“O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.” — Daniel 9:19
Have you ever had someone try to persuade you to do something? When our children were young, they often accompanied their requests with reasons why my husband and I should say yes. Whether it was going to the mall, allowing a friend to come over, or increasing their allowance, the deciding factor frequently came down to how their desires aligned with our desires for them.
For example, one time our son suggested a course of action that would allow him to buy a rather expensive laptop computer. His proposal was that he could save for this purchase if we paid him a certain amount each week for extra tasks he would do for us, and he was convincing as he explained how this plan would benefit both him and us. Not only would it take care of tasks we needed done, but it would also teach him to set a goal and accomplish it — an idea, he pointed out, that we ourselves had championed. How could we refuse a request that clearly aligned with what we had already said was our desire for him?
In today’s text, Daniel used this approach when he came before God. In captivity and away from Jerusalem, the prophet’s heart was burdened for his homeland and people. After he studied and understood what the Prophet Jeremiah had foretold, Daniel realized that the time of Israel’s captivity was nearing an end, so he set his face to seek the Lord with supplication, fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. As he poured out his prayer, he stated five requests: that God would “hear . . . forgive . . . hearken . . . do . . . defer not.” These requests were not promoting his own ideas for his homeland’s restoration. In a sense, he was reciting back to God what he knew God had already promised to do. It was as if Daniel prayed, “Lord, I’m not asking You to do anything that conflicts with Your plans. I’m praying this in accordance with what You said You would do.”
As Christians, we often face times when we want God to take action. Perhaps we have an unsaved loved one, a friend who is suffering, or a family member in need of an answer to prayer. If we come before God in prayer, conforming our requests to His will and desires, we can boldly ask Him to hear our prayers and answer according to His plan. We can be confident that just as God responded to Daniel, He will respond to our prayers as well!
Chapter 9 begins with an account of Daniel’s intercession for Israel. Verses 1 and 2 indicate that Daniel had received and read the letter sent by Jeremiah from Jerusalem to Babylon. The word translated books in verse 2 could also be translated “letter” or “scroll,” indicating that it was a written document.
The seventy years described in Jeremiah chapters 25 and 29, and Daniel’s knowledge of the circumstances of his day, led him to understand that those passages applied to his time. Jeremiah’s prophecy, which began when Nebuchadnezzar raided Jerusalem in 605 B.C., was nearing fulfillment, since Daniel 9 is dated 539 B.C. Because Daniel had been in captivity for almost seventy years, he would have had reason to believe that the seventy-year captivity described by Jeremiah was coming to an end.
This prompted Daniel to both physical and spiritual prostration, and verses 4-19 record his subsequent prayer. Both his actions and his prayer closely followed the prescription detailed in Jeremiah’s writing. Daniel recognized God as the only One acting honorably, and charged Israel, from the king on down, with having violated God’s written and oral commands. He catalogued Israel’s sins as violations of God’s voice, law, words, judgments, precepts, and finally in verse 13, “thy truth.” In Hebrew, the root of the word translated “truth” in this verse is also the root of the word that is usually translated as “amen,” and is indicative of something trustworthy, enduring, and completely reliable.
Daniel’s prayer was comprehensive and sincere — a marvelous intercessory prayer for his nation. He mentioned Jerusalem repeatedly, twice by name, as well as “thy holy mountain” and “thy sanctuary that is desolate.” His focus was on the restoration of the city and of worship.
As in Daniel chapter 8, God responded through the angel Gabriel. The phrase “at the beginning” in verse 21 refers to the previous visit by Gabriel. Gabriel’s discourse, beginning at verse 24, marks a change in the Book of Daniel. From this point forward, the Jeremiah prophecy of seventy years transitions into “seventy weeks” of years and a more distant prophecy concerning the end times. In this verse, “weeks” comes from the Hebrew heptad meaning “seven,” so a literal interpretation would be “seventy sevens” of years, or 490 years.
Gabriel informed Daniel that seventy weeks had been determined (or decreed) upon the Jews and Jerusalem. In other words, God had put in place a timetable. This information was an addition to what Daniel already understood of Jeremiah’s prophecy. This timetable would start when an edict was proclaimed for the rebuilding of the Temple and of Jerusalem, and would revolve around the Jews as a people. The seventy weeks would be divided into three parts: seven weeks to begin, sixty-two weeks in the middle, and one week at the end. This left open the possibility that there could be interval(s) of time in between the three divisions.
In verse 24, Gabriel enumerated six key purposes that would be fulfilled during the seventy weeks — purposes that related to preparation and purification of the people, the holy city, and the Temple. With those preparations in process, the Messiah was set to appear, but would be “cut off” (disappear, vanish) after week sixty-nine. In verses 26 and 27, Gabriel outlined how this would open the way for the city and Temple to be left desolate, ushering in an unclean substitute (identified as a “prince” in verse 26) who would make a covenant with Israel. As explained to Daniel, that covenant would be broken and Temple sacrifice would be stopped midweek, ushering in the devastating judgment at the end of God’s timetable.
While Daniel began the chapter wondering about the seventy years of Jerusalem’s desolation predicted by Jeremiah, Gabriel’s new information established that “seventy” was part of an overall pattern involving far greater lengths of time.
III. The prophetic history of the Jews
B. The vision of the seventy weeks (chronology of Israel’s prophetic program) (9:1-27)
1. The situation (9:1-3)
2. The prayer of Daniel (9:4-19)
a. The confession (9:4-14)
b. The petition (9:15-19)
3. The intervention of Gabriel (9:20-23)
4. The prediction of the seventy weeks (9:24-27)
a. The program (9:24)
b. The particulars (9:25-27)
God hears and answers supplications like Daniel’s that are offered in alignment with His will and for His glory.