Introduction

There is no prophetic Biblical book more important than the book of Daniel. Its imagery resonates throughout the entire New Testament. John used it; Paul used it; even Jesus used it! Why such a focus on Daniel’s prophetic vision? The answer is simply: “No portion of the Old Testament unlocks the mysteries of God’s prophetic plan for Israel and the nations as much as the book of Daniel.”  [1] It almost seems that the Daniel prophecies are the keys to understanding all of Biblical prophecy. Perhaps, the most important key is to be found in the passage commonly referred to as the 70 Weeks Prophecy. The passage is found in Daniel 9: 24-27:

 “Seventy ‘sevens’[weeks]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.

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. 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. 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.”

One cannot help but be struck by the awesomeness of the prophecy. It simultaneously invokes a response of both dejection and hope. Ford expresses the incredible force of the prose in the introduction to his book on the passage in this manner, “Even if read with a cigarette in one hand and a vodka in the other, with feet up and the TV on, this passage is very impressive.”[2] Clearly, this passage resonates; but what does it mean?

Context

Before delving into actually exegesis on the passage, it would be helpful to first understand the context in which it is written. By the time Daniel received the prophecy of the 70 weeks, he was well advanced in years. He was probably about 14 or 15 when he was taken into Babylonian captivity in 605 B.C.[3] According to Daniel, himself, the prophecy came to him during the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede which occurred sometime around 538 B.C. (Daniel 9:1). At this point in his life, Daniel had earned the favor of both God and several rulers from both the Babylonian and Medo-Persian empires. Being in retirement, and having formerly been a chief advisor for numerous kings within the two empires gave him the time and resources needed to soak himself into the Hebrew scriptures.

As he saturated himself in the writings of the prophets, Daniel came to understand that his contemporary Jeremiah had predicted that the exile of the Jewish people would last for seventy years. (V.2). The time of captivity was nearly at an end. It would have soon become evident for a person of Daniel’s intelligence that the Israelites in captivity were not ready. They had not turned their heart back to God. It seems reasonable to assume that many of them had become integrated with the culture and society in which they found themselves. Indeed, Jeremiah had told them to do just that within his seventy-year exile prophecy. As Bargerhuff explains:

“Jeremiah is so moved by the thought of this terrible reality that he decides to write a letter to those who will at least survive the initial trip into exile. He has a word from the Lord, who wants to prepare them and their descendants for the next seventy years in Babylon (modern-day Iraq). Though it will never be their true home and they will be forced into slavery, the Lord nevertheless encourages them to settle in, build houses, plant gardens, marry, and have children—to make the best of a bad situation.”[4]

This assimilation into the Babylonian society probably did not stop with family or businesses, but would have included the Babylonian gods as well. It quickly became apparent to Daniel that God’s people had not changed from the very actions – namely idolatry – which Jeremiah had said was the reason for the exile. Even Daniel, himself, was not immune. Having been in exile since his early teens, Daniel too had succumbed, despite his steadfast loyalty to Yahweh, to the culture at large. This prompts Daniel to enter into one of the best examples of intercessory prayer in the Bible, rivaling that of even Moses on the Sinai mountain top. (c.f. Exodus 32).

This act of prayer prompts a swift response from God. He sends Gabriel, who tells Daniel, “I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision…”

Three Interpretative Views.

Three main views of interpretation concerning the Seventy-weeks prophecy have emerged among scholars.[5] These views can be identified as the Maccabean completion, the First Advent completion and the Second Advent completion. Each of one of these proposed interpretations understand the prophetic timeline given to Daniel in a different way. It is this timeline which is the underlying clue to understanding this particular prophecy and perhaps all Biblical prophecy. “Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks (Hebrew, shavuah, “sevens”) in Daniel 9:24-27 provides the indispensable chronological key to Bible prophecy.”[6]

