Daniel 9: The Prophet’s Confession

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Churches
Daniel 9:1-19
February 6, 2022

At the beginning of worship:

It’s good to be back with you. Last weekend, I was on Skidaway Island. Saturday afternoon I officiated at the funeral of my friend, Andy Lohn. I had agreed to help the new pastor of the church with the funeral, but he came down with COVID, so I was left alone. But it was good to be present for Andy’s family. With his leukemia, Andy hadn’t been able to have guests for months. The new pastor hadn’t even meet him in person. Then, as you have probably heard, as I was preparing my homily for Andy, I learned the death of another friend, Todd Williams, from colon cancer. It became a bittersweet trip. 

Today, we’re discussing confession. They say confession is good for the soul. But what should we confess? And how should we confess? That’s the topic we’ll explore today. In the 9th chapter of Daniel, the prophet embarks on a prayer of confess that is enlightening for us. We confess not only for the sins we personally committed. We confess to those things we should have done but

didn’t. Those are sins of omission. And we confess corporately, not just for sins that we have personally committed, but those of our nation and even those of our ancestors. Daniel lays it all out for us today. 

Before reading Scripture:

My reading will be the first 2/3 of the ninth chapter. Next week we’ll look at the conclusion, the discussion of 70 weeks and years. 

We’ve already seen several styles of writings in Daniel. Much of the first six chapters consist of kingdom or court tales, stories of how the young Hebrew men remained faithful in the service of a pagan king. We have also seen a second type of writing, apocalyptic. Such writings use coded language to provide a glimpse as to what is happening in the present and future. Today, we’re looking at a third style—that of a prayer, or as one commentator describes, a mediation.[1] Daniel comes before God confessing sin. 

Read Daniel 9:1-19

After the Reading of Scripture:

Confession is good for the soul, but there may be exceptions… 

Confessing to my grandmother

One of the most embarrassing memories I have with my grandparent’s involved confession. I was staying with them for a couple of weeks, as I often did during the summer. I was probably 13 or 14 years old. One afternoon, after my grandfather came home from work, we didn’t go fishing, like we normally did. Instead, grandma had other plans. 

The three of us headed over to J. B. Coles peach orchard, a pick your own kind of place in West End. Grandma wanted peaches to can in quart jars for winter. In addition, I knew we’d enjoy peaches on cereal with breakfast. I also knew that some peaches would, during the weekend, end up in homemade ice cream. These peaches were so juicy they’d drip down your chin. Such delicious peaches meant we didn’t sacrifice too much as we gave up fishing for an evening.

My grandparents were picking from one tree. I was on the other side of the tree, with my own bushel basket. Suddenly, my grandmother asked if I had cut one. I acted like I didn’t understand. This time she was more forceful, “Jeff, did you cut one?”

My stomach had been squirrelly that evening. I had passed some gas, and at the time, in Jr. High boys’ jargon, that’s what “cutting one” referred to. I couldn’t believe my grandma was using such vulgar language and asking me about something so private. How did she even know or hear from her side of the tree? Humbled, I confessed my transgression. What happened next was shocking.

“You put away that knife,” my grandmother shouted. “These are not our peaches until we pay for them.”  

I’d confessed to a sin I had not committed! But I was also so embarrassed I didn’t tell my grandma about my mistake for decades. Thankfully, didn’t remember and laughed. 

Confession by Daniel

Confession is good for the soul if you’re guilty. But what about when we’re not guilty. Our text is a prayer of confession or penitence. Daniel confesses his sins, but more importantly, he also confesses the sins of his people. 

Time Stamp at the Beginning of the Chapter

Our chapter begins like many in Daniel, with a time stamp.[2] The Chaldeans or Babylonians are not in charge. The Persian empire now rules. Darius, a Mede, oversees Babylon. Daniel knows of Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning the Hebrew exile to Babylon, that the exile would last 70 years. He’s been in Babylon for 66 years.[3] With the change of leadership in Babylon, perhaps he reflects on the time being close at hand for the exile population to be freed to return to their homelands. 

So, Daniel, trying to figure it all out, goes to God in prayer. In verse three, we learn of his preparations. He fasts. That’s still a good practice when you’re struggling with something. He also wears sackcloth and sits on a heap of ash, a symbol at the time of deep humility. When we, as mortals, turn to God, humility is appropriate. We don’t have to play in an ash heap, most people would think you’re weird. But we should acknowledge our limitations compared to God’s greatness and goodness.

Interestingly, Daniel doesn’t ask for insight as to when the exile will be over. Throughout this prayer, Daniel constantly acknowledges God’s faithfulness and what God has done in the past. This he compares to Israel’s and her sins. He acknowledges they should know better for God sent prophets to tell them of another way. But they failed to listen or to respond.

