Some people have a special feeling for the Jews. Others have special feelings against them. Some believe the Jews are God’s chosen people. Others want to blot them off the face of the earth.
Why are there Jews in the world, anyway? Where did they come from? Are the Jews still God’s special nation? Were they ever?
NOTHING TO BRAG ABOUT
Without question, the central nation of the Old Testament is the Jewish nation. It does not take deep Bible study, however, to discover that the Jews did not become a nation through their own greatness, goodness, intelligence or power. Without the special intervention of almighty God, the Jews (first known as “children of Israel”) would never even have existed.
Fact one: to get the children of Israel off to a start, God promised a son to a woman who was childless and past menopause. She laughed behind His back. But Sarah had relations with Abraham, anyway, and gave birth to a son. Read about it in Genesis 18 and 21.
Fact two: the children of Israel arose from being slaves in Egypt to becoming the leading nation of the Middle East. This only happened, however, through innumerable interventions of God. From the ten plagues in Egypt to the fall of Jericho (and beyond), God’s power was the moving force all the way.
Fact three: time would fail to list all the sins of the Israelites from the day they came out of Egypt. God did not bless them because of their own goodness. “Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you [are] a stiff-necked people” (Deuteronomy 9:6).
In the days of Jesus, many Jews lived with the presumption that they were the chosen people of God–without consideration of how they lived. John the baptizer blasted this self-righteous view. ” ‘Bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as [our] father.” For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones’ ” (Luke 3:8). No, the Jews have nothing to brag about on their own.
CHOSEN WITH THE WORLD IN VIEW
The Jews were so often near-sighted. Many religious people today are just as near-sighted on behalf of the Jews. They think of the Jews as being blessed of God for the Jew’s own sakes. They make a distinction between God’s plans for the Jews and God’s plans for the whole world. The truth, however, is quite the opposite. God’s working with the Jews from beginning to end was for the purpose of blessing the entire world.
From the start, almighty God chose Israel with the whole world in view. When God first called Abraham, He promised him, “I will make you a great nation.” But He quickly added: “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3). Later, at God’s command, Abraham was about to do the unbelievable (sacrifice his only son). Because of such faith, God intervened and confirmed His promise: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18).
Several Scriptures explain how all the nations of the earth were to be blessed through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel). Not the least of these is Daniel’s 70-weeks prophecy.
GOD SETS A TIME LIMIT
The 70-weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) is more than a prediction of certain events which were to transpire in the nation of Israel. This extraordinary prophecy dares to predict when! Verse 24 sets a time limit on God’s working through the Jews and Jerusalem. “Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city.” Verse 25 sets the time for the arrival of the Messiah.
“Know therefore and understand,
[That] from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
[There] [shall] [be] seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (Daniel 9:25).
Seven plus 62 makes 69 weeks. That’s about one year and four months. But, 69 weeks from when to when? According to the text, the 69 weeks start with an order to restore and build Jerusalem. They end with the arrival of Messiah.
Daniel received this prophecy in the first year of Darius, 538 B.C. Two years later (536 B.C.), the Jews began returning from captivity to Jerusalem. [Some Bible students would place the reception of this prophecy about 20 years later, which would be well after the first return. This difference has no affect on the interpretation of the fulfillment of the prophecy.] The process of rebuilding the temple and the city of Jerusalem was very long, some 100 years. The counting of the 69 (and 70) weeks has to begin sometime during this 100-year period.
There are those who would like us to believe that they interpret all prophecy literally. That simply is not true. Nobody does! People of all prophetic viewpoints agree in this: the 70 weeks cannot be taken literally. If we start to count 69 literal weeks (16 months), starting anytime between 536 B.C. and 436 B.C., we simply end up with nothing. No one can find a fulfillment to the prophecy within that time frame–no Messiah; nothing. The truth is that God’s Word, including prophecy, is just like our everyday speech. It is filled with figurative language. (See Insight #2: “Prophecy: Literal or Figurative?”)
To the extent possible, we must allow Scripture itself to give us the keys to figurative interpretations. As for time spans, there is no better key than that which God gave Ezekiel. “I have laid on you a day for each year” (Ezekiel 4:6). Sixty-nine weeks is 483 days. Take a day for a year, and it becomes 483 years. If you start from 536 B.C. and count 483 years, you arrive at 53 B.C. On the other hand, if you start from 436 B.C. and count 483 years, you arrive at 47 A.D. So, in the most general terms, Daniel prophesied that the Messiah would come somewhere between 50 B.C. and 50 A.D. He certainly did come within that time!
