4-19 is one of the great prayers in the Bible. In it one finds Daniel
crying out to God. This is a very emotional prayer rather than a dry laundry list
of requests. Daniel is certainly not going through a formula. Elements which
can be seen in this prayer are:
1. Praise (v. 4, 7a, 9, 15a).
2. Confession (v. 5, 6, 7b, 8, 10, 11a, 13b, 16b).
3. Recalling the promises of God (v. 11b, 12, 13).
4. Request for deliverance. (v. 17-19).
The overriding tone of Daniel?s prayer is confession. Daniel does not tone down
or minimize his sin or the sin of Israel. He says, ?We have been wicked and
have rebelled.? ?Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame.?
We would do well to imitate both the emotional heart of Daniel and his humility.
He could easily have said ?they? have sinned against you, because he was so much
more righteous than virtually all of God?s people, but he did not.
Daniel was a powerful man, yet his success did not go to his head. ?We do not
make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your mercy? (v.
18). On the other hand, although he is humble, Daniel is very bold in making
requests of his God. He cries out ?Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and
see the desolation of the city that bears you name,? (v. 18) and ?O Lord, listen!
O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act!? (v. 19) The words ?open your eyes? could
almost seem impertinent, but they are the free expression of a man who is fully
confident that God wants to hear his voice. Only a true man of God could combine
such humility with such boldness in the presence of God. We would do well to
look at our prayer life and compare it to that of Daniel, the man of righteousness.
And God hears his prayer, to say the least, ?While I was still in prayer? (v.
21). Here is great encouragement to us. How many times have we prayed and God
give the answer while we were still in prayer? Here we have a rare glance at
what occurs behind the scene when a man of God cries out to his Father in heaven.
While the words are still on Daniel?s lips, the angels get moving. As Daniel
prays, Gabriel comes ?in swift flight? (v. 21). In fact, God already knows what
is on our heart before we pray it. The angel Gabriel tells Daniel that God answered,
?as soon as you began to pray? (v. 23). The answer to Daniel?s prayer comes
in the form of a vision.
And what a vision it is! This is without a doubt the best possible news ever
given to any man at any time in any situation in the history of the world! The
Messiah is coming! Get ready! It is the author?s opinion that this little four-verse
vision is the most amazing prophecy in the entire Old Testament. Let us dive in.
Seventy ?sevens? 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 (Daniel 9:24).
Gabriel tells Daniel the exact time remaining before the Messiah will come.
By the way, the word Messiah in Hebrew means the anointed one. There can be
no question what Gabriel is talking about. So how much time remains before sin
will be put to an ?end?? How long before atonement for sins will be provided to mankind?
What will be the waiting period before salvation comes?before God fulfills his
holy Word? It will be four hundred and ninety years.
Actually, Gabriel says that seventy ?sevens? remain, and 70 x 7 = 490. How can
one be sure he is talking about seventy sevens of years? The answer is that
once a prophecy is fulfilled, then one can be sure about the meaning. In this case,
seventy sevens is four hundred and ninety years; no doubt about it. Consider
verse twenty-five carefully. ?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 ?sevens? and sixty-two ?sevens.??
The key to dating the coming of the Messiah (the Anointed One) is ?the decree
to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.? At first glance, this presents a little bit
of a problem. There are three decrees mentioned in the Bible which could be
considered candidates for being the one referred to in this prophecy. The first
is a decree of Cyrus the Great. This decree is recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:23 and
Ezra 1:2-4. Cyrus? pronouncement was given ?in the first year of Cyrus, king
of Persia.? Given that this decree was promulgated after Cyrus overran Baby
lon, ?the first year of Cyrus? probably refers to the year 539 BC, which was not
actually the first year of rule for Cyrus, but was the first year he ruled the
provinceof Babylon, and therefore also the majority of the Jewish exiles. Cyrus
The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and
he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalemin Judah. Anyone of
his people among you?may the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up to
Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the
God who is in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:2,3).