The first view, Maccabean completion, is argued by W.S. Towner. This view primarily sees the fulfillment of the seventy-weeks prophecy with Antioch IV Epiphanes around 164 B.C. If then this is the case, those who hold with this view see the start of the prophecy coinciding with the actual Babylonian exile. So in this case, the first seven-week segment must refer to the time when Daniel came into captivity. Towner asserts, “Since the period under consideration begins with the Babylonian exile, this forty-nine-year segment must refer to the exile itself (which were actually 49 years in length, if the dates 587-538 B.C. are used).”[7]

Using this view as the starting point for the prophetic timeline, holders of this view identify the “Anointed One” of verse twenty-five as the high priest, Joshua, a contemporary of Ezra (c.f. Ezra 5:2; 10:18). Joshua held the office from ca. 515-490 B.C. Since there is no evidence that Joshua was ever “cut off” (a Jewish expression for being killed), they understand the “Anointed One” of verse twenty-six to be an entirely different individual.[8] They presume it to be one of the line of Joshua. Towner thinks this individual is Onias III, who would have been the legitimate high priest at the time of Antiochus IV. Antiochus subsequently deposed Onias for Jason, who purchased the position in 175 B.C. Onias was eventually murdered by Andronicus at the urging at Antiochus’ deputy, Menelaus, in 170 B.C. (2 Maccabees 4:33-35, RSV).

Concerning the final seven segment and the covenant or strong agreement with the many, the Maccabean Completion view holds this occurred with the union of Hellenistic Jews as recorded in 1 Maccabees. (1:41-43, RSV). The second half of the seven they say occurred with the desecrating of the alter by Antioch Epiphanes (V.54, RSV). Finally, they point to the fact that 1 Maccabees claims the temple was out of commission for 3 and half years (4:52-58).

The second major view is the First Advent Completion interpretation. This view understands the seventy-week passage to find complete fulfillment in Jesus’ earthly ministry and ending with the inauguration of the church to the gentiles. Gurney purports such a view, suggesting that if the seventy years of Jeremiah were literal and accurate, then it is highly probable that the seventy weeks of years are as well. He argues:

“In Jer. 29:10 we are told that seventy years would be “completed for Babylon”. I suggest that the full seventy years are to be identified with Babylon’s period of power. The, nations bordering Judah did not serve Babylon for quite the full period of seventy years, but there were other peoples who did. Babylon’s supremacy lasted a little more than seventy years in the eastern part of her empire and a little less in the western part. And in between was an area where it lasted just about exactly seventy years. It can be seen, therefore, that there are good grounds for maintaining that Jeremiah’s prophecy of the “seventy years” was fulfilled both literally and accurately. But even if we regard the number seventy as an approximate or “round” figure, we should note that it is still a literal seventy. I submit that these facts, together with the generally literal and straightforward nature of Daniel 9, should lead us to expect a literal and accurate fulfilment of the prophecy of’ the “seventy weeks”.”[9]

This view understands the chronology to begin in 458 B.C. based upon the Biblical dates assigned to Ezra 7 and 9. Using this starting pointing and counting 483 solar years brings the date to A.D. 26 which many scholars believe is the approximate date Jesus began his public ministry. This ministry is then viewed as the establishing of the covenant. Counting three and half years from A.D.26 brings us to the crucifixion of Jesus ca. A.D. 30. At this point sacrifices came to the end through Christ’s perfect sacrifice. The final three and half years of the last segment of seven occurs around A.D. 33/34 with the stoning of Stephen and the conversion of Paul (c.f. Acts 7).

Finally, there is the Second Advent view of the seventy weeks. This view is similar to the First Advent in as much as both see Jesus first coming as the fulfillment of the first sixty-nine weeks. Yet, there are distinct differences. Price and Ice propose:

“God would fulfill his promises for Israel after 490 years. Conservative scholarship applies this prophecy to the coming death of Jesus, the Messiah (9:25-26) and “to the destruction of the city [Jerusalem] and the sanctuary [Temple].”

