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Albert Barnes on Daniel 9 #5

The 70 week Prophecy

                         ALBERT BARNES ON DANIEL 9

                          THE 70 WEEK PROPHECY #5



 Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.   

The "holy place" - the temple. This is the termination
of the prophecy. It begins with the command to "rebuild and
restore" the city, and ends with its destruction. The thing is
not fixed, nor is there in the prophecy any direct intimation
when it would occur, unless it be found in the general
declaration in ver.24, that " seventy weeks were determined upon
the people and the city." The whole scope of the prophecy,
however, would lead to the supposition that this was soon to
occur after the Messiah should be "cut off." The series of,
events under the Romans which led to the destruction of the city
and temple, in fact, began very soon after the death of the Lord
Jesus, and ceased only when the temple was wholly demolished, and
the city was rased to its foundations.

And the end thereof.     

Heb  "its end," or "his end"--(Heb.) It is not certain as to what
the word it (Heb.) here refers. It may be either the end of the
city, or of the prince, or of the prophecy, so as the grammatical
construction is concerned. As the principal and immediate subject
of the prophecy, however, is the city, it is more natural to
refer it to that. Hengstenberg renders it, "it will end,"
supposing, with Vitrina, that it refers to the subject of the
discourse: "the thing--the whole affair--all that is here
predicted in this series of events will end with a flood."  This
accords well with the whole design of the prophecy. 

With a flood. 

That is, it shall be like an overflowing flood. The word here
used means a gushing, outpouring, as of rain, Job xxxviii. 25; of
a torrent, Prov. xxvii. 4; an overflowing, inundation, flood,
Psa. xxvii. 6; Nah. i. 8. Hence it would appropriately denote the
ravages of an army, sweeping everything away. It would be like a
sudden inundation, carrying everything before it. No one can
doubt that this language is applicable in every respect to the
desolations brought upon Jerusalem by the Roman armies.  And unto
the end of the war desolations are determined. Marg., "it shall
be cut off by desolations." Hengstenberg renders this, "and unto
the end is war, a decree of ruins." So Lengerke - "und bis aufs
Ende Krieg und Beschluss der Wusten." Bertholdt renders it, "and
the great desolations shall continue unto the end of the war."
The Latin Vulgate renders it, "et post finem belli statuta
desolatio"--"and after the end of the war desolation is
determined." Prof. Stuart translates it, "and unto the end shall
be war, a decreed measure of desolations." The literal meaning of
the passage is, "and unto the end of the war desolations are
decreed," or determined. The word rendered "determined" (Heb.)
means, properly, to cut, cut in, engrave; then to decide, to
determine, to decree, to pass sentence. See Notes on ver.24. Here
the meaning naturally is, that such desolations were settled or
determined as by a decree or purpose. There was so mething which
made them certain; that is, it was a part of the great plan here
referred to in the vision of the seventy weeks, that there should
be such desolations extending through the war. The things which
would, therefore, be anticipated from this passage would be: 

(a) That there would be war.  This is implied also in the
assurance that the people of a foreign prince would come
and take the city.  

(b) That this war would be of a desolating character, or that it
would in a remarkable manner extend and spread ruin over the
land. All wars are thus characterized; but it would seem that
this would do it in a remarkable manner.     

(c) That these desolations would extend through the war, or to
its close. There would be no intermission; no cessation. It is
hardly necessary to say that this was, in fact, precisely the
character of the war which the Romans waged with the Jews after
the death of the Saviour, and which ended in the destruction of
the city and temple; the overthrow of the whole Hebrew polity;
and the removal of great numbers of the people to a distant and
perpetual captivity. No war, perhaps, has been in its progress
more marked by desolation; in none has the purpose of destruction
been more perseveringly manifested to its very close. The
language here, indeed, might apply to many wars in a certain
sense to all wars; to none, however, would it be more appropriate
than to the wars of the Romans with the Jews.

