Daniel 9 is probably one of the most pivotal chapters in the entire Bible for understanding end-time prophecy. That may seem like an exaggeration, but after seeing what’s packed into this chapter it will be easier to understand why that perspective is held by so many.
Daniel 9 is only one of twelve chapters, so we should start with some context. The first six chapters are historical. In those chapters we read that Daniel is deported from Israel after the Babylonian conquest. He encounters King Nebuchadnezzar, correctly interprets his dream, and is promoted as a result. Then we see Daniel’s rivals trying to “undo” his three friends in the fiery furnace episode.
Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the world at that time, writes chapter four of Daniel in which he recounts his lesson from God about pride. That makes Nebuchadnezzar the only Gentile writer in the Old Testament. Next, the fall of Babylon to Darius leads us into the Persian Empire period.
After the first six chapters, we have six chapters that are a collection of Daniel’s visions. They are, in a sense, appended at the end of the history. They’re not in chronological order; the chapters appear as a group.
In the first chapter of that group, chapter seven, we have the times of the Gentiles. In chapter eight, the ram and the goat are described in a vision about the career of Alexander the Great as he defeats the Persians. That leads us into chapter nine and the seventy weeks.
It’s interesting, chapters two through the end of seven are not written in Hebrew; they’re in Aramaic. The author uses Aramaic because those chapters focus on the Gentile world. It’s very unusual for the Bible to do that because Scripture usually sees everything, past and future, through the lens of Israel. This is a section that very unabashedly focuses on the Gentile world, and that’s one reason it is so dear to us.
This is a very exciting book, but again, it’s not in chronological order. The visions in Daniel seven and eight occur between the events in chapters four and five, and the interview with an archangel in chapter nine occurs between the events of chapters five and six.
Background and Context
Before we get to chapter nine, it’s important for us to get another perspective — a perspective coming directly from Jesus. Then we will look at the events leading up to Gabriel’s words about the seventy weeks. All of this will help demonstrate what God did in order to deliver this amazing prophecy.
Matthew 24: Jesus’ Perspective
In Matthew 24–25, Mark 13, and Luke 21, Jesus gave a confidential briefing on His second coming to four special disciples. According to Mark, they were Peter, James, John, and Peter’s brother Andrew. This talk was important enough that it was recorded in three gospels, and it had a direct connection with Daniel’s prophecy.
Matthew’s account offers more information than the others, most likely due to a skill he had and the others didn’t. He was a customs official, and it was a job requirement that he take shorthand. Most people are unaware that shorthand was a skill prevalent in those days.
And as he [Jesus] sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
— Matthew 24:3
So they ask Jesus three questions, and He then gives them a two-chapter answer. The next verse gives a flavor of His answer.
Verse four reads:
Jesus answered and said unto them “Take heed that no man deceive you.”
— Matthew 24:4
Underline that word deceive because He opens and closes this briefing to His disciples by warning them not to be deceived.
How do we protect ourselves from being deceived? There are all kinds of people spreading all kinds of viewpoints. But which are correct? We discern the truth by diligence, and by comparing Scripture with Scripture. Our ultimate refuge is always the whole counsel of God. Any particular perspective must be consistent with what we find in the Bible.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
— Matthew 24:4–8
Many, many people view these issues as signs heralding His coming, except He says these are not signs. These are non-signs. These things will all happen, “but the end is not yet.”
The word sorrows there is actually birth pains. Mothers know what that’s about. These events start slowly and increase in frequency and intensity. “But the end is not yet,” according to Jesus. Then He gives the key event in the whole scenario.
The Key Event
One caveat should be made here. Remember, Jesus is clearly talking to His Jewish disciples. He is not talking to those of us who are believers under the New Covenant. That’s an important distinction as we move forward.
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
— Matthew 24:15
As readers, we don’t want to miss our instruction here; “Whoso readeth, let him understand.” This passage will be a little technical, but it’s not intended for just pastors or specialists— it’s intended for everyone. As we move through this topic, know that God intends for each person to understand it.
This is a good place to put to rest a controversy that began in the nineteenth century. Some critics, even today, have maintained that the book of Daniel was written by several people. Well, according to this passage, we know who wrote the book of Daniel; it was Daniel.
We know this is true because that’s what Jesus said was true.
With His clear statement, Jesus has saved every student of Scripture hours of tedious library research. And, that leads me to a familiar comment. If you believe in Jesus Christ, you know who wrote the book of Daniel. If you don’t believe in Jesus Christ, you’ve got bigger problems than the authorship of the book of Daniel!
