The prophet Daniel was very particular to set down the precise time of the wonderful and blessed vision that he was privileged to receive in this chapter. We call it wonderful because of the grace manifested to the people of God at such a season, when they were suffering in Babylonian captivity for their rebellion. And it is even more blessed because the Holy Spirit has commissioned it to be a blessing to thousands of the Lord’s people in all ages – for not only was Daniel hereby assured of the speedy release of the Jews out of their captivity; but he was also informed of the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ (of which that deliverance from captivity was only a foreshadowing), and he was given the clearest and brightest prophecy of the coming Messiah in all the Old Testament!
The events in this chapter transpired in the first year of Darius the Mede (537 BC), which corresponds exactly with the first year of Cyrus – with whom Darius reigned jointly, after the death of Belshazzar and the capture of Babylon by the Medes and Persians. And it was in this memorable year that this very same Cyrus announced that the Jews were released from their exile in Babylon, and that they might return to their own country if they so desired (Ezra 1). Daniel, at this time, was studying the writings of the prophet Jeremiah. And by comparing what he read in Jeremiah 25:8-13 and 29:10 with what was coming to pass at that very moment of history, he learned that the 70 years of his countrymen’s captivity were now expired. And this set Daniel praying; for God’s promises in the Scriptures are meant to encourage our prayers, and not to make them needless. Daniel’s prayer was a humble, serious, devout address to Jehovah, in which he made a penitent confession of sin, as the cause of the troubles which his countrymen had groaned under for so many years. But he also made a believing appeal to the mercy of the Lord. He pleaded the reproach that His people were under, and the ruins that His sanctuary was in; and he made an earnest request to the Lord to restore the poor captive Jews to their former enjoyments. And the argument which the prophet laid all his stress upon, as he thus pleaded for Divine mercy, was nothing other than the Person, work, and glory of the as-yet-unrevealed Messiah!
The answer that was sent to Daniel’s prayer was a very memorable one. Those who desire to be acquainted with Christ and His grace must be much in prayer, as Daniel was – who was here taught concerning a redemption that God would work out for His people in the latter days, which was far greater and more glorious than the Jews’ release from Babylonian captivity. While Daniel was yet in the middle of his prayers and devotions, the Lord sent His angel Gabriel to converse with the prophet. This was around 3:00 in the afternoon, which was the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; and it is noteworthy to observe that this was the very same time when Jesus died on the cross. It was with an eye to this one great perfect Sacrifice for sin that every offering under the Levitical system had reference; and in it, they all had their fulfillment.
In verse 25, we have one of the most remarkable prophecies of the coming Messiah in the entire Old Testament! “Know therefore and understand,” said Gabriel to Daniel, “that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.” What is meant by “the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem”? After the Jew’s restoration from Babylonian exile, several kings made various decrees concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem. But only one of these decrees ever spoke anything about the reconstruction of the city walls of Jerusalem; all of the others, in one way or another, related to the rebuilding of the Temple – but never the city walls. This unique decree permitting Jerusalem’s walls to be rebuilt was the edict given to Nehemiah by King Artaxerxes Longimanus of Persia. And he issued this order in the year 454 BC. So what about the “seven weeks” and the “62 weeks” that were to transpire between this decree and “Messiah the Prince”? In the Hebrew, the word that is here translated “weeks” literally means “sevens.” So we have seven “sevens” and 62 “sevens” – making a total of 69 “sevens.” By understanding the “sevens” as groups of seven years, and by multiplying 69 times “seven” – we come to 483 years. Interestingly, when we begin in the year 454 BC (the year that Artaxerxes issued his decree to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem), and count forward 483 years, and then add one year to accommodate the absence of a “year 0” – we arrive precisely at 30 AD, the very same year that Christ the Messiah began His earthly ministry! His ministry culminated in the offering of the Great and Ultimate Sacrifice that made full atonement for sin, and which brought in everlasting righteousness for the complete justification of every believer. All blessings that are bestowed upon sinful human beings come through Jesus’ atoning Sacrifice; for He suffered once for our sins, so that He might restore our broken relationship with God. Here is our one way of access to the throne of grace, and of our entrance into heaven! This seals the sum of prophecy and confirms the covenant; and while we rejoice in the blessings of salvation, we should remember what they cost our Redeemer.
Lord, as we approach the throne of grace, we praise Christ Jesus for His wondrous mercy that caused Him to come to earth and become the Sacrifice for us! Amen.
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