In addition to serving the Babylonian and Persian kings while in captivity, Daniel was also a student of the previous Israelite prophets. What he learned drove him to his knees to confess the sins of his people. Because of that heart attitude, God answered his prayers by sending angel Gabriel with detailed information as to his nation’s future. Believing prayer is heard in heaven! Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, said she feared the prayers of reformer John Knox more that the armies of Queen Elizabeth.
Gabriel’s revelation begins with, not only information, but assurance that Daniel would also be given ability to understand. God does not cloud His revelations to cause us to wonder what He meant. He clouds them to cause ‘consideration’ and study of them so that we do understand. We will understand what God has said and better appreciate the God who said them.
The final verses (vv. 24-27) of the chapter are packed with information, understood along with many related Scriptures, detailing what God will do for his chosen nation. Many expositors have shown the time periods mentioned are related to Israel ignoring God’s commands about a regular sabbatical seven-year cycle of letting their land rest. The seventy “weeks” represent seventy “sevens”, so a total period of 490 years. During those years, which began in Daniel’s era, God will fulfill six purposes. The first three address the problem of sin in Israel at Christ’s first coming.
- “To finish transgression” (v. 24) meant to restrain sin in Israel and stop their long trend toward apostasy.
- “To make and end of sin” (v. 24) meant to judge it in finality at the cross. That doesn’t mean sin ended, rather Christ’s death was the initial step in seeing it eradicated later.
- “To make reconciliation” (v. 24) reflects the same sin debt Christ cancelled at Calvary.
The last three establish righteousness and will be fulfilled at Christ’s second coming.
- “To bring in righteousness” (v. 24) will take place when Israel turns nationally back to their Messiah.
- “To seal up the vision and prophecy” (v. 24) looks to the time when prophecy will not be future but be implemented. Faith will become sight.
- “To anoint the most holy” (v. 24) anticipates the entrance of the Shekinah glory into the rebuilt millennial temple.
The 490 years do not take place, however, in a unbroken continuum. They are divided into three periods.
- The first 49 year period covered the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls under Nehemiah from 445-396 B.C.
- The next 434 years covers years until the triumphal entry of Messiah into Jerusalem, the last week of his earthly ministry which ended in him being ‘cut off’ (v. 26).
In Daniel, the middle period of 434 years and the last 7 years are described without a break. We know, however, from the description of the ‘prince to come’ in verse 26b, that there is an extended break until our time. Jesus said his rejection by Israel (Matthew 21) would cause a delay in inaugurating the kingdom.
- The final seven year period will not begin until the church is raptured (1 Thessalonians 4), then God will once again undertake his dealings with Israel.
As church-age believers, we eagerly anticipate that day when Christ calls us up and His timetable with Israel resumes.
Prophecy is given to us, not to satisfy our idle curiosity and speculation, but to deepen our faith in a sovereign God who does what He says he will do. He always had done so in the past which becomes our certainty that He will do so in the future. Prophecy is also given to us to keep us faithful and watchful since we do not know when the next event in God’s timetable will take place (Matthew 24:36).