Who Is the Messiah of the Book of Daniel?
ABOUT twenty-five centuries ago the angel Gabriel revealed to Daniel a vital truth. It was that an “anointed one” or “messiah” would come at the expiration of a prescribed number of “weeks,” not ordinary weeks but “weeks of years.” The fact that an angel conveyed this message of itself suggested that the arrival of this “anointed one” would be an event of highest importance, an event that could have a profound effect upon mankind.
What did Gabriel tell Daniel? According to the translation of the Jewish Publication Society of America (copyright 1917), he said:
“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, 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 unto one anointed, a prince, shall be seven weeks; and for threescore and two weeks, it shall be built again, with broad place and moat, but in troublous times. And after the threescore and two weeks shall an anointed one be cut off, and be no more; and the people of a prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.”—Dan. 9:24-26.
The rendering of this translation makes it appear that the “one anointed, a prince” would come after “seven weeks,” whereas another “anointed one” would be “cut off” after sixty-two “weeks.” Does history confirm this understanding of matters?
According to Jewish commentators, the “word to restore and to build Jerusalem” went forth when the prophet Jeremiah foretold that the city would be rebuilt after having been desolated by the Chaldeans. For example, Jeremiah 30:18 states: “The city will actually be rebuilt upon her mound.” This allows them to interpret the “seven weeks” as designating the seventy-year period of desolation that ended with the return of a Jewish remnant from Babylonian exile. Proceeding further, certain Jewish commentators would link the “one anointed, a prince” with King Cyrus, who issued the decree that permitted the Jewish exiles to return to Judah and Jerusalem. Others favor identifying the “one anointed” with Governor Zerubbabel or High Priest Jeshua, both of whom returned from Babylonian exile after Cyrus’ decree was issued.
And what of the “threescore and two” or sixty-two “weeks”? Jewish commentators apply these to a period of 434 years, during which time Jerusalem was to be fully restored. Some believe that the “anointed one” that was to be “cut off” (Dan. 9:26) designates King Agrippa (II), who lived at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. But others consider the “anointed one” to be High Priest Onias, whom Antiochus Epiphanes deposed in 175 B.C.E.
So Jewish commentators are by no means certain about the significance of Gabriel’s words. In fact, there are inconsistencies in the explanation. Whereas the “seven weeks” are understood to be of ten years each, totaling seventy years (7 x 10), the ‘sixty-two weeks’ are considered to be of seven years each, totaling four hundred and thirty-four years (62 x 7). Thus these Jewish commentators have actually manipulated the time features in an effort to force an explanation of Gabriel’s words.
An Added “Stop” Changes the Meaning
Surprising as it may seem to some, Jewish copyists and a number of Jewish translators have made additions to the original text of Daniel 9:25. The scribes known as Masoretes accented the Hebrew text at Daniel 9:25 with an ’Ath·nahhʹ or “stop” after “seven weeks,” thereby dividing it off from the ‘sixty-two weeks.’ Additionally, a number of Jewish translations add “for” or “during” before the ‘sixty-two weeks’ of years to make it appear that Jerusalem would be fully restored in that period. If it were not for these adjustments in the text, Daniel 9:25 would read: “You should know and have the insight that from the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Leader, there will be seven weeks, also sixty-two weeks. She will return and be actually rebuilt, with a public square and moat, but in the straits of the times.” A similar rendering is found in many non-Jewish translations.
This rendering makes it quite plain that a “messiah” or “anointed one” was to arrive, not at the end of seven “weeks,” but at the end of seven plus “sixty-two weeks,” that is, at the end of sixty-nine “weeks.” Therefore, the “messiah” that was to be cut off sometime after the “sixty-two weeks” would be the same one as was foretold to arrive at the end of “seven weeks, also sixty-two weeks.” Did an “anointed one” make an appearance at that time?
Time for Messiah’s Appearance
To determine the answer to this question, we must ascertain when the command went forth to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Reasonably we should expect such a command to go forth when action could be taken to follow through on the command rather than in the time of Jeremiah’s prophesying before the city was destroyed.
Although a Jewish remnant returned to Judah and Jerusalem from Babylonian exile in 537 B.C.E., the wall of the city and its gates were not rebuilt or repaired until years later. In describing the city, a delegation of Jewish exiles told Nehemiah, the Jewish cupbearer of Persian King Artaxerxes (Longimanus): “Those left over, who have been left over from the captivity, there in the jurisdictional district, are in a very bad plight and in reproach; and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its very gates have been burned with fire.” (Neh. 1:3) Some months after receiving this report, Nehemiah was commissioned by King Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem. This was in the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes’ reign. (Neh. 2:1-6) The best historical evidence indicates that the Nisan of that twentieth year fell in 455 B.C.E.a So it was with Nehemiah’s arrival at Jerusalem a number of months later in 455 B.C.E. that the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem could take effect.
