Continued from Part 8
The last week and its aftermath
Verse 27. And it [the Roman government] shall make a strong covenant with many for one week; and during half of the week it [the Roman government on account of its successful military campaigns] shall cause sacrifice and meal offering to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall be that which causes desolation; and that until decisive destruction shall be poured out upon that which causes desolation.
Verse 27 focuses in on what the Romans will do at the end of the Second Temple period.
Thus, the prophetic text presents a broad sweep of the historical period from the end of Jewish political sovereignty, which is marked by the Roman entrance into the Temple (63 B.C.E.) until the Temple destruction in 70 C.E. Verse 27 continues the presentation of verse 26. This verse also concerns itself with the last seven years of the Second Temple’s existence. The verse terminates with the promise that at some indeterminate time beyond the Seventy Weeks the last of the abominations set up on the Temple Mount by the Gentiles will be destroyed.
While the last week does not run consecutively with the rest of the time period there is no break prophetically, but rather a logical transition occurs between the time of Alexander Yannai (“after sixty-two weeks”) and the last week of years. This is because Alexander Yannai’s actions ushered in events, which eventually led to the “last week.” The week is considered as following directly on, and as a consequence of, Alexander Yannai’s reign and the advent of Roman domination (as already announced in verse 26). That is, the seventieth week was the direct result of events generated by the reign of Alexander Yannai, which opened the door for Roman rule and its accompanying problems. The text does not require that the last week run consecutively with the sixty-two weeks. It will come “after the sixty-two weeks,” but not necessarily immediately following that period of time. However, it does necessitate a unity of events requiring this seven-year period to take place within the period of the Second Temple and, indeed, be the last seven years of that period. Christian interpretations, which place the seventieth week beyond the year 70 C.E. and especially those that place that last seven years in the remote future, violate the cohesiveness of the passage. This passage is a self-contained time capsule of Jewish history.
Alexander Yannai was the last of the powerful Hasmonean rulers. At his death he left a power vacuum, only filled for a time by his wife Salome Alexandra (76 B.C.E.-67 B.C.E.) who succeeded him as ruler of the kingdom. Her death ushered in a period of incessant fighting between their two sons for the throne. Neither one was capable of sustaining the power built up by their forebears. Aristobulus II reigned from 67-63 B.C.E. after having driven his older brother, Hyrcanus II, from the throne (67 B.C.E.). Aristobulus was in turn forced out after Pompey laid siege to the Temple Mount, and after three months captured the Temple area (63 B.C.E.). Thus, began the period in which “the people [the Romans] of the leader [Pompey] who is to come shall destroy” (9:26). The year 63 B.C.E. marked the end of Judea’s political independence.13
As we see, a chain of events is set in motion following the ascendancy of Alexander Yannai and intensifies following his death, which eventually brought Roman hegemony over Judea and culminated in the destruction of the Temple. The Second Temple’s fate is sealed at a definitely designated time from the destruction of the First Temple. The culmination of the Second Temple period at the terminus of the last week gives a capsulated picture. The last week represents the bitter outcome of Roman rule up to the destruction in 70 C.E. In Daniel’s Seventy Weeks events progress immediately from the historical situation “after the sixty-two weeks” directly to the culminating cataclysm which is to come within a few generations. As the Seventy Weeks era started immediately following the First Temple’s destruction so it is reasonable to assume that it ends with the Second Temple’s destruction. It makes for a cohesive period despite the apparent hiatus before the last week.
In the seventieth week spoken of in verse 26 “the people14 [the Romans] of the leader [Pompey] who is to come” (63 B.C.E.) will eventually destroy Jerusalem and the Temple under the leadership of Titus (70 C.E.). In this phrase, referring to the initial event and the concluding
event that mark this period we have a summary of the entire period between 63 B.C.E. and 70 C.E. Verse 27 then relates how “it” (“the people” is a collective singular; or “he,” Titus) will higbir b`rit, “make a strong covenant,” that is, the Romans will consolidate their forces and those of allied national groups.
13 Beginning in 67 B.C.E., Alexander Yannai’s children Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II engaged in a bitter civil war for the throne. Hyrcanus sought the assistance of Pompey, then in Spain. Pompey supported Hyrcanus who he recognized as the weaker of the two rivals and thus more controllable by Rome. This proved to be the case when in 63 B.C.E. Hyrcanus opened the gates of Jerusalem to Roman soldiers. Absalom, Aristobulus’ uncle, resisted the Roman’s, and took refuge on the Temple Mount. The Romans took the Temple area after a three-month siege and Pompey is said to have entered the Holy of Holies. Hyrcanus was rewarded by being granted the high priesthood and leadership of the nation. The Hasmonean dynasty continued for two more decades, but Judea’s independence was, in essence, lost on that day.
14 See 2 Samuel 10:13 and Ezekiel 30:11 where “the people” is used in the sense of a body of troops.