The fall of Babylon was connected, in the prophecies of Isaiah, as well as in those of Jeremiah, with brighter hopes for the Jew. The partial restoration, that took place in consequence, furnishes the type of the final ingathering of Israel. This accounts for the notion, which has prevailed among some Christians, that what happened then is all that we are to look for in behalf of Israel as such, and that their subsequent sin in rejecting their Messiah, and the mercy of the gospel to the Gentiles, has involved them in irreparable national ruin.
Although there are true elements in such thoughts, they are very far indeed from being the whole truth. God does not abandon the people that He called. Never does He give a gift of grace and then withdraw it utterly. For the same grace which promised deals with the person and heart of the believer, and works till it is brought home morally by the power of the Holy Ghost. Thus, along with the mercy, whether to an individual or to a people that He calls, there is also the long-suffering faithfulness and power, which in the end always triumph.
The history of the past, no doubt, has been a total failure. The reason of this was because Israel chose to stand upon their own strength with God, and not upon the goodness of God towards them. This is always and necessarily fatal for a time. "This generation shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled." That is, all that was threatened and predicted must yet befall the generation of Israel, which presumed upon its own righteousness, and which finally showed its real character by rejecting Christ and the gospel. A real sense of moral ruin (that is, repentance towards God) ever accompanies real, living faith. Israel have gone through this phase of self-confidence, or are still going through it. "This generation" has not yet passed away: all things are not fulfilled. They have not yet suffered the full results of their own folly and hatred of God's Son. They have yet to suffer the severest chastening for it: for, although the past has been bitter enough, there are still more terrible things in the future. But when all has taken place, they will begin a new scene, when it will be, not the Christ-rejecting generation going on, but what Scripture speaks of as "the generation to come": a new stock of the same Israel, who will be children of Abraham by faith in Christ Jesus - children, not in word only, but in spirit. Then will follow the history, not of man's failure, but of a people whom the Lord blesses in His grace; when they will joyfully own that same Saviour, whom their fathers with wicked hands crucified and slew.
This chapter is especially occupied with Jerusalem and the Jews. It is a sort of episode in the general history of Daniel, but by no means an unconnected one. For we shall find, that the closing history of Israel peculiarly connects them with these personages that are yet to figure against God and His people, as we have read in previous chapters. It must be evident to any person who reads the chapter intelligently, that its main object is the destiny of Jerusalem and the future place of God's people. Now Daniel was exceedingly interested in this. He was one that loved them, not merely because they were his people, but because they were God's people. He resembles Moses in this - that even when the moral condition of the people hindered God from being able to speak of them as His people (He might care for them secretly, but I speak now of God's publicly owning them), Daniel still continues to plead that they were His people. He never gives up the truth, that Jerusalem was God's city, and Israel His people. The angel might say, Daniel's people and city - that was all quite true; but Daniel still holds to the precious truth, which faith ought never to give up - Let the people be what they may, they are God's people. For that very reason they might be chastened more and more sorely. In truth, nothing brings more chastening upon a soul who belongs to God, and who has fallen into sin, than that he does belong to God. It is not merely a question of what is good for the child. God acts for Himself and from Himself; and this is the very hinge and pivot of all our blessing. What would it be to us if it were merely true that God was working for our glory? We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. We shall have something far better, because it will be God blessing us according to what is worthy of Himself.
Now Daniel was one that emphatically entered into this thought. It is the prominent feature of faith. For faith never views a thing barely in connection with oneself, but with God. It is always thus. If it is a question of peace, is it merely that I want peace? No doubt I do want it, as a poor sinner that has been at war with God all my life. But how infinitely more blessed when we come to find that it is "peace with God": not merely a peace with one's own heart and conscience, but with God! He gives a peace that stands in His sight. All His own character comes out in giving it to me, and in putting it upon such a basis that Satan shall never be able to touch. It is to deliver me, to break the very neck of sin; and nothing does it so completely as this - that God met me when I deserved nothing but death and eternal judgment, and spent His beloved Son in giving me a peace worthy of Himself. And He has done it; He has given it; and all Christian practice flows from the assurance, that I have found this blessing in Christ.
Here, then, we have Daniel deeply interested in Israel, because they were God's people. He consequently seeks in God's word what He has revealed about His people. This took place "in the first year of Darius, the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes.'' It was not some new communication. "In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem."
