Daniel 9:25 and the “Anointed, a Prince”
Damien F. Mackey
A consideration of whom may be meant by the “anointed” one, the “prince”, of Daniel 9:25.
Whether or not Daniel 9:24-27 overall leads ultimately to Jesus Christ, I think that there is good reason to think that the “anointed … prince” mentioned to in 9:25 is actually a reference to Cyrus.
That would probably not be the opinion, however, of most Christians.
Just to grab a few examples (Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary): “We have, in verses 24-27, one of the most remarkable prophecies of Christ, of his coming and his salvation. It shows that the Jews are guilty of most obstinate unbelief, in expecting another Messiah, so long after the time expressly fixed for his coming”.
Messiah the Prince.—Literally, an Anointed one, a prince, the two nouns being placed in apposition, and the article omitted before each, the person and the office of the person contemplated being sufficiently definite. He is to be “anointed,” that is, King and Priest at once (see 1Samuel 10:1; 1Samuel 13:14; 1Samuel 25:30); in fact, He is to possess those attributes which in other passages are ascribed to the Messiah. It is needless to point out that Cyrus, though spoken of (Isaiah 45:1) as an “anointed of Jehovah,” cannot be indicated here. By no calculation can he be said to have come either seven weeks or, sixty-nine weeks from the time of the commencement of the Captivity.
[End of quote]
And P. Mauro (The Wonders of Bible Chronology, pp. 93-94):
III. “Unto the Messiah”
The words “unto the Messiah the Prince” define the goal toward which the long chronological line of the Bible had been steadily extending itself.
The words “unto the Messiah” tell us with all requisite clearness and certainty to just what point in the life-time of Jesus Christ the measure of 69 sevens (483 years) reaches. The word Messiah (equivalent to Greek Christos) means “the Anointed”. We ask, therefore, where, in the earth-life of Our Lord, was He anointed and presented to Israel? The answer is clearly given in the Gospel and Acts. It was at His baptism in Jordan; for then it was that the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily shape as a dove; and then it was that John the Baptist bore witness to Him as the Son of God, and the Lamb of God. As the apostle Peter declared: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power” (Acts 10:38); and form that time He gave himself to His public Messianic ministry as a “minister of the circumcision”.
[End of quote]
According to a Jewish site, however (article, “Daniel 9 – A True Biblical Interpretation”): https://jewsforjudaism.org/knowledge/articles/answers/jewish-polemics/texts/daniel-9-a-true-biblical-interpretation/ “Jews have very valid reasons for rejecting the Christian interpretation …”.
I give the relevant parts of this article that I think makes some helpful points - with some critical comments added:
The book of Daniel is filled with Messianic illusions and calculations that even left Daniel pondering their meanings. Additionally, a large proportion of the book is written in Aramaic rather than the traditional Hebrew adding to the complexity of these biblical texts.
The ninth chapter has been of particular interest to both Jews and Christians.
The message of a merciful God communicated in verse 18, “for not because of our righteousness do we pour out supplications before You, but because of Your great compassion.” has been a foundation of a Jews personal and spiritual relationship with God.
Christians, on the other hand, tend to focus on verses 24 -26. The following is the Christian translation of those verses:
24) Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and upon your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, 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.
25)”Know therefore and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again with plaza and moat but in troubled times.
26) Then after sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off but not for himself and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.”
Many Christians assert that these passages are a prophecy that predicts the exact dates that the Messiah will come and also die. They believe that Jesus fulfilled these predictions.
Before examining these verses it is important to point out that: 1) Based on the Hebrew original and context, Jews have very valid reasons for rejecting the Christian interpretation and 2) the New Testament authors never quote these passages and calculations as a proof-text.
To understand this chapter, we must begin with an explanation of the term “weeks.”
