The Seventy Weeks of Daniel (9:24-27)

Introduction­­

“For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

(2 Peter 1:21 ESV)

The Apostle Peter is very clear that man can never accurately produce a prophecy unless directed by God himself. This includes Daniel, all of the dreams he interpreted and prophecies he gave, were not of him. One of the most controversial prophecies in the whole book, if not the whole Bible, is found in last four verses of chapter nine, Daniel 9:24-27. The prophecy found in these four verses in commonly called the “seventy weeks”, but it is also known as the “seventy sevens”. The prophecy of the seventy weeks is such an important part of understanding God’s word that H.A. Ironside said, “for if the seventy weeks be misunderstood then an effort will necessarily be made to bend all the other prophetic scriptures into accord with that misinterpretation.”[1]

What makes Daniel all the more interesting is that his primary job was not that of a prophet like some of his other contemporaries (Isaiah, Ezekiel, & etc.). For a long time he served as the second in command of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, taking care of the business of the country. By the time Daniel received the revelation of this prophecy he was an elderly man possibly over eighty years old, he had already lived his adult life under the rule of a foreign king;

and he was praying to the Lord, seeking to find out when his people would be freed from this bondage. During his prayer is when the angel Gabriel arrives to give him answers to his question. And these are the words he spoke,

“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. 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. 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.” [2]

Concerning Verse 24

When you begin to fully delve into this passage of scripture, you notice right away that verse twenty-four is pregnant with information. It then becomes our job to understand the best we can what the Lord is trying to tell us through Daniel. Right from the very beginning we have to clarify what Daniel means when he says “Seventy weeks”; is he referring to a literal period of time? Stephen Miller in his commentary on Daniel points out that there are four views on what this can mean; first – they are literal years that extend through the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, second – they are symbolic periods of time ending in the first century A.D., third – they are symbolic periods of time ending at Christ’s second coming, fourth – They are literal years ending with Christ’s second coming.[3] It seems that most of the commentators I have read fall into the fourth category. This is because they have taken a closer look at the word used for weeks in the Greek text heptad, Ironside believes, “The word here rendered “weeks” does not necessarily mean weeks of days, but it is a generic term (like our word dozen) a heptad, meaning a seven, and may be applied to whatever subject is under consideration.”[4]

So if we understand the point Ironside is trying to make is that when Daniel speaks of the Seventy “weeks” or heptads he can be referring to a group of seven years. This is something that is difficult to be dogmatic about, but if we use context clues and common sense we come to the understanding that Daniel did not mean days or weeks. By multiplying seventy by seven we are given 490, and this is what starts making the prophecy sticky. However, there are those like D.M. Lloyd-Jones who take the stance that, “it is unwise to regard the ‘seventy’ and ‘seven’ as exact terms. I suggest to you that in prophecy, numbers are symbolical. They are not meant to be exact, but are meant to convey an idea.”[5] Miller responds to those like Llyod-Jones by asking, “…those who contend that the sevens are symbolic must account for the fact that specific numbers are used and for division of the seventy sevens into units of seven, sixty-two, and one. Why would such definite numbers be employed to represent periods of indefinite length?”[6]

Miller makes a good point, especially when we take a closer look at the word decreed. The Hebrew word is hātăk meaning decreed or ordained when it pertains to a plan. This word is only used this one time in the OT. This leads into what Daniel was praying about his people (the Jews) and his city (Jerusalem). Gabriel goes on to explain that there are six great achievements that must take place before the end. Those achievements are to finish the transgression, make an end of sins, make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint the Most Holy (some versions add place). MacArthur tells us, “… the first three are fulfilled in principle at Christ’s First Coming, in full at His return. The last three complete the plan at His Second Advent.”[7] However, I think Archer gives us a much better understanding of the division when he says, “the first three relate to the removal of sin; the second three to the restoration of righteousness.”[8]

It should be mentioned that the root for the word of transgression is peša which usually means rebellion against a ruler in the secular context, but in the religious sense it should refer to Israel rebelling against God. So the first and second are tied closely together since the word used for transgression and sin are the exact same word in the Hebrew. It seems that most commentators are in agreement that the third point emphatically points to Christ’s work on the cross. As we move into the fourth point, it has been suggested that it deals with the millennial kingdom that takes place and righteousness shall reign there, Walvoord and Zuck understand it to mean this, “Being satisfied by the death of Christ, God will bring in everlasting righteousness. The form of the verb “bring in” here, means “to cause to come in.” The word “everlasting” (here pl. in Heb.) means ages. Thus this phrase (lit., “to bring in righteousness of ages”) is a prophecy that God will establish an age characterized by righteousness. This is a reference to the Millennial kingdom (Isa. 60:21; Jer. 23:5-6).”[9]

