Daniel's Seventy Weeks Prophecy
Daniel’s Seventy Weeks
A commentary on the Seventy Weeks Prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27
March 11, 2011
Daniel was a great man of God. His worthiness was exhibited in the way he lived his life. At an early age he was set aside for Gods purpose. As a young man he found himself caught up in the Babylonian captivity, where his faithfulness would be proven time and time again. During his lifetime, God would consistently prove His own faithfulness to Daniel as well as the children of Israel.
Chapter 9 of the book of Daniel includes a prophecy that outshines even the greatest of visions given to Daniel throughout the book. In vs. 24 we are told of an encounter that Daniel has with the angel, Gabriel. It is in this encounter that Daniel receives a word from God that was sure to give him the greatest sense of comfort that he had ever experienced before. This scripture would go on to be known by some as the most important scripture in the entire Bible. “Sir Isaac Newton called the seventy weeks the foundation of the Christian religion.”
Daniel was observing what would have been the “evening sacrifice,” in the early evening between about 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. Since there was no Temple to offer such a sacrifice and given the fact that the children of Israel were in captivity under Babylonian rule, faithful Jews would have taken this time of an evening to confess their sins before God. Daniel was offering his prayers and supplications, and confessing the sins of himself and the children of Israel, when he was visited by Gabriel.
Gabriel informed Daniel that God had heard his prayers and had sent him (Gabriel) to give him the skill to understand. (vs. 21) It was as if God was ensuring that the vision Daniel was about to receive was far too important to be misunderstood. Gabriel started Gods instruction with the words, “Seventy weeks are determined,” followed by a list of six goals that would be met during this time frame.
Here are the six goals laid out in God’s plan and told to Daniel by the angel, Gabriel. “Finish transgression.” In Hebrew the word finish would be kala meaning to stop, withhold, restrain, or confine. Transgression in Hebrew would be pesa which is to rebel, revolt against human or divine authority. The Old Testament is clear that God’s chosen people had transgressed many times but there was coming a day when this would be put to a stop.
“To make an end for sins.” The word end comes from the Hebrew word tamam meaning to complete, finish, perfect. Sin has kept man separated from closeness with God since the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden. It was by God’s design that we were created to walk in fellowship with Him. It is evens said that God would visit Adam in the Garden and walk in the cool of the evening. (Gen. 3:8) After the fall we were separated from God because we were no longer looked upon as blameless. By way of animal sacrifice and the covering of the blood, God had given us a way to cover our sins, thereby drawing us closer to Him. However this type of sacrifice was never intended to be a permanent solution to our separation. The day was coming when God would make an end for sins that would bring us back into everlasting fellowship with Him.
“To make reconciliation for iniquity.” The word reconciliation in this scripture was only included in the latter translations of the Bible. The term reconciliation was a doctrine taught only in the New Testament. The more fitting word in this scripture would be “atonement.” Atonement is motivated by the love of God. It occurs through the shedding of blood. In Daniel’s day atonement was made by the shedding of blood from an animal sacrifice. What Gabriel is speaking of here is a final sacrifice, which would replace the need for the blood of bulls and goats. (Hebrews 10:4) It would be an ultimate sacrifice given by the perfect Lamb of God. (Ephesians 2:13)
“To bring an everlasting righteousness.” Everlasting means forever, or eternity and righteousness simply means being in the right with God. When the Messiah has completed His task, we will once again be right with God and from this time own we would never again be separated from Him. “For whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
“To seal up vision and prophecy.” To seal up means to be enclosed or sealed up (with a signet ring) “A seal was additionally employed as a mark of authentication by a king or other official.” That which was supposed to be sealed was vision and prophecy. Visions were revelations given to man by God. These visions were intended as warnings of things to come or as encouragement to remain faithful to a covenant already given. In telling Daniel that the day was coming that visions and prophecies would be sealed would mean that there comes a time when the visions of God will no longer be needed. The day was near that God would be present with man and there would be no need to prophesy of the things that could clearly be seen.
“And to anoint the Most Holy.” To be anointed was to symbolize that a person had been appointed to a special task. It was generally done in a ceremonial fashion for kings and priests. In vs. 25 the word Messiah (Hebrew) is used which literally means “Anointed One.” The word Christ in Greek means “Anointed One” as well. This is clearly speaking of the anointing Jesus Christ as King.
Verse 24 is a sort of complete overview of all the things that would happen as each element of this prophecy is carried out. It will be Jesus Christ who brings an end to the sin and transgression that has kept man separated from God for so long. It will be Jesus who makes payment (atonement) unto God for the wrongs that we have done. And it will be through Jesus that we can enjoy everlasting righteousness in the eyes of God.
Verse 25 thru 27 tells how the seventy weeks are broken down and many other details of things to come. It is interesting to note that Gabriel repeats the word “understand” to Daniel. It is stressed here that the vision that was being given was not to be misunderstood but rather precise and clear so as to be passed along to the children of Israel.
Gabriel tells Daniel “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.” (vs.25) It is now that Daniel is being told of how the weeks were to be broken into three separate groups. It is this break down of the weeks that have led to much debate.