Besides being a prophet, Daniel understood that Israel were to be restored to their land, before the event took place. He did not wait to see it accomplished, and then merely say, The prophecy is fulfilled. But he understood "by books," not by circumstances. No doubt there were the circumstances in the fall of Babylon; but he understood by what God had said, and not merely by what man had done. This is the true way of understanding prophecy. So that it is remarkable that when we are about to enter upon a very distinct prophecy, occupied almost exclusively with the narrow sphere of Israel, God shows us the true key to the understanding of prophecy. Daniel read the prophecy of Jeremiah; and he saw from it clearly, that, Babylon once overthrown, Israel would be allowed to return. And what is the effect of this on his soul? He draws near to God. He does not go to the people whom the prophecy so intimately concerned, telling them the good news, but he draws near to God. This is another feature of faith. It always tends to draw into the presence of God him who thereby understands the mind of God in anything. He has communion with God about that which he receives from God, before even he makes it known to those who are the objects of the blessing. We have seen the same thing in Daniel before, in Dan. 2. Now, we may observe, it is not with thanksgiving, but with confession. We could understand readily, that if the people of Israel were just going into captivity, he must feel it as a deep chastening, and would be before God to acknowledge the sin and bow under His rod. But now God had judged the oppressor of Israel, and was about to deliver the people. Nevertheless, Daniel draws near, and what does he say? When he does speak to God, it is not merely about their deliverance. It is a prayer, full of confession to God.
As to this, I would make another remark of a general kind. If the study of prophecy does not tend to give us a deeper sense of the failure of God's people upon the earth, I am persuaded we lose one of its most important practical uses. It is because of the absence of this feeling that prophetic research is generally so unprofitable. It is made more a question of dates and countries, of popes and kings; whereas God did not give it to exercise people's wits, but to be the expression of His own mind touching their moral condition: so that whatever trials and judgments are portrayed there, they should be taken up by the heart, and felt to be the hand of God upon His people, because of their sins. This was the effect on Daniel. He was one of the most esteemed prophets - as the Lord Jesus Himself said, "Daniel the prophet." And the effect upon him was, that he never lost the moral design in the bare circumstances of the prophecy. He saw the great aim of God. He heard His voice speaking to the heart of His people in all these communications. And here he spreads all before God. For having read of the deliverance of Israel, that was coming on the occasion of the downfall of Babylon, he sets his face unto the Lord God, "to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love Him, and to them that keep His commandments, we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly," etc.
Another thing observe here. If there was one man in Babylon who, from his own conduct and state of soul, might be supposed to have been outside the need of confession of sin, it was Daniel. He was a holy and a devoted man. More than that, he was carried away at so tender an age from Jerusalem, that, it is clear, it was not because of anything he had taken part in, that the blow had fallen. But not the less he says, "We have sinned, and have committed iniquity." Nay, I am even bold to say, that the more separate you are from evil, the more you feel it: just as a person emerging into light feels so much the more the darkness that he has left. So Daniel, being one whose soul was with God, and who entered into His thoughts about His people - knowing the great love of God, and seeing what He had done for Israel, (for he does not keep this back in his prayer,) he does not merely notice the great things that God had done for Israel, but also the judgments that He had inflicted upon them. Did he, therefore, think that God did not love Israel? On the contrary, no man had a deeper sense of the tie of affection that existed between God and His people; and for that reason it was, he estimated so deeply the ruin in which the people of God were. He measured their sin by the depth of divine love, and the fearful degradation that had passed upon them. It was all from God. He did not impute the judgments, which had fallen upon them, to the wickedness of the Babylonians, or the martial skill of Nebuchadnezzar. It was God he sees in it all. He acknowledges that it was their sin - their extreme iniquity; and he includes all in this. It was not merely the small people imputing their sorrows to the great, nor the great to the small, as is so often the case among men. He does not dwell upon the ignorance and badness of a few; but he takes in the whole - rulers, priests, people. There was not one that was not guilty. "We have sinned, and have committed iniquity." And this is another effect wherever prophecy is studied with God. It always brings in the hope of God's standing up on behalf of His people - a hope of the bright and blessed day when evil shall disappear, and good shall be established by divine power. Daniel does not leave this out. We find it put as a kind of frontispiece to this chapter. The details of the seventy weeks show you the continued sin and suffering of the people of God. But before this, the end, the blessing is brought before the soul. How good this is of God! He takes occasion to give me, first of all, the certainty of final blessing, and then He shows me the painful pathway that leads to it.
