DANIEL'S PROPHECY OF THE SEVENTY WEEKS
he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth
to give thee skill and understanding. 23 At the beginning of thy supplications
the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly
beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.
24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself:
and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”
Daniel's famous “Prophecy Of The 70 Weeks” is a quite amazing proof of the authenticity of the claims of Jesus to be the Jewish Messiah. However it is also the source of many differing opinions as to exactly what it means, and how the prophesied time spans fit into history. The confusion that results from those many different interpretations, tends to reduce the effectiveness of what should really be a beautiful and (relatively) uncomplicated tool for witness to the Gospel.
Most commentators seem to agree that the prophecy leads us to the time of the crucifixion. However there is great diversity about how it all fits. There is also much confusion about the question of whether or not the 70th week follows immediately after the 69th. The “Futurists” insist that it is separated by an unspecified gap, now approaching 2000 years! For many of us, that particular speculation stretches credibility beyond belief.
Today, it seems that Daniel's prophecy is being “hi-jacked” by the “Futurists”. If you do a literature survey of books currently in print, that view is just about the only option to be found in the bookshops of the 1990s.
However it was not always so! We do still have available to us, another older “already completed” alternative, which does not require that improbable 2000 year “gap theory”.
With all due respect for my “Futurist” friends, my own prayerful research leads me to conclude that when God says “70 weeks of years”, He means that the 70th week follows immediately after the 69th!
With some trepidation, this paper will seek to present a useful and reliable verification of that “historicist” understanding of Daniel. Whether you agree or disagree, must lie prayerfully between you and God.
WHAT DID THE ANGEL SAY TO DANIEL?
This requires some careful analysis of the information. After comparing the several translations which I have available, I suggest the following as a most likely harmony of the various elements :-
The Focus Of The Prophecy
1. “Seventy weeks are determined on thy people and upon thy holy city”. (V24)
Note 1: This tells us that the main focus of the prophecy is the subject of Daniel's prayer, earlier in the chapter. It is about Daniel's people and the Holy city (Israel and Jerusalem v16) and the sanctuary (temple) that had lain “desolate” (v17) for nearly 70 years. (v2)
The Time Span For The Prophecy
2. The main time span of the prophecy, would be seventy “weeks”. (v24) However, there are also other events which follow after the seventy weeks is concluded. During The Seventy Weeks
3. The seventy “weeks” would begin with a commandment to rebuild Jerusalem. (v25)
4. This rebuilding work would take place during the first seven “weeks” of “troubled time”. (v25)
5. After a further 62 “weeks”, (i.e. in the 70th week) the Messiah would appear. (v26)
6. In the 70th week, the Messiah would confirm the covenant made with Abraham and David to establish an everlasting Kingdom of God on earth. 7. Sometime “midweek”, the Messiah would be “cut off, but not for himself”.
Note 2 :- “Cut off, but not for himself” means “put to death” as a criminal, but not for any sin or guilt of His own. (v26) It was for our sins that Messiah died.
8. Through this (sacrificial) death the Messiah would cause the Temple sacrifices to cease. (v26 & 27) Note 3: This conclusion requires that the Messiah of the first part of verse 26, is not the same as “the prince who is to come” in the second half of the verse. The second prince is the Roman Emperor. (See item 10 below)
Note 4: This does not refer to an immediate literal cessation of animal sacrifices. Those actually continued for nearly 40 years. But with the death and resurrection of Jesus, the “shadow” was replaced by the “reality”. Jesus had caused the animal sacrifices to cease from being acceptable to God. The law under which they were offered was abolished. (Hebrews 10:1-10)
After The End Of The Seventy Weeks
9. After an unspecified time, on account of the “overspreading of abominations” the Messiah would again render the city and the sanctuary “desolate” .
Note 5:The animal sacrifices that continued in the temple for nearly 40 years, were actually a rejection of Jesus, and an act of rebellion against God! After much long suffering and patience, God eventually stepped in to destroy the temple and leave it “desolate”.
