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Covenant Confusion (Dan. 9:26-27)

The greatest chronological and theological error made by most traditional expositors in their interpretations of the prophecies in the Book of Daniel is the one involving the covenant mentioned in Dan. 9:27a, which says “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week …

The error is caused by assuming that the events in Dan. 9:26-27 should be interpreted sequentially, not recognizing that those verses employ a Hebrew literary device called a chiasmus (“X-shaped” from the Greek letter “chi”). Using a chiasmus was what the prophet Daniel employed to obscure the meaning of the prophecy as God had commanded that he do (Dan. 12:4 and Dan. 12:9). Now that events in history have been used by God to unseal the Danielic prophecies for our understanding, we can see that those verses should be interpreted in this order: 26a, 27a, 26b, and 27b, instead of the normal order of 26a, 26b, 27a, 27b, so as to be understood. When verses 26 and 27 are re-arranged accordingly, it is easy to see how the events described in those verses foretold what was soon to become documented history, as follows:

26(a) And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself:
27(a) And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease,
26(b) and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood,
27(b) and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

The phrase in verse 26 that says “after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself” has also been misinterpreted. The problem comes with an incorrect assumption about the meaning of the words “cut off,” which signify an event that the corrected chronology of the Seventy Weeks says must happen sometime after the Feast of Weeks in the year 27 CE, when the sixty-two weeks of the prophecy come to an end. The sixty-two weeks ended on the Day of Pentecost in 27 CE, after which it was predicted in verse 26a that the Anointed One would be “cut off” (Strong’s H3772, pronounced karath). Most traditional expositors interpret the phrase “cut off” in that verse to mean “killed” and apply it to the crucifixion of Jesus, but that is not the preferred meaning in this case. Let me explain.

The same word translated as “cut off” in verse 26 is translated in Genesis 15:18 as “made a covenant.” Brown-Driver-Briggs says “cut, or make a covenant, because of the cutting up and distribution of the flesh of the victim for eating in the sacrifice of the covenants.” Support for preferring the Genesis precedent for translating verse 26 is found in the Theological Workbook of the Old Testament, which makes this observation: “The most important use of the root is ‘to cut’ a covenant … Genesis 15 is a significant passage in that regard.” So, the phrase “shall Messiah be cut off” is better understood as “the anointed one shall be consecrated, set apart, to make a covenant.” Recall that the covenant role of the Messiah was specified in Isaiah 42:1-6 as being the mission of God’s servant, anointed with God’s spirit, the one who God would “give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles.” Thus, verse 26 is saying that, after the sixty-two weeks have concluded, the anointed one (“Messiah” in KJV) will be cut off (set apart, consecrated, but not killed) to begin mediating a new covenant for all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles.

From Scripture, we know that the Servant Messiah of Isaiah did exactly that by offering his life to pay for our sins, as reflected in Isaiah 53:8, which says “he was cut off” (i.e., consecrated, set apart for our transgressions) and explains how he would confirm the covenant by the modifier “from the land of the living” (i.e., by dying). The concluding phrase in verse 26(a) says “but not for himself,” indicating a state of nothingness, and can be paraphrased as “but he shall choose to be nothing,” a description of the servant role that Isaiah predicted would be assumed by the anointed one, the Messiah. The Book of Philippians gives this elaboration: “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5-7))

At the time of his baptism by John the Baptist, Jesus was “cut off” (consecrated) to mediate the New Covenant foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-34. John the Baptist said so, as follows: “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.” (John 1:29-31)

After his baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness, there to be tempted to forsake his God-ordained mission of redemption and rule over his future kingdom for the kingdoms and enticements of this world offered by Satan. After successfully resisting all temptation, Jesus began preaching in Jerusalem, Judea, and eventually in the Galilee. His public ministry lasted about twenty-seven months, culminating in the events of the Passion Week in 30 CE. On the evening before his crucifixion, Jesus met with his disciples in the upper room for a meal on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was also called “the Passover” (Luke 22:1). At that meal, Jesus explained how his death would be the confirmation of the New Covenant: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)

So, what about the Antichrist that many conservative expositors say in their exposition of Dan. 9:26-27 will make a covenant with end-time Israel while ruling the nations of the world from his throne located in a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem? They get that erroneous idea from their misinterpretation of the covenant mentioned in Daniel 9:27a, combined with other ideas gleaned from the Book of Revelation. However, a look at the chronology in verses 26 and 27, once those verses have been rearranged to reveal the time line that was sealed away from understanding until the time of the end by the prophet Daniel’s use of a chiasmus, shows that the covenant event in verse 27a “he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week” happens before the next event when “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.”

History records that Jesus said that he was confirming the New Covenant with his blood shed on the cross in 30 CE. Forty years later in 70 CE, the Roman commanding general Titus, a “prince” in the sense that he was the son of the Roman emperor Vespasian, captured Jerusalem and destroyed the city and the Temple exactly in the order that had been foretold in verse 27a. There may well be a future “antichrist” who makes a covenant with modern Israel, but, if so, that action will not be the fulfillment of Daniel 9:27. The covenant confirmation in that verse was accomplished by Jesus, the seed promised to Abraham who would be a blessing to all peoples (Gen. 12:3). The New Covenant is the fulfillment of that promise, bringing the blessing of salvation by faith in Jesus to Jews and Gentiles all around the world.

Published inArticlesChronologyExpositionMessiahProphecy