I need not enter now upon the thoughts suggested by this beautiful prayer of Daniel, save one thing of practical importance. It is this - that the prophecy came from God as the answer to the state of soul which was found in Daniel. He took the place of humble confession before God, became the expression of the people, the representative of the people, in spreading out their sins before God. Perhaps there was not another soul that did so, certainly there were not many. It is rare, indeed, to find many souls taking the place of real confession before God. How few now have an adequate sense of the ruin of the Church of God! How few feel the dishonour done even by the faithful to the Lord! In Babylon, those who were the most guilty felt it the least; whilst the man, who was the most free from guilt, was he who spread it out the most honestly before God.
In answer to his genuine and deep feeling of Israel's state, God sends the prophecy. The soul that refuses to examine such words of God as these, knows not the loss it thus sustains. And wherever the child of God is kept from what God communicates as to the future, (I speak not now of mere speculations, which are worthless, but of the grand moral lessons contained in prophecy,) there is always feebleness and want of ability to judge of the present.
But there is another thing to notice, before passing to the seventy weeks. Although Daniel spreads out before God their great failure, and falls back upon His great mercies, yet he never pleads the promises that were given to Abraham. He does not go beyond what was said to Moses. This is of interest and importance. It is the true answer to any who suppose that the restoration of Israel, which took place at that time, was the fulfilment of the Abrahamic promises. Daniel did not take this ground. There was no such thing then as the presence of Christ among His people as their King. Now, the promises made to the fathers suppose the presence of Christ, because Christ is, in the only full and proper sense, the Seed of Abraham. Without Him what were the promises? Accordingly, with divine wisdom, Daniel was led to take the true ground. Whatever restoration was to take place then was not the complete one. This prophecy does bring us to the final blessing of Israel when the seventy weeks are consummated. But the return, after the fall of Babylon, was the accomplishment of what was partial and conditional, not the fulfilment of the promises to the fathers. This is worthy of observation. The promises made to Abraham, etc., were absolute, because they depended upon Christ, who is the true Seed in the mind of God, though Israel were the seed after the letter. So that until Christ came, and His work was done, there could not be the full restoration of the people of Israel. When Israel took the ground of the law, in the time of Moses, they soon broke it and were broken. Even before it was put into their hands, on the tables of stone, they were worshipping the golden calf. The consequence was, that Moses from that time took a new place - the place of a mediator. He goes up again into the mount, and pleads with God for the people. God would not call them His people. He says to Moses, "thy people," and would not own them as His. Moses, however, will not let God go, but pleads with Him that, let the people have done what they may, they are "Thy people"; rather let me be blotted out than Israel lose their inheritance. This was what God delighted in - the reflex of His own love to them. You may have got some fault to find with one whom you love, but you would not like to hear another person finding it. So Moses' pleading on behalf of Israel was what met the heart of God. No doubt they had sinned a great sin, and Moses felt and confessed it, but he insists withal that they are God's people.
God draws out the heart of Moses more and more; puts grand things before him, offers to exterminate the people, and make of him a great nation. No, says Moses, I would rather lose everything than that they should be lost. This was the answer of grace to the grace that was in God's heart about His people. Consequently, when God gave the law a second time, it was not given as before; but the Lord proclaimed His name as One that was abundant in goodness and truth, while He showed at the same time that He would by no means clear the guilty. In other words, the first time it was pure law, pure righteousness, which terminated in the golden calf, i.e. pure unrighteousness on the part of the people. And they must justly have been destroyed, but that, on the pleading of Moses, God brings in a mingled system, partly law and partly grace.
