Daniel’s Prophecy of Seventy Sevens


Daniel’s Prophecy of Seventy Sevens

 

Introduction

There has never been a more prophetic plan revealed to us in all the Old Testament than in Daniel 9:24-27.  In these verses outlines the desolation of Jerusalem from start to completion.  Scholars have spent years if not lifetimes of study in the depths of these scriptures.  God reveals the prophecy of seventy weeks through the angel Gabriel in a dream to Daniel.  In these very captivating words of scripture are some of the most confusing references to time and prophecy.  The intention of this paper will be to try and apply a simplistic approach to confusing scripture without getting too buried in theological exegesis.  We will apply a formula that can be followed throughout these versus and allow you to understand the prophecy.  In analyzing several translations of scripture and utilizing and easy to understand method of biblical exegesis; we will take ourselves back into Daniel’s prophetic dream that is divinely inspired by God.

Daniel’s 490 Years (v.24-27)

These passages of scripture can be very confusing to most people if you do not understand how the numbers are added.  Daniel is given this message by the angel Gabriel.  Many commentators have tackled this calendar.  They have attempted to explain it in both an easy to understand and technical perspective.  The first thing to understand is that when Gabriel is refereeing to a “week” duration of time, he is refereeing to a period of seven years.  Instead of having seven days in week, like we know it; Gabriel is referring to each day of the week as a year.  When we call it Daniel’s seventy weeks, it would be more accurate to say Daniels seventy sets of seven years.  You could also call this duration of time, Daniel’s four-hundred and ninety years.  In order to best understand the calculation of days, we will be using a three-hundred and sixty prophetic days as a calendar year.  Some scholars teach that this would be incorrect to interpret as three-hundred and sixty and we should utilize a three-hundred and sixty five prophetic day figure.  Steven Miller unconvincingly argues that, “Though in some instances of prophecy, notably Daniel and Revelation, a year is rounded off to 360 days.”[1]  The largest issue with Millers statement is why would Daniel or John utilize a different time frame for year?  It makes no sense that Daniel would chose a different time frame for lengths of the year, even when scholars who object acknowledge the use of a three-hundred and sixty prophetic day calendar.  Utilizing the scripture of Daniel and revelations to support this time frame is why we will continue to remain with a three-hundred and sixty prophetic day’s calendar year.  In this passage of scripture, we will be dividing the seventy weeks into three periods of time.  The first period will be seven weeks or forty-nine years, which is equal to seventeen-thousand six-hundred and forty days.  The second period will be sixty-two weeks or four-hundred and thirty-four years, which is equal to one-hundred and fifty-six thousand two-hundred and forty days.  The third period will be one week or seven years, which is equal to two-thousand five-hundred and twenty days.

Gabriel declares the “sevens” (v.24)

Daniel 9:24, “”Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”[2]

When we look at these versus, you are drawn to trying to find out how anyone could come up with the timeframes we have covered.  If we are to take Gabriel in literal terms, the timeframes do not make sense in the context of these versus.  The Hebrew word for weeks is šā·ḇū·a‘.  The NIV Bible translates this word into “sevens,” but it is not the only translation that does so.  This translation of šā·ḇū·a‘, is how we interpret the term “weeks;” as a group of “sevens.”  Goodrick and Kohlenberger state that,” šā·ḇū·a‘ is a week (a time period of seven; a unit of time used in the book of Daniel.”[3]  If we are to apply “days of seven,” or “months of seven,” the context of scripture would not support it.  In other words, there is no other biblical support in other verses to suggest that we could arrive at either one of those designations of seven.  Miller asserts, “Therefore in scripture, only two types of weeks or sevens are mentioned – sevens of days and sevens of years. All agree that days is not a valid option in this context; only sevens of years.”[4]  When we assert the Hebrew to English translation of šā·ḇū·a‘, we can now understand how “years of seven” terminology has been developed.  The calendar used during Daniel’s time was not the Gregorian calendar we use today.  They were using the Hebrew calendar.  It is very important to understand to whom Gabriel was speaking about in verse 24.  When we look back at the verses that precede verse 24, we can now have a better understanding of whom Gabriel was speaking about.  Daniel was crying out to the Lord and was very apprehensive with his nation and people.  Daniel 9:16 states, “O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.”[5]  This verse helps us to understand that Daniel was pleading for mercy for his people and Jerusalem.  Daniel was well aware that the people deserved God’s punishment.  We also see in Daniel 9:20 that Daniel states, “While I was speaking, praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my petition before Yahweh my God concerning the holy mountain of my God—“[6]  From these verses it is very concise to connect that Gabriel is speaking of Daniel’s people and Jerusalem.  Warren Wiersbe stated, “Keep in mind that these years relate specifically to Daniel’s people, the Jews, and their Holy City, Jerusalem.”[7]  Gabriel was very specific with the goals God is establishing during this time.  Ed Hindson asserts, “He listed six restoration goals that He would accomplish during this time: (1) ‘to finish the transgression,’ (2) ‘to make an end of sins,’ (3) ‘to make atonement for iniquity,’ (4) ‘to bring in everlasting righteousness,’ (5) ‘to seal up vision and prophecy,’ and (6) ‘to anoint the most holy place.’”[8]  All of these goals must be completed for the seventy weeks prophecy to reach its fulfillment.  Hindson states, “The first three goals relate to the sins of national Israel, and the final three goals have to do with her salvation.”[9]  Scholars have debated for years as how to ascertain the completion of these goals.  However, scripture supports that these goals were an answer to Daniels prayer to God.   No matter which way we apply these six goals, we know that they will all be fulfilled during the seventy weeks or 490 years.  Wiersbe supports this view in stating, “Ultimately, Israel’s sins will be forgiven (Zech. 12:10-13:1), the city of Jerusalem will be rebuilt, and the temple and its ministry will be restored, all because of the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross.”[10]

