How is the Hebrew Bible different from the Christian Old Testament?

Daniel – Chapter 9

Christian Version vs: The Hebrew (Jewish) Version

Plus the difference between divine inspiration and prophecy

Christian Text

“This short passage from Daniel’s prophecy may be the most jam-packed piece of Scripture in the Bible:” (???)

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. (Daniel 9: 24-27)  [1]


Hebrew Text

24 Seventy weeks [of years] have been decreed upon your people and upon the city of your Sanctuary to terminate the transgression and to end sin, and to expiate iniquity, and to bring eternal righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophet, and to anoint the Holy of Holies.


Seventy weeks [of years] have been decreed: on Jerusalem from the day of the first destruction in the days of Zedekiah until it will be [destroyed] the second time.

to terminate the transgression and to end sin: so that Israel should receive their complete retribution in the exile of Titus and his subjugation, in order that their transgressions should terminate, their sins should end, and their iniquities should be expiated, in order to bring upon them eternal righteousness and to anoint upon them (sic) the Holy of Holies: the Ark, the altars, and the holy vessels, which they will bring to them through the king Messiah. The number of seventy weeks is four hundred and ninety years. The Babylonian exile was seventy [years] and the Second Temple stood four hundred and twenty [years].

25 And you shall know and understand that from the emergence of the word to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until the anointed king [shall be] seven weeks, and [for] sixty-two weeks it will return and be built street and moat, but in troubled times.

And you shall know and understand from the emergence of the word: From the emergence of this word, which emerged at the beginning of your supplications to tell you, you shall know to understand [how] to restore and build Jerusalem.

until the anointed king: Time will be given from the day of the destruction until the coming of Cyrus, king of Persia, about whom the Holy One, blessed be He, said that he would return and build His city, and He called him His anointed and His king, as it says (Isa. 45:1): “So said the Lord to His anointed one, to Cyrus etc.” (verse 13): “He shall build My city and free My exiles, etc.”

seven weeks: Seven complete shemittah cycles they will be in exile before Cyrus comes, and there were yet three more years, but since they did not constitute a complete shemittah cycle, they were not counted. In the one year of Darius, in which Daniel was standing when this vision was said to him, seventy years from the conquest of Jehoiakim terminated. Deduct eighteen years from them, in which the conquest of Jehoiakim preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, leaving fifty-two years. This is what our Rabbis learned (Yoma 54a): “For fifty-two years no one passed through Judea.” They are the fifty-two years from the day of the destruction until they returned in the days of Cyrus. Hence, we have seven shemittah cycles and three years.

and in sixty-two weeks it will return and be built: i.e., the city with its streets.

and moat: Heb. וְחָרוּץ. They are the moats that they make around the wall to strengthen the city, which are called fosse in French, ditch or moat.

but in troubled times: But in those times they will be troubled and distressed, for in the subjugation of the kings of Persia and the heathens, they will burden them with harsh bondage. Now although there are sixty-two weeks and four years more that remain from the eighth week, whose beginning, viz. the three years, was included in the fifty-two years of the duration of the exile, those four years were not counted here because here he counted only weeks, and you find that from the beginning he started to count seventy weeks, and at the end, when he delineated their times and their judgments, he counted only sixty-nine, proving that one week was divided, part of it here and part of it there; and he mentioned only whole weeks.

but in troubled times: They will be troubled in those times.

26 And after the sixty-two weeks, the anointed one will be cut off, and he will be no more, and the people of the coming monarch will destroy the city and the Sanctuary, and his end will come about by inundation, and until the end of the war, it will be cut off into desolation.

And after: those weeks.

the anointed one will be cut off: Agrippa, the king of Judea, who was ruling at the time of the destruction, will be slain.

and he will be no more: Heb. וְאֵין לוֹ, and he will not have. The meaning is that he will not be.

the anointed one: Heb. מָשִׁיחַ. This is purely an expression of a prince and a dignitary.

and the city and the Sanctuary: lit. and the city and the Holy.

and the people of the coming monarch will destroy: [The monarch who will come] upon them. That is Titus and his armies.

and his end will come about by inundation: And his end will be damnation and destruction, for He will inundate the power of his kingdom through the Messiah, and until the end of the wars of Gog the city will exist.

cut off into desolation: a destruction of desolation.

27 And he will strengthen a covenant for the princes for one week, and half the week he will abolish sacrifice and meal- offering, and on high, among abominations, will be the dumb one, and until destruction and extermination befall the dumb one.

