Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and upon your holy city … Daniel 9: 24
In a previous article, Counting the omer – part 1, we considered the history of the Exodus from the Passover to Shavuot (Pentecost) and saw how this history was “codified” in the Jewish festive calendar. We also saw how Israel failed to realise its prophetic purpose under the Law of Moses, and in the very after-glow of the revelation at Mount Sinai, failed to enter its promised Land.
We further considered the importance of the seven week countdown from the presentation of the omer of first-fruits to Shavuot. Historically, the seven sevens began with Israel’s departure from Egypt and culminated with the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
Maimonides explained the significance of the countdown as follows: “The Feast of Weeks is the anniversary of the Revelation on Mount Sinai. In order to raise the importance of this day, we count the days that pass since the preceding festival, just as one who expects his most intimate friend on a certain day counts the days and even the hours. This is the reason why we count the days …” 1
This article deals with the events that followed Israel’s second exodus – the return to the Land at the end of its captivity in Babylon.
At the conclusion of the Babylonian exile, YHVH provided a new countdown through the prophet Daniel – this time spanning a period of 490 years. Daniel’s seventy week omer would again mark the time from deliverance to divine revelation. This subsequent revelation would supercede that of Sinai in its importance and take place only once everything necessary for Israel’s final redemption had been achieved (see Daniel 9:24-27).
(1) Israel’s return to bondage
The Sinai covenant made God’s blessing and protection over Israel conditional upon its obedience, and also stated the consequences for disobedience:
If you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you … The LORD will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your fathers … They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down (Deuteronomy 28: 15, 36, 52).
Moses prophesied shortly before his death:
I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you shall soon utterly perish from the land to which you go over the Jordan to possess it; you shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall be utterly destroyed (Deuteronomy 4:26).
Afterwards the Lord appeared to Moses and said:
Behold, you shall sleep with your fathers, and this people will rise up, and commit idolatry with the gods of the strangers of the land, where they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them. Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, Have not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us? (Deuteronomy 31:16-17)
By the time of Deuteronomy, thirty-eight years had passed since Israel had first arrived at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran, at the threshold of its promised inheritance. The generation that distrusted the Lord had since perished in the wilderness and the next generation was allowed to cross the Jordan after receiving a second circumcision at Gilgal.
In the decades and centuries that followed, Israel tragically failed to keep the Law of Moses – breaking its covenant with God – just as God had warned Moses. The consequences prophesied by Moses came about when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, conquered Jerusalem during the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, taking the last of Israel’s twelve tribes into exile.
Daniel arrived in Babylon as a young man and enjoyed God’s favour. Daniel discovered from reading the prophecies of Jeremiah that the exile would last seventy years (see Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10). As this time was drawing to a close, Daniel was moved to intercede on behalf of his people, and prayed for the God of his fathers to perform His word to Jeremiah – i.e. to end the exile and to restore his people to their Land. In response to his humble plea, YHVH revealed the events that would follow the second exodus and set the prophetic countdown to their culmination.
Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and upon your holy city to finish the transgression and to make full the measure of sins, to make atonement for iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem to prince messiah shall be seven weeks and sixty two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after sixty two weeks shall messiah be cut off, and have nothing: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and its end shall be with a flood, and to the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall make a covenant with many – one week, and in the middle of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and offering to fail (Daniel 9:24-27).
The new exodus started with the decree of Cyrus in the 70th year of the captivity. The decree not only allowed the Jews to return, but ordered Israel’s erstwhile captors to give whatever they could to assist in the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem (see Ezra 1:1-4). The Jews once again left captivity with much gold and silver (Ezra 1:6) – as they had done from Egypt (Exodus 3:22, 11:2). Several parties set out at different times from various parts of the Babylonian empire. Ezra’s party departed in the month of Aviv ,2 as the hosts of Israel had done from Egypt.