These events took place after the 7 weeks and the 62 weeks, or 483 years (according to the Jewish lunar calendar). 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. Futurists have classically interpreted the seventieth and final week (in verse 27) as beginning long after the end of the sixty-ninth week. Daniel 12 and the New Testament prophetic texts that are based on Daniel’s 70-weeks prophecy show that the events of the seventieth week describe the Tribulation and the destruction of the Antichrist.”[10]

Thoughts on the Three Views

All three views present strong arguments and yet contain weaknesses on which they may be rejected. However, the easiest of views to dismiss would be the Maccabean view. This can be eliminated on the grounds that its very basis is founded on the belief that there cannot be any predictive prophecy. Those scholars who hold to this view see Daniel as being written after the Maccabean conflict by multiple authors who had the hindsight of history at their disposal. Towner admits this assumption in his book.[11] Since prophecy cannot be predictive within this view, Christian scholars must therefore reject its possibility or deny the inerrancy of the Bible.

The remaining two views remain very strong possibilities. The chief problem for them both is the determining of the start date for the prophecy. Was it the Ezra or Nehemiah projects Gabriel referred to? Strong cases can be made for either; this does not mean, however, that there are no other inherent weaknesses within either view. The First Advent scholars must explain their basis for asserting “the rejection of the Jews as God’s special, chosen people.”[12]

While it may be conceded that God’s focus shifted from the nation of Israel to the Gentile church, there is no Biblical evidence to suggest such a rejection. In fact, most of the Messianic prophecies including this one seem to indicate the opposite. Isaiah wrote:

“But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
you descendants of Abraham my friend,
I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:8-11)

Here God specifically announces that he has not rejected Israel. We know that this is a Messianic passage because later in verse 14, Isaiah wrote:

“Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”

This is a clear reference to the Messiah; a clear reference that God had not rejected Israel. Paul would echo this idea to the Church at Rome:

“What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. What if some were unfaithful? Will their unfaithfulness nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! Let God be true, and every human being a liar.” (Romans 3:1-4).

Paul’s whole argument is predicated on the idea that God will remain faithful Israel even though they rejected Him. Talbot states:

From the time Israel rejected her Messiah and crucified Him on the cruel cross, she has been set aside as a nation; meanwhile the church is being called out from among all peoples, both Jew and Gentile. But “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew” (Romans 11:2). “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them, when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:26, 27).[13]

This seems to throw a wrench in the First Adventers’ idea that God rejected Israel for the Gentile church. If God has not rejected Israel then, perhaps the entire interpretation is wrong.

At first glance, it would seem that the weakness in the First Adventers’ exegesis would strengthen the view of the Second Advent Completion. A closer examination of their view demonstrates this is not necessarily the case. A major difficulty with Second Adventers is Gabriel’s purpose in bringing the revelation as well as his instructions to Daniel. Daniel wrote:

He[Gabriel] instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision…” (Daniel 9:22-23)

In this passage, Gabriel states his purpose: “to give you insight and understanding.” (V.22). To this end, he instructs Daniel to “consider the word and understand the vision.” It seems reasonable to assume that God would have given prophecy to Daniel that would have been able to be interpreted with the resources available. The problem is there is no evidence that the Jews of Daniel’s time expected a second advent of the Messiah. In fact, even the Jews of Jesus’ time expected a single advent. Note Luke’s recording of the ascension of Jesus in the first chapter of Acts:

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (1:6-11).

The disciples of Jesus were not looking for a second coming; otherwise there would be no need to ask if Jesus was going to restore Israel at this time. The entire Old Testament narrative is one of God restoring Israel and eventually all of humanity. While Jesus expounded the idea that this was a series of events during his Earthly ministry, the Old Testament narrative sees this as a one-time immediate event.

Even more credence to the idea of the disciples’ single advent perspective is given by the appearance of the two angels that appeared after the ascension. Indeed, the disciples must have felt like they were witnessing prophecy being fulfilled right before their eyes, given the imagery of Daniel 7 and Jesus’ affinity for identifying himself as the “Son of Man.” It must have seemed like they were watching the coronation of Jesus by the “Ancient of Days.” (c.f. Daniel 7:13).