Daniel chapter 9 uses the Hebrew word (שבעים ~ Shavuim) to represents a period of time multiplied by seven. For various reasons this word is translated as “weeks” and means a multiple of seven years rather than a multiple of seven days.
a) We see a similar use in the verse, “You shall count~ שבע שבתת השנים) seven Shabbaths of years), seven years seven times… forty-nine years.” Leviticus 25:8
b) A Shabbath is a period of seven days and shares the same Hebrew root for the word (שבועה~Shavuah) that means “week”.
c) Normally the plural of week would be (שבעות ~ Shavuot) in Daniel it uses the masculine “ים” ending for (שבעים~ Shavuim) similar to (years ~ שנים) This indicates that (שבעים~ Shavuim) is referring to a multiple of seven years
d) Both Jews and Christian agree that this is referring to a multiple of years.
Therefore in Daniel chapter 9, each week is a period of seven years.
Christian polemicists interpret these passages in the following way. These passages are being spoken by Daniel after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the evil Babylonian empire. At some point after the destruction, there will be a “decree” issued to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Starting from the issuing of that decree, 7 and 62 weeks totaling 69 weeks of years (483 years), will pass and then the Messiah will come and in that same seven year period “week” he will be cut off, but not for himself, but for the sins of mankind. Then the city and sanctuary will be destroyed. Christian assert that their calculation proves that Jesus fulfilled this prophecy to the exact day.
After the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, any Jews that survived the Babylonian slaughter were exiled from their land. Daniel, for example, lived in Babylon. Eventually, the Babylonians were conquered by the Persian Empire.
Comment: The article now follows on with the conventional view of Medo-Persian history with its multiple kings, which I do not accept, for, as I wrote in:
Prophet Jeremiah's "Seventy Years" of Babylonian Rule. Part Two: Zechariah and the “Seventy Years”
The conventional Medo-Persian succession will need to be - just as was found to be necessary in the case of the Neo-Babylonians - seriously truncated.
The article continues with a very late date for Persia and Ezra/Nehemiah. One ought to read Jewish historian Herb Stork’s scholarly critique of such dates (History and Prophecy: A Study in the Post-Exilic Period, House of Nabu, 1989):
Christians claim that the decree mentioned in Daniel 9:25 was issued by the Persian King Artaxerxes in the year 444 BCE, based on Nehemiah 2:1-8. These passages speak about the king giving Nehemiah “letters” (אגרות ~ Iggrot) for safe passage and permission to rebuild the Temple.
The building of Jerusalem was started and halted several times, and there are three additional decrees mentioned earlier in the Bible.
1) In Ezra 1:1-4, King Cyrus issues a proclamation (קול ~ Kol) and writings (מכתב ~ Michtav) granting the Jews permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple.
2) Ezra 6:12-13, King Darius issues a decree (טעם ~Taam) granting permission to rebuilt the Temple.
3) Ezra 7:11-16, Artaxerxex, issues a decree (טעם ~Taam) granting permission to rebuilt the Temple. (Artaxerxex is a Persian title of royalty and can refer to different leaders. This is similar to the way Pharaoh is the title of rulers of Egypt)
We will see latter that it is significant that in these verses there are four different words used to describe these proclamations, and none of them match the Hebrew word used in Daniel 9 which is (דבר ~ Devar) that means “word.”
With four different proclamations, there is no historical justification to choose the one mentioned in Nehemiah 2 and there is no reliable source stating that it occurred exactly in 444 BCE. It seems that Christian picked this passage out of convenience and assigned it this specific date, because if you start at 444 BCE and count 69 weeks of years (483 years) you reach 39 CE. Whatever their reason for choosing Nehemiah’s reference and attributing it as having occurred in 444 BCE it is still seven years off from the year 32 CE when Jesus supposedly died.
This seven-year discrepancy is resolved by Christian theologians who redefined the definition of a “year.” They claim that prophecies like Daniel’s are to be understood in “Prophetic years” that have 360 days rather than 365 ¼ days. The argument that Daniel might be speaking to Babylonians who may have had a 360 year is unsubstantiated and refuted by the fact that this particular passage is spoken in Hebrew to Jews who had a different calendar then and Babylonians who spoke Aramaic.
