dale_ralph_davis_webWe’re concluding our series on different interpretations of Daniel 9:24-27, and this time we are talking with Dale Ralph Davis, Minister in Residence at First Presbyterian Church, Columbia, South Carolina, and author of many excellent commentaries – some of which we use at CCBCY! Davis is the author of the recent The Message of Daniel in The Bible Speaks Today series.

This interview is best read along with an open Bible and an open mind.

Dale Ralph Davis on Daniel 9:24-27

What is the overall purpose of Daniel’s vision recorded in Daniel 9?

On the whole, I think Daniel 9:24-27 are meant to function as a positive answer to Daniel’s prayer in Dan 9:1-19; Dan 9:20-23 lead one to expect a positive response. I think that comes primarily in v24, while vv25-27 supply a kind of needed qualifier, namely, that the grand purposes of v 24 are not going to come in any near future. This latter point comes through in other Daniel texts (e.g., ch. 2 and ch. 7) where it is clear that the end of Babylon’s regime is not going to usher in the kingdom of God and therefore, the end of the exile will be the beginning of a long stretch of history in which God’s people must plod on in faithfulness. Walton & Hill (in A Survey of the OT, 3rd ed.) do a nice job of highlighting this latter point.

Are the seventy weeks (Dan 9:24) supposed to be read chronologically or symbolically? If chronologically, from which date should we start counting?

I don’t think the chronological can be totally eliminated (after all, the weeks assume a starting point with the word or decree). But I’ve backed off from taking the weeks as = 490 years. No matter where one begins them or how one charts them it seems like the calculations have to be gerrymandered some way in order to make them ‘fit.’ I have therefore taken them schematically, in 3 segments:

  • 7 weeks = relatively restricted time = time when hope returns
  • 62 weeks = relatively extended time = time when life goes on (under distress)
  • 1 week = clearly climactic time = time when clouds gather

I prefer to take the ‘going forth of a word’ (Dan 9:25) to be the prophetic word of Jeremiah 29 rather than a royal decree of Cyrus or Artaxerxes I.

Should we see the “Anointed One” (Dan 9:25) as referring to Jesus, or is it speaking of someone else? If Christ, is the passage fulfilled in His first coming alone, or does it await complete fulfilment in His second coming?

I do not think it refers to Jesus.

This is determined for me by my way of taking the syntax of Dan 9:25. I follow the Hebrew accentuation that keeps the 62 weeks separate from the 7 weeks. So the ‘anointed one’ comes apparently near the end of the 7 weeks. Could be Cyrus?

If one combines the 7 and 62, then one is dealing with 69 weeks, and those who take that view might see the Messiah in the anointed one of v25. However, aside from the accentuation, I have a hard time seeing why the writer would mention 62 weeks as apparently distinct when all he really meant was to say 69 weeks. A strange way to say 69.

Is there a reason to see a gap in between the 69th and 70th week?

I don’t know. The events of v 26 are explicitly ‘after’ the 62 weeks, but the text does not expressly affirm that they are therefore in the 70th week. I suppose it could be argued either way, probably inconclusively.

When is the Messiah “cut off”? Between the 69th and 70th weeks, in the middle of the 70th, or at another time? If the Messiah is cut off in the middle of the 70th week, then what happens to the remaining 3.5 years?

The text (Dan 9:26) seems to indicate after the 62 week segment (i.e., after 69 weeks). To say more, one would have to know the answer to your previous question and I have already confessed ignorance about that and so to remain consistent, I will say no more.

Is the “prince who is to come” (Dan 9:26) the same prince in Dan 9:25 (the Messiah)? Or is he an antagonist/antichrist figure? And what is the “covenant” in Dan 9:27?

Well, a double ‘no’.

First, I don’t identify the anointed one/leader in Dan 9:25 as the Messiah anyway; second, I don’t think this leader who is coming is the Messiah, but a hostile figure. He makes sacrifice and offering to stop. Elsewhere in Daniel this is a hostile act (Dan 8:11-12; 11:31). This weighs heavily with me & so I can’t follow those who see this as Christ’s positive work a la the Epistle to the Hebrews. This is the work of an antichrist figure. The ‘covenant’ is likewise negative, a regimen imposed by his raw power.

Do you have any books or resources you can recommend for further study of your position?

In The Message of Daniel I footnote some resources that have proven helpful to me, often in the sense of helping me to see what the text cannot be saying.

What difference does your view make practically to your own Christian life? What difference does your understanding of Daniel 9 make to your overall eschatological/theological views?

It reinforces Jesus’ warning that the end is ‘not yet’, and therefore I am called to a ‘long obedience’, perhaps through many troubled days for the people of God. And yet this realization is not without encouragement—even in the 62 weeks, “it will be built again…but in distressing times”. Even in distressing times God does not stop supporting his people; so even in such times God is silently proclaiming his victory. That fortifies me, I trust.

As for my overall view of last things (I would be generally dubbed a classical pre-millennialist), I don’t see that my view of Daniel 9:24-27 presents any major rubs.

Lastly, what projects are you working on at the moment?

Possibly writing up expositions of Genesis 12-25; hoping to get back into early chapters of Isaiah soon.

As a last word, one can’t avoid the hermeneutical quandaries Dan 9:24-27 poses. But I find it far more profitable for myself to approach such a passage with the question, “Now how am I going to preach this”? I think this can be lost sight of, especially in a passage like this that sometimes requires major pain relievers just to resolve a barrage of interpretive dilemmas. But the very presence of the text assumes that it is meant to address the needs of the people of God, and until I do that with this text, my work on the weeks will be very weak.

I would like to thank Dale Ralph Davis for taking the time to do this interview on his view of Daniel 9. I hope this series was helpful and informative. Davis’ final words are a fitting conclusion to the series!