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Barnes on Daniel's 70 weeks #2

Sin and Righteousness

                         ALBERT BARNES ON DANIEL 9

                        AND THE 70 WEEK PROPHECY #2

 

And he informed me.  

Heb., Gave me intelligence or understanding. That is, about the
design of his visit, and about what would be hereafter.  And
talked with me. Spake unto me. 

0 Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill. Marg., make
thee skilful of. The Hebrew is, literally, "to make thee skilful,
or wise, in understanding." The design was to give him
information as to what was to occur.

At the beginning of thy supplications. 

We are not informed at what time Daniel began to pray, but as
remarked above, it is most natural to suppose that he devoted the
day to prayer, and had commenced these solemn acts of devotion in
the morning.


At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came

The commandment came forth. Marg., word. That is, the word of
God. This evidently means, in heaven; and the idea is, that as
soon as he began to pray a command was issued from God to Gabriel
that he should visit Daniel, and convey to him the important
message respecting future events. It is fair to conclude that he
had at once left heaven in obedience to the order, and on this
high embassage, and that he had passed over the amazing distance
between heaven and earth in the short time during which Daniel
was engaged in prayer. If so, and if heaven - the peculiar seat
of God, the dwelling-place of angels and of the just - is beyond
the region of the fixed stars, some central place in this vast
universe, then this may give us some idea of the amazing rapidity
with which celestial beings may move. It is calculated that there
are stars so remote from our earth, that their light would not
travel down to us for many thousand years. If so, how much more
rapid may be the movements of celestial beings than even light;
perhaps more than that of the lightning's flash - than the
electric fluid on telegraphic wires--though that moves at the
rate of more than 200,000 miles in a second. Compare Dick's
Philosophy of a Future State, p.220. "During the few minutes
employed in uttering this prayer," says Dr.Dick, "this angelic
messenger descended from the celestial regions to the country of
Babylonia. This was a rapidity of motion surpassing the
comprehension of the most vigorous imagination, and far exceeding
even the amazing velocity of light." With such a rapidity it may
be our privilege yet to pass from world to world on errands of
mercy and love, or to survey in distant parts of the universe the
wonderful works of God.  

And I am come to show thee.   

To make thee acquainted with what will yet be.     

For thou art greatly beloved. Marg., as in Heb., "a man of
desires." 

That is, he was one whose happiness was greatly desired by God;
or, a man of God's delight; that is, as in our version, greatly
beloved. It was on this account that his prayer was heard, and
that God sent to him this important mesaage respecting what was
to come.  

Therefore understand the matter. 

The matter respecting what was yet to occur in regard to his
people.  

And consider the vision. 

This vision - the vision of future things which he was now about
to present to his view. From this passage, describing the app-
earance of Gabriel to Daniel, we may learn, (a) That our prayers,
if sincere, are heard in heaven as soon as they are offered.     
They enter at once into the ears of Gud, and he regards them at
the instant. (b) A command, as it were, may be at once issued to
answer them - as if he directed an angel to bear the answer at
once. (c) The angels are ready to hasten down to men, to
communicate the will of God. Gabriel came evidently with pleasure
on his embassage, and to a benevolent being anywhere there is
nothing more grateful than to be commissioned to bear glad
tidings to others.  Possibly that may be a part of the employment
of the righteous for ever. (d) The thought is an interesting one,
if we are permitted to entertain it, that good angels may be
constantly employed as Gabriel was; that whenever prayer is
offered on earth they may be commissioned to bring answers of
peace and mercy, or despatched to render aid, and that thus the
universe may be constantly traversed by these holy beings
ministering to those who are "heirs of salvation," Heb. i. 1,4.

Seventy weeks are determined. 

Here commences the celebrated prophecy of the SEVENTY WEEKS--a
portion of Scripture which has excited as much attention, and led
to as great a variety of interpretation, as perhaps any other. Of
this passage, Professor Stuart (Hints on the Interpetation of
Prophecy, p.104) remarks, "It would require a volume of
considerable magnitude even to give a history of the ever-varying
and contradictory opinions of critics respecting this locus
vexat-issimus; and perhaps a still larger one to establish an
exegesis which would stand. I am fully of opinion, that no
interpretation as yet published will stand the test of thorough
grammatico-historical criticism; and that a candid, and
searching, and thorough critique here is still a desideratum. May
sonic expositor, fully adequate to the task, speedily appear!"

