Daniel’s Seventy Weeks
Daniel 9:20-27 holds great value for the student of prophecy, providing critical information that is key to understanding the Last Day’s events, and providing clarity to prophecies in the book of Revelation. The eight verses are difficult to interpret, and have led to a number of divergent interpretations, which causes confusion among those who are seeking clarity and understanding of the scriptural revelation relating to End Times. Keeping the verses in context with Daniel’s prayer, and careful exegesis will open up Daniel’s explanation of Israel’s prophetic future, and give insight all the way to the return of their Messiah. Israel is at the centre of Bible prophecy, and when you reject that concept because of an eschatology based on the anti-Semitic doctrine of Replacement Theology, the interpretation will be erroneous. It is my firm belief that the interpretation of End Times prophecy has a connection to Genesis 12:3: “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse”. God blesses those who love Israel, and pray for Israel, by opening up an understanding of End Times prophecy. Those that “dishonour” Israel by holding a belief that God is finished with Israel, and rejecting the concept that Israel remains at the centre of all prophecy, become lost. They then rely on man’s wisdom to create scenarios that explain a Kingdom rule without Israel, and without a Millennial rule by the Messiah.
In the first section on Daniel 9 we covered how the period of God’s judgement, which related to 490 years of Judah’s past, had nearly run its course. The “desolation” of the nation was as a result of the sin of God’s people who had rejected His Word, prophets and initial judgements (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:15-21). The long term cause however, seems to have been the rejection of God’s system of honouring the sabbatical year. Since Israel had apparently failed to give the land its sabbath years for a period of 490 years, the people owed the land seventy years of rest. However, Daniel understood that restoration was now in sight, which spurred the prophet to pleaded for his people. At this point, Gabriel came to tell Daniel about another 490-year period which concerned Israel’s future. Daniel had been shown the future of the Gentile nations, now he is to be shown the future of the Jewish people.
Gabriel Appears to Daniel (9:20-23)
“20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.” (Daniel 9:20-23).
The record of Daniel’s prayer in the opening verses of chapter 9 must be seen as a summary of the original prayer, as while Daniel was still praying God sends the archangel Gabriel with the answer to his prayer. This is the second time Gabriel has spoken with Daniel, the first being when Daniel received the vision recorded in Chapter 8:16. Daniel reveals the timing of Gabriel’s arrival being during the “time of the evening sacrifice,” which would have been the second sacrifice of the day at 15:00. Note that despite the Temple having been destroyed and Daniel having lived over sixty years in Babylon, he is still recording time by the Temple sacrifices. Ralph Davis gives clarity to this revelation writing: “that time-indicator is packed with years of yearning and longing and affection for Yahweh’s ordinances, a passion for the ‘means of grace’ of true Jerusalem worship. Sometimes what may seem incidental reveals a soul thirsting for God” (1). Daniel was praying for the return of his people to their homeland, and the message that Gabriel has come to deliver will give Daniel “insight and understanding” in this regard. Gabriel reveals not only that the Jews will be restored to Judah, but much more. God honours Daniel’s prayer with an answer far greater than Daniel expected.
(1) Dr. Robert S. Rayburn. The Seventy Weeks Daniel 9:20-27: https://www.faithtacoma.org/daniel-2/the-seventy-weeks-daniel-920-27. (28/07/21).
490 years – Seventy-Sevens (9:24)
“24 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“ (Daniel 9:24).
The angel Gabriel now gives four of the most powerful prophetic verses in scripture, which help to elevate Daniel above all other Old Testament apocalyptic literature. Daniel was motivated to pray into Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding the seventy years of captivity, and now Gabriel has arrived with an answer that involves “seventy sevens”. The Hebrew word Gabriel uses for seven is heptad, which is a term used for a week of years, so Gabriel is explaining a decree that covers seventy weeks of years, which is 490 lunar years of 360 days.
Gabriel goes on to reveal that the 490-year time period relates to Daniel’s people (Israel) and his holy city (Jerusalem), and that during that time a number of specific things would take place and be accomplished. These prophecies must be interpreted from the understanding that Jesus is “the anointed one” in verse 26. the Hebrew word “Mashiach” means “anointed one,” so the reference must be pointing to Jesus.