And he shall confirm the covenant

Literally, "he shall make strong" (Heb.)  The idea is that of
giving strength, or stability; of making firm and sure. The
Hebrew word here evidently refers to the "covenant" which God is
said to establish with his people - so often referred to in the
Scriptures as expressing the relation between Him and them, and
hence used, in general, to denote the laws and institutions of
the true religion, the laws which God has made for his church;
his promises to be their protector, &c., and the institutions
which grow out of that relation. The margin reads it, more in
accordance with the Hebrew, "a" meaning that he would confirm or
establish "a covenant" with the many. According to this, it is
not necessary to suppose that it was any existing covenant that
it referred to, but that he would ratify what was understood by
the word "covenant;" that is, that he would lead many to enter
into a true and real covenant with God. This would be fulfilled
if he should perform such a work as would bring the "many" into a
relation to God corresponding to that which was sustained to him
by his ancient people; that is, bring them to be his true friends
and worshippers. The meaning of the expression here cannot be
mistaken, that during the time specified, "he" (whoever may be
referred to) would, for "one week" - pursue such a course as
would tend to establish the true religion; to render it more
stable and firm; to give it higher sanctions in the approbation
of the "many," and to bring it to bear more decidedly and
powerfully on the heart. Whether this would be by some law
enacted in its favour; or by protection extended over the nation;
or by present example; or by instruction; or by some work of a
new kind, and new influences which he would set forth, is not
mentioned, and beforehand perhaps it could not have been well
anticipated in what way this would be. There has been a
difference of opinion, however, as to the proper nominative to
the verb "confirm"--(Heb.) -- whether it is the Messiah, or the
foreign prince, or the "one week." Hengstenberg prefers the
latter, and renders it, "And one week shall confirm the covenant
with many." So also Lengerke renders it. Bertholdt renders it
"he," that is, "he shall unite himself firmly with many for one
week" - or, a period of seven years, "ein Jahrsiebend lang." 

It seems to me that it is an unnatural construction to make the
word "week" the nominative to the verb, and that the more obvious
interpretation is to refer it to some person to whom the whole
subject relates. It is not usual to represent time as an agent in
a accomplishing a work.  In poetic and metaphorical language,
indeed, we personate time as cutting down men, as a destroyer,
&c., but this usage would not justify the expression that "time
would confirm a covenant with many." That is, evidently, the work
of a conscious, intelligent agent; and it is most natural,
therefore, to understand this as of one of the two agents who are
spoken of in the passage. These two agents are the "Messiah," and
the "prince that should come." But it is not reasonable to
suppose that the latter is referred to, because it is said (ver.
26) that the effect and the purpose of his coming would be to 
"destroy the city and the sanctuary." He was to come "with a
flood," and the effect of his coming would be only desolation.

The more correct interpretation, therefore, is to refer it to the
Messiah, who is the principal subject of the prophecy; and the
work which, according to this, he was to perform was, during that
"one week," to exert such an influence as would tend to establish
a covenant between the people and God. The effect of his work
during that one week would be to secure their adhesion to the
true religion; to confirm to them the Divine promises, and to
establish the principles of that religion which would lead them
to God. Nothing is said of the mode by which that would be done;
and  anything , therefore, which would secure this would be a
fulfilment of the prophecy. As a matter of fact, if it refers to
the Lord Jesus, this was done by his personal instructions, his
example, his sufferings and death, and the arrangements which he
made to secure the proper effect of his work on the minds of the
people - all designed to procure for them the friendship and
favour of God, and to unite them to him in the bonds of an
enduring covenant.  


Wth many.

Or, for many; or, unto many. He would perform a work which would
pertain to many, or which would bear on many, leading them to
God. There is nothing in the word here which I would indicate who
they were, whether his own immediate followers, or those who
already were in the covenant. The simple idea is, that this would
pertain to many persons, and it would be fulfilled if the effect
of his work were to confirm many who were already in the
covenant, or if he should bring many others into a covenant
relation with God. Nothing could be determined from the meaning
of the word used here as to which of these things was designed,
and consequently a fair fulfilment would be found if either of
them occurred. If it refers to the Messiah, it would be fulfilled
if in fact the effect of his coming should be either by statute
or by instructions to confirm and establish those who already
sustained this relation to God, or if he gathered other
followers, and confirmed them in their allegiance to God.    

