“the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary;”
Here we see that the “people of the prince that shall come” will be the ones who destroy the city and the temple.
To know who are the “people” spoken of here, we would need to know who this “prince” is.
Conventional wisdom states that this is likely a reference to the Roman general and future emperor Titus. However, is this the “prince” that this passage is speaking of?
The only Prince we see mentioned “that shall come” in this prophecy is the Messiah Prince, who comes after the 69 weeks. It is this Messiah Prince that the prophecy is speaking of and points to. This Messiah Prince can be none other than Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of David, the Messiah, the Prince.
If this is the case, then who would be the people of the prince? We would think that this is speaking of the Jewish people themselves. But, the Jewish people didn’t destroy the city and the temple.
Or did they?
Did the Jewish people destroy the temple? In a word, yes, they did.
It is the people of the Prince who are credited with destroying the city and temple, not the Prince himself. The people are connected with the Prince. It is the people who are related to or belong to the Prince, that destroy the city and temple.
The Hebrew word translated as people is ‘am and appears about 1,868 times in the Old Testament. It is translated “people” 1836 times. It is most often used to describe Israel and its tribes. It is used to show a personal or familial connection. Here is an Outline of its Biblical Usage.
- nation, people
- people, nation
- persons, members of one's people, compatriots, country-men
- kinsman, kindred
In researching the Hebrew word, ‘am, I found that one of the core ideas behind it is “to bind.” It points to what is bound together. In this way, ‘am refers to people who are bound together by a commonality, such as ancestry, or a common society, such as nation or citizenship. As stated earlier, this word is overwhelmingly used in the Bible for the people of Israel, as the people of God. They are bound together by a common ancestry and/or citizenship.
This cannot be referring to the Roman General Titus and his armies. Josephus reports the size of Titus’ army was 60,000 plus servants. Of this number, approximately 20-25 thousand were troops from his four legions. The rest of the army came from local auxiliary forces. To qualify as his people, this army would need to be of Italian descent and all Roman citizens. All legionnaires were Roman citizens, but few were true Italians like Titus.
Only about a third of his army were citizens of Rome and even fewer were of Italian descent, as he was. He shared neither citizenship nor ancestry with his army. Therefore, they do not qualify as being his people.
Apart from this, the people of the Prince are credited with destroying the city and temple. Never has an army been given credit for a military victory above their commander.
Corrupt To Destroy
The Hebrew word translated “destroy”, is shachath. This verb is in the Hiphil[causative] stem, and in the Imperfect mood. What does that all mean? This verb, 'shachath', in the Hiphil stem takes the meaning,
- 1. Hiphil1
- to spoil, ruin, destroy
- to pervert, corrupt (morally)
- destroyer (participle)
So in the Hiphil stem, 'shachath' means to cause to pervert or corrupt a thing so that it is essentially ruined or destroyed. It is ruined so that its purpose is destroyed. When we apply the imperfect mood to this stem, it takes on the added meaning of this perverting or corrupting beginning at a point, and being completed in a process of time. The beginning of the perverting of the city and its temple was the cutting off of the Messiah Prince in the midst of the seventieth and final seven, or week of years.
We can see this "corrupting to destroy" illustrated very clearly in the first instances of its use in the Bible. In Genesis chapter 6, we read,
7 And the Lord said, I will destroy (mâḥâ) man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. 11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted (shachath) his way upon the earth. 13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
In verse 7, God said He would “destroy” man. This word for destroy is the Hebrew, מָחָה mâḥâ, which means, to wipe out, blot out, obliterate, exterminate.
Why is God going to wipe out man? Because he has “corrupted his way upon the earth.” Here, corrupted is the Hebrew, shachath (שָׁחַת), the very same word used in Daniel 9:26. Man corrupted his way upon the earth, which means he corrupted the purpose for which God had created him. Because of this, “The earth was also corrupt (shachath) before God.” The earth had been corrupted so that it had lost the purpose God had given it.
