Daniel 9:24-27 (LXX)
Saturday, November 26, 2022 8:19 AM
This post features both the literary structure of Daniel 9:24-27 and my own interpretation of the passage in the commentary below.
I hope a close study of the intricate chiastic structure of this passage (and possibly my interpretive commentary) will be repaid with a greater understanding of God’s loving providence in salvation history.
For a survey of both Christological and non-christological interpretations of Daniel 9:24-27 the reader can review the Wikipedia entry on this subject - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophecy_of_Seventy_Weeks
Since there is scholarly disagreement regarding the history of the post-exilic period, I want to first lay out my tentative viewpoint on certain key historical events. The following timeline for this debated period of history is largely adpated from J. Caleb Jones (jcalebjones.com). However, the dates in this timeline reflect the absolute chronology of Gertoux for the kingly reigns of this time period. (see e.g., academia.edu/26080694/Absolute_Chronology_of_the_Ancient_World_from_1533_BCE_to_140_CE)
- After Cyrus’ decree in 539 BC, an altar was built by Zerubbabel in 538 BC (and the foundation of the temple began by 537 BC).
- Darius I favored Zerubbabel in 522 BC with permission to build temple (such that it was completed in 516 BC).
- Ezra made his first visit to Jerusalem in 489 BC (i.e., if "Artaxeres” = Xerxes in Ezra 7:1). If not, then the year would be 468 BC during the 7th year of Artaxerxes.
However, if the latter is the case, the chronological order of Ezra/Nehemiah goes out of sequence at this point.
- March/April of 475 BC was Xerxes 20th year, when Nehemiah was serving as cupbearer and received permission from the king to leave.
- Nehemiah traveled on horseback to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:9,12) such that he arrived in Jerusalem June/July 475 (estimation).
- The construction of the wall around Jerusalem was completed ~mid Sep 475 (Nehemiah 6:15).
- The events of the book of Esther probably take place beginning in 472 BC (though Gertoux places them earlier, beginning in 489 BC).
- The fearful day of Haman’s judgement was turned into a great day of freedom & deliverance (Adar = late Feb/early March 462 BC).
- Mordecai may have exploited his influence to have Nehemiah appointed governor of Judea ~455 BC.
- Nehemiah chapter 8 opens in Tishri 455 BC with Nehemiah, now the official governer for the next 12 years (during the reign of Artaxerxes I).
Most history books place this date in 445 BC rather than 455 BC. However, I prefer the revised dating of Gertoux on Darius I (522-486), Xerxes I (496- 475), & Artaxerses/Ahasuerus (474- 434).
See Gertoux (“Dating the Reigns of Xerxes and Artaxerxes”).
- Nehemiah 8:1ff describes Ezra the scribe on “the first day of the seventh month” (just as Leviticus 23:24). This would have been Rosh Hashanah and beginning of the Feast of Trumpets.
Then 8:17ff describes a "Hakhel" ceremonial reading of the Torah. This harkens back to the biblical commandment in Deut 31:10-12 to assemble all the people to hear the reading of the Torah.
Per the regulations of Deuteronomy, the ceremony took place during Sukkot (Tabernacles/Booths) in the month of Tishri (which is always in conjunction with the end of a Sabbath Year).
- If Ezra returned & sanctified the people in 455 BC, then the previous year 456/455 would have been a Sabbath year.
I would therefore postulate this ceremony was the climactic conclusion to a restarted jubilee cycle beginning in the momenteous year of freedom & deliverance depicted in Esther (462/461 BC).
(Most scholars think the restarted cycle, although counted on the calendar, was probably not observed. However, we do not really know for sure.)
Non-christological interpretations of Daniel 9:24ff, e.g., the traditional Jewish perspective, view the “seventy weeks” from the time of Jeremiah 25:11-13 (which is 605 BC in their view) until the days of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (c.171 BC). Others, e.g., Dispensationists, view this passage as a referring to combination of events from Christ’s first coming up to the end times, including the antichrist and the 2nd coming. However, in this post, we will focus on my own, unique, Christological interpretation - which I will tentatively dub "the LXX chronology geometric sequence based interpretation” (or “geometric sequence” view for short). The following notes and observations will attempt to explain this view and thus correlate the events of salvation history with Daniel 9. Later in this post, I will also briefly offer some “verse by verse” commentary on the passage.
