Chapter nine contains one of the key prophecies of the entire book, affecting our understanding of many New Testament prophecies. Daniel saw this vision during “the first year of Darius,” the one mentioned in Daniel 5:31, so this probably took place around the time of chapter six. Daniel was meditating on Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding the end of Israel’s captivity and noted that the 70 years should be nearing their completion (Daniel 9:1-2; Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10-14). Because part of the condition of Israel’s return was their repentance toward God, Daniel began to pray for national repentance and placed himself as national “confessor” of sin (Daniel 9:3-19). His prayer was specific and honest. It exalted God and humbled Daniel and his people. It praised God’s sovereignty and acknowledged Israel’s continued fallibility. One key part of the prayer was Daniel’s request that God “show favor to [his] devastated sanctuary,” the Temple in Jerusalem (Daniel 9:17).
While Daniel prayed, Gabriel appeared to him with the answer to his prayer (Daniel 9:20-23). Daniel recognized him as the same one who he saw in chapter eight. In the remaining four verses (Daniel 9:24-27), Gabriel revealed to Daniel Israel’s future. This is clear from the description in verse 24 – “your people and your holy city,” e.g., Israel and Jerusalem.
The key to understanding this prophecy is the interpretation of the “seventy weeks” (Daniel 9:24). The Hebrew phrase is actually “seventy sevens,” so there are four basic options – 70 days, weeks, months, or years. Gabriel explained that 69 of these “sevens” will last “from the issuing of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince arrives” (Daniel 9:25). The only command to rebuild Jerusalem (not just the Temple) was issued by Artaxerxes to Nehemiah in 444 B.C. (Nehemiah 2:1-8). The “prince” that was to arrive was called “an anointed one” in verses 25 and 26, the translation of the Hebrew word mashiach or Messiah. In his book, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, Harold Hoehner has exhaustively proven that Jesus was crucified (“cut off”) 483 years to the day from the command to rebuild Jerusalem. Thus, the only literal interpretation is to read these 69 “weeks” as “sets of seven years” (69 x 7 = 483).
Gabriel said there will be another “coming prince,” whose people “will destroy” Jerusalem and the Temple (Daniel 9:26). This took place in A.D. 70 at the hands of the Romans under the leadership of Titus. Since Gabriel said “the people of the coming prince” would do this, rather than the prince himself, everything that follows in verse 27 cannot refer to the A.D. 70 events. The final “seven” – the 70th week or final 7 years – will begin with a covenant the coming prince will make with Israel, apparently including allowing the Temple sacrifices to resume again. However, “in the middle of that week,” he will break that covenant “on the wing of abominations.” Because Jesus referred to this as still future (Matthew 24:15), it cannot refer to Antiochus Epiphanes. However, this does match Daniel’s vision of the little horn in Daniel 7:23-27, who will run rampant over Israel and Jerusalem for a “time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:25), later interpreted by John as three-and-a-half years (Revelation 11:2-3; 12:6, 14). Thus, Daniel 9:27 must refer to the Tribulation and Antichrist.