“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.” (Daniel 9:27a)
Here in the last verse of Daniel chapter 9, we have a reference to the Antichrist making some kind of covenant with many people. Even until very recently, I’ve assumed this verse was referring to a “seven-year peace agreement.” It has become so common for people to refer to this verse as a peace treaty of some sort that I confess I took it for granted.
However, there is no reason to think this covenant is speaking of a peace treaty. In all the Bible versions I have available to me through Bible software and the Internet (a considerable number), the word peace is not mentioned or even implied. In addition, I suggest whatever this covenant is that the Antichrist makes must be a covenant that was already in place, based on the underlying Hebrew text.
I believe this verse is referring to the Antichrist trying to fulfill the modern Jewish expectations of a “new covenant” that the Messiah will make in the last days. This concept is detailed in many places in the Old Testament, but a notable one is in Jeremiah 31:31, which states:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”
Both Christians and Jews believe this verse is messianic, but their two views of this “new covenant” are vastly different. The Jews believe this means that when the Messiah comes, He will reconfirm the covenant they already had; that is, the Messiah will make it possible for them to once again abide by the laws given by Moses, especially regarding the daily sacrifices in the temple. The Jewish view of the phrase “new covenant” is no more than a renewed national commitment to abide by God’s laws.
Jewish scholar Uri Yosef, PhD, , concludes his paper called “Will the Real New Covenant Please Stand Up?” this way:
“It is evident that Jeremiah’s use of the term שׁהָ דָחֲ ריתִבְּ , a new covenant, does not involve the replacement of the (eternal) Torah by the New Testament. Rather, it signals a renewal of the original Sinai Covenant.”1
“Jeremiah’s ‘new covenant’ is not a replacement of the existing covenant, but merely a figure of speech expressing the reinvigoration and revitalization of the existing covenant.”2
Keep in mind that Uri Yosef and the writers of the article in JewsForJudaism.org, like many Jewish people, would agree that this renewing of the Mosaic covenant will happen when the Messiah comes. They believe that one of the ways He will do this—probably the most important way—is by reestablishing the sacrificial system.
Interestingly, this is exactly what Daniel 9:27 states with the words “he shall ‘confirm a covenant’” (NKJV). This phrase, “confirm a covenant,” is very interesting, and the Hebrew words are apparently difficult to translate into English. Note a sample of how differently it is translated in popular versions of the English Bible:
NET Bible (NET): “He will confirm a covenant.”
English Standard Version (ESV): “And he shall make a strong covenant.”
King James Bible (KJV): “And he shall confirm the covenant.”
Young’s Literal Translation (YLT): “And he hath strengthened a covenant.”
Notice that it isn’t just the words, but their core meaning, that vary. In the NET translation, “he” is confirming an already existing covenant; in the ESV, “he” makes a new strong covenant; in the KJV, “he” confirms the covenant, suggesting it is the Mosaic covenant; and in the YLT, “he” is strengthening an already-existing covenant. Of the nineteen versions of the Bible I checked, eleven have the Antichrist confirming or strengthening an already-existing covenant as opposed to making a new covenant altogether.
The obvious question is: Which one is right? I will add a discussion about the details of this linguistic problem in the footnotes,3 but I believe the original Hebrew expresses a confirming or strengthening of an already-existing covenant. The idea of the covenant being strengthened comes from the fact that the Hebrew word sometimes translated “confirm” carries the meaning of making something strong. I would even suggest that this covenant was meant to be understood as the covenant (i.e., the Mosaic covenant). Some translations, like the KJV, even render the word a as the, which suggests a reference to a particular, preexisting covenant. Contextually, that must be the Mosaic covenant.
There seems to be confirmation that we’re on the right track with this idea, because the second part of Daniel 9:27 says: “But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering,” as if to suggest that it is obvious that the covenant being strengthened began by starting the daily sacrifices. This verse is contrasting these two ideas; it’s like the verse is saying: He confirms the covenant (which started the daily sacrifices), but then (three-and-a-half years later) he stops the sacrifices. The words presuppose that the reader understands the covenant began with restarting the daily sacrifices.
If this is speaking of the Antichrist trying to fulfill the Jewish expectations of the “New Covenant” of Jeremiah 31, then the singling out of the daily sacrifice here and in other places where this event is mentioned is pretty interesting, because without the daily sacrifice it is very difficult, if not impossible, to truly keep the Mosaic covenant. It is the first and most important of all sacrifices to the Jews, it made daily atonement for their collective sin, and it’s believed that this sacrifice must start again for God’s blessing to rest in its fullness on the Jewish people. In the Jewish mind, the reinstatement of the daily sacrifices is tangible proof that the Messiah has come and Jeremiah 31:31 has come true.
If this scenario is true, the idea that the Antichrist will announce a seven-year covenant, as opposed to announcing an eternal covenant, is absurd. He would not say, “Hey, everyone, I’m the Messiah, and now you have a new covenant, but it’s really not eternal; it’s only going to last seven years.” Here again, I think we are victims of modern Bible prophecy teaching. Scripture never says he will say he is setting up a seven-year covenant. It only says that the covenant will last seven years. In fact, according to a lengthy study on grammar by the Pulpit Commentary, linked in the footnotes, the underlying Hebrew suggests this, too. That study concludes by translating that part of the verse in this way: “The covenant shall prevail for many during one week.”4
So, it seems clear that the seven-year time frame will not be announced to the people who are agreeing to it. The Antichrist will in, all probability, say that this will be an eternal covenant. The mention of the seven years is, therefore, just God telling us how long this false covenant will really last. Note also that Scripture says it will continue to last the entire seven years. It won’t go away at the midpoint. Only the daily sacrifices will be taken away.
I believe the covenant made by the Antichrist is an argument in favor of the case that he will claim to be the Jewish Messiah. The Jews are wholeheartedly expecting the Messiah to do the exact thing Daniel 9:27 is saying the Antichrist will do—that is, confirm a covenant and start the daily sacrifices. We can be sure that whoever does this will be looked at as the Messiah by the Jews as well as by many Christians, who may see this as the beginning of the millennial reign of Christ.