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though Herod was eight years in completing the buildings which he superintended, the priests, who began at the same time, finished their part in one year and six months. I am still more surprised that such a critic as Dr. Whitby should say, as a reason why Herod must be supposed to have finished his undertaking first, that “ the Jews would not suffer themselves to be deprived of the benefit of their sacrifices for nine years and a half, as they must have done, if the temple of the priests had not been standing, and had not been dedicated till that time;" when it is evident from Ezra iii. 3, that the Jews erected their altar, and sacrificed according to the law, immediately upon their return from the Captivity, in the reign of Cyrus; though the temple was not built till the reign of Darius. Undoubtedly, therefore, there was no interruption of sacrifices on account of this building of the temple by Herod.
SECTION III. Of Daniel's Prophecy of Seventy Weeks. Almost all persons, I believe, who have attempted to ascertain the time of the birth, or of the death of Christ, have thought it necessary to make their hypotheses suit with the famous prophecy of Daniel concerning the seventy weeks, and I shall not be singular in supposing that their determination in favour of this or that time might be more or less biassed by their interpretation of that prophecy.
For my own part, I can truly say, that I always considered that prophecy as very obscure, on account of the uncertainty both of the true reading and of the interpretation ; and more especially after I had read the dissertation * of the celebrated Mr. Michaelis upon it; according to which it can be of no use at all for determining the dates above-mentioned. I had, therefore, fixed upon the dates I have supposed for the birth and death of Christ upon historical considerations only, without the least regard to this prophecy; and in this publication I had no design to make any use of it at all, till I met with Mr. Blayney's Dissertation † upon that subject. This I perused with great satisfaction. For, though I still think there are several passages in the prophecy which will admit of farther illustration, and I cannot approve of his version in all respects, this excellent critic appears to me to have thrown great light upon it. He, therefore, drew my attention more particularly to the subject, after I had not only completely settled my plan of the Harmony, but even composed the whole of the preceding section.
*“ Of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel." Goett. 1772, Lond. 1773. +“ A Dissertation by way of Enquiry into the true Import and Application of the Vision, related Dan. ix. 20, to the end, usually called Daniel's Prophecy of Seventy Weeks; with occasional Remarks on Michaelis's Letters to Sir John Pringle, on the same Subject." By Benjamin Blayney, Regius Professor of Hebrew in the University of Oxford, 1775. Dr. Blayney died in 1801.
In this state of mind, it was certainly natural to endeavour to find such an interpretation of the prophecy as would agree with those dates which historical considerations had induced me to fix upon. As I frankly acknowledge these views, and that I should never have thought of the following interpretation of this famous prophecy, unless I had previously fixed the dates which I suppose to be referred to in it, the reader will make what allowance he thinks proper for this bias.
Mr. Blayney's translation of the whole prophecy is as follows:
“Seventy, seventy years of rest (or desolation) have been upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to check the revolt, and put an end to sins, and to make atonement for iniquity, and to bring again the righteousness of ancient times, and to seal (that is, authenticate) the divine oracle, and the prophet, and to anoint (that is, sanctify anew) the most holy things.
“And thou shalt know and understand, that from the going forth of a decree to rebuild Jerusalem unto the Messiah the prince, shall be seventy and seven weeks, and threescore and two years ; it shall be rebuilt, still enlarging itself, and becoming more and more considerable, even amidst times of distress.
“ And after the times seventy-seven and threescore and two, Messiah shall cut off from belonging to him both the city and the sanctuary; the prince that shall come shall destroy the people; and the cutting off thereof shall be with a flood (that is, a hostile invasion); and unto the end of a war, carried on with a rapidity, shall be desolations.
6 But he shall confirm a covenant (or make a firm covenant) with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and meat-offering to cease; and the abomination of desolation shall be upon the border ; (that is, encompassing and pressing close upon the city and the temple;) and an utter end, even a speedy one, (or, even
until an utter end, and that a speedy one,) shall be poured upon the desolated.”.
This translation I very much approve in general, but I take the liberty to differ from the excellent author in some parts of it, as well as in his interpretation of it.
The capital advantage of Mr. Blayney's interpretation consists in his supposing that the first part of the Angel's address to Daniel referred to the seventy years' captivity, and that they are not any part of the prophecy, as all other interpreters have imagined. But for this purpose he had no occasion to make the word ynni a substantive, and translate it rest, for which he has by no means, as I think, advanced sufficient reasons. It appears to me more natural to translate that word as it is done in our version, and most of the ancient ones, viz. determined, or marked out. But the sense that Mr. Blayney affixes to this clause is sufficiently justified by a regard to the subject of Daniel's prayer and anxiety which preceded this remarkable vision.