This was the ground Daniel takes here. He pleads that, although they had broken the law, God had pronounced His name as "abundant in goodness and truth." He believes that. He does not go back to the promises made to Abraham; on which ground the restoration would have been full and final, whereas this was not. And if you take a man now, who is partly standing upon what Christ has done for him, and partly upon what he does for Christ, will you ever find such a one happy? Never. That was the ground the Israelites were on. Daniel, therefore, does not go beyond it there. Christ was not yet come. On the other hand, when Christ is born, you will find, if you look at the song of Zacharias (Luke 1) or of the angels (Luke 2), that the ground taken was not what God had said to Moses, but the promises made to the fathers. Up to the moment appointed of God, Zacharias had been dumb, a sign of the condition of Israel. But now that the forerunner is named, on the eve of the coming of Christ, his mouth is opened.
Before we enter upon the prophecy of the seventy weeks more fully, as the Lord may enable us, I would first call your attention to this: - "Whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel." Observe, all his thoughts are about Israel and about Jerusalem. The prophecy is not about Christianity, but about Israel. There is no understanding it, unless we hold this fast. "Whiles I was speaking . . . and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation." Then, in verse 24, the prophecy begins. It has to do with Daniel's people - "upon thy people." It speaks of a special period that was defined in connection with Israel's full deliverance. "Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city." Any one must see that the Jews and Jerusalem are meant. It is "to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy [or Holy of holies]." From first to last this was a period that was marked out in the mind of God, and revealed to Daniel, touching the future destiny of the city and the people of God here below.
Some are startled, and ask, Have we, then, nothing to do with "reconciliation for iniquity" and "everlasting righteousness"? I ask, Of whom does the verse speak? You will find other scriptures, which reveal our interest in the blotting out of sin, and the righteousness which we are made in Christ. But we must adhere to this golden rule in reading the word of God - never to force Scripture in order to make it bear upon ourselves or others. When a person is converted, but not yet in peace, if he sees something about "an end of sins," he at once applies that to himself. Feeling his need, he grasps, like a drowning man, at what cannot bear his weight, or at least is not said about him. If directed to the declarations of the grace of God to us poor sinners of the Gentiles, instead of loss, great would be his gain; he would have far more definite Scripture to meet his need, and, if assailed by Satan, he would feel no weakness, nor fear, nor uncertainty. Whereas, if he were taking passages that applied to the Jews, Satan might touch him as to the ground of his confidence, and he would be obliged to say, This is not literally and certainly about me at all. The "seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city." But I do not belong to them. There is the importance of understanding Scripture, and seeing what God is speaking about.
Had this been borne in mind, the greater part of the controversy that has arisen about the passage never could have taken place. People were hasty and anxious to introduce something about themselves as Gentiles or Christians; whereas the attitude of the prophet, the circumstances of the people, and the words of the prophecy itself, exclude all thought, save of what concerns the Jews and their city. We must look elsewhere to find what relates to the Gentiles. Allow me, however, to remark, that the end of sins for that city and people rests upon exactly the same foundation as our own. Thus the apostle John tells us, Jesus died "not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." (Joh_11:52) There I find two distinct purposes in the death of Christ. This prophecy only takes in the first. He died for that nation - the Jewish nation. But He also, in the very same act of death, made provision, not only for the salvation that God has brought in for sinners, but also for gathering together "the children of God that were scattered abroad."
Thus, if we take the Bible as it is, without being too anxious to find ourselves here or there, instead of losing, we shall always be gainers, in extent, depth, and, above all, in clear firm hold of the blessing; and we shall not feel that we have been taking other people's property, and claiming goods upon a tenure that can be disputed, but that what we have is what God has freely and assuredly given us. This will never be the case, if I take up prophecies about Israel, and found my title to blessing upon them; for they are neither the gospel for the sinner, nor the revelation of the truth about the Church.
This, then, is the proper bearing of the closing verses of the chapter before us. The details of the weeks follow the first general statement. "Seventy weeks," he says, "are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy." Then, in verse 25, the first particular comes in, after defining the starting-point. "Know therefore and understand, 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." Now, in the Book of Ezra, we have a commandment from the king Artaxerxes, called in profane history Artaxerxes Longimanus, one of the monarchs of the Persian Empire. The first commandment was given to Ezra, the scribe, "in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king." In the twentieth year of the same monarch's reign, another commandment was given to Nehemiah. Now it is important for us to decide which of these two is referred to by Daniel. The earlier of them is recorded in Ezra 7, the second in Nehemiah 2. A careful examination of the two will show which is meant. Many excellent persons have interpreted it in a way which differs from that which I believe to be correct. But Scripture alone can decide the questions that arise out of Scripture. Foreign elements often lead to perplexity. Remark, that it is not merely a general order to the Jews, like that of Cyrus permitting their return, but a special one to restore their polity. Now, what is the difference between the two in the reign of Artaxerxes? The one to Ezra was mainly with a view to the rebuilding of the temple; the other to Nehemiah looks toward the city. Which is it here? "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem." Evidently the city is intended in Daniel; and if so, then we must see which of the two commandments concerns the city. There can be little doubt it was the second, not the first. It was the commission given to Nehemiah in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, not that to Ezra thirteen years before. A comparison with Nehemiah will confirm this.