The “seventy weeks” has been debated among the faithful since before the church began. There are many views as to what the seventy weeks actually means. Does it represent a literal seventy week time frame? Is the seventy weeks representative of a longer period of time, such as years or centuries? Do the seventy weeks run consecutively or are there gaps of time within the seventy weeks? All of these questions have been answered in one way or the other by various scholars and historians, and there is little in the way of agreement on the issue. We do know however, based on the words of Daniel himself that the weeks were broken up into three separate phases. There was to be a period of seven weeks, sixty two weeks, and then finally one week at the end. We also know that given the fact that very little of the prophecy could be claimed to have been accomplished in a literal seventy week period, that we could safely assume that the weeks are representative of a longer period of time, such as years.
Even if it is understood that the seventy weeks represents years (490) there is still the question of when are the various parts of the prophecy taking place. The argument can be made in numerous ways. First there are many who believe that the first seven sevens (49yrs) was the time between the original decree to rebuild the temple and the time in which the work was completed. This theory in itself poses three various theories as to when the decree was issued. Knowing the date of the original decree will give the starting point of the prophecy. There are at least four decrees referring to the rebuilding of the temple that can be found to coincide with the time of Daniel. (1) The decree of Cyrus in Ezra: 1, (2) the decree of Darius in Ezra: 6, (3) the decree of Artaxerxes in Ezra: 7, or (4) the decree of Artaxerxes in Nehemiah: 2. The three most widely held views of the starting point of this prophecy are the decree given by Cyrus in 538 B.C which allowed the return of the exiled Jews to Jerusalem (Ezra 1: 2-4, 6:3-5), the decree of Artaxerxes I to Ezra in 458 B.C which allowed for the return of the Jews to Palestine and concerned the establishment and practice of the proper services at the temple. (Ezra 7: 11-26) and the second decree issued by Artaxerxes I to Nehemiah in 445 B.C. which specifically called for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. ( Neh. 2:5)
The timeline that seems to make the most sense is the decree given in Ezra 7. Starting in the year 458 B.C. and moving forward seven weeks (49 yrs) would put the first group of weeks ending in 409 B.C. Now if the next sixty two weeks (434 yrs) started immediately after this then we would end up in the year 26.a.d. This is the year commonly thought of as the year that Jesus was baptized and began his earthly ministry. Using just these dates alone we are left with 483 years which is equal to sixty nine weeks. At this point it must be decided if the last week continues immediately following the first sixty-nine or is there a gap in time.
One theory is that the last week immediately follows the first sixty-nine. In this theory the whole prophecy is played out at the crucifixion of Jesus. Those who adhere to this time-line believe that the Baptism of Jesus marks the beginning of the three and half years, as referenced in vs. 27. “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week (one year); but in the middle of the week (three and half yrs.) He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.” (Dan 9:27) It is understood that the earthly ministry of Jesus lasted about three and half years from His Baptism and His Crucifixion. The trouble posed by this theory is one; there is no way to explain “The people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” There is no indication that Jerusalem or the Temple was destroyed while Jesus was on earth. There only support for this argument is that the veil of the Temple was destroyed at the time of the crucifixion. “Behold the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom.” (Matt. 27:51) The fact that the temple and Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans some forty years after the crucifixion (A.D. 70) which fits vs. 26 better seems to contradict this theory.
The second theory regarding the whole of the seventy weeks, calls for a gap between the sixty-nine weeks and the last week. This theory is a Dispensationalist view. Dispensationalists teach that the tribulation is a seven year period after the rapture and before the second coming, that an antichrist will arise and make a treaty with the modern nation of Israel allowing them to rebuild a temple, and that he will break this treaty in the middle of the seven years of the seventieth week, prohibit the offering of sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem and demand that only he be worshipped. This theory allows for vs. 26 to refer to the Roman people destroying the Temple in A.D 70 and vs. 27 refers to the end times as spoken of in the book of Revelation. The evidence for this is the fact that if the Messiah was cut off as stated in vs.26 then He would not be here to make a covenant with anyone. To make a covenant He would have to first return, which there is no record of Him doing so as of yet. Also it makes little sense to believe that Jesus would make a covenant with many people that He Himself would break. Accompanied by the book of Revelation and the many prophecies concerning the Tribulation (7 years) and the three and half years ( Rev. 11:2; 12:14; 13:5) it is reasonable to believe that the two events are one in the same.
If the latter theory of the last week is true then we are to look ahead to the time when these things will come to pass. “Then he shall make 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.” (vs27) The antichrist will come in the last days and make a covenant with the people of the rebuilt Temple. It is in the middle of this covenant which is to be seven years that the antichrist will break his promise with the people. He will set himself up to be worshipped. (2 Thess. 2:3) And he will lead a rebellion against God until the days are shortened for the elect’s sake. (Matt. 24:15) All of this taking place in the last days will lead to a final battle, where God will pour out destruction on all those who have rebelled against Him for all time. It will be the end of days for evil on this earth and Jesus will reign as Mighty King for the entire world to see. It was this vision, delivered from Heaven by the Angel Gabriel that gave so much comfort to Daniel as an old man, but also to the countless numbers of people who have read these words since. God had chosen to show us the exact road map to our future in Heaven in just four unique verses in the Bible. And the great prophet Daniel through all his suffering was rewarded with the opportunity to hear these things spoken and be able to pen them down for the future generations.
Miller, Stephen R. The New American Commentary (Daniel). Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994.
Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John | Part I, Chapter III: Of the vision of the Image composed of four Metals." By Sir Isaac Newton; London: 1733
 Stephen Miller, The New American Commentary (Daniel) 1994
 Definitions taken from Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance (1999) Grand Rapids, Zondervan.
 Stephen Miller, The New American Commentary (Daniel) 1994