In the first years of the same Darius the Mede mentioned in 6:1 (538 b.c.), Daniel was reading the scroll of Jeremiah, regarding it as trustworthy Scripture. Daniel noted that Jeremiah, who had died about two decades before, had predicted a period of seventy years for the desolation of Jerusalem (Jer 25:11-13; 29:10).
Jerusalem had fallen in 586 B.C., and more than twenty years remained before the prediction would be fulfilled. It actually occurred in 516 b.c. when the temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem. Daniel began to pray about the matter.
Like Isaiah (Isa 6:5), Daniel was keenly aware of the holiness and righteousness of God and the unfaithfulness and shame of all Israel. But Daniel was filled with faith and hope. He believed God was merciful and forgiving in spite of the rebellion of Israel against God.
Daniel did not accuse God of irresponsibility in letting many of his people go into exile. Daniel's God was the Judge who justly punished his wicked people. For centuries the law of Moses had warned Israel against rebellion. Now, in exile, God's people were still rebelling. They had learned nothing from their punishment.
Daniel's hope was based on the act of God at the Exodus from Egypt, and he pleaded that God in mercy would forgive and deliver his people again. The exile of God's people and the ruins of Jerusalem had generated scorn in the hearts of many pagans.
Daniel pressed his petition with emotional intensity, and casting all other reasons aside, even his own merit, rested his plea solely on the mercies of God as related to a long relationship to Jerusalem and Israel. All effective supplication rests upon the same foundation.
Daniel's prayer achieved results. Gabriel arrived and assured Daniel that God had begun to answer as Daniel started to pray. Gabriel's message was based on the numbers seventy and seven. The possible literal or symbolic values of these numbers in the visions of Daniel have generated as many varieties of opinion among Wesleyan scholars as among those of other persuasions. Daniel's prayer could be understood as fulfilled historically. The time span from Daniel's exile in 605 b.c. to the decree of Cyrus (which allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem in 537 b.c.), plus a period of time for Jews to arrive there, amounts to about seventy years.
Gabriel gave an extended future value to seventy and seven, amounting to 490 years. During this time, transgression and sin were to be brought to an end and atonement made for wickedness. Other themes appear in 9:24: (1) the inception of everlasting righteousness, (2) the sealing of vision and prophecy, and (3) the anointing of the most holy.
Another numerical phrase, seven “sevens” and sixty-two “sevens,” refers to the time before the Anointed One, would arrive.
Jesus seemed to pick up on the remaining verses of this chapter in his Olivet Discourse (Mt 24:7-28) and apply them to an indefinite end time.
Theological themes evident in this section may be summarized thus: (1) In spite of sin, tyranny, and destruction, God's people in any age have a firm foundation of hope; (2) atonement for sin has been provided, and through confession, repentance, and faith it will transform the sinner into a believer; (3) God's everlasting kingdom has an almighty Messiah who will rule in mercy, truth, and justice; and (4) eventually, in spite of evil-minded opposition, God and his people will always be winners.