Daniel 9:24-27 … Biblical Truth vs. Rashi

Grammar RulesThe primary vision and objective of Tzedakah Ministries is “To Equip His Church to Reach His People.” 

This vision involves traveling across the country (25 states, 3 countries and counting) speaking in churches, to small group Bible studies, women’s conferences about not only the importance of Jewish evangelism but also the why of sharing the Gospel to the Jewish people. This vision involves dealing with anti-missionaries on the internet and Facebook. This vision involves sharing the truth of Messiah Jesus personally to Jewish people whenever and wherever God gives me the opportunity. This vision also involves preparing materials (i.e., tracts, papers, presentations) that will assist Christians and churches on how to respond to some of the most basic questions that Jewish people have regarding whether or not Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.

Woodcut is Considered to be in the Public Domain.
Woodcut is Considered to be in the Public Domain.

The recent blog post, “An Open Letter to Anti-Missionaries,” resulted in a response on the Reddit system in which Tzedakah Ministries was told that my statement about Jesus fulfilling Daniel 9:24-27 was disproven by the Medieval Jewish philosopher Shlomo Yitzchaki (aka Rashi [1040-1105]). Therefore, and in the desire for full disclosure and integrity, I decided it was necessary to examine what Rashi had to say about Daniel 9:24-27. However, I think it is important to examine what the Biblical text says first in the King James, the New American Standard, the Jewish Publication Society (1917) and the modern JPS version. The reason for these four choices is that all four translations depend upon the Masoretic Hebrew text for its source and so we should find a fairly consistent translation apart from English word choices (i.e., KJV language vs. modern language).

Daniel 9:24-27 (King James Version)

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

Daniel 9:24-27 (New American Standard Version)

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.

Daniel 9:24-27 (Jewish Publication Society, 1917)

Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to forgive iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy place. Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto one anointed, a prince, shall be seven weeks; and for threescore and two weeks, it shall be built again, with broad place and moat, but in troublous times. And after the threescore and two weeks shall an anointed one be cut off, and be no more; and the people of a prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; but his end shall be with a flood; and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week; and for half of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease; and upon the wing of detestable things shall be that which causeth appalment; and that until the extermination wholly determined be poured out upon that which causeth appalment.’

Daniel 9:24-27 (JPS, Modern Version)

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city until the measure of transgression is filled and that of sin complete, until inquity is expiated, and eternal righteousness ushered in; and prophetic vision ratified; and the Holy of Holies anointed. You must know and understand: From the issuance of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the [time of the] anointed leader is seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it will be rebuilt, square and moat, but in a time of distress. And after those sixty-two weeks, the anointed one will disappear and vanish. The army of a leader who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary, but its end will come through a flood. Desolation is decreed until the end of war. During one week he will make a firm covenant with the many. For half a week, he will put a stop to the sacrifice and the meal offering. At the corner [of the altar] will be an appalling abomination until the decreed destruction will be poured down upon the appalling thing.

I want everyone to examine all four versions closely. I have. I have also sought to be as analytically objective as possible and this is what I have found; otherwise, there is only minutiae differences which can be explained as noted above by word choice selection:

  • Both the KJV and the NASB use the term Messiah the Prince while the JPS 1917 uses the phrase “one anointed, a prince,” and the JPS 1985 uses the term “anointed leader”
  • Both JPS versions use a semicolon after the first example of seven weeks while the “Christian” versions either have no punctuation (NASB) or a simple comma (KJV)
  • The JPS 1917 describes the anointed one after he is cut off as being no more; the JPS 1985 describes the anointed one as disappearing and vanishing while the KJV describes the cutting off as being “but not for himself,” and the NASB describes the cutting off as being that he will “have nothing.”

Rashi’s Commentary

Rashi, who along with Maimonides is considered the foundational Jewish theologian/philosopher/scholar of modern Judaism wrote his commentary after Jesus’ death/burial/resurrection. He was not a believer in Jesus and one could argue that Rashi had a vested interest in rationalizing away any interpretation of this passage that would fit the parameters/definition of Jesus. I would make this argument as well; however, I am simply going to summarize what Rashi himself said about this passage. And so that you will know that I have not placed words in Rashi’s quill, you can examine the source I am using (which is non-Messianic) yourself at the following linkPlease note I do ask some questions (bold/italics) that I will seek to answer in my analysis section of Rashi’s commentary.

  1. Rashi appears to go back and forth in his analysis of verse 24 by stating that the 70 weeks begins with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC and that the finishing of their transgressions would be completed with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD with the phrase — “so that Israel should receive their complete retribution in the exile of Titus and his subjugation.” Therefore, it appears that Rashi in verse 24 wants to look at the 69 Weeks as metaphorical and not literal and that the 70th week would have lasted from AD 70 to whenever … perhaps 1948 … but there is still no Temple??? Is the 70th week still in effect, then?
  2. In verse 25 — Rashi defines the beginning date for the rebuilding of Jerusalem as when Cyrus in 539 BC allowed the Jewish people to return to Israel after The Exile. It is key to know that Cyrus is the “Messiah the Prince” or “anointed leader” in this verse which is definitely the word Messiah (מָשִׁ֣יחַ). Rashi provides a special place for Cyrus in this verse by using this term and that is key to know. Is it not confusing for one verse (v. 24) to deal with 586 BC and AD 70 and the next verse to be 539 BC in analysis? Should there not be a consistency in interpretation? 
  3. Rashi in verse 26 does another “Quantum Jump” in time as the “anointed one” cut off is King Agrippa in the first century after Jesus. However, this use of the word מָשִׁ֣יחַ is simply a title for a leader and nothing special. Additionally, the people’s prince is again Titus who destroys the city. However, Titus was not destroyed as it is described in verse 26 and King Agrippa was not cut off as described in this verse.
  4. Rashi provides a straightforward interpretation of verse 27 that any Christian theologian would not find fault with; however, he does not name the individual who forms the covenant with the people. Additionally, how is this people if the city is destroyed? How is the Temple desecrated if it was destroyed in verse 26? When was it rebuilt and who rebuilt it?