After these remarks of this eminent Biblical scholar, it is with
no great confidence of success that I enter on the exposition of
the passage. Yet, perhaps, though all difficulties may not be
removed, and though I cannot hope to contribute anything new in
the exposition of the passage, something may be written which may
relieve it of some of the perplexities attending it, and which
may tend to show that its author was under the influence of
Divine inspiration. 

The passage may be properly divided into two parts. The first, in
ver.24, contains a general statement of what would occur in the
time specified - the seventy weeks; the second, vers.25-27,
contains a particular statement of the manner in which that would
be accomplished. In this statement, the whole time of the seventy
weeks is broken up into three smaller portions of seven,
sixty-two, and one designating evidently some important epochs or
periods (ver.25), and the last one week is again subdivided in
such a way, that, while it is said that the whole work of the
Messiah in confirming the covenant would occupy the entire week,
yet that he would be cut off in the middle of the week, verse 27.

In the general statement (ver.24) it is said that there was a
definite time - seventy weeks--during which the subject of the
prediction would be accomplished; that is, during which all that
was to be done in reference to the holy city, or in the holy
city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, &c.,
would be effected. The things specified in this verse are what
was to be done, as detailed more particularly in the subsequent
verses. The design in this verse seems to have been to furnish a
general statement of what was to occur in regard to the holy city
of that city which had been selected for the peculiar purpose of
being a place where an atonement was to be made for human
transgression. It is quite clear that when Daniel set apart this
period for prayer, and engaged in this solemn act of devotion,
his design was not to inquire into the ultimate events which
would occur in Jerusalem, but merely to pray that the purpose of
God, as predicted by Jeremiah, respecting the captivity of the
nation, and the rebuilding of the city and temple, might be
accomplished.  God took occasion from this, however, not only to
give an implied assurance about the accomplishment of these
purposes, but also to state in a remarkable manner the whole
ultimate design respecting the holy city, and the great event
which was ever onward to characterize it among the cities of the
world. 

In the consideration of the whole passage (vers.24-27), it will
be proper, first, to examine into the literal meaning of the
words and phrases, and then to inquire into the fulfilment. 

Seventy weeks. 

(Hebrew)  Vulg., Septuaginta hebdomades. So Theodotion, Greek    
Prof. Stuart (Hints, p.82) renders this "seventy sevens;" that
is, seventy times seven years: on the ground that the word
denoting weeks in the Hebrew is not (Hebrew) but (Hebrew) "The
form which is used here," says he, "which is a regular masculine
plural, is no doubt purposely chosen to designate the plural of
seven; and with great propriety here, inasmuch as there are many
sevens which are to be joined together in one common sum. Daniel
had been meditating on the close of the seventy years of Hebrew
exile, and the angel now discloses to him a new period of seventy
times seven, in which still more important events are to take
place. Seventy sevens, or (to use the Greek phraseology), seventy
heptades, are determined upon thy people. Heptades of what? Of
days, or of years?  No one can doubt what the answer is. Daniel
had been making diligent search respecting the seventy years;
and, in such a connection, nothing but seventy Heptades of years
could be reasonably supposed to be meant by the angel." The
inquiry about the gender of the word, of which so much has been
said (Hengstenberg, Chris. ii. 297), does not seem to be very
important, since the same result is reached whether it be
rendered seventy sevens, or seventy weeks. In the former case, as
proposed by Prof.Stuart, it means seventy sevens of years, or 490
years; in the other, seventy weeks of years; that is, as a week
of years is seven years, seventy such weeks, or as before, 490
years. The usual and proper meaning of the word here used,
however--Heb. is a seven, Greek, hebdomad, i.e., a week. -
Gesenius, Lex. From the examples where the word occurs it would
seem that the masculine or the feminine forms were used
indiscriminately. The word occurs only in the following passages,
in all of which it is rendered week, or weeks, except in Ezek.
xlv. 21, where it is rendered seven, to wit, days. In the
following passages the word occurs in the masculine form plural,
Dan. ix. 24-26; x. 2,3; in the following in the feminine form
plural, Exod. xxxiv. 22; Numb. xxviii. 26; Deut. xvi. 9,10,16; 2
Chron. viii. 13 ; Jer. v. 24 ; Ezek. xlv. 21; and in the
following in the singular number, common gender, rendered "week"
- Gen.xxix 27,28, and in the dual masculine in Lev.xii. 5,
rendered "two weeks." From these passages it is evident that
nothing certain can be determined about the meaning of the word
from its gender. It would seem to denote "weeks" - periods of
seven days - hebdomads - in either form, and is doubtless so used
here. The fair translation would be, weeks seventy are
determined; that is seventy times seven days, or four hundred and
ninety days.....

