daniel 9 & The rabbinic curse

Why is there a rabbinic curse (Babylonian Talmud - Tractate Sanhedrin 97B - stating: “Blasted be the bones of those who calculate the end..." on anyone who attempts to understand the prophecy found in the book of Daniel, chapter 9, verses 24-26 of the Holy Scriptures (Tanakh)?

The following is the full text from the Talmud for the tractate portion in question:

    "R. Samuel b. Nahmani said in the name of R. Jonathan: Blasted be [18] the bones of those who calculate the end. [19]  For they would say, since the predetermined time has arrived, and yet he has not come, he will never come. But [even so], wait for him, as it is written, Though he tarry, wait for him. Should you say, We look forward [to his coming] but He does not: therefore Scripture saith, And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you. [20]  But since we look forward to it, and He does likewise, what delays [his coming]? — The Attribute of Justice delays it. [21] But since the Attribute of Justice delays it, why do we await it? — To be rewarded [for hoping], as it is written, blessed are all they that wait for him." [22]

Footnote 19 for this passage explicitly states that the 'predetermined time' under discussion concerns the advent of the Messiah. The topic which prompted such a virulent outburst from Rabbi Nahmani is the question of: ‘Why hasn't the Messiah appeared since the prophesied time of his arrival had already occurred and he is nowhere to be seen?’ Interestingly, the only way the rabbis of that era could have known that the date for this predicted event had passed by unfulfilled would be by their own attempts to determine it and thereby would have invited upon themselves the consequences of the very curse they had invoked. Although not directly referenced by Talmud, the context of these verses mentioned from  Daniel cited above must have been the scriptures they used to resolve the question of the 'predetermined time' of the Messiah's appearance. Why would they use these verses only, when the Holy Scriptures makes so many prophetic references to a coming Messiah? Because Daniel 9:24-26 is the only prophetic texts in the entire Tanakh which definitively address the exact time of Messiah’s coming!


Daniel 9:24-26 from the JPS (Jewish Publication Society) Tanakh - copyright 1917:

    [24] “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finished transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. [25] “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. [26] After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.”

One could faithfully attend every Shabbat service for their entire life and would never hear this verse, or any other verse from the Book of Daniel, since no Haftarah passages reference this book. Seventy highly esteemed rabbinic scholars who translated the Tanakh into the Greek Septuagint in 285 BCE placed Daniel among the Prophets (Navi’im); but 10th century CE  editors of the Masoretic [1] Text moved Daniel to the Writings (Ketuvim), thus eliminating any part of the book as a candidate for a Haftarah reading.

So what is this ‘mystery age’ when Messiah was to appear? It isn’t that hard to figure out, but it does take an awareness of how biblical numbers work and time was counted:

When 'sevens' (Shabbats) are referenced in the context of time duration they normally take the form of either weeks of  days (seven days) or weeks of years (seven years). Given the fact that the expiring 70 year judgment God decreed against Israel was due to their violation of the Sabbatical Law of resting the Land every 7th year (and had not) for the previous 490 years in the Land, it is contextually reasonable for the  'sevens' mentioned here (in Daniel 9) to also refer to 'sevens' of years. It also makes sense that God would decree the same amount of time Israel lived in contradiction to the Mosaic Law, as the waiting time designated for Israel ‘to rest and wait’ for their redemption (Messiah). Ironically, out of hundreds of prophesies, this is the only prophecy in all Tanakh prefaced with a ‘command’ that it should be both "known and understood.” There is a divine injunction here that is in direct contradiction to what the Talmud scholars teach concerning this revelation! With this intriguing thought in mind. why not consider the divine command, and review with me now the events predicted in this passage and what it reveals:

“Seventy ‘sevens’” (490 years) have been determined by God for the full redemption of Israel.   

This time period is divided into three groupings by verse 25: “Seven ‘sevens’” (or 49 years) and a 2nd group of “Sixty-two ‘sevens’” (or 434 years), leaving ‘one seven’ (or a future 7 years) to make 70.

A study of Genesis chapter 7's usage of day/month relationships indicates that Scripture marks a  prophetic year as twelve months of thirty days each, or a 360 day year.                                  
                         
There is no indicated gap between the phraseology of the first group (49 yrs) and second (434 yrs), indicating a chronological nature to this dating- and thus arguing for a time frame of 483 consecutive years, fulfilling 69 of the 70 shabbats years. The calculation would require multiplying 483 years of 360 days, totaling 173,880 days. At that time, Daniel  predicted an “Anointed One” would come (Mashiach in Hebrew, Messiah in English).       

There is an undetermined time gap which follows these two clusters of ’seven years’ where much takes place before the divine prophesy of the ‘final week’ of 7 years occurs- to fulfill the full prophecy. Even more ironic and troubling is that during this gap of waiting for the “Anointed One” he (Messiah) would be executed and “have nothing”; obviously Not having established the Messianic Kingdom the Jewish people were anticipating. Does it seem strange that he was called the Messiah but there was no peace or rest that followed his appearance? Instead, Daniel predicts in verse 26, another ruler will come and destroy both the city of Jerusalem and the Temple!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
So what does this prophecy in Daniel tell us will trigger the ‘countdown’ for these events? Daniel 9:25 states there would be a proclamation issued allowing the exiled Jewish people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their city! There is only one decree in all the Tanakh that addresses this subject.