Second Adventers must bear the burden of demonstrating how a Jew of Daniel’s day was expected to understand the concept of a second coming of the Messiah. Of course, it could be argued that Daniel received divine insight by the Holy Spirit, still there is nothing in the text which implies such a thing occurred. It may be argued that such an insight occurred in Daniel 12, however this seems forced upon the text. There is nothing to indicate that Daniel thought the “rising up of the protector of the people” (V. 1) occurred as a different event than the “Anointed One” of chapter 9 or the “one like the son of man” of Chapter 7. Since there is no reason to think that Daniel understood or was even expected to understand a second advent, there is no reason to think that the seventy weeks refer to the future advent of Christ.

Interpretation

Since it has been demonstrated that all three popular views on the passage under discussion have inherent difficulties, the question still remains: how should the Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9 be interpreted? For starters, the Maccabean Completion can be eliminated on the basis of Biblical inerrancy as noted earlier. With its elimination, the remaining two views are both strong arguments, but which one is correct?

However, before any exegesis can be examined there are principles that act as the framework which bracket prophetic interpretation. The first principle is that any interpretation must be able to be understood in light of any disposition. In other words, the Bible must be allowed to interpret the Bible. For example, John’s vision in Revelations cannot contradict Daniel’s visions, or vice versa.

The second principle is the principle of dual fulfillment. This principle states that any prophecy may have an immediate and future fulfillment, although it is not necessarily required. There is an instance of this principle in Matthew’s Gospel. Matthew asserts that the virgin birth of Jesus fulfilled the prophecy found in Isaiah 7:14. Yet, when the context of Isaiah is examined, it reveals that the sign quoted by Matthew was a sign to King Ahaz that his kingdom would not be destroyed by an invading alliance. Since it does not profit someone to receive a sign that occurs after they cease to live, the sign must have been fulfilled twice – once in King Ahaz’s life time and again at the birth of Jesus.

With this framework in place, the work of interpreting Daniel 9 can commence, beginning in verse 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.”

Here, Gabriel reveals three pieces of information. First he reveals the time frame of prophetic events – “seventy ‘sevens.’” Although the NIV does not translate the Hebrew as weeks of years, Guzik notes, “There is almost universal agreement among Bible scholars and commentators that this refers to seventy sets of seven years, or weeks of years.”[14] In other words 490 years were decreed by God. Although Daniel understood 70 years to be the time of completion, he is now informed it will be much longer (Vs. 1-2).

The second piece of information given is the subject of the prophecy – namely Israel. This prophecy concerned the Jews. It had no bearing on the future Gentile church. God was responding to Daniel’s petition for Israel and Jerusalem. Walvoord comments,

“A very important aspect of the prophecy is that the seventy weeks relate to Daniel’s people and his city, Israel and Jerusalem. God’s answer corresponds to Daniel’s prayer for these were the very subjects of his intercession (c.f. vv. 16-19) …To make this equivalent to the church composed of both Jews and Gentiles is to read into the passage something foreign to Daniel’s whole thinking. The church has no such relation to the city of Jerusalem, or to the problems given specifically to Israel relating to their restoration and repossession of the land.”[15]

Finally, Daniel is given the six-fold purpose of the ensuing prophetic acts. These purposes are “comprehensive in nature.”[16] A closer examination should be utilized. The six purposes are as follows: 1. “to finish transgression”; 2. “to put an end to sin”; 3. “to atone for wickedness”; 4. “to bring in everlasting righteousness”; 5. “to seal up both vision and prophecy.” 6. “to anoint the Most Holy Place.” Some scholars have attempted to create parallel groupings by corresponding numbers. This works for purposes 1 and 4 where the correlation between the ending of transgression would bring in everlasting righteousness. Another obvisous correlation would be the atoning for wickedness and the anointing of the Most Holy Place. This is evidenced numerous times in scripture (cf. 1Kings 8:62; 2Chronicles 7:1). What is confusing is how putting an end to sin correlates with the sealing of visions and prophecies.[17] It is better to understand them as a holistic purpose broken into its various parts.

