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Daniel’s Seventy Weeks-Daniel 9:24-27-The Backbone of Biblical Prophecy

Daniel was praying for the Jewish people whilst in Babylonian exile in the first year of Darius the son of Ahaseurus (Xerxes). He recognised the exact time he was living in, since Jeremiah had prophesied the seventy years of desolation in Jerusalem, which were then almost completed (2 Chronicles 36:21). The response from Gabriel unveils a dramatic, detailed and time specific prediction known as the ‘backbone of biblical prophecy’.

Seventy weeks were determined for the Jewish people and their city. The word ‘weeks’ is ‘shabua’ meaning ‘sevens’. We use the word ‘decade’ meaning ten years, it appears that Babylon might well have used a sexagesimal system (c.f. Daniel 3:1), and weeks refer to a period of seven years. Israel’s full restoration wouldn’t be at the end of seventy years but seventy weeks, or seventy sevens equalling 490 years.

The 490 years was further subdivided into 7 weeks, 62 weeks and the 70th week.

Daniel 9:24 gives an overview of Daniel 9:25-27

“Seventy weeks are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
To finish the transgression,
To make an end of sins,
To make reconciliation for iniquity,
To bring in everlasting righteousness,
To seal up vision and prophecy,
And to anoint the Most Holy.

At the risk of stating the obvious, six reasons are given why 70 weeks are determined, namely to finish the transgression, make an end of sins, make reconciliation for iniquity, bring in everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy.

Daniel 9:25-27 reads as follows:

“Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times.

26 “And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.”

Various Interpretations Offered

Concerning the seventy weeks Rashi wrote:

 so that Israel should receive their complete retribution in the exile of Titus and his subjugation, in order that their transgressions should terminate, their sins should end, and their iniquities should be expiated, in order to bring upon them eternal righteousness and to anoint upon them (sic) the Holy of Holies: the Ark, the altars, and the holy vessels, which they will bring to them through the king Messiah. The number of seventy weeks is four hundred and ninety years. The Babylonian exile was seventy [years] and the Second Temple stood four hundred and twenty [years].[i]

Let us all also consider some other views.

The Early Church-some say it relates partly to end times whilst most say it relates to Messiah.

Liberal Scholars-contest the date when Daniel was written and relate much of it to Antiochus Epiphanes sacrificing a pig on the altar, (though the timing is out).

Jewish Interpreters-often read Messiah as ‘anointed one’ such as Cyrus or other rulers. Though for some Jewish people, this has led them to faith in Yeshua the Messiah.

Amillennial Commentary-Sees most of these events as fulfilled with varying views on v27

Premillennial Commentary-Views many of these events concerning Jesus as Messiah and note that specifically between Daniel 9:26a-b there is a gap of years known as a time parenthesis, hence v27 is future and concerns the Tribulation.

This article agrees with the premillennial view since it is the only view that fits all the details precisely and in its exact context.

The Decree to Restore and Build Jerusalem

Regarding the decree there are four possible decrees proposed.

1.That of Cyrus (2 Chronicles 26:22-23; c.f. Ezra 1:1-4)

2. That of Darius (Ezra 6:6-17-a repeat of the Cyrus decree)

3. That of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:11-26)

4. That of the ‘other’ Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:1-9)

So in view of the four proposed decrees, how can we determine which one relates to Daniel 9:24-27? Notice in Daniel 9:25 the decree involves restoring and building Jerusalem plus the street and the wall. The open square (street), wall (moat), would be built in troublesome times. This appears to tie in with the decree in Nehemiah 2 involving Nehemiah’s building project which included the difficulties of building with tools in one hand whilst simultaneously having and sword in the other at the ready (Nehemiah 4:17-18).

Therefore most evangelical conservative expositors state it was 483 years (69 weeks) from the decree in Nehemiah 2 until Messiah the Prince. This was when Yeshua (Jesus) entered Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of a donkey and he was praised with shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest (Matthew 21:9b)!”

