Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him. – Daniel 9:25-27
Well this passage is a bit of “funny water” to be sure. Between the murky metaphors and perplexing prophecies I am really confused. Since the passage starts out with “Know and understand this” I guess it is worth spending a little time attempting to unpack this passage. The passage is confusing to me for two reason. First the time periods described are foreign to me. Perhaps they meant more to the people this book was written for, but they are confusing to me. The second thing that is confusing to me is the description of the Anointed One and the “ruler” near the end of the passage. Certainly the “Anointed One” could be the Messiah, but who the ruler represents is not clear.
The passage clearly talks about restoring and rebuilding Jerusalem, the City of David. One could get into a mire of mud trying to figure out exactly which sacking and rebuilding of Jerusalem this is referring to. I am not sure it is critical to what I think may be the main point of this passage – that the earthly temple and all the tangible trappings the Israelites have grown to rely upon to feel close to God are going away. They are to be replaced by the “Anointed One” who “will be put to death and will have nothing”.
It is my understanding that the “Annointed One” has always been interpreted by the Jewish people to be the coming Messiah who many Jews believe has yet to arrive, and who Christ followers believe already arrived in the form of Jesus. One detail provided here that I have never noticed is that the “Anointed One” will “have nothing” – more on this in a moment.
We finally arrive at the water reference where the passage says “The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end”. This language is reminiscent of flood language used in Isaiah to describe the coming of a redeemer. In other references a “flood” has been used to refer to the generic calamities that befell Job.
Who is meant by “the ruler” near the end of the passage gets a little confusing. My understanding is that “the ruler” has been understood to mean one of the many historical kings that have sacked Jerusalem or a future anti-christ figure yet to come. In a time-transcendent sense this passage may have multi-layered meaning, or in the words of Forrest Gump “I think… maybe… it’s both happening at the same time.”
What seems clear to me is that the “Anointed One” (I believe this is referring to Jesus) was put to death and “has nothing” from an earthly perspective. From the world’s perspective He “lost”, even though from an eternal perspective in end God wins. The coming Messiah and His death is to be followed by a very long period of messy earthly conflict and “covenant” between an earthly ruler and people which will end with the temple occupied by the “abomination that causes desolation”. I am not sure what this means and whether it is once again a verse that could have multiple layers of meaning that transcend time. Either way it does not sound good.
So what is the take home message from this passage? It reminds me that as a Christ follower I should not expect any earthly reward for following Christ as Christ himself “got nothing” from an earthly perspective. It is also a caution to beware of enticing earthly rulers that are more “rewarding” to follow, but will ultimately lead to disappointment and destruction.
Prayer: God help me to be content with following your Son and the grace that he provides.