Daniel says, (Chap. ix. 2,) that in the year in which he had this vision, which was the first of Darius the Mede, he had understood by books the number of the years whereof the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem; and after a confession of the sins of his people, he intreats, (vers. 16, 17,) that God would turn away his fury from the city Jerusalem, and that he would cause his face to shine upon
the sanctuary which was desolate.
Whilst he was yet speaking the angel accosts him ; and referring, with the greatest propriety, to the subject of his prayer, informs him that the seventy years' desolation of Jerusalem, which had been the subject of his thoughts, must be fulfilled, to punish his people for their sins, to bring them back to the piety of their ancestors, and to verify the prophecy of Jeremiah; and till that period, which was absolutely determined in the decree of God, the sanctuary must continue to lie desolate : but that from that period other more favourable events, the subject of the ensuing prophecy, would take place.
In his interpretation, Mr. Blayney supposes the seventy years of rest, or desolation, to have been past about the time of the vision, viz. 536 B.C. and from that year, which was the same in which the Babylonian empire was overthrown by Cyrus, he dates the seventy-seven weeks, or 539 years to
Dissert. p. 67. (P.) See Vol. XII. pp. 331-334.
the birth of Christ : for thus he interprets the expression, to Messiah the prince. He places this event four years before the Christian æra, and from this he dates the 62 years, to terminate at the commencement of the Jewish war in 66, or the second coming of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem. And in the middle of the last week of this period, or between the years 66 and 73, the daily sacrifice ceased in the temple, a little before the final destruction of it.
To prepare the way for my interpretation, I would beg leave to divide the sentence in the second paragraph of Mr. Blayney's translation in a manner different from his; but I flatter myself that, independent of any particular interpretation, it will be thought more natural, especially as it gives a date to an event mentioned immediately afterwards, which, according to Mr. Blayney, has no date at all. Instead therefore of reading as he does, that “from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem unto the Messiah the prince shall be seventy and seven weeks and threescore and two years," I would connect this latter term of years with the following sentence; reading thus, and in threescore and two years it shall be rebuilt, fc.
As to the insertion of the particle in before a noun of number, I think it requires no apology, as in all languages particles of that import are frequently understood.
Farther, it appears to me that the mere birth of Christ, which produced no change in the face of the world, was not of itself of sufficient consequence to be announced, in this prophecy, in the manner that Mr. Blayney (and, indeed, almost every other interpreter) supposes. I therefore think that the period distinguished in this very particular manner, unto the Messiah the prince, refers to our Lord's entering upon his office of public instructor, the time in which his divine commission and princely power, his appearing in the form of God, and especially his being declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, actually took place.
This was a period respecting the Messiah which was certainly distinguished in the annals of Providence in the most illustrious manner ; being, without all dispute, the most important period from the beginning of the world to the final consummation of all things.
Now from this most remarkable year 29, there were exactly 77 weeks of years, or 539 years, to the year 510 B.C. in which, and not before, by the order of Darius Hystaspes, the decree of Cyrus, empowering the Jews to return to their country and rebuild the temple, was actually executed. This therefore appears to me to be a more important æra in the Jewish history than that of the decree of Cyrus. Under Cyrus there was a mere order, but under Darius the same order renewed, attended with sufficient power to carry it into execution.
Besides, it is to be observed, that the prophecy leaves us at liberty to fix upon any decree that was made for this purpose, and therefore Mr. Blayney, with great propriety, renders it, and from a decree.
That the term of the 70 years' captivity was expired at the time of the vision, as Mr. Blayney's translation implies, cannot be strictly true; for the Jews were then at Babylon, and there was not even a decree in their favour till the reign of Cyrus, which succeeded that of Darius the Mede, in the very first year of which was this vision. There is, therefore, on this account, a peculiar propriety in the old translation of the word ons are determined or decreed, and therefore must have their accomplishment.
I also see no necessity to suppose that the words restore and rebuild, should be understood literally of the rebuilding the walls of the town, but figuratively, as they are frequently applied, meaning the restoration of the civil polity of the Jewish nation. Besides, the words may be applied to the actual building of the temple at Jerusalem, which was accomplished under Darius Hystaspes only; and this was an event of much more importance than the walls of the city ; and from this building of the temple, the passover, which was the most important of all the Jewish feasts, and the rule for all the rest, began to be celebrated, after the interruption occasioned by the Babylonish Captivity.
It may also be said, that, in computing the proper time of the return of the Jews from the Babylonish Captivity, some account ought to be taken of the second return under Ezra, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes, that is, in 458, or rather 448 B.C. ; and if so, the mean date of the return will fall somewhere between the return under Cyrus and that under Artaxerxes, and therefore may conveniently enough be fixed for the reign of Darius.
It is worthy of particular consideration, that, according to the tenor of this famous prophecy, the commencement of the period of seventy-seven weeks coincides with the expiration of the lesser period of seventy years of desolation; and if these commence, as any person would naturally imagine, at the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, when
See Ezra vi. 9. (P.)