THE JEWS A BLESSING
The point is that, apart from exact dates, God had very special plans to fulfill no later than the first century A.D. It all had to do with the Jews and their holy city, Jerusalem. (Exact dates are examined in Insight #44: Jesus Fulfilled God’s Timetable.)
It is no secret that Jesus was a Jew, of the tribe of Judah, of the house of David, a descendent of Abraham. It is no secret that the most important way in which the Jews have blessed all nations is by giving us the Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh. Though the Jews often thought (and still think) that the Messianic hope was for them alone, it is no secret that the Messianic hope was and is the hope of the whole world. Jesus is the Jew believed on in all nations of the earth!
In 70 weeks (490 years), it would happen to the Jews, Daniel prophesied. In 490 years, they would produce, humanly speaking, the Messiah. What would the Messiah accomplish? That’s what the opening verse of the prophecy is all about: verse 24. Gabriel says to Daniel that God had reserved 490 years in which to accomplish His most important work for the human race.
“Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city” (9:24). God had 490 years left in which to use the Jews. In the twentieth century, it is unacceptable to push the 70th week yet into the future, as is popularly done. In that case, it should have been a 350-weeks prophecy! Gabriel did not say, “350 weeks are determined.” He said, “Seventy weeks are determined.” He prophesied that God, through the Jews and Jerusalem, would accomplish six vital goals within the first century of the Christian era. Almighty God did, indeed, fulfill this wonderful prophecy. He kept His word. Believe it!
THE WORK OF THE JEWISH MESSIAH
Six things were to be accomplished through the Jews and Jerusalem (verse 24). They would, indeed, be accomplished specifically through their Messiah the Prince (verse 25). The Messiah would also be “cut off” (verse 26).
“Seventy weeks are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy” (Daniel 9:24).
In the first three items, Daniel foretells the solution to the problem of “transgression,” “sins” and “iniquity.” A century and a half earlier, Isaiah had prophesied the same thing. “But He [was] wounded for our transgressions… And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all… You make His soul an offering for sin… He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:5,6,10,12). Thus Isaiah predicted the supreme sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross. To accomplish this great cleansing, Messiah had to be “cut off” (Isaiah 53:8; Daniel 9:26). Two great texts prophesy one great sacrificial death.
Notice that the six items to be accomplished are all spiritual in nature. The Jews had 490 more years. Within that time, they would be God’s means to bring great spiritual blessings to the whole world. The first four of the six items are such basic Gospel doctrines that little discussion is necessary to show their fulfillment.
Number One: “To finish the transgression.” “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15).
Number Two: “To make an end of sins.” Even before Jesus’ ministry began, John the baptizer cried out regarding Him: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Paul later wrote: “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:6,7). “At the end of the ages, He [Jesus] has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
Number Three: “To make reconciliation for iniquity.” “And not only [that], but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:11). “Now all things [are] of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18,19).
Number Four: “To bring in everlasting righteousness.” “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets [including Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9], even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe… whom God set forth [as] a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness… so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 3:21,22,25; 5:21).
These first four items may be summed up in one verse: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3). These “Scriptures” include Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9.
THE SEALING OF VISION AND PROPHECY
The final two items of the six are more difficult to understand. They are open to various interpretations and, therefore, require deeper study.
Number Five: “To seal up vision and prophecy.” The word “seal” may mean to affix a seal so as to authenticate or establish official approval. See Esther 8:8 for an example in ancient times. Even yet today, certain documents require seals to make them legally binding. Or, “seal” may mean to fasten up by sealing. Such sealing may be symbolic and authoritative in nature, as when Christ’s tomb was sealed. On the other hand, it may be more physical in nature, like using glue or tape. See Job 41:1,15-17, where it expresses how the scales of Leviathan were so tightly sealed.
Which is the meaning in Daniel? To give approval or to close it up tight? Not an easy question. Perhaps both are correct. Remember that the prophecy has to do with Daniel’s people, the Jews. God allotted them 70 weeks of years, which had to terminate no later than the first century A.D. By the first century, Jewish vision and prophecy had to be authenticated or be closed up. Or, both. The fulfillment clarifies that both took place.
In the first century, the Prophet of prophets came, and almighty God put His seal of approval upon Him. “The Son of Man… because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:27). As the Father said from heaven: “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22).
God put His stamp of approval also on all the Old Testament prophets, by fulfilling their prophecies. As Jesus explained to His apostles: ” ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25-27). Thus, Old Testament vision and prophecy were sealed in the sense of receiving the best possible stamp of approval: fulfillment.
