Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, March 29, 2020
Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,
Daniel’s Remarkable Prophecy of the Seventy Shavuot
“Hoshia-na! Baruch ha-ba b’shem Adonai!”
by Dr. and Senator Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: Many Believers observe the Sunday before Resurrection Sunday (a.k.a. Easter) as Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday falls this year (2020) on April 5. Since my Sunday RR schedule does not coincide with the calendar’s Sundays (too many RRs, too few Sundays), I (Raymond Finney) must write this RR one week early.
SCRIPTURAL BASIS FOR PALM SUNDAY: Some denominations choose to name and observe as a special day an important event in Yeshua’s ministry. The B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) records Yeshua’s triumphant entrance into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-39; and John12:12-18). I quote Matthew 21:1-9: Now as they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Yeshua sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village before you. Right away, you’ll find a donkey tied up and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to Me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Master (Adonai) needs them.’ And right away he will send them.” This happened to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘See, your King is coming to you, humble and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The disciples went and did as Yeshua had directed them. They brought the donkey and colt and put their clothing on them, and He sat on the clothing. Most of the crowd spread their clothing on the road, and others began cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. The crowds going before Him and those following kept shouting, saying, “Hoshia-na to Ben-David! Baruch ha-ba b’shem Adonai! Blessed (Welcome) is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hoshia-na in the highest!” [Hebrew Hoshia-na = English Hosanna = “Deliver us” or “Save us”] [By humbly entering Jerusalem while riding on a donkey, Yeshua fulfilled the words of “the prophet.” The prophecy, here, is Zechariah 9:9.]
DANIEL’S PROPHECY: The Book of Daniel is the greatest depository of prophecy in the Tanakh. The Babylonians (King Nebuchadnezzar) destroyed the First Jewish Temple (Solomon’s Temple) and Jerusalem during 605 – 586 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar forced useful, able-bodied Jerusalem residents to become Babylonian slaves. Among those captured and enslaved was a teenager, Daniel, who was given a Chaldean name, Belteshazzar. Of uncommon intelligence and character, Daniel served both Babylonian and, later, Medo-Persian kings. Daniel found great favor with God. Remarkable prophecies were divulged to him, and he was commanded to write them for us to read. In this RR, we study one of these prophecies, a prophecy so precise that it could have come only from God.
Gabriel visited Daniel to give him a vision of the future (Daniel 9:22-27): “He [Gabriel] instructed me [Daniel] and said to me: ‘Daniel, I have come now to give you insight and understanding At the beginning of your requests, a message went out, and I have come to declare it to you, for you are greatly esteemed. Therefore consider the message and understand the vision: “Seventy weeks [shavuot] are decreed concerning your people and your holy city [Jerusalem], to put an end to transgression to bring sin to an end, to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Holy of Holies. So know and understand: From the issuing of the decree to restore and to build Jerusalem until the time Mashiach, the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and 62 weeks. It will be rebuilt, with plaza and moat, but it will be in times of distress. Then after the 62 weeks Mashiach will be cut off and have nothing. Then the people of a prince who is to come [Antichrist] will destroy the city and the sanctuary. But his end will come like a flood [Battle of Armageddon]. Until the end of the war that is decreed [Battle of Gog and Magog?] there will be destruction. Then he will make a firm covenant with many for one week [shabua], but in the middle of the week he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of abominations will come one who destroys, until the decreed annihilation is poured out on the one who destroys.’”
WHAT DID GABRIEL TELL DANIEL? Superficial reading of this passage tells us little, but deeper study reveals details that are truly amazing. Consider:
** Daniel knew from the prophet Jeremiah that the Jews would be punished seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11-14): “So this whole land will be a desolate ruin, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for 70 years. Then it will come to pass, when 70 years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,” declares Adonai, “the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, and I will make it ruins forever. I will bring on that land all My words which I pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book which Jeremiah has prophesied against all the nations. For many nations and great kings will make slaves of them also. So I will repay them according to their deeds and according to the work of their own hands.”
