“And I prayed unto YHWH my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments.” (Daniel 9:4)
Those with an interest in Bible prophecy are likely familiar with the infamous “covenant” mentioned in Daniel 9:27. By far the majority of scholars today believe the covenant found in Daniel 9:27 is to be made or confirmed with Israel by some yet-future evil world leader, and it is this covenant that will set in motion the final seven years of this age—aka “the Great Tribulation”— before the Messiah Yeshua returns to reign on this earth.
But how many of you are familiar with the covenant of Daniel 9:4? Arguably, it is this first covenant mentioned in the chapter that establishes the underlying context for the entire prophecy revealed to Daniel by the angel Gabriel. In fact, a careful reading of Daniel 9:1–23 shows that the prophecy of 70 weeks, given in the last four verses of the chapter, is in part an answer to Daniel’s impassioned prayer in those first twenty-three verses.
And I prayed unto YHWH my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments. (Daniel 9:4, emphasis mine)
Daniel’s prayer was predicated upon a covenant he knew the Lord would keep. What covenant was that, and why does it matter so much to our understanding of the entire prophecy?
Covenants and Controversy
As we look at the covenant of Daniel 9:4, keep in mind that it is almost always ignored by scholars when discussing Daniel 9:24–27 and the prophecy of 70 weeks. As you will see in the following pages, this omission is not trivial. As mentioned above, one of the most well-known aspects of the prophecy of 70 weeks is the covenant of Daniel 9:27, which a majority of scholars believe will be made or confirmed with the yet-future Antichrist. But what if we could prove that the covenant of Daniel 9:4 is inseparably linked to the covenant of Daniel 9:27? What if the covenant of Daniel 9:27 is not a prediction of some yet-future treaty or agreement made by some evil secular world leader but a covenant made by the living God of the Bible? Can you imagine how that would alter our view of the prophecy of 70 weeks?
As I stated earlier, Daniel 9 is one of the most well-known but least understood prophecies in the Bible, and the fourth verse of Daniel 9 proves that point. The reality of the covenant of Daniel 9:4 is that it is the most important covenant mentioned in the Bible, yet far too frequently, it is glossed over in this passage as if it has no relevance to the prophecy at all. Today, let’s remedy that oversight.
The Bible’s Messianic Message
To me, one of the most wonderful aspects of the Bible is the consistency of its messianic message. Each part adds color and texture to show the love of our Creator, YHWH, for mankind and His plan to reconcile us to Himself. Sometimes the threads of this plan are not obvious while other times they are on bold display, but you can count on the fact that each thread weaves part of the tapestry that shows YHWH’s love.
Here in Daniel 9:4 we have a major thread of YHWH’s plan to reconcile mankind to Himself. Together, let’s trace that thread back in time and see if we can find the origin of this forgotten “covenant and mercy.”
Crossing the Jordan
Our first destination takes us back to the final year of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness. Israel is just this side of the Jordan River and ready to enter the promised land. Moses is admonishing, instructing, and encouraging the people before he passes leadership to Joshua (Yeshua) the son of Nun, after which Israel will cross over the Jordan.
And because he loved thy fathers, therefore he chose their seed after them, and brought thee out in his sight with his mighty power out of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 4:37, emphasis mine)
For thou art an holy people unto YHWH thy God: YHWH thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. YHWH did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
But because YHWH loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath YHWH brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that YHWH thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations . . . Wherefore it shall come to pass, if ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that YHWH thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and the mercy which he sware unto thy fathers. (Deuteronomy 4:34, 7:6–12, emphasis mine)
Covenant and Mercy
If we need confirmation that Daniel is referring to the same “covenant and mercy” as mentioned by Moses in Deuteronomy, all we need to do is read the next several verses of Daniel’s prayer. Daniel 9:5 onward acknowledges that indeed Israel had not kept the words of Moses, and despite that, Daniel pleads with YHWH to remember the exodus and His deliverance of His people from Egypt.
