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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"A Defense of Daniel" - Part One - (The Seventy Weeks)

A Defense of Daniel – Part One
                                  
Introduction
I came across an article that attacked the book of Daniel (there have been such since ancient times). I wish to highlight what I consider to be its flaws. Since it would be too much to do in one post, take this as the first part.

The Prophecy of Weeks (Daniel 9:24-27)
Here is what the passage in question say:

“There are 70 weeks that have been determined for your people and your holy city, in order to terminate the transgression, to finish off sin, to make atonement for error, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the vision and the prophecy, and to anoint the Holy of Holies. You should know and understand that from the issuing of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem[1] until Messiah the Leader, there will be 7 weeks, also 62 weeks. She will be restored and rebuilt, with a public square and moat, but in times of distress. “And after the 62 weeks, Messiah will be cut off, with nothing for himself.[2] “And the people of a leader who is coming will destroy the city and the holy place. And its end will be by the flood. And until the end there will be war; what is decided upon is desolations. “And he will keep the covenant in force for the many for one week; and at the half of the week, he will cause sacrifice and gift offering to cease. “And on the wing of disgusting things there will be the one causing desolation; and until an extermination, what was decided on will be poured out also on the one lying desolate.” – Daniel 9:24-27

Weeks?
It is literally 70 sevens, which I suspect every skeptic would agree means 490 years. Why? Because it is 70 weeks, and with the common biblical rule “a day for a year, a day for a year” it would make sense that (even if uninspired) it means 490 years. Now that we got that out of the way let us examine what the skeptic whose article I came across claims. In his article he claims a few things:

            The Destruction of Jerusalem (when the Exile began) was in 586 BCE
            The Exile Ended in 538 BCE and lasted 49 years.
            The 7 weeks refer to this 49 years
            That the 7 Weeks are concurrent with the 62 weeks
That these “70 weeks” are for continued punishment for the sins of pre-exilic Judah.[3]
That the 62 weeks are general pagan domination, starting at the time of Jeremiahs 70 years
That the 62 weeks start in 605 BCE and end 171 BCE and the 7 weeks start 587 and end in 538[4]

He says, “To make his scheme fit real history, our author artificially broke off the seven sevens and made them concurrent with the sixty-two sevens, making them almost superfluous.” However, he assume this because he dates the “order to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem” as Jeremiah’s decree about the 70 years of Babylon destruction, which he date to 605 BCE. – Jeremiah 25:11
The problem with this is that it can hardly be said that Jeremiah’s prophecy is an order to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem. Instead it is a decree against Jerusalem. Therefore, I think that his chronology should be discarded for this reason!
Now, let me present my view. I say that the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem is the one given to Nehemiah. Some suggest that Cyrus’ decree would be the one. However, Cyrus’ decree recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:22,23 only deals with the restoration of the temple and a decree to return to Judah, so it would not fit with the full restoration of Jerusalem.
And when this decree (Nehemiah 2:1-6) went forth in 455 the 70 weeks began (that is 490 years divided into three parts). The first 7 weeks deal with the time in which Jerusalem was rebuilt in distressful times. Then the 62 weeks began in 406 and lasted until 29 CE (when Jesus was baptized and became the Messiah) and the last week began. The last week has special significance for Christians, as we will see.
In my case how long the exile began is irrelevant, but I will include some reading dealing with the 607/586/7 controversy.


            The 7 Weeks refer to a 49 year time in which Jerusalem will be rebuilt
The 62 Weeks deal with the time between that an the appearance of the Messiah
            The 7 weeks are not concurrent with the 62 weeks.
The 7 weeks are from 455 BCE – 406 BCE; the 62 weeks from 406 BCE – 29 CE
            The 70 weeks are not to atone for the sins of pre-exilic Judah

Punishment?
            Our Skeptic says: “The angel Gabriel again appears and reveals that the seventy years are in reality seventy weeks of years upon the completion of which justice will be done and the temple reconsecrated,” and in interpreting Daniel 9:24-27, “there shall be seven weeks [49 years, 587-538], during which Jerusalem lay in ruins, concurrent with the sixty-two weeks.”
            If we read the passage, then we don’t see any reinterpretation, but rather a new decree. Gabriel does not say, “know that 70 years of desolation means 70 weeks,” but rather the explicit mention that the 70 years which, according to Daniel, were to fulfill the desolation of Jerusalem (which refutes any biblical argument that the exile lasted less than 70 years). If the scriptures explicitly said 70 years of desolation was the punishment for pre-exilic Judah then there couldn’t be 490 more years to do so.
            This is where scriptures, such as those found in Isaiah 53, help us get a sense of what is meant biblically by “finish of sin.” Carried in this message of Gabriel is the indication that sin itself is to be finished and everlasting righteousness is to be brought in because of these 70 weeks.

