The Seventy Weeks of Daniel

Daniel 9:23-27:

  "At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.  Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation, and to make an end of sins, an to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be build again, and the wall, even in troublous times.  And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: an the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.  And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall causes the sacrifice and oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate."

  This chapter, so often referred to as the "seventy weeks of Daniel," is the sugar stick of Seventh Day Adventists, Millennial Dawnists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and about all shades and colors of millennialsists. None of them appears to be sure as to its meaning but they "figure" it into a millennial interpretation.

 The "day a year" interpretation makes the seventy weeks a four hundred and ninety year period, they tell us. Then how do they know that the "tribulation": is literally only seven years long?  And how do they know that the thousand years which they call the millennium is literally only a thousand years?  By their rule of interpretation of the seventy weeks (a day for a year) the "tribulation" would be 2555 years and the millennium would be 365,000 years. The millennial fellows figure just like they prophesy!

  It is stated in the text that the seventy weeks began from the going forth of the command meant to rebuild and restore Jerusalem.  Based on the accepted principle that the weeks are not of days but of years, each week would be seven years, and the most satisfactory and acceptable chronology bears out that the sixty-nine weeks brings the prophesy to the crucifixion of Christ; and the one week to complete the seventy, the seven years from the crucifixion to the conversion of Cornelius, when the covenant was confirmed "with many" – the reception of the Gentiles into he new covenant.  Without mathematical calculation the sequel was the destruction of Jerusalem, shown by the quotation of verse 27 in Matthew 24:15.  It settles the event which should follow the confirmation of the covenant- Dan. 9:27 – the desecration of the temple by the Romans at the destruction of Jerusalem.

  A large group of commentators, historians, scholars and chronological authorities are in agreement with the viewpoint that the seventy weeks relate to the whole period between the proclamation of Cyrus and the end of the Jewish commonwealth.  It cannot be chance that from the seventh year of Artaxerxes, when the commission was given to Ezra to restore Jerusalem, to the death of Christ, it was precisely the number of weeks of years; and that from the death of Christ to the command given to Peter to preach to Cornelius it was precisely one week of seven years; and that from Vespasian’s march into Judea to the taking of Jerusalem it was precisely a half septenary of years, corresponding with the event of abomination and desolation to take place in the midst of one week.  So it is reckoned that from the time of the exile, mentioned in verse 2, there would be seventy years of desolation for Jerusalem, and hat Daniel’s seventy weeks is an extension of the biblical use of sevens, sometimes literal and sometimes figurative in reference to time; but always indicative of something other than a literal or mathematical application.  The seventy weeks of Daniel are thus applied to the period between the decree for restoration of Jerusalem after the seventy years of exile and the coming of Christ, including the conversion of the Gentiles and followed by the desolation of the temple and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

  It is pointed out that the seventy weeks are heptades, a sum or a number of seven, or groups of seven, and do not necessarily follow in succession in order to carry out the prophetic purpose; but the heptades may be separated by other periods and events, and are not therefore subject to a  continuous or successive mathematical calculation.  In this view the first heptad would be the period of restoration under the decree of Cyrus; the second heptad would be the necessary intervening time between the restoration and the transition to the new age and kingdom of eternal righteousness; the third and final heptad would be the period of consummation of the prophecy between the cutting of  the Messiah and the end of the Jewish state, not indicating an exact date nor a single event, but covering broadly the Neronean persecution and the destruction of Jerusalem, which connects Dan. 9:27 with the Lord’s quotation in Matthew 24:15.  It was during this period that oblation and sacrifice ceased, and the temple destroyed with all the ceremonies and services of the sanctuary.

  So the terminus a quo – the end or limit from which – to the terminus ad quem – the end or limit to which; or, the starting point and the terminating point, would be the entire period from the decreed of Cyrus to the final overthrow of the Jewish state by Nero, comprehended by periods of sevens but not necessarily joined, there’re being some historical events between, interrupting the succession of the heptades.  Various efforts to establish the corresponding dates to fit exact mathematical calculation have confessedly presented discrepancies, and failed at certain points, the periods covering the things mentioned, allowing for intervening histor4cal developments, harmonizes with the purpose of the prophecies and all phases of fulfillment, and is consistent with the structure of apocalyptic vision. Several example of such application are available, among them the references tin Leviticus 26 to Israel being smitten “seven times,” which is, of course, not mathematical; and the use of the expression “seventy times seven” in Matthew 18:22.