Generally, I think the concept of "seventy periods of seven" should be a queue for the reader to think in terms of the larger picture and the grander scale (rather than the normal scale of human events). The Lord Jesus himself conveyed this “age” scale perspective in Matt 24. Origen made this observation in his commentary on Matthew. He linked the usage of συντέλεια (completion, end, consummation) from Dan 9:27 with the Lord’s answer to the disciples question in Matt 24:3 as to the timing of “the end of the age.” Thus, Origen states, “the consummation of the world occurs at the time of the desolation of Jerusalem and of the temple that is in it.”
While the end of the world may not have occurred in AD 70, a case can be made (seemingly a partial-Preterist case), that the desolation of Jerusalem constituted at least the the end of the age.
Further, regarding the concept of this grander scale, readers/listeners of Daniel would be assumed to be steeped in Scripture, and so would immediately make the connection between seventy sevens (= 490 years) and the seven-year Sabbath cycles (including the 49-year jubilee cycles). Jubilee years occurred after every 7 Sabbath years (i.e., in the 50th year, viewed inclusively - the 50th year equaling the 1st year of the next cycle). I believe the concept of jubilees is worth further pursuit as the underlying motif toward a Christological interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27.
Based on my own chronological study of the LXX (as distinct from the MT), it seems the chronological timing of certain OT events, even prior to the “official” beginning of the jubilee cycle within the land, may be synchronized according to a grand scheme of jubilee cycles. For example, if one counts back using the Old Greek chronology of the LXX, then it works out that Adam was born in 5439 BC. So, from the birthday of Adam until AD 1 (just after the birth of Christ in 2 BC), there are 111 x 49-year jubilees (= 5439 years). Not only so, but these jubilee cycles break down into three grand divisions according to what may, mathamatically, be referred to as a "geometric sequence” (or "geometric progression”) of jubilees. This math terminology is defined as a sequence of non-zero numbers where each term after the first is found by multiplying the previous one by a fixed, non-zero number called the common ratio. In this case, the LXX sequence is based on the 49-year jubilee cycle and the common ratio involves multiplication by 10. Thus, beginning with the single number 49; 49 x10 = 490; 490 x10 = 4900. The totality of this series (adding all three together) extends, first, 4900 years from the birth of Adam (5439 BC) to 539 BC, then 490 years from 539 BC until 49 BC, then 49 years from 49 BC to AD 1 (since there is no year zero).
I anticipate the reader may initially wish to focus on the birth of Christ to find a likely fulfillment event. However, although AD 1 comes close to the birth of Christ in 2 BC (a two-year timing difference), in my opinion, it is not exact enough to constitute a genuine fulfillment event. Nevertheless, what has been observed so far regarding numerical alignments, all in a progession toward a "fulness of times” (as descibed by the angel in Dan 9:24), seems unlikely to be a mere coincidence. I think we are still on the right track toward a plausible Christological interpretation.
First, notice how, proceeding from greater to lesser, the first great period of 4900 years extends from Adam until 539 BC. This latter date is significant from the standpoint of Daniel’s 70 weeks. As many readers may be aware, 539 BC is, without a doubt, the most momentous of all potential anchor dates for Daniel’s prophecy. This is because Cyrus the Great’s decree, allowing the Jews to return to the land, constitutes the first and greatest of the realistic Jewish return dates. Not only so, but "Darius the Mede” (of Daniel 9:1) would have been in his first year at this time. Thus the the year of Daniel’s 4th vision took place in 539 BC - and this vision includes the angel Gabriel’s message regarding the 70 weeks. For more about Darius the Mede, see Gertoux (“Ugbaru is Darius the Mede”). Gertoux identifies Darius the Mede as the “Harpagus" of history.
