by Bill Nugent
Over 500 years before the birth of Christ a predictive prophecy was given that foretold the exact time of Christ’s death. This prophecy is contained in the ninth chapter of the Old Testament book of Daniel. The Old Testament contains over 300 prophecies of the birth, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Messiah. (“Messiah” is synonymous with “Christ” and is derived from the Hebrew word “Mashiyach.”)
It is interesting to note that of the more than 300 predictive prophecies that tell of the coming of the Messiah very few actually use the word “Messiah.” Most Old Testament prophetic passages that describe aspects of the coming Messiah do so without actually using that specific word. The passage in Daniel we are about to study, Daniel 9:24-26, is one of the few passages that uses the word “Mashiyach” in the original Hebrew to describe the coming One. In fact, this one passage uses the word, Mashiyach, twice. Therefore we can say that this passage is not only clearly messianic but is certainly one of the strongest messianic prophecies in the Hebrew scriptures.
The ancient rabbis considered Daniel 9:24-26 to be predictive of the coming of the Messiah. (The Talmud in Yalkut Vol 2, page 79B and Nazir 32B records their opinions on this.) This passage in Daniel also predicts the destruction of the Second Temple. The rabbis rightly came to the conclusion that the Messiah had to come before the destruction of the Second Temple. The Second Temple was destroyed in 70 AD.
Daniel the Jewish prophet was captured by the Babylonians around the time that the Babylonians destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Daniel was taken to Babylon and there he wrote his book which was later incorporated into the Old Testament.
In Daniel 9:21 Daniel wrote that the angel Gabriel appeared to him and gave him a prophecy regarding a time period of 490 years. It would be a time period marked out by seventy periods of seven years each. We measure years in decades but the ancient Hebrews measured years in septads (weeks of years).
In the prophecy given by Gabriel to Daniel it is revealed that after the decree is issued to rebuild Jerusalem there would be 70 weeks (70 x 7 = 490 years) in which certain events would take place and that after the 69th week (or septad), Messiah would be “cut off.” The term “cut off” is an ancient euphemism for “killed.” Hence, a very clear time frame for the coming and death of the Messiah is given.
I will now quote the relevant portion of this prophecy from a Jewish Bible: The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text (Jewish Publication Society of America; Philadelphia 1980). The wording in this traditional Jewish Bible seems to partially conceal that the passage refers to the Messiah but even this unsympathetic translation can’t obscure its true meaning.
Here is Daniel 9:24-26 with my comments interspersed within it:“Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to forgive iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, . . .” (Messiah died for our sins so that we can receive forgiveness and begin to live righteously)
“. . . and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy place. Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem . . .”
(According to Bible scholars, the word to rebuild Jerusalem was a decree given by King Artaxerxes on the first day of the month of Nisan , 444 BC, see Nehemiah 2:1-8.)
“. . . unto one anointed, a prince, . . .”
(The Hebrew word rendered “one anointed” is “Mashiyach” which is usually anglicized to “Messiah.” Messiah means “anointed one.” The fact that the Jewish Bible renders it “one anointed” rather than “Messiah” is perhaps to conceal that this passage is referring to the Messiah who, as we shall see, was to have come by the early part of the first century AD and Jesus of Nazareth certainly fits into that time frame!!!)
“. . . shall be seven weeks; and for three score and two weeks, . . .”
(7 plus 62 equals a total of 69 weeks of years or 483 years)
“. . . it shall be built again, . . .” (Jerusalem was built again, it had been destroyed in 586 BC)
“. . . with plaza and moat, but in troublous times. And after the threescore and two weeks shall an anointed one . . .”
(Again “Anointed one” is the word “Mashiyach” in the original Hebrew!!!)
“. . . be cut off…” (Daniel 9:24-26)
(“Cut off” is an expression meaning death, i.e., the death of the Messiah a.k.a. Jesus of Nazareth!) So this is a clear prediction of the coming and death of Messiah. The resurrection is not mentioned here but other Old Testament passages do prophesy of the resurrection of Messiah.
H. W. Hoehner, in his book Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ has calculated the time period of the 69 septads (weeks) which is 483 years (lunar calendar, 360 days in each year) which comes to 173,880 days from Nisan 1, 444 BC and comes to the conclusion that on Nisan 10 (March 30) of 33 AD Jesus the Messiah made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. (See Josh McDowell’s book A Ready Defense pp. 57-59.)
On April 3, 33 AD Jesus was crucified or “cut off” (Daniel 9:26). His death brought forgiveness of sins because Jesus in His suffering and death endured the wrath of God in our place. Thus He made an end of sins and brought in everlasting righteousness. We’ve discussed 69 of the 70 weeks; the 70th week has its own dramatic fulfillment which occurs after the death and resurrection of Messiah but that discussion is beyond the scope of this short article.
The resurrection and ascension of Jesus are prophesied in other passages of the Old Testament. The second coming of Jesus the Messiah is prophesied in several passages in the Old Testament including a very dramatic unfolding of events leading up to it recorded in chapters 12, 13 and 14 of the book of Zechariah.
Prophecies and fulfillments such as these are not seen in any other writings of any other world religion. For instance, Muslims have traditionally not claimed that Mohammed came in fulfillment of prophecy. The sacred writings of nonchristian faiths have nothing to compare to the Bible’s amazing record of prophecy and fulfillment of prophecy.
The Bible alone is the holy book that is inspired by God and reveals God’s loving forgiveness and mercy through Christ who came to die in our place and obtain redemption. The prophecies and their fulfillments are like God’s signature on His holy book.