Jesus identifies Daniel as a prophet, and He does something even more. He points to the very passage that we’re studying in Daniel 9 by referring to this abomination of desolation. That’s a technical phrase. We know a lot about it, though, because it happened specifically once before in history.
The abomination of desolation refers to an idol being placed in the Temple. An idol is always considered an abomination in the Bible, but the ultimate abomination — the abomination that makes desolate — is a pagan idol in the Holy of Holies. That happened in 167 BC, and it led to the Maccabean revolt. After three years, the Jews were able to rededicate the Temple from that outrage. Jews remember the event to this day with the celebration of Hanukkah.
There is another aspect to consider here. The abomination of desolation occurs in the Holy of Holies. Who gets to go into the Holy of Holies? Only the High Priest is allowed in, only once a year at Yom Kippur, and only after great ceremonial preparation. Jesus said, “When ye therefore shall see.” How can someone in Judea see this happen, and consequently know when to “flee into the mountains”? They would have to see it on cable news, of course.
In other words, this is a major political event that happens inside the Holy of Holies, inside the Temple. That’s how we know there will be a temple standing; it has to be standing for this to happen. If it’s televised, there will be a worldwide audience.
It is the people in Judea who are to flee, not those in New York or Moscow, but those who are in Judea. Why?
We need to understand what’s going on here; the abomination of desolation is a major trigger-point in this prophecy. To make sense of this we have to go to the passage that Jesus is pointing them to in Daniel and understand the context.
The Flight from Judea
Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house.
— Matthew 24:16–17
Houses in Israel are typically on hillsides because it’s very hilly terrain. The roof is the patio, sort of a fellowship place. That’s where they spend the cool of the evening, not in the backyard. They have to go downstairs to get to the bedrooms and all the rest of the house.
When Jesus tells them to “not come down,” He’s saying “Split — and do it now!”
Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day.
— Matthew 24:18–20
Jesus also warns them about trying to grab supplies; even things like essential clothing would delay them and be a burden. It would be a handicap they couldn’t afford as they flee for their lives.
Notice that His last comment refers to Sabbath; He is not talking to Gentiles. Keep in mind that the focus is on Israel and the Jews, not Gentiles. He is directing this to His disciples, who are Jewish, but it’s obviously yet future. Most people don’t fully recognize the “Jewishness” of Matthew 24.
The Great Tribulation
Jesus goes on to say:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
— Matthew 24:21
He is quoting from Daniel 12. We’ll look at that shortly, but Jesus Himself labels the last half of that seven year period as the great tribulation.
Then He makes another statement:
And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
— Matthew 24:22
That’s a technology statement; it’s an allusion to advanced weapons. If someone read verse twenty-two during the 1800s, it wouldn’t mean much. They couldn’t imagine the world wiping itself out with muskets and bayonets, but today the nuclear cloud hangs over every geopolitical decision made on Earth. It is now possible to envision that “no flesh be saved.”
Chapter 9: Daniel, Jeremiah, Gabriel
With that context established, we are ready for Daniel 9. In this chapter of Daniel, we have what is known as the interrupted prayer. Daniel is praying in the first nineteen verses of this chapter, but then the angel Gabriel appears and interrupts his prayer. Gabriel proceeds to give Daniel the most astonishing four verses in the entire Bible: 24, 25, 26, and 27.
The Interrupted Prayer
Most people jump right into those four verses, but this is too important to cut corners. So we will start with Daniel’s prayer in verse one.
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
— Daniel 9:1–2
The first verse covers titles and royal successions. Some people believe that Darius was the uncle of Cyrus, but that’s conjecture by the scholars. Other speculations are connected to the comment that he was made king, which implies he is a passive recipient of some kind. Setting aside these minor points, we want to look at the important part of this, which is in verse two.
This all starts because Daniel was reading his Bible, the book of Jeremiah. Please take note that Daniel took Jeremiah literally. When Jeremiah talks about seventy years in captivity, it wasn’t allegorical. It wasn’t about an approximate number of years, either. Daniel assumes it’s precise, and he knows that the seventy years are about over.
If a believer today were reading in the Bible and somehow discovered that the Lord was coming back to the Earth three weeks from now, what would he or she do? Would they put their feet up on a desk; would they say, “Good, the sooner the better”?
That’s not what Daniel would do; he would pray. He’s an example to us all. He knew seventy years was prophesied in Jeremiah 25:11, and he knew about sixty-seven years had gone by. So he knew the seventy years were about over, and he’s getting excited. As we go through this chapter, notice carefully what he did.
The book of Jeremiah makes reference to seventy years in two places:
And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.