(Barnes then goes into proving that in reality, the 490 days are
meant to be understood as 490 years, just as all commentators
agree upon - Keith Hunt)
.......

Greek - are cut off, decided, defined. The Vulgate renders it,
"abbreviate sent." Luther, "Sind bestimmet" - are determined. The
meaning would seem to be, that this portion of time - the seventy
weeks was cut off from the whole of duration, or cut out of it,
as it were, and set by itself for a definite purpose.  It does
not mean that it was cut off from the time which the city would
naturally stand, or that this time was abbreviated, but that a
portion of time - to wit, four hundred and ninety years was
designated or appointed with reference to the city, to accomplish
the great and important object which is immediately specified.   

A certain, definite period was fixed on, and when this was past,
the promised Messiah would come. 

In regard to the construction here - the singular verb with a
plural noun, see Hengstenberg, "Christ. in loc." The true meaning
seems to be, that the seventy weeks are spoken of collectively,
as denoting a period of time; that is, a period of seventy weeks
is determined. The prophet, in the use of the singular verb,
seems to have contemplated the time, not as separate weeks, or as
particular portions, but as one period.

Upon thy people.    

The Jewish people; the nation to which Daniel belonged. This
allusion is made because he was inquiring about the close of
their exile, and their restoration to their own land.  

And upon thy holy city. 

Jerusalem, usually called the holy city, because it was the place
where the worship of God was celebrated, Isa. Iii. 1; Neh. xi. 1,
18; Matt. xxvii. 53. It is called "thy holy city" - the city of
Daniel, because he was here making especial inquiry respecting
it, and because he was one of the Hebrew people, and the city was
the capital of their nation.  As one of that nation, it could be
called his. It was then, indeed, in ruins, but it was to be
rebuilt, and it was proper to speak of it as if it were then a
city. The meaning of "upon thy people and city" (Heb.) is,
respecting or concerning.

The purpose respecting the seventy weeks pertains to thy people
and city; or there is an important period of four hundred and
seventy years determined on, or designated, respecting that
people and city.

To finish the transgression.  

The angel proceeds to state what was the object to be
accomplished in this purpose, or what would occur during that
period. The first thing, to finish the transgression.  The margin
is, "restrain." The Vulgate renders it, "ut consummetur
praevaricatio." Theodotion, (Greek) - to finish sin. Thompson
renders this, "to finish sin-offerings." The difference between
the marginal reading (restrain) and the text (finish) arises from
a doubt as to the meaning of the original word. The common 
reading of the text is (Heb.) but in 39 Codices examined by
Kennicott, it is (Heb.) The reading in the text is undoubtedly
the correct one, but still there is not absolute certainty as to
the signification of the word, whether it means to finish, or to
restrain. The proper meaning of the word in the common reading of
the text (Heb) is, to shut up, confine, restrain - as it is
rendered in the margin. The meaning of the other word found in
many MSS. (Heb.) is, to be completed, finished, closed - and in
Piel, the form used here, to complete, to finish - as it is
translated in the common version. Gesenius (Lex.) supposes that
the word here is for--(Heb)--meaning to finish or complete.
Hengstenberg, who is followed in this view by Lengerke, supposes
that the meaning is to "shut up transgression," and that the true
reading is that in the text--(Heb)--though as that word is not
used in Piel, and as the Masorites had some doubts as to the
derivation of the word, they gave to it not its appropriate
pointing in this place - which would have been (Heb)--
but the pointing of the other word (Heb) in the margin. According
to Hengstenberg, the sense here of shutting up is derived from
the general notion of restraining or hindering, belonging to the
word; and he supposes that this will best accord with the other
words in this member of the verse--to cover, and to seal up.     