After the  62 weeks Messiah would be cut off (killed). This foretells the exact timing of the crucifixion. This also ties in perfectly with Isaiah 53:8 which describes the Messiah “For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.” Before the temple was destroyed the Messiah would be revealed and also killed.

Rabbi Leopold Cohn was born in 1862. His parents died when he was just seven years of age and his father-in law passed away in the year after he was married. He turned to the Scriptures for answers and journeyed to the States. He stumbled on a large meeting with hundreds of Jewish people and initially he found the meeting offensive. The preacher gave him a Brit Hadasha (New Testament) in Hebrew. Interestingly though, it was Daniel 9 that spoke to him especially. He knew that Messiah had to have come before the temple was destroyed. He subsequently became a believer in Yeshua the Messiah and led many people to the Lord.[ii]

The Backbone of Biblical Prophecy

Why is Daniel 9:24-27 the backbone of biblical prophecy? Daniel 9:26 fits perfectly with the Olivet Discourse and when Yeshua predicts the destruction of the temple in the preceding couple of verses.

“Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down (Matthew 24:1-2).”

You can also read the above in Mark 13:1-2 and Luke 21:5-6. Jesus then moves from talking about the destruction of the temple to the end times. There is a gap in time in the subject discussed between Matthew 24:2 and Matthew 24:3 in the same way as in Daniel 9:26 and Daniel 9:27. This is known as a time parenthesis. In further confirmation Jesus speaks of the abomination of desolation as spoken by Daniel the prophet in Matthew 24:15.

“Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains (Daniel 24:15-16).”

This time gap or parenthesis is not unprecedented. In Luke 4, Yeshua preached from Isaiah 61 at a  synagogue in Nazareth concerning Himself. Noticeably He quoted only as far as Isaiah 61:1-3 (c.f. Luke 4:16-21 as the following verses from Isaiah were and still are future.

The Prince to Come

The subject of this time parenthesis shifts from the Prince to the prince to come, from Messiah to the antichrist.

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;
But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate (Daniel 9:27).”

The antichrist will enter into a treaty for one week (seven years). In the middle of the week he will bring an end to sacrifice and offering (after 3.5yrs). This would be like Antiochus Epiphanes but sadly even worse. This is known as the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 31:15) or the Tribulation. Antichrist will want to usurp Messiah and will want to be worshipped, just like Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12-21).

This also ties in with Revelation. Chapters 6 to 19 of revelation relate to the Tribulation. The middle of the ‘week’ is three and a half years. How can one be so certain and precise regarding the duration of the three and a half years?

Daniel 7:25 confirms the saints shall be given into his hand for a time, times and half a time.

Revelation 11:2 states that the holy city will be trod underfoot for forty- two months.

Revelation 12:5 states that Israel will flee into the wilderness for 1260 days.

How will it all End?

To ascertain how end time events will unfold it is only possible to determine this through the Bible since the Lord knows the end from the beginning whilst we are finite. The Seventieth week will come to an end. God at times permits what he hates to accomplish His purposes and that which He loves. God permits the Tribulation though will ultimately triumph. This vital prophecy foretells the timing of Messiah’s coming, the death of Messiah, the destruction of Jerusalem, the brief reign of the antichrist and the Tribulation.

Amidst the upheaval, turmoil and heartache, God answered Daniel’s prayer. You may be confounded by world events or dismayed by leaders or currently facing personal turmoil or numerous troubles or perils. God answers in a timely, precise way and Yeshua the Messiah will return to the Mount of Olives in the same way that He ascended to heaven (Acts 1:11).

Daniel’s seventy weeks demonstrates that God is working systematically through His timeline. For some of us we may feel that events in our lives are beyond our control and happened too early. For others we are anxiously waiting for events to unfold for the better. Ultimately God’s timing is perfect and there is a time for every purpose under heaven. Today, however is the day of salvation. Blessed are those who turn to, trust and follow Yeshua the Messiah as their Lord and Saviour.

[i] The Complete Jewish Bible with Rashi Commentary