This is a certainly great moment in the history of Israel. The decree of Cyrus
is the fulfillment of the prophecy given to Jeremiah that after seventy years
of captivity, God?s people would be freed. However, Cyrus? decree of 539 BC
is not the one being referred to in Daniel nine. Notice that in this pronouncement,
?Cyrus is allowing the Jews to go back and rebuild the temple. He is saying
nothing about restoring the city, and especially, he is saying nothing about
rebuilding the walls. There is no evidence that this decree ever led to any
city walls being built or to a significant rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. Soon after
this announcenent was published a large group of Jews did in fact return to Ju
dahto live and to begin construction of the temple. Unfortunately, very shortly
after arriving in Israelthey stopped work without completing the construction.
They had to be given a kick in the pants by Haggai in the second year of Darius
(520 BC) before they finally put building God?s temple before spending time
and money on their fine paneled houses; but that is another story.
The second decree recorded in the Bible which should be considered is that found
in Ezra 7:13-26. Ezra brought the announcement to Jerusalem?in the fifth month
of the seventh year of the king? (Ezra 7:8). The king being referred to is Artaxerxes,
who ruled from 464 BC. Therefore this decree was promulgated in 458 BC, or perhaps
459 BC if one allows for some time to elapse between when it was issued and
when Ezra left Babylonand traveled to the Promised Land. Artaxerxes? letter
provided a great deal of money for Ezra to improve the temple, to pay for sacrifices
to God, and to provide for anything else Ezra chose to do with the contributions
from the treasury (Ezra 7:21). It led to the return of another large contingent
of Jews to Jerusalem, and ultimately led to the rebuilding of the city and its
The third decree which could be mentioned is the one given by Artaxerxes to
Nehemiah. This decree was given ?in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes? (Nehemiah
2:1), which would be 445 BC. Artaxerxes? command is not actually recorded in
the Bible, but it is significant in that it specifically authorized the building
of the wall of the city. Using the power implied in the letter he received from
the king, Nehemiah was able to oversee the actual rebuilding of the walls surrounding J
So either of the decrees of Artaxerxes in 458 (or 459) BC or the one he published
in 445 BC could be described as a ?decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.
? Since the second more or less restates the permission given to Ezra in 458
BC, it seems most reasonable to assume the first decree of Artaxerxes (458 BC)
is the decree referred to by Gabriel in the vision.
It is time to pull out your calculator again. Taking 458 (or 459) BC as the
starting point and adding 490 years brings one to the year AD 32 (or 31). Actually,
that answer is off by one year. This is because there was no year zero BC. The calendar
goes from 1 BC to 1 AD directly. For example, there are only nine years between
5 BC and AD 5. Taking this into account, the seventy ?weeks? end in AD 33 (or
32). (By the way, this is also why technically the millennium should have been celebrated
on December 31, 2001)
Now isn?t that quite a coincidence? It just so happens that a man who claimed
to be the Messiah was born about 5 or 6 BC. After creating quite a stir through
his preaching and his working of many miracles, he was crucified somewhere between
28 and 32 AD, depending on which scholars you believe. Forty days later he rose
from the dead and appeared to many of his followers. Somewhere between 28 and 32
AD he brought in everlasting righteousness, atoned for wickedness and put an
end to sin (at least for those willing to leave everything, repent and be baptized
in his name).
Where is the skeptic on this one? And what about those who attempt to date the
book of Daniel at about 160 BC in order to prove that it is not God-inspired?
How can they explain that Daniel predicted the date of the crucifixion of the
Messiah? This prophecy may have some relevance for those who are still waiting for
the Messiah as well. He was supposed to come about two thousand years ago. Any
pretender to the position who came at this point would be unqualified. A person
who claimed to be the Messiah certainly would not be able to claim, as did Jesus
?Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses,
the Prophets and the Psalms? (Luke 24:44).