And he will strengthen a covenant for the princes for one week: לָרַבִּים, for the princes, like “and all the officers of (רַבֵּי) the king,” in the Book of Jeremiah (39:13).

will strengthen: Titus [will strengthen] a covenant with the princes of Israel.

for one week: He will promise them the strengthening of a covenant and peace for seven years, but within the seven years, he will abrogate his covenant.

he will abolish sacrifice and meal-offering: This is what he says in the first vision (8:26): “and in tranquility he will destroy many.” Through a covenant of tranquility, he will destroy them.

and on high, among abominations will be the dumb one: This is a pejorative for pagan deities. i.e., on a high place, among abominations and disgusting things, he will place the dumb one, the pagan deity, which is dumb like a silent stone.

high: Heb. כְּנַף, lit. wing, an expression of height, like the wing of a flying bird.

and until destruction and extermination befall the dumb one: and the ruling of the abomination will endure until the day that the destruction and extermination decreed upon it [will] befall it, in the days of the king Messiah.

befall the dumb one: Heb. תִּתַּ, reach; and total destruction will descend upon the image of the pagan deity and upon its worshippers. [2] [3]


Why Isn’t the Book of Daniel Part of the Prophets?

The difference between divine inspiration and prophecy

Dear Rabbi,

I was reading the book of Daniel, which is filled with extraordinary and apocalyptic visions. I was amazed to learn that it is not included in the section of the Bible known as the Prophets, and that the Talmud does not even consider Daniel to have been a prophet. What am I missing?


The issue you’ve raised is certainly puzzling. But before answering it, we first have to ascertain whether Daniel himself was in fact a prophet.

On the one hand, the Talmud does explicitly state that Daniel was not a prophet.1 On the other hand, when the Talmud states that only “48 prophets and 7 prophetesses prophesied to Israel,”2 the sages disagree as to whether Daniel is included in that list or not.3

What is even stranger is that the remark in the Talmud that Daniel was not a prophet is made in connection with an incident in which Daniel seems to have seen a vision, when the three official prophets who were with him did not:

“And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, but the men who were with me did not see the vision. But a great quaking fell upon them, and they fled into hiding.”4 Who were these men? Said Rabbi Yirmiyah, and some say it was Rabbi Chiya bar Abba, “They were the [prophets] ChaggaiZechariah and Malachi. They were superior to him [Daniel], and he was superior to them. They were superior to him, in that they were prophets and he wasn’t. He was superior to them, in that he saw the vision and they did not.”5

We must therefore conclude that what distinguishes someone as a prophet is not whether he or she has visions, but something deeper and more fundamental.

While in common parlance the word “prophecy” is used to describe visions in general, in truth there are two different kinds of visions: prophecy and ruach ha-kodesh (Hebrew for “divine inspiration”). With prophecy, it is almost as if one sees the revelation, gaining an intimate familiarity with the divine, while ruach ha-kodesh is more of a detached, factual kind of knowledge, as shall be explained.

Some prophets see a vision or dream of an angel speaking to them; others see the form of a man, or may perceive that G‑d Himself is speaking to them. And yet others don’t see anything; they only hear the prophetic words addressed to them. The prophet may experience that which is heard with the greatest possible intensity, just as a person may hear or perceive a storm or an earthquake. Or the prophet may hear the prophecy as ordinary speech.6

There are many different levels and types of prophecies,7 but the common denominator between them is the way the prophet’s intellect merges with the divine and transcends the normal powers of the intellect. Thus, when prophets are granted an intimate familiarity with the level of divinity that has been revealed to them, their bodies weaken and tremble and their regular senses become confused or paralyzed, or they simply fall asleep. It is for this reason that we sometimes find that the prophet is referred to in the scriptures as one who is acting irrationally.8 This is not because the prophet lacks wisdom. On the contrary, he or she is connected to G‑d’s wisdom, which transcends human intellect. Rather, it is because during prophecy, the people observing the prophet perceive only the void of what they consider to be rational intellect; they do not, however, perceive how the prophet’s mind has transcended the normal human intellect and is merged with the divine.9

Those who have ruach ha-kodesh, however, feel as if the divine spirit came upon them. With it they receive a new power that encourages them either to take a specific action, speak wisdom, compose hymns, exhort their fellow men or discuss political or theological problems. All this is done while the one with ruach ha-kodesh is in full possession of his or her senses.10

It is true that the inspiration may sometimes come in the form of a dream, as it does with prophets. There is, however, a difference between the visions experienced by prophets in a dream and those that come through ruach ha-kodesh, as was the case with Daniel.

The difference can be seen in how prophets and those inspired by ruach ha-kodesh refer to their visions and dreams. When prophets prophesy, they are informed that the vision was a prophecy, and upon awaking, they state decidedly that it was a prophetic experience.11 For example, when Jacob awakened from his prophetic dream of the angels ascending and descending the ladder, he did not say that it was a dream; rather, he proclaimed (Genesis 28:16), “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of G‑d, and this is the gate of heaven.” And he later referred to the incident by saying (ibid. 48:3), “Almighty G‑d appeared to me in Luz, in the land of Canaan, and He blessed me.”

