« PreviousContinue »
forth in the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.”
Having said thus much respecting the great events which mark the commencement and termination of this chronological prophecynamely, the commission given to Ezra, and the death of Christ-I will now proceed to notice some peculiarities which distinguish the structure of this famous and remarkable prediction from the others which have been already considered.
First, “ It contains three branches or parts: the first foretells events to be accomplished within seventy weeks in general, and to be fully completed and brought to pass at the end of them ; the second, events to be accomplished precisely at the end of three particular periods, into which the said general number of seventy weeks is divided ; and third, events to be brought to pass after the expiration of the said seventy weeks, in the times immediately following thereupon" (Prideaux, vol. i. 390).
The first branch or part of this prophecy, is that which is contained in the 24th verse, which foretells those events to be brought about by the death of Christ; and which have been already fully considered.
The second branch, or part, is that which is contained in the 25th, and in the former part of the 26th and 27th, verses. This divides the 490 years into three particular periods, and assigns particular events to be precisely accomplished at the end of each of them. These three particular periods are, seven weeks, or 49 years; sixty-two weeks, or 434 years; and one week, or 7 years. And the particular events to be accomplished at the end of each of them are: At the end of the 49 years, the “ building of the street and ditch of Jerusalem in troublous times;” which was begun by Ezra and finished by Nehemiah; that is, the complete restoration, not only of the Jewish church and state, but of the temple, city, and fortifications, was accomplished at this time, in the year 408 B.C., fortynine years after the advancement of Esther and Mordecai, and the consequent commission of the King of Persia to Ezra.
The particular event to be accomplished at the end of 434 years, or sixty-two weeks, must have been the beginning of the ministry or public appearance of Christ.
But his own personal ministry did not commence till three years and a half afterwards, or in the middle of the last “week;” and hence there is a difficulty, which Dr. Prideaux is of opinion is cleared up by supposing his forerunner, John the Baptist, began his ministry three years and a half before Christ. But we have no reason to believe that John's ministry began before he was of the
age of thirty years ; in which case, as he was only about six months older than the Saviour, his ministry could only have begun six months previous to that of Christ. I am rather inclined to believe that the first half of the last period of seven years is to be added to the 434 years, making it 4373 years, which was the actual time when Christ began his public ministry; and that the phraseology which is used was for the purpose of not too clearly revealing “ times and seasons." As far as the true meaning of the difficulties found in prophetical dates are illustrated by the events, so far we may presume that this interpretation is correct, and that the remaining half week, or three years and a half, during which he was “ to confirm the covenant with many,” and “cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease”_or, in other words, which was to be the actual duration of his public ministry-was what is to be understood by “the midst of the week.'
If such difficulties, however, still surround the true and proper interpretation of a fulfilled prophecy, which has engaged, during the whole period of the Christian era, the best attention and study of so many learned men, it ought to be no matter of surprise if equal difficulties are found connected with others, where, from the circumstance of their being unfulfilled, equal advantages are not enjoyed. “Not to be delivered in plain terms, is what is common to all prophecies, there being none of them without their difficulties and obscurities." But it is clear, from many passages in the Scriptures, that these difficulties and obscurities form no argument why such an important feature in the written word of God as the chronological prophecies, should not, equally with other parts, be studied. It is clear also, that there were some who were waiting for the “redemption of Israel” when Christ first appeared in the temple, and when, led by the Spirit, Simeon and Anna came in at that moment; and was it not from the language of this prophecy that they were thus waiting ? Daniel also “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” (Dan. ix. 2). Hence he “set his face unto the Lord, and sought by prayer and supplication, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes, and prayed unto the Lord, and made confession” (ver. 3). The Divine admonition is, “Neglect not prophesyings;" and in the preface to the book of Revelation
• Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of this prophecy.”
A further, and even stronger argument in favour of such inquiries, is to be found in connection with Christ's foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem ; as he there reproves the Jews for not studying their own prophecies, saying, “O
the Lord says,
ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky, but the coming of the Son of Man ye cannot discern.” And the more immediate prophecy to which he refers, whilst giving this most severe rebuke, is the one which forms
The third branch, or part, of the one now under consideration, containing “events to be brought to pass after the expiration of the seventy weeks, and in the times immediately following thereupon” (Prideaux). They are thus expressed: “And the people of the prince shall come, and 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 :" For the overspreading of abominations, he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”
The Saviour, in forewarning his disciples of the near approach of this time of trouble, confirms the correctness of its application to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies, in the following words: “When ye see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet standing where it ought not, then let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains." ...“ For in those days shall be afflictions, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be." See Mark xiii., Matthew xxiv., and Luke xxi., where many particulars of this awful