The prophecies contained in Daniel chapter nine are among those Christians often use to support Jesus as messiah. Do they? Let's examine these verses with the help of Rashi, Judaism's foremost literal biblical commentator.
In this chapter Daniel, imprisoned in Babylon with other Jews, is seeking insight into the plight of his people. How had they gone from the glorious United Kingdom of Melech Shlomo (King Solomon) to such depths of despair? He studied the books of the prophets, including Jeremiah (9:1) but was still not clear. He enters into deep prayer asking HaShem for understanding (9:3) and gives us a lesson on proper Hitbodedut. HaShem sends the messenger Gabriel to clarify these matters (9:21). Our context of these prophecies begin at 9:24 (although as we will see the topic was previously broached):Seventy weeks [of years] have been decreed upon your people and upon the city of your Sanctuary to terminate the transgression and to end sin, and to expiate iniquity, and to bring eternal righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophet, and to anoint the Holy of Holies.Rashi explains:Seventy weeks [of years] have been decreed: on Jerusalem from the day of the first destruction in the days of Zedekiah until it will be [destroyed] the second time.The Second Temple was destroyed by the Roman armies of Titus in 70 CE. With this destruction the exile of Jews began that lasted until 1948. That this is Rashi's point is made clear as he adds:to terminate the transgression and to end sin: so that Israel should receive their complete retribution in the exile of Titus and his subjugation, in order that their transgressions should terminate, their sins should end, and their iniquities should be expiated, in order to bring upon them eternal righteousness and to anoint upon them the Holy of Holies: the Ark, the altars, and the holy vessels, which they will bring to them through the king Messiah. The number of seven weeks is four hundred and ninety years. The Babylonian exile was seventy [years] and the Second Temple stood four hundred and twenty [years].This prophecy has therefore been fulfilled. The Jews of the first century were divided into rival factions, into movements and competing sects. According to our rabbis this infighting is what led to the destruction of the Second Temple. Today part of the nation of Israel has been restored and Jews are hopeful that the Third Temple will soon rise, but we are once again fighting with each other, denying that certain Jews are really Jews based solely on political factionalism. How will we merit the reign of HaMashiach when we remain so divided?Aside [from] the troubles caused by these external powers [i.e. the Romans], the Jews were also plagued internally by tumultuous politics, and they divided into many factions -- a phenomenon that ultimately led to the Temple's destruction and our nation's torturous exile. (Source: Chabad).We continue with the prophecy:9:25 And you shall know and understand that from the emergence of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until the anointed king [shall be] seven weeks, and [in] sixty-two weeks it will return and be built street and moat, but in troubled times.Rashi:and you shall know and understand from the emergence of the word: From the emergence of this word, which emerged at the beginning of your supplications [8:14] to tell you, you shall know to understand [how] to restore and build Jerusalem.We see then that when these prophecies are understood literally as Rashi does, without preconceived doctrinal accoutrements, the interpretation is clear and harmonious with the other prophets he studied.
until the anointed king: Time will be given from the day of the destruction until the coming of Cyrus, king of Persia, about whom the Holy One, blessed be He, said that he would return and build His city, and He called him His anointed and His king, as it says (Isa. 45:1): "So said the Lord to His anointed one, to Cyrus etc." (verse 13): "He shall build My city and free My exiles, etc."
seven weeks: Seven complete shemittah cycles they will be in exile before Cyrus comes, and there were yet three more years, but since they did not constitute a complete shemittah cycle, they were not counted. In the one year of Darius, in which Daniel was standing when this vision was said to him, seventy years from the conquest of Jehoiakim terminated. Deduct eighteen years from them, in which the conquest of Jehoiakim preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, leaving fifty-two years. This is what our Rabbis learned (Yoma 54a): "For fifty-two years no one passed through Judea." They are the fifty-two years from the day of the destruction until they returned in the days of Cyrus. Hence, we have seven shemittah cycles and three years.
and in sixty-two weeks it will return and be built: i.e., the city with its streets.
and moat: They are the moats that they make around the wall to strengthen the city, which are called fosse in French, ditch or moat.
but in troubled times: But in those times they will be troubled and distressed, for in the subjugation of the kings of Persia and the heathens, they will burden them with harsh bondage. Now although there are sixty-two weeks and four years more that remain from the eighth week, whose beginning, viz. the three years, was included in the fifty-two years of the duration of the exile, those four years were not counted here because here he counted only weeks, and you find that from the beginning he started to count seventy weeks, and at the end, when he delineated their times and their judgments, he counted only sixty-nine, proving that one week was divided, part of it here and part of it there; and he mentioned only whole weeks.
but in troubled times: They will be troubled in those times.9:26 And after the sixty-two weeks, the anointed one will be cut off, and he will be no more, and the people of the coming monarch will destroy the city and the Sanctuary, and his end will come about by inundation, and until the end of the war, it will be cut off into desolation.So after these "weeks" are completed the attack of Titus would occur, as it did in 70 CE.