For one week. 

The fair interpretation of this, according to the principles
adopted throughout this exposition, is, that this includes the
space of seven years. See Notes on ver.24. This is the one week
that makes up the seventy--seven of them, or forty-nine years,
embracing the period from the command to rebuild the city and
temple to its completion under Nehemiah; sixty-two, or four
hundred and thirty-four years, to the public appearing of the
Messiah, and this one week to complete the whole seventy, or four
hundred and ninety years "to finish transgression, and to make an
end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to
bring in everlast ing righteousness," &c., ver.24. 

It is essential, therefore, to find something done, occupying
these seven years, that would go to "confirm the covenant " in
the sense above explained. In the consideration of this, the
attention is arrested by the announcement of an important event
which was to occur "in the midst of the week," to wit, in causing
the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, showing that there was
to be an important change occurring during the "week," or that
while he would be, in fact, confirming the covenant through the
week in some proper sense, the sacrifice and oblation would
coase, and therefore the confirming of the many in the covenant
must depend on something else than the continuation of the
sacrifice and oblation.  

In regard to this language, as in respect to all the rest of the
prophecy, there are, in fact, just two  questions: one, what is
fairly to be understood by the words, or what is the proper
interpretation, independent of anything in the result; the other
is, whether anything occurred in that which is regarded
the fulfilment which corresponds with the language so
interpreted. 


(1.) The first inquiry then, is: What is the fair meaning of the
language? Or what would one who had a correct knowledge of the
proper principles of interpretation understand by thus? Now,
in regard to this, while it may be admitted, perhaps, that there
would be some liability to a difference of view in interpreting
it with no reference to the event, or no shaping of its meaning
by the event, the following things seem to be clear: 

(a) That the "one week," would comprise seven years, immediately
succeeding the appearance of the Messiah, or the sixty-two weeks,
and that there was something which he would do in "confirming the
covenant," or in establishing the principles of religion, which
would extend through that period of seven years, or that that
would be, in some propersense, a period of time, having a
beginning--to wit, his appearing, and some proper close or
termination at the end of the seven years: that is, that there
would be some reason why that should be a marked period, or why
the whole should terminate there, and not at some other time. 

(b) That in the middle of that period of seven years, another
important event would occur, serving to divide that time into two
portions, and especially to be known as causing the sacrifice and
oblation to cease; in some way affecting the public offering of
sacrifice, so that from that time there would be in fact a
cessation.     

(c) And that this would be succeeded by the consummation of the
whole matter expressed in the words, "and for the overspreading
of abomination he shall make it desolate," &c. It is not said,
however, that this latter would immediately occur, but this would
be one of the events that would appertain to the fulfilment of
the prophecy.  There is nothing, indeed, in the prediction to
forbid the expectation that this would occur at once, nor is
there anything in the words which makes it imperative that we
should so understand it. It may be admitted that this would be
the most natural interpretation, but it cannot be shown that that
is required. It may be added, also, that this may not have
appertained to the direct desin, of the prophecy - which was to
foretell the coming of the Messiah, but that this was appended to
show the end of the whole thing. 

When the Messiah should have come, and should have made an
atonement for sin, the great design of rebuilding Jerusalem and
the temple would have been accomplished, and both might pass
away. Whether that would occur immediately or not might be in
itself a matter of indifference; but it was important to state
here that it would occur, for that was properly a completion of
the design of rebuilding the city, and of the purpose for which
it had ever been set apart as a holy city.   

