Who is Messiah the Prince of Daniel 9:24-27? The Seventy Weeks prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 has been described as “one of the pivotal prophecies of the Bible.” John Calvin wrote that this prophecy “has been variously treated…and almost torn to pieces by the various opinions of interpreters, that it might be considered nearly useless on account of its obscurity. But, in the assurance that no prediction is really in vain, we may hope to understand this prophecy, provided only we are attentive and teachable according to the angel’s admonition, and the Prophet’s example.” In my opinion, there are three questions which surpass all others in importance with regard to interpreting this prophecy:
Who is the figure described as “Messiah the Prince” in Daniel 9:25?
What is “the covenant with many” in Daniel 9:27?
Who is “the prince that shall come” in Daniel 9:26?
This first post on Daniel 9:24-27 shall focus on the first question. Throughout Church history, various interpreters have proposed a variety of answers as to the identity of “Messiah the Prince” in Daniel 9:25. Some have proposed a high priest, such as Onias III, from the Hasmonean (or Maccabean) period, or perhaps a Jewish political leader from that same era. There is certainly room for cordial Christian disagreement with regards to this question, as it pertains to an eschatological matter of secondary importance. Perhaps the most prevalent answer to this question within Christian circles is that Messiah the Prince is the Lord Jesus Christ. Speaking for myself, I prefer this Christological interpretation, and I will briefly share three reasons for this preference:
1. The Hebrew couplet from which the phrase “Messiah the Prince” is translated is מָשִׁיהַ נָגִיד (māšîaḥ nāgîd). ‘Messiah’ or ‘anointed one’ (māšîaḥ) is derived from the Hebrew verb מָשַׁח (māšaḥ) meaning to “spread a liquid” or “anoint.” In the Old Testament, messiah is used of the patriarchs (2 Chr 16:19-22; Ps 105:15-17), the high priest (Lev 4:3, 5, 16), the king of Israel (1 Sam 2:10, 35; 12:3, 5; 24:6; Ps 2:2), Cyrus the Great (Isa 45:1), and the eschatological Messiah (Dan 9:25-26; also Ps 2:2). The second Hebrew word in the phrase (נָגִיד – nāgîd) can be translated as “chief, leader, sovereign,” or “prince.” Peter Gentry comments on the usage of this particular word:
There is a good reason why the future king is referred to in vv. 25 and 26 by the term nāgîd, “ruler,” rather than by the term melek, the standard word in Hebrew for king….In short, nāgîd communicates kingship according to God’s plan and standards whereas melek communicates kingship according to the Canaanite model of absolute despotism and self-aggrandizement. That is why the term nāgîd dominates in the passage on the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7) and is also the term used here.
Furthermore, although māšîaḥ and nāgîd only occur together in noun form in Daniel 9:25, nāgîd occurs with the Hebrew verb “to anoint” (māšaḥ) in the following texts: 1 Samuel 9:16; 10:1; 2 Samuel 5:2-3; 1 Kings 1:34-35; and 1 Chronicles 11:2-3; 29:22, and in each of these verses the referent is the king of Israel. Thus, ‘Messiah the Prince’ likely refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, the true king of Israel.
2. Daniel 9:26 subsequently describes Messiah the Prince being cut off: “And after sixty-nine weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself.” In my opinion, this is a likely reference to Christ’s crucifixion.
3. The purposes of the seventy prophetic weeks, which are listed in Daniel 9:24, appear to speak of results of tremendous soteriological & eschatological magnitude – results that would accompany the Person & Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here are stated the six purposes of the seventy weeks: “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”
Merrill F. Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1988), 277.
John Calvin, Commentaries on the Book of the Prophet Daniel, trans. Thomas Meyers (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 195.
A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament [HALOT], ed. William L. Holladay (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971; reprint 1988), 218-9. See also Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament with An Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic [BDB] (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 602-3; and Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures, trans. Samuel P. Tregelles (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979), 515-16.
HALOT, 226. See also BDB, 617; and Gesenius, 531.
Peter J. Gentry, “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and the New Exodus,” SBJT 14.1 (2010): 33.