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Confusion of Faces

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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(Reprinted from Thy Kingdom Come: Studies in Daniel and Revelation [Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2001], 63-66.)

Daniel 9 records a prayer and the answer to that prayer. Daniel, "[i]n the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans" (9:1), was in earnest prayer as a result of his study of Jeremiah, in particular of Jeremiah 25:11, and 29 (9:2), and also of Deuteronomy, as vv. 11-15 clearly indicate. The predicted seventy years of captivity were virtually ended, and deliverance accordingly nigh, so that, in terms of the promised restoration, Daniel could have rejoiced. Instead, he confessed his fear and grief for his people, acknowledging (vv. 1-19) that "all Israel," both northern and southern kingdoms, deserved their captivity, but, in spite of it, had learned nothing. Lacking true faith, for most of them adversity had begat no healing or redeeming experience, worked no repentance, so that, Daniel feared, more captivity and punishment was their only merited destiny. The indications are, indeed, that Phariseeism was a product of the captivity itself. The sin of Judah had been, predominantly, syncretism, a persistent attempt to unite faiths in the belief in a common core of religion in all religions. The most common form of syncretism was and is moralism, and, prior to the fall of Jerusalem, many of the earlier and flagrant practices of syncretism with fertility cults had given way to a cult of the temple and of moralism. In captivity, the contrast between Hebrew morality and pagan mores had deepened into an isolationist and proud moralism, the earlier obviously syncretistic moralism, and Phariseeism was the product. The judgment and fall of Jerusalem was already unique in history (9:2) as an instance of God's retribution to a privileged people. In view of their further contempt for God, Daniel was fearful for their immediate future, and, as one of the faithful remnant, prayed earnestly for grace (9:18). As a true believer and an enemy of moralism, Daniel knew that his righteousness was not in or of himself but entirely of grace: "O LORD, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces" (9:7).

The expression "confusion of faces" is a significant one. It is the confession of a godly man, and the beginning of his power. Moralism is not characterized by any such recognition, but rather by a confidence of faces, a self-righteousness which assumes that history is controlled by morality and works of morality. Thus, love is assumed to be capable of regenerating and controlling men, nations, and history. Liberty, fraternity, and equality-the moralism of the French Revolution and of subsequent humanism, politics, and revolt-are again instances of the self-righteous confidence that history is subject to man's dominion in and through works of morality. Communism and democracy are further instances of this same moralism in the area of politics, even as Thomism and Arminianism give instances of it in the churches. Virtually all churches today are monuments to moralism, but the greatest monument is the modern state. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, lecturing in Berlin in 1804-1805, expressed the thesis of statist moralism: "A State which constantly seeks to increase its internal strength, is thus forced to desire the gradual abolition of all Privilege, and the establishment of Equal Rights for all men, in order that it, the State itself, may enter upon its true Right-to apply the whole surplus power of all its Citizens, without exception, for the furtherance of its own purposes." Only thus, Fichte believed, could the great and righteous goal of humanity be fulfilled and the true order of man be ushered in. Therefore, all power to the moralistic state.

But righteousness belongs to God, and unto us confusion of faces, for man is by nature a sinner, a covenant-breaker, and, as redeemed man, walks only by faith and grace of God. History is not in his hands, nor can he see one step ahead. To him belongs confusion of faces. Responsibility is his, but responsibility is not the power to execute eternal decrees but rather accountability to Him whose sovereign decree undergirds all creation. Only as man knows himself to be man, a creature under God, can he enter into this dominion as vicegerent under God. Only as he grounds his words upon the Word of God, can he speak with truth and assurance.