  When exact dates are meant, they are specified as in Isa. 7:5-9 when the time for Ephraim, the ten tribes, to be broken and to “be not a people” was set by the prophet at sixty-five years from the time named and was mathematically fulfilled.  The period of Israel’s exile given in Jer. 25:12 – seventy years – affords another instance.  But when periods are the basis of prophetic vision and apocalyptic description they are not subject to exact mathematics any more than such terms as “ten days” and “thousand years” in connection with prophecy and apocalypse.

  The Sabbath of the Jews was the seventh day of the week, and the jubilee was based on seven times
seven years.  The term seven would indicate a complete time, while the use of the three and one-half weeks or months or days, as sometimes uses, being half of seven would be indicative of an incomplete period of time.  In the description of the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes, the persecutor of the Maccabean period, use is made of "time, times and half a time" – time being one year, times two years and half time,  half a year, or the dividing of time" in Dan. 7:25 – which fits exactly the count of Josephus, and other historians, of the period in which Antiochus changed the times and the laws, when he abolished the worship of the temple and stopped the offering of the daily sacrifices for three years and a half.  This is according to Daniel’s statement of chapter 7, verse 25: "And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time."  Both the description and the period fit into the history of the persecutor Antiochus Epiphanes and his dealings with the pious Jews and the worship of the temple during the Antiochus oppression.

 With these considerations on the various methods of considering the periodicity of the septenary numbers in Daniel’s visions, the seventy weeks of Daniel would come between the two boundary dates: the decrees of Cyrus and Artaxerxes for the restoration of Jerusalem as the terminus a quo – from which to reckon the beginning of all events belonging to the period, and the destruction of Jerusalem as the terminus ad quem, the end of it.  The beginning boundary date is fixed by Daniel’s statement "from the going forth of the commandment" in Dan. 9:25, and the ending boundary date is fixed by the Lord’s quotation in Matthew 24:15 concerning the "abomination of desolation" which was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem under Nero and Vespasian, A.D. 70. With the general period determined, the events can be arranged and summed up according to the specifications of Dan. 9:23-27, and the new testament passages fulfilling them:

    1. Seventy weeks from the commandment – Dan. 9:23-27.

    2. Finish the transgression and make an end of sin – Heb. 10:12; Eph. 2:15.

    3.  Bring everlasting righteousness – Rom. 3:21-31.

    4. Reconciliation for iniquity -Col. 1:20; Heb. 2:17.

    5. Anoint the most Holy-Acts 4:26-27; Heb. 1:8-9.

    6. The Messiah cut off – Isa. 53:8; Acts 8:32-33.

    7.  Destroy the city and sanctuary – Matt. 24:1-34.

    8.  Covenant confirmed with many – Acts 10:34; Rom. 9:30.

    9.  Seal up the vision- indicating the completed vision by its fulfillment in the events specified.

  That the confirmation of the covenant in the prophecy refers to the inclusion of the Gentiles is show by the connection of Rom. 9:30-33 and I Pet. 2:1-10, both of which passages show that the covenant of Isa. 28:16 includes the Gentiles, and finds fulfillment in Peter’s statement in Acts 10:34 at the house of Cornelius: "of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."

  The terminating point of the prophecy is shown to be the destruction of Jerusalem as foretold by the Lord in Matthew 24, and settled by his own quotation from Daniel’s prophecy, in verse 15 – and form this, to the believer in Christ, there can be no appeal.  It should be observed that Daniel did not say that the Messiah would be cut off in the midst of the week – the passage says that "the Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself."  The expression "in the midst of the week" is connected with the causing of the sacrifices and oblations to cease after the covenant was confirmed with the Gentiles.  The phrase "in the midst of the week" does not indicate the middle of the week, but during the week.  The Messiah was cut off at the crucifixion of Christ, finishing the transgression, making an end of sin, making reconciliation for iniquity, and bringing in the covenant for everlasting righteousness – but among the Jews the sacrifices, oblations and all the services of the temple continued until the destruction of Jerusalem.  It was that event that should "cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease," and the reason given was "for the overspreading of abominations…even until the consummation."  And this event would be the sequel to the confirmation of the covenant with the Gentiles.   Read the whole passage of Daniel 9, verse 27:  "And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading \of the abominations he shall mike it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured out upon the desolate."  Thus the destruction of Jerusalem was the terminating point of all the event within the seventy weeks of Daniel, covering the conclusion of the exile, the ushering in the the gospel times, the consecration fo the Messiah to his redeeming office, and the end of all the temple services with the termination of the Jewish state.