For Sins Committed by Others before Daniel’s birth

While Daniel includes himself in this prayer of confession, he also includes his ancestors and those who have gone before him. From what we know of Daniel, he was not personally guilty of a lot of what he confesses. After all, he was exiled as a young man to Babylon, probably when he was in his late teens or at oldest, his early 20s.[4] This means he didn’t have much personally to do with the sins which led to Jerusalem’s punishment in Babylon. Yet, he finds it necessary to confess. 

The Role of the Covenant

The basis of Daniel’s prayer is God’s covenant.[5] A covenant is an agreement in which both parties have responsibilities. There are, as Daniel acknowledges in verse 11, consequences for the failure to live up to your responsibilities. The covenant is not just between us, as individuals, and God. So, Daniel, thinking of the sinfulness of his people, confesses. Yet he also acknowledges that while Israel is experiencing the consequences of her action, God is still faithful. God watches over the calamity known as the Babylonian exile. 

How Do We Confess?

What about us? How do we confess our sins? Do you feel, as some, that we only need to confess the sins we’re responsibility for? If that’s the case, how do you reconcile with Daniel’s confession, which is more about the sins of his people and his ancestors? Some people these days make a big deal about not being responsible for what others have done in the past. Nor do they want to hear about anything that would make them feel bad or guilty. Would Daniel agree?  What does God think? After all, this is God’s word and world 

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, died three weeks ago.[6] He was a major influence on Martin Luther King, who came out against the Vietnam War after meeting him. He also had a great influence on Thomas Merton, a well-known Catholic monk. Thay, as he was known, mostly lived in France, for his ideas on the Vietnam War wasn’t appreciated by any of the sides during war: the North or the South or the Vietcong. 

I had never read any of his books. After hearing of his death, I decided to learn more about his writings, so while I drove back from Savannah on Monday, I listened to a book of his from the early 1990s titled, Peace Is Every Step.[7] The book is primarily about mindfulness and how to be present in every moment. And while I don’t fully agree with his Buddhist ethos of us all being and becoming one, I found he had a lot of good ideas about seeing ourselves as a part of the problems the world faces. Such insight, I think, allows us to pray more faithfully. 

One of his stories involved pirates off the coast of Africa. He encouraged his readers to consider what would have happened had they been born in such a setting. He suggested that if he was born in such a situation, he might have become a pirate. The same is true for the Germans who were stationed at the concentration camps. Would we really be so brave to resist? 

While he didn’t go here, I will. What if we were born a slave owner? Would we have done the right thing? Because we don’t know for sure what we would have done, and because who we are today has to do with what’s happened in the past, we should be gentle and compassionate toward others. As Christians, we should acknowledge such sins and offer them up to God in confession. Daniel, in our passage today, shows us how.

Concluding Charge

Next time you pray the prayer of confession, search your hearts. Yes, even Daniel confessed his own sin. But go deeper. Open yourself up to confess corporate sin. We’re all in this together and in a way often participate unintentionally in that which doesn’t honor God. When we confess such sins, we place ourselves in the hands of a merciful and gracious God. There’s no better place to be. Amen. 


[1] W. Sibley Towner, Daniel: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1984), 127.  

[2] See Daniel 1:1, 2:1, 7:1, 8:1,  9:1, 10:1, 11:1.

[3] Daniel was taken into exile in 605 BC and it’s now the year 539 BC. See Temper Longman III, Daniel: The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 218.

[4] I covered his age in my first sermon on Daniel. See https://fromarockyhillside.com/2021/08/5155/

[5] Robert A. Anderson’s Daniel: Signs and Wonders (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984),

[6] https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/21/asia/thich-nhat-hanh-death-intl/index.html

[7] Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Edoardo Balerini, narrator. (1991: Audible 2015).

Todd’s boat, “Grand Cru” beats my boat, “Bonnie Blue” to the mark. Hook Race (Hilton Head to Landings Harbor, September 2020)

10 thoughts on “Daniel 9: The Prophet’s Confession”

  1. Good thoughts today, Jeff. I think people forget that we are all in this together and we should help each other out. It feels more like every man for himself these days.

    • I agree, and part of the point of religion is to call us into a community where we are willing to help others. BTW, Matt, I have had issues posting to your blog.

  2. Good thoughts today, Jeff. Thank you. I think people forget that we are all in this together and we should help each other out. It feels more like every man for himself these days.

  3. I agree that we don’t really know how we would have behaved in circumstances from the past (and that includes if we’d lived during the time of Jesus!), but we can certainly try to live as God would have us to now. Good message, Jeff.

    • I find it bothersome when people try to judge those in the past based on where we are today. At the same time, I don’t like to see them made into saints (as a Protestant, that is something I believe that is something God does after this life is over).

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