Daniel’s 70 Weeks

 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.  And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.  Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.  And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”  Daniel 9:24-27

God gave Daniel one of the most important prophecies in all of Scripture.  At the time, Daniel was in exile in Babylon.  He had been studying the scriptures, and from the book of Jeremiah knew that the 70-year time of captivity should soon be done.  The captivity was a result of Israel’s refusing to allow the land its’ Sabbath rest (Leviticus 25:1-7).  God was giving the land its’ rest Himself (2 Chronicles 36:21).  After this period of captivity, Israel (for the most part, except for portions of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) remained in rebellion to God – their punishment for this may be described through 430 Days of Laying by Ezekiel.

While Daniel was still praying, God sent the angel Gabriel to bring Daniel an answer to his prayer:

Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city

Seventy weeks uses the Hebrew term “weeks” or “sevens”, which is a period of 7 years (much like our decade is a period of 10 years).  Seventy sets of seven years, or 70 weeks of years, is 490 years.  This time period concerns Daniel’s people (Israel) and his holy city (Jerusalem).

to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place

Here we have the purpose of the entire 70 week period:

To finish the transgression: This says that transgression itself will be finished. Taken literally, this means establishing an entirely new order on earth, with an end to man’s rebellion against God.

To make an end of sins: Taking these words at face value, this means not only the end of the guilt of sin, but an end of sin itself. It means to “seal up” or to “restrain” sins. This looks to a new, redeemed world.

To make reconciliation for iniquity: Man’s iniquity must be reconciled to God’s justice and holiness. This work was clearly accomplished at the cross.

To bring in everlasting righteousness: One might take this in an individual sense, but there have always been righteous individuals. Taking the statement at face value, this means a new order of society brought in by the Messiah.

To seal up vision and prophecy: This speaks of both the ending and fulfillment of prophecy, concluding the final stage of human history and culminating with the reign of the Son of God. 

To anoint the most holy: Taken at its simple, literal meaning, this refers to a place, not a person. There is a most holy place – the most holy place of the temple – that will be anointed and blessed.

(from Enduring Word)

Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem

There are several dates that can be considered here:

  1. The decree of King Cyrus of Persia in 538 BC – recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:23, Ezra 1:1-4, Ezra 5:13-17, Ezra 6:1-5.  It was given for rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem; no mention is given of rebuilding the city.
  2. The decree of King Darius in 517-520 BC, confirming the decree of King Cyrus – recorded in Ezra 6:6-12.  There was some question on if the Jews had permission to rebuild their temple, and Darius confirmed the original decree given by Cyrus, allowing the work to continue.
  3. The decree of King Artaxerxes of Babylon in 458/457 BC – recorded in Ezra 7:11-26.  This decree allowed Ezra and other Israelites to return to Israel.  Ezra was allowed to take back the Temple articles as well as supplies to restart Temple worship.  Interestingly, King Artaxerxes received word that the Jews were also restoring the walls and foundations of Jerusalem and commanded this work to stop (Ezra 4:21).  God needed to stop the work at this time, so that the coming of the anointed one would be exactly at the time decreed.
  4. The decree of King Artaxerxes in 445 BC – recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-9, 17-18.  Here, Nehemiah requests to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the city, and he is granted this request.  This word from Artaxerxes is the fulfillment of Daniel’s vision, and is the only one involving the rebuilding of the walls of the city.  Nehemiah receives letters of support to confirm this word.  Permission is granted to restore and rebuild Jerusalem in the 20th year of the reign of King Artaxerxes Longimanus of Babylon in the month of Nisan.

For an excellent explanation of the Hebrew word “dabar”, which is the decree/word in question here, please see this link: Red Moon Rising by Peter Goodgame.

to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.  

Jerusalem was indeed rebuilt “in a troubled time”, as recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  Israel was to look for their anointed one, a prince, their Messiah, in 7+62 “weeks” from the decree issued in 445 BC.  69 weeks of years = 483 years.