The first part is the ending of transgression. Israel will no longer be in outright rebellion against God. As Guzik points out this would require an entirely new world order.[18] It is the predication of the inauguration of the Kingdom of God. It must be noted that Jesus began his ministry by saying, “Kingdom of Heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17).

The second part is derived from the first. Once the new world order is established then sin can be disposed of. This speaks of what Paul referred to as the sin nature (Romans 7). This methodology of God can be seen in the life of the believer today. Once acceptance of Jesus has genuinely occurred, the new believer enters into the kingdom as a new creation where sin has no dominion (2 Corinthians 5:17). Israel and the church will undergo the same process.

Once sin is dealt with parts three and four naturally emerge. For an ancient Jew, righteousness is understood as covenant faithfulness. Conversely, wickedness is covenant unfaithfulness. Since God is always faithful, this does not speak of God keeping his word, per say; rather it is the keeping of the covenant through the atonement system since God’s holiness demands it.

The fifth part is difficult. As Miller notes:

“To seal up vision and prophecy” may be interpreted in two ways. Hebrew ḥātam means to “seal, affix seal, seal up.”62 “To seal” may refer to the closing up of a document, for in ancient times a scroll was rolled up and sealed shut for preservation (cf. Jer 32:10ff.; Dan 8:26; 12:4, 9). A seal was additionally employed as a mark of authentication by a king or other official (cf. 1 Kgs 21:8; Esth 3:12; Dan 6:17[18]).

In the first case “to seal up vision and prophecy” would signify that these forms of revelation would be closed, and in the second the idea would be that God will someday set his seal of authentication upon every truly God-given revelation (“vision and prophecy”) by bringing about its complete fulfillment. The result would be the same in either case.”[19]

Interestingly, the following passage is to be found in Revelation 5:

“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. 2And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” 3But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 4I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. 5Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals” (Vs. 1-5).

It may be argued that what John saw was Jesus opening what had been sealed in Daniel chapters seven and twelve. If this is indeed the case, the sealing of visions and prophecy refer to the veiling of information to be revealed later by Jesus.

The final part, “to anoint the Most Holy Place,” is also difficult for two reasons. First, the Hebrew can also be rendered “Most Holy One.” However, since every other purpose corresponded with Daniel’s prayer of intercession, it seems reasonable that this refers not to a person, but the temple’s Holy of Holies.

The second difficulty is whether or not this purpose has been fulfilled. The author of Hebrews writes:

“Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven” (Hebrews 8:3-5).

Then later:

“It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (9:23-26).

One could make an argument that Christ’s crucifixion anointed the heavenly sanctuary, of which the earthly sanctuary was but a shadow. This then would fulfill the purpose given by Gabriel. More likely though what is at view here is the principle of dual fulfillment. Certainly, Christ’s death anointed the heavenly sanctuary, however, it seems unlikely this is what Gabriel was referring to when he gave the vision. It’s hard to imagine, impossible really, that God’s heavenly sanctuary would become desolate or be filled with abominations (cf. Daniel 9:27)[20]

Verse twenty-five sets the time of commencement for the prophecy. The question here is does the prophecy commence with the decree of Cyrus found in Ezra 1 for the rebuilding of the temple or is it the decree to rebuild Jerusalem by Artaxerxes found in Nehemiah 2. Ironside argues for the later:

“Now the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem is given us in the second chapter of the book of Nehemiah, and there can be no question about the dates. The edict was given in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, the king, a year well known to historians as 445 B.C. Observe the commandment that went forth in the days of Cyrus, of which we have a record in Ezra 1, clearly is not the starting point referred to here. For that edict had to do alone with the rebuilding of the House of God, that is, the temple of Zerubbabel. There is nothing said there about rebuilding the city or the wall. It is therefore the order of Artaxerxes the Angel here mentions as the true starting point.”[21]

However, Miller questions this date, writing:

“Those who begin the sevens in 445 B.C. are faced with a dilemma; 483 years after 445 B.C. comes to A.D. 39, a date well after the time of Christ. To solve this problem Anderson argued that the 483 years are years of 360 prophetic days rather than years of 365 days. He calculated that from the decree to Nehemiah given on March 14, 445 B.C. (Neh 2:1) until the triumphal entry of Christ on April 6, A.D. 32, there were 173,880 days. At this time Christ presented himself to Israel as their Messiah. Christ was rejected, and the sixty-nine sevens came to an end. Though in some instances in prophecy, notably Daniel and Revelation, a year is rounded off to 360 days, Archer has convincingly demonstrated that the Jews followed a 365-day year.”[22]

Miller seems to think that Anderson’s work was something innovated to keep the 445 B.C. date. However, Jeffrey suggests this is not the case in defending the 360-day year:

“The truth about the biblical 360-day year as mentioned by Newton was quoted by Sir Robert Anderson in his book, The Coming Prince, page 68. This was not a new discovery by Sir Isaac Newton in the late 1600’s or even by Sir Robert Anderson in 1895. It was clearly discussed in detail by Christian, Julias Africanus in his Chronology in his explanation of the fulfillment of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, written about A.D. 240.”[23]

Even if one sides with Miller and Archer, this produces a dilemma. Why the shift from the 360-day year in chapter seven of the book of Daniel to the 365-day in chapter 9? Miller is silent on the question even though he admits that Daniel uses it elsewhere. From a purely literary point of view would disrupt continuity. No, the most likely scenario is that Daniel used the 360-day year through out.

Another problem with Miller’s assertion is that he uses an A.D. 30 as the date of crucifixion. However, many scholars see April 7th, 33 A.D. as the day Jesus died. This date is based on the clues found in the Four Gospels.[24] This would seem to support Hoehner’s dating which Miller summarily dismisses.[25] Overall, the Nehemiah date is probably the best choice.

In the discussion on the start date, there was a frequent mention of 483 years by scholars. Verse twenty-six is the source of that figure. Verse twenty-five informs us that seven years will accomplish the rebuilding of Jerusalem. This, then, is added to the sixty-two weeks until the “Anointed One” comes, giving us a total of sixty-nine weeks [sevens].  When sixty-nine is multiplied by seven, the answer is 483 years. This is the amount of time given for the “Anointed One to come and be “cut off.” “Cut off” is an expression in which two meanings may be implied. It can mean to be rejected or to be killed. Almost every Christian scholar agrees that this verse refers to Christ. So in this case, the result is same: Christ was both rejected and killed. The main difficulty here is whether or not Christ was killed in 30 A.D., 32 A.D. or 33. A.D.

There is almost total agreement among scholars that Christ was killed sometime between 30 and 33 A.D. Of these four years, Scholars are mostly split between 30 and 33 A.D. Assuming a 445 B.C. would eliminate 30 A.D. as this would only allow 481 years to have passed. Therefore, it would seem 32 A.D. would be the date of the crucifixion. Yet, most scholars have rejected this year. A quick trip through the gospels will show why.

Two Gospels record that Jesus’ death took place during the time of Caiaphas, the high priest (Matthew 26:3-4; John 11:49-53). This occurred between 18-36 A.D. All four Gospels record that Jesus died at the hand of Pontius Pilate (26-36 A.D.) (Matthew 27:24-26; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:24; John 19:15-16). The Gospel of Luke tells us the ministry of John the Baptist began during Tiberius Caesar’s fifteenth year of reign (Luke 3:1-2). This produces a very specific year, 29 A.D. Again, all four Gospels agree Jesus’s ministry started after John’s so his death must have occurred after A.D. 29. This eliminates A.D. 30 date because Jesus’ ministry lasted three and half years (John 2:13, 6:4, 11:55). This means 33 A.D. is the only possible date for the crucifixion. It can be stated that the time covered by the sixty-nine weeks is from about 445 B.C. to 33 A.D.