Because both man and the earth had destroyed through corruption their purpose in God, God would destroy (shachath) them by blotting them out (mâḥâ).
When we move to the scene of AD 70, we will see the Jews, by corrupting both the city and temple, destroyed their intended purpose, so that all that was left, was for God to lay both city and temple even to the ground by means of the Romans. As Josephus testified, “I venture to affirm that the sedition destroyed the city, and the Romans destroyed the sedition.”[Wars 5.6.1]
The Jews destroyed their city and their temple through the corruptions committed in it. The height of their corruption was to “cut off” their long awaited Messiah. However, they also were responsible for the corruption of the city and the temple, which resulted in its total destruction in AD 70 by the Romans.
Again, it is important to note, that the prophecy credits the “people of the prince that should come” with destroying the city and sanctuary, not the prince himself. However a very definite and viable argument can be made for Jesus, "the prince of the kings of the earth"[Rev. 1:5] for being the one who brought the final destruction upon the people, city and temple.
We see nothing in the prophecy that would cause us to think in terms of another prince, other than the one already mentioned. Therefore, it must be the same Messiah Prince, Jesus, who should be “cut off” after the 62 weeks.
An eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, Josephus, lays the blame for its destruction squarely on the shoulders of the Jews themselves, particularly the rebels.
“These men, therefore, trampled upon all the laws of men, and laughed at the laws of God; and for the oracles of the prophets, they ridiculed them as the tricks of jugglers; yet did these prophets foretell many things concerning [the rewards of] virtue, and [punishments of] vice, which when these zealots violated, they occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their own country; for there was a certain ancient oracle of those men, that the city should then be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews, and their own hand should pollute the temple of God. Now while these zealots did not [quite] disbelieve these predictions, they made themselves the instruments of their accomplishment.” (Wars, 4.6.3)
The "certain ancient oracle" mentioned above by Josephus is very likely this very prophecy in Daniel 9. There is hardly any other one that fits that which Josephus describes. Notice that it was by their own hand that the temple was polluted, thus destroying its intended purpose.
In one of his attempts to persuade the rebels to surrender to the Romans, Josephus says,
“You have not avoided so much as those sins that are usually done in secret; I mean thefts, and treacherous plots against men, and adulteries. You are quarreling about rapines and murders, and invent strange ways of wickedness. Nay, the temple itself is become the receptacle of all, and this Divine place is polluted by the hands of those of our own country;”(Wars, book 5, chap. 9, sec. 4)
Notice the emphasized phrase above, where he plainly lays the charge of polluting the temple, hence destroying its intended purpose.
Again Josephus states,
“I suppose, that had the Romans made any longer delay in coming against these villains, that the city would either have been swallowed up by the ground opening upon them, or been overflowed by water, or else been destroyed by such thunder as the country of Sodom perished by, for it had brought forth a generation of men much more atheistical than were those that suffered such punishments; for by their madness it was that all the people came to be destroyed.” (Wars, book 5, chap. 13, sec. 6)
“And who is there that does not know what the writings of the ancient prophets contain in them, and particularly that oracle which is just now going to be fulfilled upon this miserable city? For they foretold that this city should be then taken when somebody shall begin the slaughter of his own countrymen. And are not both the city and the entire temple now full of the dead bodies of your countrymen? It is God, therefore, it is God himself who is bringing on this fire, to purge that city and temple by means of the Romans, and is going to pluck up this city, which is full of your pollutions.” (Wars 6.2.1)
This statement of Josephus, that oracle which is just now going to be fulfilled upon this miserable city, again sounds very much like the Daniel 9 prophecy. Did Josephus understand the "people of the prince to come" as being the Jews themselves? It could certainly be argued so.
Titus makes a plea to the rebels himself, to stop the madness that they were engaging in, to the hurt of their own people, temple and city.
