CHAPTER 1 - Unfulfilled Prophecy - 70 Weeks of Daniel

 

Many years ago one of the leading Rabbis of the London Synagogue published a volume of sermons to refute the Christian interpretation of certain Messianic prophecies. The Seventy Weeks of Daniel received prominent notice; and he accused Christian expositors of tampering, not only with chronology, but with the language of Scripture, in their effort to make it apply to the Nazarene. My indignation at such a charge led me to enter upon an extensive course of reading to enable me to refute it. But to my great surprise and distress I found that it was by no means a base-less libel. And this again led me to take up the study of Daniel ix. with an open mind, and a settled determination to accept the words of the prophecy at their face value, and to adopt the standard chronology of the eras and events involved in the inquiry. The error of the received view, that the Captivity era was the basis of the prophecy, was one of my earliest discoveries. And this blunder, trifling though it may seem, has afforded both Jews and Infidels a vantage ground in their attacks upon these Scriptures. There was no "seventy years' Captivity." Because of national sin a judgment of seventy years servitude to Babylon was Divinely imposed upon Judah. This judgment fell in the third year of King Jehoiakim (B.C. 606), when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judea and captured Jerusalem. But his purpose was merely to hold the land as a vassal State, and he left the Jews in undisturbed possession of their City, Daniel and his companions being carried to Babylon to adorn his court as vassal princes.
After three years Jeboiakim revolted; and five years later Nebuchadnezzar returned to enforce his conquest (B.C. 598). And the youthful King Jehoiachin surrendered almost without a struggle. On his first invasion the King of Babylon had proved magnanimous and lenient. But now he had to punish rebellion; and he "carried away all Jerusalem," leaving none behind "save the poorest sort of the people of the land. This was what, in the opening words of his book, Ezekiel terms " King Jehoiachin's captivity," the prophet himself being numbered among the captives.
Jehoiachin's uncle, Zedekiah, was placed upon the throne as vassal king, having sworn allegiance to his suzerain. In common with "the residue of Jerusalem that remained in the land," he had ever before him Jeremiah's warnings that a refusal to submit to the Divine decree which brought them under servitude to Babylon would bring upon them a far more terrible judgment. Nebuchadnezzar would again return to "destroy them utterly," and to make the land" a desolation and an astonishment." But they gave heed to false prophets who pandered to the national vanity by predicting a speedy restoration of their independence; and having obtained a promise of armed support from Egypt, the Jews again revolted. Nebuchadnezzar thereupon invaded Judtea for the third time; and when, after a siege of eighteen months, he captured Jerusalem, the city was given up to fire and sword. The last chapter of 2 Chronicles contains the sad story of Judah's sin and of the Divine judgments it brought upon them.
Three several judgments, distinct, though in part concurrent, thus befell that stiff-necked people. And it was this third judgment of the "Desolations" that filled the thoughts and bowed the heart of Daniel, as he prayed the prayer which brought him the great prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. No words could be plainer or more definite. "I Daniel understood by the books the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, for the accomplishing of the Desolations of Jerusalem, even seventy years."
And by those same "books" he would have understood also that the seventy years of the "Servitude" were on the point of expiring. And, of course, the return of the exiles would bring to an end the judgment of the" Captivity," which thus lasted sixty-two years. But as Daniel had already passed his fourscore years of life he would scarcely hope to outlive the Desolations, seventeen years of which had still to run. And I confidently offer the suggestion that his prayer was an appeal that God would cancel those years, and remit the still unexpired portion of the judgment. The circumstances of the time, and the whole tenor of the prayer, seem to point to this. The closing words are specially explicit: "0 Lord forgive; 0 Lord hearken and do; defer not, for Thine own sake, 0 my God; for Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name."
What more there was in his heart to utter we know not; for "while he was speaking in prayer" the angel Gabriel appeared to him - the same heavenly messenger who heralded in later times the Saviour's birth in which should be read as in Bethlehem, and from him the prophet received, in answer to his supplication, the great prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. Here are the words:-
"Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times. And after the threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing: and the people of the Prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and even unto the end shall be war; desolations are determined. And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week; and for the half of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolator."