Identifying Messiah, the King
1. Why, appropriately, did Jehovah use Daniel to prophesy about the timing of events?
THE prophet Daniel will be among those resurrected to share in God’s Kingdom arrangement on earth. As he ended his long life of service to Jehovah he was told: “You will rest, but you will stand up for your lot at the end of the days.” Daniel was deeply interested in “the time of the end” and the “wonderful things” that would then happen, just as we are interested today. Therefore, it was appropriate that the great Time-Keeper, Jehovah God, use Daniel as his prophet in connection with his timetable for the ‘coming’ of the Kingdom.—Daniel 12:4, 6, 13; 11:27, 35; compare Amos 3:7; Isaiah 46:9-11.
“THE DEVASTATIONS OF JERUSALEM”
2. (a) What prophecy of Isaiah was suddenly fulfilled in 539 B.C.E., and how? (b) What miracle was needed for Jeremiah 25:11, 12 to be fulfilled on time?
2 In line with Jehovah’s prophecy uttered centuries in advance, the Babylonian Empire fell before the armies of Cyrus the Persian and Darius the Mede. (Isaiah 44:24, 27, 28; 45:1, 2) Darius became king over the former Babylonian kingdom. That was in the year 539 B.C.E. Sixty-eight years had now passed since Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had devastated Jerusalem and its temple, desolated the land of Judah and transported the surviving Jews to Babylon. It was therefore with keen anticipation that aged Daniel wrote, in the first year of Darius: “I myself, Daniel, discerned by the books the number of the years concerning which the word of Jehovah had occurred to Jeremiah the prophet, for fulfilling the devastations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.” (Daniel 9:2; Jeremiah 25:11, 12) By what miracle could the captive Jews, within two more years, return and restore Jehovah’s worship in Jerusalem?
3. Therefore, what fervent prayer did Daniel utter?
3 Daniel petitioned Jehovah fervently in behalf of his people, acknowledging their sins and calling on Jehovah to exercise mercy. Above all, he requested Jehovah to remove from His great name the reproach heaped upon it by Israel’s neighbor nations. He entreated his God: “O Jehovah, do hear. O Jehovah, do forgive. O Jehovah, do pay attention and act. Do not delay, for your own sake, O my God, for your own name has been called upon your city and upon your people.”—Daniel 9:4-19.
4. How did Jehovah answer that prayer?
4 Did Jehovah answer this prayer? He did! And in doing so, he also fulfilled his prophecy. He caused Darius’ successor, Cyrus of Persia, to issue the decree for the Israelite remnant to go up to Jerusalem and rebuild Jehovah’s temple. As the “seventy years” ended, in 537 B.C.E., those restored Jews began again to offer sacrifices to Jehovah at his rebuilt altar in Jerusalem.—2 Chronicles 36:17-23; Ezra 3:1; Isaiah 44:28; 45:1.
TIMING MESSIAH’S FIRST COMING
5. (a) What sequel followed immediately? (b) What time period is made prominent at Daniel 9:24-27?
5 There was also an immediate sequel to that prayer by Daniel. The angel Gabriel materialized before him in human form, and began speaking to him. He referred to Daniel as “someone very desirable [to Jehovah]” and proceeded to give him further “insight with understanding.” (Daniel 9:20-23) What he had to say was entirely new, a fresh revelation to Daniel. It was a startling prophecy, involving events that would cover a period of, not “seventy years,” but “seventy weeks.” Please read it in full at Daniel 9:24-27. What does the prophecy mean?
6. How long are the “seventy weeks”?
6 It says that “seventy weeks” had been determined with regard to the appearing of “Messiah the Leader,” the promised King in the line of David. Could these be literal weeks? No, for all the things prophesied could hardly happen within a year and a half. They proved to be “weeks” in which each day counts as a year. (Compare Leviticus 25:8.) In fact, several Bible translations use expressions such as “seventy weeks of years” at Daniel 9:24. (An American Translation, Moffatt, Today’s English Version; also see footnotes in Rotherham, The New American Bible, The Jerusalem Bible.) The “seventy weeks” are clearly 490 literal years.
7, 8. (a) Why did the “seventy weeks” not count from Cyrus’ decree? (b) How was Nehemiah’s prayer answered? (c) How did the Jews respond to the king’s “word”? (d) When did this take place?
7 When do the “seventy weeks” begin to be counted? Daniel 9:25 tells us: “From the going forth of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem.” However, Cyrus’ decree contained no such “word.” It was limited to ‘rebuilding the house of Jehovah,’ which would include the altar for sacrifice. (Ezra 1:1-4) Until more than 80 years thereafter, the city itself remained “devastated,” with its walls broken down. At that time a faithful Jew, Nehemiah, was employed as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia, at the castle of Shushan. On hearing of the plight of the Jews at Jerusalem, he prayed that this “reproach” on Jehovah’s name might be removed.—Nehemiah 1:3, 11; 2:17.
8 Sad of countenance, Nehemiah brought wine to the king. Artaxerxes asked him: “Why is your face gloomy when you yourself are not sick? This is nothing but a gloominess of heart.” On learning the reason, the king immediately proceeded to give Nehemiah instructions to return to Jerusalem, that he might build the “walls” and “gates” of the city. When Nehemiah arrived there to report on God’s favor shown, and to convey the king’s “word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem,” how did the people respond? “At this they said: ‘Let us get up, and we must build.’ So they strengthened their hands for the good work.” All of this took place “in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king.”—Nehemiah 2:1-18.
9. How may we determine the 20th year of Artaxerxes?
9 What year was this? The weight of evidence is that this Artaxerxes (called also “Longimanus” on account of his long right hand) came to the Persian throne at the death of his father Xerxes. Artaxerxes’ first year of reigning would be 474 B.C.E. Thus his 20th year would be 455 B.C.E.*
10. How was the prophecy concerning the first “seven weeks” fulfilled?
10 So, then, the “weeks” of Daniel 9:25 would start to count from 455 B.C.E. We read:
“And 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.”
Apparently, the first “seven weeks,” or 49 years, cover the time of rebuilding the city, up until 406 B.C.E. “The straits of the times” have reference to the bitter opposition this building work received from neighboring peoples. (Nehemiah 4:6-20) Nevertheless, as history indicates, Jerusalem was a large and flourishing city by the end of that century.*
11. How did “Messiah the Leader” appear right on time?
11 However, beyond this there were to be “sixty-two weeks”—making a total of 69 weeks of years, or 483 years, from 455 B.C.E. “until Messiah the Leader.” These 483 years, including only part of 455 B.C.E. and part of the final year, would extend into 29 C.E. Did Messiah then appear? Luke 3:1-3 states that “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,” John the Baptizer “came into all the country around the Jordan, preaching baptism.” Since historians establish that Tiberius became Roman emperor on August 17, 14 C.E. (Gregorian calendar), it would follow that John’s preaching and baptizing would commence during Tiberius’ 15th year—in the spring of 29 C.E. In the fall of that same year—29 C.E.—Jesus was baptized, and holy spirit descended from heaven to anoint him as Messiah. Indeed, right on time in fulfillment of divine prophecy!—Luke 3:21, 22.
12. (a) What were many of the Jews then expecting? (b) Why did they miss the point of the prophecy? (c) But how may we be benefited?
12 In those days, many of the Jews were anticipating the coming of Messiah, due no doubt in part to their knowing about the “seventy weeks.” (Luke 3:15; John 1:19, 20) But because of having hard hearts, the majority missed the point of the prophecy. (Matthew 15:7-9) However, we today can be strengthened in our faith by paying attention to all such features of “the prophetic word.” (2 Peter 1:19-21) Not only does that “word” clearly identify Messiah, as explained in the chart on page 67; it also points us to marvelous blessings to be enjoyed under the kingdom of “Messiah the Leader.”—Isaiah 9:6, 7.
MESSIAH THE KING “CUT OFF”
13, 14. How was Messiah’s appearance and course far different from the Jews’ expectations?
13 Did the appearance of “Messiah the Leader” result in an immediate deliverance for the Jews? They expected him to be a mighty warrior, a potentate who would deliver them from harsh bondage to the Roman Empire. (John 6:14, 15) However, his Father, Jehovah, purposed a different kind of deliverance.
14 In the prophecy of the “seventy weeks,” Gabriel made it clear that, rather than the Messiah’s becoming a great political ruler, he was to be “cut off, with nothing for himself.” He was to die a shameful death without name or material wealth to leave for posterity. How striking the fulfillment! When Jesus was stripped for execution, the soldiers even cast lots for all that had remained to him—his outer garments.—Daniel 9:26a; Matthew 27:35.
15. (a) When was Messiah “cut off”? (b) How is the accuracy of this time feature confirmed?
15 When did this execution take place? Gabriel said it would be “at the half of the [final] week” of years, that is, in the spring of 33 C.E., three and a half years after Jesus’ baptism and anointing. In proof of the accuracy of the prophecy, John’s Gospel indicates that Jesus was then attending the fourth Passover following his baptism.—Daniel 9:27b; John 2:13; 5:1; 6:4; 13:1.
16, 17. (a) How were the further words of Daniel 9:26 tragically fulfilled? (b) How were Messiah’s true followers of that time an example to us?
16 Yes, “Messiah the Leader” was “cut off.” How tragic it was that the Jews did not recognize their king! But more was to come. Jerusalem must again be devastated. As Daniel’s prophecy foretold:
“The city and the holy place the people of a leader that is coming will bring to their ruin. And the end of it will be by the flood. And until the end there will be war; what is decided upon is desolations.”—Daniel 9:26b.
17 True to the prophecy, the period following Messiah’s ‘cutting off’ was marked by war “until the end.” Finally, in 70 C.E., the Roman army swept like a flood into beleaguered Jerusalem. The city and its temple were demolished, ‘brought to their ruin.’ According to the historian Josephus, 1,100,000 Jews perished in that holocaust. Happily, by that time Messiah’s true followers had heeded the warning “sign” and had fled to safety in the mountains beyond the Jordan. (Matthew 24:3-16) This emphasizes also for us today how vital it is that we give attention to God’s prophetic “sign” before the Kingdom ‘comes’ to execute judgment on the present wicked world system.—Luke 21:34-36.
MESSIAH BRINGS BENEFITS
18. What of benefit was accomplished at Messiah’s first coming?
18 What, then, would be accomplished by Messiah’s first coming? Gabriel had told Daniel:
“There are seventy weeks that have been determined upon your people and upon your holy city, in order to terminate the transgression, and to finish off sin, and to make atonement for error, and to bring in righteousness for times indefinite.” (Daniel 9:24a)
Before and through his death “Messiah the Leader” would accomplish all of this! This would be not a political deliverance but a marvelous spiritual one. Through the ransoming power of his perfect human life, given in sacrifice, Jesus would remove the stain of sin and transgression from those who would accept him as Messiah, and bring them into “a new covenant” as the spiritual “Israel of God.”—Galatians 6:16; Jeremiah 31:31, 33, 34.
19. How did Messiah “cause sacrifice and gift offering to cease”?
19 So what the Law covenant mediated by Moses had been unable to do, on the basis of its animal sacrifices, the new covenant mediated by Messiah would now accomplish, on the basis of his one perfect human sacrifice, made “at the half of the week.” Thus he would “cause sacrifice and gift offering to cease,” in that the offerings of the Law would no longer be of any value. (Daniel 9:27) As the apostle Paul stated later: “The old things passed away, look! new things have come into existence. But all things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation.”—2 Corinthians 5:17, 18.