An understanding of the progession of time periods, first between the 4900 years and the times that follow, may help us gain a more specific interpretation of the otherwise strange angelic introduction in Daniel 9:24, “Seventy periods of seven were 'cut short' or 'speedily/quickly/summarily executed' upon your people and upon the holy city.” Of the two possible meanings of συντέμνω in this verse, it seems less likely that the designated length of time (“seventy sevens” = 490 years = 10 jubilees) is being shortened to some lesser amount of time. Rather, by use of “quickly executed,” the angel is conveying that the timeline has been accelerated (i.e., referring at least to the transition from the first 4900 years to the next, exponentially shorter, sequence of 490 years). That this meaning “Quickly executed,” is most appropriate, may be further substantiated in that it agrees with the same usage of the word later in the pericope (Daniel 9:26).
There may also be some further hint of acceleration in the timeline, in that the actual 70 years of the captivity may not have been counted as part of the initial geometric jubilee count sequence (and thus, would still need to be counted). We know the ancient rabbi’s understood the jubilee cycle to have been suspended during the Babylonian captivity. This is because, for Israel, the jubilees were inextricably associated with regulations related to the land. As we will try to explain, it may be that the Lord regarded the 70 years of captivity (609 to 539 BC) to be years that, one way or another, would still need to be counted once the captivity was over - even though we would also understand that the grand scheme of jubilees extends back to creation (i.e., prior to the official start of Israel’s jubilee cycle upon entrance into the land).
One reason I believe this to be true is, when we try to fit the various fulfillment events from history into what is prophesied in Daniel 9 (as well as Matthew 24), we observe that additional time is required (especially to reach AD 70 per Matthew 24). Yet, it just so happens that the 70-year exile time and the last 49-year aspect of the geometric sequence may be available for this purpose. Additionally, the reader should be aware that the 70-year time period I am proposing has been broken into several parts - frankly, in order to fit properly. In keeping with the spirit of Daniel’s “seventy sevens” these parts are always in units of or divisible by seven. While this scheme may seem “ad hoc” (and I agree it may not seem to be ideal or it may seem to be exegetical shenanigans), it does seem to best accord with historical reality. Please allow me to first explain why the 70-year period will not properly fit when counted all as one chunk of time. When placed where it would be first expected (i.e., after 539 BC), 70 years subtracted from 539 BC yields 469 BC. By that time, the first predicted 49-year period of Daniel 9 should have both come and gone. Recall, from Daniel 9:25, this period of the prophecy included the building of the main street and wall. Those historical aspects of the prophecy were fulfilled prior to 469 BC, that is, by approx 475-473 BC. (According to my timeline for Nehemiah 6:15, at least the wall was completed in 475 BC, and the main street would also then be around or just after that time.) As might be expected as an alternative, the 70 year period will also not fit as one chunk after AD 1 (i.e., after the last 49-year geometric sequence). This is because, as we will try to explain, not only do the 62 weeks need to be completed, but also the last (7-year) week also occurs during this time. Nevertheless, let the reader be assured, these various pieces, although broken in sequence, still add up, mathematically, to fit exactly within the limitations of Daniel’s prophetic framework.
For a graphical representation of my proposal see the following attachment: Seventy Weeks of Daniel_Time Periods
First Two Stages (69 weeks):
In terms of actual historical activity as recorded in Ezra-Nehemiah and 1Esdras (LXX), there were seemingly four (lets call them) “seasons" of fruitful activity with regard to the building of the city and the sanctuary. These periods can be viewed in my “Time Periods” attachment above, a brief summary would indicate that Zerubbabel was responsible for an altar being built right away and followed soon after by the foundation of the 2nd temple. After several delays, the 2nd temple was then completed in 516 BC. That covers the building of the sanctuary.
The city wall wasn't completed until 475 BC under Nehemiah. The building of the main street/cardo (as mentioned in Daniel 9:25) is never mentioned in the historical narratives. Since a main thoroughfare would seem to be prerequisite for further work, we might suppose the street could have been completed during the first or second building seasons or possibly even during the unspecified activities of Ezra’s 1st visit to Jerusalem in 489 BC.
The next historical milestone would begin in 455 BC (the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I). Apart from my observation regarding the jubilees and the coincidence with 539 BC, I would alternatively point to the time of 455 BC (when Nehemiah became governor and Ezra returned to sancty the people) as the viable anchor date for counting the 62 weeks. This is because 62 x 7 = 434 + 49 (utilizing the last 49-year jubilee of the geometric sequence) = 483 years, which works perfectly to reach the baptism of Jesus Christ in AD 29/30. This takes us precisely to the appropiate point in salvation history.
