The opinions and interpretations expressed in this book are strictly those of the author, and do not represent official opinions or interpretations of any agency of the Baha'i Administrative Order.
As far as the author is concerned, the reader is permitted to make duplicate copies of this work and to distribute them, provided (1) that he/she makes no attempt to obtain a copyright, and (2) that he/she does not realize a monetary profit, and (3) that the ENTIRE work, including the DISCLAIMER and this FOREWORD, is reproduced and distributed, and (4) that no alterations and/or additions to the text are to be made without the author's approval. Sections of the text of this work up to 1,000 words in length may be quoted and/or reprinted for the purposes of criticism or commentary without the express permission of the author, provided the source(s) of the quote(s) is/are given.
In BAHA'I NEWS, No. 77, September 1933, Shoghi Effendi tells us that only the words of 'Abdu'l-Baha [regarding biblical exegesis] are truly authoritative, but that if his statements cannot be discovered, we are free to tentatively accept the opinions of scholars.
This essay does not begin to exhaust the wealth of meaning in the Book of Daniel. For one thing, it does not address the spiritual teachings in the Book, even though they are as pertinent today as when written. Nor does it review the history or Teachings of the Baha'i Faith, which we believers accept as the working out of the Divine Will at the "time of the end."
We will not dwell on such mystical esoterica as number symbolism, gematria, astrological symbolism, and the like, except where minimally necessary. These subjects have already been addressed in a companion work, "The Apocalypse Unsealed", to which the interested reader is referred. This is not meant to imply that there is nothing to gain by applying these tools to Daniel. To the contrary, this writer is convinced that there is a vast amount of mystical esoterica contained in Daniel awaiting some future discoverer.
During the research for "I, Daniel", certain facts and Tablets were discovered that have caused this writer to reconsider his interpretations of a few passages in the Apocalypse. These are addressed in an appendix to the present book.
Certain general observations might be made here. Daniel and Revelation are the two great apocalyptic works in Judeo-Christian literature. The Book of Daniel is directed primarily to the Jewish believer, whereas the Book of Revelation is directed primarily to the Christian believer. Both Books are profound, both Books are glorious; both Books are Divine Works; both Books confirm Baha'u'llah as the Latter Day Redeemer of the entire human race.
R. F. R. Charlottesville, [VA,] April, 1990
The method this investigator has used in interpreting Daniel may be described as "pragmatic intuition": try out various plausible ideas until you find the one that works. Since many worthier scholars have failed to unseal the secrets of Daniel, one may conclude that routine scholarship probably cannot unseal prophetic writings. Recourse might be made to the method of intuitive discovery that is familiar to creative scientists and artists; through it we might leap beyond what can be reached through routine scholarship.
If this essay succeeds, it is not because the author has any special abilities at prophecy-reading, nor does it suggest that he has had any extraordinary divine assistance. Instead, it means that the writer may have stumbled upon some truth, and anyone with adequate patience and with a penchant for historical research can achieve, and probably improve on, the result.
THE "PROPHET'S-EYE" [deleted in this version]
A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED
It will be necessary to define certain terms that will be used in the following pages. Most of them have been developed and used by other Biblical commentators and scholars with various degrees of success.
First, we must understand what is meant by the "archetype of a number." In the language of ancient number symbolism, any number will have an archetype between "one" and "nine." It is found by continuously adding the digits in a number until one digit remains. For example, the number 1269 has an archetype of "nine"; since 1 + 2 + 6 + 9 = 18, and (continuing the process) 1 + 8 = nine. Another example: the archetype of 258 is "six"; since 2 + 5 + 8 = 15, and (continuing) 1 + 5 = six.
The simplest cases are "decadal successors" like 7, 70 , 700, 7000, etc., all of which have an archetype of seven. Similarly, 3, 30, 300, 3000, etc. all have an archetype of three. These last two examples will be used in the explanation of Daniel 9.
Next, we have to know the meanings of certain temporal terms:
A "prophetic day" usually means a calendar year. Most Biblical scholars justify this definition by quoting Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, in which it is said that a day of the Lord is equal to a year. But, by recognizing that a number-archetype may be involved, " One prophetic day" may equal 1 year, or 10 years, or 100 years, and so on. It behooves us to consider whether some decadal successor of "one" might be meant in its particular context.
An "evening and a morning" is taken as an exact "prophetic day." The justification for this definition is that it works well in the one place it is encountered: Daniel 8:13.
A "prophetic week" usually means seven calendar years. But, again, if "seven prophetic days" are intended, it might mean 7 years, or 7 decades, or even 7 centuries. In the text of Daniel chapter 9, it will be convenient to emphasize this fact by retaining the correct translation of the Hebrew word "shabua" as "seven."
A "sabbatic year" is a special term and is equal to 7 decades (i.e., 70 years). This definition is arbitrary and is equal to the span of time of the Jewish exile in Babylon.
A "prophetic year" is 360 calendar days. Again, this definition is arbitrary but sometimes useful. It is based on the 360-day calendar of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. The use of the 360-day calendar in biblical allegory can be inferred by correlating the dates in Genesis 7:11,24 and 8:4.
A "time" is taken as 360 lunar years. The justification for this definition is (1) the use of a lunar calendar in the ancient Near East, and (2) allowing a year for each day of the 360-day "prophetic year."
A lunar year is the time required for twelve lunations. It is equal to 354.367 days.
A solar year is the time between equinoxes or solstices. It is equal to 365.242 days.
The word "times" is taken as 2-"times," that is 720 lunar years. The justification for this definition is the dual form of the Hebrew word in Daniel 12:7 in which "times" is clearly 2-"times."
Anyone who has compared different translations of Biblical texts for the first time will receive a rude awakening. Translations are generally inconsistent and often disagree on important particulars. The special case of Daniel is even worse than most, since much of the Hebrew is obscure and may have suffered some distortions along the way.
The method that this writer has used to minimize this problem was to compare several translations, word by word. When serious disagreements occurred, the writer chose the translation that seemed to be the most consistent with the rest of the Book and with the historical scenario implied by the prophecy. On rare occasions, it was found necessary to "clean up" the result by rewording sections to make them more readable, hopefully without straying from the meaning of the original translations. The translations most used were The New English Bible (1970), The Revised English Bible (1989), The New International Version (1983), The Revised Standard Version (1951), and the King James Version (1611).
For whatever it is worth, this writer usually, but not always, found the New English Bible to be the easiest to correlate with historical events. It is noteworthy that both English Bibles were translated by scholars drawn from various British universities without denominational considerations. Also, in the words of Daniel Ebor, Chairman of the (multi-denominational) Joint Committee in charge of the translation of the New English Bible,
... There is probably no member of the panel who has not found himself obliged to give up, perhaps with lingering regret, a cherished view about the meaning of this or that difficult passage, but in the end the panel accepted corporate responsibility for the interpretation set forth in the translation adopted.
THE FOUR ERAS OF BABYLON
In Chapter 2 of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar II, the king of Chaldea (neo-Babylonia), has a dream and challenges his 'wise men: magicians, exorcists, sorcerers, and Chaldeans' both to describe and interpret his dream or to suffer death. None of the wise men summoned before the king were able to meet the challenge, and Nebuchadnezzar, in a fit of rage, ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. Daniel, being a 'wise man,' was among those threatened with execution. But with the help of God, Daniel was able to reveal the king's dream, was thereby to save the lives of his colleagues and to win other favors.
Nebuchadnezzar's dream was of an image, 'huge and dazzling, . . . fearful to behold':
32 The head of the image was of fine gold, its breasts and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze,
33 Its legs of iron, its feet part iron and part clay. 34 While (Nebuchadnezzar) looked, a stone was hewn from a mountain, not by human hands; it struck the image on its feet of part iron and part clay and shattered them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, were all shattered into fragments and were swept away like chaff before the wind from a threshing floor in summer, until no trace of them remained. But the stone which struck the image grew into a great mountain filling the whole earth.
In verse 28, Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that the dream reveals what is to be at the 'end of the age.' In later verses, Daniel interprets the dream as four 'kingdoms,' the kingdom of gold referring to that of Nebuchadnezzar himself; the silver kingdom would replace Nebuchadnezzar's but would be inferior to his; the third or bronze kingdom would have sovereignty 'over the whole world.'