The idea according to him is, that "sin, which hitherto lay naked
and open before the eyes of a righteous God, is now by his mercy
shut up, sealed, and covered, so that it can no more be regarded
as existing - a figurative description of the forgiveness of
sin." So Lengerke renders it, "Unteinzitschliessen[den]Abfall."
Bertholdt, "Bis der Frevel vollbracht." It seems most probable
that the true idea here is that denoted in the margin, and that
the sense is not that of finishing, but that of restraining,
closing, shutting up, &c. So it is rendered by Prof.Stuart - "to
restrain transgression."-- "Com. on Daniel, in loc". The word is
used in this sense of shutting up, or restraining, in several
places in the Bible: 1 Sam. vi. 10, "and shut up their calves at
home;" Jer. xxxii. 3,  "Zedekiah had shut him up;"  Psa.
lxxxviii. 8, "I am shut up, and I cannot come forth;" Jer. xxxii.
2, "Jeremiah the prophet was shut up." The sense of shutting up,
or restraining, accords better with the connection than that of
finishing. The reference of the whole passage is undoubtedly to
the Messiah, and to what would be done sometime during the 
"seventy weeks;" and the meaning here is, not that he would
"finish transgression" - which would not be true in any proper
sense, but that he would do a work which would restrain iniquity
in the world, or, more strictly, which would shut it up - inclose
it - as in a prison, so that it would no more go forth and
prevail. The effect would be that which occurs when one is shut
up in prison, and no longer goes at large. There would be a
restraining power and influence which would check the progress of
sin. This does not, I apprehend, refer to the particular
transgressions for which the Jewish people had suffered in their
long captivity, but sin (Heb.) in general - the sin of the world.
There would be an influence which would restrain and curb it, or
which would shut it up so that it would no longer reign and roam
at large over the earth. It is true that this might not have been
so understood by Daniel at the time, for the language is so
general that it might have suggested the idea that it referred to
the sins of the Jewish people. This language, if there had been
no farther explanation of it, might have suggested the idea that
in the time specified--seventy weeks - there would be some
process - some punishment--some Divine discipline - by which the
iniquities of that people, or their propensity to sin, for which
this long captivity had come upon them, would be cohibited, or
restrained. But the language is not such as necessarily to
confine the iuterpretation to that, and the subsequent
statements, and the actual fulfilment in the work of the Messiah,
lead us to understand this in a much higher sense, as having
reference to sin in general, and as designed to refer to some
work that would ultimately be an effectual check on sin, and
which would tend to cohibit, or restrain it altogether in the
world. Thus understood, the language will well describe the work
of the Redeemer--that work which, through the sacrifice made on
the cross, is adapted and designed to restrain sin altogether.   

And to make an end of sins.   Marg., to seal up.  

The differonce here in the text and the margin arises from a
difference in the readings in the Hebrew. The common reading in
the text is (Heb.)--from (Heb.)--to seal, to seal up.  But the
Hebrew marginal reading is a different word--(Heb.) from
(Heb.)--to complete, to perfect, to finish.
The pointing in the text in the word (Heb.) is not the proper
pointing of that word, which would have been (Heb.) but the
Masorites, as is not unfrequently the case, gave to the word in
the text the pointing of another word which they placed in the
margin. The marginal reading is found in fifty-five MSS.
(Lengerke), but the weight of authority is decidedly in favour of
the common reading in the Hebrew text - to seal, and not to 
finish, as it is in our translation. The marginal reading, to
finish, was doubtless substituted by some transcribers, or rather
suggested by the Masorites, because it seemed to convey a better
signification to say that "sin would be finished," than to say
that it would be sealed. The Vulgate has followed the reading in
the margin - "et finem accipiat peecatum;" Theodotion has
followed the other reading, (Greek).  Luther also has it, "to
seal." Coverdale, "that sin may have an end." The true rendering
is, doubtless, "to seal sin;" and the idea is that of removing it
from sight; to remove it from view. "The expression is taken,"
says Lengerke, "from the custom of sealing up those things which
one lays aside and conceals." Thus in Job ix. 7, "And sealeth up
the stars;" that is, he so shuts them up in the heavens as to
prevent their shining - so as to hide them from the view. They
are concealed, hidden, made close - as the contents of a letter
or package are sealed, indicating that no one is to examine them.
See Notes on that passage. So also in Job xxxvii. 7, referring to
winter, it is said, "He sealeth up the hand of every man, that
all men may know his work." That is, in the winter, when the snow
is on the ground, when the streams are frozen, the labours of the
husbandman must cease. The hands can no more be used in ordinary
toil. Every man is prevented from going abroad to his accustomed
labour, and is, as it were, sealed up in his dwelling. Comp. Jer.
xxxii. 11, 14; Isa. xxix. 11; Cant. iv. 12.  The idea in the
passage before us is, that the sins of our nature will, as it
were, be sealed up, or closed, or hidden, so that they will not
be seen, or will not develop themselves; that is, "they will be
inert, inefficient, powerless." - Prof. Stuart. The language is
applicable to anything that would hide them from view, or remove
them from sight - as a book whose writing is so sealed that we
cannot read it; a tomb that is so closed that we cannot enter it
and see its contents; a package that is so sealed that we do not
know what is within it; a room that is so shut up that we may not
crater it, and see what is within. It is not to be supposed that
Daniel would see clearly how this was to be done; but we, who
have now a full revelation of the method by which God can remove
sin, can understand the method in which this is accomplished by
the blood of the atonement, to wit, that by that atonement sin is
now forgiven, or is treated as if it were hidden from the view,
and a seal, which may not be broken, placed on that which covers
it. The language thus used, as we are now able to interpret it,
is strikingly applicable to the work of the Redeemer, and to the
method by which God removes sin. In not a few MSS. and editions
the word rendered "sins" is in the singular number. The amount of
authority is in favour of the common reading - sins - though the
sense is not materially varied. The work would have reference to
sin, and the effect would be to seal it, and hide it from the
view. 