The first two great works named, seem closely related:
- To finish transgression. It is logical that this work would be listed first, as the revelation was started by Daniel’s prayer for the transgressions of the Jews. Transgression, the continual rebellion against God’s covenant laws, was the cause for the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. This is a wonderful promise to Daniel, that the 490 years will see an end to the rebellion against God, but also the suggestion of a global restraining of sin, which suggests the restoration of Israel just prior to the commencement of the Millennial Kingdom.
- To put an end to sin. Although the first two works may seem similar there is a distinct difference, i.e., transgression is an open rebellion against God, while sin is a failure to do the will of God. To put an end to sin means that there will be forgiveness and restoration, the start of a new spiritual plateau. With the establishment of the Kingdom under the rule of the Messiah, the wrath of God will be pacified.
“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8).
- To atone for iniquity. This statement links to Yom Kippur, the Jewish holy day where the nation made atonement for their sins. The Hebrew word kapar, translated “atonement,” is recorded as “forgave” in the KJV, and is used in that context in Deuteronomy 21:8. Atonement is then best understood as covering human sin, and so removing a barrier between man and God, rather than appeasing an angry God. Atonement therefore means that a price is paid and blood is shed; Jesus, the Lamb of God, replaced all animal sacrifices, it is He “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Daniel’s prayer that his people would be forgiven is answered, Jesus atoned for their wickedness, and the nation receives that atonement on the return of Jesus to establish His Kingdom – “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26).
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2).
- To bring in everlasting righteousness. This work will be greater than any revival in Biblical times or in Church history. The New Covenant, which was established for the nation of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34), but was rejected by Israel and subsequently passed on to the Gentiles, will now at last be received by the Jews. The New Covenant is established by Jesus who justifies us, He is our righteousness. Jesus the righteous Branch will be seated on David’s throne in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 23:5-6). Once again, this work will be fulfilled on the establishment of the Kingdom on earth.
“In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is His name whereby He shall be called, THE LORD OF RIGHTEOUSNNESS” (Jer. 23:6).
“By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:11).
- To seal up the vision and prophecy. The term “to seal up,” implies completeness and closure, a scroll that is completed is rolled and sealed. This points to the return of Jesus completing all prophecies, and it will also be a time when no further prophecy will be necessary.
- To anoint the most holy. There are two possible explanations for this statement. The “Most Holy,” could be referring to the Holy of Holies, which would apply to the consecration of the ground upon which the Millennial Temple will be constructed (Ezekiel 40-48). The expression could also point to Jesus, the Messiah (anointed one), being anointed to take His place of authority. Both will occur at the start of the Millennial Kingdom.
These verses ultimately point to the accomplishment of God’s purpose for all history. They are the work of God through His Messiah, Jesus our Lord, with the final goal being the establishment of God’s rule on earth.
490 years – Seventy-Sevens (9:25)
“25 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” (Daniel 9:25).
When Gabriel says “know and understand,” he is stressing the importance of what he is about to reveal to Daniel. What he is about to explain has great significance for believers in understanding prophecy. Unfortunately, this warning is largely ignored by the Church, or it is taken as not being literal and manipulated to be symbolic, or spiritualised. The breakdown of the “seventy sevens” that Gabriel is giving Daniel are literal years, since the context here is Daniel praying about the seventy years of exile prophesied by Jeremiah.
To support this conclusion, there is the calculation of literal years, the Year of Jubilee in Leviticus (which is related to Jeremiah’s prophecy) translates “sevens” into years.
“Count off seven sabbaths of years – seven times seven years – so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years.” (Leviticus 25:8)
Gabriel then goes on to unveil the significance of the “seventy sevens”:
“From the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem” (25a): The starting point is revealed by Gabriel as being a command being given, which will give the Jews permission to return to their homeland and “restore and rebuild Jerusalem”. This statement has caused much debate amongst theologians, as there are four possible decrees that meet Gabriel’s description:
- Cyrus’ decree given in 538 BC, which allowed the first wave of exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple under Zerubbabel (Ezra 1:1-4). The city itself was not restored.
- Darius’ decree given between 517- 519 BC (Ezra 6:1-12), is a decree of confirmation, Darius is confirming his support of the Cyrus decree that was given in 538 BC.
- The first Artaxerxes’ decree, given in between 457-458 BC (Ezra 7:11-16). This decree was concerned with specific regulations such as documents for safe travel, details concerning the Temple and appointing judges.