Nehemiah 2:1-8 from the JPS Tanakh, 1917:

    [1] “And it came to pass in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king, when wine was before him, that I took up the wine, and gave it unto the king. Now I had not been beforetime sad in his presence. [2] And the king said unto me: 'Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou art not sick? this is nothing else but sorrow of heart.' Then I was very sore afraid. [3] And I said unto the king: 'Let the king live for ever: why should not my countenance be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers' sepulchres, lieth waste, and the gates thereof are consumed with fire?’ [4] Then the king said unto me: 'For what dost thou make request?' So I prayed to the G-d of heaven. [5] And I said unto the king: 'If it please the king and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it.’ [6] And the king said unto me, the queen also sitting by him: 'For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return?' So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time. [7] Moreover I said unto the king: 'If it please the king, let letters be given me to the governors beyond the River, that they may let me pass through till I come unto Judah; [8] and a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's park, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the castle which appertaineth to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into.' And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my G-d upon me.”

7) The Encyclopedia Britannica affixes the date of Artaxerxes' rise to the throne in Persia as 465 BCE, so his 20th year would have been 445 BCE. Since there is no ordinal date provided to the referenced month of Nisan (Ne 2:1),  Jewish custom would argue that the day must have been the first of the month. With some mathematical analysis one can compute the dating that Daniel prophesies Israel was to “know and understand” for the Messiah to be “put to death” in accordance with dating on the western solar calendar.
                   
8) To compute the actual terminus date on which these 173,880 days culminate into a date on the  solar (Gregorian) calendar used by our western world, would go as follows:

     a. Artaxerxes command on 1st of Nissan computed to the Gregorian calendar = March 14, 445 BCE
     b. 483 years of 360 days would = April 6, 32 C.E. on the Gregorian calendar!
     c. 445 BCE to 32 CE = 476 years total (1 BCE to 1 CE is 1 year)
     d. 476 multiplied by 365 days in the computing into the solar calendar = 173,740 days
     e. Adding for leap years in this time period is another 116 days = 173,856 days (3 less in 4 centuries)?
     f. March 14, 32 CE  is short 24 days of the required 173,880 days mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy
     g. March 14th + 24 days = April 6, 32 C.E.   

9) According to the prophecy given in Daniel 9 the Messiah was predicted to appear on April 6, 32 CE, the Very Day on which most scholars assert that Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth rode into Jerusalem on a donkey fulfilling another Messianic prophesy found in Zechariah 9:9. It was also on this day that Yeshua allowed Himself, for the first time, to be publicly proclaimed the Messiah of Israel!   

11) While the exact dates cited above could be disputed by some, other facts in this prophesy are clearly indisputable:  
   
     a. The Messiah would make an appearance among his people, only to be murdered.
     b. He would die “with nothing”, hence not establishing his Messianic kingdom at that time.
     c. A ruler of this same nation who puts Messiah to death will also destroy Jerusalem and the Temple.
     d. The Messiah had to be put to death before the destruction of  Jerusalem and the 2nd Temple.
     e. For an unspecified number of years following these events there will be wars and desolations.
     f. At the culmination of this unspecified time period the final 7 years predicted will be fulfilled
     g. After the final 7 years: 1) all sin will be atoned for; 2) wickedness will no longer prevail; 3) Jerusalem will be “anointed “ as the Most Holy Place on Earth, and 4) there will be established a Kingdom of everlasting righteousness- the prophesied Messianic Kingdom!   
     h. Since the word “anointed” is used to refer to this “Most Holy Place” as well as for the “Anointed One” who was put to death back in 32 C.E., it logically infers that the anointed kingdom would require the “Anointed One’s” return for this prophesy to be fulfilled.

12) There is only one Man claiming Messiah status who appeared and was executed in the era predicted by the Tanakh (with many more details given elsewhere in the Tanakh. i.e. Isaiah 53, Psalm 22); only one Man who was also accepted as the Messiah by many contemporary Jewish believers zealous enough to follow him into martyrdom; only one Man whom millions of citizens of all nations have accepted as their Messiah (as predicted in Isaiah 42:6); only one Man who came at the appointed time, predicted his own death, and promised to return again (in fulfillment of Daniel 9), and that was Jesus of Nazareth.

As previously noted (and underlined), this is the only prophecy in the entire Tanakh prefaced with a command that it should be both "known and understood.” This divine injunction is in direct opposition to what the Talmud teaches (written between the 2nd & 5th centuries C.E.) i.e., that it must not be understood. What advice should we follow- that given in the Tanakh or man’s interpretation of it given in the Talmud? If the veracity of God’s written word was broken, then why in just these few verses has so much of human history been accurately predicted? If Tanakh is divinely inspired as believed by many rabbis, Christian ministers and people of every nation for thousands of years… whose “command” would you be wiser to follow, that of God or man? Who do you think might someday hold you accountable for that decision? There are only two options: to believe or not believe—what will you choose?

​Deuteronomy 30:19-20 from the JPS Tanakh, 1917:

    [19] “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; [20] to love the LORD thy God, to hearken to His voice, and to cleave unto Him; for that is thy life, and the length of thy days; that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

 


For more information on this prophecy, and/or many others prophecies pointing to the identity of the Messiah, contact Jim Burr at Jim@hopeofisraelnj.com

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