Still later, the fourth kingdom would be as 'strong as iron,' breaking and shattering the whole earth. But the kingdom of 'iron mixed with clay' would be a divided kingdom, partly strong and partly brittle. The 'stone hewn from a mountain, not by human hands' refers to a final kingdom to be established by God that would shatter all the other kingdoms, while it shall itself, endure forever.
It is interesting that Nebuchadnezzar's dream was delivered in the metaphor
of the traditional four "eras" of man: gold, silver, bronze, and iron, a canon
held by various philosophers and theologians of antiquity. In Hebrew mystical
terminology, a "day of creation," a "Lord's Day," "era," or a "world" referred
to phases of progressive revelation. <1>
The succession of Days or eras represents different cultures with different customs and religions, what today's historians would call civilizations.
There is also an astrological connotation of an "age," related to the gradual shifting of the stellar constellations of the zodiac throughout the course of millennia, called the precession of the equinoxes by astronomers. Daniel lived at a time when the sun was entering the constellation PISCES at the SPRING equinox, and the constellation Virgo at the Fall equinox; that is, they were entering the astrological age of PISCES-Virgo. Today, we are entering the succeeding astrological age of AQUARIUS-Leo. Thus, in astrological terms, our own time is the "end of the age." This sometimes bewildering subject is discussed at length by de Santillana in Hamlet's Mill.
The metals have qualities descriptive of the eras or civilizations: Gold is the most precious metal, brilliant and desirable for its symbolic or "spiritual" attributes. Silver is also precious but less so, and less desired for its spiritual attributes. Bronze is a strong, blended metal, less desired than either silver or gold, but an important metal of war and commerce. Finally, iron is the strongest of metals, the metal of the sword, least desired of the four for its symbolic or spiritual attributes.
We can, indeed, identify four eras or civilizations in Chaldea, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, sixth century BC. Chaldea was the heir and participant in the civilization of Mesopotamia, the primal region of Chaldea. To Chaldea, Sumer, Assyria, and old Babylonia we owe the invention of the first practical system of writing that eventually led to our modern alphabet, the wheel, origins of scientific mathematics and astronomy (via the pseudoscience of astrology), the idea of a social system based upon a written code of law, and an elected bicameral legislative system of government.
The religion of Chaldaea had its beginnings in remote antiquity, perhaps more than five thousand years ago. It involved a rich complex of ritual and myth that has profoundly affected the religions of the west--especially Judaism and Christianity. The Book of Genesis has many parallels in Chaldaean literature--the Creation story, Paradise, the Flood, the Cain-Abel rivalry, the Babel of Tongues. So, too, does the concept of a personal God, the concept that man was created primarily to serve God, and the concept that God's creative power is in His Word. From the Babylonian Captivity, the Jews acquired chants, such as the Kol Nidre, that are still used today. The Christians acquired, among other things, the rite of Baptism. <3>
Nebuchadnezzar's capital, Babylon, was the greatest and most impressive city on earth, with massive walls, imposing temples, and soaring towers. Some historians believe one of these soaring towers, completed by Nebuchadnezzar, the three-hundred-foot-high ziggurat of Etemananki, to be the fabulous "Tower of Babel" that has inspired poets, artists, and mystics for millenia. Another architectural triumph of Nebuchadnezzar was the "hanging gardens," considered to be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Babylon was visited by the Greek historian Herodotus in the fifth century BC, who described it as a city "with such magnificence that none other can approach it." The defensive towers that punctuated the walls of Babylon were so broad across the top that there was "room for a four-horse chariot to turn."
The golden era of Chaldaea was short lived. The rulers of Chaldaea who followed Nebuchadnezzar were weak and vacillating. The last king, Nabonidus, engrossed in antiquarian researches, incurred the wrath of many of his compatriots by tampering with established religious beliefs and customs. His weakened kingdom was easily conquered by the brilliant warrior-statesman Cyrus the Great of Media-Persia in 539 BC, who had a well-deserved reputation for respecting the traditions of those he conquered.
We identify the Medeo-Persian period of Chaldaea as its silver era. The religion of Cyrus was Zoroastrianism, and while Cyrus was scrupulous in preserving the religious traditions of Chaldaea, it was inevitable that Zoroastrianism would make inroads into the region. It was claimed by many scholars that some of the beliefs of Zoroastrianism have also made their way into Judaism and Christianity.
While much of its capital Babylon was destroyed by Cyrus, it retained its identity as a great city as confirmed by Herodotus and others of the time. Nevertheless, Chaldaean culture was on the decline. An insurrection by Babylon in 521 BCE led to the destruction of the walls of Babylon by Darius, and, by the fourth century BC, the cultural identity of Chaldaea was altered forever.
The Medeo-Persian period of Chaldaea was disrupted by the conquests of Alexander the Great in 331 BC, the Macedonian-Greek conqueror of the known world whom we will meet again in another chapter. By Alexander's time, Babylon had become the winter capital of the Medeo-Persian kings, less opulent than the ceremonial capital of Perseopolis and largely in ruins. In fact, Alexander had intended to rebuild the great ziggurat of Babylon as a symbol of his conquest, but the task proved to be too difficult and the project was abandoned. Chaldaea under Alexander and his Seleucid successors continued its decline.
The Seleucids, too, soon went into decline. They withdrew from much of Chaldaea and were, in turn, conquered by Rome. Chaldaea then became a region of contention between the Roman Empire and a revived Persian empire under the Parthians and the Sassanians. Chaldaea was eventually recovered by Persia but continued its cultural decline. Throughout this chaotic period, Chaldaea retained a large population, canals and dykes were kept in repair, and commerce and architecture flourished. But in spite of the tenacious economic vitality of the region, the reins of government were held by the "vilest tyranny of sots, drunkards, tyrants, lunatics, savages, and abandoned women ..." <4>
The Hellenistic period of Chaldea, initiated by Alexander, was continued by his Seleucid heirs and, intermittently, by Rome. We identify the Hellenistic (Graeco-Roman) period as the bronze era of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, roughly a millennium.
The culture and belief system of Hellenism had its impact on the entire region conquered by Alexander and his Hellenistic successors. The pagan religion of the Hellenistic civilization persisted for many centuries, even after Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman empire in the fourth century CE. And while it can be argued that Roman Christianity made some inroads into parts of Chaldaea, the long-term effects were largely inconsequential.
The iron era of Chaldaea was ushered in by the Islamic conquests of the Seventh Century CE. The invincible Arabian warriors swept over the known world like a "plague of locusts." Most of Chaldaea was in the hands of the Muslim Caliphate by 633. Jerusalem fell in 637, and by 644 most of Persia and its great horde of treasures had been taken.
But the Caliphate (Successorship) of Muhammad contained a fatal flaw: there was no written document defining the Islamic Successorship, only a deathbed statement by Muhammad declaring the young and inexperienced 'Ali to be his Caliph. The result was a permanent and bitter split between the two major factions of Islam--the Sunni and the Shi'ih--that has persisted to this day. The Sunni faction has promoted a Caliphate based on apparent capability and experience; the Shi'ih faction has promoted a Caliphate based on 'Ali's descendants--the Imamate. Thus the Muslim empire proved to be 'brittle," like 'iron mixed with clay.' By the end of Caliph Harun ar-Rashid's reign in 809 CE, the Muslim empire had passed its zenith and had broken into pieces.
Under early Islam, the region of old Chaldaea had a resurgence of prosperity reminiscent of the era of Alexander's empire. The city of Babylon continued to decay and became a ruin, but the capital of the Muslim empire was placed in the region of Chaldaea, briefly at Damascus and finally at Baghdad--not far from the ruins of Babylon.
During the reign of the 'fourth kingdom' and as the iron era draws to a close in Daniel's interpretation, the final 'kingdom' of divine origin is represented by a 'stone hewn from a mountain.' A mountain has often represented a religion in sacred literature, while a stone may represent Truth. In ancient times, and even in some areas of today's world, "stones from heaven" (meteorites) have become objects of reverence. The Ka'bih at Mecca still contains such a stone which was revered even before Muhammad's time.