After all, it was at this point when the triune God was revealed. And, just as King David was anointed by the prophet Samuel for theocratic service, so also Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit for his own (kingly/theocratic) service. It is somewhat speculative, but, since Jesus baptism occurred sometime in the Fall, it would not be surprising if it occurred in Tishri (the beginning of the civil calendar and the appropriate traditional time, as in Judah during the monarchy, when kings inaugurated their reigns). The inauguration of the kingdom of course would signal a new age - and as such it woud also signal the beginning of the end for the holy city and sanctuary. These would be fulfilled in Christ, the new temple (John 21) and the church, which is the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21).
On a side note: according to this proposed view the Sabbath year was 28/29. (This is contra Wacholder, who proposed AD 27/28.) 10 Tishri would mark the beginning of a Jubilee year (29/30) which would coincide with Jesus remarks in John 2 (when Jesus spoke of the end of the jubilee year 29/30 coming in 4 months), as well as Luke 4 (when Jesus proclaimed the year of jubilee in Nazareth).
Nehemiah apparently left Jerusalem after 12 years as governor (likely in order to return to his role in service to the king). However, he returned to Jerusalem again ~424 BC (likely after Artaxerxes died), only to find corruption in temple administration, which is mentioned in Nehemiah 13. Some might see this "1st stage of the 1st stage" time period (the time period after the return from exile), per Dan 9:25, as being thus “emptied out,” as well as (possibly) the vision/prophecy being sealed with the closing of the prophetic canon by ~421 BC.
The Last Stage (1 week)
The first 69 weeks brought us in history to Christ’s baptism and thus the beginning of his 3.5 year ministry (= the first half-week). We should therefore understand the mid-point of the week as the date of Christ's crucifixion on 03 Apr AD 33. At the crucifixion, Jesus ratified the new covenant with his own sacrificial death on the cross. Thus, he fulfilled the OT sacrifices (and at the same time invalidated the old covenant by means of the new).
What about the last half week? Some think it was fulfilled 3.5 years after the crucifixion in 35/36 (whether with Stephen's death or the beginning of St. Paul’s ministry). However, those events don’t actually match up to those years. We also need to consider how Jesus referred to this aspect in Matthew 24:15,“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place.” Perhaps, by Christ’s own decree, the judgment upon Israel, with its desolations, was put off - for the sake of the gospel and time for repentance. What we actually see is a potential 10 x 3.5 = 35 year time period separating the crucifixion in AD 33 from the time of last half-week of Daniel 9:27, including the abomination (at least ending with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70). At that point, the temple sacrifices, already invalidated through Christ, were physically ended with the destruction of the temple. The new beginning point of the 3.5 years could be when Rome officially declared war on Israel in spring AD 67. This war continued to the climactic destruction of Jerusalem in August of AD 70. Nero formally commissioned Vespasian as his general to lead the war. Vespasian marched into Judea with an army of 60,000 men. At least 150,000 Jewish inhabitants of Galilee and Judea were killed in the coming months.
Here follows some specific “verse by verse” interpretive comments to fill in most of what has not already been mentioned:
Seventy periods of seven were summarily executed
upon your people,
and upon the holy city,
- This interpretation maintains seven as the common denominator throughout. The 70 years extend from 539 BC to AD 70.
- These are the first mention of the two main categories repeated and expanded upon throughout the rest of the passage.
to finish off sin,
and to set a seal on sins,
and to erase the unrighteousness,
and to atone for unrighteousness,
and to bring everlasting righteousness,
and to set a seal upon vision and prophecy,
and to anoint the holy of holies.
- If the two categories are reflected in this verse, then all except the last line literally refer to salvation historical events fulfilled by Christ and the apostles. Fulfillment within the apostolic ministry would related especially with regard to setting a seal on vision and prophecy considering that the vision and prophecy is depicted within the book of Revelation. Even if Revelation was written closer to the end of the 1st century, the prophetic visions themselves could have occurred prior to the destruction of the temple in AD 70. Even the last line of 9:24, which overtly refers to a tangible asset (the holy of holies in the temple) is likely a double entendre referring to Christ, who was anointed by the prophet John the Baptist. Christ is, as some of the early fathers translated, the “Holy One of holy ones” (or, as the Douay-Reims puts it, “the Saint of saints”).
