As we turn our attention to Daniel 9 you should note this chapter contains one of the most famous and significant prophecies in all the Scriptures. In fact, what is traditionally known as The 70-Weeks Prophecy is of such importance it provides for us a general skeleton by which most of all the prophecy concerning Israel and Jesus is understood.
That said… What most fail to mention in their commentary of The 70-Weeks Prophecy is that it was not given in a vacuum. As we’ll see this morning, this incredible revelation came to Daniel in conjuncture with a Bible study and in response to incredible prayer.
Daniel 9:1-2, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans — in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”
As we’ve seen in the prophecies recorded in chapters 7 and 8, Daniel begins by providing us a specific timeframe. He tells us the things he’s about to record took place “in the first year of Darius the Mede.” Chronologically, this would place us between Daniel 5 and 6.
The Chaldean King Belshazzar’s violent delights have met a violent end. Babylon now finds herself under the control of Darius and the Medo-Persian Empire. Daniel, who is an old man in his 80’s, has been called back into the service of this new king. In all likelihood, because Daniel 9 comes in the “first year” of Darius’ rule, the events of chapter 6 — where the prophet finds himself being cast into the lion’s den — have not yet come to fruition.
Aside from providing us a timeframe, Daniel also gives us some context for what he was doing before receiving this prophetic revelation… He was having a Bible study, specifically in the Book of Jeremiah! Before we dive into what he learns, I need to explain who Jeremiah was and how Daniel came into the possession of these books.
For years leading up to their Babylonian captivity, Jeremiah had been raised up by the Lord and commissioned with the task of warning the people of God’s impending judgment. Sadly for Jeremiah, over the course of his 40-year ministry, not a single person listened to him!
In time, Jeremiah would see Nebuchadnezzar take back to Babylon a contingency of young Jewish men to serve in his courts — this included Daniel. Jeremiah then had a front-row seat when the Babylonians came back a second time taking captive the entire royal family, robbing the Temple of its treasure, and forcing another 10,000 Hebrews into exile. As I’ve noted before, this second group would include the eccentric prophet, Ezekiel.
Ten years after this, Jeremiah would find himself standing outside the holy city weeping as Nebuchadnezzar returned one final time to utterly destroy Jerusalem and remove all of the people from their land. As the Temple and city burned, knowing it was the judgment of God for their hardened hearts, the Prophet Jeremiah would pen the Book of Lamentations.
It’s worth noting that when this final siege occurs in 587 BC, Daniel has already been living in Babylon for 18 years and gained quite a significant amount of influence and power. 15 years before Jerusalem was destroyed, Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the succession of world empires and in turn, was “promoted ruler over the whole province of Babylon” as well as “chief administrator over all the wise men” (Daniel 2:48).
As a young man growing up in Judea there is no question Daniel knew of Jeremiah. Who didn’t? And while he’d written him off as being crazy just like everyone else, you can imagine, as Daniel made the long walk through desert sands from Judea to Babylon, the words of Jeremiah’s warnings rang loudly in his ears striking a cord deep within his soul.
Though we have no historical record of these two men ever meeting in person, there is strong evidence Daniel not only came to appreciate Jeremiah but would actively intervene on his behalf. Case in point, according to Jeremiah 39, during the final siege of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar gave orders to the captain of the guard to find and protect Jeremiah. I believe this was likely via the intercession of his friend Daniel.
In the end, Jeremiah would find himself taken to Egypt against his will where tradition says he was stoned to death by his brethren. And yet, at some point, before this happens, I believe Daniel uses his position and clout to leave Babylon in order to procure from Jeremiah his writings along with other “books” or holy texts.
This would have included the “Law of Moses,” books of history (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings), the books of poetry (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon), in addition to the relevant Prophets who’d come before the diaspora (Jonah, Joel, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk).
Again, I can’t prove this theory, but the timing does line up with one of the great mysteries of Daniel’s story… Why was he absent from the events recorded in chapter 3: Neb’s ego trip, the command to worship the image of gold, the stand of Daniel’s Three Amigo’s, the fiery furnace, and appearance of Jesus. I believe the preservation of God’s Word during the Jewish exile can and should be attributed directly to the Prophet Daniel.
Pertaining to the motivation for Daniel’s dive into Scripture, don’t forget the situation… Israel had experienced the judgment of God on account of their sin and wickedness. Daniel knew their judgment had been warranted and justified. And yet, it was shocking nonetheless.
