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DANIEL's WEEKS ;
OR, PROPHECY OF THE MESSIAH's APPEARANCE.
DANIEL IX. 24–27.
Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy
city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, 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. 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 three score and two weeks : the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after three score and two weeks shall Mes. siah be cut off, but not for himself : 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 des. olations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined, shall be poured upon the desolate.
T is very observable, that when our blessed Lord quotes part
of our text, Mat. xxiv. 15. he demands particular attention to it. When, says he, ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand :) as if he had said, When you read that prophecy, attend to it, study it carefully, and be very solicitous to understand it ; for it is a passage of great importance, containing such a prediction of the time, the purposes and consequences of the coming and death of the Messiah, his rejection by the Jews, and the destruction of their temple, city and nation, as cannot be equalled in the Old Testament. Let him that readeth; understand; which he will not do, without close attention, and serious reflection. And may God open our understandings, that we may understand this scripture, and learn our duty from it.
I shall, first, illustrate the remarkable events here foretold ;
And here we must consider, the person spoken of; what he was to do ; what he was to suffer ; and the consequences of both, with regard to those that received, and those that rejected him.
1. The person spoken of.
And that is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus Christ ; who is here styled Messiah ; which signifies, the anointed one, or, the Christ. By this name the Jews expected him. Is not this the Christ? we know that Christ cometh. There is no accounting for the prevalence of this title among them, but from our text, and some other passages, where he is spoken of as anointed. Andrew says to Peter, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. He was to be, as our text expresseth it, ancinted ; to anoint the most Holy. As priests and kings were anointed under the law, to invest them with their respective offices; so Christ was anointed with the holy Spirit; filled with his gifts and graces ; and thus consecrated to God, and qualified for the great work he had to perform. He is also called The Prince, ruler, or leader, as the word is differently translated : as he was to be king of the Jews, a leader and commander of all his people, and the captain of our salvation. He is also styled the most Holy. His original was unspotted, his life most holy, being entirely devoted to the service and glory of God, and the salvation of mankind. He was the most holy person that ever lived upon earth, and the brightest image of him, who is glorious and perfect in holiness.
2. What he was to do.
And we shall find, that his business was purely spiritual ; and had the Jews attended to this prophecy, they would not have entertained such carnal notions of their Messiah, as a temporal victorious prince. He was to finish transgression, and make an end of sin. Which may signify, to put an end to all sacrifices in the Jewish temple ; to set aside the institution and rites of the law ; and to introduce a new dispensation. The expression, finish transgression, is better rendered in the margin, to restrain irans. gression, and make an end of sin, to seal up sin. And so it intimates, that he was to set up a kingdom of truth and holiness in the world ; to introduce a better state of religion than before; to proclaim pardon and peace to a guilty world; to seal up sin, that it might not rise up in judgment to condemn the guilty; that is, he was to be manifested to take away sin, and to deliver men from its power and dominion, by his word and spirit. Further, he was to seal up the vision and prophecy ; that is, fully to accomplish the visions and predictions of the prophets in foregoing ages : as when a letter or writing is sealed, it is supposed to be finished, and the whole transaction completed. Thus Christ was to show that all things written in the law, the prophets, and the psalms, Werefulâlled in him. And the expression may further intimate, that he was to put an end to that method of divine revelation. He was to give the church a written rule of truth and duty ; and there was to be no more visions and prophecies. All pretences to these, after the establishment of his gospel, would and must, therefore, be impostures. It is here foretold,
3. What the Messiah was to suffer.
He was to be cut off, but not far himself: or, as the prophet Isaiah expresseth it, to be cut off out of the land of the living ; that is, to be put to death as a malefactor : for the word signifies, a punishment inflicted by the sentence of a judge, or court of judicature. Accordingly, he was crucified, after a formal trial, as a blasphemer of God, his law, and temple, and as an enemy to Cæsar. But it was not for himself; being perfectly innocent, even, as our text calls him, the most Holy ; he was not subject to the law of mortality ; and the accusations laid against him, at his trial, were false ; but he was cut off for the sins of men ; suffered the just for the unjust ; for the transgressions of God's people was he stricken ; to purchase pardon, peace, and eternal life, for all them that believe. But this leads me to consider,
4. The consequences of his sufferings ;
Both with regard to his friends and enemies ; those who received, and those who rejected him.