However, dating Jesus’ death on the cross only deals with the first half of verse twenty-six. This latter half predicts the destruction of the temple, which nearly all agree occurred in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. This is a literal event predicted literally in a prophecy over 450 years earlier. The literalness of the passage cannot be overstated as verse twenty-seven’s exegesis is dependent upon it. Verse twenty-six states quite clearly that people from which the ruler who is to come derives are the ones who destroyed the temple. If the ruler who is to come is Jesus as some have suggested, then it was the Jewish people who destroyed the temple. However, it was the Roman legion under Titus Vespasianus who brought about its destruction. Jesus certainly did not descend from European descent. Miller is correct in asserting, “If the text is to be taken literally at this point, this future ruler will come out of the peoples and nations that made up the ancient Roman Empire.”

This sheds light on verse twenty-seven. In this verse, the future ruler (the one who derives from the people who destroy the temple) makes a covenant with Israel for three and a half years. During this time, he portrays himself as the Messiah, since the Jews do not, generally speaking, recognize Jesus as such. However, after three and half years this ruler will set up an “abomination that makes desolate” within the temple. In Jewish thought abomination usually refers to an idol. It seems reasonable that halfway through the final seven years this ruler will create an image of himself and place it in the Holy of Holies in order to deify himself. This action will cause the Jews to reject him as a false Messiah initiating a time of great suffering.

Most conservative Scholars see this verse as referring to the Antichrist. They point to Daniel 7 which seems to indicate that this ruler is the same as the tenth little horn. Revelation 7:14 also speaks of the tribulation of three and half years. This would indicate that the fulfillment of the last week is yet to come. Since the prophecy, as a whole, concerns Jerusalem and Israel, the fact of God shifting his focus from Israel to the Gentile church has paused the clock on the timing of the prophecy. Talbot explains it this way:

“Some years ago I was on a train en route from Chicago to Texas, to see the young woman who later became my wife. For a time we ran on schedule, to the very minute. Then my train was sidetracked for two and one-half hours. It seemed like such a long wait! So I finally asked the conductor why we were sidetracked all that while. He answered me, saying, “We are waiting for the express to go through.” After a time I heard a shrill whistle, and saw the fast train whizz by. Then my own train was put back on the main line, and on we went, according to schedule. As I understood the reason for our being sidetracked, later to be put back on the main line, I thought of God’s train for Israel. For sixty-nine sevens of years His people ran according to schedule. Then their train was switched to a sidetrack, as it were, in order that the “heavenly express” might go through! From Pentecost to the rapture, the gospel train of this church age is on the main line.”[26]

Israel’s train has yet to be put back on the main line. As discussed earlier, the disciples of Jesus expected the restoration of Israel to be immediate. Jesus’ answer was not yet, the same answer Daniel got when he assumed that seventy years would see the restoration of Israel. The last week will not begin until the church age ceases. Peter, who was mostly a Jewish pastor, had to deal with the impatience of his congregations. In his letter he cautions, “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” This is the sovereignty of God. The Seventy-weeks prophecy should remind us of that.

Conclusions and Final Thoughts

While the Nehemiah date of 445 B.C. has been offered as the best solution as to the start of the Seventy-weeks prophecy, there is perhaps another solution – the heavenly decree. There can be no doubt that the decree concerning the time frame in verse twenty-four and the decree for wars and abominations in verse twenty-six are decrees from God. Therefore, the word which goes forth in verse twenty-five may refer to a decree of God to begin the rebuilding of the city. In which case the dates of human decrees are meaningless.

The start date debate, notwithstanding, the prophecy of Daniel 9 is awe-inspiring in its detail and accuracy and frustrating in its difficulty. It is a revelation of sorrow and hope. It is an assurance of an involved God, who does not stand outside of history watching it go by and intervening on a whim, but who is a part of human history. It is the picture of sovereign Creator who takes the plight of his creation very seriously. For those who may ask what is the difference between Christianity and other religions, the Seventy-weeks of Daniel gives us a poignant answer which is simply this:

Other religions have us trying to leave our humanity to obtain, achieve, or become god[s] while the God of Christianity became like us so that we can be human perfectly.

