Daniel's beloved capital city of Jerusalem lay in ruins. The fertile fields of Israel and Judah had remained neglected and unplowed for decades, sifted by desolate winds.
Daniel -- just a teen when he was taken prisoner by the Babylonians -- was now an old man. He had endured and witnessed persecution for his faith. After almost 70 years of bondage in a foreign land, Daniel read a prophecy by Jeremiah, who had foretold Israel's captivity in Babylon, and had pinned down an exact time period of 70 years.
This specific mention by Jeremiah happened in two places. One occurance often referred to is the letter that Jeremiah sent to the Jews in Babylon, which eventually became part of the canon of Scripture:
"This is what the LORD says: 'When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
While Daniel would certainly have been familiar with the letter of Jeremiah, it was probably not yet part of the complete book of Jeremiah at this point. It is more likely that Daniel was reading the scroll (book) that Jeremiah had already written before the captivity took place. The text mentions a book or scroll. This also contains a reference to the seventy years:
"This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years."
Daniel realized that Israel's time of judgement was almost over! This discovery caused him to confess his sins and those of his people. He began to pray and worship God with an unusually deep intensity. Towards the end of the day, during a lengthy prayer which probably lasted most of the day, the angel Gabriel came to him with a message. What followed was one of the most astonishing promises in the entire Bible.
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus [or Xerxes], a Mede by descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans --
in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from books the number of years given by the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.
Daniel records that this took place during the first year that Darius was made ruler by Cyrus over Babylon. Cyrus had not yet taken the throne, so the Jews were still in captivity.
So I turned to the Lord God, pleading with him by prayer and petition, with fasting, in sackcloth and ashes.
Daniel goes into a long prayer with fasting. This occupied the entire day and the reference to fasting suggests that it may have covered an even longer period of time. His prayer is rich and beautiful in its scope, humility and emotion. Notice how his pace quickens as he continues:
And I prayed to the LORD my God, and confessed, and said, "O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of loving mercy to all who love him keep his commandments;
We have sinned, and have done wrong and have been wicked and have rebelled, even by turning away from your commands and laws.
Neither have we listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
O Lord, righteousness belongs to you, but our faces are covered with shame as on this day; to the men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem and to all Israel, near and far, through all the countries where you scattered them, because of their unfaithfulness to you.
O Lord, the shame of our faces belongs to us, to our kings, to our rulers, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.
The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving even though we have rebelled against him;
We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God; we have not walked in his laws, which he gave us through his servants the prophets.
Yes, all Israel has transgressed your law and turned away from it, refusing to obey your voice. Therefore the curse and the sworn judgment that is written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, are poured onto us, because we have sinned against him.
And he has confirmed his words spoken against us, and against our rulers that ruled over us, by bringing disaster upon us. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done as has been done to Jerusalem.
Just as it is written in the law of Moses, all this trouble has come upon us, yet we have not come in prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our perversions and focus on knowing your truth.
Therefore the LORD looked on this evil, and brought it onto us. For the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does, yet we did not obey his voice.
Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made for yourself a name that extends to this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
O Lord, in keeping with all your righteousness, I beg of you, let your anger and your fury be turned away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain. Our sins and the sins of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all that are around us.
Now, our God, hear the prayer of your servant, and his petitions. Look with favor on your desolate sanctuary, for the Lord's sake.
O my God, incline your ear and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city called by your name. We do not present our requests before you because of our righteousnesses, but because of your great mercies.
O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, O my God, do not delay, for your city and your people are called by your name."
Notice how his pace quickens and his emotions rise as he becomes more and more passionate in his pleas.
Even though God himself has described Daniel as one of the three most righteous men ever, Daniel takes upon himself the sins of his people. He includes his own sinfulness in this prayer. How humble of this man of God!
While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my requests before the LORD my God for his holy mountain --
Yes, while I was speaking in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the vision at the beginning, flying swiftly, came and touched me about the time of the evening sacrifice.
Gabriel comes in "flight" (some Bibles leave out this reference but it is implied in the Hebrew). Notice that Daniel immediately recognizes Gabriel. This is evidence that angels have physical characteristics just like people have. They are not "clones."