What led some to take the first of these decrees, as the one meant here, was the idea, that the seventy weeks were to terminate with the coming of the Messiah. But this is not said. Verse 24 gives us much more than the coming of the Messiah. "Seventy weeks are determined . . . to make an end of sins and to make reconciliation for iniquity." There you have at least His work. His suffering and death, we know, are implied. But more than that: "To bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Holy of holies," by which last every Israelite would understand the sanctuary of God. It is plain that all this did not take place when the Messiah came, nor even when He died. For though the foundation of the blessing was laid in His blood, yet the bringing it in was not yet realized for Israel; and these seventy weeks suppose, that Israel will after them be fully blessed. This shows us the great importance of attending to the prophecy itself; not merely looking at the events, but interpreting the events by the prophecy. "From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince [without defining what time], shall be" - not seventy weeks - but "seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks"; that is, sixty-nine weeks. There at once I learn that, for a reason unexplained at the beginning of the prophecy, sixty-nine weeks out of the seventy are rent from the last week. The chain is broken: one week is severed from the rest. I am told that, from the word to restore and build Jerusalem (which is here made the starting-point, or the time from which we begin to reckon the seventy weeks), there are seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks - somewhat separate periods, but making in all sixty-nine weeks to the Messiah, the Prince. There evidently we have a very notable fact. And why, we may ask, are the seven weeks separated from the sixty-two weeks? The next words show: "The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times" The seven weeks, I apprehend, were to be occupied with reconstituting the city of Jerusalem. In the lapse of seven weeks, or forty-nine years (for I suppose no reader will doubt that they are weeks of years), from the point of departure, the building that was begun would be finished. The street was to be built again, and the walls, even in troublous times. Now the accounts of these times of difficulty and strait we have in the Book of Nehemiah, who gives us the latest date that Old Testament history records. Then, taking up the other period, after not only the seven weeks, but the sixty-two weeks, "shall Messiah be cut off."
Before proceeding, I may observe, that there are several little inaccuracies. It is "after the threescore and two weeks." The article is left out in verse 26, where it ought to be inserted, and put, where it ought not to appear, in verse 27. "After the threescore and two weeks" - that is, in addition to the seven weeks spent in building the city of Jerusalem - "shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself." The proper meaning of that last expression, no one can doubt, is "and shall have nothing." The margin is here more correct than the text, and gives it so. The idea is, that Messiah, instead of being received by His people, and bringing in the blessing promised at the end of the seventy weeks, should, after sixty-nine weeks, be cut off, and have nothing. The entire rejection of the Messiah, by His own people, is intimated in these words. And here is the consequence. The key comes in now, and explains the difficulty, stated at the beginning, why the sixty-nine weeks are severed from the seventieth. The death of Christ rent the chain, and broke off the relations of the people of Israel with God. Hence, the Jews having rejected their own Messiah, the last week is for a time set aside. This week terminates in full blessing; but the Jews are themselves rejected for their sin against their own Messiah. That is the reason why we read, after this, "And the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.'' He had said before, that seventy weeks were determined to make an end of sins, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, etc.; that is, at the end of this appointed time, full blessing should be brought in. Whereas now we find that, so far from the blessing coming in, they have cut off their Messiah, who has nothing; and the consequence is, that the city and sanctuary are not blessed, but on the contrary, "the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary," etc. There will be nothing but wars and desolations upon the Jewish people. The interruption of the seventy weeks takes place after the death of Christ, and the next events related are no accomplishment of that series at all.