One Christian attempt to prove this concept of Prophetic years is from the New Testament:
“They will tread underfoot the holy city for 42 months, and they will prophesy for 1260 days.” Revelations 11:2-3
By dividing 1260 (days) by 42 (months) you get 30 days per month, they claim that each month is 30 days and a Prophetic Biblical year would therefore be being 360 days (30×12=360).
TRANSLATING DANIEL CORRECTLY
It is essential to a correct understanding of Daniel 9, to point out that it is incorrect to read this passage as if it were speaking about the Messiah.
This may appear obvious to Christians since their translations has the word “Messiah” mentioned twice in this chapter; however this is the result of a blatant and intentional mistranslation of the Hebrew word (משיח ~ Moshiach”).
This word literally means “anointed” and is an adjective as in the 1 Samuel 10:1-2 where the word clearly means an act of consecration. It is not a personal pronoun that refers to a particular individual called “The Messiah.” The word (משיח ~ Moshiach”) is used throughout Jewish Scriptures no less than 100 times and refers to a variety of individuals and objects. For example:
Priests: Leviticus 4:3
Kings: 1 Kings 1:39
Prophets: Isaiah 61:1
Temple Alter: Exodus 40:9-11
Matzot ~ Unleavened Bread: Numbers 6:15
Cyrus ~ a non-Jewish Persian King: Isaiah 45:1
Even in Christian translations the word Moshiach is translated 99% of the time as “anointed.” The only exception is twice in Daniel 9 verses 25 and 26. This inconsistency is even more blatant since Christian translators translate the word (משיח ~ Moshiach) as “anointed” one verse earlier when it is used in Daniel 9:24. In this instance, it is referring to anointing the innermost chamber of the Holy Temple known as the “Holy of Holies,” (קדשים קדש ~ Kodesh Kedoshim). It is incorrect to translate this, as some missionaries do, to mean the “most holy one” in an attempt to have this refer to the Messiah rather than a place.
Therefore, in Daniel, the passages should be correctly translated as:
Daniel 9:24 “Until an anointed prince” and not as “Until Messiah he prince.”
Daniel 9:25. “an anointed one will be cut off” and not as “the Messiah will be cut off.”
Additionally, in verse 25 there is no definite article (Hey ~ ה) before the word (משיח ~ Moshiach), and it is incorrect to translate this as “the Messiah” or “the anointed one” as if it were speaking about one exclusive individual. When translating correctly as an “anointed individual,7” the passages could be referring any one of a number of different individuals or objects that were anointed and not necessarily “the Messiah.”
A careful examination of Daniel 9 will lead to a clear understand of exactly to whom and what this chapter is referring.
An additional mistake made by Christians is the translation of 7 and 62 weeks as one undivided unity of 69 weeks. The Christian version makes it sound as if the arrival and “cutting off” of the “Messiah” will take place sixty-nine weeks (483 years) after a decree to restore Jerusalem. They add the 7 and 62 weeks together and have one person (the Messiah) and two events occurring towards the end of the 69th week.
Actually, according to the Hebrew the 7 and 62 weeks are two separate and distinct periods. One event happens after seven weeks and another event after an additional 62 weeks.
Simply put, if you wanted to say 69 in Hebrew you would say “sixty and nine.” You would not say “seven and sixty two.”
Furthermore, in Daniel it is written “7 weeks and 62 weeks rather than “7 and 62 weeks.” The use of the word “weeks” after each number also shows that they are separate events. The use of the definite article (ה ~ Hey) that means “the” in verse 26, “and after the 62 weeks shall an anointed one be cut off,” is sometimes deleted in Christian translations, but it’s presence in the Hebrew original clearly indicates that the 62 weeks is to be treated as separate period of time from the original 7 weeks.
The correct translation should be:
“until an anointed prince shall be 7 weeks (49 years),” “then for 62 weeks (434 years) it (Jerusalem) will be built again but in troubled times.” Then after (those) the 62 weeks shall an anointed one will be cut off.” Daniel 9:24-25
Two separate events and anointed ones, 62 weeks (434 years) apart.
