Letter To The Jews / Chapter 12

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12: Seal Up Vision And Prophet

During this time when “YHWH of hosts will bring about a conclusion that has been reached in the midst of the whole land,” Isaiah said that “a remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob, to the Mighty God.” 1

This “Mighty God” is the one spoken of by Isaiah one chapter earlier. He is the child born to us, the son given to us, whose name would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” and “the rulership will be upon his shoulder.” 2

That they “return” to the Mighty God, in the time “when my Lord completes all of his work on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,” 3 suggests there was a prior relationship with him; but that only a “remnant” return to him, indicates perhaps that his rulership is not in the manner the majority expected, and is a possible reason for “flooding justice” to be brought about in the midst of the whole land.

But then, we have already seen how Malachi implies something similar: “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he prepares the way before me; and suddenly the Lord whom you are seeking will come to his Temple, and the messenger of the covenant in whom you take delight. Look! He is coming, says YHWH of hosts. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who will stand when he appears?” 4

If this one’s coming is in the manner that people expect, then why does YHWH need to ask, “who will endure the day of his coming?” And if all the people truly take delight in YHWH’s “messenger of the covenant,” then what need would there be to ask, “who will stand when he appears?”

And so perhaps YHWH is being sarcastic when he says “in whom you take delight,” especially as he already found fault with the people for profaning the covenant. Or perhaps he is really speaking to the remnant here, his “treasured possession.” They are the ones who surely take delight in YHWH’s messenger, and who return “to the Mighty God” before the “conclusion” is brought about.

Now, it appears as if your ancestors did not see the Lord coming to his Temple in the time of the Romans, or a remnant returning to the Mighty God; so perhaps it could be said that these prophecies are talking about a conclusion yet to come.

But there is another witness who testifies to these things, so that at the mouth of two or three witnesses, every matter may be established. For the angel Gabriel also gave Daniel details concerning the timing and manner of a conclusion, and uses very similar language to Isaiah’s prophecy of a “conclusion that has been reached,” even using this exact same phrase.

So now, let us examine the prophecy given to Daniel in more detail. As we said earlier, Daniel was praying concerning Jerusalem and the Temple, which lay in ruins after their devastation by the Babylonians. Gabriel appeared to him, and assured him that the city and sanctuary would be restored, at least for a while, and then destroyed once again.

Gabriel says: “Seventy sevens have been determined upon your people and upon your holy city, to restrain the transgression, and to get rid of sin, and to make atonement for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophet, and to anoint a Holy of Holies.” 5

Now, “seventy sevens” is ambiguous. It could mean 70 weeks, which would be 490 days, but this is usually considered too short a time frame for this prophecy. We could apply a “day for a year” rule to the 490 days, to get 490 years. This rule is used at times by YHWH for periods of judgment.6

There is also a 7 year land sabbath cycle, in which YHWH said to Israel that crops may be planted for 6 years, but the seventh year was to be a year of rest for the land.7 If one “seven” is really referring to 7 years, then “seventy sevens” would be 490 years.

Besides, Daniel was praying about the “seventy years,” the period that YHWH said the nations would have to serve the king of Babylon,8 and so 490 years would be seven times that length. And during the desolation of the land, the land was paying off its sabbaths, which was a 7 year cycle.9 For these reasons, most interpreters agree that “seventy sevens” refer to a period of 490 years.

Now, many of your teachers say this is a conditional prophecy. The good parts, such as the bringing in of everlasting righteousness, would have been fulfilled if the people of Israel had returned to YHWH with all their hearts.

But where does Gabriel say this? And were your ancestors meant to accomplish these things by themselves? For example, if they were meant to “make atonement for iniquity,” why does Gabriel not say which iniquity? And if it is iniquity in general, through animal sacrifices, then what happens to atonement after this period?

Besides, if your ancestors succeeded in getting rid of sin, what need would there be for animal sacrifices? Or if Gabriel had a specific sin in mind, why did he not declare what it was, so your ancestors could guard against it?