When we read the fifth point like any of the others it could easily cause confusion, what could Daniel possibly mean when he says, “to seal up vision and prophet”? While many commentators speak of the different interpretations of what this can mean, Miller summarizes all the different aspects available when he says, “In the first case “to seal up vision and prophecy” would signify that these forms of revelation would be closed, and in the second the idea would be that God will someday set his seal of authentication upon every God-given revelation (“vision and prophecy”) by bringing about its complete fulfillment.”[10]

Last, and by no means least it says to anoint the Most Holy. There are several major translations of our day that add place at the end of the phrase (the ESV, NASB, NET, and HCSB). The NIV is one translation that ends the sentence after the Most Holy. Through my research I have noticed that there tends to be two main views on this translation. There are those who want to view this anointing as that of Christ (James Smith, D.M. Lloyd-Jones), but there are those who argue against this, saying that it is the Holy of Holies in the temple or tabernacle (Miller, Archer, Jamison, Faucet and Brown). I can see the point of Smith’s argument that those following verses point to Christ and not the temple the word qō∙ḏěš means “…sanctuary, i.e., a building dedicated in service to God, a place in which the Lord is normally present when ritual and moral purity are practiced (Ex 35:19; Ps 20:3[EB 2]), note: this can refer to a moveable tabernacle building, or a permanent temple building;…” [11] Through further investigation however, the words here are for holies or holiness and at times may refer to a person. When we are allowed to view scripture in the best way possible, and we are to use the context available, we are still left to question if this refers to the temple or Jesus. In the end we settle with what is previously established elsewhere in scripture, and conclude that Daniel was referring to the temple.

Now that we have set the stage for the seventy weeks, let’s take a closer look at what is really going on.

Concerning Verse 25

Verse twenty-five starts off with a powerful command, the ESV translates yada as “know” which is where we get our phrase yada yada, or I know, I know. It could have also been translated as “consider” like it had been five other times in the OT. Gabriel could have been easily telling Daniel, consider what I am telling you, and understand that from the word, to restore Jerusalem to the coming of the anointed prince; there shall be seven weeks. So after Daniel is supposed to know and understand there is going to be a command or a word to restore Jerusalem, this is where things get challenging. There are those who believe that the command being mentioned here is the one that comes from Cyrus to allow the Jews to return home and rebuild their temple in 538 B.C. Then there are others who believe it was during the twentieth year of Artaxerxes in 445 B.C.

When it comes to the time frame Lloyd-Jones feels that, “The most obvious interpretation is that it was the time when God first gave His command to Cyrus, but it does not of necessity follow that that was when it began to be carried out. Rather that was when it was first mooted, when it was first indicated, when God first showed that this was to be done. But we cannot prove it and, therefore, how dangerous it is to try to fix exact dates!”[12] However, if we take a close look at the decrees that allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem, the one from Cyrus was not about the city; it was specifically about the temple itself. In my opinion the best understood decree would be that of Artaxerxes Longimanus, issued on March 5, 444 b.c. (Neh. 2:1-8). On that occasion Artaxerxes granted the Jews permission to rebuild Jerusalem’s city walls.[13] So while the city itself had not been fully rebuilt in that forty-nine year the wall had been rebuilt, and that allowed the next set of 62 weeks to come in. Leading the way to the anointed one, a prince; along with the rebuilding of the city itself.

Verse twenty five covers in total sixty-nine of the seventy weeks we are taking a look at. One thing that is troubling to me though, is it speaks of the going out of the word to rebuild Jerusalem, to the coming of the anointed one is seven weeks. Is this supposed to mean that during that time frame the Messiah (which means anointed one in Hebrew) would come? Warren Wiersbe helps answer that question by explaining that,

Gabriel said that there would be a total of sixty-nine weeks, seven and sixty-two, between the giving of the decree and the arrival of Messiah, the Prince, in Jerusalem (× = 483 years). Keep in mind that “prophetic years” in the Bible are not 365 days, but 360 days long. It has been calculated by scholars that there were 483 prophetic years between the decree in 445 B.C. and the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (cf. The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson, Kregel, 1967).[14]

For a better understanding of the prophetic year, take a look at Walvoord and Zuck’s The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg 1362, they have a graphic explaining the difference in days. This also brings up the question of the division of the Seventy Weeks, why seven weeks, sixty-two, and one? Because it allows us to see the building of the city and the temple and the coming of Messiah, during the first sixty-nine weeks. It seems however one of the greatest controversies over scripture has to do with the seventieth week.