“4. Now Titus was deeply affected with this state of things, and reproached John and his party, and said to them, "Have not you, vile wretches that you are, by our permission, put up this partition-wall before your sanctuary? Have not you been allowed to put up the pillars thereto belonging, at due distances, and on it to engrave in Greek, and in your own letters, this prohibition, that no foreigner should go beyond that wall. (10) Have not we given you leave to kill such as go beyond it, though he were a Roman? And what do you do now, you pernicious villains? Why do you trample upon dead bodies in this temple? and why do you pollute this holy house with the blood of both foreigners and Jews themselves? I appeal to the gods of my own country, and to every god that ever had any regard to this place; (for I do not suppose it to be now regarded by any of them;) I also appeal to my own army, and to those Jews that are now with me, and even to yourselves, that I do not force you to defile this your sanctuary; and if you will but change the place whereon you will fight, no Roman shall either come near your sanctuary, or offer any affront to it; nay, I will endeavor to preserve you your holy house, whether you will or not.”(11) (Wars 6.2.4)
Titus speaks of the "partion-wall" [see Eph. 2:14]. This is that dividing wall between Jew and Gentile in the temple, which Christ broke down through His death. Although after His death, this wall still physically stood, in the spirit and Kingdom of God, it was broken down.
The editor’s note (11) states,
“That these seditious Jews were the direct occasions of their own destruction, and of the conflagration of their city and temple, and that Titus earnestly and constantly labored to save both, is here and every where most evident in Josephus.”
There is little doubt that it was the Romans, under the leadership of Titus and with divine assistance, who effected the actual demolishing of both the city and the temple.
However, it was the Jewish people themselves, or more correctly, the jewish rebels who were the constant “innovators of all manner of evil,” which was the occasion for the final destruction of the city and its temple.
Many opportunities were afforded the rebels to lay down their arms, surrender and save both their city and temple. However, they would not heed the reasonings and pleadings of sane men, but instead gave place to the spirit of rage and demonic self-destruction, which no doubt, was God’s judgement upon them.
Side Note: It was at Passover, AD 30, when a crowd of Jews demanded Jesus be crucified. It was also at a Passover, AD 70, when the Jewish nation was shut up in the city, awaiting destruction. Josephus records the fact that the Romans crucified so many, that they ran out of wood for the crosses and ran out of places to put the crosses. It was a rebel/zealot that the crowd demanded of Pilate to be set free instead of Jesus, their King. It was these rebels/zealots whom they chose over their Messiah, who were the cause of their miseries and their ultimate destruction.
and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
The end of the city and the temple shall be “with a flood.” The Romans with the assistance of God Himself, shall overwhelm the rebels as a flood overwhelms all in its path.
To the very end, or extreme ending point of the war of the Jews with their God through the Romans, “desolations are determined.” The word translated, ‘desolations’ not only means to make desolate, but also carries the idea to be appalled, stun, stupefy.
As a reminder, to make something desolate, is to make barren or laid waste, destitute of inhabitants; deserted; uninhabited. This determined desolation would also make those who see it stunned and appalled. They will be stunned that such a desolation has come upon such a glorious city and people.
In referring to the end of the Jewish war with the Romans in Jerusalem, Josephus says this concerning the city, its walls and its temple,
“It was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.”(Wars 7.1.1)
Josephus also reports that the area surrounding Jerusalem for 90 furlongs, or 11.25 miles, had become a barren wasteland,
And now the Romans, although they were greatly distressed in getting together their materials, raised their banks in one and twenty days, after they had cut down all the trees that were in the country that adjoined to the city, and that for ninety furlongs round about, as I have already related. And truly the very view itself of the country was a melancholy thing; for those places which were before adorned with trees and pleasant gardens were now become a desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down: nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change: for the war had laid all the signs of beauty quite waste: nor if any one that had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again; but though he were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it notwithstanding. (Wars 6.1.1)
Forty years before the destruction, Jesus had said,
43 For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,
44 And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. (Luke 19:43-44)
Jesus had prophesied that the city would be laid "even with the ground." Josephus states the matter in the exact same language, when he said concerning the city and temple, "It was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation".1 http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/7843.html