The symbol is appropriate and describes the Baha'i Revelation (stone) that was hewn from the Faith (mountain) of the Bab. The stone struck the weakest foot of the Muslim world--the iron mixed with clay--that symbolizes the Shi'ih tradition centered in modern Iran. Daniel goes on to prophesy that this stone will, itself, become a great mountain that will shatter all the other 'kingdoms' and will endure 'forever.' The meaning is clear: the Baha'i Faith will inevitably become a great religion that will transcend all others, both in spiritual power and in duration.
Notes for Chapter One
1. Ref 10
2. Ref 14
3. Ref 15
4. Ref 2, p. 639
THE SEVEN TIMES
Chapter 4 of Daniel purports to be a letter from king Nebuchadnezzar 'to all peoples and nations of every language living in the whole world,' exalting and glorifying the Most high God, the Everlasting One, the King of heaven. The background for this outpouring of praise begins with another dream of Nebuchadnezzar that only Daniel can interpret for him.
Nebuchadnezzar first dreams of a tree of great height at the center of the earth, visible to earth's farthest bounds, yielding food for all, and shelter for beasts and birds. This is followed by another vision in which a Watcher, a Holy One, comes down from heaven and commands that the tree be hewn down, its branches and foliage stripped, but commands that the stump and roots be left in the ground.
... So, tethered with an iron ring, let him eat his fill of the lush grass; let him be drenched with the dew of heaven and share the lot of the beasts in their pasture; let his mind cease to be a man's mind, and let him be given the mind of a beast. 16 Let seven times pass over him. The issue has been determined by the Watchers and the sentence pronounced by the Holy Ones. 17 Thereby the living will know that the Most High is sovereign in the kingdom of men; he gives the kingdom to whom He will and He may set over it the humblest of mankind. [ New English Bible ]
Daniel's interpretation of the dream is that the tree represents Nebuchadnezzar. The power is to be taken from Nebuchadnezzar, he will be banished from society, will live with the wild beasts, feed on grass, and be rained on until seven times pass over him.
25 ... Seven times will pass over you until you have learnt that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26 The command was given to leave the stump of the tree with its roots. by this you may know that from the time you acknowledge the sovereignty of heaven your rule will endure.
The term 'seven times' is repeated thrice in this chapter before the events indicated by the dream happened to Nebuchadnezzar. The trigger that caused his downfall was a later boast: of the great city of Babylon that he had built and of his own mighty power and majesty. A voice from heaven immediately warns him that he will be banished, etc., and that seven times will pass over him until he has learnt that the Most High is the true Sovereign of all mankind.
The events prophesied by Daniel then occurred; Nebuchadnezzar was banished, ate grass like oxen, etc.. At the end of the appointed time:
34 At the end of the appointed time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes to heaven and returned to my right mind.
after which Nebuchadnezzar gives praise and glory to the Most High for the restoration of his sanity and his kingdom.
Nebuchadnezzar's spell of insanity is interesting in its own right because it warns us of the folly of arrogance before the Lord of the Universe. But the emphasis on the 'seven times' seems to indicate that the revelation has a hidden meaning that should be investigated.
As usual, Daniel gives us everything we need to date the beginning of the seven times. Daniel 2:1 gives the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign as the date when Nebuchadnezzar began to have troubling dreams. This would be the year 603 BC. The date for the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar's madness is given in 4:29 as "after twelve months." There is no other date given between verses 2:1 and 4:29. Thus the beginning of the count of the seven times is 602 BCE.
As explained in the Introduction, a "time" is 360 lunar years. Seven times is therefore equal to 2520 lunar years or 2445 solar years. This is the span of time between 602 BCE and the Edict of Toleration in 1844 CE. The Edict of Toleration permitted the Jewish people to resettle the holy land after almost eighteen centuries of exile, and was the prerequisite necessary for the re-establishment of Israel as a modern nation. More will be said about this Edict in later chapters.
Another curious thing about 'seven times' is that it is twice the 'time, times and half a time' (3 1/2 times) that will be found elsewhere in Daniel and Revelation. This is 1260 lunar years. The year 1260 AH in the Muslim calendar corresponds to 1844 CE in the Christian calendar. In other words, the Muslim calendar starts half way between Nebuchadnezzar's spell of insanity and the Edict of Toleration.
The Watchers and Holy Ones are also interesting. In certain ancient mystical writings, the Watchers and Holy Ones, (the "Household of the Upper World") are listed as Uriel, Raphael, Michael, Zerachiel, Gabriel, and Remiel. Four of these Angels are represented as 'Faces on the four sides of the Deity': Michael, Raphael, Gabriel, and Uriel. Only two of these are named in Daniel: Michael and Gabriel. In later chapters of this book, the case will be made that Michael and Gabriel correspond to Baha'u'llah and the Bab at the time of the end.
Notes for Chapter Two
1. Ref. 10, p. 52
2. According to Judeo-Christian mysticism, Gabriel is the Archangel of Yesod (Foundation). Historically, the appearance of Gabriel has often accompanied an important announcement of a new 'foundation'; that is, the beginning of a new era of human events. For example, Gabriel was the one who delivered the Revelation to Muhammad on Mount Hira that He was to be the Messenger to mankind. In Luke 1, it is Gabriel who delivers the message to Zechariah that he will be the father of John the Baptist, and to Mary that she will be the mother of Jesus.
Michael is the Archangel of Hod (Glory , and is associated in sacred literature with victory. For example, Michael is the Victor over the forces of the dragon in Revelation 12.
A modern Jungian psychologist would call Gabriel and Michael 'archetypes of the collective unconscious.' We will have to await our own encounters with the invisible realm to find out if Michael and Gabriel exist literally, or figuratively, or both.
Ancient mystical esoterica is a vast study unto itself. We prefer to leave the exploration of that maze to experts. But the "four sides of the Deity" suggests an astrological connotation: the four sides of the Deity may correspond to the four corners of the "square earth," that is, the four principal directions of the cosmos. If so, Michael and Gabriel may stand watch over the equinoxes, while Raphael and Uriel may stand watch over the solstices. The equinoxes of the new astrological age we are now entering are in the signs Leo and Aquarius. In reference 1, we find that these two signs probably correspond to Baha'u'llah and the Bab. Raphael and Uriel would then stand watch over Taurus and Flying Eagle (Scorpio), the signs of 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.
THE FOUR BEASTS
These visions appeared to Daniel in the first year of Belshazzar, the (caretaker?) king of Babylon, as Daniel lay in his bed:
2 ... I, Daniel ... saw a great sea churned up by the four winds of heaven, 3 And the four huge beasts coming out of the sea, each one different from the others. 4 The first was like a lion but had eagle's wings. I watched while its wings were plucked off and it was lifted from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man.
Daniel's vision begins with the sea of humanity, 'churned up' by the forces of heaven. Great movements and nations are to result from this churning, each symbolized by a 'beast' with different attributes.
The lion with eagle's wings was a symbol used by the Assyrian kings. But Assyria was conquered by an alliance of the Chaldaeans and the Medes near the end of the seventh century BC, thereby initiating the Chaldaean (neo-Babylonian) empire. The lion became a symbol prominent in Chaldaean art, now without wings. The two "feet" of the "plucked lion" were Chaldaea and Media.
5 Then I saw another, a second beast, like a bear. It was half crouching and had three ribs in its mouth, between its teeth. the command was given: "Up, gorge yourself with flesh."
The bear is an inhabitant of primitive wilderness areas, is slow-moving but powerful. Its attributes describe Media-Persia before she undertook the conquest of the Near East. Situated in a rugged and undeveloped region, Media (soon to be called Media-Persia) was considered a poor empire without real wealth. The bear is half crouching in Daniel's vision because, although considered dangerous, Media-Persia did not appear desirous of attacking Chaldaea or any other power in the Near east. The dangerous aspect of Media-Persia is apparent from a look at a political map of the time that shows Chaldaea and Lydia, the other great powers of the region, beneath the "jaws" of the bear. It was only after an unwarranted and ill-advised attack upon Media-Persia by King Croesus of Lydia in 546 BCE that the slow-moving bear became a determined aggressor. <1>
Seven years after its annexation of Lydia, Media-Persia conquered Chaldaea; after another fourteen years, she conquered Egypt. The three ribs in the bear's jaws represent the three great kingdoms conquered by Media-Persia: Lydia, Chaldaea, and Egypt.
