Yerushalayim until the [time of the] anointed leader is seven weeks, and for sixty-two weeks it will be rebuilt, square and moat Daniel 9:25
A recent archaeological discovery confirmed that moats, as described in Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy, played an essential role in Jerusalem and were a sign of Israel’s return from the Babylonian exile. A rabbi gives an in-depth explanation of the prophecy that Daniel himself got wrong.
Moat Discovered From Crusader Period
Last week, archaeologists announced the discovery of an 11th-century moat outside the walls of Jerusalem. Researchers believe the moat was from a five-week battle for Jerusalem between Crusader armies and the Fatimid Caliphate which controlled the region in 1099 C.E. According to historical accounts, the Muslim defenders dug the moat to protect against French Crusaders attacking from the south. The French count promised golden dinars to all Crusaders who would help fill the ditch so he could build a stable siege tower against the wall. Archeologists were working at uncovering a ditch when they noticed that the dirt layers were not sloping away from the city wall, but rather toward it, in a manner consistent with a ditch or moat which had been filled in, confirming the account of the moat being filled in. The siege was ultimately successful.
Over five years, the team mapped and dated the layers and artifacts, revealing a 13-foot-deep, 56-foot-wide moat. A blackened layer found atop the moat is believed to be evidence of the 1153 civil war between Crusader King Baldwin III of Jerusalem and his mother, Queen Melisende.
Moats have frequently been prominent features in the defense of Jerusalem. Visitors to the Old City can still see the remains of a large moat surrounding the Tower of David.Josephus Flavius, a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, described a moat built in the Second Temple Era to the north of the city.
Daniel’s Moat Prophecy
It could be that this moat described by Josephus was the one mentioned in the prophecy in the Book of Daniel whose reconstruction was a necessary component signifying the return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile, a prophecy so difficult and complex that Daniel himself was wrought with delf-doubt over how to understand it.
Rabbi Tovia Singer, who has taught Torah around the world, emphasized that the only way to understand the prophecy was to see it from Daniel’s perspective.
“The context is that Daniel is standing in the first year of Darius the Mede, the father-in-law of Cyrus,” Rabbi Singer explained to Breaking Israel News. “The Babylonian empire collapses and the Persian Empire emerges.”
Darius the Mede is mentioned in the Book of Daniel as king of Babylon between Belshazzar and Cyrus the Great, but he is not known to history, and no additional king can be placed between the known figures of Belshazzar and Cyrus. Most scholars view him as literary fiction but Biblical scholars rely on Daniel’s account as being factually accurate.
Daniel Fears Seven Fold Punishment: 490 Years of Exile
“Cyrus tells the Jews to go back to Israel 50 years after the destruction of the First Temple,” Rabbi Singer explained. “But Daniel has a problem. Although the Babylonian Empire has collapsed, The Jews are not going back. Daniel is petrified because of what is written in Leviticus.”
I will act against you in wrathful hostility; I, for My part, will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. Leviticus 26:28
“Daniel is afraid that if the Jews refuse to return to Israel, the Exile will become seven times 70, or 490 years,” Rabbi Singer said. “He based this understanding on two prophecies in Jeremiah.”
When the seventy years are over, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation and the land of the Chaldeans for their sins—declares Hashem—and I will make it a desolation for all time. Jeremiah 25:12
The two prophecies describe separate aspects of redemption. Chapter 25 describes Babylon collapsing but does not describe the Jews returning. The following prophecy is about seventy years and the Jews returning.
“When Daniel realized that the year 3390 was at hand, and there was no sign of the impending redemption, he became deeply agitated,” Rabbi Singer said. “Daniel thought that the sins of Jewry had caused the date to be delayed, or worse – canceled. This terrifying thought compelled Daniel to fast and pray for the restoration of Jerusalem and its Sanctuary.”
Daniel’s Mistake in Calculations
“Daniel’s mistake was that he tried to figure out the two prophecies of Jeremiah concerning the 70 year period. But he miscalculates,” Rabbi Singer said. “Nebuchadnezzar was king for one year before capturing Jerusalem. 18 years Later he destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. Daniel started counting when Nebuchadnezzar came into power. In the Book of Daniel, he finds out from the angel Gabriel that he made a mistake and that the two prophecies in Jeremiah are not synonymous. The angel Gabriel responds to Daniel’s prayerful inquiry of God by carefully outlining the course of events which was to unfold over a crucial period of time that spanned 490 years, or “70 weeks””
It is in the ninth chapter that Daniel is made to understand by the Angel Gabriel that the two prophecies of Jeremiah are in fact not identical, and each one of them referred to a separate, but overlapping, 70-year period of time. Whereas the prophecy of Jeremiah 25:12 was, in fact, referring to the 70-year time span that began in the year 3320, when Jerusalem was subjugated, the prophecy that promised the restoration of the Jewish people to their land (29:10) was not to begin for another 18 years.
The Babylonian exile lasted 70 years, plus the 420 years which the Second Temple stood.
“Thus, the angel was not only revealing to Daniel when the Second Temple would be restored, but when it would be destroyed as well,” Rabbi Singer said. “Gabriel also reveals that once these 70 weeks were completed, the Messianic Age could begin.”
Angel’s Explanation: Redemption is at Hand
“The angel reassured Daniel that God was answering his prayers of repentance and that the Exile would not be lengthened,” Rabbi Singer said.
This lends a different understanding of the ‘seven weeks’ described by Daniel.
Rabbi Singer emphasized that Messiah described by Daniel is not the Messiah who comes in the end-of-days. He explained that the English word ‘Messiah’ comes from the Hebrew word ‘Moshiach’, meaning anointed and should always be translated as such.
“Who is this anointed prince who gives the command to rebuild Jerusalem?” Rabbi Singer asked rhetorically. “As per Isaiah, that would be Cyrus.”
“Thus said Hashem to Cyrus, His anointed one— Whose right hand He has grasped, treading down nations before him, Ungirding the loins of kings, opening doors before him and letting no gate stay shut.” Isaiah 45:1
“Cyrus was God’s anointed to call the Jews back to Israel, rebuild Jerusalem, and rebuild the Temple,” Rabbi Singer said. “And once these 490 years are completed, it would indeed be up to each subsequent generation to turn back to God in order to bring about the glorious arrival of the final Messiah.”
Rabbi Singer noted six elements described by Gabriel that will characterize the world in the Messianic Age yet to come.
- termination of transgression
- end of sin
- removal of all iniquity
- ushering in of everlasting righteousness
- sealing of vision and prophet
- anointing of the Holy of Holies.