The word to restore and build Jerusalem was given by King Artaxerxes in the month of Nisan in the 20th year of his reign.  Nisan 1 in his 20th year of his reign corresponds to March 14, 445 BC.  We learn from several places that a prophetic year is 360 days long.

483 years x 360 days = 173, 880 days

173, 880 days / 365.25 day-years = 476.06 years

445 BC – 476.06 years + 1 (no “year 0”) = 32 AD

Jesus was born somewhere around 3-4 BC.  He was baptized in 28 AD.  Throughout His ministry, Jesus publicly concealed His identity as the Son of God, wishing for Israel to consider who He was for themselves.  Jesus did not publicly declare Himself to be the Messiah until He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, right before His crucifixion.

Jesus deliberately arranged to enter Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the 10th of Nisan, 32 AD in fulfillment of Messianic prophecy (Zechariah 9:9, Psalm 118:26, Daniel 9:25).  On that day, he rode in to Jerusalem on a donkey while the crowd cheered Him on as the Messiah.  This was exactly 173, 880 days after Artaxerxes gave word to rebuild Jerusalem.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  (Zechariah 9:9)

Some did, indeed, recognize Jesus as fulfilling this prophecy:

And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road.  As he was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen,  saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”  And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it,  saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.  For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side  and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:36-44)

Although they may have recognized Him as Messiah, they were confused when He didn’t fulfill their expectations of conquering their enemies and ushering in the Messianic Kingdom at that time.  Thus, a mere 4 days later, they crucified Him.

The first 69 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy were completed at the triumphal entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday in the city of Jerusalem – the coming of the Anointed One.

And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing.

After the 7+62 weeks (483 years), the Anointed One shall be cut off.  The KJV reads “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself”.  This cutting off, but not for himself, is Jesus’ death for all of mankind.  The NLT reads “the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing”.  Jesus’ death came as a shocking blow to His followers, and appeared to be a great victory for satan.  Of course, this turned out to be the greatest victory for God, as He defeated the power of sin and death through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  This fulfills the reconciliation for iniquity, and provides for an end for sin and brings in everlasting righteousness for individual believers.  The complete fulfillment is yet future.

John MacArthur writes about this phrase:

“And after,” now watch that word “after”, “after threescore and two weeks,” that is, you’ve got the seven and then the threescore and two, after 69 weeks, “shall Messiah be…what?…cut off.” Now listen, now watch this, it doesn’t say during the 69 weeks, it says what? After.  Now this is essential to complete the prophecy. There is yet one more week left. But before you get to that week, look at verse 27, there you have one week. Do you see it? “He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week.” Before you get to the one week, you have a gap in verse 26. Now mark that in your mind. There is a gap there.

That is utterly essential to the understanding of this prophecy. The 70 weeks did not run sequentially right through the seventieth week. Now you shouldn’t be shocked by that because such gaps are very common in prophecy, aren’t they?

But look with me now at this verse 26. “After the seven and, “you always add the seven in from verse 25, “and then the 62, or the 69, shall Messiah be cut off.” Now the verb “to be cut off” means “to kill,” or “to destroy.” It is used that way in Genesis 9:11, in Deuteronomy 20:20, in Jeremiah 11:19. It means “to kill.” It literally says after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be killed.

Now, any Jew that knew his Scripture would not then say that the preaching of the cross is foolishness because he would know his Messiah had to die. But they couldn’t handle that. They couldn’t fathom that. The Bible says that to them the cross was a stumbling block. They could not perceive a crucified Messiah.

Let me take it a step further. This word in the Hebrew, “to be cut off,” is used at least three places in the Old Testament, that I found, Leviticus 7:20, Proverbs 2:22, Psalm 37:9, to speak of execution of a person given the death penalty for a crime. Messiah will not only die, He will die as a criminal would die. Now, folks, that’s a pretty narrow, pretty accurate, specific prophecy, isn’t it?

Here is Daniel saying 69 weeks will pass and after that, Messiah will be executed as a criminal. That’s what he says. There’s no other way to interpret it. How could anybody miss the fact that 69 weeks to the very day, Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the Messiah the Prince and after that, He was executed as a common criminal? Just exactly what Daniel said would happen. Hard to think of, tragic, that they would wait all those centuries for their Messiah and then miss the whole thing and hate Him and despise Him. Incredible.

