70 Weeks of Years

70 Weeks of Years

Daniel 9:24-27

Messiah Appears As Predicted, But Who Is The Prince Who Is To Come? 

To be sure, the prophecy of Daniel 9 is exceptionally exciting.  It not only foretold the coming of the Messiah, but also foretells the coming of “the prince who is to come.”  In my opinion, it is one of the most illuminating and important prophecies in Scripture.

 Prophecy Under Discussion: 

“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.  Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and sanctuary.  And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.  And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” Daniel 9:24-27.

Under the Watchtower interpretation, Daniel’s prophetic time clock began in the year 455 B.C. and culminated in the year 36 A.D., but this article will demonstrate why that is incorrect.  In fact, the prophecy has not yet culminated.

As part of the discussion, I will address the following questions: 

(1)  In What Year Did The Prophecy Begin?

(2)  How Long is the “70-Week” Period?

(3)  Is There a “Gap”(undisclosed period of time) Between the 69th and 70th Week?

(4)  Who is the “Prince Who Is To Come?”

The 70-Week Prophecy Revealed to Daniel was in Response

To His Prayer for the Nation of Israel 

When Daniel saw that the 70 years of the Jews’ captivity (as set forth in 2 Chronicles 36:21) was nearing an end, he realized that before the exiles could return to their homeland, they needed to confess and repent of their sin of disobedience before God.  (Lev 26:40-46)  While Daniel was making his petition (Daniel 9:4-19), the angel Gabriel appeared to give him understanding of the prophetic message concerning the 70 weeks (Daniel 9:24-27): “while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.  And he gave me instruction and talked with me, and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.’  At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.” (Daniel 9:21-23) 

As any Bible student knows, proper interpretation of Scripture is contingent upon understanding its biblical context.  In other words, to whom does the passage speak?  In this case, Daniel is thinking about the nation of Israel – he was praying for his people.  Since the prophecy was written for the nation of Israel, its culmination also rests with them.  In context, the prophecy speaks directly to the nation of Israel, not the Christian church.

Answer #1:  The prophecy began in 444 B.C.

In arriving at this conclusion, we start by looking at Daniel 9:25, which gives us the historical event needed to launch the prophecy into motion:

So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.”

The historical event that launched this prophecy into motion was the issuing of a decree (or command) to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.  According to Dr. Harold W. Hoehner, Professor of Theology at Cambridge University, four decrees are mentioned in scripture, but the first three do not apply here:  (1) the decree of Cyrus,  (2) the decree of Darius, (3) the decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra, and (4) the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah.

The historical event/decree referenced in Daniel 9:25 for the commencement of the 70 weeks is the decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah.  This is evidenced by several factors.  First, there is a direct reference to the restoration of the city (Neh 2:3, 2:5) and of the city walls and gates (Neh 2:3,8).  Second, Artaxerxes wrote a letter to Asaph to give materials to be used specifically for the walls (Neh 2:8).  Third, the Book of Nehemiah and Ezra 4:7-23 indicates that the restoration of the walls was done in the most distressing circumstances, as predicted by Daniel (Dan 9:25), and lastly, no later decrees were given by the Persian kings pertaining to the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

The date of this decree is provided in Nehemiah 1:1, which states that Nehemiah heard of Jerusalem’s desolate conditions in the month of Chislev (November/December) in Artaxerxes’ twentieth year.  Then later in Artaxerxes’ twentieth year, in the month of Nisan (March/April), Nehemiah reports that he was granted permission to restore the city and build its wall (Neh 2:1).  To have Nisan later than Chislev (in the same year) may seem strange until you realize that Nehemiah was using a Tishri-to-Tishri (September/October) dating method rather than the Persian Nisan-to-Nisan method.  Nehemiah was following what was used by the kings of Judah earlier in their history.  The method used by Nehemiah is confirmed by the Jews in Elephantine, who also used this method during the same time period as Nehemiah.  (S. H. Horn and L. H. Wood, “The Fifth-Century Jewish Calendar at Elephantine,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, XIII, January, 1954, 4, 20.)

