The 70 weeks
Daniel 9:24-27 is a prophecy about 70 weeks. Many students of prophecy consider this one the most important prophecies in the Bible. It provides a broad timeline from before 500 B.C. to the second coming of Christ, or about 2500 years. As we learned in lesson 1, the Old Testament prophets by and large did not see the church age in their visions (Rom 16:25-26, Eph 3:2-6, Col 1:26). Sometimes there are time gaps in their prophecies as a result. Isaiah and a few others mention Gentiles (Is 9:2 w. Mt 4:14-16, Is 11:10 w. Rom 15:12, Is 42:1-7 w. Mt 12:17-21, Is 49:6 & 22 w. Lk 2:32, Is 60:3-16, Is 61:6 & 9, Is 62:2, Is 66:12 & 19). Other mentions are Amos 9:12 (see Acts 15:15-17) and Malachi 1:11. Although Daniel mentions saints (Dan 7:27), this word appears 35 times in the Old Testament, and refers to the people of Israel. We must not be presumptuous about Israel’s role in God’s overall plan and think Gentile Christians are the only ones involved (Rom 1:16-21). God still has plans for Israel, particularly at the end of the world (Rom 9-11). Daniel’s prophecies were about his people, the nation of Israel, and events in Gentile nations as they related to or will relate to Israel. The first words of the prophecy of the 70 weeks are, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city (Dan 9:24)”.
Let us look at facts in the prophecy of the 70 weeks and let those facts guide us in interpreting this passage. Daniel was confessing for himself and his nation (Dan 9:1-19). The angel Gabriel came to him about the time of the evening sacrifice (vs 21). 70 weeks does not mean 70 sets of 7 days, but rather 70 sets of 7 years. The Hebrew word shä·vü'·ah means 7, not seven days. Thus, it says “seventy sevens”. It can mean 7 years as in the case of Jacob with Leah and Rachel (Gen 29:27-28). In the law of Moses, Israel was to let the land rest every seven years (Lev 25:3-9). In the very next chapter, Leviticus 26, God speaks of the blessings promised if they kept the Sabbaths and the commandments, and the curses warned of if they did not. In verses 30-36, God says they would be driven off their land so it could rest and enjoy the Sabbath years they did not fulfill. The prophet Jeremiah predicted this would last for 70 years (2Chr 36:21-23, Jer 25:11-12, Jer 29:10). That would be 490 years’ worth of Sabbath years to make up for. It was this exact prophecy of Jeremiah that Daniel was moved by to pray when he read and understood it. It had been almost exactly 70 years since Jeremiah gave this prophecy. So, it was time for the beginning of the restoration of Israel, which led Daniel to pray for God to fulfill His word. It also refers to a set of 70 years as does the prophecy of the 70 weeks. Also, the timing of the parts of the 70 weeks that are already fulfilled fits perfectly with 70 sets of years and makes no sense if they are weeks of days.
As mentioned already, this is a prophecy for the people of Israel, and it lists 6 purposes determined upon them and their city, Jerusalem:
1. to finish the transgression (Jn 19:30, Rom 11:25-27)
2. to make an end of sins (Zech 12:10-13:1, Heb 9:26, Heb 10:17)
3. to make reconciliation for iniquity (2Cor 5:18-19, Eph 2:16, Col 1:20, Heb 2:17)
4. to bring in everlasting righteousness (Is 9:6-7, Rom 3:22, Rom 5:17-21, 1Cor 1:30)
5. to seal up the vision and prophecy (Dan 12:4, Rev 6, Rev 10:4, Rev 22:10)
6. to anoint the most Holy (place, not person)
The first 4 purposes are about the saving work of Christ. Since the Jews generally as a people rejected their Messiah, they did not receive the fulfillment of these 4 purposes at His first coming Mt 23:37-39). These were generally extended to the Gentiles instead. Therefore, they have to wait until His second coming (Mt 23:35-29, Lk 21:24, Rom 9-11). The last 2 purposes pertain to the final fulfillment at the second coming of the Messiah. “To seal up the vision and prophecy” means to place a seal upon with a signet so that it could only be opened at the authorized time and place by authorized people (1Ki 21:8, Est 3:12, Est 8:8-10, Is 29:11, Jer 32:10-14, Dan 12:4 & 9), or to place a barrier or lock on. Gesenius’ Hebrew Lexicon says of the use of the Hebrew word for seal up in Daniel 9:24, “until the predictions of the prophets be fulfilled”.