- The second Artaxerxes’ decree given in between 444-445 BC (Ezra 7; Nehemiah 2:1-9). This decree gave Nehemiah safe passage, and permission to rebuild the city of Jerusalem including its walls and gates. The city walls were what defined a city in those days, without walls a settlement was defenceless. The city gates would define the structure of the settlement, determining the situation of roads and their direction. This work of construction took 49 years to complete. This fourth decree best suits the prophecy.
“Until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens’” (NIV [25b]): There is an important clarification that needs to be made regarding the term “anointed One,” as there are two references to an anointed one in verses 25 and 26. The use of the title “anointed one” is māshîaḥ (messiah), and refers to the Biblical practice of anointing kings and high priests with olive oil (1 Samuel 2:10; 2 Samuel 22:51; Exodus 40:13; Leviticus 16:32). Both references to the “anointed one” therefore point to the Messiah, Jesus. There are also two references to the title “prince,” Dr Ralph F. Wilson explains that “‘Ruler’ (NIV), ‘prince’ (NRSV, ESV, KJV) in both verses 25 and 26 is nāgîd, ruler, leader, captain. Verse 25 refers to the anointed one Jesus, verse 26 ‘the ruler that shall come’ refers to the Antichrist – the destroyer” (2). So, Gabriel is about to give a marvellous revelation, namely the timing from the restoration of Jerusalem to the return of the Messiah.
Gabriel then proceeds to divide the 490 years of prophecy into three parts, with the first two being given in verse 25:
- The first seven “sevens,” a period of 49 lunar years, is the length of time it took to rebuild Jerusalem. Nehemiah was given the task of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem by God, and his book informs us that the walls and much of the city were still in ruins when he arrived in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:11-16). Nehemiah and the Jews had to work at rebuilding the walls with continuous opposition from opponents (Nehemiah 4), this confirms Gabriel’s warning to Daniel that Jerusalem would be restored in times of distress.
- The next group of “sevens” is sixty-two “sevens,” which is a period of 434 lunar years. So, the period of time Gabriel gives “from” the decree giving permission to restore Jerusalem “until the Anointed one,” the Messiah prince, will be 49 + 434 = 483 lunar years.
- the last “seven,” will occur “after” the Messiah, and is divided into two equal parts of 3 ½ years or 42 months (given in verse 27).
Because Gabriel informs Daniel of the timing to the Messiah, and that He will come before the destruction of the second temple, this verse is an excellent tool for witnessing to Jews, along with the “Son of man” appearing before the “Ancient of Day,” and being worshipped in Daniel 7:13-14.
The sixty-two sevens (434 years) given by Gabriel extend either to Christ’s baptism (about 28 AD) or his presentation of himself as the suffering Messiah – the lamb of God – on Palm Sunday (32 AD), with most evangelical theologians agreeing with this second timing. These years are determined by the Jewish year of 360 days, which is consistent through Scripture, such as 1 260 days in Revelation 11:3, referring to 42 months, and 3 ½ years.
The final seven years begin at the end of present age, with terrible tribulation for Israel and the world, during which the majority of Israel will be saved. The final seven is terminated by Christ’s coming and Kingdom, which will last 1,000 years.
(2) Dr Ralph F. Wilson: The Jesus Walk Series on Daniel: 7. Daniel’s Vision of the Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9:20-27). http://www.jesuswalk.com/daniel/. (20/06/20).
The Final Seven Years (9:26-27)
“26 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. 27 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 9:26-27).
The first 483 years of Gabriel’s prophecy has been accounted for, being literally fulfilled with great accuracy. Our attention must now be turned to examine the last 7 years that are still to be literally fulfilled. An important note must be made before commencing the examination of the prophecy. There is a dispute as to whether the scripture is pointing to Antiochus Epiphanes, or the Antichrist. Antiochus must be seen as a type or forerunner of the Antichrist (the antitype), so the answer is not either/or, but rather both/and. Antiochus, who is a type of the Antichrist, a shadow of the reality, only attains a partial fulfilment of the prophecy. Verses 26 and 27 receive their fulfilment in the life and activities of the counterfeit messiah, the Antichrist.