— Jeremiah 25:11–12
For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
— Jeremiah 29:10
This was written in Jerusalem. So twice in the book of Jeremiah we have this promise that Daniel could cling to, that the captivity was about over. What does Daniel do? Let’s take a lesson here. He says:
And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.
— Daniel 9:3
Are we supposed to pray for the second coming of Christ? We know the Second Coming is going to happen; it’s inevitable. But the Lord taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). Prayer is God’s way of enlisting us in what He’s doing. Carefully consider what that should mean in your life.
Daniel also sought God by fasting. Is it appropriate for New Testament Christians to fast? Some might say that fasting was only for the Old Testament times, but we repeatedly find allusions to New Testament Christians fasting:
Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
— Matthew 9:14–15
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas andSaul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
— Acts 13:2–3
The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
— 1 Corinthians 7:4–5
But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
— 2 Corinthians 6:4–5
Don’t casually decide to start fasting; it’s best to have some instruction first. It is an appropriate activity for believers today — just do some homework in that area before starting.
Returning to Daniel:
And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
— Daniel 9:4–6
Notice he says, “We have sinned.” That’s a strange thing for Daniel to say. He and Joseph are two people in the Old Testament about whom no evil is spoken (besides Christ). It doesn’t mean they’re sinless, but Daniel is praying earnestly not on his personal behalf alone, but for his people as well.
He continues in verse seven:
O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.
— Daniel 9:7–11
He’s saying their national destiny is determined by their behavior. Were there some saved among them? Of course, but that doesn’t alter their national destiny, which is a function of their national behavior.
And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice. And now,
O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly. O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.
— Daniel 9:12–16
All this has been an acknowledgement of sin. The focus is Jerusalem and the people of God. But notice what starts to happen as his prayer continues; it’s fascinating. Even in the English, the frequency of those verbs starts picking up. We can almost feel the intensity, the emotion, the trembling of Daniel.
Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.
— Daniel 9:17–19
Now we get to the interruption. We’re going to have a few comments by a mighty angel of God and then, of course, the incredible gift that Gabriel gives Daniel.
And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God; Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.
— Daniel 9:20–21
Notice that he shifted gears from the prayer to narrating what happened. It’s interesting to see Daniel describe this. Obviously, Gabriel is one of the archangels. We only know of three that are named: Gabriel, Michael, and one named Lucifer who got into a big bunch of trouble because of his pride.
Michael is always a warrior, fighting on behalf of God’s people. Gabriel is always announcing something having to do with the Messiah.
The word translated man here, and applied to Gabriel, is the Hebrew word, ish. Ish can mean man or servant, so this can be read as “the servant Gabriel,” although he may have appeared as a man.
There is something very subtle here. Gabriel touched Daniel on the shoulder “at the time of the evening oblation.” Daniel makes that reference even though the Temple is about four hundred miles to the west and in rubble. There is no temple; there is no evening oblation. It’s an anachronism that’s out of date by virtually seventy years, but not for Daniel.
Daniel is using a phrase here that is very revealing of his heart, and how he is thinking. As far as he’s concerned, it was God’s appointed time and they would be offering a sacrifice, an oblation, if they had a temple. That’s when Gabriel came to him.
And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.
— Daniel 9:22–23/
Daniel must have been thrilled. He’s told that he is “greatly beloved” of God. Recall that God spoke to Moses face-to-face “as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exodus 33:11). And what did Jesus say to the disciples in the upper room:
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
— John 15:15
What does it mean to be God’s friend? To His friend, God would reveal what He was going to do. He called Moses a friend and told him what was going to happen to the surrounding nations (Exodus 34). Jesus called the disciples His friends and told them about His second coming.
Is there anyone closer than a friend? Moses is known as a friend of God in the Old Testament, but who is beloved in the Old Testament? Daniel is beloved by God. Who is beloved in the New Testament? John is often referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” in the Gospel of John. How interesting to see what comes from that kind of rapport with God. Daniel, because he’s beloved, is entrusted with apocalyptic insights. In the New Testament, John is beloved, and he is granted the privilege of delivering the apocalyptic book of Revelation.
There is a consistency between the Old and the New Testament concerning relationship. A friend of God will be let in on what’s coming. The beloved of God really has the inside track.
There are three important primary prayers in the historical books of the Old Testament: Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9, and Daniel 9. There happens to be a 9 in all three references. That’s not of any significance; I think it’s just a way to help remember it. ↩
I believe we can apply 2 Chronicles 7:14 to America’s predicament, although it’s a different one altogether. It reads, “If my people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” ↩