Following the death of Darius the Mede, who had suffered a humiliating defeat by the Greeks in 490 BC, Xerxes, the son of Darius, kept a slave by his side at the dinner table whose job it was to whisper, "Master, remember the Athenians." In 480 BC, Xerxes undertook a punitive invasion of Greece to avenge his father's defeat. Thus the command to "gorge yourself with flesh" was given by Xerxes to his vast army. Nevertheless, the invasion of Greece ended in a second disastrous failure.
6 After this as I gazed I saw another, a beast like a leopard with four wings on its back; this creature had four heads, and it was invested with sovereign power.
The leopard is descriptive of the empire of Alexander the Great: poised, ready to leap, swift-moving, and highly successful in capturing its prey.
Alexander, in his "lair" of Macedonia, was poised, ready to leap onto Asia in 335 BC. Behind him he had four great victories ("wings") in Europe--Thessaly, Thrace, Illyria and Thebes. These four victories, achieved in only one year, had set the stage for four more incredible victories in Asia, achieved in only three years--Granicous, Issus, Tyre and Gaugamelia. These four victories, corresponding to the four wings of victory of the leopard in Daniel 7:6, achieved the capture of the entire Persian empire.
A "head" is that upon which a crown is placed--that is, a dominion. The four heads of the leopard correspond to the four dominions that were established upon the death of Alexander: those of Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy.
7 Next in my visions of the night I saw a fourth beast, dreadful and grisly, exceedingly strong, with great iron teeth and bronze claws. It crunched and devoured, and trampled underfoot all that was left. It differed from all the beasts which preceded it in having ten horns. 8 While I was considering the horns I saw another horn, a little one, springing up among them, and three of the first horns were uprooted to make room for it. And in that horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth that spoke proud words.
In later verses, Daniel receives further information regarding the beast with ten horns that improves Daniel's understanding, and ours:
23 ... The fourth beast signifies a fourth kingdom which shall appear upon the earth. It shall differ from the other kingdoms and shall devour the whole earth, tread it down and crush it. 24 As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones and shall put down three kings. . .
The fourth beast is the Muslim empire, while the ten horns refer to its rulers. The Muslim empire will combine the attributes of military power (iron teeth) and economic greed (bronze claws).
A 'horn' is a "handle"; that is, a name. The ten horns represent names of the leaders of the Usurpers of the Caliphate (Successorship) to Muhammad.
The first of these Usurpers was the House of Umayyah. Abu-Sufyan, an idolater from Mecca, was the shrewd and infamous leader of the Umayyad clan, and was the driving force behind the usurpation of the Islamic Caliphate from 'Ali, the rightful heir, in 661 CE.
There were fifteen leaders of the Umayyah, beginning with Abu-Sufyan. But there were only ten names among these leaders, since several of these were repeated. The unrepeated names were: Abu-Sufyan, Mu'awiya, Yazid, Marwan, 'Abdu'l-Malik, al-Walid, Sulayman, Umar, Hisham, and Ibraham.
Mu'awiya, the son of Abu-Sufyan, was the Caliph who introduced the insidious practice of fabricating traditions ascribed to Muhammad, maligning and denigrating 'Ali. Through his direction, several minions were bribed into corrupting and distorting Muslim doctrine, text, belief and practice. <2>
Following their fall from power in 750 CE, one Umayyad, 'Abd al-Rahman, escaped to Andalusia (Spain) where he set up another Umayyad dynasty in 756 CE, usually called the "Cordoban Caliphate." The pattern of ten horns followed the House of Umayyah to Spain. There were eighteen neo-Umayyad Caliphs of the Cordoban Caliphate, but, again, with only ten unrepeated names: 'Abd al-Rahman, Hisham, Hakam, Muhammad, Munzir, Abdullah, Hijab, Al-Mansur, 'Abdu'l Malik, Al-Mahdi, and Sulayman. The Cordoban Caliphate came to its end in 1031 CE.
The beast with ten horns is a subject of Revelation 12, in which it is revealed that the beast also has seven heads. The seven heads are the seven dominions that were ruled by the Umayyah: Syria, Persia, Egypt, Africa, Arabia, Andalusia, and Transoxania.
The fall of the House of Umayyah came at the hand of another tyrant: the house of 'Abbas. Oddly enough, the House of 'Abbas also had ten 'horns,' from their usurpation of power in 750 CE until their loss of sovereignty to the Turks in 861 CE: As-Saffa, Al-Mansur, Al-Mahdi, Al-Hadi, Ar-Rashid, Al-Amin, Al-Ma'mun, Al-Mu'tasim, Al-Wathiq, and Al-Mutawakkil. <3> While the Umayyad dynasty was founded in Arabia, the Abbasid dynasty was founded in Persia; and while the capital of the Umayyah was in Damascus, the capital of the Abbasids was in Baghdad.
The rise to power of the House of 'Abbas had a history too complex to trace here, but of particular interest is that, like the House of Umayyah, the Abbasids used trickery and deceit in their rise to power. Those who had, in the past, heroically resisted the "accursed Umayyah," were expecting to see a member of the House of 'Ali assume the caliphate. Instead, it was the nefarious leader of the House of 'Abbas who came out of hiding and seized the reigns of power. His name was Abu'l-'Abbas 'Abdu'llah, very soon to become known as As-Saffa, the 'Shedder of Blood.' As-Saffa was the 'little horn' in Daniel's vision. During the rebellion, three Umayyad commanders were defeated. These three had the names Yazid, Abdu'l-Malik and Marwan. It will be seen that their names are included in the ten horns of the House of Umayyah, thereby confirming the prophecy of Daniel 7:8, 24.
At the mosque of 'Ali in Kufah, a city that had been a center of the heroic rebellion, As-Saffa ascended the pulpit and announced a reign of justice, equity, and righteousness. The new Caliphate was to be a sacred trust that would be handed over to Jesus, the Son of Mary, on His Second Coming.
Contrary to promises, the blasphemous and perfidious House of 'Abbas ruled with teeth of iron and claws of bronze. In Revelation 13 the 'Abbasid dynasty is characterized as the 'second beast' and the 'image of the first beast.' Indeed, a reader of Islamic history finds little to recommend the 'Abbasids over the Umayyah. It is noteworthy that Muhammad had prophesied
We will bring forth to them a beast from the earth. It will speak to them, for mankind would not be convinced of our signs.
After the reign of the fourth beast, God the father, the Ancient of Days is introduced, with 'robe as white and with the hair of His head like the cleanest wool.' His white robe and hair signify His spotless spiritual attributes and great wisdom. God is shown sitting on a throne of great power, with 'wheels of blazing fire,' the same throne spoken of in Ezekiel 1 and in Revelation 4. The wheels of fire are an astrological symbol, describing the mechanism that ancient astronomers believed was used to move the firmament. A 'flowing river of fire' streams out from the throne, a river that destroys all who are judged and condemned for their wrongdoing. 'The court sat and the books were opened.' (Daniel 7:10)
God is then approached by 'one like a man coming with the clouds of heaven.' This Figure is that of Baha'u'llah, the king of Glory, Who is given everlasting sovereignty by God. <5> In later verses (Daniel 7:26-27), it is explained that kingly power and everlasting sovereignty will be given to the 'saints of the Most high,' a reference to the righteous who follow in the footsteps of the Lord of Hosts.
The Ancient of Days is one title of Baha'u'llah. <6> After His reception of everlasting sovereignty, Baha'u'llah will sit on the throne beside the father and govern in the Name of God. <7>
There are two dates in Daniel 7 that require closer reading. In verse 25, Daniel is informed that the saints shall be delivered into the power of the fourth beast 'for a time, times and half a time.' The three and one half times are 1260 lunar years and define the date in the Muslim lunar calendar (1260 AH / 1844 CE) that terminated the spiritual sovereignty of the beast. This date has a double significance. Not only does it mark the Edict of Toleration; it also marks the Declaration of the Bab, which ended the Dispensation of Muhammad and terminated the spiritual sovereignty of the Muslim empire.
A less apparent date is given in verse 12:
12 The rest of the beasts, though deprived of their sovereignty, were allowed to remain alive for a time and a season.
A season could be one fourth of a time or ninety years, making the time and a season equal to 450 years. If lunar years are intended, and if the 'other beasts' were also deprived of their spiritual sovereignty in 1844, then we might expect an end to the other beasts around the year 437 of the Baha'i era.
