Daniel’s 70 Weeks: Thy Holy Mountain

Daniel's 70 Weeks - Part1_Chapter3“O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name. Daniel 9:16–19

After Daniel reminds YHWH of His covenant and mercy in Daniel 9:4, he proceeds to list Judah’s and Israel’s sins and iniquities from the time of the exodus to his present day. Daniel humbly acknowledges that YHWH’s wrath and judgments are righteous and deserved and that YHWH must keep His word.

For context’s sake, I once again remind you to keep in mind Daniel’s personal circumstances. He had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar nearly 70 years earlier, beginning the 70 years’ captivity prophesied by Jeremiah. We learn in Daniel 9:2 that Daniel had just discovered by reading the words of Jeremiah that this captivity was nearing an end. So we find Daniel petitioning YHWH to turn His anger and fury “away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain.”

Think about that for a moment. Daniel understood YHWH’s “anger and fury” as being directed toward Jerusalem, the “holy mountain.” To you and me the words “holy mountain” might not call to mind any further biblical idea or story, but to Daniel and the Jewish people, the “holy mountain” reminded them of Genesis 22 and the “covenant and mercy” YHWH promised to Abraham when he was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac. For it was on those very same mountains where Abraham had been called upon to sacrifice Isaac that Solomon built the First Temple, and where hundreds of years later the Son of God would lay down His life as a sacrifice for mankind’s sins.

Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off . . .

And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of YHWH it shall be seen. 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 22:6–18, emphasis mine)

70 Years of Divine Anger
It is clear from Daniel 9 that YHWH was furious with Israel. We will deal with this more fully in a subsequent chapter, but for context’s sake, it is important to further clarify this period of “anger and fury” mentioned in Daniel 9:16. We learn from the prophet Zechariah, in chapter 1 of his own biblical prophecy, that this divine anger mentioned by Daniel ended nearly eighteen years after Daniel’s prayer. Eighteen years is a long time to wait, but finally YHWH did return to Jerusalem.

Zechariah 1 records that the 70 years of YHWH’s divine anger ended in the second year of Darius ‘the Great’ Artaxerxes (520 BC). By counting back from the end of YHWH’s divine anger, we can ascertain the catalyst for this wrath 70 years earlier as we arrive at 589 BC and the departure of YHWH’s shekinah glory from the holy mountain and the temple, as recorded in Ezekiel 8–10. In the following abridged passage we see just how far Israel had descended into sin:

And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head; and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy . . .

He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations . . . So I went in and saw; and behold every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, pourtrayed upon the wall round about . . .

He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations that they do. Then he brought me to the door of the gate of YHWH’s house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. And he brought me into the inner court of YHWH’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of YHWH, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of YHWH, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.

Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them. (Ezekiel 8:3–18)

To really get a sense of how these events relate, I encourage you to peruse the chart below. It shows the period of YHWH’s divine anger relative to the 70 years of captivity and the departure of YHWH’s presence from Solomon’s temple.


YHWH Returns to Jerusalem
As you read the following passage, remember it for later, because it is one of the most pivotal events of the Second Temple era—not to mention it has direct bearing on how we interpret Daniel 9 and the prophecy of 70 weeks. Here Zechariah describes the return of YHWH to Jerusalem with “mercies”:

Then the angel of YHWH answered and said, O YHWH of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten [70] years?

Therefore thus saith YHWH; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith YHWH of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. (Zechariah 1:12–16, emphasis mine)

Let’s look at YHWH’s departure and return to Jerusalem in the context of Daniel 9. Keep in mind that Daniel, Ezekiel, and Zechariah all emphasize the connection between Jerusalem, the temple, and Israel’s sins. Daniel 9:16 connected YHWH’s “anger and fury” to Jerusalem and His holy mountain. Zechariah shows that this divine “indignation” began when YHWH’s presence left the temple and Jerusalem due to the sins of Israel described in Ezekiel 8–10. The following passages describe the fury of YHWH and His departure from the temple and Jerusalem because of the abominations committed by Israel. Once again, it is the prophet Ezekiel who tells the story:

And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month [589 BC], as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord YHWH fell there upon me . . .

And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house . . . And it came to pass, while they were slaying them [those committing the abominations in the temple], and I was left, that I fell upon my face, and cried, and said, Ah Lord YHWH! wilt thou destroy all the residue of Israel in thy pouring out of thy fury upon Jerusalem? . . .

Then the glory of YHWH went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the YHWH’s glory . . .

Then the glory of YHWH departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims. And the cherubims lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight: when they went out, the wheels also were beside them, and every one stood at the door of the east gate of YHWH’s house; and the glory of the God of Israel was over them above. (Ezekiel 8:1, 9:3–8, 10:4, 10:18–19)

Shine Thy Face Upon Thy Sanctuary
In Daniel 9:16, Daniel petitions YHWH to turn away His “anger and fury” from Jerusalem and the “holy mountain.” Now, in verse 17, Daniel asks YHWH to let His “face shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate.” This verse confirms that YHWH had turned His face away from Jerusalem and the holy mount, but it further clarifies that what YHWH really left was His “sanctuary.” What makes Jerusalem special among all cities of the earth is that it is the one place YHWH, the living God of the Bible, chose to meet with mankind. As Daniel 9:18 describes it, it is the “city which is called by thy name.” Daniel finishes,

And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before YHWH my God for the holy mountain of my God . . . (Daniel 9:20, emphasis mine)

The Holy Mountain
Can you see the events described through Daniel’s eyes by this point? Because of the prophecy of Jeremiah, he understood that a period of desolation regarding Jerusalem was likely drawing to a close. Daniel acknowledged that it was the sins of his people that had caused YHWH to depart from Jerusalem, His holy mountain, and scattered the people among the nations. He understood that YHWH was still angry with them. But instead of trying to convince YHWH that they deserved His mercy, he acknowledged something else: If YHWH was to remember His covenant and mercy toward the people and the city of Jerusalem, it would have to be because YHWH was merciful and truthful, because YHWH always kept His word. Through the prophet Jeremiah, YHWH had given His word that Israel would return from captivity after 70 years, and now was the time to perform that return, for YHWH’s own honor and glory were at stake.

Before we move on to the specifics of the prophecy of 70 weeks, it is important to emphasize that Daniel saw the desolation of Jerusalem and the holy mountain as a result of YHWH’s departure from the temple. What made Jerusalem special from Daniel’s perspective was the presence of YHWH in His holy temple, and it is this presence that Daniel pleads for in Daniel 9:16–20. Remember, YHWH’s house was the very heart of Jerusalem. Its destruction marked the de facto end of Jerusalem, and its reconstruction marked Jerusalem’s new beginning.

Strangely enough, when interpreting Daniel 9 and the “commandment to restore and build Jerusalem,” many sever the clear biblical relationship between Jerusalem and the house of YHWH. In the coming pages we’ll explore the reasons for this separation and the chronological and interpretational errors which have grown out of it.

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