10. This “desolation” would be accomplished by means of “the people of the prince who would come”. (v26) <>Note 6: In AD70 the Romans made war on Jerusalem, and captured the city, the Roman soldiers set up their standards on the site and offered sacrifices. Thus the predicted “abomination that made the temple desolate” was set up. The temple was first desecrated, then burnt and demolished, “leaving not one stone upon another”, exactly as Jesus prophesied. (Matthew 24:1-2) This was only the beginning of centuries of desolation reaching down to our own time. The current “desolating abomination” is the Dome of the Rock, which has been in place since AD691.
Note 7: For a similar use of language confirming this identification of the “abomination of desolation” see 1 Maccabees 4:54. In BC168, Antiochus Epiphanes set up an image of Zeus in the Temple and offered swine's flesh on the altar. The Jews understood this earlier event to be a different “abomination of desolation” fulfilling Daniel's prophecy of the 2300 “evening mornings”.
THE GOALS TO BE ACHIEVED DURING THE TIME SPAN OF THE PROPHECY
1. “To finish the transgression”. (v24)
At first glance it might be easy to write this off as something to do with the atonement. However I think there may be something else here, that requires a closer look. It seems more likely that it has something to do with the completion of the Jewish “catalogue of rebellion against God”.
Verses which have a similar meaning are :-
- Genesis 15:15. “The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” .
The iniquity of the Amorites was already great, but it wasn't over yet. God was not going to take away their land, until they had become completely wicked.
- Matthew 23:32 . “Fill up then the measure of your fathers”.
Jesus was reminding the Pharisees of their long history of rejection of the prophets sent by God. They were going to complete this rejection by one final action of rebellion. Their rejection of Jesus would finish the “ filling up of the measuring pot ”. See also the parable in Matthew 21:33-43. For this final act of rebellion in the 70th week, the kingdom would be taken from them and given to others. (just it was for the Amorites)
2. “To make an end of sins”. (V24)
- Acts 3:26 “God having raised up His servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your iniquities.”
This is a vital part of the Abrahamic covenant which Jesus confirmed during the 70th week, firstly by His preaching and then by His death. Their sins would come to an end when they believed Jesus, repented and began to live in accordance with His teachings about the way of life that pleases God.
3. “To make reconciliation for iniquity”. (V24)
This time the prophecy does speak directly about the atonement . The Hebrew word translated here as “reconciliation”, is “kaphar” . This more often translated either as “atonement” or “covering”. By the sacrificial offering of Jesus, in the 70th week, we are offered an opportunity to repent, be set free from the penalty of our sins, and be reconciled to God.
4. “To bring in everlasting righteousness”. (V24)
a. The animal sacrifices offered under the Law of Moses had to be repeated year after year. The sacrifice of Jesus, made once and for all time, can never be repeated. It is everlasting in its effectiveness.
b. But there is more. For those who respond to the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and who are trained by the grace of God to live “sober upright and godly lives (Titus 2:11-14) Jesus has “ abolished death and brought life and immortality to light .” (2 Timothy 1:10) At the resurrection, righteous lives will become everlasting righteous lives.
5. “To seal up the vision and the prophecy”.(V24)
When the 70 weeks were completed, the fulfilment of the prophecy would put God's seal on its authenticity.
6. “To anoint the most Holy”. (V24)
This is a reference to the consecration of the New Temple, comprised of “living stones”. It is a temple built up with “living stones” -- people. And Jesus is the “chief cornerstone”. (1 Peter 1:4-10 & 2 Corinthians 616-18))
THE MEANING OF “SEVENTY WEEKS” (When a “week” is more than seven days!)
The actual phrase used in the RSV translation Daniel 9:24, is “seventy weeks of years”, Other translations (KJV, NASB, NEB) say “seventy weeks”.
However, some commentators tell us that a literal rendition would be “ seventy sevens ”. The NIV translation uses this latter term.