And to make reconciliation for iniquity.     

More literally, "and to cover iniquity." The word which is
rendered to "make reconciliation"--(Heb.) kaphar,--properly means
to cover (whence our English word cover); to cover over, to
overlay, as with pitch (Gen. vi. 14); and hence to cover over
sin; that is, to atone for it, pardon it, forgive it. It is the
word which is commonly used with reference to atonement or
expiation, and seems to have been so understood by our
translators. It does not necessarily refer to the means by which
sin is covered over, &c., by an atonement, but is often used in
the general sense of to pardon or forgive. Comp. Notes on Isa.
vi. 7, and more fully, Notes on Isa. xliii. 3. Here there is no
necessary allusion to the atonement which the Messiah would make
in order to cover over sin; that is, the word is of so general a
character in its signification that it does not necessarily
imply, this, but it is the word which would naturally be used on
the supposition that it had such a reference. As a matter of
fact, undoubtedly, the means by which this was to be done was by
the atonement, and that was referred to by the Spirit of
inspiration, but this is not essentially implied in the meaning
of the word. In whatever way that should be done, this word would
be properly used as expressing it. The Latin Vulgate renders
thus, "et deleaturiniquitas." Theodotion, (Gree)  -- "to wipe out
iniquities." Luther, "to reconcile for transgression." 

Here are three things specified, therefore, in regard to sin,
which would be done.     

Sin would be Restrained, Scaled up, Covered over.

These expressions, though not of the nature of a climax, are
intensive, and show that the great work referred to pertained to
sin, and would be designed to remove it. Its bearing would be on
human transgression; on the way by which it might be pardoned; on
the methods by which it would be removed from the view, and be
kept from rising up to condemn and destroy. Such expressions
would undoubtedly lead the mind to look forward to some method
which was to be disclosed by which sin could be consistently
pardoned and removed. In the remainder of the verse, there are
three additional things which would be done as necessary to
complete the work:

To bring in everlasting righteousness; 
To seal up the vision and prophecy; 
To anoint the Most Holy.

And to bring in everlasting righteousness. 

The phrase "to bring in" - literally, "to cause to come" - refers
to some direct agency by which that righteousness would be
introduced into the world. It would be such an agency as would
cause it to exist; or as would establish it in the world. The
mode of doing this is not indeed here specified, and, so far as
the word here used is concerned, it would be applicable to any
method by which this would be done - whether by making an
atonement; or by setting an example; or by persuasion; or by
placing the subject of morals on a better foundation; or by the
administration of a just government; or in any other way. The
term is of the most general character, and its exact force here
can be learned only by the subsequently revealed facts as to the
way by which this would be accomplished. The essential idea in
the language is, that this would be introduced by the Messiah;
that is, that he would be its author. The word righteousness here
also (Heb.) is of gernal character.

                          ......................


To be continued


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