Daniel is the prophet whom nearly everyone associates with eschatology and rightly so, although most people wrongly make that association by attributing his prophecies to “the end of time” because of the several references to that in his prophecies. We will discuss those remarks in the next few posts, but for now, we are discussing Jerusalem and how that city plays into it all.
Daniel prayed a fervent prayer for the Israelite people and the city. The prayer was ex post facto (past-tense) to the destruction of the city and Temple by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar (the Chaldeans), with the people having been forced into exile to Babylon. The prayer took place during the reign of Darius the Mede, who ruled under Cyrus, King of Persia (9:1).
He had been reading in the books of the prophet Jeremiah about their return from exile and he observed in the books…the number of the years for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem – seventy (Daniel 9:2), so this was within the seventy-year captivity which had been prophesied by that prophet (Jeremiah 25:8-12).
So Jerusalem, God’s city, which was supposed to have been a sweet offering to Him, had instead been turned into a smoldering ruin. When Ezekiel prophesied against Oholibah he was actually prophesying what Nebuchadnezzar would do against Judah and Jerusalem. This is now after the fact as Daniel is praying and asking about the return of the people from that prophesied captivity.
The focal point of this entire segment is Daniel 9:12: for under the whole heaven, there had not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. That is an astounding statement! So, you ask, What exactly happened to Jerusalem? Answer: It was made desolate as defined by Isaiah 1:7, prophesied by Jeremiah. It was overrun by strangers, as the Babylonians destroyed the city and Temple, and the people were forced into exile.
But, so what! you say. Doesn’t that always happen in war? “Great” cities have always gotten destroyed along with their sacred buildings and the people subjected to slavery during warfare. What was so significant about it this time? What was done to Jerusalem that led Daniel to utter something so momentous? “…for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem,” he lamented.
You have to understand what was going on here. This was not just any other city, this was God’s city. All that we have been talking about – how God had taken a ‘people’ to Himself and brought them to this city, that He had chosen, how He had the Temple built there and how He instituted the sacrifice system for the sin of the people – and now it had been utterly destroyed. It was ‘desolation!’
Carried out by the idolatrous Chaldeans who not only forced His people into exile and captivity, they also carried away from the house of the Lord all of that which they didn’t destroy (2 Kings 24:10-16). In other words, they looted it, they defiled it, and then they destroyed it. It was an abomination. An abomination of the desolation. The abomination of desolation?
Daniel said, under inspiration, …for under the whole heaven…. Those are large parameters, the largest, in fact. Under the whole heaven! And then, “…there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem.”Wait! You say, There has not been done anything? There is nothing that compares? How destroyed can an army make a city? Is it even to be measured in human terms? Or is it, as we said, the fact that it was the city of God that had been destroyed?
God kept His covenant (Daniel 9:4); the people had sinned and did not listen to His prophets (9:5-6); the curse had been poured out on them, along with the oath which was written in the law of Moses (9:11) (you can read all about the curses for disobedience in Leviticus 26:14-39 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68). The Lord had kept the calamity in store and brought it on them (Daniel 9:14). That – is desolation.
The people eventually came out from captivity and built another Temple, dedicating it in 516BC, seventy years from when the first one was destroyed. This became known as the second Temple, and later Herod’s Temple because, since, by the time of Christ centuries had elapsed since its construction and it had fallen into disrepair. Herod, having been a builder, refurbished it to the grandeur of the Gospel times, and it had actually become an object of idolatry to them.