Babylon had been God’s tool, but now God had judged her using the Medes and Persians. In accordance with Isaiah’s prophecies recorded many years earlier, Daniel knew the rise of King Cyrus was not a coincidence. At some point, he’d allow the Jews to return to their homeland. The pressing question on Daniel’s heart and mind was when this would happen.
Regardless of how Daniel came to possess these “books” including Jeremiah, chapter 9 is explicit that, as Daniel is working his way through these writings, he comes to an amazing revelation… God determined their exile would last for a minimum of 70 years!
There are two places this reality became evident… Jeremiah 25:11, “‘This whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,’ says the LORD.” From Daniel’s vantage-point this prophecy had already been fulfilled.
As he continues reading Daniel then comes to Jeremiah 29:10 where his excitement begins to bubble over… “Thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.”
Before we go any further, it’s important we address the reason God specified 70 years! I noted in our first study in Daniel how the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple along with the exile of the Jewish people had been the judgment of God on account of their disobedience. All the way back at Mount Sinai (Leviticus 26) God had been straightforward that in response to their persistent rebellion He would “scatter them among the nations and draw out a sword after them” in turn leaving “their land desolate and cities waste.”
What’s interesting about this Leviticus 26 passage is that God gets even more specific as to why He’d judge them by removing them from the land. In verses, 34-35 God says He’d do this so that “the land could enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths.”
Understand, central to Israel’s covenant relationship with God was the idea of a Sabbath rest. The exercise of ceasing to work one day in seven or allowing the land to rest once every seven years was to be an expression of their faith in God’s continued provisions.
Tragically, upon their arrival into the Promised Land, for a period of 490 years, the Jewish people failed to allow the land to ever experience a Sabbath Year. As such, Jeremiah — connecting the dots back to Leviticus 26 — knew the land was owed 70 years.
As Daniel is studying such things he comes to the realization that once the land had laid fallow for 70 years God would be open to their return. Not only is Daniel encouraged their return was indeed possible, but the timeline indicated it was potentially imminent.
Chronicling Daniel’s revelation of this fact years later, Ezra echoed… “Those who escaped from the sword Nebuchadnezzar carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.” (2 Chronicles 36:20-21)
Before we continue, I need to make a few additional observations about these opening verses… First, don’t overlook the way Daniel describes the Book of Jeremiah. He refers to it as “the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet.” Though Jeremiah had been the human voice, the words he’d spoken to the people had been divine. While the prophet’s mouth moved, it had been God speaking to Israel “through Jeremiah!”
In 1 Timothy 3:16 the Apostle Paul says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” This Greek word “inspiration” literally means the words in your Bible are God-breathed. Though human instruments were used to pen Scripture, never forget what makes your Bible living and powerful is that it contains the Words of God and not the ideas of man!
Secondly, as Daniel is reading the prophecies of Jeremiah, he says he came to “understand” what “God would accomplish.” Don’t miss this! I know there are times when you come across a passage (prophetic or otherwise) that seems perplexing and in many ways confusing. Take a breath and don’t forget Scripture exists to be understood!
Daniel was grappling with real issues that were of deep concern to him. His heart ached for his people and he wanted to know if God still had a plan for Israel, if His covenant remained, or if they’d forfeited their position through their rebellion. For answers to such concerns and questions, Daniel came to the Scriptures! In the end, Daniel came to know the will of God by reading the Word of God. It’s how God communicates to you!
Thirdly, there is no mistaking the fact Daniel read and interpreted God’s Word literally. Daniel believed that when God said 70 years He actually meant 70 years! This will become important when we get to the prophecy at the end of the chapter, but Daniel did not see 70 years as being symbolic or allegorical. He believed their exile would last for 70 years because God said so! When the plain reading makes plain sense anything else is nonsense!
Lastly, Daniel’s motivating concern that caused him to dive into Scripture centered specifically upon the Hebrew people and their covenant relationship with God. Again, this will be helpful when we get to The 70-Weeks Prophecy, but Daniel is not concerned about the rise and fall of world empires. His heart grieves for his people and their future.
To this point, seven times in this chapter and only in this chapter, Daniel will use the name Jehovah in reference to God — the special name for the Lord given to the Jewish people.