“To anoint the most Holy” does not refer to a person or persons such as the Messiah. It refers to the temple in Jerusalem. The Hebrew word kō'·desh, translated holy in Daniel 9:24, is translated sanctuary 68 times. The phrase most holy appears 110 times. It refers to the temple 16 times (5 times in Eze 41-48 about the new temple), and it refers to temple furniture and offerings. It never refers to people, even the priests, but only to the temple, its furniture, and its offerings. In contrast, the Hebrew word mä·shē'·akh (Dan 9:25-26) is always translated to mean an anointed person (39 times total), usually a priest or king. It is translated Messiah two times in Daniel 9:25-26, and this is the only place in the KJV the word Messiah appears. The Hebrew word mä·shakh' (Dan 9:24), translated anoint in Daniel 9:24, can mean a person or a thing, and is a different word than the one translated Messiah in verse 25. History shows us a rebuilt temple in the days of Ezra and Haggai. This temple was restored and expanded on in the days of Herod. This was the version which existed in the New Testament. Prophecy shows us there will be a temple in Jerusalem again in the last days (Eze 40-48, Eze 47:1-12 w. Zech 14:8, Dan 9:26-27 w. Mt 24:15, Zech 6, and 2Thes 2:4).
There are two timeframes in Daniel 9:25. There was the time until the command to rebuild Jerusalem. This command is mentioned 2Chronicles 36:21-23 and is here directly connected to the 70 years of Sabbaths. It is also mentioned in Isaiah 44:28-45:5 which specifically names Cyrus who was not even born yet as the man to issue this command. It also specifically mentions the opening of the two leaved gates of the temple (1Ki 6:34). Cyrus’ command is mentioned in 7 passages (2Chr 36:21-23, Ezra 1:1-8, Ezra 3:7, Ezra 4:3, Ezra 5:13-17, Ezra 6:3-14, Is 44:28-45:1). Cyrus is mentioned 23 times in the Bible. The very next verses after 2Chronicles 36 are Ezra 1:1-4. These verses describe the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. This occurred about 536 B.C. Later commands were to continue and finish the building that had already been started
but stopped (Ezra 5-6, Hag 1-2).
The second timeframe is from the command to rebuild the temple until the first coming of Messiah. This includes 7 weeks or 49 years and 62 weeks or 434 years for a total of 69 weeks or 483 years. The street and wall of Jerusalem are also to be built, which we read about in the book of Nehemiah.
Daniel 9:26 also refers to two timeframes. The first is the time the Messiah will be cut off, but not for Himself. This is described in Isaiah 53 and John 11:49-52. The second is the time the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. This prince is not the same one as Messiah the Prince because he will destroy Jerusalem and the temple. The Messiah did not do these things. The temple of Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians before this prophecy was given. The temple called the temple of Zerubbabel we read about in Ezra and Haggai was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. There has not been a Jewish temple in Jerusalem since. A Muslim building called the Dome of the Rock now sits on the site. So, for all of the prophecies about the temple at the end of the world to be fulfilled, there must be a coming third temple (Eze 40-48, Eze 47:1-12 w. Zech 14:8, Dan 9:26-27 w. Mt 24:15, Zech 6, and 2Thes 2:4). Another way this verse points to the end of the world and not another time is that it says,“the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” This is specifically mentioned in Revelation 12:13-17.
Daniel 9:27 gives us several facts which coincide with other prophetic passages:
1. He (the prince that shall come) shall confirm the covenant with many for one week
2. In the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease
3. For the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate
Jesus quoted this verse in Matthew 24:15 in His discourse about the destruction of the temple and the end of the world. Most people correlate the phrase “abomination of desolation” with the antichrist and the end of the world. There are several reasons this is valid. The epistles of John use the word antichrist in general terms to refer to false teachers (1Jn 2:18 & 22, 1Jn 4:3, 2Jn 7). However, 1John 2:18 and I John 4:3 also show us that the church had been taught that there was a specific antichrist yet to come. Paul describes this man in 2Thessalonians 2:1-12 and said he was yet to come. Some people think these prophecies have already been fulfilled by the Romans, but there are several problems with that. The epistles of John were written at least 20 years after the Romans conquered Jerusalem in 70 A.D. It ignores the fact that Jesus was speaking about two timeframes in Matthew 24 - the destruction of the temple and His second coming. The Roman general Titus made no covenant with Israel. Also, according to Josephus he attempted to stop his soldiers from destroying the temple. He never entered the temple and proclaimed he was God. Using a broader meaning of antichrist, there have been many “antichrists” in history such Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus Epiphanes, Nero, and Hitler.