Daniel, however, used the language of “visions” to describe his experiences, even after he saw angels and received knowledge through them, as we can see from the following verses from the Book of Daniel:

  1. “Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in the vision of the night” (2:19).
  2. “In the first year of Belshazzar, the king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream . . .” (7:1).
  3. “. . . and the visions of my mind terrified me” (7:15).

So while it is true that Daniel had visions, they were on the level of ruach ha-kodesh, divine inspiration. Therefore, the book of Daniel was made part of the biblical section of Ketuvim, the Writings or Hagiographa, and not the Neviim, Prophets.12

When discussing the difference between prophecy and ruach ha-kodesh, a distinction needs to be made between the levels of the divine revelation (how high in the chain of emanation between G‑d and man the individual reaches) and the quality of the revelation (how intimate and clear the revelation is to the individual).

While the quality of the revelation is much greater in prophecy than in ruach ha-kodesh, the level of revelation reached through ruach ha-kodesh can be much higher than that reached through prophecy. Since the prophet gains an intimate knowledge and familiarity with the level of divinity that is being revealed to him or her, to the point that we say that the prophet “saw G‑d,” there is a greater limit to how high of a level of emanation the prophet can see, as G‑d told Moses, “No man can see me and live.”13“

With ruach ha-kodesh, however, it is not as if one actually “saw” or “heard” something; rather, it is similar to perceiving something with the mind. Therefore, the recipient of this ruach ha-kodesh may sometimes be privy to greater knowledge of the myriad levels and layers of divine emanation than even the prophet. For the knowledge received through ruach ha-kodesh is similar to the cataloging of facts, the names of the different spiritual worlds and the rules by which they interact. But in the end, he knows only the fact of their existence (yediat ha-metziut), but he has no real appreciation of their true nature, for he has never “seen it.”

This is what the Talmud means when it proclaims that “a sage is superior to a prophet.”14 For the sage, through ruach ha-kodesh, can be privy to levels of insight that surpass that which the prophets are able to envision tangibly. And while the sage grasps only facts, nevertheless it is divinely inspired knowledge of the facts.15

The levels of prophetic revelation experienced throughout a prophet’s lifetime are, however, not static. The same prophet can at times experience different levels of prophecy, ruach ha-kodesh, or both.16 Therefore, even if Daniel had attained the level of prophecy at one point in his life,17 it was not in relation to the book of Daniel, which is therefore still considered part of the Ketuvim, the Writings. [5]



Talmud, Megillah 3a.


Ibid., 14a. It should be noted that when the Talmud states that only 55 prophets “prophesied to Israel,” it does not mean that there were only 55 prophets. In fact, the Talmud there tells us that the number of prophets throughout Jewish history was double the number of people who left Egypt. What it means to say is that there were 55 prophets who said prophecies that have relevance for future generations and not just for their own generation.


See Halachot Gedolot, ch. 76; Seder Olam Rabbah, ch. 20; commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, Rashi to Megillah, ibid.


Talmud, Megillah 3a.


See Guide for the Perplexed 2:45, where Maimonides enumerates nine levels of prophecy. (He actually lists eleven; however, the first two aren’t considered prophecy. Rather, they are forms of divine inspiration which are close to, and on the path to, prophecy, but they are not technically prophecy.)


See Maimonides, Mishneh TorahHilchot Yesodei Hatorah 7:2; commentary by Rabbi David Kimchi (Radak)to I Samuel 19:24Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (Tzemach Tzedek)Ohr HaTorah, Sukkot, pp. 1715–7, and Derech Mitzvotecha 172b.


To clarify, there are in general two levels of ruach ha-kodesh. One simply inspires and moves the person to take a specific action, like rescuing a community, as is the case with the various Judges of Israel (see, for example, Judges 11:29, 14:19). The second and greater level of ruach ha-kodesh is when the person is granted divine knowledge, and may also be encouraged to speak or write about it. When we speak of “factual knowledge,” we are referring to the higher level of ruach ha-kodesh, which deals with knowledge (for more on these two levels, see Guide for the Perplexed, ibid.).


We do find that the prophet Samuel, when he heard a G‑dly voice for the first time, thought it was his mentor, the high priest Eli, calling him. That was because Samuel did not know yet that G‑d addressed prophets in this fashion. It was in the course of that episode that Samuel learned that it was a prophecy. See Guide for the Perplexed 2:44.


Guide for the Perplexed, ibid.


Talmud, Bava Batra 12a.


Tanya, Igeret Hakodesh, Epistle 19; Derech Mitzvotecha172b–173a.


See Guide for the Perplexed, ibid.; Derech Mitzvotecha, ibid.


See Rashi to Megillah 3a.







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