Though Daniel understood what God had revealed in Scripture, from his perspective two significant questions remained… First, when did the 70 years actually start?
While Daniel viewed this reference of 70 years as being literal, the challenge centered on the fact the Hebrews had been judged and exiled in three different waves spanning 18 years!
In 605 he and a group of young men had been taken from Judea. Then in 597, a much larger group had been exiled. Finally, in 587 Jerusalem fell finishing the job. 70 years is not a long time, but in Daniel’s context tacking on 18 years additional years was hardly insignificant.
For example… If the clock began when Daniel was exiled, he’s likely to make it. I mean “the third year of Darius” would place him only 3 or 4 years away. That said, if 70 years began in 587, Daniel knew he didn’t stand a chance of living long enough to see this amazing day.
The second question Daniel is left wrestling with as he studies the Scriptures boiled down to the fact 70 years was the minimum amount of time they’d live in exile.
It’s worth noting that some 200 years earlier, during the ministry of Isaiah, God used the Assyrian Empire to judge the 10 Northern Tribes of Israel. Presently, none of them had returned to the land! While Judea could theoretically return to the land once the 70 years in exile were completed, would they? Would God allow them?
In the passages I referenced earlier (Leviticus 26 and Jeremiah 29) where God spoke of His judgment, Daniel would have also read the following — which explains what happens next.
Leviticus 26:40, “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt… because they despised My judgments and because their soul abhorred My statutes.
Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God.”
Jeremiah 29:10, “Thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. (11) For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.”
Daniel 9:3, “Then (in response to what he knew) I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.”
Daniel not only “understood” God’s Word, but more importantly, he obeyed God’s word… Moved by the Scriptures, this elderly prophet immediately gets on his knees before the Lord. As we will see, so much of his prayer is directly influenced by what he read.
The idea behind this phrase “I set my face” infers determination and direction. God’s Word had been clear what was required to return to the Land of Promise. They were to “call upon the Lord and pray.” They were to “seek Him” and “search for Him with all their heart.”
Daniel knew they were to “humble” themselves before the Lord,“confess their iniquity and that of their fathers, accept their guilt,” and acknowledge how they’d been “unfaithful.”
In spite of all the wicked things they’d done to warrant judgment, the Lord made clear that His “thoughts towards them were of peace and not of evil, to give them a future and a hope.” God was not done with Israel. He was their God and they could still be His people. Exile was necessary, but it didn’t have to be a permanent position. His grace remained.
Daniel recognized from the Scriptures that if they’d seek the Lord, confess their sin, and accept their guilt God promised “He would listen” and be “found by them.” He would “remember the covenant of their ancestors” and not break His “covenant with them.” In the end, God promised He was willing to “bring them back from their captivity!”
Daniel 9:4-6, “And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, ‘O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.”
Notice Daniel begins his prayer by affirming the righteous nature and goodness of God. You are a “great and awesome God!” Jesus would begin, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name!” Daniel adds — regarding those “who love You and keep Your commandments” You never cease to be “merciful” and You’re always faithful to “keep Your covenant.” In the place of judgment, Daniel affirms the fact God was not to blame…
Instead, Daniel confesses the Hebrew people had no one to blame for their current predicament but themselves. Look back at the language he uses… “We have sinned and committed iniquity. We have done wickedly and rebelled. We departed from your precepts and judgments. We did not heed the servants and prophets who spoke in Your name.”
Not only does Daniel acknowledge their sin was the sole reason they found themselves in exile, but he makes zero excuses. Daniel takes responsibility! In fact, over and over again he uses the personal pronoun “we!” While Daniel was without question a nobleman, he was keenly aware of his own insufficiencies. He’d been exiled from the land as well.
To this point, the worst tendency that can arise in the life of a Christian is to assume you’ve arrived. That you’re good enough. That your obedience somehow warrants and precipitates God’s favor and blessing. Such a person has lost sight of their need for God’s grace. Always remember the closer you get to the perfection of Jesus the more aware you will be of your own inadequacies. Every prayer should bring you back to your need for the cross!
Daniel 9:7-10, “O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day — to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You.
O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and fathers, because we have sinned against You. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets.”
Amazingly, in his confession, Daniel keeps reverting back to the essence of the issue… In their sin, the Children of Israel had broken their covenant relationship with God. It’s not an accident he uses marital language. Daniel says they’d been “unfaithful.”