The article will now proceed to propose a starting-point for the count of the “Seventy Weeks” quite different from the one that I, following P. Mauro, had previously accepted: the first year of Cyrus. And quite different, too, from what I would consider to be the entirely illegitimate one of a supposed Persian decree in c. 444 BC.
What I like about the following proposal is that its starting-point is, not with any decree by a Persian king, but with the prophet Jeremiah, about whose calculations Daniel was then preoccupied (9:2): “I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years”.
The article continues:
Now we can return to the beginning of Daniel 9 and establish the correct starting point for Daniel’s prophesy.
The Christian major error in establishing the starting point of Daniel prophesy is caused by their mistranslation of the verse, “know therefore and discern that from the going forth of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” Daniel 9:25
Since their translation asserts that the starting point of this prophesy is from the issuing of a certain decree to rebuild Jerusalem, they incorrectly assume that it is the decree of King Artaxerxex [Artaxerxes]. However, as mentioned above, there were a number of different decrees made concerning returning and rebuilding Jerusalem.
In Daniel 9:25 the original Hebrew used the word (דבר ~ Devar) which is significantly different from a human decree. The word (דבר ~ Devar) refers to a prophetic word. In the beginning of Daniel 9 verse 2, this word is used when Daniel says that he wants to understand “the word of the Lord to the Prophet Jeremiah.”
As mentioned above, in all of the passages that mention some form of decree or proclamation concerning Jerusalem, none of them use the Hebrew word (דבר ~ Devar).
The correct translation of Daniel should be:
“Know therefore and discern that from the going forth of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” Daniel 9:25
Therefore the correct starting point of Daniel’s prophesy must be associated with the issuing of a prophetic word and not a human decree.
The word (דבר ~ Devar) is used in the beginning of Daniel chapter 9. A careful reading of the beginning of this chapter clarifies the correct meaning of the reference to the “word to restore and to build Jerusalem” mentioned in Daniel 9:25.
Chapter 9 begins as follow:
“I Daniel considered (or contemplated) in the books the number of the years which the word (דבר ~ Devar) of G-d came to Jeremiah the Prophet that would accomplish to the destruction of Jerusalem” Daniel 9:2
Here Daniel uses the word (דבר ~ Devar) when pondering the numbers of years that Jeremiah had spoken about. Jeremiah had twice prophesied concerning a 70 year period.
Once Jeremiah said:
“and these nation shall serve the King of Babylon 70 years and it shall come to pass when seventy years are accomplished that I will punish the King of Babylon and that nation … and make it everlasting desolation” Jeremiah 25: 11-12
This prophesy states that Babylon would dominate Israel for a total of 70 years.
Comment: I have estimated the beginning and the ending of this 70 years in my article:
Prophet Jeremiah's "Seventy Years" of Babylonian Rule
My view of it differs from the following estimate based upon a conventional reckoning of the Neo-Babylonian succession, that must date the beginning of the 70 years somewhat later – though we would agree about the ending of the 70 years in the first year of Cyrus:
Jeremiah also says:
“After 70 years are accomplished to Babylon I will take heed of you and perform My good word towards you in causing you to return to this place.” Jeremiah 29:l0
This prophesy states, that after the 70 years, in addition to the end of Babylonian domination, the Jews would also return to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile.
There are two Jeremiah prophesies concerning: 1) subjugation, and 2) return to Jerusalem.
Jeremiah’s 70 years start from the initial subjugation of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. This took place 18 years before the destruction of Jerusalem ….