“An anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing (but not for himself [KJV] 26a)”. The term “cut off” (karath) used by Gabriel means, to kill or destroy, that indicates that the anointed one will be killed. This refers to Jesus, who was crucified as a common criminal, and had no physical offspring. He was dead and buried, at the end of His life He had nothing. The resurrection is the wonder of restoration, Jesus goes from nothing to everything, from suffering Messiah to Lord of all. Also, as made clear in the King James Version, Yeshua, the saviour, died for others – not for Himself. This is an extremely difficult scripture for the Jews to digest, as it states that the Messiah must have lived and died before the Roman destruction of the temple in AD 70. How is it possible for the Messiah to be “cut off,” when he is to sit on the throne of David and rule over a time of unequalled peace? The answer can only be found in Jesus who was “cut off” as the Lamb of God on the cross, was resurrected, and will return as the conquering King to establish His Kingdom.
“The people of the ruler (prince) who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary” (26b). Antiochus Epiphanes destroyed Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple on his return from Egypt in 167-8 BC. However, “the ruler” spoken of by Gabriel is the Antichrist, who is referenced in 2 Thessalonians 2 (written about 50 AD), 1 John 2:18; 4:3 (written somewhere between 70 and 90 AD); and Revelation 13 (written about 90-95 AD), all dating after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Antiochus is the shadow of the reality yet to come.
Both Daniel and Jeremiah prophesied that there would be a return of Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem, which would result in the restoration of Jerusalem and the Temple. Gabriel, however, warns of a future judgement which will again result in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. The Roman general Titus besieged the city of Jerusalem in AD 70, and eventually captured the city, destroying both the city and Herod’s Temple. Therefore, the Romans were the “people” that destroyed Jerusalem, so the prophecy is clear that the “ruler that will come” – the Antichrist, will be from Rome. This is extremely important indicator given to us, as a warning by God, as to the location of the seat of Satan in the last days. This prophecy is not a once off indicator either, God underlines the warning by giving further confirmation:
- The feet of iron and clay from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a statue, the end time kingdom destroyed by Jesus (the rock) at His return will be the restored Roman Empire.
- The fourth beast of Daniel 7 is the Roman Empire, and the little horn representing the Antichrist comes for from the head of the beast – Rome.
- Three times in Daniel the prophecies point to Rome as being the seat of the Antichrist. This is also confirmed in Revelation 17 and 18, which will be made clear in the forthcoming series on the book of Revelation.
There are five clear prophecies pointing directly at Rome being where Satan will have his headquarters, and where the spiritual warfare directing humanity in rebellion to God, will have its centre of operations.
“Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed “ (9:26c). The “end” is referring to the city of Jerusalem, with “the flood” being an apt description of the waves of Roman soldiers breaching the walls of Jerusalem, and overwhelming the city. The desolation of the city was decreed by God, the total destruction of the city took place in 135 BC, with Hadrian ordering that the ruins of Jerusalem be levelled and the land sowed with salt, because of the continued rebellion of the Jews against Roman rule.
“And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week” (9:27a). The “he” referred to by Gabriel, is the “the ruler who will come” – the Antichrist, who will ” make a strong covenant with many for one week”. The Hebrew word used for strong is gābar, which is from the same root word used for the mighty men of David (gibor [1 Sam. 16:18]), meaning “to prevail, be mighty and have strength”. The verb has the implication of forcing an agreement by means of superior strength. This scripture points to the power of persuasion that the Antichrist will have, and the ability to negotiate from a position of strength. The covenant, or peace treaty, seems most likely to be between the Jews and the Muslim nations of the Middle East. For the third Temple to be rebuilt as prophesied, there has to be an agreement between Jew and Muslim for the control of the Temple Mount. For this to happen there would seem to have to be a demilitarization of the Middle Eastern nations, with the armies of the Antichrist being the mediating force that would ensure peace. The Jewish sage Rambam (Moses Maimonides), drew up a list of requirements that the Messiah must fulfill before He can be recognised as being the true Messiah by the Jews; at the top of the list are that He brings peace to Israel, and builds the third Temple. The covenant, therefore, is a must complete, for the Antichrist to be accepted by the Jews as their messiah. The man who brings peace to the Middle East, that allows the Jews to once more make Temple sacrifices alongside the Muslim Al Aqsa Mosque, will not only be celebrated by the Jews, but the whole world!