Bibliography

Bargerhuff, E.J. The Most Misused Verses in the Bible: Surprising Ways God’s Word Is Misunderstood. Baker Publishing Group, 2012.

 

Ford, D. In the Heart of Daniel: An Exposition of Daniel 9:24-27. iUniverse, 2007.

 

Gurney, R.J.M. “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9:24-27.” Evangelical quarterly 53 (1981): 29.

 

Guzik, D. Daniel Commentary. Yahshua Publishing, 2005.

 

Ironside, H.A. Daniel. Kregel Academic.

 

Jeffrey, Grant R. Armageddon, Appointment with Destiny. Frontier Research Publications, 1988.

 

Miller, S.R. Daniel. Broadman & Holman, 1994.

 

Price, Randall and Thomas Ice, The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy: Over 150 Topics from the World’s Foremost Prophecy Experts

Harvest House Publishers, 2004.

 

Talbot, Louis T. The Prophecies of Daniel: In Light of the Past, Present and Future. Edited by Babtist Bible Believer: Baptist Bible Bible Believer, 2012 (Public Domain). Accessed August 3, 2016. http://baptistbiblebelievers.com/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=I8qUotgD4YM%3d&tabid=410&mid=1308.

 

Towner, W.S. Daniel. Westminster John Knox Press.

 

Walvoord, J.F. and C.H. Dyer. Daniel. Moody Publishers, 2012.

 

 

[1] The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy: Over 150 Topics from the World’s Foremost Prophecy Experts

s.v. “Seventy Weeks of Daniel,” https://books.google.com/books?id=8nC7uqQN6JsC.

[2] D. Ford, In the Heart of Daniel: An Exposition of Daniel 9:24-27 (iUniverse, 2007), x.

[3] S.R. Miller, Daniel (Broadman & Holman, 1994).

[4] E.J. Bargerhuff, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible: Surprising Ways God’s Word Is Misunderstood (Baker Publishing Group, 2012).

[5] See Appendix for charts explaining the three views.

[6] The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy: Over 150 Topics from the World’s Foremost Prophecy Experts

[7] W.S. Towner, Daniel (Westminster John Knox Press), 142.

[8] Many Biblical translations footnote the “Anointed One” indicating an alternate translation of the general term “an anointed one. The same in verse twenty-six

[9] R.J.M. Gurney, “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9:24-27,” Evangelical quarterly 53 (1981).

[10] The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy: Over 150 Topics from the World’s Foremost Prophecy Experts

[11] Towner, Daniel, 4-6.

[12] Gurney, “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9:24-27.”

[13] Louis T. Talbot, The Prophecies of Daniel: In Light of the Past, Present and Future, ed. Babtist Bible Believer (Baptist Bible Bible Believer, 2012 (Public Domain)), accessed August 3, 2016, http://baptistbiblebelievers.com/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=I8qUotgD4YM%3d&tabid=410&mid=1308.

[14] D. Guzik, Daniel Commentary (Yahshua Publishing, 2005).

[15] J.F. Walvoord and C.H. Dyer, Daniel (Moody Publishers, 2012).

[16] Ibid.

[17] Towner, Daniel.

[18] Guzik, Daniel Commentary.

[19] Miller, Daniel.

[20] For more on this see the discussion on verse 27.

[21] H.A. Ironside, Daniel (Kregel Academic), 91.

[22] Miller, Daniel.

[23] Grant R. Jeffrey, Armageddon, Appointment with Destiny (Frontier Research Publications, 1988), 221-24.

[24] See the later discussion on verse 26

[25] Ibid.

[26] Talbot, Short The Prophecies of Daniel: In Light of the Past, Present and Future.

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