According to Dr. Hoehner, Artaxerxes’ father, Xerxes, died shortly after December 17, 465 B.C., and Artaxerexes immediately succeeded him.  Since the accession-year system was used, the first year of his reign under the PersianNisan-to-Nisan reckoning would have been Nisan 464 to Nisan 463, and according to the Jewish Tishri-to-Tishri reckoning, his first year would have been Tishri 464 to Tishri 463.  Thus, the twentieth year of Artaxerxes’ reign, mentioned in Nehemiah 1:1 and 2:1, occurred in Chislev (November/December) of 445 B.C., and the decree of Artaxerxes occurred in Nisan (March/April) of 444 B.C.  (Richard A. Parker and Waldo H. Dubberstein, Babylonian Chronology 626 B.C. – A.D. 75 (2nd ed.; Providence, 1956, p. 32; Herman H. Goldstine, New and Full Moons, 1001 B.C. to A.D. 1651 (Philadelphia, 1973, p. 47).  Since Artaxerxes began his rule Nisan 444 B.C., the prophecy time clock likewise started to run in 444 B.C.

How the Years are Counted

The 70 weeks of Daniel is understood to be 70 weeks of years (490 years to be exact).  Dr. Hoehner refines the original calculation presented by Sir Robert Anderson, using the 360-day year:  Multiplying the 69 weeks x seven years for each week x 360 days = 173,880 days.  The difference between 444 B.C. and 33 A.D. then is 476 solar years.  By multiplying 476 x 365.24219879 (or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, 45.975 seconds), you get 173,855.28662404 days (or 173,855 days, 6 hours, 52 minutes, 44 seconds).  This leaves only 25 days to be accounted for between 444 B.C. and 33 A.D.  By adding the 25 days to March 5 of 444 B.C., you come to March 30 of 33 A.D., which was Nisan 10 in 33 A.D.  This then is the date of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  (Dr. Harold W. Hoehner, “Chronological Aspects of The Life of Christ” pg.138.) 

The Messiah made His timely appearance as predicted by Daniel’s prophecyZechariah 9:9 foretold the manner in which He would present Himself: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!  Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!  Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”  The Messiah, Jesus Christ, during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem upon a donkey, fulfilled Zechariah’s prophecy on Monday Nisan 10 (March 30) 33 A.D., and ended the 69 weeks of years (483 years).

Answer #2:  The 70-week period is 490 years, and has not yet culminated.

The last week (7 years) is the key here.  As a former member of the Watchtower, I did not know that there was a 7-year unfulfilled portion of Daniel 9.  The Messiah was cut off after the 69th week but not during the 70th week.

“If the cutting off of the Messiah occurred in the middle of the seventieth week, it is very strange that the cutting off is said to be after the sixty-nine weeks (figuring the sum of the seven and the sixty-two weeks).  Much more naturally the text would have read ‘during’ or ‘in the midst of’ the seventieth week, as it does in verse twenty-seven concerning the stoppage of the sacrifices.  The only adequate explanation for this unusual turn of expression is that the seventieth week did not follow on the heels of the sixty-ninth.  The crucifixion then comes shortly ‘after’ the sixty-nine but not within the seventieth because of an intervening gap.  The possibility of a gap between the sixty-nine and the seventieth weeks is established by the well-accepted OT phenomenon of prophetic perspective, in which gaps such as that between the first and second advents were not perceived.” (Guntry, p. 190)

Gap Between the 69th and 70th Weeks

This leads into our third question:  Is there an undisclosed gap of time between the 69th and 70th weeks?  To explain this, I turn your attention to what our church fathers taught (quoting Dr. Thomas Ice):

“In this final installment on the seventy weeks of Daniel, I want to deal with the history of the church’s interpretation of it. What has the church believed about this passage down through the years. One of the main reasons for spending time on this matter is that some have said that our view that sees a gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel is a recent development in church history. Truth of the matter is that it is the oldest known view in church history. Read on and see.

… it is clear ‘that in Irenaeus [130-200 A.D.] and Hippolytus we have the originators of that method of interpretation that places the seventieth week of Daniel at the time of the consummation.’  Irenaeus speaks of how ‘three years and six months constitute the half-week’ in his section on the prophecy of Daniel 9. This is why Knowles says that in Irenaeus ‘we have the basic concept for a futuristic construction of the Seventy Weeks, viz., the position of the last week at the end of the age.’ Hippolytus, Irenaeus’ pupil is even clearer.