In Hebrew, it seems that this term can mean either a week of days , or a week of years , depending on the context. The Jews did use language this way. Exodus 16:29, specifically refers to a week of seven literal days. On the other hand, Leviticus 25:2, refers to a “sabbath week” of seven years; and Leviticus 25:8 to a Jubilee of seven Sabbaths of years.
Daniel does not clearly specify whether he means literal weeks of days, or weeks of years . However the translators of some modern versions (RSV for instance) and most commentators, are agreed that in this place, the context clearly requires years .
Daniel's “seventy weeks” is actually seventy sabbatical year periods totalling 490 years.
For those who like to use the “year for a day method” (and for those who don't!) it adds up to the same thing.
FINDING THE STARTING POINT
Different history sources sometimes vary in the dates quoted for some events. However they seldom differ by more than a year. For this case, that doesn't shift the “ball park”. In the history recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah, there are actually FOUR “decrees” about the rebuilding of the TEMPLE and/or the city of Jerusalem.
1. 537 BC - THE FIRST YEAR OF KING CYRUS ( Ezra 1:1-5)
This was a decree to rebuild the Temple ..... not specifically the city of Jerusalem. However it is probably reasonable to assume that the two things are co-commitments.
This decree was revoked within a short time, by “Artaxerxes”, king of Persia. (Ezra 4:17-22)
(There is some doubt about the identity of this “Artaxerxes”. He is most likely Cambyses, who succeeded Cyrus and reigned from BC528-21)
2. 520 BC - THE SECOND YEAR OF DARIUS (Ezra 6:6-12)
Darius reinstated the decree of Cyrus to rebuild the temple (and we assume that the city is included).
3. 457 BC - THE SEVENTH YEAR OF ARTAXERXES (Ezra 7:1-28)
This decree did FOUR things.
a. It granted approval for Jewish priests in the Persian kingdom to go with Ezra to Jerusalem. b. It encouraged temple sacrifices.By officially restoring administration of civil law to Jewish control, this one completes what was lacking from either of the first two. And, as we shall see below, the time span does fit in a remarkable way. 4. 445 BC - THE 20TH YEAR OF ARTAXERXES ( Nehemiah 2:1-8)
Strictly speaking, this one is not a decree . Nehemiah requested permission to build the city. (v5) He requested letters authorising the work. He says that the king granted what he asked. (v8)
However, unlike the first three cases above, no decree is mentioned. What actually happened was that the King gave Nehemiah the requested letters which authorised repair of the gates of the fortress wall of the temple, and the wall of Jerusalem. (These had either not been properly rebuilt under any earlier decree, or had fallen into disrepair.)
For our purpose here, I suspect there is a distinct difference in meaning between the making of a royal decree , which becomes law, and merely writing a letter, which grants royal support for a limited project which took only 52 days to complete. (Nehemiah 6:15)
THE ARITHMETIC OF THE SEVENTY WEEKS (using the third decree as our start date)
If either of the first two decrees stand alone, they do not fit with any reasonable calculation arriving at the time of Jesus. They finish much too soon.
We will also ignore the fourth, for now. It also does not fit. It finishes much too late. ( but see Appendix 1 )
This third decree completes things which were left undone by either of the first two. It is the final legislation in what was effectually a decree made in t hree stages, beginning in BC520, and completed in BC457. We need to calculate from the date in which the last of the three stages was added to the first two.
And as we shall see, when we do that, the arithmetic fits in a marvellous way! Stay alert to see if you can follow the calculation outlined below.
Artaxerxes commenced to reign BC465 (Encyclopedia Britannica) or BC464 (Collier's Encyclopedia) For this calculation we will use the later date. Using this date, his 7th year begins in BC458.