The second exodus was not chiefly about the physical journey, which took only four months to complete in Ezra’s case (Ezra 7:8-10). The exile had not taken Israel back to Egypt to repeat the lessons of the wilderness, but to Babylon, the birthplace of Abraham, so that Israel might resume his journey – the journey of faith. For this reason, God’s revelation to Daniel did not deal with the practical aspect of the journey, the conquest of cities and the displacement of hostile nations, nor did it deal with any matters pertaining to Israel’s tenure in the Land or to its temporal well-being. It dealt rather with those things that were required to bring Israel to its eternal inheritance.
The seventy weeks of Daniel’s sephirah (countdown) were thus given for Israel to finish the transgression and to make full the measure of sin, to atone for iniquity and to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy(Daniel 9:24).
(2) The three stages within Daniel’s 490 year countdown
Daniel’s seventy weeks are divided into three stages which correspond with equivalent periods in the original exodus from Egypt, and derive their significance in this way.
… from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem to prince messiah shall be [a] seven weeks and [b] sixty two weeks … and he shall make a covenant with many – [c] one week, and in the middle of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and offering to fail (Daniel 9:25, 27).
(a) The first “seven weeks” (forty-nine prophetic years) corresponds with the seven sevens that were counted from the Red Sea to Mount Sinai, and demarcates the time “to restore and to build Jerusalem.” This stage of Daniel’s prophetic omer concludes with a fresh reception of the Law about fifty years after the return from Babylon, this time given through Ezra at the foot of Mount Zion – and a renewal of the Sinai covenant.3
And all the people assembled as one man in the street that was before the water-gate; and they spoke to Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding (Nehemiah 8:1-2).
… all these [people] now join their brothers and nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the LORD, our Lord (Nehemiah 10:29).
Israel’s calling remained unchanged since the time of the first exodus, namely to be for God a light to the Gentiles, that you may be My salvation to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:6). Israel in submission to God’s word would reveal His wisdom and holiness, and rouse the nations to jealousy:
Behold, I have taught you statutes, and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do so in the land where you are going to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, that will hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, that has God so near to them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call on him for? And what nation is there so great, that has statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? (Deuteronomy. 4:5-8).
For Israel to be fully restored – i.e. not merely to the Land, but also to its prophetic destiny – it had to be reinstated under the Law. Ezra’a renewal thus concludes the first stage of Daniel’s countdown.
(b) Daniel’s second period comprises sixty-two weeks (i.e. 434 prophetic years) and concludes with “messiah will be cut off and have nothing”. After this “the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.”
Sixty-two weeks in relation to the first exodus is the lapse of time between the giving of the Law and the return of the twelve spies from the Land. This correlation is not expressly stated in the Bible, but is based on the following calculation: If the Law was received on the 6th day of the second month in the first year of the exodus (Exodus 19:1), and the Israelites departed from Sinai on the 20th day of the 2nd month of the second year (Numbers 10:11), arriving at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran – from where the exploration of the Land took place at “the time of the first ripe grapes” (Numbers 13:20) [the first grapes ripen in mid July or early August, according to the Soncino Commentary] – then the date of the spies’ return after forty days of exploring the Land was likely to be in mid August (the month of Av) of the 2nd year. The time from the giving of the Law to the evil report is approximately 434 days or 62 weeks. According to the Talmud, God’s oath against the Sinai generation corresponds with the date on which the Temple was twice destroyed, namely the 9th of Av. On this basis, the calculation is as follows: 54 weeks (of the religious calendar) to the first anniversary of Sinai, plus 8 weeks from Shavuot toTisha b’Av 4, giving 62 weeks.
If this is correct, then sixty-two weeks after receiving the Law at Sinai, Israel forfeited the Promised Land, and sixty-two weeks (62 x 7 prophetic years) after Ezra’s reinstatement of the Law, Israel forfeited its promised Messiah. Both events led to the destruction – within forty years – of the faithless generation.