“And for half of the week (In the middle [NIV]) he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering “ (9:27b). The Antichrist after 3 ½ years of peace as the false messiah, stops the Temple sacrifices and proclaims himself to be god, placing a statue of himself on the Temple Mount (Rev. 13:14-15) and then requires exclusive worship by all:
“And the beast was given (derives power from Satan) a mouth uttering haughty (pride) and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months (last 3 ½ years of the Tribulation),” (Revelation 13:5).
“And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation (NIV)” (9:27c). This was literally fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 BC when he erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple, and sacrificed pigs on the altar. 1 Maccabees, written about 100 BC, uses a similar phrase: “Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev [November/December] in the one hundred forty-fifth year [168 BC], they erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering” (1 Maccabees 1:54). Daniel 11:31a also refers to this desecration: “Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate”. Antiochus Epiphanes as a type of Antichrist fulfils this Scripture when his armies desecrated the Temple in 168 BC. However, putting an end to sacrifice and offering refers to the Antichrist, the “man of lawlessness,” who Paul refers to when he writes: “He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the Temple of God, declaring himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The Temple Paul refers to will be the 3rd Temple, which will be built by the Jews as soon as the peace treaty is signed. As stated earlier, this treaty will bring peace to the Middle East and allow the Jews to worship on the Temple Mount.
There is a third reference to “the abomination” in Daniel Chapter 12: “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days” (12:11). The repetition of the warning underlines the seriousness of the event as a major indicator of the Antichrist and the last 3½ years – the Great Tribulation. This event is still in the future, which is confirmed in the prediction by Jesus of the fall of Jerusalem as an event still to occur, only being fulfilled partially in 70 AD: “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel – let the reader understand….” (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14). Jesus is clearly indicating that the fulfilment of the “abomination that causes desolation” is still in the future, and that the actions of Antiochus were only a shadow of the reality. As was mentioned earlier Paul reinforces this in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 when he describes the Antichrist as, “the man of lawlessness,” setting “himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God”.
“Until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator “ (9:27d). Finally, God will put an end to the rebellion. This ruler (the Antichrist) who opposes God and His people will himself be judged. God’s wrath will be poured out on the man who proclaims himself to be god:
- Antiochus Epiphanes (a type of the Antichrist – who proclaimed to be god), died suddenly of a disease in 164 BC, four years after the “abomination of desolation” was erected in the Temple.
- The Beast (the Antichrist) and the False Prophet are thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). There is judgment, the Kingdom of God prevails.
Lessons to be Learned
Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s plan for mankind which is recorded in Daniel 9:24: “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”. This cannot be fulfilled by man without God, but this is what Jesus, our Messiah, came to do! And, will accomplish when He returns to establish His Kingdom.
Daniel 9 is a clear warning to mankind, that the rebellion of man is going to continue to escalate to the extent that God is going to hand mankind over to a reprobate mind, and that He will give them what they want – the Antichrist. Daniel 9 also, once more, directs believers to Rome as being the seat of Satan, and a focus for our spiritual warfare. Life for a true Christian is going to get worse, but Daniel 9 also gives us great hope of the restoration to come.
Many Christians choose to ignore the warnings of Daniel 9 and Biblical prophecy in general, so, we the have to ask the important question, “Why does God give us prophecy?”.
- It is a revelation that God is the true God and His Word is the truth.
- Prophecy shows God’s power and authority; He does what He pleases and continually fulfils His will.
- Prophecy is the full gospel message – we are all commissioned to be watchmen, and to warn others.
- Prophecy helps us interpret world events.
- Prophecy focuses our prayers – prophecy is for participation not for passivism.
- Prophecy assures us that unjust persecution of the righteous will be avenged by God.
- equips the saints to refute those who mock the Christian faith.
- Prophetic material is also a useful evangelising tool. As world events will follow prophecy, conversation with the unsaved can reveal God’s hand is the course of mankind.
- Prophecy gives motivation for holy living (eternally minded believers).
- James 5:10-11: The study of prophecy encourages patient endurance in the midst of trials.
The return of Jesus at the Second Coming will be the end of the work of Satan and the start of His rule on earth. This is the end goal of our faith. We should be continually praying for our King to take His rightful place on the Throne of David.