Daniel 9: Introduction

Daniel’s prophecy of 70 weeks is so important that it is vital that we look at the background, the events leading up to Daniel 9, and the ways of God. Human sin, international aggression and warfare, a prophet who had passed off the scene years earlier, and an aged prophet in captivity will merge in the amazing ways of God, as God works out His purpose for the nation of Israel. Some have referred to Daniel 9 as the “backbone of all prophecy.” To understand the significance of these events, we need to go back almost 1,000 years and read in Leviticus 26.

The Righteous Ways of God

Here, almost 39 years before Israel entered the land, and 1,000 years before Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9, God gave warning of His righteous government on the nation. In Leviticus 26, God warned the nation about the need to keep the Sabbath; if they failed, He would assure that the land would keep her Sabbaths (vv34,43). The Sabbath was the sign of the covenant God had made with Israel (Exo 31:13). These warnings were reiterated in Deuteronomy 29 as well, when they were about to enter the land, 39 years later.

While ownership of the land was guaranteed to Israel on the basis of the Abrahamic covenant, occupation of the land would hinge on obedience to His Word. A disobedient people would know the judgment of God and expulsion from the land. But the land would always be theirs.

A Ray of Hope

Moving just two chapters beyond the dark picture of Deuteronomy 28, we find a ray of hope for the nation. Here, in this last of four sermons on the plains of Moab, Moses, prescient of what the future might hold in light of Israel’s behavior in the wilderness and guided by the Spirit of God, detailed the pathway of restoration for the nation in the midst of a “worse-case scenario.” Even if things descended to the point where they were in captivity from their failure, there was a way back; there is restoration available with God. If the people return, God will deliver them from their bondage. There is always the possibility of restoration with God.


But the nation never hearkened unto God. He sent His prophets “rising early” and pleading with the nation. The prophets set before the nation the way of life and the way of death. Heedless, the nation plunged headlong into judgment. That righteous judgment of God is summarized for us in 2 Chronicles 36: “They mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy” (v16 KJV). The judgments came in three stages over a course of approximately 20 years. They began with the first deportation, including King Jehoiakim in 607 B.C., a deportation that included Daniel and his friends. Finally, in 587 B.C., the final invasion occurred, and the Chaldeans carried the remainder of the nation and King Zedekiah away into Babylon. God’s word to Habakkuk was fulfilled (Hab 1).

The nation had reaped what it had sown. The land was to lie desolate to “keep her sabbaths” for three score and ten years. The government of God cannot be ignored or avoided.


But God, being a God of restoration, was at work. The rise and fall of nations and empires are all under His sovereign control. The Medo-Persian Empire came into ascendancy as Babylon declined in power (Dan 5:30,31). The “foreign policy” of the Medo-Persians differed from that of the Chaldeans. While the latter took their captives away to the land of Babylon, the policy of the Medes was to allow a captured nation to remain in its own land under the supervision of the conqueror. The political stage was set for the possibility of restoration to the land.

It was now 536 B.C. and Cyrus was on the throne. God had promised through the ministry of Jeremiah that there would be 70 years of captivity for the nation. That time period was drawing to a close. So, the calendar was right.

There was one ingredient missing before God could accomplish His purpose for the nation. According to Deuteronomy 30:1-3, the nation had to turn to God in their captivity. Enter Daniel. Representing the nation, taking their sin upon himself as his own sin, he made intercession and confession before the Lord. His prayer became the final piece that enabled God to act and restore His people to the land.


It was in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia, that he issued his decree allowing the exiled Jews to return to the land (Ezr 1:1-4). His decree became a moral challenge to the nation. The response to that decree is detailed for us in Ezra 1. The journey up to Jerusalem and the subsequent initial attempts at rebuilding the Temple occupy the remainder of the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah. God’s promise was realized, and the people were once again in the land of the fathers.

God employed Jeremiah the prophet years before, Daniel the aged prophet in his Bible study and prayer, and the nations of Babylon and Persia to chasten and then restore His people.

In subsequent articles, we will look in more detail at Daniel and at the interpretation of the prophecy of 70 weeks given to Daniel.