Summary: The answer to Daniel's prayer provides a timeline for Biblical prophecy concerning Israel.
There is no doubt that the Book of Daniel is an essential pre-requisite to our study of the Book of Revelation. We’ve already looked at several key passages in Daniel, particularly the vision of King Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2 and the corresponding visions of Daniel in chapters 7 and 8. This morning, as we come to Daniel chapter 9, we’ll be focusing on what is undoubtedly the most important of all Old Testament prophecies when it comes to establishing God’s time frame for carrying out His plan for His people and initiating His eternal kingdom. So turn in your Bibles to Daniel 9.
Although we’re primarily going to focus on the vision that is given to Daniel as recorded in verses 24-27, we must, as always, put that passage in its proper context.
Let’s begin by reading the first two verses in the chapter:
1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans - 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
By this time, Daniel has been in Babylon for nearly 70 years, so he is probably in his mid to late 80’s. He has lived long enough to see the fulfillment of a portion of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 and his vision in chapter 7 as control of Babylon has now passed to the Medes and Persians, under the leadership of Darius.
Daniel, who as we’ve seen frequently is devoted to God’s Word, is reading the words of Jeremiah the prophet that indicate that the Babylonian captivity is about to end. In particular there are two passages in Jeremiah that would have been relevant:
This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.
Jeremiah 25:11, 12 (ESV)
“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.
Jeremiah 29:10 (ESV)
This period of seventy years of exile has great significance in helping Daniel and us to understand the vision that he will be given at the end of the chapter. In the book of 2 Chronicles, we are given some further insight into the significance of this period having a length of 70 years:
He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
2 Chronicles 36:20-21 (ESV)
In order for us to catch significance of this passage, we must understand the Jewish calendar system, which was based on cycles of seven, as established by God:
• Every seventh day was to be a day of rest – a Sabbath (Leviticus 23:3)
• Every seventh year was to be a year of rest for the land – a Sabbatical year (Leviticus 25:4)
• Every seven Sabbatical years was to be followed by a year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-12)
But the problem is that people hadn’t always trusted God and observed the Sabbatical years and the years of Jubilee. And God had proclaimed to His people what the penalty would be if they failed to observe these years that he had prescribed for them:
Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbaths as long as it lies desolate, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbaths As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it.
Leviticus 26:34, 35 (ESV)
When we put this together with the passage from 2 Chronicles, we find that while the Hebrews had lived in the land God had given them they had apparently violated the Sabbatical year provisions seventy different times and so in return, God caused them to be in exile for seventy years while the land rested to make up for their failure to honor God’s commands. So those seventy years in captivity actually represented 490 years (seventy periods of seven years) during the time God’s people had been in the Promised Land in which they violated God’s commands concerning the Sabbatical years.