Concerning Verse 26

After the city has been rebuilt and the Messiah has come and presented himself to the people, Daniel tells us that he shall be “cut off and shall have nothing”. It is understood by most all commentators that this speaks of the death of Christ. Smith lays it out in these terms, “The text does not indicate in verse 26 how long after his appearance this cutting off takes place. The language points to a premature death. At the time of his death the Anointed One would “have nothing.” This is a forceful way of indicating Messiah’s utter rejection. The fulfillment is evident in the life of Jesus. He was arrested, tried and executed on a cross at the age of thirty-three after a brief ministry of three and a half years. Christ was stripped of even his clothes.” [15]

The verse goes on to say that the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the temple. Well we know that the Jews would not want to destroy their own city and temple after putting in the effort to rebuild it. So the verse must be speaking of another prince. Most will agree that the prince who is to come is referring to the Antichrist himself. And the people he would come from would be one of the countries that made up the ancient Roman Empire because according to Miller, “In A.D. 70 Titus Vespasianus led the Roman legions against Jerusalem and utterly destroyed both the city and the temple. Exactly forty years after his crucifixion, Christ prophecy about these events was fulfilled (cf Matt 24:1-2).”[16] It is thought that “comes as a flood” is referring to a quick destruction of the city. But we do know that throughout history the Israeli people have not had any peace, it was not until 1948 that they were considered to be a country again. And even since then they remain in constant conflict with someone.

Concerning Verse 27

He shall make a strong covenant with many for one week. Who exactly is the he? According to the last person mentioned it is the prince who is to come or Antichrist. So we know who the he is but who are the many? That is a question that has a couple of possible answers. Miller again offers a great perspective on both sides, “Walvoord believes the phrase “the many” refers to unbelieving Jews, whereas Archer and Young contend that these are “true believers”, the likely meaning of the expression in Isa 53:11-12. In this context however, “the many” is best taken as a description of the Jewish people as a group, the nation of Israel.”[17]

Since we have understood the weeks to represent periods of seven years, the covenant he makes is for a period that long. And for half of that time he will put an end to sacrifices and offerings. So for a period of three and half years he will end these things. The verse continues its description of what will happen with the Antichrist, it has been suggested that the wing is a wing of the temple and that is how he comes to make desolate. The decreed end he will receive is what is promised of him and Satan in Revelation 19:20.

Conclusion

The Book of Daniel is an amazingly powerful book and these four verses alone can captivate the minds of any who attempt to understand them. Daniel spoke of prophetic times that have come to pass for the most part, the city was rebuilt, Messiah came and was rejected, and the city was destroyed all over again. However, we have yet to witness the rise of the prince who is to come and the abomination of desolations he will cause. This is a real prophecy with a real time frame, but we should do as our Lord asks and keep watch for him and not spend our time seeking after another.

Bibliography

Archer Jr., Gleason L. The Expositiors Bible Commentary-Daniel. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.

Biblical Studies Press. The NET Bible First Edition Notes, Biblical Studies Press, 2006.

Brown, Francis, Samuel Rolles Driver and Charles Augustus Briggs. Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. electronic ed. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2000.

Calvin, John. Calvin’s Commentaries. 22 vols. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2005.

Drane, John William. Introducing the Old Testament. Completely rev. and updated. Oxford: Lion Publishing plc, 2000.

Gingrich, Roy E. The Seventy Weeks of Daniel. Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing, 1996.

Ironside, Henry Allan. Lectures on Daniel the Prophet. 2d ed. New York: Loizeaux Bros., 1953.

Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

Lloyd-Jones, David Martyn. The Church and the Last Things. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2005.

Miller, Stephen R. The New American Commentary– Daniel . Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1994.

Smith, James E. The Major Prophets. Joplin, MO: College Press, 1992.

Strong, James. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 1996.

Swanson, James. Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament). electronic ed. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.

Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Edited by Harris, R. Laird, Gleason L. Archer, Jr. and Bruce K. Waltke. electronic ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999.

Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Wiersbe, Warren W. Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1993.


[1] Henry Allan Ironside, Lectures on Daniel the Prophet., 2d ed. (New York: Loizeaux Bros., 1953), 155.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Da 9:24–27.

[3] Stephen R. Miller, The New American Commentary– Daniel . (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 1994) 253-57.

[4] Ironside, Lectures, 163.

[5] David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Church and the Last Things (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1998), 122.

[6] Miller, Daniel, 258.

[7] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary. (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2005) 962.

[8] Gleason L Archer Jr., The Expositiors Bible Commentary-Daniel. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981) 112.

[9] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary, The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-), Da 9:24.

[10] Miller, Daniel, 261.

[11] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[12] Lloyd-Jones, The Church, 124.

[13] Walvoord, Bible, Da 9:25.

[14] Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1993), Da 9:20–27.

[15] James E. Smith, The Major Prophets (Joplin, Mo.: College Press, 1992), Da 9:26.

[16] Miller, Daniel, 268.

[17] Miller, Daniel, 271.

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