What is being said here? Let us get it out there in black and white. God, through
Daniel, prophesied the time and place of the crucifixion over five hundred years
before it happened.
But there is quite a bit left in the prophecy, so it is time to get back to
work. In Daniel 9:25one can read ?…until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes,
there will be seven ?sevens? and sixty-two ?sevens??. In other words, the Messiah
will come to Jerusalemduring the sixty-ninth ?seven?. That means the Messiah
will show up in Jerusalemsomewhere between 483 and 490 years after the issuing
of the decree. In fact, Jesus came (in his ministry) approximately three years
before his crucifixion. There is some question as to whether the prophecy implies
that the Messiah was to be killed at the end of the seventieth week (32 or 33 BC)
or during the seventieth week (some time during the seven years before 32 or
33 BC). The author would lean toward the latter, as Daniel 9:24 seems to set 490
years as the time limit by which all this must completed, while 9:25 seems to
predict the time of his actually coming to Jerusalem. Apologies that this is
a bit complicated. If Jesus came to Jerusalem during the seventieth week and if he was
later also crucified during the seventieth week, that means one can calculate
from Daniel that he was to be crucified somewhere between AD 28 and AD 32, which
agrees with what we know from Net Testament sources.
Gabriel also tells Daniel that the city ?will be rebuilt with streets and a
trench, but in times of trouble? (v. 25). This is probably referring to the
rebuilding of the city under Nehemiah in 444 BC. This reconstruction occurred
h pressure from the Samaritan opposition under Sanballat, Tobiah and
others (see Nehemiah chapters four and six).
Then the angel Gabriel continues his account of the future by saying: ?After
the sixty-two sevens, 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? (v.
26). The events referred to will occur after the ?cutting off? (i.e. the crucifixion)
of the Messiah. At first, it may be difficult to see what this is referring
to. Was Jerusalemdestroyed immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus?
Actually, verse twenty-six is referring to the events of AD 70. In order to
explain these events a little background about the Roman occupation of Jeru
salemis required. From the time of the Maccabees until 63 BC, the Jewish Hasmonean
Dynasty ruled Jerusalem. In 63 BC, after a victorious campaign over the Parthian
Empire (centered in present-day Iran) the Roman general Pompey attacked and
took Jerusalem, ending once and for all Jewish political control of land of
Israel (that is, until 1948, when the modern state of Israel was established).
Due to upheaval in Romein the civil wars between Pompey and Julius Caesar and
their successors, the Parthians temporarily retook the city (41 BC). However, Marc
Anthony, former right-hand man to Julius Caesar, retook Jerusalemfrom the Parthians
for good and gave the city to an opportunistic local ruler named Herod. The
Idumean King Herod is the ruler referred to in Matthew 2:1 as the local king
who ruled Judeaat the time Jesus Christ was born.
The Jews never adapted well to Roman rule, despite the fact that Roman government
was fairly tolerant of their religion. There were always a significant component
of ?zealots,? the Sicarii and other groups who violently opposed Roman government.
One of the apostles, Simon, was a zealot (Luke 6:14). In the year AD 38 the
Roman Emperor Gaius (Caligula) ordered that a statue of himself be set up in
the temple at Jerusalem. It is easy to imagine that this did not endear him
or the empire he represented to the Jews. Fortunately, the governor of Syri
ainterceded, or rebellion surely would have broken out that year. In the year
AD 49, the emperor Claudius expelled the Jews from the city of Rome. Several
years later, rioting in the city of Jerusalemin AD 66 led to the massacre of
the Roman garrison. This was the signal for a full scale Jewish rebellion.
The story of this rebellion is complicated, but to simplify it, the Roman general Vespasian
came and attacked Jerusalemin AD 68. Nero died during the siege of the city,
and Vespasian was recalled to Romein AD 69, where he eventually became emperor.
His son Titus renewed the attack on Jerusalem, surrounding the city in the year
AD 70. Finally the walls of the city were breached, a great slaughter of the
Jews ensued, and the temple was defiled and burned to the ground. The city of
Jerusalemwas all but leveled.