(c) This leaves a final week of seven years at which time, according to Daniel, “he will establish a covenant with many … [and] cause the sacrifice and offering to fail.”
The reference to “he” is to moschiach and “covenant” refers to the New Covenant which YHVH would establish, at the conclusion of the sixty two weeks, with “the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt” (Jeremiah 31:31-32). This New Covenant would also lead to the destruction of the Temple (which caused the sacrifice and offering to fail) and thus left the Sinai covenant without its required means for atonement, and thus ineffectual.
In the corresponding period of the first exodus, God gave unconditional assurances to the succeeding generation (“But your little ones, which you said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the Land which you have despised”- Numbers 14:31). At the same time, He precluded from repentance the entire adult generation that was numbered at Sinai (“Your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, who have murmured against me”- Numbers 14:29).
(3) Further significance of Daniel’s prophecy
As we pointed out in the previous article, Counting the omer – Part 1, the events at Kadesh in the second year of the Exodus are important for understanding Israel’s predicament and the outcome of its later history. It was at Kadesh that the Sinai generation showed itself faithless by heeding the evil report of the ten spies and refusing to enter the Land (see Numbers 13:1-14:4).
As Israel had the opportunity at Kadesh to consider the Land in light of God’s promises, and then to enter it, so it had an opportunity to consider Jesus’ claims to being the Messiah, and on the same criterion of faith, to either accept or reject him.
God had not offered the Land to Israel on a silver platter (in a manner of speaking), but expected His people to enter in while it was occupied by hostile nations with fortified cities and “giants” for warriors. Similarly, Israel’s ultimate inheritance in Messiah would not come without challenges. Jesus did not usurp the Roman Government, nor did he elevate Israel to an undefeatable position of security as the pinacle of human virtue and the uncontested ruler over the nations (as continues to be the expectation within rabbinical Judaism, even today). Instead he offered Israel a kingdom [that] is not of this world (John 18:36) and an inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade (1 Peter 1:4). The New Testament teaches that God’s promises to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants were intended for the resurrection.
The way into the inheritance was to accept God’s verdict that all have sinned and fallen short of His glory, to believe in the atonement for sin that was promised through Daniel, and to receive the everlasting righteousness that comes from the law that is written on the heart by the Holy Spirit.
With the faith of Caleb, Israel could have taken the Land: “And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30). Jesus presented the Jews with a similar test: Would Israel accept that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does mortality inherit immortality (1 Corinthians 15:50)? Would Israel believe that God would raise the dead to receive the Land as an eternal possession? Would Israel accept a Messiah who reigns from a heavenly throne – far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come (Ephesians 1:21) – who has opened the way for a people estranged from God to receive eternal glory?
Two thousand years had passed from the time of receiving the Law at Mount Sinai – two thousand years of failure to keep the Torah and obtain its promises. Was this long enough to learn that legalistic righteousness can never obtain the Kingdom of God? Would Israel eventually have learnt from its own history that it had to take hold of its inheritance by faith?
Alas, the generation of Israel that rejected Messiah would once again be judged as it floundered over “giants” that only faith could overcome. The majority of the Jewish religious order rejected the Messiah and the general population of Israel once again succumbed to their evil report.
The sin of Kadesh was not simply believing the evil report – it was a betrayal of God in all His patient and consistent faithfulness: And God said unto Moses: How long shall this people scorn 6 Me, and for how long shall they not believe in Me, with all the signs which I have shown in their midst? (Numbers 14:11).
Israel had the plagues of Egypt, the miracle of the Red Sea, the victory over Amalek, the bread from heaven and water from a rock. God had manifested his presence among them. For three or more miraculous years God had proved His love and grace and faithfulness at every turn. Israel’s faith had been carefully nurtured. In the light of all this it was not unreasonable to expect Israel to trust in God.
Jesus said of his generation;
If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you (Matthew 11:23).