Daniel, praying in terms of this confidence in the sure mercies of God (9:9), was answered by God through Gabriel (9:21-27), whom he had previously seen in a vision (8:16). Gabriel's statement has reference to Daniel's prayer concerning Israel, whose end had already been indicated, and whose course prior to that end is only incidentally dealt with now. The primary reference is Messianic. Accordingly, as E. W. Hengstenberg points out, "The announcement is essentially of a cheering character. This is true in a certain sense even of that part of it which relates to the destruction of the city and temple ... The sifting judgments of God are a blessing to the church ... Daniel had not prayed for the stiff-necked and ungodly, but for those who heartily joined with him in the penitential confession of their sins."2

Gabriel spoke of "seventy weeks" (9:24), or, more accurately, "seventy sevens" for Israel and Jerusalem, an expression again indicative of the fullness of a specified time. The purpose of the revelation is not a calendar of events, but warning, as well as hope in terms of the Messiah. Before the end of that period, six things will be accomplished, as Young points out:

1. to restrain the transgression
2. to complete sin
3. to cover iniquity

1. to bring in everlasting
2. to seal vision and prophet
3. to anoint a holy of holies3

"To restrain the transgression," or apostasy and rebellion, was the work of Christ, who "shut up transgression by an act which He performed, namely, His atoning death. This is the only possible meaning of the words."4 "To make an end of sin" has reference again to the atonement, to removing sin out of sight. "To make reconciliation for iniquity" means propitiation by the atoning blood of the Messiah, the subject of the prophecy. Thus, the "seventy sevens" will be that period wherein God prepares the way for and then accomplishes the work of atonement. "Everlasting righteousness" will be brought in by the Messiah, the righteousness of God unto salvation and a Kingdom without end. "Vision and prophet" will be sealed up or ended, the New Testament revelation of Christ summing up and concluding the Scriptures. The anointing of "the most Holy," i.e., Messiah Jesus, has reference to the full assumption of His power and position with His ascension and the fall of Jerusalem in confirmation of His Word and prophecy.

The "seventy sevens" are divided into three periods (9:25-27). The first two periods are clearly dated from the permission to rebuild Jerusalem to "Messiah the Prince," and the first "seven sevens" covers the time from the issuance of the permission to the completed work of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the second, sixty-two sevens, refers to the long intertestamental times from the rebuilding of Jerusalem to the Messiah.

The third and last period, a single seven, shall cover the life and work of the Messiah:

1. The Messiah shall be put to death.
2. The people of a prince (of the fourth monarchy) shall enter into Israel to destroy city and sanctuary, in a war that shall be as a "flood" and the end of it "desolations." This has reference to the war of A.D. 66-70 and Titus Vespasiamus.
3. The Messiah shall confirm or cause to prevail a "covenant with many," and this act shall be the end of the temple with its "sacrifice and oblation," both religiously and judicially, so that the temple will also be given over to profanation and destruction. "It is the Temple, itself, which is here mentioned as an abomination. Once the true Sacrifice of Calvary had been offered, the Temple no longer was the Temple of God but an abominable place."5

By this destruction, judgment is pronounced not only on the moralisms of history as institutionalized in the temple cult, but also on the legitimate function of the temple as it sought to perpetuate itself as the sole vehicle of revelation. The exclusiveness of revelation cannot be arrogated by the historical instrument into an arrogance and pride wherein the vessel ascribes to itself the life of the potter. God, ever jealous of His honor, will not allow history to eternalize itself. The history of church, state, university, art, and society has been a lust for eternity that leads to the radical confusion of faces of desolation and judgment, whereas the confusion of faces of creatureliness and repentance alone leads to the life of "mercies and forgivenesses" (9:9) in terms of which alone man can stand and time have meaning and become itself a ground of joy and victory.


1. William Smith, trans., The Popular Works of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Vol. II, Lecture XIV, "Development of the State in Modern Europe" (London: Trubner, 1889), 236.
2. E. W. Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, Vol. III (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1956), 86.
3. Edward J.Young, The Prophecy of Daniel, A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949), 197.
4. Young, Commentary, ad loc.
5. Young, The Messianic Prophecies of Daniel (Delft, Netherlands, 1954), 74.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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