Figure 33. Romans taking spoils of Jerusalem, detail of marble relief, Arch
of Titus, Rome, 81 AD, Roman Forum.
Given the details in the prophecy and comparing them to Josephus, it is almost
certain that the event being referred to in the vision given to Daniel. ?The
people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary? (v.
26). Daniel is not the only Bible prophet who predicted this momentous event. Jesus
himself prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, albeit only forty years beforehand,
rather than over six hundred years before the event as was the case with Daniel.
In Luke 21:20-22 one can read:
When you see Jerusalemsurrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation
is near. Then let those who are in Judeaflee to the mountains, let those in
the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this
is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.
The words ?all that has been written? refer at least in part to what is written
in Daniel 9:26,27. In prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem, Jesus continues,
They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerus
alemwill be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
Figure 34. Roman general and later emperor Titus, destroyer of Jerusalem, AD 7
Matthew adds some significant additional information from Jesus about the destruction
of Jerusalemin AD 70 AD;
So when you see standing in the holy place ?the abomination that causes desolation,?
spoken of through the prophet Daniel?let the reader understand?then let those
who are in Judea flee to the mountains (Matthew 24:15,16).
When Jesus says, ?spoken of through the prophet Daniel,? he is referring to
Daniel 9, but also to Daniel chapter 12, as will be seen.
So we have Daniel and Jesus both prophesying the same event. It must be a very
significant event in God?s eyes. Why is that? The next words in the vision of
Daniel provide a very significant clue:
The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations
have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ?seven,? but
in the middle of that ?seven? he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And one who
causes desolation will place abominations on a wing of the temple until the
end that is decreed is poured out on him (Daniel 9:26b,27).
What ?end? is Gabriel referring to? The words, which are italicized in the quote
above, give it away for sure. The destruction of Jerusalemand the Templein AD
70 by Titus is the end referred to by Gabriel. When Titus breached the walls of Je
rusalem, he did not just accept the submission of the Jews. He leveled the temple in
Jerusalem. After the destruction ordered by Titus, the temple was never rebuilt
again. Since that event, the Jewish system of sacrifice for the forgiveness
of sins has been discontinued to this day. In God?s eyes, the Old Covenant had
been declared null and void when Jesus died on the cross. The trappings and ceremonial
sacrifices of Judaism came to a formal end in the year AD 70.
In case there is any doubt that this is what God is telling Daniel, consider
Hebrews 8:13. Here the writer of Hebrews, referring to the distinctions between
the Old Covenant (that given by Moses) and the New Covenant (that given by Jesus)
says, in one of the most significant passages in the Bible:
By calling this covenant ?new,? he has made the first one obsolete; and what
is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.
The Hebrew writer is telling us that at the time of his writing, the Jewish
religion was obsolete. He also tells us that it ?will soon disappear.? That
is right. As far as God is concerned, the ceremonial practices of the Old Covenant
ended on that day in AD 70 when God used the gentile non-believer Titus to burn
and level the temple.
There is a somewhat difficult question raised by the phrase ?in the middle of
that seven.? Does this mean that the Messiah is to be cut off in the middle
of the last week? In other words, is the Messiah to be crucified shortly before
the end of the 490 years (i.e. shortly before a date somewhere bet
ween 28 and
32 AD)? The fact is that one can only confidently date the crucifixion of Jesus
somewhere between 28 and 32 AD leaves this as an open question.
To be completely honest with the evidence, one can only state with confidence
that the Messiah was crucified either 490 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusal
emor perhaps in the three or so years before the seventieth ?week? came to an
end. To put it another way, there is a slight uncertainty about how exactly
to interpret the chronology of the seventieth ?week? as described in Daniel
nine, which happens to correspond to a slight uncertainty about the date of
the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Because it is difficult to be absolutely sure
whether the prophecy predicts exactly 490 years or just slightly less than 490
years, it would be a mistake to be dogmatic on this point. Either way, the amazing
accuracy of Daniel?s prediction speaks for itself.