20. You may be happy about what prospect for mankind?
20 In due course, the benefits of Jesus’ ransom sacrifice would extend far beyond the spiritual Israel of which Paul became a part, for he goes on to say that, by means of Christ, God reconciles “a world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses.” (2 Corinthians 5:19) As a part of the world of mankind, are you not happy that your trespasses due to human imperfection may be forgiven on the basis of the sacrifice of the One who reconciles you to God?
21, 22. (a) How did the 70th week “imprint a seal upon vision and prophet”? (Daniel 9:24) (b) How was “the Holy of Holies” anointed?
21 However, not only would the ‘seventieth week’ “bring in righteousness for times indefinite.” Also, it would “imprint a seal upon vision and prophet.” As Revelation 19:10 states, “the bearing witness to Jesus is what inspires prophesying.” And Jesus, at his first coming as Messiah, literally fulfilled hundreds of prophetic utterances in what he did and what he said. This was like the implanting of an indelible seal on those prophecies, showing them to be true, accurate and having as their source the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. Now, by means of the Messiah, all of God’s promises of blessing for his people would be accomplished. “For no matter how many the promises of God are, they have become Yes by means of him”—the Messiah, Jesus.—Daniel 9:24b; 2 Corinthians 1:20.
22 Also to be accomplished during that ‘seventieth week’ was the anointing of “the Holy of Holies.” No longer could the “holy place made with hands,” in Jerusalem’s temple, serve God’s purpose in connection with the forgiveness of sins. It had been only a copy of the reality in the great spiritual temple arrangement that came into existence with Messiah’s anointing in 29 C.E. There, following his death and resurrection, Christ entered heaven to present “once for all time” the value of his human sacrifice before God’s Person. (Hebrews 9:23-26) God’s heavenly abode had thus taken on a new aspect. It had been anointed as “the Holy of Holies,” becoming the spiritual reality typified by the Most Holy of the temple at Jerusalem. So, starting from the day of Pentecost, 33 C.E., and through to the end of the ‘seventieth week,’ those Jews who accepted God’s provision had a unique privilege. On the basis of Christ’s sacrifice presented in that “Holy of Holies,” they, too, were anointed to serve as underpriests at God’s spiritual temple.
23. (a) How were the Jews especially favored during the 70th week? (b) How were others favored after the “seventy weeks” ended?
23 With regard to such Jews who would be brought into spiritual Israel, the prophecy says: “He must keep the covenant in force for the many for one week.” This is the ‘week of years’ of 29-36 C.E., during which natural Jews were especially favored in being adopted as part of the spiritual ‘seed of Abraham.’ (Daniel 9:27a) But then, with Peter’s preaching to the uncircumcised Gentile Cornelius, the way opened up for uncircumcised people of the nations also to be brought into the Abrahamic covenant. Concerning this, Paul writes: “You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.”—Galatians 3:26-29; Acts 10:30-35, 44-48.
24. (a) What wonderful assurance does the Abrahamic promise carry for still others? (b) As indicated by Luke 9:23, how may you share?
24 However, what of the rest of mankind—the billions who have not been gathered to become part of the “little flock” with an inheritance in the heavens? Ah, the Abrahamic promise carries a wonderful assurance for these, too, in that God states therein: “By means of [Abraham’s] seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.” (Genesis 22:18) Is it your desire to share in that blessing? You may, and to this end you should pray for ‘God’s kingdom to come.’ Also, as you keep on investigating God’s Word, you will learn how you may “disown” yourself in dedication to God and follow Messiah the Leader “continually.”—Luke 9:23.
For example, the fourth century B.C.E. historian Hecataeus of Abdera is quoted by Josephus in Against Apion, Book I:22, as writing: “The Jews have many fortresses and villages in different parts of the country, but only one fortified city, which has a circumference of fifty stades [about 33,000 feet] and some hundred and twenty thousand inhabitants; they call it Jerusalem.”
[Chart on page 67]
PROPHECIES FULFILLED WITH REGARD TO “MESSIAH THE LEADER” TOWARD END OF “SEVENTY WEEKS”
PROPHECY SUBSTANCE THEREOF FULFILLMENT
See pages 61, 62 herein.