Consider the context of Daniel’s words in chapter 9 for a moment. Here we find a very old man who has been a captive in the land of Babylon for nearly 70 years as a result of his people’s unfaithfulness. He has just read and understood the prophecy of Jeremiah, in which he learns that his captivity is nearly over. Remember that it was Daniel’s captivity, along with that of King Jehoiakim, which began the 70 years prophesied by Jeremiah (Daniel 1:1–6).
Promised to the Fathers
With this realization, Daniel gives one of the most beautiful and impassioned prayers in the Bible. This prayer is the catalyst for the prophecy of 70 weeks which follows. In this context, the very first words out of Daniel’s mouth concerning the “covenant and mercy” take on added significance.
So what is the “covenant and mercy” promised to the fathers, mentioned by both Daniel and Moses, and when did this covenant take effect? According to Moses in Deuteronomy 9:5, the “fathers” to whom the “covenant and mercy” were given are none other than Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As you read the passage below, remember it is still within the context of Moses’s speech to Israel before they were to cross over the Jordan River and take possession of the promised land.
Also keep in mind that the term “mercy” in this passage is the Hebrew word checed, and it means goodness, kindness, or faithfulness. The words “covenant” and “mercy” in the Daniel 9:4 are connected by the letter “waw,” and as such they do not have to describe two separate items or ideas. In grammatical terms it’s a hendiadys, which means both words describe a single idea. In other words mercy, kindness, or faithfulness may in part testify to the characteristics of the covenant.
Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations YHWH thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which YHWH sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 9:5, emphasis mine)
Moses lets us know that the “covenant and mercy” promised to the fathers began with the father of the nation, Abraham. So let’s explore the covenant made with Abraham and see why Daniel might bring it to mind when he petitioned YHWH in Daniel 9:4.
The Oath of Sevens
I think it appropriate to mention here that the word “sware” in the passage above is the Hebrew word shaba. Shaba is the root from which the Hebrew word shabuwa, or sevens, is derived. You and I know shabuwa as “weeks,” as it is translated in our English Bibles, as in the 70 weeks of Daniel 9.
Coincidence? Hardly, and here’s why. The very first time the word shaba or “sware” is used by YHWH in the Bible, it references the covenant He made with Abraham in Genesis 22. As we will see, this covenant is the promise of the coming Messiah, the very covenant which both Moses and Daniel were referring to.
The Faith of Abraham
To me, one of the most poignant stories in the Bible is when YHWH tests Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his only son. Abraham’s response and actions are a testimony to his amazing faith. And it is here in the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, where this story is told, that we find the origins of the covenant which YHWH sware (shaba) with Abraham. Take a moment to read a few excerpts of this wonderful story.
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. (Genesis 22:1–2)
Abraham obeys YHWH and arrives in the land of Moriah, where he knows he is to sacrifice his son on one of the mountains. But listen to his faith speaking in this next passage:
And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. (Genesis 22:5)
Did you get that? Abraham knew he had to sacrifice his son, but even so he told his young men that both he and Isaac would go and worship and “come again.” The next passage is one of my favorites. Listen to the words of a father and his young son. These words are both a testimony to Abraham’s faith and a prophecy that speaks of the coming Messiah.
And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. (Genesis 22:7–8, emphasis mine)
As a father of five precious children, this passage nearly brings me to tears when I read it. How innocent Isaac’s question, and what faith from Abraham! I can’t help but ask myself if I would have that kind of faith. Thankfully Abraham did, because as you will see, it was this act of faith that YHWH used to bring forth the “seed” of the Messiah.
And the angel of YHWH called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn [shaba], saith YHWH, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Genesis 22:15–18, emphasis mine)
You see, the covenant made with Abraham was not just about a future promised land for his descendants (although that was an important part of it). The primary driving purpose of the Abrahamic covenant was the promise of the coming seed by which all nations of the earth would be blessed. In wonderful biblical symbolism, Abraham didn’t have to sacrifice his son because YHWH provided a substitution for Isaac. Over a thousand years later, on that very same mount, Yeshua the Messiah became YHWH’s sacrificial substitution on behalf of all mankind. Indeed YHWH, “provided Himself a lamb.” The apostle Paul explains this passage more fully in Galatians 3:
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. (Galatians 3:16–17, emphasis mine)
This passage by the apostle Paul brings us full circle in a beautiful show of biblical congruency. The forgotten covenant mentioned by the prophet Daniel in Daniel 9:4 is none other than the promise of the coming Messiah by which all nations of the earth were to be blessed. Even more compelling is that this covenantal promise is the first recorded shaba personally made by YHWH in the Bible, and centuries later, this shaba, or oath of sevens, would be the basis for the prophecy of 70 weeks (shabuwa) given to Daniel.
