Torrey Part 4: Slain by the gentiles

The Messiah Son of Ephraim

by Charles C. Torrey, PhD.

Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 66, No. 3 (Sep., 1947), pp. 253-277

Part Four

With editorial material added in green.
I have also taken the liberty of bolding some significant statements.—R.S.

Daniel 9:24-27

/24/ “Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city: to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy one. /25/ Know therefore and understand: from the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the time of an anointed prince, there shall be seven weeks; and for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with streets and moat, but in a troubled time. /26/ After the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing, and the troops of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. His end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. /27/ He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall make sacrifice and offering cease; and in their place [?] shall be an abomination that desolates, until the decreed end is poured out upon the desolator.”

This is one of the most definite, as well as most interesting, of the examples. The phraseology is obscure, as so frequently in this part of the book, but the key is clearly given by the Jewish tradition in regard to the two Anointed Ones.

Dan 9:24-27 is the prophecy of the “seventy weeks,” containing a concise scheme of the chronology from the date of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the armies of Nebuchadrezzar unto the very end of the present age. The “week,” in this and the allied apocalypses consists of seven years, as is well known. Verse 24 is the preliminary statement, covering the whole period. Verse 25 distributes the seventy weeks in three significant divisions based on the sacred number seven,16 namely, seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, and one week. The seven weeks are the 49 years between the destruction of Jerusalem (586 B. C.) and the capture of Babylon (538 B. C.) “by Darius the Mede.” The one week is the time of unexampled distress at the end of the present world, as predicted in 12:1 and accepted, as assured, by so many subsequent writers, Jewish and Christian. The sixty-two weeks (434 years) begin with Darius the Mede and Cyrus, and continue until they have included the career of an Anointed One,” who is a prince or commander (Heb. ngid) not otherwise described.

At this point it may be well to review the details of the popular picture of the lesser Messiah’s career. He “is revealed” at a time when Israel is sorely oppressed and persecuted. At the head of Israel’s armies he defeats the Gentiles, and restores the city and the worship of the temple. The hostile nations, in greatly increased numbers and under a mighty leader, again attack Jerusalem. The warrior Son of Ephraim, deserted by his army, is slain by the Gentile captain, who thereupon destroys the holy city. This leader of the hostile forces is, according to one line of tradition, a Roman, Armilus (a sophistication of Romulus); in the other form of the legend he is Gog.17 After a brief period during which the Jews are in dire distress, he is slain, and his armies are destroyed, by the Messiah Son of David.

The manner in which all these details are presented, in briefest possible compass and in veiled language, in Dan 9:24-26, is most interesting. The “anointed one,” whose career ends the 62 weeks, achieves success; “the city is built again,… even in troublous times.” Then comes the last period: “the anointed one is cut off,” for his support fails him (literally, “he has no one”, Heb. v‘yn lo) “and the people of the prince [Armilus, or Gog] who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” This prince (verse 27) holds the Gentile hosts together under his command “for one week”; that is, for the closing period of Israel’s dire distress. The language now becomes very obscure and is probably corrupt. Bevan, The Book of Daniel (1892), 161, conjectures as follows: “and during half the week sacrifice and oblation shall cease, and instead thereof (there shall be) abominations set up, and afterwards ruin and a sentence (of judgment) shall be poured out upon him that set them up.” This may stand, as a guess at least as good as any other that has been offered.

But does not this leave the story unfinished, with no mention of the way in which the rescue of the chosen people is to be effected? On the contrary, this most important feature has already been attended to. It was said, above, that verse 24, the preliminary statement, covers the entire time, from Nebuchadnezzar to the very end of the present world. When the “seventy weeks” are finished, nothing remains but the judgment day, and whatever follows it. The last thing to take place is the anointing of “a most holy one.” This is after the conquest of Jerusalem by the great Gentile tyrant, and after the “week” of unexampled tribulation. Since this anointing ends the present age, it consecrates the king who is to reign in the coming age; that is, the Son of David, destined to reign forever, as all Israel knew (John 12:34).

The whole story, then, is told, and in an effective way. The greater part of it is concerned with the prediction of the Messiah Son of Ephraim and his death at the hands of the foreign king, who thereupon is to destroy the city and the temple. Every main feature of the Rabbinical picture of this Messiah is given here in exact miniature.