And how could they “bring in everlasting righteousness” by themselves? For even if the generations living within this period were altogether righteous, how could they ensure their offspring would be? But if something else was needed in order to bring this in within the “seventy sevens,” where is this to be found in the prophecy?

Gabriel continues: “You should know and discern that from the going forth of a word to return and rebuild Jerusalem, until an anointed prince, is 7 sevens, and 62 sevens. It will return and be rebuilt, with public square and moat, but in troubled times. And after the 62 sevens an anointed one will be cut off, and nothing for him.” 10

The word for “an anointed one” is usually translated as “the Messiah,” where the word “Messiah” means “anointed one.” But there is no definite article in the original manuscripts, so your teachers correctly say this should really be translated as “an anointed one,” which means the word is ambiguous, and could refer to more than one “anointed one.”

Many of your teachers say there are two different anointed ones in these verses, and that the first one, “an anointed prince,” is a specific person, King Cyrus of Persia. It is certainly true that YHWH said Cyrus was his anointed one, to rebuild the Temple and restore Jerusalem, and that Cyrus issued a decree about the Temple.11

They say the second anointed one, who is “cut off, and nothing for him,” could be the last king of Israel, or the last high priest, or perhaps the entire system of animal sacrifices that came to an end when the Romans destroyed the Temple; or all of these.

If he cannot be identified as one person, as in the case of Cyrus, then perhaps it is deliberately ambiguous, to allow for more than one meaning, to tell multiple stories, or even to conceal a particular meaning. For we have already seen how ambiguity has been used for this purpose in the earlier prophecy given to Daniel. Nevertheless, whoever he is, your teachers say he is “cut off” in the time of the Romans, before the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Now, if the prophecy is conditional, then why does Gabriel say “an anointed one will be cut off” with the same degree of certainty that he says about Jerusalem, “it will return and be rebuilt”? And while “after the 62 sevens” allows some flexibility as to when this one gets “cut off,” there is no indication at all from Gabriel that it wouldn’t happen.

The prophecy continues: “And the city and the sanctuary will be destroyed by the people of a prince to come, and end in flooding; and until the end, war and desolations have been decided. And he overpowers a covenant for the many for one seven; and at the half of the seven he will cause sacrifice and offering to cease. And on a wing of abominations is one making desolate; and until a conclusion that has been reached, it will be poured out upon the one being desolated.” 12

As we have shown earlier, these verses describe the 7 year war between Rome and the Jews, with the daily sacrifice ceasing half way through the war, “at the half of the seven,” which confirms that “one seven” is referring to 7 years.

However, there may also be an element of ambiguity here. In his prayer, Daniel said that YHWH was a God keeping “the covenant.” 13 But in Gabriel’s response to the prayer, the definite article for “covenant” is not used, and so the Roman prince is said to overpower14 “a covenant for the many,” which, just as with “an anointed one,” allows for more than one covenant, especially if there is such a thing as a “covenant for the many.”

Gabriel uses language that is also found in Isaiah’s prophecy about the king of Assyria. The two words here translated as “a conclusion that has been reached,” also appear in Isaiah, where it says: “A conclusion has been reached: flooding justice. For my Lord YHWH of hosts will bring about a conclusion that has been reached in the midst of the whole land.”15

And just as Gabriel uses the language of a flooding and a wing, so does the prophecy about the king of Assyria, which says that “because this people reject the waters of the Shiloah that flow gently,” YHWH would bring upon them “the waters of the river, strong and numerous, the king of Assyria and all his glory.” This one “overflows and passes through until he reaches the neck; and his outstretched wings will fill the width of your land, Immanuel.” 16

And so, this makes it all the more likely that Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the king of Assyria, Immanuel and the “conclusion that has been reached” is really a cryptic reference to the destruction by the Romans; although if this is the case, it is not perhaps immediately clear what “waters” the people rejected in the days of the Romans.