If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason’ (John 15:24). 7
From those to whom much was given, much would be required (Luke 12:48). Just as the evil report at Kadesh originated with the elders of the community, the captains of the tribes, who then imposed their faithless verdict on the entire populace, inciting all to rebellion and leading that whole generation to destruction, so too it was the scribes and Pharisees and members of the Sanhedrin that persuaded the community to scorn their God a second time, by rejecting His preordained means of Salvation and by holding His anointed King, Jesus Messiah, in utter contempt.
He was despised, and we esteemed him not (Isaiah 53:3).
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to (Matthew 23:32-33).
The evil report had come as the last of a series of blasphemies. Kadesh in the Desert of Paran was not the first, but rather the culminating failure of the first exodus. Thus God had said: All those men who have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not listened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land (Num. 14:22-23).
Hirsch comments on these verses: “ten times already, in the various camps have they put God to the test, doubting in the reality of God’s intervention in earthly matters, and have tried out and found the actual sincerity, the dependability … the sufficiency of His promised succour, ולא שמעו בקולי, and still have not learnt to obey God.” 8
Daniel’s prophecy: “to finish the transgression and to make full the measure of sin” alludes to a similar culmination of unfaithfulness, the final provocation by Israel of is God, after many prior incidents. The rejection of Messiah came at the end of a long history of Israel’s rebellion, during which God had displayed mercy and had often delayed His punishment and retribution.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Whereby you are witnesses to yourselves, that you are the children of those who killed the prophets. Fill up then the measure of the sin of your fathers. You serpents, you generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore behold, I send to you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel, to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:29-36).
God had indeed born with great patience the objects of his wrath (Romans 9:22), but His righteous fulfilment of the curses prescribed under the Torah would not be delayed forever. Yet, even in punishment, there was room for mercy. The calamity of Kadesh had been partly averted through Moses’ intercession. YHVH had told Moses:
I will smite them with the pestilence, and disinherit them, and will make of you a greater nation and mightier than they (Numbers 14:12).
But Moses said to the LORD, Then the Egyptians will hear of it, (for you brought this people in your might from among them); And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land … Now if you shall kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard your fame will speak, saying, Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore to them, therefore he has slain them in the wilderness (Numbers 14:13-16).
Moses prayed that Israel be preserved for the sake of her God-ordained destiny, namely to be His witness to the nations. Were the Holy One of Israel to proceed as intended, then, in Hirsch’s words, “the recognition of God among the nations would suffer … which was one of the principal purposes for which Israel had been chosen”.9 In response to Moses, God agreed to forgive and show mercy.
Jesus prayed in a similar way to Moses: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:24). Once again, in response to this prayer, God preserved a faithful remnant from Israel to form the core of the new covenant Church, which would spread the knowledge of God to the ends of the habitable world. “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47).
“Consider Abraham: He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: All nations will be blessed through you. So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:7-9).
As the Sinai generation was destined to destruction within forty years of the evil report, so the generation that witnessed the greater manifestation of Divine Revelation, namely “the glory of God in the face of Messiah” (2 Corinthians 4:6), would perish within forty years if they refused to repent. (The army of the Roman general, Titus, destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple on Tisha b’Av forty years after the rejection of Jesus.)
In both cases, the forty years were derived – a year for a day – from the number of days it took Israel to consider and reject its promised inheritance:
“After the number of the days in which you searched the Land, even forty days (each day for a year) shall you bear your iniquities, even forty years, and you shall know my breach of promise” (Numbers 14:34).
According to the Babylonian Talmud: “On the eve of Passover Yeshu, (defamatory Hebrew name for Jesus) was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, ‘He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Anyone who can say anything in his favour let him come forward and plead on his behalf.’ But since nothing was brought forward in his favor, he was hanged on the eve of Passover”. 10
The forty days during which the rabbis supposedly found nothing in Jesus’ favour is a clear parallel to the forty days after which the spies delivered their evil report and rejected the Land. Jesus prophesied that God’s judgment would come upon Jerusalem within that generation – the generation that had rejected him:
“Do you see all these things [the buildings of the Temple], he asked. I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left upon another; every one will be thrown down … I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24:2,34).