The capture and devastation of Jerusalem by Gentile armies, at the end of the present age, is described also in Zech 14:1 f., with no special mention of the leader of the hostile forces.

/14:1/ See, a day is coming for Yahweh, when the plunder taken from you will be divided in your midst. /2/ For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses looted and the women raped; half the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. /3/ Then Yahweh will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. /4/ On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives, which lies before Jerusalem on the east…

In Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39, the great king who brings the nations of the earth against the holy city is Gog; presumably Alexander the Great redivivus, since the Romans have not yet appeared on the scene. This is all in the realm of Jewish eschatology, as the angel Gabriel plainly says at the beginning of his revelation to Daniel.

This has not been sufficiently understood. For instance, the “anointed one” of Dan 9:25 and 26 has been identified with Cyrus, Nehemiah, Seleucus Philopator, Alexander Jannaeus, and still others. At present, it is quite commonly held that the reference is to the high priest Onias III who was murdered in the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. This Onias, however, was not an especially imposing personage, and his death was in no sense an epoch-making event. No human being could be important enough to mark the end of the present age by his death; moreover, it is as evident in this passage in Daniel as it is in the later stories, that the death of this Anointed One is to be brought about by the foreign king who thereupon destroys the city and the temple. The detailed coincidence is certainly not accidental! The scene belongs to eschatology, and the reference can only be to the Josephite Messiah.

A word needs to be said in regard to the phrase, “to anoint the most holy,” at the end of 9:24. Some have doubted whether this could mean the anointing of a person. It is a strong term, indeed, but there is nothing to forbid the application of it to one who is worthy to receive it. Bevan asserts in his Book of Daniel (p. 155) that the phrase qadosh qadoshim “never refers to persons, always to things”; but this can hardly be maintained. In I Chron 23:13 it is applied to Aaron; so the Hebrew naturally reads, so does the Targum. The translation of the Jewish Publication Society interprets in this way, so does Professor Curtis in his Chronicles (Int. Crit. Commentary). The Greek, Latin, and Syriac versions render wrongly. The evidence appears to show, then, that both Messiahs receive mention in this passage in Daniel.

I would like to raise the question, whether the first sentence of Dan 12:1 (as far as the word ‘ammeka) does not refer to the military triumph of the Ephraimite Messiah. Is there anything else to which it can refer? The phrase “that time,” which occurs thrice in this verse, is much used in apocalypses, meaning the appointed time, and this whole context deals with the Last Days. The inglorious end of Antiochus has been left behind, in 11:45; it is plainly after his day that Michael “shall stand up” and rescue his people.

The thrice repeated “that time” obviously designates three successive stages separated by indefinite intervals of time. First, Michael will assist in a great victory; thereafter, there will be a time of terrible distress, the time referred to in 9:26 f. (see above); finally, “the people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book”; delivered, that is, by the Anointed Son of David, the “most holy,” declared in 9:24 to appear at the very end of the present age. This is all presented as familiar eschatology, with no waste of words. If the first clause of 12:1 refers to the victory of the Jewish armies under the leadership of the martyr Messiah, the picture of the end of the present age is clear and in order.

After the bare mention of the triumph, there follows, with an abruptness that is startling until it is understood, the feature which is especially emphasized in all the traditions of this Messiah, the dreadful time which immediately follows his defeat and death.

Next: Torrey Part Five


16. The number seven plays a most important part in the predictions of Daniel and in the Jewish apocalypses generally. Also in the Jewish-Christian book of Revelation extraordinary reliance is put upon it. One reason for this, in addition to the emphasis given to the sacred number throughout the Old Testament, may be seen in the duration assigned to the Babylonian exiles. From 586 to 538, counting both dates, was 49 years, 7 x 7. It thus seemed evident that Yahweh had based upon the number seven his plan for Israel. Hence Daniel’s “70 weeks” to the end of the present age. Hence also the author of the book of Revelation felt certain that the seventh Roman emperor (not yet on the throne) would be the last.

17. For the picture of this arch-enemy in Jewish eschatology see the literature in Schürer, II:532 f., and Weber’s Jüdische Theologie, 365 f.

18. The Hebrew text is corrupt at this point, and no satisfactory suggestion of restoration has yet been made. Some phrase designating a person is obviously required.

Comments are closed.