Now we need another necessary assumption as to how Ezra is describing time. If, as seems likely, Ezra is using Jewish time , then this seventh year begins about October/November BC458, our time. Ezra arrived in Jerusalem in the 5th month of that same seventh year, which means early BC457. This would be the time when the king's orders were delivered to the lieutenants and governors of the province. (Ezra 8:36) It also qualifies as the time for the official “going forth of the decree”, on which we will base our calculations. (Logically, it hadn't “gone forth” until it was received and read. Complicated isn't it?)
Now add 483 years (69 weeks of years) 457 years from early in BC457 to the same time AD 1
26 years from early in AD1 to the same time AD27
This would mean that the 70th week started some time early in AD 27, immediately after the 69th week concluded in the same year.
Now, for another remarkable correlation, we need to turn our attention to :-
THE 15TH YEAR OF TIBERIUS CAESAR
Luke tells us that John the Baptist began his ministry in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar.
Tiberius began to reign as sole Emperor in August/September AD14 . However Encyclopedia Brittanica says that he was made joint ruler with Augustus in AD13.
If we choose the earlier date, the 15th year is AD27. If we choose the other it is AD28. For our purpose, there is no need to resolve a choice between the two dates. Either satisfactorily places the appearance of John the Baptist in the 15th year of Tiberius, after the end of the 69th week, and in the early part of the 70th week. The stage is set for “Messiah the prince” to appear.
At His baptism by John, still early in the 70th week, God anointedJesus with the Holy Spirit and declared Him as Son of God.(Luke 3:22 & Acts 10:38) With that declaration from God, Messiah the Prince had arrived precisely on time.
IN THE MIDST OF THE WEEK
We now need to look at what it means to be cut off “in the midst of the week”. This Jewish phrase can mean the exact middle of the week. However it does not always have to be interpreted quite so precisely. In Hebrew it might ALSO validly be translated as “some time during the week. (just as our English phrase “midweek” also means “somewhere closer to the middle than the start or finish of the week!)
It is noteworthy that using the phrase that way puts AD30 “midweek”. Of course no one can prove beyond all doubt that this is the Crucifixion year, but AD30 just happens to be one of the popular speculations for the date of the Crucifixion.
WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE WEEK?
Of course, if Jesus was “cut off” (put to death) part way through the 70th week, we are left to decide what to do with the remainder of the week. In the interest of “tidiness”, some have felt a need to assign some specific activity to the time.
One suggestion is that the last part of the week concluded with the Baptism of the Gentile Cornelius. However there is absolutely no way to prove that. Without some authentic confirmation, it is pure speculation.
The real answer is much simpler. We don't need to do anything with it!
The last few days of the week have no purpose. Once Jesus was crucified and risen, the work to be accomplished during the 70 weeks was concluded.
WERE THE GOALS OF THE PROPHECY ACHIEVED?
Yes! It all fits!
1. As a result of the combined three decrees, the temple and the city were rebuilt, and Jewish civil administration was restored. 2. In the 70th week, Jesus (Messiah the Prince) appeared, confirmed the covenant, and was “cut off”. 3. For the remainder of the week, (and for all time after) any further Mosaic sacrifices and offerings, ceased to be effective. 4. Nearly 40 years later, the people of the prince of Rome came like a flood. There was “war to the end”, until Jerusalem was captured and the temple was destroyed in AD70. 5. It was centuries later before it finally came to pass, but with the fall of the Roman Empire, the Desolator did come to his predicted end.
CONCLUSION One of God's many claims is that He alone has the ability to foretell the future. (Isaiah 44:6-8) This remarkable prophecy by Daniel is only one of many, which justify that claim. At the same time Daniel confirms the validity of the claims of Jesus to be the Jewish Messiah.
Daniel has other exciting prophecies which also demand attention.
Some are already fulfilled. Others speak to us of wonderful and fearful times still future. One of those contains a clear statement of the great Christian hope of the Resurrection.
Those prophecies of Daniel, which have already been fulfilled in amazing detail, underline the security of our hope of life beyond our time of sleep in the grave.
