9 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. 3 So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.
God foretold the future scattering of Israel during the captivity in Leviticus 26:34-35 which says, “Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it.” The land was supposed to rest during the Sabbath year (Leviticus 25:4), but Israel ignored God’s commands. Thus, God allowed them to be carried off into captivity so that the land could rest to make up for their lack of obedience. Jeremiah 25:11-12 says, “This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. ‘Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the Lord, ‘for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation.’” The Lord punished Israel for their wickedness and sent them into captivity in Babylon for seventy years. But after that time was complete, they would be allowed to return home, and God would punish Babylon for its wickedness as Persia would take it over. God pays attention to the wickedness of nations, and He does render judgments whether they realize it or not. Jeremiah 29:10 says, “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.” Even despite their captivity, God still loved Israel and had a plan for their future hope and prosperity (Jeremiah 29:11). He would bring them back, which He did during the rule of King Cyrus of Persia (2 Chronicles 36:21-23, Ezra 1:1-2). He put it in Cyrus’ heart to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem and to let the Jews go back.
4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. 6 Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.
7 “Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. 8 Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. 9 To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; 10 nor have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets. 11 Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. 12 Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice.
Daniel was aware of the covenant of blessing and cursing in Deuteronomy 11:26-32 and Leviticus 26, and he understood that God was just to bring calamity on the people of Israel on account of their wickedness and stubbornness. God gave them many chances to repent and sent many messengers with a call to repent, but they hardened their heart against God and persecuted His messengers. The calamity Jerusalem suffered with the siege by Nebuchadnezzar was a horror upon horror, a great humiliation and torture. But with God there is always hope because of His lovingkindness, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness, and that is what Daniel appeals to, hoping and praying for God to restore the joy of Jerusalem. At this time, it was desolate and abandoned, but Daniel prayed that his people could go home and reestablish the house of God (v. 15-19).
15 “And now, O Lord our God, who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have been wicked. 16 O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. 17 So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
This intercessory prayer of Daniel’s is very similar to that of Nehemiah in Nehemiah 1:5-10. Both men confess the reality of their sin and the sin of the nation before God. They appeal to His compassion and mercy, and they ask for His forgiveness. They beg God to take action not on their merits or for their sakes but for the sake of the name of God. This is because God’s people are called by His name and known as His own. Thus, their prayer is for God to restore the temple, His sanctuary, and His city, Jerusalem, for His honor and glory. God would answer their prayer. Cyrus sent the Jews back to rebuild the house of God (Ezra 1:1-2), and Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah back to build the walls (Nehemiah 2).
20 Now while 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 in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, 21 while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. 22 He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. 23 At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.
During Daniel’s prayer, Gabriel returned to him to give him more insight and understanding. Daniel had been praying about the seventy weeks that he read about in Jeremiah, and even before he finished praying, Gabriel was commanded to go to him with an explanation. God knew what Daniel was going to pray for even before He prayed it, and the answer was forthcoming even before he completed his prayer. Daniel was highly esteemed in the sight of God because God delights to support those whose hearts are completely devoted to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9). He gives His favor to those Who love Him and walk in faith before Him. This doesn’t mean that their lives will be easy, but it does mean that they will be intimate with Him (James 4:8), have insight according to His Word (Psalm 119:99), and will be used of Him to accomplish His work in the world around them (Ephesians 2:10).
24 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. 25 So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
The prophecy from Jeremiah that Daniel had been meditating on spoke of seventy years of exile in Babylon. But Gabriel is now giving Daniel some new prophetic revelation concerning future times. The number seventy has great significance. Seventy weeks, meaning seventy times seven years, or 490 years are decreed by God to accomplish a series of future events. It will be at the end of the final seven year period which will complete the 490 years that God will give remnant Israel a heart for Him (Ezekiel 36:22-38). He will put an end to transgression, for there will be no sin in the eternal kingdom of God (Isaiah 26:12-13). Israel’s punishment will be complete (Jeremiah 30:11), and an age of eternal righteousness will be ushered in (Israel 22:14-15). Prophecy will be completed and fulfilled, sin will be gone, and Jesus will reign for a thousand years in Jerusalem (Revelation 20:6, Zechariah 14). After the millennial kingdom, He will reign forever and create a New Jerusalem for all those who have put their faith in Him (Revelation 21:1-4). His presence will be near to them, and there will be no need for a temple. He will be the temple (Revelation 21:22). From the time that Jerusalem is rebuilt (Ezra 1:1-2) until the time of the Messiah are 69 of the 70 weeks, or 483 years. But that still leaves one week or one seven year period to account for, and that will happen in a time still in the future. The seven year period will begin when the antichrist makes a covenant with Israel for a seven year period. However, three and a half years into the treaty, he will break the covenant and put a stop to their offerings. He will desolate the temple, fulfilling the prophecy concerning the abomination of desolation (Daniel 12:11, Matthew 24:15). This timeline is confirmed by Revelation 11:2 and 13:5 which say that the holy city will be treaded under by the antichrist for 42 months or three and a half years (see also Daniel 12:1). He will make war against God’s people like a flood (Revelation 12:15-16) and capture the city of Jerusalem. As Zechariah 14:2 says, “For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city.” But shortly thereafter Jesus Himself will return and descend upon the Mont of Olives and make an end of the antichrist and the armies of the earth (Zechariah 14:4). He will save a remnant of Israel and usher in His kingdom (Zechariah 14:5). All of this matters because it shows that God knows the future before it happens, and it shows that Israel plays a central role in terms of human history and concerning the second coming of Christ. It is also important to note that the temple will be rebuilt either before the antichrist comes on the scene or during the first three and a half years of the final seven year period because the antichrist can’t stop sacrifices unless they are ongoing. They currently are not, so the rebuilding of the temple will be something to look for as a sign that the end is very near.