« PreviousContinue »
catastrophe are given very minutely, and “a crowd of events mentioned which might well have occupied the progress of ages, but which was to pass away within the limits of a single generation.” The desolation spoken of by Daniel was indeed so completely accomplished, that before the Roman armies left Jerusalem they ploughed it over as a field: they left not one stone of the magnificent temple upon another--the altar, the towers, the walls, the buildings, were overthrown from the base; and three towers, and the remnant of a wall, alone stood,—the monument and memorial, the last and sole vestige, of this once highly favoured city.
In this manner, after the great work of Redemption had been finished by the sufferings and death of Christ, and after a space had been given for the Jews to repent, and take warning by the clear prophecies which He had given them of the coming desolations and troubles upon their city and country, the last sad wreck of Judah’s glory departed! All stay and hindrances being now out of the way of God's avenging wrath, the threatenings predicted by Moses were now poured out upon them with fury; although at the time of the Saviour's delivering His prophecies there was perfect peace, they retained their own laws, and were living under the protection of the Roman Empire:
“no sign of change appeared.” And this is another proof of the deceitfulness of present appearances and the suddenness of Divine judgments: “When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh.” And it is a truth that cannot be sounded too much in the ears of the generation in which we live, that no appearance of present prosperity ; no outward splendour of cities, and palaces, and churches; no intellectual attainments and discoveries in the arts that embellish life, or in the sciences that tend to improve its comforts; no height of luxury, and it may be added—and the instance of Jerusalem fully confirms the observation—no religious profession nor religious privileges, can for one moment avert what God hath purposed shall come to pass. Did He threaten and appoint a time for his judgments on Egypt, on Canaan, on Israel, on Babylon, and on Jerusalem ?-contrary to all belief, contrary to all expectation, they fell. And as they were then resting in fatal security, full of their own political schemes, unmindful that God governed the world to suit His plans, not theirs ; so it is a word that should reverberate through all the senates and cabinets of existing kingdoms, that their hour may be at hand, and they not know it. Grey hairs," it is said, “were upon Ephraim, and he knew it not.”
Second. The next peculiarity observable in the structure of this prophecy is, that its commencement could not with certainty be known till after its completion, and that for two reasons :
1. Because of the difficulty there would be in determining à priori which of the four “commandments,” issued by the kings of Persia, was the one which was fixed upon by the Holy Spirit in assigning the date of 490 years. The first and second, issued by Cyrus and Darius, would pass away in the years 46 and 28 before Christ, without any appearance of the coming Saviour ; while at length, in the intervening space between the second and third, his birth was announced ; and it would finally appear that it was from the third, issued in the seventh year of Artaxerxes, that it was really to be calculated.
2. Because the termination of the Period referred not to the birth, but to the death, of Christ. No one could say therefore, even after the Messiah had begun his public ministry, at what age of his life he was to be “cut off; and hence there might still be some slight difficulty in determining whether it was from the edict of the seventh or twentieth year of Artaxerxes.
Third. Another peculiarity of this period, and in which it differs from all the former periods, is, that the length of time is not given in the plain term of years, but in the prophetical language of weeks of years—or, in other words, as is expressed in Ezekiel, “a year for a day.”
“Among the Jews, as there were sabbatical days, whereby their days were divided into weeks of days, so there were sabbatical years, whereby their years were divided into weeks of years ; and this last sort of weeks is that which is here mentioned: so that every one of the weeks of this prophecy contains seven years. (Prideaux.) Seventy weeks, or 490 days, are therefore used in this place to signify 490 years; as is most conclusively proved by the event, and as was indeed, from the first giving of the prophecy, most generally understood; for seventy real weeks would have been little more than a real
year, which no one could have for a moment understood to have been intended.
And the Jews were not, in their history, without a practical illustration of this kind of reckoning; for the forty days spent by the twelve spies who were sent out by Moses to view the land of Canaan, were made to shadow forth, or represent, the forty years of their subsequent wanderings in the wilderness :-“ After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years.” (Num. xiv. 34.) And it will be found, as this discussion proceeds, that it pleased God to continue this mode of reckoning the chronology of
prophecy; and that in whatever division of time it may be expressed, whether in hours, days, weeks, or months—and there are instances of each division to be found-they are all to be calculated from this datum, “a day for a year.”
An“ hour,” therefore, is intended to signify the twelfth part of a year, or a month; a “week,” as in the prophecy before us, seven years ; a “month," to signify thirty years; and a “time,” which is the designation given for a prophetical year, stands for three hundred and sixty years; for, according to Dr. Prideaux, 360 days constituted a Jewish year, with intercalary days to fill up the deficiency of a solar year. And this method of calculating prophetical dates is so generally approved by all writers, ancient and modern, that controversy scarcely exists on the subject; for it has the unquestionable stamp, not only of Scripture proof, but of fact and experience.
The last remark that appears to be called for on the structure of this prophecy is this,-that the point of time which marks its terminationthat is, the year A.D. 33—was but the introduction to A SERIES OF EVENTS, which was to bring about a consummation of evil and of judgment to the Jewish state; and that it was not before a period of thirty-seven years had elapsed that this dreadful consummation took place. It was not immediately after the Jews had imbrued their