 

The Decree of Artaxerxes in 445 (v. 25)

Daniel 9:25, “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.”[11]

At this point a decree is made to rebuild Jerusalem.  This is a mark of the starting point of the seventy sevens.  In this verse we can acknowledge several translations of the Hebrew word, dā·ḇār.  The context of the verse delineates how the usage of this word is formed in the verse.  Goodrick and Kohlenberger define dā·ḇār as, “a word, what is said, commandment, and or decree,”[12] and many other definitions apply to it as well.  Depending on the translation you may see it as the following phrases: “the word,” NIV; “the command,” NLT; “a decree,” NASB; and “the commandment,” KJV.  This decree focusses around the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem.  In this verse alone we cannot discern when the issuing of this decree was made.  However, there are some scriptures that help to understand a possible point of origin for this decree.  Scholars have presented three possible points of origin: (1) the decree of Cyrus in 538; (2) the decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra in 457; and (3) the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah in 444.

 

The decree of Cyrus has been interpreted by many scholars to a decree of restoring the temple in Jerusalem, as opposed to focus of the decree in Daniel being on the city of Jerusalem.  However, when we apply the math in the three-hundred and sixty prophetic day format it does not lead us to the cutting off of the Messiah and therefore we are omitting it.  The second and third points have very similar merit and depending on how we interpret the calendar year in prophetic days change the application the triumphal entry.  In order to differentiate which starting point to use, we will apply the math of the first two periods together and look into which starting point leads us to the triumphal entry.   The first period has seven weeks and the second period has sixty-two weeks; which equal to sixty-nine weeks.  Sixty-nine weeks multiplied by seven years brings us to four-hundred and eighty-three years.  From this point we can apply four-hundred and eighty-three years multiplied by three-hundred and sixty prophetic days to sum up to one-hundred and seventy-three thousand eight-hundred and eight days.  When we add these days to each starting point (538, 457, 444) and take into account the year zero; the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah in 444 is the best point of origin.  Ed Hindson states, “The 483 years began with Artaxerxes’ decree to Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in 444 B.C. and ended with the death of Christ in A.D. 33.”[13]  The Anointed One is Jesus the Messiah.  All four gospels reference Jesus anointing with the Holy Spirit.  Walter Russell states, “All four gospels speak of Jesus’ anointing (baptism) with the Holy Spirit as the beginning of His ministry as the Christ (Mt. 3:13-17; Mk. 1:9-11; Lk 3:21-22; Jn. 1:32-34).”[14]  The reference to “streets and a trench,” is depicting the Jerusalem as a completely functional city.

Jesus rejected and crucified (v. 26)

Daniel 9:26, “After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.”[15]

Gabriel tells Daniel that after the second period of sixty-two weeks that the Messiah will be killed and have nothing.  Wiersbe states of this first sentence, “This speaks of His rejection by the Jewish nation (Jn. 1:11; Lk. 13:33-35) and His crucifixion as a criminal, turned over to the Roman authorities by His own people and one of His own disciples.”[16]  In some translations you will see the phrase, “the Messiah will be cut off,” used in place of “the Anointed One will be killed.”  In either case we arrive at the same conclusion.  Even if we used a different starting point, all the paths had to lead to this climactic event.  As far reaching as some scholars try to be at reaching a determination on the math and analysis; almost all of them bring the first two periods to this point in scripture. Miller states, “Historically the next destruction of Jerusalem and the temple after the Babylonian period was that perpetrated by the Romans.”[17]  This occurred in A.D. 70 and leads us into the third period.  At this point we have only covered the first three goals which cover sin and now we are about to enter the last three goals of salvation.

The Millennial Restoration (v. 27)

Daniel 9:27, “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”[18]

Gabriel gives Daniel that last period of seven years in verse 27, but has connected it with verse 26 by means of the Antichrist.   The ruler who will arise will be the Antichrist, but more than likely people will not recognize him.  Hindson states, “The Antichrist will arise during the Tribulation. He may be in a position of power before the rapture, but people will not recognize him as the Antichrist until the Tribulation (2Thessalonians 2:6,8).”[19]  We can clearly see in verse 27 that the individual who will set up an abomination that causes desolation is the Antichrist.  This is a desecration of the temple that allows us to see the Antichrist trying to pose himself as a fake Messiah in order to fool the world.  When the temple is rebuilt at the half-way point around three and half years, this will introduce us to the final signal of the Messiah’s return.  A wicked and evil ruler will rise and will set desolation upon the Temple and signal God’s final judgment.

 Footnotes


[1]. Stephen R. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary NIV, Vol. 18 (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 1994).

[2]. C Walter, ed., Archaeological Study Bible: NIV (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005).

[3]. Edward W. Goodrick and John R. Kohlenberger III, The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990).

[4]. Miller, Daniel.

[5]. C.I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Study Bible: KJV (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1909).

[6]. Ted Cabel et al., eds., The Apologetics Study Bible: HCSB (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007).

[7]. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Complete Old Testament in One Volume (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007).

[8]. Ed Hindson and Tim LaHaye, eds., The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004).

[9]. Ibid.

[10]. Wiersbe, The Complete Old Testament in One Volume.

[11]. Walter, Archaeological Study Bible: NIV.

[12]. Goodrick and Kohlenberger, The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance.

[13]. Hindson and LaHaye, The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy.

[14]. Russell et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: HCSB.

[15]. Walter, Archaeological Study Bible: NIV.

[16]. Wiersbe, The Complete Old Testament in One Volume.

[17]. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary NIV, Vol. 18.

[18]. Walter, Archaeological Study Bible: NIV.

[19]. Hindson and LaHaye, The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy.

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