None can deny, that a long period elapsed between the death of Christ and the taking of Jerusalem. Until Christ are sixty-nine weeks, and then events occur which the prophecy clearly reveals, but as clearly reveals that they are after the sixty-nine weeks, and before the seventieth. We have another people, belonging to a prince quite different from the already rejected Messiah, and this people come and destroy the city and the sanctuary. It was the Romans who came, spite of the dreadful expedient of Caiaphas - nay, because of it. They came and destroyed the city and the sanctuary. But thus was brought the accomplishment of this part of the prophecy. The Messiah was cut off, and the Romans, whom they had so desired to propitiate, swept them away from off the face of the earth, and there has been nothing but misery in their city up to the present time. Jerusalem was thenceforward to be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. There is a period still going on. Since then Jerusalem has only been changing one master for another. In our day we have seen a war undertaken about that very city and sanctuary, and none can say how soon there may not be another. The objects of that war have been anything but gained and at rest. The same elements of strife and combustion still exist. It is an unsettled question. Like Jonah in the ship, such will Israel prove to the Gentiles by-and-bye. There will be no rest for them - nothing but storms, if they meddle with that people with whom the Lord has a controversy. The Jewish people are in a miserable state; they are suffering the consequences of their own sin. But those Gentiles will find their danger who mix up with that city and sanctuary, which God does not destine yet to be cleansed. If we are not arrived at that period of blessing yet, it must be granted, that the seventieth week is not yet accomplished. On the arrival of that week, full blessing comes in for Israel and Jerusalem. But no such blessing is realized; and therefore we may be quite sure, that the last of the seventy weeks has not been fulfilled.
The prophecy itself ought to prepare us for this. There is a regular chain up to the close of the sixty-ninth week, and then comes a great gap. The death of Christ broke the bond of connection between God and His people, and there was now no living link between them. They cut off their own Messiah, and have since lost, for a time, their national place. A deluge of trouble broke upon them. "The king sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city." The last part of verse 26 shows us the continuous desolation which has befallen their city and race, and this subsequent to the cross of the Messiah: and, as none can pretend that anything like this occurred within the seven years subsequent to the crucifixion, a gap, more or less extended, must necessarily be allowed between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks.
Mark the accuracy of Scripture. It is not said, that the coming prince was to destroy the city and sanctuary, but that his "people" should. Messiah the Prince had already come, and been cut off. Now we hear of another and future prince, a Roman prince; for all know, that it was the Romans who came and took away both the place and nation of the Jews. It is simply said, "The people of the prince that shall come," implying, that the people should come before a certain prince who was yet in the future. This I hold to be very important. No doubt there was a prince that led the Roman people to the conquest of Jerusalem, but Titus Vespasianus is not the personage alluded to here. If the people come first, and the prince here intended was to follow at some future epoch, nothing more simple. "The end thereof will be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." A long period of enmity and desolation is intimated. This is exactly where Israel are now. They have been turned out of that city and sanctuary, and have never had it since. It is true, they have made a remarkable footing for themselves in most countries of the earth; their influence extends into every court and cabinet of the world; but they have never obtained the smallest power in their own land and city - they are of all persons the most proscribed there. And there we see these desolations going on.
In verse 27 comes the closing scene. "And he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week." The margin gives it correctly. It is not "the" covenant. The little word "the" has misled many. It is "a," or rather the idea is general, meaning to "confirm covenant." If you read it "the covenant," the reader is at once apt to infer, that "the prince" means the Messiah, and that He was going to confirm His covenant. But the passage runs, "He shall confirm covenant [or a covenant] with the many for one week." No doubt the Messiah brought in the blood of the new covenant; but is that meant here? It supposes the desolations going on all this while, after which comes the end of the age, which includes, or occurs in, the seventieth week. The death of the Messiah took place long ago; the destruction of Jerusalem thirty or forty years after. After that followed a long period of desolations and wars in connection with Jerusalem. After all this, again, we have a covenant spoken of. Thus, we must examine the passage to see who it is that makes this covenant. There are two persons mentioned. In verse 25 there is Messiah the Prince; but He has come and been cut off. In verse 26 there is "the people of the prince that shall come." It is to this future Roman prince that verse 27 alludes. He it is that shall confirm covenant with many, or rather with "the many," i.e. the mass' or majority. The remnant will not have any part in it. Observe that now it is, for the first time, that the seventieth week comes forward. "And he shall confirm covenant with the mass for one week."