At that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall
be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of
the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and
everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness
of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars
for ever and ever.” (Daniel
APPENDIX 1 - THE ARITHMETIC OF THE SEVENTY WEEKS
(Using Nehemiah as the starting point)
There are many who prefer to use Nehemiah's 20th year of Artaxerxes, as their starting point. Futurists especially love to use this one as, by some methods of calculation, it offers more scope to separate the 70th week from the first 69, and relegate it to the convenient future.
Actually, unlike the first three, this “fourth decree” is not named as a decree at all. And although Nehemiah did request permission to build the city, he merely tells us that he was given “letters” authorising the governors of the provinces along the way, to let him pass through to Judah. There was also a letter authorising Asaph, the keeper of the king's forest. to give him timber to build gates for the fortress of the temple, the walls of the city, and the house which he would occupy. And we learn incidentally, that Nehemiah was appointed Governor for 12 years (Neh 5:14) and that the work he came to do was completed in 52 days. (Neh 6:16)
But none of this appears to qualify as a formal royal “decree to rebuild Jerusalem”.
There are some who manage to calculate the arithmetic to make the prophecy “fit”. However the methods and the results, sit far less “comfortably” than the third decree already discussed in the main paper. It requires the use of the “day for a year method”, together with either a 360 day prophetic year, or a lunar year 354 days.
For interest, the arithmetic is repeated here without endorsing its validity.
ALTERNATIVE 1 - Using Jewish Calendar years
483 calendar years from BC445 are completed in AD38. This is much too late. It doesn't fit at all.
ALTERNATIVE 2 - Using 360 day years
It works out this way :-
483 x360 = 173,880 days.
Divide 173,880 by 365 1/4 (to obtain the solar year equivalent) = 476 years and 21 days approx.
Starting from AD445, this would complete the 69th week in AD32
This seems much too late. It would require a crucifixion midweek in the 70th week, to be about AD 35. But you can see why the futurists like it! Since the 70th week would occur after the most commonly accepted date for a crucifixion in AD30, it allows them to make that preposterous postponement of the 70th week to the undetermined future.
ALTERNATIVE 3 - Using lunar years
Lunar years? Somehow, I just can't quite buy that! So please don't ask me to justify it! It is just that some people like to do it this way to make it (almost) fit.
A lunar year is 354.367 solar days.
483x 354.367 = 171,159.26 days
divide 171,159.26 by 365 1/4 = 468 years 219 days (219 days is a bit over 7 months)
In this case starting in AD445, the 69th week would finish in AD24 (or AD25, if the extra 7 months carry over into another year).
It doesn't quite make it, to fit well with Lukes date in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. Nor does it seem to fit with a reasonable date for the crucifixion.
And we still have to accept that improbable use of lunar years! Compared with using weeks of “standard” Jewish sabbatical years, it requires a very big speculative jump, which doesn't seem to have any scriptural basis at all.
My own conclusion is that the reference in Nehemiah is a side track, and that we should concentrate on the third decree in Ezra chapter 7, as the safest starting point.
1. Some of the dates quoted are based on a “best guess” after reviewing several authorities, who sometimes differ.
However, when they do differ it is mostly only by about one year.
2. Cyrus reigned over Persia from 550-529. However Ezra reckons the “first year of Cyrus” (Ezra 1:1) from the time when
Cyrus conquered Babylon and began to reign over Israel. This was BC538.
When Daniel says in Ch 5:30, that Darius the Mede reigned in place of Belshazzar, he cannot be referring to the same
Darius mentioned in Ezra 6:1. Daniel's Darius is most likely the name or title of a Persian governor appointed by Cyrus.
3. Cambyses is probably the Artaxerxes referred to in Ezra 4:7, who cancelled the decree of Cyrus.
4. The one year discrepancy between end of the reign of Cambyses and the beginning of Darius results from an attempt to usurp the throne. Darius, defeated the usurper and was chosen king in the year following his father's death.
Britannica gives a commencement date of BC465. Collier's Encyclopedia
says it was BC464. I have used Collier's date.