(2.) The other inquiry is, whether there was that in what is
regarded as the fulfilment of this, which fairly corresponds with
the prediction. I have attempted above (on ver.25) to show that
this refers to the Messiah properly so called - the Lord Jesus
Christ. The inquiry now is, therefore, whether we can find in his
life and death what is a fair fulfilment of these reasonable
expectations. In order to see this, it is proper to review these
points in their order: 

(a) The period, then, which is embraced in the prophecy, is seven
years, and it is necessary to find in his life and work something
which would be accomplished during these seven years which could
be properly referred to as "confirming the covenant with many."
The main difficulty in the case is on this point, and I
acknowledge that this seems to me to be the most embarrassing
portion of the prophecy, and that the solutions which can be
given of this are less satisfactory than those that pertain to
any other part. Were it not that the remarkable clause "in the
midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to
cease." were added, I admit that the natural interpretation would
be, that he would do this personally, and that we might look for
something which he would himself accomplish during the whole
period of seven years. That clause, however, looks as if some
remarkable event were to occur in the middle of that period; for
the fact that he would cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease
--that is, would bring the rites of the temple to a close - shows
that what is meant by "confirming the covenant" is different from
the ordinary worship under the ancient economy. No Jew would
think of expressing himself thus, or would see how it was
practicable to "confirm the covenant" at the same time that all
his sacrifices were to cease. The confirming of the covenant,
therefore, during that "one week," must be consistent with some
work or event that would cause the sacrifice and oblation to
cease in the middle of that period.     

(b) The true fulfilment, it seems to me, is to be found in the
bearing of the work of the Saviour on the Hebrew people - the
ancient covenant people of God - for about the period of seven
years after he entered on his work. Then the particular relation
of his work to the Jewish people ceased. It may not be
practicable to make out the exact time of "seven years" in
reference to this, and it may be admitted that this would not be
understood from the prophecy before the things occurred; but
still there are a number of circumstances which will show that
this interpretation is not only plausible, but that it has in its
very nature strong probability in its favour. They are such as
these: 

(1.) The ministry of the Saviour himself was wholly among the
Jews, and his work was what would, in their common language, be
spoken of as "confirming the covenant;" that is, it would be
strengthening the principles of religion, bringing the Divine
promises to bear on the mind, and leading men to God, &c. 

(2.) This same work was continued by the apostles as they
laboured among the Jews. They endeavoured to do the same thing
that their Lord and Master had clone, with all the additional
sanctions, now derived from his life and death. The whole
tendency of their ministry would have been properly expressed in
this language: that they endeavoured to "connfirm the covenant"
with the Hebrew people; that is, to bring them to just views of
the character of their natural covenant with God; to show them
how it was confirmed in the Messiah; to establish the ancient
promises; and to bring to bear upon them the sanctions of their
law as it was now fulfilled, and ratified, and enlarged through
the Messiah. Had the Saviour himself succeeded in this, or had
his apostles, it would have been, in fact, only "confirming the
ancient covenant" - the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob; the covenant established under Moses, and ratified by so
many laws and customs among the people. The whole bearing of the
Saviour's instructions, and of his followers, was to carry out
and fulfil the real design of that ancient institution - to show
its true nature and meaning, and to impress it on the hearts oŁ
men: 

(3.) This was continued for about the period here referred to; at
least for a period so long that it could properly be represented
in round numbers as "one week," or seven years. The Saviour's own
ministry continued about half that time; and then the apostles
prosecuted the same work, labouring with the Jews for about the
other portion, before they turned their attention to the
Gentiles, and before the purpose to endeavour to bring in the
Jewish people was abandoned. They remained in Jerusalem; they
preached in the synagogues; they observed the rites of the temple
service; they directed their first attention everywhere to the
Hebrew people; they had not yet learned that they were to turn
away from the "covenant people," and to go to the Gentiles. It
was a slow process by which they were led to this. It re-uired a
miracle to convince Peter of it, and to show him that it was
right to go to Cornelius (Acts x.), as a representative of the
Gentile people, and it required another miracle to convert Saul
of Tarsus, "the apostle of the Gentiles," and to prepare him for
the work of carrying the gospel to the heathen world, and a
succession of severe persecutions was demanded to induce the
apostles to leave Jerusalem, and to go abroad upon the face of
the earth to convey the message of salvation. Their first work
was among the Jewish people, and they would have remained among
them if they had not been driven away by these persecutions, and
been thus constrained to go to other lands.......

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


To be continued


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