“When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written” (Luke 21:20-22).
At the time these events occurred, Israel once again lost possession of its Land. For those who survived the events of 70AD and continued to reject Jesus Messiah, God had once again ordained many years of aimless wanderings in the wilderness, but this time in the barren wasteland of Talmudic scholarship. In this formidable terrain, successive generations of blind guides lead entire communities, entire generations of Abraham’s descendants into perpetual and eternal condemnation.
But the true leaders of Israel, like Joshua and Caleb, would be moved by a different spirit and would be preserved to lead a new breed of Israelite into their long-awaited inheritance, the eternal Kingdom of God.
“Surely they shall not see the Land which I swore to their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it: But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and has followed me fully, him will I bring into the land into which he went; and his seed shall possess it… Doubtless you shall not come into the Land concerning which I swore to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. But your little ones, which you said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the Land which you have despised (Numbers 14:23-31).
The faithless would neither see it nor enter into the Inheritance. Only to those moved by the Holy Spirit of God, would it be revealed. Jesus taught Nicodemus:
“I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. How can a man be born when he is old? Nicodemus asked. Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born! Jesus answered, I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, You must be born again” (John 3:3-7).
The new birth is followed, as with Joshua at Gilgal, by a new circumcision, a circumcision of the heart, not wrought by human hands. For we are preparing to enter the heavenly city, whose builder and architect is the Lord, and henceforth there shall no more come into (her) the uncircumcised and the unclean (Isaiah 52:1).
But a new and resolute determination has set in amongst those who have forfeited their inheritance. The Divine punishment at Kadesh was followed by an ill-fated sally against Amalek – after God’s presence had been withdrawn.
“And they rose early in the morning, and ascended to the top of the mountain, saying, Lo, we are here, and will go up to the place which the LORD has promised: for we have sinned. And Moses said, Why now do you transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper. Go not up, for the LORD is not among you; that you be not smitten before your enemies.” (Numbers 14:40-42)
This event also has had many parallels in later Jewish history. The marauding bandits who ruled Jerusalem with ruthless brutality during the siege of Titus in 70 AD held out the ill-founded hope of Divine deliverance – and a million Jews perished before the siege was ended. In the aftermath of this devastation the rabbis established themselves as the Supreme Authority of Judaism and proclaimed their own messiah: a ferocious warlord who required the amputation of fingers as proof of his soldiers’ courage. Of this great scion of Rabbi Aqiva, Maimonides would later write: “the sages of his generation thought that he was King Messiah, until he was slain because of the sins. As soon as he was slain it became evident to them that he was not”.11 With the same ill-founded presumption, modern Judaism, allied with political Zionism, has reconvened the Sanhedrin in preparation for its ultimate impertinence – to usher in its own Messianic Age in defiance of God’s judgement that the faithless, “shall never enter my rest.”
But God has given His irrevocable assurances to the second generation – the true Israelites, born of His spirit, who will become heirs to His promises and possess eternal life.
“Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which covenant of mine they broke, although I was a husband to them, says the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:30-34).
The way in which sin is obliterated from God’s memory and forgiveness procured, is by the atonement for iniquity spoken of to Daniel – wrought in Messiah’s blood – and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness, the righteousness acquired by faith in our redemption from sin and death – which is the completed work of Messiah. Because of these assurances the nations can never say that God’s purposes for Israel have failed, for through the early Jewish believers the knowledge of God has spread throughout the earth. And so Israel has indeed become a “light unto the Gentiles” and has been much expanded – by the inclusion into God’s people of faithful men and woman from every nation, tribe and tongue.