SIDELIGHT: The Babylonians never became a great nation again. The Jewish nation was slow to recover from the Babylonian Exile. Perhaps, Jerusalem will not be fully restored until New Jerusalem (Heaven) descends to earth (Revelation, chapters 21 and 22). The Jewish people have suffered greatly for many centuries– Babylonian Exile, Diaspora, Holocaust, and other persecutions. Before Israel was restored and the Diaspora began easing in 1948, a famous American author, Mark Twain, toured Israel (called Palestine, then) in 1867. He wrote a book, “Innocents Abroad,” about the horrible, desolate condition of the land. Israel had been occupied by the Ottoman Empire and completely neglected. God had shown Jeremiah the beginning of the ruin that would befall Israel. Descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were given a second chance in 1948, and they have succeeded more that anyone’s wildest hopes! END sidelight.
Jews, once redeemed from Egyptian bondage, had crossed into the Promised Land (then, Canaan) after their wilderness wandering. They then lived in their nation for approximately 800 years, but they had ignored seventy sabbath years of rest for the land. (The requirement of God to have a sabbath year is every seventh year. Jews had disobeyed God for seventy sabbath years = 490 years; that is, 70 x 7 = 490 years.) They had ignored God’s commandment (Leviticus 25:2-4) to farm their fields, vineyards, and orchards for six years, but let the land rest (lie fallow) on the seventh year (the sabbath year). Farmers learned it was more profitable to harvest crops seven out of seven years, than harvest crops only six out of seven years. Acting on greed, they disobeyed God for seventy consecutive sabbath years of rest for the land.
Adonai had forewarned them of the consequence of such disobedience (Leviticus 26:27, 30-35): “Yet if in spite of this you will not listen to Me [Adonai] but walk contrary to Me: |…| I will destroy your high places and cut down your altars of incense, cast your dead bodies upon the bodies of your idols, and My soul will abhor you. I will lay waste your cities and devastate your sanctuaries. I will not smell your soothing aromas. I will make the land desolate and your enemies settling there will be astonished at it. I will scatter you among the nations and I will draw out the sword after you. So your land will become a desolation and your cities will become a waste. Then the land will enjoy its Shabbatot all the days of its desolation, while you are in the land of your enemies. Then the land will rest and enjoy its Shabbatot. As long as it lies desolate it will have rest, that rest which it did not have from your Shabbatot, when you lived on it.”
Daniel knew the Jews would be punished for seventy years, and this period of punishment (the Babylonian exile) was drawing to a close. He asked God what would now become of his people, the Jews. The archangel Gabriel was dispatched to answer Daniel’s concerns about his people’s future. As far as sins go, I would think the Jews probably committed greater sins than this breach of good farming practices. To God, however, this was a sin that required extreme punishment.
We sometimes score the severity of sins we commit. (Example: “It’s only a little lie.”) God must grade sin on a different scale than we do. In this Leviticus passage, Adonai warned the Jews, “I will scatter you among the nations.” From this exile, Jews were never fully united as a nation. Some Jews remained in Babylon, giving up any hope of living in the Promised Land. The Jews who returned to the land were carried into captivity by the Romans in A.D. 70. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Jews were further scattered throughout the world (the Diaspora). Only recently did the number of Jews living in Israel surpass the number living in the United States.
** Translators have had difficulty translating this prophecy. In various Bible versions you may see seventy “weeks” or “sevens.” The difficulty stems from the Jewish custom, based on Scriptural examples, of grouping things in sevens. A group of seven years is, in Hebrew, a shabua (singular noun). Two or more such groups form a shavuot (plural noun). Avoid “weeks” and other stumbling translation failures in studying this prophecy. Even the Tree of Life Version (TLV), commonly used in this congregation, uses weeks instead of shavuot. Oy vey!
** As we study this prophecy, understand that “year” meant a different time frame in Jewish prophetic writings than it does to us. To ancient Jews, a prophetic year was 360 days, whereas we use a solar year of approximately 365.25 days.