Alas, it is far easier to explore the past than to augor the future! At the rate events are moving, the date 437 BE is not an unreasonable estimate for dating the end of the nations and the beginning of the Most Great Peace. But this fool prefers to leave such speculations to other fools.
Notes for Chapter Three
1. There is a famous anecdote, related by Herodotus, connected with Croesus' decision to invade Media-Persia. Croesus enquired of the two famous Oracles at Delphi and Pytho as to whether he should undertake the invasion. The replies of both Oracles agreed: if he invaded Media-Persia, he would destroy a great empire. Croesus mistakenly assumed that the great empire to be destroyed would be Media-Persia.
2. Ref 9, p. 192
3. The first Turkish dynasty, the Seljuks, may have had ten horns also, but the last years of their Caliphate were rather chaotic. The ten horns of the Seljuks were (possibly) Malik, Toghrul, Alp, Barkiyaroq, Mahommed, Sinjar, Mahmud, Masud, Sulayman, and Arslan.
4. Ref 9, p. 217
5. 'Man' and 'Son of Man' were ancient titles for the Savior. The Savior always 'comes on the clouds of heaven,' not literally but figuratively. See References 1, 10, & 16.
6. It is also a fact that Baha'u'llah's hair was literally snow white, although He followed local custom and had it dyed black.
7. See Revelation 3:21.
A LITTLE HORN
This vision, similar to that of the previous chapter, appeared to Daniel in the third year of King Belshazzar's reign. He finds himself transported to the banks of the Ulai canal at Susa, an ancient citadel of Persia. The locale is appropriate to some of the events that are soon to be revealed to Daniel. He sees:
3 . . . a ram with two horns standing between me and the stream. The two horns were long, the one longer than the other, growing up behind. 4 I watched the ram butting west and north and south. No beasts could stand before it; no one could rescue from its power. It did what it liked, making a display of its strength. 5 While I pondered this, suddenly a he-goat came from the west skimming over the whole earth without touching the ground: it had a prominent horn between its eyes. 6 It approached the two-horned ram which I had seen standing between me and the stream and rushed at it with impetuous force. 7 I saw it advance on the ram, working itself into a fury against it, then strike the ram and break its two horns; the ram had no strength to resist. The he-goat flung it to the ground and trampled on it, and there was no one to save the ram. 8 Then the he-goat made a great display of its strength. Powerful as it was, its great horn snapped and in its place there sprang out towards the four quarters of heaven four prominent horns.
In later verses (Daniel 8:19-22), Daniel learns that the ram with two horns signifies Media-Persia. The he-goat signifies Greece, the prominent horn symbolizing its first king. The four prominent horns that 'sprang out towards the four quarters of heaven' represent four kingdoms that will rise from the first.
The "dangerous Medes" were closely related to the Persians (the longer horn) to their east. For many years there were struggles between the Medes and the Persians that ultimately resulted in the accession of Cyrus "the Persian" to the Median throne in 550 BC.
But instead of reducing the Medes to a position of humiliation, Cyrus treated the defeated Medes as equals. Thereafter, the empire had two names, Media and Persia. In later centuries, the two-named empire became known simply as Persia. Today, the remnant of the Medeo-Persian empire is known as Iran.
The prominent horn of the he-goat, of course, represents Alexander the Great. Upon his death, the empire was divided into four parts: north, south, east and west. These are discussed at more length in another chapter.
9 Out of one of them issued one little horn, 10 Which made a prodigious show of strength south and east and toward the fairest of all lands. 11 It aspired to be as great as the Prince of the host, supressed his regular offering and even threw down his sanctuary. 12 The heavenly hosts were delivered up, and it raised itself impiously against the regular offering and threw true religion to the ground; in all that it did, it succeeded.
Again, in a later verse (Daniel 8:23) Daniel learns more about the little horn: it refers to a king, 'harsh and grim, a master of strategem', who will appear in the last days of the four kingdoms, 'at the end of wrath; for there is an end to the appointed time .' (Daniel 8:19)
24 His power shall be great, he shall work havoc untold; he shall succeed in whatever he does. He shall work havoc among great nations and upon a holy people. 25 His mind shall be ever active, and he shall succeed in his crafty designs; he shall conjure up great plans, and, when they least expect it, work havoc on many. He shall challenge even the Prince of princes and be broken, but not by human hands."
These verses summarize quite accurately the character and actions of the infamous Antiochus IV Epiphanes, "the God Manifest," who will be discussed more fully in another chapter. The 'end to the appointed time' has been stressed by this writer, because the same phrase is used at critical junctures in the text of Daniel to indicate a break in the historical narrative.
In verse 25 we learn that Antiochus is to be 'broken, but not by human hands.' Indeed, Antiochus was broken, and not by human hands. While involved in another one of his nefarious schemes at the Persian city of Tabae in 164 BC, he went insane and died.
13 I heard a holy one speaking and another holy one answering him, whoever he was. The one said, 'For how long will the period of this vision last? How long will the regular offering be suppressed, how long will impiety cause desolation, and both the Holy Place and the fairest of all lands be given to be trodden down?' 14 The answer came, 'For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; then the Holy Place will emerge victorious.'
Daniel learns more in following verses:
15 . . . I saw standing before me one with the semblance of a man; 16 At the same time, I heard a human voice calling to him across the bend of the Ulai, 'Gabriel, explain the vision to this man.' 17 He came up to where I was standing; . . . (and) said to me, 'Understand, O man: the vision points to the time of the end.'
Who are these two angels? Daniel admits that he does not know who one of them is, while the other is called by the name Gabriel. The fact that they speak of the time of the end suggests that they come from the future. We can safely assume that they represent entities or personalities that are important to the future of Israel, and that they will be somehow associated with Persia, the locale where Daniel is standing. Also, the Figure from across the bend of the Ulai commands Gabriel to explain the vision to Daniel; it seems unlikely that an angel of a lesser rank than Gabriel could give such a command.
We conclude that the other Figure is probably Michael, the Archangel of Glory, who will be introduced by name in later chapters. Michael is the archetype of the Victor, while Gabriel is the archetype of the Announcer. <1> There are two Figures from Persia and the time of the end Who will have these attributes; Michael must represent Baha'u'llah, the King of Glory, while Gabriel must represent the Bab, the Forerunner.
This revelation concerning the 'time of the end' is too much for Daniel. He goes into a trance and is revived by Gabriel, who now tells him of another epoch, 'the end of wrath.' The end of wrath refers to the destruction of Seleucid power in Palestine by the Maccabean revolt, when Antiochus will be 'broken but not by human hands.' We have already visited these verses, Daniel 8:23-26.
The 2300 evenings and mornings are 2300 exactly-completed years and refer to the time of the end. The end of what? It is to be the end of the spiritual desolation of the Holy Land, and the end of the time that the Holy Land will 'be given to be trodden down.' In these verses, Daniel is being told of another epoch and another time, far distant in the future--in fact, of an epoch exactly 2300 years away. But where is the point at which to begin the counting of years?
There is only one point in time to start the counting of years that generates a meaningful result: it is the same point in time that Gabriel gives to Daniel in his vision during the first year of the reign of Darius (Daniel 9):
25 . . . Know and understand from the time that the word went forth that Jerusalem should be restored and rebuilt . . .
It will be shown in that chapter that the starting date is the first day of the Jewish month of Nisan, 457 BCE. This gives the end of the 'desolation' at exactly
2300 Years (8:13)
- 457 BCE, the first of Nisan
+ 1 a calendar correction <2>
= 1844 CE, the first of Nisan
This is the exact date of the Edict of Toleration that permitted the Jewish people to resettle the Holy Land.
Notes for Chapter Four
1. See note 2 of Chapter 2.
2. When computing the time span between a date BCE and a date CE, it must be remembered that there is one year missing in the calendar. There is no year numbered zero in either the Christian or Muslim [or Baha'i] calendars.
Gabriel's revelation to Daniel occurs in the first year of Darius the Mede, which would be about 521 BCE. The chapter begins with Daniel lamenting his sins and those of the people of Israel. Following a devout prayer for forgiveness, Gabriel appears to Daniel and announces:
22 '... O Daniel, I have come out to give you wisdom and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your supplications a word went forth, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the word and understand the vision.'