When do these things Daniel spoke of occur? How specific can we be in applying dates of fulfillment to these events? There is some debate as to which command to rebuild the temple should be used in fixing the time from it to the first coming of Messiah and His being cut off (69 weeks or 483 years). The command of Cyrus in 536 B.C. is mentioned in 7 passages (2Chr 36:21-23, Ezra 1:1-8, Ezra 3:7, Ezra 4:3, Ezra 5:13-17, Ezra 6:3-14, Is 44:28-45:1), and is directly referred to in regard to the 70 years of Sabbaths for the land. The events described in Ezra happened before those in Nehemiah. Nehemiah 2:1 gives the date he spoke with the king as “the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king”. This was 445 B.C. If we count from that date using a Hebrew lunar calendar of 360 days, that gives us 173, 880 days and brings us to 32 A.D. and the time of “Messiah the Prince”. Even if we consider other calendars, possible discrepancies, and other starting points, we get remarkably close to the exact time Christ died for our sins.
Regarding the second coming of Christ, there is something called the gap theory. That theory states, as mentioned above, that the church age creates a gap in Old Testament prophecies. Specifically, this theory states there is a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks in this prophecy. There are several reasons to consider this theory. Messiah the Prince is cut off after 69 weeks, and the prince that shall come makes a covenant with Israel for one week or 7 years. After 3 and ½ years the covenant will be broken. Jesus died about 38 years before Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Romans. If the 70th week is 7 years, this is not enough time. So, if the gap is more than 7 years, how long is it? Jesus made no such covenant with Israel. The 6 purposes of the prophecy of the 70 weeks have not come to pass yet for Israel, so they must be in the future. An angel and Daniel did not know the timing of the fulfillment of at least some of his prophecies (Dan 12:5-9). There are other gaps in Messianic prophecy. Isaiah 9:6 says a child will be born and the government will be upon his shoulder. When Jesus read Isaiah 61:1-2 and stated it was fulfilled that day (Lk 4:16-21), He did not read the last part because it was not time for that yet. In Zechariah 9:9-10, it is predicted that Jesus will ride a donkey into Jerusalem and take dominion (Mt 21:1-11). He rode into Jerusalem to die for our sins, not to take dominion yet (Jn 6:15, Jn 18:32-37, Acts 1:6-8), although He will (Zech 14, Rev 19). The prophets did not know the timing of the fulfillment of what they saw (1Pet 1:10-12). Although there is a timeframe given for the first coming of Christ in the 70 weeks, there is no timeframe given anywhere in the Bible for the second coming, although we are given signs to look for (Mk 13:32). The gap theory harmonizes with scriptures about Israel rejecting the Messiah, God turning to the Gentiles until the end, and then turning back to Israel (Lk 13:35, Lk 21:24, Acts 15:14-18, Rom 9-11), thus pausing the prophetic time clock of Israel for the church. This theory shows that God still has future plans for Israel, thus rendering doctrines such as full preterism, replacement theology, British Israelism, post-tribulation rapture, post-millennialism, amillennialism, and date setting for the rapture and the second coming false. If the prince that shall come is antichrist and he attacks the temple 3 ½ years into the 70th week, and the antichrist cannot be revealed until after the rapture (2Thes 2:1-12), then the 70th week is the tribulation period at the end of the age. This would indicate that Revelation 6-19 describes the 70th week in great detail.
Lastly, let us examine the 70th week closer. It will be divided into 2 halves of 3 and ½ years. The prince that shall come will make a covenant with Israel at the start of the 7 years which he will break at the midpoint. This fits perfectly with a 7-year time divided in half as mentioned on other prophecies (Dan 12:4-9, Rev 11:2-3, Rev 12:6 & 14, Rev 13:5). The breaking of the covenant which involves the sacrifices ceasing and the temple being made desolate also fits other prophecies (Mt 24:1-2 & 15, Lk 19:41-44, Lk 21:20. 2Thes 2:1-12). Other parts of Daniel harmonize with other prophecies as well (Dan 7, Rev 13). Thus, the end of the 70th week is marked by the return of Christ, the 6 purposes of the 70 weeks fulfilled, and the destruction of the antichrist (Dan 7:25-27, Dan 9:27, 2Thes 2:8, Rev 19:19-21).