** Gabriel told Daniel that the starting point for the prophecy was issuance of “the decree to restore and to build Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:25). We know from Nehemiah, chapter 2, when this decree was issued. Nehemiah was the cup bearer for King Artaxerxes. Being a cup bearer– carrying the king’s cup around the palace all day– may not sound like much of a job, but the cup bearer was one of the most trusted servants of the king. Kings were frequently assassinated by poisoning, and the poison commonly was slipped into the king’s wine. A most trusted servant was assigned the task of guarding the king’s cup from an assassin. The king trusted his life to this servant, and the two would have formed a strong friendship bond.
Nehemiah learned of the hard times the Jews experienced in the ruins of Jerusalem. King Artaxerxes asked Nehemiah why he appeared so depressed. Nehemiah told about the Jews’ dire conditions, and how he wished to help. Artaxerxes told Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem and help the Jews in need. The king issued letters of safe travel for Nehemiah and a grant for building materials.
Importantly for our study, Nehemiah recorded the date of the king’s decree (Nehemiah 1:1). I am too unfamiliar with ancient Hebraic calendars to unravel months (Kislev, Nisan, etc.), but this description is enough for most historians to translate Nehemiah’s recorded date to our calendar date of March 14, 445 B.C.
** There would be four periods of post-exile life foretold by Gabriel:
… First, there would be 7 shavuot (49 prophetic years), during which time the streets and walls of Jerusalem would be rebuilt during a time of great trouble. These re-building efforts are recorded in the Book of Nehemiah. Seven shavuot = 17,640 days (7 x 7 x 360 = 17,640).
… Then, there would be 62 shavuot (434 prophetic years), during which time the Jews would live in a restored Jerusalem. The Second Temple (Temple of Zerubabbel/ Herod) would be rebuilt. Yeshua was born, ministered, and was crucified during this time period. This period is best summarized in the Bri’t Chadassah. Sixty-two shavuot = 156,240 days (62 x 7 x 360 = 156,240). [See FOOTNOTE 1]
… Then, Mashiach [Messiah] would be “cut off and have nothing.” [See FOOTNOTE 2]
… After Mashiach’s being “cut off,” there is a pause in the prophecy. Such a pause is not uncommon in prophetic Scriptures. [See FOOTNOTE 3]
… Finally, “the people of a prince who is to come would destroy the city and the sanctuary. But his end will come like a flood. Until the end of the war that is decreed there will be destruction. Then he will make a firm covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of abominations will come one who destroys, until the decreed annihilation is poured out on the one who destroys.” [See FOOTNOTE 4]
FOOTNOTE 1: At this point in the prophecy, 173,880 days (69 shavuot) are accounted for. Add this length of time to the March 14, 445 B.C. date of Artaxerxes’ decree. Remember that there is no Year Zero– 1 B.C. passes directly into A.D. 1. We, then, come to the day described in the above Matthew passage, the day we now call “Palm Sunday.” On this day, the humble, Suffering Servant Yeshua rode on the lowest of all beasts of burden into the City of God. Yeshua riding on a donkey is in stark contrast to future riders– the Rider on the White Horse, the Antichrist (Revelation 6:1-2), and Yeshua’s Second Appearance as King of kings and Lord of lords, mounted on a white horse (Revelation 19:11). Jews lined Jerusalem’s streets, waved tree branches (traditionally, palm fronds), and shouted “Hoshia-na to Ben-David! Baruch ha-ba b’shem Adonai! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hoshia-na in the highest!” I have previously translated the Hebrew Hoshia-na. The Jews, suspecting this was their Messiah, cried out to be delivered or saved. I suspect they wanted a Warrior King, HaMashiach ben David, who would save them from Roman occupation, more than they wanted a Messiah, HaMashiach ben Yosef, to save them from their sins.
FOOTNOTE 2: Yeshua entered Jerusalem to surrender to Roman authorities, that He could be crucified for the sins of mankind. Upon entering Jerusalem, He was truly “cut off” from His ministry, as Gabriel told Daniel. Yeshua neither preached nor performed miracles during the following week. He had a busy schedule to keep. He celebrated Passover with His disciples, taught Communion, ushered in the New Covenant, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (apparently to grasp fully the reasons for His death), surrendered to Roman authorities, appeared without opening His mouth before Pilate’s mock trial, suffered horrendous beating by Roman soldiers, was crucified, died, visited Hades “to set captives free” (controversial interpretation), and was resurrected. (Does Yeshua’s week make your last week seem not quite as hectic as you may have remembered?)