Now I ask those who contend for the supposition that Christ was meant, what sense does it give here? One week can mean nothing but a period of seven years. Was the new covenant ever made for seven years? Such a thought involves mere nonsense. Is it not quite plain, that the idea of interpreting this to be the covenant of Christ carries absurdity upon the face of it? For Christ's is an everlasting covenant - this is only made for seven years. When and how did Christ make a covenant for seven years? "And he shall confirm a covenant with the many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease." I am aware that persons apply this also to the death of Christ. But we have had Christ's death long ago - before the seventieth week began; then the desolations of Israel flood in after that; and subsequently another prince comes, who confirms a covenant for one week. He, not Christ, makes it with them for seven years. But, in the midst of the term, he puts an end to their worship. They have got sacrifice and oblation again at this time, and he causes all to cease.
But have we not other light upon this passage? Is it only here that we read of such a covenant, and of the sudden termination of Jewish rites and ceremonies by a certain foreign prince? As to the covenant, if we refer to Isaiah 28, it is said, in verse 15, "Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us." And in verse 18, "And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it." I have no question that this is the covenant referred to here. And the meaning of it is confirmed by another thing: that is to say, that in consequence of this Roman prince having made a wicked covenant with the Jewish people, and then interrupted their sacrifices and brought in idolatry (or what is called in Scripture, "the abomination of desolation"), he will stop the Jewish ritual, and set up an idol, and himself to be worshipped there. When open idolatry is in connection with the sanctuary, God sends a dreadful scourge upon them. They had hoped to escape by making a covenant with this prince they fondly thought, as it is said in Isaiah, to be thus delivered from the overflowing scourge, i.e., I suppose, the king of the north that becomes the great head of the eastern powers of the world arrayed against the western. The mass of the Jews will make a covenant with the great prince of the west, who will then be nominally their friend. And when the half of the time is expired, this personage will introduce idolatry, and force it upon them. Then will come the final catastrophe for Israel.
The stopping of the Jewish ceremonies, be it remarked, does not depend upon this scripture only In Daniel 7 the little horn is the emperor of the west or "the prince that shall come." Of him it is said that "he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times, and the dividing of times." Mark the analogy between that statement and what we have here. What is meant by "a time and times, and the dividing of time"? Three and a half years, to be sure. And what is meant by half a week? Exactly the same period. In the midst of the term for which the covenant was made with Israel, he will arrest their worship, and will take all their Jewish ceremonials into his own hands. Nor will he allow them to keep their feasts. "They shall be given into his hand" - that is, the Jewish times and laws. God will not own Jewish worship then; and therefore He will not preserve them in it. He will let this man have his own way; who, although he has made a covenant with Israel as a friend, will break it and substitute idolatry. Then will come the overflowing scourge. "In the midst of the week, he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease."
But I am obliged to claim another and more correct representation of the words that follow. The English translators were very doubtful of its true meaning. There are different ways of taking it, but the literal version is this: "And for [or, on account of] the wing of abominations, a desolator." That is, because of his taking idols under his protection, there shall be a desolator, namely, the overflowing scourge, or the Assyrian. "The prince that shall come" does not desolate Jerusalem. At this time he has made a covenant with them; and, although he breaks his covenant, still, being their head and patron, and having his minion, the false prophet, who will have his seat there as the great arch-priest of that day, he will carry on, with the aid of this false prophet, the worship of his image in the temple of God. Compare the abomination of desolation in the holy place. (Mat_24:15) In consequence of this, the king of the north shall come down as a desolator. There will thus be two enemies at that time for the righteous Jews. The desolator, or the Assyrian, is the enemy from without. The enemy from within is the Antichrist, or their wilful king, that corrupts them in connection with the Roman prince. Thus, the true meaning of this text is: "Because of the protection of abominations [there shall be] a desolator, even until the consummation, and that determined, shall be poured upon the desolate." Jerusalem is meant by "the desolate." And the whole consummation, or what God has decreed against the Jews, must take its course. "That generation shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled." These will be the last representatives of the Christ-rejecting portion of Israel, and God will allow all His judgments to come down upon them. They will be swept away, and then will remain the holy seed, the godly remnant, whom God will constitute the great nucleus of blessing to the whole world under the reign of the Lord Jesus.