Rashi gives us insight:And after: those weeks.The Hebrew term mashiach means "anointed." As David said concerning Saul, a less than righteous ruler:
the anointed one will be cut off: Agrippa, the king of Judea, who was ruling at the time of the destruction, will be slain.II Samuel 26:9 And David said to Abishai, Destroy him [i.e. King Saul] not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD'S anointed [Hebrew: mashiach], and be guiltless?Rashi:and he will be no more: and he will not have. The meaning is that he will not be.Daniel thus learns that the Holy City and its Beit HaMikdash or Holy Temple will be severely attacked. The Temple would be destroyed and yet the City would live on even though desecrated by the Gentile powers. This tragedy occurred in 70 CE. From that time until 1948 the Holy City and the Temple Mount have been desolate and desecrated. While a few Jews always managed to live there, the Holy Places were desecrated nonstop by unbelievers as the Sacred Mount still is -- May the Temple be rebuilt in our generation!
the anointed one: Hebrew: mashiach. This is purely an expression of a prince and a dignitary.
and the city and the Sanctuary: lit. and the city and the Holy.
[Note by me: what we usually call the Jerusalem Temple, is in Hebrew, the Beit HaMikdash or "The House of the Holy"].
and the people of the coming monarch will destroy: [The monarch who will come] upon them. That is Titus and his [Roman] armies.
and his end will come about by inundation: And his end will be damnation and destruction, for He will inundate the power of his kingdom through the Messiah, and until the end of the wars of Gog the city will exist.
cut off into desolation: a destruction of desolation.9:27 And he will strengthen a covenant for the princes for one week, and half the week he will abolish sacrifice and meal-offering, and on high, among abominations, will be the dumb one, and until destruction and extermination befall the dumb one.This is the verse Christians often use to foretell the coming of their anti-Christ. Once we understand this section of prophecy however it becomes clear what is being taught:
Rashi:And he will strengthen a covenant for the princes for one week: "for the princes," like "and all the officers of the king," in the Book of Jeremiah (39:13).So then this is the true meaning of this prophecy
will strengthen: Titus [will strengthen] a covenant with the princes of Israel.
for one week: He [i.e. Titus] will promise them the strengthening of a covenant and peace for seven years, but within the seven years, he will abrogate his covenant.
he will abolish sacrifice and meal-offering: This is what he says in the first vision (8:26): "and in tranquility he will destroy many." Through a covenant of tranquility, he will destroy them.
and on high, among abominations will be the dumb one: This is a pejorative for pagan deities. i.e., on a high place, among abominations and disgusting things, he will place the dumb one, the pagan deity, which is dumb like a silent stone.
high: literally "wing," an expression of height, like the wing of a flying bird.
and until destruction and extermination befall the dumb one: and the ruling of the abomination will endure until the day that the destruction and extermination decreed upon it [will] befall it, in the days of the king Messiah.
befall the dumb one: Hebrew: "reach;" and total destruction will descend upon the image of the pagan deity and upon its worshippers.
Because of Israel's sins, including its inner strife between the various factions (as we see happening again today) the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans under the order of Titus, who later became emperor, in 70 CE.
The Holy City and the Sacred Beit HaMikdash were destroyed and the vast majority of Jews were either killed or fled into the Gentile nations where they remained for the most part for almost 2000 years.
In the late 1800's the Zionist movement began and Jews began returning to Israel. After World War Two they fled their oppressors in masses and on May 14th 1948 the nation was reestablished. During the Six-Day War in 1967 Jerusalem was miraculously restored to us. Our struggle for survival continues and we proclaim loudly and for all the world to hear: Am Y'israel Chai! The People of Israel Live on!
One day, may it be soon, HaMashiach will begin his reign and Israel and the world will finally know shalom in all of its many meanings.
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