But you know You say, “Well, maybe that Daniel’s passage was a little obscure.” No, they could have read Psalm 22 and Psalm 22 gives you a detail by detail outline of every event of the crucifixion. It even talks about when they gambled for His garment. Or they could have read Isaiah…what?…fifty-three where it describes Him as a sheep led to slaughter. It’s all there. The Old Testament said it would be so.”

And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.

The people of the prince who is to come, the Romans, destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.   Titus, the Roman prince who was still to come in Daniel’s time, opposed the destruction of the Temple and tried to stop it 3 times while his people destroyed it.  It was literally the “people” of the “prince who was to come” who actually destroyed the Temple.    This verse may be specifically describing that it was the people, not the prince, who was acting because that would have been very unusual (normally armies follow the commands of their leaders).

Because Israel did not recognize the time of their visitation by the Messiah, they entered into judgment from God and the complete fulfillment of the 70 weeks was postponed.  In essence, the 70 week clock was paused between the 69th and 70th weeks. In the interim, the mystery of the grafting-in of Gentiles into a newly-formed “church body” would be fulfilled:

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25)

Once the fullness of the Gentiles has come in to the new covenant (the New Testament covenant of Jesus’ blood), this partial hardening will be released, the 70 week clock will be unpaused, and the 70th week will begin.

Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. 

The end shall come with a flood – this compares the 70th week to be “as in the days of Noah”.  We see this comparison made by Jesus in the gospels (Luke 17, Matthew 24).  Jesus also tells us that the entire church age will be filled with wars and rumors of wars, but the end “is not yet”.  War itself, however, will continue until the end, as the final “week of years” will be marked by “nation rising against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”.  These wars are detailed elsewhere in Daniel, Ezekiel 38-39, Isaiah 17, and Psalm 83.

Desolations are decreed.  

“Desolation” is a noun, referring to complete emptiness or destruction; anguished misery or loneliness; devastation, hopelessness, despair.  (dictionary.com)  The end, that comes like a flood, will be a time of destruction, misery, devastation, and despair.

And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, 

Here we have the definition of the starting point of the 70th week!  “He” shall make a “strong covenant with many” for “one week”.  The “one week” is easy – that’s a week of years, the final 7 years concerning Israel and Jerusalem.  The making of the “strong covenant with many” is a little trickier.  This covenant seems to be specifically made for 7 years.  We know this because there is a reference to “half the week”, which is a period of 3.5 years.  This 3.5 years is further referenced as 1260 days or 42 months.  If the covenant was open-ended, there would be no “half the week”.  I have read that the covenant may be open-ended or “eternal”, but God is telling us that it will last for only “one week”.  This may be supported by the verse that the antichrist will “seek to change the times and the law” (Daniel 7:25), but we know that God will cut short his days and he will come to his decreed end (Matthew 24:22).

The covenant may be a new covenant, or it may be a strengthened pre-existing covenant.  We are not told what this covenant involves, but it will likely include Old Testament-style Jewish worship and sacrifices in a rebuilt Third Temple in some fashion.  We know this because in the same sentence, sacrifice and offering is ended – which means it must have been occurring as part of the “strong covenant”.  The strong covenant must include the people of Israel, but it might include others as well.  The covenant may be initiated by Israel (who will all of a sudden be in a position of strength once God rises up to protect her), or it may be initiated by the “he”.

Why is making a covenant so bad?  Why does it seem to incite God’s wrath so?  When leading Israel to their promised land for the first time, God repeatedly commands the Israelites not to enter into covenant with the nations or peoples around them.

 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. (Exodus 23:32; Exodus 34:12; Deuteronomy 7:2).

God knew that if Israel made covenants with the peoples around them, they would fall into spiritual idolatry, which is exactly what ended up happening.  History often repeats itself, and this covenant that Israel will make with “he” and the “many” will also lead to spiritual harlotry.  The covenant also may offer compromise on the Promised Land, which isn’t theirs to give.  The holy land belongs to God and is His alone to allot and possess.