On the other hand, Jewish vision and prophecy were also sealed up by coming to an end. “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John” (Matthew 11:13). These words have a ring of finality to them. John the baptizer was the last prophet of the Jewish nation. Why final? “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by [His] Son” (Hebrews 1:1,2). John did the final preparation for the Messiah, Jesus. Jesus was the great Prophet of “these last days,” God’s superior and final Messenger for the final age, the church age.
For a limited time there were lesser prophets in the Lord’s church. But these latter prophets were not prophets of physical Israel. They were prophets of the Lord’s church, without regard to nationality. In the Lord’s church, “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28). Physical Israel ceased being God’s message-bearer to the world.
Jewish vision and prophecy were thus sealed in both senses. They were sealed with the divine stamp of approval via their fulfillment; and, at the same time, they were sealed shut in the sense of coming to an end.
THE ANOINTING OF THE MOST HOLY
Number Six: “To anoint the Most Holy.” The “most holy” what? To discover the possibilities, the words must first be examined in their Old Testament context. A study of the word “anointed” in the Old Testament reveals that both persons and things were anointed. Both sacred and day-to-day anointings took place. Thus, the possibilities are many.
The words “most holy,” on the other hand, have a more restricted use. The expression occurs about 45 times in the Old Testament. “Most holy” is the usual translation when the Hebrew text doubles the word “holy.” Some scholars render it “holy of holies” when it refers to the innermost sanctuary of the tabernacle or temple. The Hebrew expression “most holy” seldom, if ever, refers to people.
A study of the texts where “most holy” appears, reveals that the expression usually refers in some way to the tabernacle or temple. It frequently refers to what we call the “holy of holies.” Even more frequently, it refers to the offerings in the tabernacle. In addition, it is sometimes used of the tabernacle as a whole or of the furniture in the tabernacle-temple. Therefore, it seems entirely appropriate to apply Daniel’s words “anoint the Most Holy” to the temple or things related to the temple.
But, what temple? The context, as has been seen, prophesies the work of the Messiah. The context also foretells the utter destruction of the Jewish temple. Sacred anointing carries the idea of setting apart for God’s service. It would be difficult to fit into Jesus’ ministry the idea of setting apart the Jewish temple for the service of God. Indeed, with the redemptive work of the Messiah taking away sin, the very opposite took place. The veil of that temple was rent in two miraculously from top of bottom. God had no more use for that Jewish temple and called upon the Romans to destroy it in 70 A.D.
However, there is another temple. Jesus said, “on this rock I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). Later, this church is called “the temple of God.” “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and [that] the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). Just as “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:38), so the church could be considered as anointed with the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. See, also, 2 Corinthians 1:21,22. Bear in mind that Daniel’s reference to the “most holy” is part of a prophecy about the Jews and Jerusalem. Jesus’ church began precisely with the Jews in Jerusalem.
The book of Hebrews would suggest even more concerning the “most holy” and the work of Messiah. “But into the second part [the holy of holies] the high priest [went] alone once a year, not without blood… It [was] symbolic… But Christ… with His own blood… entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption… For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, [which] [are] copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:7-12,24).
Although the word “anointed” is not used here, the word “purified” or “cleansed” is (verse 23). Jesus surely dedicated and set apart heaven itself in a unique way by entering there with his blood sacrifice to cleanse it. Thus it is quite reasonable to consider that the work of the Messiah brought about the anointing of the entire tabernacle-temple. Both the holy place (the church) and the most holy place (heaven) may be considered as anointed. They were both set apart to God’s service, through the most holy sacrifice of Christ.
THE JEWS’ TIME HAS RUN OUT
In and of themselves, the Jews are not more important, nor less important, than any other nation. God never considered them His chosen people with just their own special blessing in mind. God brought them into existence to bless the whole world. That blessing could come only through the promised Messiah.
More than five centuries before the Messiah came, God’s angel Gabriel revealed to Daniel that the Jews, Jerusalem and the temple were to begin a countdown. Then there would be only 490 years left for God to complete His purposes through them.
Near the end of those 490 years, the Messiah did, in fact, come and was cut off to take away the sin of the world. Then, once the Messiah’s church was well established and the Jews had ample opportunity to repent and surrender to Him, God utterly destroyed their temple and city. The Jews who survived were scattered to the four winds. Their allotted time had come to an end.
Now that the Messiah has come for the salvation of the whole world, “there is neither Jew nor Greek.” The Jews are now on the same footing as everybody else. As a special people, they have served their purpose. God chose the Jews to bless you and me. He kept His promise. He did it on time.
(Scripture in the preceding article is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)