What follows is a terse and profound prophecy that has bewildered readers for 25 centuries:
24 'Seventy Sevens are decreed concerning your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy. 25 'Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven Sevens. 'Then for sixty-two Sevens it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two Sevens, an anointed one will be cut off, and shall have nothing; 26 'And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end will come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war; desolations are decreed. 27 'And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one Seven; and in the middle of the Seven, he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease; 'And in the train of abominations shall come an author of desolation; then in the end, what has been decreed concerning the desolation will be poured out.'
The word "one" ahead of the Seven in verse 27 is important and is found in all the translations listed in the introduction to this book. But the interested reader would do well to visit all translations to compare the nuances of different translators.
As in the New International Version of the Bible, the original Hebrew word "shabua" has been translated as "Seven" for reasons that will become apparent. While most translations of Daniel substitute "a week of years" for the Hebrew "shabua," the literal translation is "seven." <1> But in ancient number mysticism, seven decades, or seven centuries -- indeed, any decadal successor of Seven has an archetype of Seven. <2>
The sliding time scale of the Seven is evident in various biblical texts: Jacob spent 7 years in servitude for Leah and 7 years more for Rachel <3>; the Ark of the Covenant was in the land of the Philistines for 7 months <4>, and Jeremiah prophesied that the Israelites would be in bondage for 7 decades. <5> Based upon II Chronicles 36:21, seven decades is sometimes called a "sabbatic year."
Jeremiah's prophecy of the 7 decades is most interesting because it is associated with the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. We note, also, Daniel's reference to Jeremiah's prophecy earlier in the same chapter that seems to give us a clue to the fundamental meter of cadence in these prophecies:
2 ... I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years which, according to the word of Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely seventy years.
If we take the Seven as 7 years in verse 24, then the total time span of Gabriel's prophecy is 7 sabbatic years (490 calendar years). But in verse 25, Gabriel's convoluted prose seems to indicate that 7 sabbatic years is also equal to 7 times '62-and-7' or 483 calendar years, an obvious fallacy. The correct reading is to recognize that there is a Seven of years after the 69 Sevens of years that has already been decreed by the seventy Sevens of verse 24. It is during the implied last Seven of years, after the other 69, that the coming of an 'anointed one' and His 'cutting off' are to occur.
The 24th verse seems to have an apparent meaning: seven sabbatic years (490 calendar years) are allotted to the Jewish people to finish the transgression, to put an end to their sin, to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to produce prophets and sealed prophecies, and to anoint their Messiah. The years are to be counted from 'the going forth of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.'
There were four 'words going forth' to restore and rebuild the Temple and/or Jerusalem. A 'word going forth' was a signed Proclamation, that is, a Decree (see Dan 6:8). These four Decrees were:
1. The Decree to rebuild the Temple, given by Cyrus, King of Persia, in 534
BCE. Recorded in the first Chapter of Ezra, this Decree was partially
2. The Decree to rebuild the Temple, given by Darius, King of Persia, in 519 BCE. Recorded in the sixth chapter of Ezra, this Decree was essentially fulfilled.
3. The Decree to finish and beautify the Temple, given in the seventh year of his reign in 457 BCE by Artaxerxes, King of Persia. Recorded in the seventh chapter of Ezra, this Decree was fulfilled and later addended by the fourth Decree.
4. The Decree to rebuild the gates of Jerusalem and of the Temple, given by the same Artaxerxes in 444 BCE. Recorded in the second chapter of Nehemiah, this Decree was also fulfilled. We shall soon see that using 457 BCE as the starting point in Gabriel's calendar produces results that are in close agreement with history. Admittedly, the precise dates of many ancient events have been debated by various authorities, but a variance of a year or two will not affect significantly the outcome of our investigation.
As to the words of Gabriel in verse 9:25, the 'going forth of the word,' the exact date of this event is given in Ezra:
9 ... for on the first day of the first month he (Ezra) began to go up from Babylonia ...
This would be the first day of Nisan, 457 BCE. Another matter to be addressed is the length of the year in verses 24-26. There seem to be only three plausible choices:
(1) A solar year of 365.242 days, as measured by the time between
(2) A lunar year of 354.367 days, as measured by 12 lunations.
(3) A 'prophetic year' of 360 days, based upon a correlation of the dates given in Genesis 7:11,24 & 8:3. It so happens that the use of solar years produces a good result, since it places the Crucifixion of the Messiah at about the right date:
70 Sevens of years = 490 solar years
Date of Artaxerxes' first Decree = 457 BCE
Difference = 33 CE
But there is one year missing in the Christian solar calendar since Jesus was said to have been born at One instead of at Zero. (The concepts of zero and negative numbers are relatively modern and were unknown to the ancient world.) Adjusting for the missing year produces the date 34 CE for the Crucifixion.
Whether or not 34 CE is the correct date for the Crucifixion cannot be ascertained by historians at this time. Suffice it to say that it is well within the range of dates that have been proposed by various scholars. It will also be shown that this method of dating Gabriel's calendar generates reasonable numbers when other dates given in Daniel are introduced into the equation.
Returning to the last Seven of years in Daniel 9:25, this would then correspond to the period 27 CE to 34 CE. This would surely include the period of Jesus' ministry and the events surrounding it. For instance, in Luke 3:1-3 we find that 'the word of God came to John' the Baptist in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. This would be the year 29 CE. Luke 3:23 also tells us that Jesus was about 30 years old when He began His ministry.
Most authorities accept the account of Matthew 2 for setting the date of the Birth of Jesus which places it about 4 to 6 BCE. If we choose the probable date to be about 5 BCE, then we can estimate that He began His ministry about 26 or 27 CE. Indeed, 27 CE has been taken by some excellent biblical scholars <6> to be a good estimate.
Another difficulty comes in the decision as to the length of Jesus' ministry. The synoptic Gospels seem to indicate that it was only about a year long, while John indicates that it was about three years long. Since we are again forced to admit that the historical date of the Crucifixion remains uncertain, the date 34 CE remains as good as any. If so, the entire ministry of Jesus would have been about seven years long, even though His fame may not have spread throughout Palestine until the latter part of it. He would have been 'not yet forty' when He died on the cross in 34 CE.
Now as to the meaning of the words of Gabriel: Daniel 9 25 '... there shall be seven Sevens. Then for sixty-two Sevens it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time ...' The seven Sevens of years are the time required to finish the rebuilding of Jerusalem, while the other sixty-two Sevens of years tell us how long the city will lie finished before the appearance of the Messiah.
The 'troubled time' followed a period of relative peace and security. Alexander's conquest of Persia in 334 BCE and his untimely death eleven years later produced several centuries of troubles for Judea and, indeed, for the whole Near East. The struggle between 'north and south,' that is the subject of Daniel 11, includes the troubled time and will be discussed in another chapter.
We are now in a position to fill in the details of this portion of Gabriel's highly abbreviated schedule of events:
|EVENT||SEVENS OF YEARS||CHRISTIAN RECKONING ( BCE & CE)|
|Artaxerxes' Decree||0||457 BCE|
|Finishing of Jerusalem||0 thru 6||457 BCE thru 409 BCE|
|Jerusalem Completed||7||408 BCE|
|Jerusalem lies completed||8 thru 68||407 BCE thru 26 CE|
|Messiah's ministry||69 to 70||27 CE to 34 CE|
|Messiah's crucifixion||70||34 CE|
Now reconsider the following verses:
26 '... and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end will come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war; desolations are decreed. 27 'And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one Seven; and in the middle of the Seven, he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease; ...'
The temptation is to place the Seven of verse 27 after the 69 Sevens of verse 25 to round out the 70 Sevens of verse 24. However, there is no reason for doing so, since we have demonstrated that the 70th Seven has already been implied by the Decree in verse 24. The Seven of the strong covenant should not be confused with the 70 Sevens decreed for the Jews to 'finish the transgression,' etc., since the strong covenant concerns a period of time after the Messiah has been 'cut off' and left with nothing.
That the 'strong covenant with many for one Seven' is made by the Messiah can be deduced through an unprejudiced reading of the New Testament. For example, in John we find Jesus in the Temple speaking to the Jews who ask Him for a sign. Jesus replies with a cryptic promise:
19 '... Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.'