Besides this, there is a very subtle point here, and this is probably the most
difficult aspect to interpreting Daniel nine correctly. The Hebrew writer says
that at the time he is writing, the Old Covenant is ?obsolete and aging.? This
brings us back to Daniel nine. There is an apparent unexplainable gap in the
prophecy. Jesus was cut off (crucified) near or at the end of the seventieth
week (?seven?). Yet the destruction of Jerusalemreferred to in Daniel 9:26,27
is described as occurring at the end of the same week. In reality, this event
occurred forty years after the crucifixion. How can the forty-year gap be explained?
The explanation reveals the inscrutable nature of God, as well as the great
depth and beauty of his grace. The apparent meaning of all these scriptures,
when taken together, is that although at the time of Jesus death and resurrection,
the Old Covenant was essentially extinct, God provided a forty-year window to
the Jews to allow them an opportunity to repent and accept the Lord and Messiah
Jesus Christ. In a sense, God suspended time for forty years to allow as many
of the Jews as possible to come into the kingdom. This is what the Hebrew writer
is referring to when he calls the old covenant ?obsolete,? but not yet dead.
In the year (approximately) AD 30, God stopped the clock, both of his judgment
on Israelfor rejecting the Messiah, and on the prophecy of the ?weeks? of Daniel
In his grace, God stopped the clock for forty years, but when the clock resumed,
God?s wrath against those of his people who refused the grace offered was very
intense, to say the least. In Jesus? words, ?If those days had not been cut
short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect, those days will be
shortened? (Matthew 24:22). A subtle, but nevertheless ominous hint of this
is provided in Daniel: ?Seventy ?sevens? are decreed for your people and your
holy city to finish transgression? (Daniel 9:24). God is saying that only a limited time
will be allotted to the Jews to take care of business. The end of this time
?will come like a flood.?
The end?the destruction of Jerusalem?truly came like a flood. During the siege
of the city, wholesale massacres were perpetrated by one group of Jews on another.
Death by starvation occurred on a massive scale. Josephus relates tales of murder
and cannibalism. The slaughter after the breaching of the wall of the city took the
lives of many thousands., 
God?s grace is a wonderful thing. It certainly plays a major part in the prophecy
of Daniel chapter nine. A less-discussed topic is the terrible nature of the
wrath of God on stubborn and unrepentant people. But as God says in Daniel nine,
?desolations have been decreed.? ?It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands
of the living God? (Hebrews 10:31).
There is some great news in Daniel nine. God will send the Messiah to bring
in everlasting righteousness! Some devastatingly bad news concerning God?s judgment
on his people can also be found there. After giving the good and then the bad,
God chooses to end the vision with some encouragement. ?And one who causes desolation
will place abominations on a wing of the temple until the end that is decreed
is poured out on him? (v. 27). Yes, the Roman instrument of judgment on the
Jews will desecrate the temple. Yes, in a manner similar to what Antiochus IV Epiphanes
did in 167 BC, Titus will come into the house of God to defile it, but in the
end, God will judge the Roman power as well. Several hundred years before the
event, God is telling his people that when they see the Romans execute judgment
on Israelthey should remember that he will ultimately bring judgment on the
Romans as well. This will prove important in encouraging the young church, as
the next target of Roman wrath after the destruction of Jerusalemwill be the
Josephus gives details relating to the ?abomination of a wing of the temple.?
The word wing most likely refers to a highpoint in the actual structure of the
temple. Josephus tells us that when the Roman legions finally breached the wall
of Jerusalem, they entered the inner court of the temple, desecrating it. Whether
accidentally or on purpose, the temple was burned to the ground. After the temple
was burned, Titus brought ensigns of war into the ruins and offered sacrifices
to those ensigns right there in the temple area, committing an act of ?abomination.?