At the same time the judgement on the Sinai generation was irrevocable and without any prospect of forgiveness. For God had sworn on oath in His anger, They shall never enter my rest (Ps. 95:11; Heb. 3:11). This same judgement still falls to those who continue, after Messiah’s coming, to seek righteousness under the Sinai covenant, for according to Daniel’s prophecy – in the final week of his great prophetic omer – Messiah would cause sacrifice and offering to fail (Daniel 9:27).
This is corroborated by the testimony of Rabbi Kimchi as recorded in the Babylonian Talmud: “Our rabbis have handed down the tradition that forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the lot [for the goat that was to be sacrificed on Yom Kippur] did not come out on the right side, neither did the scarlet tongue turn white [as, according to tradition, it used to do, to signify that the sins of the people were forgiven].” 12
Messiah indeed came at the appointed time (for, according to the Talmud, “all the predestined dates have passed”) 13, was anointed as the most holy (see Matthew 3:16-17) and has accomplished everything else that God had purposed through Daniel’s prophecy. By the conclusion of Daniel’s 490 year countdown there had come about a deeper revelation of God, the giving of a new Law and the making of a new covenant. If the first omer led to the equivalent of a forty-nine second glimpse into the nature of God, the second concluded with a four-hundred and ninety hour gaze.
The faithful have seen it, and enter in. At the same time the proponents of the majority point of view – the spiritual heirs of the ten spies who forfeited the Land, and of the Pharisees who rejected Jesus, and of the Sanhedrin that elected Bar Kochba as its messiah – these captains of Judaism still perpetuate the self-serving myth that Israel may yet one day enter into its inheritance on the strength of its religious observances.
For this reason, ten will always constitute a minyan in the synagogue – for Judaism continues to uphold the majority view of the unfaithful spies and thereby perpetuates the quorum of the evil report (the rabbinic tradition that ten adult males constitutes a congregation for purposes of prayer is in fact founded upon Numbers 14:27, where “this evil congregation” is said to refer to the ten spies – see Megilla 23b).
The average Jew still carelessly follows his misguided elders, “for after the majority must one incline.” These blind guides have substituted the pure and life-giving Word of God for that greatest of all Talmudic deceptions – the vain and futile hope of attaining the promised inheritance through incremental righteousness – refusing still to learn the lesson of Kadesh, that my righteous shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4).
The new generation of Israel is a people with faith in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, a Promised Land beyond their current reach and perception, and the faithfulness of Him who made the promise. This promise remains available to every Jew today. To those who are tired of running circles in the wilderness, is given the very comforting assurance that they may enter into God’s rest:
“It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience. Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’ For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:6-11).
1. Moses Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, 3:43.
2. The month of Aviv corresponds with the Babylonian “Nisan” – which became its more common designation after the exile.
3. The exact date of the events described in Nehemiah 8-10 is the subject of much speculation and cannot be confirmed as being exactly 50 years after the return. The significance of the comparison is however not dependent on an exact correlation in time, but rather in the correlation of the events in their spiritual significance.
4. Mishnah, tractate Ta’anith 4:6.
5. Numbers 13:27.
6. The Hebrew word for scorn is explained by Hirsch as follows: “‘נאץ’ … means to hasten away from something as it is completely unworthy to be considered. It is the highest degree of scorn which does not consider the object worth consideration. It exactly describes the feelings of the people on receiving the report of the spies.” S R Hirsch, The Pentateuch, Bloch Publishing Company, London (1960). Pp. 209-210.
7. The Talmud (Shabbat 104b) admits the miracles of Jesus, but claims that he did these by means of witchcraft and sorcery. See Sanhedrin 43a and 107b.
8. S R Hirsch, op. cit., p. 216.
9. Hirsch, op. cit. pp. 210-211.
10. Sanhedrin 43a.
11. Moses Maimonides, Yad haHazaqa, Shoftim, Hilchot M’lachim, 11-12.
12. Yoma, 39b.
13. Tractate Sanhedrin 97a.