The author of John goes on to say that later believers in the physical
resurrection took the 'temple' to mean the 'temple' of Jesus' body. Be that as
it may, those present at the scene took it to mean the great Temple of
Jerusalem where Jesus was speaking. In fact, there are other instances
<7> where Jesus is quoted as saying that He was able to destroy the
Temple of God and to rebuild it in three days. In yet other places, we find
Jesus prophesying the literal destruction of the city and the Temple.
<8> And even after the death of Jesus, Stephen is accused at the Temple
before the council of elders:
13 "... This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law: 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place, and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us." ...
1 And the high priest said, "Is this so?"
In the beautiful and well reported speech that he offers in his defense, Stephen denounces the priesthood but does not deny the charge.
48 "... the Most High does not dwell in houses made with hands; ..."
Stephen is subsequently executed by stoning.
Jesus often said that He had come to fulfill the prophets, and in this instance He must have been referring to the prophecy of Gabriel's calendar. The "middle of the Seven" brings us to the middle of the fourth 'day,' and on this day the city, the sanctuary, the offering and the sacrifice are to be eliminated. But Jesus promises further that during the remaining 'three days' of the Seven, He will rebuild the Temple.
But how is Jesus the Messiah to accomplish the destruction of such a solid structure as the great Temple of Jerusalem? He gives us a clue:
43 "For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, 44 And dash you to the ground ..."
It will be through the instruments of war that He will bring down the walls of Jerusalem and the Temple also. And what is to be the nature of the Temple that Jesus is to build? Jesus gives his Apostles a most succinct answer:
18 "And I tell you, you are Peter (Petros), and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of earth shall not prevail against it."
The "Temple" is to be none other than His Church. And the "rock" upon which He will build His Church will not be the sacred Rock Moriah on Mount Zion. ("... believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem will you worship the Father." <9>) Rather, it is to be upon the "rock" of His Apostle Peter, and by implication, upon the rest of His trusted Apostles that He will build His Church. Nor will it be built of stones and cedar, but of a matrix of loving, faithful followers and a new Law. Since He will destroy their beloved Temple, they will be cut off from the grain offering and the shewbread. Jesus gives them a substitute:
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took the (Passover) bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body."
The body of Jesus' teachings and divine perfections is to be given to them as their heavenly Manna, and His followers can symbolize their assimilation of the offering by the simple act of breaking bread. But the Holy of Holies and its sacred blood sacrifice are also to be lost forever, the sacrifice that reconfirmed the Covenant and washed away their sins. Therefore, Jesus gives them a substitute for this:
27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink ye all of it, all of you; 28 For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."
Indeed, their beloved Ark of the Covenant had already ceased to exist as a material artifact. Now, even their beloved Temple would soon be destroyed along with its Torah, the Holy of Holies, the offering, and the blood sacrifice. But the love of Jesus for his disciples, indeed for all humanity, compelled Him to offer his own life as the ultimate Sacrifice that could be re-enacted by the suppliant with nothing more than bread and wine.
Returning to Gabriel's prophecy, since we have assumed that a "Seven" means
a span of time with an archetype of seven. The one Seven in 9:27 could be 7
decades (i.e., a "sabbatic year"). Indeed, we shall soon see that interpreting
the one Seven here as 7 decades produces the only plausible result.
We have already seen that by letting a Seven equal 7 years, the seventy Sevens of verse 24 places the Crucifixion of Jesus at around 34 CE. Now, if the one Seven in verse 27 is taken as 7 decades, then 'one Seven half spent' is 35 years. The prophecy of verse 27 then says that after 35 years, He shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease. 35 years after the Crucifixion was 69 CE, and the following year was 70 CE.
This, then, is the 'strong covenant with many for one Seven' spoken of by the angel Gabriel in 9:27: Jesus promises to destroy and rebuild the Temple in "seven days" following His Crucifixion. In the interim, His followers are given handy substitutes for the sacred ceremonies that are to be destroyed after the "third day."
At this juncture, it is well to recall the ominous words of Jesus concerning some events to come:
15 'So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house; 18 And let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle.'
There were several sacrileges standing in the holy place before a tragic
uprising of the Jews. This was not the first time that a sacrilege would stand
in the holy place. The reader is to understand that the desolating sacrilege
prophesied by Jesus will have signs that parallel those that had already
occurred about 200 years before under the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes.
.... In fact, a "graven image" -- the conquering eagle of Rome -- would stand over the principal gate of the Temple <10>; the "mad emperor" Caligula would order that a statue be built of his "Divine self" and worshipped inside the Temple sanctuary (an order that, fortunately, was rescinded) <11>; Herod, while sitting upon his throne, would make an impious assertion of his own divinity <12> ; Roman soldiers would make obscene gestures near the Temple during the Passover festival <13>; Zealots would murder the High Priest Jonathan within the hallowed precincts of the Temple. <14>
But there was one particular sacrilege that precipitated the desolation of Judea. Shortly after the completion of the Temple in 66 CE, a sacrilege occurred that would soon plunge Judea into a blood bath -- the Roman procurator, Gessius Florus, looted the sacred treasury of the Temple of the very considerable sum of seventeen talents. Since the treasury deposited in the Temple was always considered inviolate to the secular administration, the act infuriated the people of Judea and was the primary cause of a riot in Jerusalem and the entire region. It was the beginning of a holocaust that even caused the Roman historian Tacitus to bear witness to the omens that had forewarned of it: the famine, the earthquake, the prodigies, and the awful signs in the heavens that heralded the Fall of Jerusalem.
Eusebius tells us that the early Christians residing in and around Jerusalem did, indeed, 'fly to the mountains,' not at the sight of these sacrileges, but at a later sight. In April, 70 AD, Titus, who was later to become emperor of Rome, marched his four legions ('the people of the prince to come') to the walls of Jerusalem. [Daniel 9:26] It was at this more tangible sign that the local Christians fled to the Gentile town of Pella east of the Jordan River, where some say that they survived until the fifth century. The Ebionites, the early Christian sect brought into Christianity directly by Jesus and the Apostles, were among those emigrants. <15>
When Titus arrived, a civil war had been going on in Jerusalem for some time, even within the sacred precincts of the Temple. The original belligerents were two factions of Zealots led by Simon ben Gioras and John of Giscala. <16> By 70 CE, the civil dissensions in Jerusalem had gone from bad to worse with three factions of Zealots now fighting for supremacy.
Titus erected a wall of circumvallation around Jerusalem and established a strict blockade. Towers and siege engines were brought to bear against Jerusalem, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Jesus:
43 'For the days shall come upon you (Jerusalem), when your enemies will cast a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side...'
It is difficult to believe that the sacred sacrifice and offering could properly exist under such circumstances. However, the sacrifice and offering were not technically ended until the 17th of Tammuz (midsummer), 70 CE. By that time, the streets were running with blood, and the sufferings of the masses of people within the city have been rarely if ever matched in the annals of history. The crazed Zealots murdered men, women, and children for morsels of food, even those who were in the very act of swallowing. The wretched inhabitants, creeping out of the city by night to search for food for their wives and children, were usually caught and crucified by Titus' soldiers or were robbed by the zealot sentinels on their return to the gates.
In spite of temporary coalitions of the fragmented Zealot parties against the Roman legions, it took only a few months for the well-disciplined forces of Titus to take the city. The end came 'with a flood' of armed soldiers. On the ninth of Ab, indeed on the VERY ANNIVERSARY of the burning of the first Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, the apartment next to the sanctuary was set afire by the Roman soldiers. The Jews, thinking that God had, indeed, abandoned His sanctuary, rushed with frantic cries to the spot and threw themselves into the flames in an attempt to save the Holy of Holies. Even Titus himself rushed to the scene with his personal staff of officers and men in a futile attempt to rescue a part of the holy precinct. But with the sudden and unexpected turn of events in their favor, the Roman soldiers behaved like savages. Josephus <17>, an eyewitness, describes what followed:
"One would have thought that the hill on which the Temple stood was seething hot, full of fire in every part, that the blood was greater in quantity than the fire, and that those who were slain were more numerous than those who slew them. The ground was nowhere visible because of the dead bodies that lay upon it, and the soldiers were forced to go over heaps of bodies as they ran after those who fled before them." -Josephus
With the final collapse, the Romans rushed throughout the Temple and the city, butchering young and old alike. At last, becoming satiated with blood, the Roman soldiers attempted to plunder the homes of the citizens of Jerusalem, but the putrefying corpses were so sickening that they were forced to abandon the project. Those few Jews who escaped immediate death were captured to spend their lives as slaves in the mines or as gladiators in Roman arenas.