Once again, if this “seventy sevens” prophecy is conditional, why does Gabriel say that the city and sanctuary “will be destroyed,” with the same degree of certainty that he uses when he says “it will return and be rebuilt”?

Why does it say “war and desolations have been decided,” if it was dependent on the behavior of your ancestors? Why does it talk about “a conclusion that has been reached,” as if the outcome had already been determined in advance? And why are these the same words used by Isaiah in the context of a remnant returning to the Mighty God? For neither does Isaiah use conditional language, but makes it clear that “though your people Israel are as the sand of the sea, a remnant will return to him.”

And we have already shown that the previous prophecy given to Daniel is not really about Antiochus Epiphanes, but is about the Romans. Of the “little horn,” it says: “It magnified itself to the prince of the host, and from him the regular sacrifice was taken away, and the site of his sanctuary was thrown down.” 17 This is precisely what the Romans did, and there is no conditional language in these words. It is spoken as if the events would take place without fail.

Now, perhaps the “seventy sevens” are broken up into 7, 62 and 1 “sevens” to allow for a possible postponement of the conclusion; but really, the prophecy is written as if the outcome had already been decided, and a conclusion already reached, well before the events would occur.

In other words, YHWH had already determined in advance that all the things stated in this prophecy must take place within or by the end of the “seventy sevens,” even if they did not happen in the manner that your ancestors expected.

Indeed, many of them behaved almost like it was impossible for the city and sanctuary to be destroyed by the Romans, as if Gabriel’s words were not part of the divine record.

And even though there could have been disputes over precisely when “a word to return and rebuild Jerusalem” went forth, just as there is down to this day, it would surely not have been difficult for your ancestors to deduce that the 7 and 62 sevens expired in the time when the Romans were becoming the dominant world power, even without precise calculations as to the timing.

But then, part of the purpose of those “seventy sevens” was to “seal up vision and prophet.” Now, this could mean to confirm vision and prophet, to fulfill the promises made through the prophets. If that is the meaning, where is the “twig” from “the stem of Jesse,” and the “sprout from his roots” that Isaiah speaks about? Where would the child who would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” come within these “seventy sevens”?

And since “the rulership will be upon his shoulder,” the throne of David, it is strange that he is not mentioned at all in this prophecy, according to your teachers, if “seal up vision and prophet” means to fulfill the promises made through the prophets; especially as they say the last king and high priest are mentioned!

On the other hand, “seal up vision and prophet” could mean to conceal its true meaning. This is how it is used a little later, when Daniel is told to “shut up the words and seal the book, until the time of the end.” 18 And we have already discussed how, during a vision of a siege against the holy city, YHWH said through Isaiah, “all the vision will become to you as the words of a scroll that is sealed.” 19

If this is the real intention behind the words “seal up vision and prophet,” it seems to be saying that, by the end of the “seventy sevens,” the full meaning and purpose of this prophecy, and perhaps other prophecies, would be concealed to at least some of your ancestors.

Whatever the case, it is clear they were unable to get rid of sin and transgression for themselves, or bring in everlasting righteousness.

1 Isaiah 10:21-23. 2 Isaiah 9:6. 3 Isaiah 10:12. 4 Malachi 3:1,2. 5 Daniel 9:24. 6 See Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:5,6. 7 Leviticus 25:1-7. 8 Jeremiah 25:11. 9 2 Chronicles 36:21. 10 Daniel 9:25,26. 11 See Isaiah 44:28;45:1 and Ezra 1:2,3. 12 Daniel 9:26,27. 13 Daniel 9:4. 14 The word here translated “overpowers” is related to the word used to describe the floodwaters overpowering or prevailing over the Earth, in Genesis 7:18,19. 15 Isaiah 10:22,23. 16 Isaiah 8:6-8. 17 Daniel 8:11. 18 Daniel 12:4. 19 Isaiah 29:11.

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