From Whitla’s introduction to Isaac Newton, Observations Upon The Prophecies Of Daniel and The Apocalypse Of St. John – Back to Table of Contents of the Introduction
You will note that Daniel did not record his prophecies or visions in chronological order, as they were vouchsafed to him. I have left to the last the most important of them all. It is what is known as the ” Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks,” recorded in the ninth chapter. Perhaps no prophetic utterance in the Bible has attracted such attention and minute scrutiny. Since the time of the pagan Porphyry, believers and infidels innumerable have waged war around this ninth chapter of the book of Daniel.
Let us glance for a moment at the background of the picture. The aged statesman is recalled to his high office after a long period of rest and comparative obscurity, just as Cyrus had conquered Babylon. He must have arrived at the age of almost ninety years, as he had been an exile during all the years usually regarded as the allotted span of life. The periods of the Servitude and of the Captivity had now come to their termination. Why should he prostrate himself in an agony of prayer with fasting, sackcloth and ashes? His prayer is one of the most sublime and at the same time most pathetic that ever fell from human lips, but its entire purpose or spirit is nearly always lost sight of by the commentators who overlook the deep meaning of the second verse of the chapter : ” I, Daniel, understood by the books, the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, for the accomplishing of the desolations of Jerusalem, even seventy years” (the constant confusion of the periods of the Servitude, Captivity and Desolations is most regrettable). The Captivity term had already come to its end. He knew that the period of the Desolations had many weary years to run out before Jeremiah’s prophecy would be fulfilled. Daniel had probably been dead fifteen years when the term specified in the prediction had expired during which Jerusalem was to remain like a ploughed field and the whole land of Judea a howling wilderness.
Hence his grief when he appeals to God, exclaiming : ” For under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem.” Whilst acknowledging the gross sins of the Jewish people, and the righteousness of their punishment, he throws himself upon the Divine mercy and cries out, *’ O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not; for Thine own sake, O my God, because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name.” And whilst he was speaking and beseeching, the prayer was answered by Gabriel being sent from heaven to touch him.
The answer was certainly not such as could have been expected even by the mighty faith of the great prophet. It was, as Professor Pusey says, a prediction single and alone in tune, reaching on through eternity. From eternity to eternity there hath not been nor shall be its like. Such is the vision or prophecy of the seventy weeks a promise of absolute forgiveness of transgression and sin. The following is the text of the Authorized Version, chapter ix. :