Scriptures also indicate that the 70 years of Jeremiah were completed with the advent of Cyrus the King of the Persian Empire. As it says:
“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled.” Ezra 1:1-3
“Those who survived the sword he exiled to Babylon, where they became slaves to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia began to reign. This was the fulfillment of the word of God to Jeremiah, until the land would be appeased of its Sabbatical years, all the years of its desolation it rested, to the completion of 70 years. In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, upon the expiration of God’s prophesy spoken by Jeremiah. God aroused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia and he issues a proclamation… to build God a Temple in Jerusalem.” 2 Chronicles 36:20-23
In addition to the Babylonian rule ended in fulfillment of Jeremiah 25:11-12, Cyrus also gave permission, in fulfillment of Jeremiah 29:l0, to the Jews to return to Jerusalem, as it says;
“Whoever is among you all his people, let his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord G-d of Israel.” Ezra 1:4
Comment: According to what will follow, “52 years” would elapse from the Fall of Jerusalem, caused by king Nebuchednezzar II, to the first year of Cyrus. I have estimated, instead, approximately “47 years”, but from the 1st year of Nebuchednezzar II to Cyrus (“Jeremiah” article referred to above):
The count of the “seventy years” begins with the call of Jeremiah in the 13th year of King Josiah of Judah, which date must coincide very nearly with the beginning of the rule of Nabopolassar, the beginnings of Babylon. By the time that Jeremiah specifically refers to the “seventy years”, in a text that is heavily cross-dated:
The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. So Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people of Judah and to all those living in Jerusalem: For twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day—the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.
“twenty-three” of those “seventy years” have already elapsed, leaving approximately 47 years.
These latter are filled up by the 40+ years of Nebuchednezzar and the 3-4 years of his son, Belshazzar.
[End of quote]
The article continues, distinguishing between Darius the Mede and Cyrus, and Darius the Persian.
Even this may not turn out to be correct:
It is important to remember that from the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, 18 years before the fall of Jerusalem, until the fall of the Babylonian Empire, when Cyrus came into power, 70 years had elapsed. By subtracting the 18 years subjugation before the destruction of the first Temple from the total of 70 years we are left with 52 years. This proves that King Cyrus arose to power and fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophesy 52 years after the destruction of Jerusalem.
This plays an essential role in understanding Daniel 9. Daniel yearned not only for the Babylonian Empire to cease 70 years after the subjugation of Jerusalem; he yearned to see the return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple.
When Daniel begins speaking in chapter 9 it is in the first year of Darius the Median.
This Darius is mentioned earlier in Daniel 6:1 and called the Mede so that he would not be confused with Darius son of Achasverous the Persian, who was born later during the days of Haman and Esther.
Daniel was confused because although he now witnessed that, with the advent of Darius the 70 years to the Babylonian subjugation were over in fulfillment of Jeremiah 25:11-12, Daniel had not yet seen the fulfillment of Jeremiah 29:10 that promised that after the 70 years the Jewish exiles would return and rebuild Jerusalem. He did not foresee that very shortly Cyrus world rule and fulfill this promise.
Daniel thought that perhaps, due to the sins of Israel the date had been delayed. This is why Daniel confesses for the sins of the people in verse 4-20 and says.
“Now I was still speaking and praying and confessing my sins and the sins of my people Israel and casting my supplications before the Lord My God about the holy mountain (the Sanctuary as seen in Isaiah 56:7) of my God.” Daniel 9:20
This explains why at the beginning of chapter 9 Daniel contemplated the number of years to the destruction of Jerusalem and not to the subjugation, as it says.
“I Daniel contemplated the calculations, the number of years about that which the word of God came to the prophet Jeremiah, to complete the 70 years to the destruction (לחרבות ~ L’Charvot) of Jerusalem.” Daniel 9:2
Daniel saw that the subjugation was over but he [not] only wanted to see the return to Jerusalem he wanted to know when the destruction would end with the building of the second Temple.
In fact, after one year of rule by Darius [sic], King Cyrus took power and fulfilled Jeremiah 29 and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem.
As a result of Daniel’s praying, confessing and contemplating about the years to the destruction of Jerusalem, the angel Gabriel (verse 21), revealed to him and expanded prophesy of 70 weeks (490 years).
[End of quotes]
Whilst the first part of this prophecy, the “seven weeks”, appears to terminate with the advent of Cyrus, an “anointed prince”, the next part of it, the long-ranging “62 weeks”, may indeed point to the time of Jesus Christ.