How awesome and appropriate is that!
Daniel’s first words in chapter 9 are a petition to the living God of the Bible to remember the covenant of the coming Messiah that YHWH swore (shaba) with Abraham. In answer to Daniel’s prayer, just twenty verses later, YHWH sends the angel Gabriel with the prophecy of 70 weeks (shabuwa), the defining messianic prophecy in the Scripture.
At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. Seventy weeks [shabuwa] 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. (Daniel 9:23–24)
Prophetic Milestone: Covenant and Mercy with Abraham
As we explore the prophecy of Daniel 9, I will be highlighting prophetic milestones in YHWH’s plan to redeem mankind through the promised Messiah. In Book III of the Prophecies and Patterns series, The Jubilee Code: Prophetic Milestones in the Bible, we will consider these milestones in the overall context of the Bible’s chronological record. Keep an eye out for these prophetic milestones, because as you will learn in the next book, they show YHWH’s guiding hand in the history of mankind in startling and unmistakable ways.
A Wonderful Plan of Redemption
As I stated at the beginning of this chapter, the consistency of the Bible’s messianic message is truly amazing. YHWH has always had a plan to reconcile mankind through Yeshua, the promised seed of Abraham, and this plan of redemption is woven into every aspect of the biblical record. Not surprisingly, this promised reconciliation is the very essence of the prophecy of 70 weeks, from the start of Daniel’s prayer to the very last verse.
So next time you are thinking about the “covenant” of Daniel 9:27, before assigning the whole thing to the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation, won’t you first consider the forgotten covenant of Daniel 9:4 and the shaba YHWH swore with Abraham? Stepping back to look at the bigger context, won’t you consider that the story God is telling here is far more powerful, far-reaching, and glorious than we have assumed? As you will see more fully in the coming pages, the promise of the coming Redeemer mentioned in Daniel 9:4 is the contextual bedrock upon which the prophecy of 70 weeks rests. While you thinking about these covenants, consider them in light of the words of Zechariah, the father of John, and Mary, the mother of Yeshua:
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began . . .
To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant . . . The oath which he sware to our father Abraham . . . To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:68–79, emphasis mine—see also Isaiah 42)
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed . . . He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; as he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. (Luke 1:46–55, emphasis mine)
Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. (Acts 3:25–26, emphasis mine)
Building on the Covenant of Daniel 9
Now that we’ve established the underlying covenantal context of Daniel 9:4, we are in a much better position to begin building on this foundation a sound interpretation of this wonderful prophecy. In keeping with a construction theme, let’s use the blueprints YHWH has given us to begin adding a framework to the foundation of Daniel 9:4. Together, let’s continue to build upon what we have learned and see just how grand a prophetic structure YHWH has designed.
In closing, I remind you of the wonderful messianic prophecy found in Zechariah 9, which speaks of the coming Messiah who brings salvation and deliverance from the pit by the “blood of the covenant”:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. (Zechariah 9:9–11, emphasis mine)
Remember, a building is only as strong as the foundation which holds it together. Never forget the covenant.
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Author’s Note on Free Book Download:
This was an excerpt from my book Daniel’s Seventy Weeks: The Keystone of Bible Prophecy. You are welcome to download a free copy of the book from most digital retailers by clicking on the links below. If you would like to be notified of new blog articles or upcoming book releases consider subscribing to my blog. Blog subscribers will always be able to download my current and upcoming digital books for free. Rest assured I won’t spam you nor share your email, Just every week or so I’ll share with you my love for Biblical history and Bible prophecy. I hope you’ll join the adventure!