And you shall know and perceive,
from the going forth of a word
to respond and to build Jerusalem
until an anointed ruler –
will be seven periods of seven,
and sixty-two periods of seven.
- Verse 25a is informative and general in nature. The “going forth of the word” would refer to Cyrus’ decree in 539 BC.
- the building of Jerusalem refers to the work of Zerubbabel & Nehemiah on the temple and walls respectively.
- A time period in two parts is revealed. The entire time period from the first tangible asset event (rebuilding Jerusalem) to the last human asset event extends through the 69th week (i.e., AD 29/30). The anointed leader is therefore not primarily Nehemiah (as might be supposed by “he will return” in 25b). Rather, the ultimate reference is to the Lord Jesus Christ.
And he will return
And a main street will be built and a wall
and the times will be emptied out.
- The parallel structure points to an implied time reference (in the outline headlined in italics as “after 7 sevens”). The first seven periods of seven characterized by rebuilding occurred in post-exilic times. Both Ezra and Nehemiah can be said to have “returned” to Jerusalem after making initial visits. However, only Nehemiah was responsible for the building of the wall. As official governor, he would also qualify as an anointed leader. Therefore, although the anointed leader must ultimately be a reference to Christ, it seems this ambiguous reference to the leader’s return creates another double entendre reference, this time to Nehemiah.
And after the sixty-two periods of seven,
the anointing will be completely cut off,
and judgment is not in it.
And he will destroy the city
and the holy place
with the ruler, the one who is coming.
They will be cut down as in a flood.
- After the 62 periods of seven refers to the time after Christ’s baptism, which is the beginning of the 70th week. During this time, “the anointing is cut off” (referring to either the holy place in the temple or the anointing itself i.e., the empowerment for a task conveyed by the anointing oil) and "judgment is not in it” (referring at least to the lack of a system of judgment, but possibly to the lack of the Urim and Thummim, which oracle was located in the high priest’s "breastplate of judgment" cf Exod. 28:23-25 as well as Ezra 2:61-63 / Neh. 7:63-65). Against the intriging idea of this being a a Herodian temple reference to the Urim and Thummim is the fact that Jewish Talmud indicates this oracle was missing completely from the 2nd temple (TB Yoma 21b) and Josephus indicated it had been functional for a time, but had ceased to function two hundred years prior to his writing (Ant. 3: 163, 216-218).
- Because of the grammar and the micro chiastic structure, it is doubtful the anointing is a reference to the anointed leader (e.g., Christ). Instead, the fulfillment event is most likely associated with the holy place in the temple in AD 70. Therefore, “He” (2x) in this verse is most likely a reference to Titus.
- Since the prophetic word was revealed in the distant past, the two horizons within the last week (AD 30-33 & 67-70) are at times viewed as a whole such that “the leader, the one who is to come” (already spoken of in vs 25) is probably a reference to Christ. This same perspective can account for the summary, “they will be cut down, as in a flood” referring to both the anointed leader (Christ) in AD 33 and to the destruction of the city/sanctuary in AD 70. The anointed one is outwardly viewed as a victim in this passage. However, from the gospels, we understand that Christ's offering of himself was voluntary. No man could take away his life.
And he will designate destructions
until an end of a quickly executed war.
- The chiastic structure of vs 26-27 seems to have a middle term (designated by the superscript bX in the outline). This would refer to the onslaught of war in 67 leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in AD 70.
And he shall strengthen a covenant with many one period of sevens;
and in the half of the period of seven
my sacrifice and libation will be taken away,
and there will be an abomination of the desolations upon the temple;
and until the consummation of time,
it will be given over to the desolation.
- Apart from the guidance of literary structure, we might naturally interpret “he” in vs 27 as a reference to Titus. However, in that case the actual covenant must be surmised since I am not awre of any historical covenant. If we assume that literary structure is an adequate indicator of meaning (since it is, in fact, a form of scaled up grammar) then we should understand this as reference to the new covenant. The mention of “one seven” followed by the next reference to “half” is enough to signal the covenant is to properly assigned to an implied 1st half (which in my proposal occurs in the 3.5 years of AD 30-33 considered inclusively. The specific timing will be obvious to most readers as that of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (“the new covenant in my blood” Luke 22:20, 1Cor 11:25).