 “Truly he himself carried our sicknesses, And he bore our pains. But we considered him as plagued, stricken by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgression; He was crushed for our errors. He bore the punishment for our peace, And because of his wounds we were healed.” – Isaiah 53:4,5

And he was given a burial place with the wicked, And with the rich in his death, Although he had done no wrong And there was no deception in his mouth.” – Isaiah 53:9

“Because of his anguish, he will see and be satisfied. By means of his knowledge the righteous one, my servant, Will bring a righteous standing to many people,[5] And their errors he will bear.” – Isaiah 53:11

Here the servant of Jehovah is presented as a guilt offering. But no such offering was given under the Mosaic law. Neither was any decree for a priesthood like that of Melchizedek’s. Strong indication that a the sin covered here was more than what the Mosaic Law Covenant could address, and that a new covenant (say like the one Jeremiah mentioned) would appear.
The Mosaic Covenant did address what happened to Judah in the exile (Daniel 9:12,13), so it follows that more than the guilt of pre-exilic Judah will be ended in connection with these new 70 weeks. Center to which is the Messiah the leader, of course.

Messiah?
He asserts that this Messiah is Onias III, saying “In the year 171 BC, High Priest Onias III was assassinated. He is "an anointed one, a prince" who was "cut off" at the end of the sixty-two weeks and the beginning of the final week.”[6] Now can Onias III fit the description of the Messiah the Prince?
The skeptic argues that it doesn’t refer to the Messiah in the terms that we typically understand, but to an anointed one. There is some credibility to this. He goes on, “This usage finds parallels elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. The high priest is called an anointed one in Leviticus 4:3,5,16; 6:22 [and] Exodus 28:41; 29:7; 30:30; 40:13-15; Leviticus 6:20; 7:36; 8:12; 16:32; Number 3:3; 35:35; Zechariah 4:11-14; 2 Maccabees 1:10.” But the limit to the credibility is this, something he “conveniently” left out: The High Priests are only messiahs in a limited way that is as “anointed priests.”
Similarly when addressing why a priest, not normally called leader, was called such he says that it isn’t without precedent. He says, “the high priest is called a nagid or "prince" in Daniel 9:25. This usage finds parallels in 1 Chronicles 9:11,2; 12:27; 26:24; 2 Chronicles 31:12-13; 35:8; Nehemiah 11:11; Jeremiah 20:1; Daniel 11:22.” Again, however, it is in a qualified sense. What are they “nagidim” (princes/leaders) over? Over the storehouse, or over the house of God, or over divisions of priests, but not in the way that this Messiah is being presented. So how is the Messiah presented?
We don’t even need to look further than the book of Daniel to see how he appears before God and is given authority to rule forever. This, of course, harkens back to prophecies made by Jacob to Judah and Nathan to David and to one made by Ezekiel. They present a unified picture of a ruler who has the right to rule and who is the last one to rule and does so forever, having been given his power by God.

 “The scepter will not depart from Judah, neither the commander’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh [him who it belongs to] comes, and to him the obedience of the peoples will belong.” – Genesis 49:10

“[The Davidic Dynasty] will be firmly established forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:16

 “Remove the turban, and take off the crown. This will not remain the same. Raise up the low one, and bring low the high one. A ruin, a ruin, a ruin I will make it. And it will not belong to anyone until the one who has the legal right comes, and I will give it to him.” – Ezekiel 21:26,27

“I kept watching in the visions of the night, and look! with the clouds of the heavens, someone like a son of man was coming; and he gained access to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him up close before that One. 14 And to him there were given rulership, honor, and a kingdom, that the peoples, nations, and language groups should all serve him. His rulership is an everlasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom will not be destroyed.” – Daniel 7:13,14

Does Onais III fill this role of Shiloh, as a king-priest, and as David’s descendants who is given his power by Jehovah to rule forever? No! The very fact that Onias III is the high preist indicates that he is not one of David’s descendants and that his priesthood is not like Melchizedek’s! For who the Son of Man is I recommend letting Gabriel explain it in the gospels.

“This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as King over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end to his Kingdom.” – Luke 1:32,33

Therefore the Messiah of Daniel 9 was not a mere high priest, but one who was David’s lord, son and heir, a priest who himself officiated a new high priesthood and a new covenant after he brought an end to sin. But how can we identify this Messiah?

Which Decree?
As mentioned before the skeptic asserts that the prophecy’s decree to rebuild Jerusalem was given by Jeremiah in 605. However Jeremiah simply prophesized of the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. Cyrus only decreed for Jews to build the temple and some went. Of course they build houses and built the temple, thanks in part to Ezra, but the walls of Jerusalem were not yet built and it had no gates and few people were living in it. So Nehemiah asked Artaxerxes to rebuild it, and in 455 Nehemiah received that commission. This is the basis for the chronology I mentioned earlier.