FOOTNOTE 3: A pause in prophecy is called a “parenthesis.” This particular prophetic parenthesis is commonly called “the Age of Grace.” This Age will extend from Yeshua’ crucifixion to the Resurrection/ Rapture (Yeshua’s appearance in the clouds). We live in this New Covenant age at the present time. We have no way of knowing how much longer this age will last. Only Father God knows the day and hour of Yeshua’s return (several verses in the Olivet Discourse in Matthew, chapter 24; Mark, chapter 13; and Luke, chapter 21).
FOOTNOTE 4: Up until this point, we have accounted for sixty-nine (69) shavuot, but Gabriel’s message from God indicated that seventy (70) shavuot have been ordained. Gabriel explained the seventieth shabua. This final shabua (seven prophetic years, or 7 x 360 = 2,520 days) will occur after the sixty-nine shavuot and the New Covenant Age. The Tribulation is included in this final shabua. This period will be ushered in by “the people of a prince who is to come.” I interpret this “prince” as the Antichrist (TLV = anti-messiah), and “his people” are various Gentiles from the Revived Roman Empire. Note that Gabriel prophesied actions of the people of this prince who is to come will destroy the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (Second Temple). This destruction happened in AD 70, exactly as Gabriel told Daniel and as Yeshua told His disciples. These “people of the prince” are prophesied as the mixed clay-iron feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream statue (Daniel, chapter 2). These people (Romans) destroyed the Second Temple. The Revived Roman Empire (European Union) will be a major power base of the Antichrist. This “prince” will meet his end “like a flood” at the Battle of Armageddon, when Yeshua and the Army of Heaven capture him and the False Prophet, casting both of them into the Lake of Fire (Hell). The “firm covenant” is, I suspect, a false peace treaty. I suspect this treaty may be signed after the Battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39). This treaty may permit Jews, triumphant from the Gog-Magog Battle, to build the Third Temple on the Temple Mount. The Temple can be built in time for the Antichrist to defile it at the mid-Tribulation. Future events are falling in place, exactly as prophesied. Can Yeshua’s return be far away?
IMPRESSED? Daniel wrote his book in ca 536-530 B.C. Daniel wrote about an event (Messiah’s being “cut off” from His people) six centuries BEFORE the event. Daniel’s prophecy would be as if I recorded details in this RR about events that will happen in A.D. 2600, and these events actually occurred as I wrote them.
Daniel could not do this by himself. In fact, he acknowledged he had no idea what he was writing, but was only following God’s commands (Daniel 12:8-13).
You and I see time differently from how God sees time. I like to think of time as a parade. It is as if you and I are standing on a street curb, watching a parade (time) pass by. We see a float or band immediately in front of us (the present). We remember the floats and bands that passed earlier (the past). But, we cannot imagine what floats and bands are coming (the future). God, though, watches the parade of time from on high. From His vantage point, supernaturally suspending time and space, He can see all of the parade (all of time) – past, present, and future. To Him, next year is known as surely as last year. I have thought about this a great deal. You may conclude, as I have, that the human mind probably cannot understand thinking into the future. Isaiah wrote of this Divine power to see the future even before the future happens:
** (Isaiah 42:9): “Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things. Before they spring forth I [Adonai] announce them to you.”
** (Isaiah 46:9-10): “Remember the former things of old: For I am God– there is no other. I am God, and there is none like Me– declaring the end from the beginning, from ancient time, what is yet to come,….”
You should be impressed that Daniel could know to the very day an event that would happen six centuries in his future. He knew because Adonai saw that future event and commanded Gabriel to tell Daniel, and He commanded Daniel to tell future generations (including our generation) in his book. Be thankful that our God is all-knowing and He loves us enough to tell us our future before our future happens. There are many other secrets (“mysteries”) that God has tucked into His Word for those willing to search for them (Proverbs 8:10-11): Receive my instruction instead of silver and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than jewels, nothing you desire compares with her. Shalom and Maranatha.