First, with regard to his friends and disciples, those who sincerely received him, and believed in him. It was to make reconciliation for iniquity, v. 24. The word signifies, to make expia, tion by sacrifice; and refers to his offering up himself a sacrifice for sin ; not only to proclaim peace and reconciliation, but to make way for it by his own sacrifice. The several expressions of transgression, sin, iniquity, which are here used, may denote the extent and efficacy of his sacrifice; that it reaches to all sins, takes away the guilt and punishment of offences of every kind and degree. Further, he was to bring in everlasting righteousness. He was not only to give the best rules for promoting true and inward righteousness, but to establish a method of justification, or of our being accepted of God, as righteous persons ; and it is an everlasting righteousness; there is an everlasting virtue in his atonement ; and those who are justified by his righteousness, shall never come into condemnation, but are the heirs of eternal life. Further, he was to confirm the covenant with many, v. 27. He was to introduce and publish a new dispensation, or covenant of mercy, and to confirm the promise of it with his own blood. His doctrine, miracles, death, resurrection, and the institutions of his religion, baptism and the Lord's supper, are all confirmations or seals of the covenant of grace. And he was to confirm it with many, or, with the many. It was not to be confined, like the first covenant, to the Jews, but to extend to all mankind. He was given for a covenant to the people, and therefore he is called the Mediator, or surety, of it: and the great promise of this covenant is eternal life. These were the happy effects of his sufferings with regard to his friends, even to all that believe. Again;
The text foretells the consequences of them to his enemies, and those that rejected him ; more especially the Jews, here called, Daniel's people, and the holy city. Now of them it is foretold, that they shall be rejected. The phrase here translated, but not for himself, some good critics would render, and they, that is, the Jews, shall be no more his, that is, his people. It is foretold that war should rise against them, v. 26. That the Romans should come upon them, and the people of the prince that shall come ; by which some understand, the people of a future prince, one not yet in being ; a monarchy that is hereafter to rise up ; though I think it signifies Christ's people ; those whom he shall employ as the executioners of his vengeance upon his enemies. The words are literally, the prince's future people; which has led some to suppose, that it signifies that the nation of the Romans should afterwards become Christ's people ; and indeed the principal success of christianity at first was in the Roman empire. However, all agree, that by this people, was meant the Romans ; and the event confirmed it. It is foretold, that they should attack Jerusalem, the holy city, and the sanctuary, and destroy both. And this also was fulfilled in the event ; for, after a long siege, in which the Jews suffered greater hardships than any people ever endured, the city was taken and destroyed. Titus, the Roman general, would fain have saved the temple ; but the Roman sol. diers, out of resentment to the Jew“, burned it. Afterwards, the ground was ploughed up, and, as our Lord foretold, not one stone was left upon another. In consequence of this, the sacrifice and oblation were made to cease. Indeed the doctrine and death of the Messiah abolished them, as to their authority and efficacy : but when the temple was destroyed, they could no longer be of. fered. And it is here added, v. 27. for, or, by, the overspreading of abominations, he shall make it desolate ; which may be rendered, and upon the battlements shall be the abomination, that is, the death of the desolater. So our Lord, Mat. xxiv. 15. mentions the abominations of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, as standing in the holy place. The Roman standards were set upon the walls of Jerusalem ; on which standards they had idols, to which they offered sacrifices ; and these caused desolation wherever they came. It is further said in the text, the end thereof, that is, of the city and temple, shall be with a flood ; that is, the Romans shall spread like a flood over the whole land ; nothing shall be able to stand against them. Desolations are determined to the end of the war, even till the consummation ; that is, the whole land should be made desolate by the war ; wrath should come upon those people to the uttermost, and they should be made more desolate than any other nation ever was. And the concluding words of the text intimate, that something determined, more than all this,
should be poured out on the desolate, even a spirit of blindness and slumber. But others think that the clause should be rendered, until the consummation, and that determined, be poured upon the desolate ; that is, till what succeeds to the ancient Roman power, even the church of Rome, be destroyed, and the Jews be restored. It intimates, however, that Jerusalem and Judea should continue long desolate ; accordingly, our Lord foretold, Luke xxi. 24. Jerusalem shall be trodden, down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
II. I am to illustrate the time when these events should happen.
And this deserves particular attention. It may be necessary to premise something concerning the nature of the measure of time here specified ; the period from whence it commences; and the particular division of the time mentioned. As to the first; what we read of weeks, refers to weeks of years, or, so many times of years. This is agreeable to the language of the Old
Testament, and especially the language of prophecy. The law said, thou shalt number seven sabbaths or weeks of years, that is, forty nine years, to the jubilee ; and this prophet distinguished between common weeks and weeks of years, (see Dan. X. 2. I was mourning three full weeks ; the original is, weeks of days ; so that a week is here put for seven years; and seventy weeks for seven times seventy years, that is, four hundred and ninety. This is to comprehend the whole period between the going forth of the commandment to restore Jerusalem, and the death of Christ; and the commandment here referred to, is the commandment or grant to Ezra for restoring the church and state of the Jews ; for that, I think, is meant by the expression of restoring and building Jerusalem ; settling the affairs of the nation, and restoring their ancient constitution and polity. For this, the command was granted to Ezra, by Artaxerxes king of Persia, in the seventh year of his reign : and from that time to the death of Christ, was exactly four hundred and ninety years, lo a month. But this whole period is afterwards divided into three ; or seven weeks, sixty two weeks, and one week. From this decree to Messiah the prince, that is, to the first publication of his gospel, should be seven weeks and sixty two weeks. In the first seven weeks, that is, forty nine years, the street should be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times, that is, the Jewish church and state, here figuratively expressed by the street and wall or ditch of the city, should be thoroughly reformed and restored ; and this, amidst great opposition from enemies : as we read was the case. Now, from the beginning of this restoration by Ezra, to the ending and perfecting of it by Nehemiah, was exactly forty nine years. The second period was from the end of this seven weeks, or forty nine years, to the end of sixty two weeks, or four hundred and thirty four years; and then Messiah the prince was to appear, that is, bis gospel was to be opened upon the world. Accordingly, Joha