Thus was fulfilled the remainder of the prophecy of Jesus:
44 '... and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.'
After the ninth of Ab, 70 CE, the city of Jerusalem was no longer the center of Jewish life. Deprived of their beloved Temple and the City, the Jews were forced to give up the offering, the daily sacrifice, and even pilgrimages to the Temple. Through a program fashioned by the great rabbi Johannan ben Zakkai, the Jews in exile learned to substitute prayer, works of piety, and study of the Holy Scripture. Thus the awesome spiritual forces unleashed by Jesus the Messiah produced the result that the Jewish priests would not willingly accept at their 'time of visitation': the house of the Lord ceased to be a den of thieves.
The ninth of Ab became, and remains, a day of fasting. To this day, the Jewish wedding ceremony commemorates the destruction of the Temple each time the groom crushes the nuptial cup.
And what of the "Temple" that Jesus had promised to build? We recall that with the Crucifixion, the Messiah was cut off and left with nothing. Jesus was indeed left with nothing, without a Church, without even a Book. In the "three days" (3 decades) following the collapse of Jerusalem, Jesus built His "Temple." By about 90 CE, after two days, the Gospels and numerous other Christian works had been written, and the Christians were thereby given a "foundation." By about 100 CE, three days after the Fall of Jerusalem, the primitive Church had become solidly "constructed" in numerous cities throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Jesus then "dedicated" His Church by delivering a prophetic Book to John, His favorite disciple. That Book, the Apocalypse [aka Revelation], is the only one that purports to be a direct revelation from Jesus Christ. To the best of our knowledge, the Apocalypse was "delivered" to John about 104 CE, the three-and-a-half-day point after the elimination of the daily sacrifice. <18> Thereby, Jesus the Messiah fulfilled His 'strong covenant with many for one Seven.' Recall
19 "... Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.'
The delivery of the Apocalypse to John, after so many years had passed and after almost everyone had died who had seen Jesus at first hand, explains the enigmatic remark of Jesus near the end of the fourth Gospel:
21 When Peter turned and saw (the young disciple John following them), he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" 22 Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!"
Even after the Fall of Jerusalem, there were more horrors to follow. In 118, only fourteen years after the completion of Messiah's Temple, another insurrection arose against Rome by the Jews in exile. It reached Judea in 132, where it was led by the false Messiah Simon bar Cocheba, commanding an army of four hundred thousand men. Bar Cocheba was able to destroy two armies dispatched by Rome before the emperor Hadrian sent a third army under his ablest general Julius Severus to quell the rebellion. Severus ultimately defeated bar Cocheba at Bethar in 135, killing a half million Jews in the process. Thousands of women and children were again carted off into slavery, and, for two hundred years, no Jew was allowed in Judea.
Simon bar Cocheba thereby became the 'author of desolation' in the last sentence of Gabriel's calendar:
27 '... And in the train of abominations shall come an author of desolation; then in the end, what has been decreed concerning the desolation will be poured out.
After this last disaster, Jerusalem lay a desolate ruin. It was given a Latin name, a new temple was erected to Jupiter, and a statue of Hadrian -- a final abomination, was set up over the Rock Moriah.
So bitter was the victory over the Jews that Hadrian did not pronounce the customary congratulatory phrase before the Roman Senate. A toast became common at Roman feasts: "Hierosolyma Est Perdida!" ("Jerusalem is destroyed!"), immediately answered by the guests shouting "Hurrah!" The initial letters of the toast (H.E.P.) soon replaced the phrase, and has come down to us as the traditional cheer "Hep! Hep! Hurrah!"
Even after the conversion of the Emperor Constantine to Christianity, the struggle was not over. The later accession of Julian the Apostate to the throne of Rome resulted in the abolition of Christianity as the official faith of the realm, and the Jews were invited to rebuild their Temple. The Jews, believing that the restoration of Israel was at hand, donated money and labor from all over the empire. But, whether due to human or divine agencies, no sooner had the work begun when fires and terrifying explosions rocked the site of the restoration on the Temple Mount. Christians and other enemies of the Jews took these events as proof of divine displeasure, and the circumstances were repeated with exaggerated details and supernatural embellishments.
Ironically, the strife between Christians and Jews in the Holy Land mostly came to an end when Umar I, the renowned second and "rightly guided" Caliph of Islam, took Jerusalem in 637. Umar brought order to the area and treated both Christians and Jews with respect in accordance with the command of Muhammad that 'the people of the book' should not be harmed. Nevertheless, there were several curious events surrounding the takeover of Jerusalem that have had long-enduring effects.
In the first place, Sophronius, the Christian patriarch of Jerusalem at the time, invited Umar to take over the city without bloodshed. But Sophronius stipulated a proviso that Umar must strictly prohibit the Jews from dwelling in Jerusalem. Umar apparently accepted this condition. <19> Although some Jews (about seventy families) were allowed to live there under succeeding Caliphs, the city ceased to be either a Jewish or a Christian city (except for a brief time during the Crusades) for the next twelve centuries. In fact, the repeal of the contract between Umar and Sophronius did not officially occur until the first of Nisan, 1844. On that date, the Ottomans signed the Edict of Toleration that lifted the ban on Jewish immigration to the area, which inadvertently laid the groundwork for the creation of the modern state of Israel. The first of Nisan, 1844, as has been said elsewhere, was exactly 2300 years after the day that Ezra left Babylonia to rebuild the Temple in compliance with the first Decree of Artaxerxes. The Edict of Toleration marks the end of the 'transgression that makes desolate.'
Soon after Umar's takeover of Jerusalem, Umar began a search for the site of the sacred sanctuary of the ancient Temple site. This, of course, was the Rock Moriah, the altar location where Abraham had attempted unsuccessfully to sacrifice his son. Arabs being descendants of Abraham, the site played an important part in Muslim tradition just as it did for the Jews. It was at this site that Muhammad was reputed to have taken His mystical night journey to the seventh heaven and to have sat at the right hand of God. Umar found the site, by then desecrated beyond recognition by centuries of abuse by Christians. In fact, the Christians had covered the Rock with dung and other refuse. <4> The Orthodox Church had not built a church over the site because of the prophecy of Jesus:
35 'Behold, your house shall be left unto you desolate.'
Umar cleaned and purified the site, and built a temporary wooden shrine over it. Under a later Caliph, the shrine was rebuilt into a permanent and magnificent mosque that ultimately became known as the 'Dome of the Rock.'
The golden Dome is the most conspicuous landmark in Jerusalem. To the Muslims, the Dome of the Rock has symbolized their political and spiritual authority over both the Jews and the Christians. It stands over the Holy Place and represents the ultimate insult to the Jewish people. It has served for over thirteen centuries as a tangible barrier between them and their Holy of Holies. Whether the Dome will ever be taken down and the Jewish Temple rebuilt may be an irrelevant question. The human psyche seems to have evolved forever beyond the idea of a living animal sacrifice being offered to a benevolent God within a foul, bloody, flyblown "holy" chamber.
We are now in a position to fill in the remainder of Gabriel's calendar:
AFTER ARTAXERXES' DECREE
|Messiah's Crucifixion||7||CE 34|
|Offering and blood
|7 1/2||CE 69-70|
|Author of Desolation||.||CE 132|
The Author of Desolation appeared 84 Sevens of years after
The illegitimate caliphate came to power 666 years after the
probable date of the Birth of Jesus. (666 is the "number of
blasphemy" in Revelation 13.) It was abolished thirty-four
sabbatic years after Artaxerxes' Decree and twenty-seven sabbatic
years after the Crucifixion.
Robert Riggs is a member of the Baha'i Faith from the United States. Much of the material on this homepage consists of extracts from existing Baha'i publications, but also included are a number of insights and comments about prophecies which are entirely the author's own understanding and, as such, do not necessarily represent the official position of the Baha'i Faith or its teachings.