Covenant?
According to our skeptic it was the one who is to come who makes the covenant, whom he identifies as Antiochus Epiphanes. However seeing as the basis for his chronology is off it cannot be him. Further it isn’t necessarily the one who is coming to destroy Jerusalem that has anything to do with the covenant (which could be making, or affirming a pre-existing covenant, but not necessarily making a new one).
Also our skeptic changes “in the middle of the week he shall make sacrifices cease” to “and for half of the week . . . he shall cause sacrifice offering to cease,” to harmonize with his Antiochus interpretation. However Gabriel’s prophecy doesn’t neccesarily limit the ceastation of offerings to 3.5 years. In fact, considering Isaiah 53 and the “everlasting righteousness” that is being brought in, it is likely a permanent end to offerings.[7]
I argue that it is Messiah who affirms the covenant with the many (Jews). It cannot be the Mosaic Law Covenant, because this covenant is rendered useless at the middle of the 70th week and the covenant. Of course this is not the only covenant made in the Bible, we have the Abrahamic Covenant which bestowed favor on the sons of Abraham (which, while not the only sons of Abraham, are identified as Israel[8]). We see that at first the preaching of the good news by Jesus was limited to Israelits, with rare exception, and even after the Great Comission it was directed toward Jews and those who had made themselves Jews by becoming prosyeletes. However in 36 CE Cornelius, who was not a proselyte, yet still a fearer of God, was baptized and given holy spirit, thus “God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people [“Israel”] for his name.” (Acts 15:14) This of course was hinted to by the promise made to Abraham, namely, ‘all nations shall bless themselves by means of you.’
This end of the 490 years marked the time when salvation as open to Gentiles, now sin already being paid for was joined by everlasting righteousness. Yet, it would not go well for Jerusalem.

Destruction?
Our skeptics says that Jerusalem’s destrcuton by Titus couldn’t fit under our model, and why? He says, “The problem here is that the fall of Jerusalem lies thirty-seven years outside of the seventy-weeks scheme.” And “Another problem with this interpretation is that the Hebrew word here translated in verse 26 as "destroy" is shakhat. In its various grammatical forms, it only means to "mar," "injure," "spoil," "ruin," "pervert," or "corrupt." This can easily refer to the trashing of Jerusalem by Antiochus Epiphanes, but not to Titus' razing of Jerusalem and its Temple to the ground.”
First of all Gabriel never said that the one who is to come would destroy Jerusalem within the seventy week scheme, but rather after the 62 weeks (after the 69th week). And by listing it after the Messiah’s being cut off we can conclude that he would come after his death. The main point being that it was never said to occur during the 70 week scheme!
But what kind of destruction? The word, admittedly, does not have to mean destruction, but contrary to what this skeptic says, it can be translated as such. And even when it is rendered as “ruin” in Psalm 78:38 it carries the thought of a complete annihilation (similar to what happened to Jerusalem under Titus).

“But he was merciful; He would forgive their error and not bring them to ruin. He often held back his anger Instead of stirring up all his wrath.” – Psalm 78:38 (See Exodus 32:10)

In Psalm 78:38 it says that he didn’t ruin (yaš·î, from shachath) and in Exodus he, while testing Moses, offered to exterminate them, but upon Moses’ request he didn’t. The link between exterminate (which is far more than trashing) and ruin/destroy is clear.

Tradtional Interpretation
The traditional interpretation which he cites is:

Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince [Joshua son of Jehozadak, the first high priest after the Exile], there shall be seven weeks [49 years, 587-538 BC, during which Jerusalem lay in ruins]. Then for sixty-two weeks [538-171 BC, nominally 434 years, though the actual time span was 367 years] it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.

This interpretation is flawed because, like the skeptic’s own, it starts off with the incorrect decree and assumes that the Messiah is a high priest and unnecessarily assumes that there are two messiahs, Joshua and Onias III.

Endnotes
For further reading about the 70 weeks go here: (http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200003915)

For information regarding the 20th year of Artaxerxes:

HISTORIANS disagree regarding the year in which the reign of Persian King Artaxerxes began. Some have placed his accession year in 465 B.C.E. because his father, Xerxes, started to rule in 486 B.C.E. and died in the 21st year of his reign. But there is evidence that Artaxerxes ascended to the throne in 475 B.C.E. and began his first regnal year in 474 B.C.E.

Inscriptions and sculptures unearthed at the ancient Persian capital Persepolis indicate a coregency between Xerxes and his father, Darius I. If this covered 10 years and Xerxes ruled alone for 11 years after Darius died in 486 B.C.E., the first year of Artaxerxes’ reign would have been 474 B.C.E.