While the Lord was “righteous,” their behavior had been shameful. Twice he says, “To us belongs shame of face.” In response to God’s “forgiveness and mercy,” they continued in their “rebellion.” They did “not obey His voice.” They refused to “walk in His laws.” I heard one Bible teach observe that Daniel refers to their sin using so many different phrases because he understood the depths of human depravity transcends human description.
Daniel 9:11-15, “Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.
As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. Therefore the Lord has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day — we have sinned, we have done wickedly!”
Keep in mind… As a teenager, Daniel had been ripped from his family and home. He’d been stripped of his Jewishness and castrated. Daniel has spent his entire life serving one wicked king after another in Babylon. At this point, the Temple and Jerusalem lay in ruins and the people were scattered across the globe. And yet, Daniel is still able to declare, “The Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does!” Now he gets to his request…
Daniel 9:16-19, “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate.
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 do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
Seriously… What an incredible prayer! As Daniel finishes you can hear his passion and tears. As he closes Daniel bases his request for the people to be restored not on their goodness or merit, but on God’s goodness and great Name! Look again at verse 18… “We do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies!” Daniel is a man who understood the grace of God!
Daniel 9:20-23, “Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, yes, while I was speaking in prayer (the repetition implies an emphasis), the man Gabriel (the angel Gabriel manifested in the appearance of a man), whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning (Daniel 8:16), being caused to fly swiftly (the Hebrew word doesn’t mean Gabriel flew but describes the urgency in which he’d been sent by God), reached me about the time of the evening offering (sundown).
And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision…’”
Did you catch what’s going on? Daniel is having a Bible study in which God reveals the need for the nation to repent, pray, and call upon His name if they wanted to return to the land at the conclusion of 70 years. Then moved by the revelation of Word of God, Daniel immediately drops to his knees and petitions the Lord. God spoke and Daniel acted accordingly. He confesses their sin and appeals to the grace of God to restore them.
It would seem what we have recorded was only part of what Daniel intended to pray for “while he was still speaking” the angel Gabriel shows up and tells him the very moment his heart was stirred to pray God sent him with an answer! Incredible! Christian, never underestimate the power of prayer and God’s willingness to respond to your requests!
Gabriel then adds that from the perspective of the Most High Daniel was “greatly beloved!” I should point out how astounding a statement this really is in context… Let’s be honest, circumstantially Daniel’s life had been really difficult. He’d been taken captive into a foreign land, forced into the servitude of a pagan king, robbed of the ability to marry or have a family. And yet, Gabriel affirms to Daniel the fact God really did love him!
Friend, next time you allow a difficult circumstance that arises in your life to cause you to question the love of your Heavenly Father, I want you to take a moment and consider Daniel. The truth is your circumstances have no correlation to God’s great love for you!
For the sake of time, we’re going to have to stop here, but I should add… In the verses that follow God does more than answers Daniel’s question… Yes, he would live to see the people return, but God reveals to Daniel the specific day Jesus would appear to Israel!
There is no question sin is destructive. God’s people were in exile for this very reason. And yet, Daniel recognized the amazing reality the grace of God remained accessible! God wanted to restore them. He deeply desired to bring them back into the Promised Land. He wanted to give them a fresh start and a clean slate. That said… For God’s grace to manifest Daniel also knew confession and repentance of sin would be necessary.
If you’ve blown it and find yourself in an exile of sorts… If you believe God is done with you — that you’ve caused irreparable damage to your life and future — that you’ve run out of second chances — that the sins you’ve committed now place you beyond forgiveness or restoration… Please find courage in Daniel’s example recorded in this amazing chapter.
Friend, it’s true you have no one to blame but yourself. And yet, take heart knowing God’s grace remains accessible. His heart is to forgive. God’s in the business of restoring what’s broken. Never ever forget God sent His Son Jesus not to condemn the world, but to SAVE!
God’s thoughts towards you (people in exile because of their sin and shame) are of peace and not of evil — to give you a future and a hope… The only thing needed for the floodgates of grace to be pulled back is for you to pray, confess your sin, own it, and repent!
And in that moment I promise God will send to you someone much better than Gabriel — He will send His Holy Spirit with a word that not only are you greatly loved, but He still has a wonderful plan for your life! God is not through with you. In fact, He’s just getting started!
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