Daniel’s vision of seventy weeks which dealt with the fate of his nation is recorded first in Daniel 9:24-27. The vision came as the result of Daniel’s fervent prayer when he recognized the time was near for the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah. That prophet had prophesied of Jerusalem’s destruction but God extended hope amidst the tears the people had shed of Jeremiah’s day (Jer. 25:11): God would not completely destroy the people of Judah. He would judge them for their turning to idols, and the judgment would be the destruction of Jerusalem and the exiling of the last remaining people in Judah. Still, that exile would not be permanent: they would be allowed to return to their country after 70 years. God also promised that the power (Babylon) which had destroyed their city and exiled its people would also be judged: their city would be destroyed as they had destroyed Jerusalem. That destruction would not be temporary — it would be permanent. Never would Babylon be rebuilt (Jeremiah 25:12-13). That seventy year exile began when Daniel was carried, among other captives, to Babylon. No age is given for Daniel at the time of his being carried to Babylon although it is speculated by many that he must have been at least 16 years old.
Through the passing years Daniel had watched two more groups of exiles brought to Babylon from Judah. By the time Daniel received his vision of “seventy weeks” Babylon herself had fallen and a new empire ruled the world: the Medes and Persians. Now the time of the end of Judah’s exile was near. If Daniel was 16 when he arrived in Babylon, he was approaching 90 years of age when he received this vision. He cites the ruling king as Darius when he received this vision and Darius was ruler of the Chaldeans but not the supreme ruler of the empire. That ruler was Cyrus and it was of him whom Isaiah had written 150 years before who would let Judah go free (Isa. 45:1-4;13), and who, according to Ezra, did give the edict that the Jews could return to their homeland (Ezra 1:1-6).
Daniel was familiar with the work of Jeremiah, certainly with the prophecy that the exile would not be permanent, and as Daniel saw the time was near that the exile would end, he went to God in prayer for himself and his people, confessing sins and calling on God for forgiveness based not on their worthiness but on the mercies of God (Daniel 9:18). The angel Gabriel was sent by God to tell Daniel his prayer had been heard. With the commencement of Daniel’s intercession the command had gone forth to set into motion the edict from Cyrus and the beginning of the return of the exiles to Judah led by Zerubbabel, a grandson of Jeconiah, the exiled king. Zerubbabel himself was a descendant of David and also an ancestor of Jesus who would come (Matt. 1:11-12). How Cyrus came about to make that edict is not known. Some suggest that Daniel read to the king the amazing prophecy Isaiah had made 150 years before, but such is speculation.
After the angel Gabriel revealed to Daniel the command to release the captives had been set in motion, he then spoke the following words regarding the future for the people of Israel: “Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and discern that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times. And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off and shall have nothing: 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, and even unto the end shall be war: desolations are determined. And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate: and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate” (Daniel 9:24-27).