A second line of evidence involves Athenian General Themistocles, who defeated Xerxes’ forces in 480 B.C.E. He later fell out of favor with the Greek people and was accused of treason. Themistocles fled and sought protection at the Persian court, where he was well received. According to the Greek historian Thucydides, this happened when Artaxerxes had but “lately come to the throne.” The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus puts the death of Themistocles at 471 B.C.E. Since Themistocles requested a year to learn Persian before having an audience with King Artaxerxes, he must have arrived in Asia Minor no later than 473 B.C.E. That date is supported by Jerome’s Chronicle of Eusebius. As Artaxerxes had “lately come to the throne” when Themistocles arrived in Asia in 473 B.C.E., German scholar Ernst Hengstenberg stated in his Christology of the Old Testament that Artaxerxes’ reign commenced in 474 B.C.E., as do other sources. He added: “The twentieth year of Artaxerxes is the year 455 before Christ.”

For further reading about 607 go here: http://www.jehovahsjudgment.co.uk/607/




[1] Nehemiah 2:1-6; 455 BCE for the purpose of this article.

[2] Isaiah 53:12; Also, Isaiah 53 will be important for this discussion, as you will see.
[3] The skeptic says: “However, our author apparently believed that seventy years of desolation and Babylonian rule in Judah were not enough to atone for the sins of pre-Exilic Jerusalem.” By doing so he also goes along with the general scholarly consensus that 70 years was not for an exile, but for punishment (meaning the exile, here 49 years) was part of a period of “70 years” (69 years to be exact (605-537)) of domination by Babylon.

[4] He says, “Three prophetic periods overlap in an interlocking pattern. The sixty-two weeks of Daniel are probably the period of general pagan dominion over the Holy Land from 605 to 171 BC. The "seventy years" of Jeremiah are the sixty-seven-year period of Babylonian dominion over the Holy Land from 605 to 538 BC. The "seven weeks" or 49 years of Daniel are the time that the Babylonians left Jerusalem in ruins from 587 to 538 BC.”
[5] See Romans 5:18

[6] The prophecy doesn’t necessarily say that the Messiah would die right after the 62 weeks ended, but after. According to my (Jehovah’s Witnesses’) interpretation of this prophesy, the exact time (after the end of the 62 weeks) at which the Messiah dies is identified as the middle of the 70th week.
[7] Jesus didn’t make the offerings cease, but he did invalidate them and the need for the Mosaic Law Covenant. As said in the scriptures they were weak and (at the time) near to passing away. They of course did pass away in 70 CE long after they were rendered useless. Therefore, I assert, that Jesus did fulfill the requirement to end offerings.

[8] See Galatians 3:7; Romans 9:6,7

4 comments:

  1. I will finish the rest of the defense later. I have some ideas, but as I am working on other projects, expect that the rest will be available starting in December.

    For a related post see here: http://jimspace3000.blogspot.com/2011/07/daniels-prophetic-image-update-image-of.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Currently I am working on other things, expect these to appear in June of 2016.

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    2. Hi Sean, im still trying to fully understand this.. I see you make no mention of Danieal 12:12 - “Happy is the one who keeps in expectation* and who arrives at the 1,335 days!"

      Does that have any significance?

      Another opposer says and I quote:
      "The 1290 days ends the trampling of the Jews, meaning, when they come out of exile, the true "end of the gentile times" when they are again restored to their homeland. That occurred on November 30, 1947. If that ends the 1290 days, then 45 years later is when the second coming is supposed to happen.

      1290 + 45 = 1335
      1947 + 45 = 1992

      If Christ is supposed to arrive in 1992 based on 1947, then the fall of Jerusalem 2520 years earlier must occur in 529 BCE. When you date the 1st of Cyrus to 455 BCE, as we must, then add 70 years back to year 23, the year of the last deportation, we get 525 BCE for year 23 of Nebuchadnezzar II. That means 4 years earlier is year 19, which falls in, none other than: 529 BCE! See?"

      Do you understand where he is coming from?

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    3. Well most scholars date the fall of Jerusalem to 586/7, but there is evidence to suggest that it is 607; see, for example, the work by Rolf Furuli (it is a rather expensive volume that is sometimes available on Amazon). As far as the essay is concerned, it is not really important when the fall happened.

      His interpretation requires Israel to refer to the literal nation of Israel, however, we are told, 'Your nation has been taken away from you and is given to a people producing its fruits,' and 'Not all that are "Israel" are really Israel.' So there is no reason to tie the creation of the modern secular state of Israel to this prophecy about the Messiah.

      Additionally, it is not Cyrus' that reigned in 455, so I don't know what that is supposed to mean.

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