Now, the trickiest question of all – Who is the “he” that makes the strong covenant with many?  Is the “he” the “prince who is to come” described in the previous verse?  Since the people who destroyed Jerusalem were the Romans, many see the prince as being from a revived Roman empire of sorts.  But does it have to be so?  When the Romans destroyed the second temple in 70AD, it was truly the “people of the prince” who destroyed the temple.  This was despite the “prince”, Titus, issuing a command 3 times for them to specifically NOT destroy the temple.  Thus, this passage was completely fulfilled already, in 70AD.

It seems most probable that we are introduced to a new player at this point, similar to how other passages morph from describing a present-day king into describing satan (Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 14).  The sudden change is logical, given that there is a huge chronological gap in time (almost 2000 years).  This type of leap is common in Old Testament prophecies, including those of the Messiah.

No matter his nationality, this “he” is clearly pointing to the antichrist, who will appear upon the world scene as soon as the “Restrainer” is removed (2 Thessalonians 2).  I say “pointing to” because it is also possible that the “he” might instead be the false prophet.  Like John the Baptist pointed to Jesus Christ, the antichrist will have a sidekick who will support him.

All we can say for certain is that someone arises on the scene with the power to make a strong covenant with Israel, and she accepts.  This is detestable to God, as Israel is never to make a covenant with the Gentile nations around them.

and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.

Again, the “he” here could refer to the antichrist or to his false prophet.  One of them will put an end to sacrifice and offering.  Regardless of who the “he” was, the “one who makes desolate” is clearly the antichrist himself.  Abomination, the Hebrew word (shiqquwts), is connected to horrific idolatry.  Israel will commit horrific idolatry against God with the antichrist.  It appears that the majority of them (2/3 – Zechariah 13:8) embrace the antichrist as their Messiah, after rejecting their true Messiah (Jesus) 2000 years ago (John 5:43).  During the 70th week:

  • Israel will sign a covenant of some type; this will initiate the 70th week
  • The Third Temple will be rebuilt, at least the inner sanctuary, and Old Testament-style sacrifices will be resumed.
  • An “antichrist” will come on the scene, and 1260 days after the covenant-signing, either he or his false prophet will stop sacrifice and offering.
  • The “antichrist” will take over the Temple and proclaim to be “god”.
  • This proclamation to be “god” and the seating of himself in the Temple and displaying his image will be an abomination to the true God.  Jesus calls this the “abomination of desolation as spoken of by the prophet Daniel” (Matthew 24:15-21).
  • This “abomination of desolation” will initiate the worst persecution – desolation – of believers in the One True God that has ever been or ever will be.
  • The “antichrist’s” power over the saints will be for 1260 days, at which point his end is poured out at the Battle of Armageddon.
  • A believing remnant of Israelites will be protected in the wilderness during this time of intense persecution.

At the end of the 70th week, Jesus Christ will return at the Second Coming, to fight the Battle of Armageddon.  The antichrist and false prophet will be cast in the lake of fire, and satan and his demons will be locked in the abyss.  The “sheep and goats judgment” will follow, with the Temple being restored and anointed after that.  This will usher in the Millennial Kingdom rule and finish the transgression, put an end to sin, atone for iniquity, bring in everlasting righteousness,  seal both vision and prophet, and anoint a most holy place.  (Daniel 9:24)

The purpose of the 70th week of Daniel is to bring Israel to repentance and acceptance of Jesus as their true Messiah.

And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”  (Romans 11:26-27)

 

Suggested Further Reading:

Enduring Word – Bible Commentary Daniel 9

Red Moon Rising – A Study of the 70 Weeks (Chapter 9) – Peter Goodgame

The 70 Weeks of Daniel – Jack Kelley

Main Menu – God’s Mosaic Prophecy Model

 The Bible is infallible.  I am not.  Be a Berean – examine the scriptures for yourself to see if these things are so!

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