- As the reference to Christ in vs 26 was followed immediately by an inclusive reference, so also in this case, it can said for either time period (early or late in the last week) that “my sacrifice and libation” ceased. This is true, not in spite of, but especially because of, the specific reference to the half week (which begins where the first half ended – at Christ’s crucifixion).
Objections - Since no there is no key information about any extra years supplied within the immediate context of Daniel 9, my viewpoint could be accused of requiring some sort of secret knowledge. Indeed, it is true that the 70 and the 49 year time periods were deliberately left out of the angel’s revelation. Rather than impune the angel Gabriel’s motives (as if he intended to deliberately obstruct or sabotage the interpretation of this passage) it may be that this revelation was intended to be fully revealed only to (wise) Daniel - and concealed to others for a time. The Lord has his (good) reasons. He is is not like my Italian grandmother, who I am told, was not above leaving out a key ingredient when asked for a recipe!
Most of us would not claim to be as wise as Daniel. So, we shouldn't assume that Daniel didn’t understand this prophecy, just because we didn’t. And even if he didn’t either, he faithfully conveyed the revelation for our sake, to whom the end of the ages has come.
We also should not argue this view cannot be true just because it seems strange, complicated, unclear, or just because we are unaware of anyone else who ever held this viewpoint.
This viewpoint should be accepted or rejected based upon its merits. I can imagine someone might say this view cannot be true because it violates (what is known in Protestant Evangelical circles as) the “perspicuity” of Scripture (i.e., its clarity). Yet, one scholar within this camp, Wayne Gudem, understands this doctrine as follows: Scripture affirms that it is able to be understood but (1) not all at once, (2) not without effort, (3) not without ordinary means, (4) not without the reader’s willingness to obey it, (5) not without the help of the Holy Spirit, (6) not without human misunderstanding, and (7) never completely. (Source: thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/the-perspicuity-of-scripture)
Lastly, this proposed view is dependent largely on my conclusions regarding the chronology of the LXX. Since I am fully aware this is a mostly an unstudied subject, I will understand if most readers will throw up their hands dismissively. Yet, I would challange the reader - since studies based on Qumran have come to light, the high correlation of those readings with that of the Old Greek LXX has begun to come to the attention of the scholarly community. In fact, it was only relatively recently that the Oxford critical version of the Old Testament finally was begun - and it is still merely in progress at the time this writing. So, to be clear, the challange is first to read and study the LXX, the same text quoted by the apostles and the the text retained by the Orthodox church over several millennia. Then, while helping yourself, you can also help me confirm or correct my conclusions.
The life and work of Daniel the Prophet is celebrated by the church annually on 17 December. The Synaxarion reading for that day tells us regarding Daniel 9:24-27 that, "he signified in prophecy the time of His appearance in the Jordan, the beginning of His preaching of the Gospel, the time of His saving Passion, and the cessation of the worship according to the Mosaic Law.” I highly recommend that entire 17 December reading. However, suffice it to say, the Orthodox church emphasizes that proper interpretation of the Bible only occurs within the living Tradition of the Church. This is because the mind of the church is the mind of Christ. It is the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, who enlightens our understanding of Scripture through his Spirit. John 16:21 speaks of the Spirit of truth coming and guiding the church into the truth. Just as it was then, so also the same is true now for any would-be interpreter. Thus, just as the Spirit himself, does “not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak,” so also the Spirit-led interpreter must call them as the Spirit leads to see them. While no one, by themselves, can interpret the Bible apart from the grace of God. Yet, it is important to understand that grace is real and still (to this day) as ever present as the Holy Spirit. Grace is synergistic - the divine energies work with our own efforts. In this case, apart from God’s grace, the only "secret" to understanding this passage is no real secret at all. This view merely involved use of an updated historical record (thanks to Gerard Gertoux), the use of the LXX translation of the Old Testament (rather than the significantly different chronology found in the Masoretic text) and lastly, a merely adequate understanding of OT chronology (for which knowlege I am thankfully indebted to God’s gracious working and enablement to make some degree of effort over the past several years).