Seventy Sevens — Some Preliminary Answers
“Seventy sevens are determined upon your people and upon your holy city to end the transgression, to seal the sin offering, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in righteousness forever, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Holy of Holies.”
Here are the questions I asked you to work on over the weekend, and here are my answers I promised to share.
1. What does he mean by “Seventy sevens?” Are there clues in what we have read so far in Daniel about “time”and “sevens?”
Daniel 9 began with Daniel reading the scroll of Jeremiah in the section where the prophet comforted his people by stressing that their exile in Babylon would last only 70 years. Jeremiah uses the same Hebrew term that Gabriel uses in Daniel 9:24; so we can conclude that “seventy years” is the meaning of one of his terms. His other term simply means “seven” and it is a multiplication problem: seven times seventy equals 490 years. This is the overall period Gabriel is referring to. We can also verify this with the period of seven years in Daniels 4:6, 25, 34 that Nebuchadnezzar was judged by the Lord for his pride.
2. In the book, who are Daniel’s people and his holy city?
The “holy city” is obviously Jerusalem. This is the city Daniel prayed toward in the Lion’s Den episode (Daniel 6) and the city he mentioned at the beginning of his prayer in Daniel 9:2. The people are clearly Daniel’s own Jewish people including their kings and their rulers who had disobeyed the covenant God made with them at Mt. Sinai and renewed before Moses died on the plains of Moab as recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy. Daniel specifically mentions Judah, those dwelling in the land of Israel at the time of the Exile, and those who were scattered (Daniel 9:7). Therefore Gabriel is definitely referring to Daniel’s Jewish people.
In history the Christian Church has often eliminated this connection with Abraham’s physical descendants Satan still tries to stir anti-Semitism and violence against Jews. We must not sever Daniel’s prophecy from his own Jewish people. The 490 year period that Gabriel is talking about has to do first with Daniel’s own people, the Jews.
3. According to what Daniel has written so far what would his text mean by phrases like:
End transgression: The transgression that Daniel referred to in his prayer was the breaking of the Mosaic Covenant that led to the Babylonian Captivity. This transgression is now ended and Daniel and his people have paid the penalty for this sin.
Seal up sin: Daniel prayed specifically about the sin, iniquity, and rebellion of his people—the sin that led to the Babylonian Exile. Gabriel now says that this time period is over. God seals this decreed punishment and it is now time for Daniel’s people to go home. In his prayer, Daniel specifically states that God has fulfilled the punishments his prophets predicted (Daniel 9:12, 16).
Atone for iniquity: In the context this would refer to the fact that the 70 years captivity did cover the sin and iniquity Daniel was confessing (Daniel 9:5). But what if his people disobey and broke the Mosaic Covenant in the future? How will that rebellion be covered? These questions lead us farther down in God’s redemptive Story to an atoning, just punishment far greater than the Babylonian Exile. The atoning sacrifice that the Passover foreshadowed and that Isaiah predicted (Isaiah 53. ) Will Gabriel reveal more about this sacrificial death? We will find out in our Devos this week.
Bring in eternal righteousness: Now Gabriel’s overall statement about God’s plans for Daniel’s people takes us far beyond the end of the Exile in Daniel’s lifetime. In earlier visions, we saw God crushing and conquering the final world empire that challenged him and establishing an eternal kingdom for his people on earth. Remember the stone cut out without hands in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2, and the one like the Son of Man who slew the ruler who defied God in the final expression of the Roman Empire and how he received the Kingdom from the Ancient of Days (cf. Daniel 7:13,26ff)? This has not happened yet in history. So this part of Gabriel’s prophecy is still in our future.
Seal up prophecy and vision: Daniel has received prophetic visions and his vision in chapter 7 took us to the end of history and the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth, not by human effort but by God’s sovereign will. So we can expect history to end with God answering the prayer Jesus taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come!”
Anoint the Holy of Holies: Gabriel will go on and talk about the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place in the Temple. Antiochus Epiphanes did desecrate the holiest place in the Temple by setting up a statue of Zeus, and he did persecute faithful Jews, but he did not destroy the city or the Temple. So according to Gabriel’s predictions to Daniel there had to be a future destruction of the Temple and this will lead us to how the Lord Jesus himself interpreted the passage we are studying.
Sorry this Devo is longer and tougher to understand. I told you this is one of the hardest passages in Daniel and I’ve tried to show you how to track the story using what our author has given us and not jump to conclusions from our own point of view.
LORD, we cry out to you to put a muzzle on all the mouths that are inciting violence remembering that your Son told us that if we even get angry with our brother and call him a fool we are breaking the sixth commandment. LORD, destroy the lie that hate speech doesn’t yield hateful actions.
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