Hippolytus is the first known person in the history of the church to write a commentary on any book of the Bible, and he wrote on Daniel. “Hippolytus give us the first attempt at detailed interpretation of the Seventy Weeks,” observes Knowles. “He is dependent, no doubt, upon Irenaeus for the foundational proposition that the last half-week of the seventy is to be connected with the Antichrist, but the detailed development is not found in Irenaeus.” In fact, Hippolytus refers to a gap or, in his words “division,” multiple times. Hippolytus says,

For when the threescore and two weeks are fulfilled, and Christ is come, and the Gospel is preached in every place, the times being then accomplished, there will remain only one week, the last, in which Elias will appear, and Enoch, and in the midst of it the abomination of desolation will be manifested, viz., Antichrist, announcing desolation to the world. … ‘Certainly Hippolytus’ interpretation does not have the refinements of the later development, but it is the direct ancestor of it,’ concludes Knowles.

In one sense it does not matter what others who have come before our current generation think on an issue, since in reality a matter rises or falls upon whether it squares with God’s Word. However, in another sense it does matter what others have thought down through church history, since if something is taught in the Bible then it may be legitimate to ask why others have not understood a particular teaching. While there are a number of doctrines that have gone well over a thousand years before members of Christ’s church have come to realize what was there in Scripture all along, the necessary gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel is not one of those late teachings.

Answer #3:  Yes, there is a “gap of time” separating the 69th week of years from the last seven years of the prophecy.

The “Prince Who Is To Come”

Who is the “prince who is to come” referenced in Daniel’s prayer?  Daniel says of this person:  “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” (Daniel 9:27) 

We can appreciate for many reasons that Daniel is not referring to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  This scripture mentions a covenant that will be made with the nation of Israel in the future and broken.  That covenant involves the last 7 years, also known as the Great Tribulation.  When the Messiah appears at the second coming, the nation of Israel accepts Jesus Christ as their Messiah during the prophecy’s apex.  At that time the prophecy will culminate, and the Messiah will finish the transgression, make an end of sin, make atonement for iniquity, bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and anoint the most holy place.  All of these have reference to the nation of Israel, but none of has been fulfilled.  Israel has not yet finished her transgression or been purged of her iniquity.  Nor has she experienced the everlasting righteousness promised her.  The apostle Paul sees this as a future reality:  “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.’ AND THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.”  (Romans 11:25-27)

Answer #4:  The “prince” spoken of here is the Antichrist.

According to Matthew 24:15, Jesus said, “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place,” this was to take place after His ministry on earth.  He spoke of the appearance of the abomination of desolation in the Jerusalem temple as a signal of the Great Tribulation, which is immediately followed by Christ’s second advent: “But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.” (Matthew 24:29-30)

It is true that Jerusalem suffered destruction in 66-70 A.D., but Christ did not return in 70 A.D.  In fact, the Book of Revelation speaks of Jerusalem’s desolation as yet future and not as having been fulfilled nearly a quarter century before its composition.  (Gundry, pp. 190-91)

“A careful study of this text (Daniel 9:24-27) will show that the first 483 of the 490 years are now history, having been fulfilled at the time of the first coming of the Messiah.  However, there are seven years left to run in God’s prophetic time clock for Israel.  These are the same seven years as those of the Great Tribulation.  The issue now is: What is the one event that begins these last seven years ticking away?  Daniel 9:27 answers that question.  This verse speaks of an individual making a seven-year covenant with the Jewish nation.  The he refers back to its nearest antecedent which is the prince that shall come in verse 26.  This person is better known in Christian circles as the Antichrist.  When the Antichrist signs a seven-year covenant with Israel, the last seven years of God’s prophetic time clock for Israel begin ticking away.  This and only this is the starting point of the seven years of the Tribulation.” (Israelology, The Missing Link In Systematic Theology, by Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Th.M., Ph.D., pg. 769.)

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