Biblical Response/Alternative to Rashi’s Commentary

TorahObviously, Tzedakah Ministries disagrees with Rashi’s commentary. However, I want to explain why this ministry does in a clear and Biblical method that provides Christians and churches a response that does justice to the Biblical text as well as present a clear truth that Jesus is the fulfillment of the text for the Jewish people. For this is the most important answer of all!

The primary issue is the issue of DATING.

When does this prophecy begin and when does it end? Should the 69/70 Weeks be taken literally or figuratively? And what are the options? And what are the clues?

While there are questions of whether Rashi took the prophecy weeks as literal or not, it does appear that he selected specific dates in history for his timing of events? To borrow the old cliche … he seems to want to have his cake and eat it as well. And so it seems as if Rashi was torn on the issue; however, it does appear that Rashi viewed the fulfillment as either completely future oriented or occurring completely with the time of destruction of the Second Temple. Both, seem to be illogical and unappetizing. Or am the only one? Additionally, and this is the one of the big issues with Rashi — he cannot pick a date and so he attempts to pick them all … except one of the two most logical choices.

B. H. Carroll, the founder of my seminary alma mater Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and this is key to note … not a Dispensational

Picture is in the Public Domain
Picture of B. H. Carroll

Premillennialist but a Postmillennialist, provided four options in his commentary on the issue: (1) the Cyrus date of 539 BC; (2) the decree of Darius in 519 BC; (3) the decrees of Artaxerxes in 457 BC; and (4) Artaxerxes’ second decree in 445 BC. And while I disagree with both Dr. Carroll and fellow theological scholar Adam Clarke who go with the 457 BC dating, they at least acknowledge the need for a literal understanding of the 69/70 weeks and acknowledge that options #1 and #2 would result in a fulfillment date that was Maccabean in fulfillment and that does not connect in any way to the passage.

For let me explain why I go with the 445 dating for this decree … and as always … we should go to the text. Verse 25 uses two transliterated Hebrew word forms — shub and banah — which are translated by all four texts above as to restore and build/rebuild. And while Cyrus and Darius both allowed for the return home, you do not find the order to rebuild anything but the Temple. Only within the two decrees of Artaxerses do you find anything about rebuilding and restoring the city of Jerusalem itself. And only within the 445 BC decree do you find the essence of rebuilding a city that was defensible and self-reliant (cf. Isaiah 58:12; 61:4). Therefore, I would argue that the 445 BC based on the Scriptural text is the best option for dating and for building a good interpretation of the text.

However … there is more to defending the 445 BC dating for interpretation. There is also the pragmatic and practical and literal rationale. If one understands?????????? that 69 weeks represents 483 Hebraic years and overlays it with the Julian/Gregorian calendar than one finds some interesting parallels to examine. The 445 BC date is based on the Julian/Gregorian calendar of 365 days. The Hebrew calendar year is 360 days long and the extra month on the Hebrew calendar to more closely aligned with the modern”Christian” calendar was not added until the 4th century AFTER Jesus (see here). Therefore, you have roughly 476.4 years on the Julian calendar to match up against the Hebraic calendar. If you take those figures, you arrive at the fulfillment of the 69 weeks at somewhere around 31-32 AD when the “anointed one” (Messiah) will be cut off. Now I am not a math major or expert and so my calculations might not be exactly perfect, but they are close. And so my question is simply … just who would that be!

Additionally, and this is one of the arguments of anti (or counter)-missionaries, why was the seven weeks pointed out so specifically. What happened 49 years after the decree. Is that not important? Indeed, it is and was. David Criswell in his work, Controversies in the Prophets, points out that Ezra returned to Israel around 397-395 BC which would put us at 49 years (or 7 weeks) after the 445 decree. The seven weeks are important and fulfilled by Ezra, the priest and prophet. The 69 weeks are/were fulfilled by Messiah Jesus, the priest, prophet and King Messiah.

And so there is one more question to answer and to respond to adequately before we move on to the most important question of all … why does the JPS versions consider the anointed one to “be no more” or to “disappear and vanish.” The word in the Hebrew is transliterated as carath which most often in the Hebrew as cut down in the sense of being killed. In only one instance can one find that the word is taken to the idea of destroyed. I believe the argument should be made that especially in the 1985 JPS version you are finding an example of dynamic equivalence and interpretative liberty because of the difficulty of the text if the Jewish scholars do not “take this uncalled for liberty.”

For followers of Jesus as Messiah acknowledge that Jesus was cut down/off at the 69th week; however, we find hope in the fact of His resurrection and what He will achieve in the 70th week. And that is the answer to the most important question of all … and it is found in verse 24.

Jesus will in His Second Coming as the ultimate rabbinic reality of the misunderstood Messiah ben David from the intertestamental period (see blog post to anti-missionaries for more information) achieve the following …

Finish the transgression

Make an end of sins

Make reconciliation for iniquity

Bring in everlasting righteousness

Seal up vision and prophecy AND

Anoint the most Holy (place).

And that is the message we must share with the Jewish people. A message that is clearly defined. A message that clears up the misconceptions of Rashi. A message that provides hope and not confusion. A message that allows people to return to the book of Daniel with confidence and not confusion. And most of all …

A Message that Jesus is the Jewish AND Gentile Messiah!

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