The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9
Part I

One of the most remarkable prophetic passages in the Bible is Daniel chapter nine, verses 24-27. Here, in a writing dated hundreds of years before the birth of the Lord Jesus, we find a passage that foretells the exact time of the Messiah's first advent. In the context of God's answer to Daniel's prayer concerning the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple, the angel Gabriel foretells the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, the coming of the Messiah, the length of His ministry, the death of the Messiah, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the rise of the one who causes great desolation[1] and the destruction of this "one who makes desolate" (Dan. 9:27).

The precision of this passage in predicting the first advent of the Messiah has made it an invaluable evangelistic tool. Many seekers, understanding that only the God that transcends time can accurately foretell the future, have turned their attention to the Bible because of this passage and found Jesus as Lord and Savior.

In addition to being an invaluable evangelistic tool, Daniel chapter nine is an important key to the chronology of end-time events. Since the Lord Jesus refers to "the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet" (Matt. 24:15) as a sign of His second coming and the end of the age (Matt. 24:3), our understanding of this passage influences our understanding of the Lord Jesus' words.

It is here, in the application of this passage to yet future end-time events, that problems have arisen. One popular school of thought, quite properly teaching that a portion of the "70 weeks" is yet future, (1) improperly places the entire 70th week in the future, and (2) improperly understands a reference to the Messiah in verse 27 as a reference to the "one who makes desolate." Another school of thought correctly understands the reference in verse 27 to the Messiah but improperly teaches that no part of the prophecy is yet future. A number of erroneous conclusions in turn result from these mistakes.

The format of the following examination does not allow an exhaustive examination of Daniel 9:24-27, but is meant to highlight prominent features of the prophecy and reveal details that aid in understanding the prophecy.


Verse 24


"Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place."

1. The word translated week is literally seven. Thus 70 weeks is 70 sevens.

2. The sevens should be understood as periods of seven years because:

a. The context of Daniel's prayer and reasoning are in terms of years (Dan. 9:1-2, cf. Jer. 25:11, 29:10).

b. When Daniel wants us to understand seven as referring to a regular seven-day week, he uses the word "day" with seven (Dan. 10:2-3, "three units of seven days", lit. Hebrew).

c. Other time-significant passages in Daniel which deal with the time equivalent to the last half of the 70th week are in terms of years (7:25; 12:7,14).

3. The years of the prophecy are probably solar years (365 days/year). Some commentators have proposed lunar years (360 days/year), pointing out that lunar months (30 days per month) are used in some prophetic passages (7:25, 9:27, 12:7). However, there does not seem to be any basis for viewing years in this way.

4. The events listed in this verse are all to find fulfillment within the time frame of the 70 weeks of years. In other words, each of these events must be fulfilled at some time while the 490 year clock is running.


Verse 25


"So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be rebuilt again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress."

1. Here the angel Gabriel tells Daniel when the prophetic clock is to begin running. However, conservative scholars are divided between three different decrees as the one meant by Gabriel. The decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra, 458 B.C. (Ezra 7:11-26), appears to be the most likely starting point of the 490 year period. This preference is based on the wording of this decree, Ezra's comments (Ezra 9:9), its early date, and harmony with dates in the life of Christ. The other two decrees sometimes proposed are: (1) the decree of Cyrus, 538 B.C. (Ezra 1:2-4; 6:3-5) and (2) the decree of Artaxerxes, 445 B.C (Neh 2:5-8, 17-18).

2. "Until Messiah the Prince" has been interpreted variously as referring to (1) Christ's birth, (2) the beginning of Christ's public ministry (His baptism), and (3) Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem before His crucifixion. The beginning of Christ's public ministry at His baptism appears to be best because:

a. It is at this point that Jesus is first presented, and recognized by some, as Messiah (John 1:29, 41; 4:25-26; Luke 4:21).

b. It is from this point that the promised kingdom is presented as being "at hand" (Matt 4:17, 23).

c. It is from this point that Jesus announces, "the time is fulfilled"(Mark 1:15).

d. It is at this point that the Father and the Holy Spirit confirm the identity and ministry of Jesus publicly (Matt 3:16-17).

3. A total of 483 years (7 sevens and 62 sevens) had to elapse before the appearance of Messiah the Prince. Starting from 458 B.C. and counting 483 years brings one to A.D. 26[2], the historically accepted year for the baptism of Jesus and beginning of His public ministry.

4. The period of 483 years (69 sevens) is broken into 49 years (7 sevens) and 434 years (62 sevens) probably because 49 years would elapse from the decree until Jerusalem was completely rebuilt, and then another 434 years would elapse before the arrival of Messiah the Prince.


Verse 26


"Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined."

1. "After the 62 weeks" is sometime in the 70th week. It is important to take special note of this fact since some expositors have insisted that the 70 week clock is interrupted at the end of the 69th week, leaving the entire 70th week future and unfulfilled. However, note the following:

a. After 69 weeks (7 weeks and 62 weeks) is logically sometime in the 70th week, certainly not sometime during or at the end of the 69th week. (See diagram.)

b. The event of this verse, Messiah being cut-off, is the realization and equivalent of "make atonement for iniquity," specified by the angel in verse 24 as coming within the time-frame of the 70 weeks. Thus, since the Messiah must be "cut off" during one of the 70 weeks of the prophecy, and, since the Messiah is cut off after 69 weeks have elapsed, the Messiah is cut off in the 70th week.

c. The fact that Messiah is cut off in the 70th week agrees with, and is further explained by verse 27, where the effect of Messiah's death is viewed as putting an end to sacrifice. (See discussion in verse 27).

d. If it is proposed that an event of this prophecy occurs after the end of the 69th week but not in the 70th week, then such an event logically would fall in a proposed period of time between the 69th and 70th week. This cannot happen because the angel said the events of verse 24 would occur during the seventy weeks.

2. "Messiah will be cut off and have nothing" predicts the crucifixion of Jesus

3. "the people of the prince who is to come" is probably a reference to the Roman army which destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70. These people are to be distinguished from the Jews who are referred to in verse 24 as "your people."

4. "The prince who is to come" is better translated "a prince." The reference is indefinite and defined only by the phrase "who is to come." The Roman emperor, Vespasian, under whose authority Jerusalem would be destroyed is likely the person in view. To propose that this is the "little horn" of Daniel 7 or the "beast" of Revelation 13 is insensitive to the fact that no points of identity exist either in descriptive words or actions between this "prince" and the little horn or beast.

(continued in Part II)


Footnotes

  1. The one later referred to by the Lord Jesus as "the abomination of desolation" (Matt. 24:15), and by the apostle Paul as "the man of lawlessness son of destruction" (II Thess. 2:3).
  2. Note that when counting from any date B.C. to A.D. there is no year "0." Thus the time span from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. equals one year, not two.
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