Using 455 B.C.E. as a starting point for counting the sixty-nine weeks of years (483 years), we find that a “messiah” or “anointed one” was scheduled to arrive in 29 C.E. Were the Jews expecting a “messiah” at that time? Did a “messiah” make his appearance then?
Alluding to Daniel chapter 9, a well-known rabbi of the seventeenth century C.E., Manasseh ben Israel, stated: “There are some who would accept those 70 cycles of seven as saying that after their end the Messiah would come. . . . Indeed, all of the Jews who took up arms against the Romans at that time were of that opinion.” Jewish scholar Abba Hillel Silver observes: “The Messiah was expected around the second quarter of the first century C.E.” The Babylonian Talmud, in its Tractate Sanhedrin, folio 97a speaks of the “seven year cycle at the end of which the son of David [the Messiah] will come.” So the Jews were expecting, not just any “messiah,” but the Messiah, the “son of David,” to appear at the very time indicated in Daniel chapter 9.
The only person who appeared as this Messiah in 29 C.E. was Jesus, a descendant of King David. The Bible, along with secular history,b gives evidence that Jesus, in the fall of 29 C.E., came to John and was baptized. Immediately after his baptism “the heavens were opened up, and he saw descending like a dove God’s spirit coming upon him. Look! Also, there was a voice from the heavens that said: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.’” (Matt. 3:16, 17) Upon his being anointed by God’s spirit, Jesus became the Messiah or Christ, which words mean “Anointed One.” From that time onward, the words of Isaiah 61:1 applied to him: “The spirit of the LORD GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to bring good tidings unto the humble.” (Jewish Publication Society) Three and a half years after his anointing Jesus was “cut off” in death.
Thus the evidence of Daniel 9:25 unmistakably points to Jesus as the promised Messiah. Acknowledged Rabbi Simon Luzatto (of the seventeenth century C.E.):
“This most outstanding text . . . has rendered the Rabbis so perplexed and uncertain that they know not whether they are in heaven or on earth. The result of continued investigation of this prophecy on our part could easily turn out that we would all become Christians. It cannot, indeed, be denied that Messiah’s advent has been clearly set out in it and that the time should be accepted as already having gone by.”
Evidently, therefore, because of their rejection of Jesus, the Masoretes added a “stop” at Daniel 9:25, thereby endeavoring to conceal the time factor that definitely identified Jesus as the promised Messiah. Professor E. B. Pusey, in a footnote on one of his lectures delivered at the University of Oxford (published in 1885), remarked on the Masoretic accenting:
“The Jews put the main stop of the verse under [seven], meaning to separate the two numbers, 7 and 62. This they must have done dishonestly, . . . (as Rashi [a prominent Jewish Rabbi of the twelfth century C.E.] says in rejecting literal expositions which favored the Christians).”
It should not come as a surprise that most Jews continue to reject Daniel 9:25 as applying to Jesus Christ. Their views have been greatly influenced by the Jewish scholars and thinkers who flourished between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries C.E. This period was a time when Jews suffered due to extreme anti-Semitism, the bulk of the hatred being fomented by persons claiming to be followers of Jesus Christ. This caused the name of Jesus to become a stench to most Jews. It is no wonder, then, that rabbinic Bible commentaries from that period deny the Messianic application of many prophecies that had obvious fulfillment in Jesus.
Numerous sincere Jews, however, have not let the evil carried on by persons hypocritically claiming to be “Christians” prejudice them against the name of Jesus. They have examined the evidence for themselves by reading the accounts concerning Jesus’ earthly ministry that were committed to writing by the Jewish evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They have also examined the Hebrew prophecies that identify Jesus as the promised Messiah. Their investigation has led them to believe that Jesus is indeed the Messiah.
If you are among the millions of Jews who do not believe that the promised Messiah has come, why not take the time to investigate the matter thoroughly? Certainly if Jesus is the Christ, as clearly set forth prophetically in Daniel chapter 9, you would not want to place yourself in opposition to him, with loss of blessing to yourself. So that you might be a recipient of the blessings of Messiah’s righteous rule, Jehovah’s witnesses will be happy to assist you in your examination of additional facts that point to Jesus as the Messiah.