Friday, November 29, 2013



            The fourth vision came to Daniel after an intense season of prayer (9:1-19).  Daniel prayed for a relenting of God’s judgment on His people, the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple.  His prayer was on the basis of God’s mercy, not on the righteousness of himself or his people (9:18).  He implored God to forgive and to act (9:19). 

            Daniel’s prayer was answered through the angel Gabriel (though called a man, verse 9:21).  Gabriel came to him “in swift flight.”  Here was an occasion when angels flew.  One is put in mind of Superman streaking through the sky to rescue people in trouble.  Gabriel explained that, as soon as Daniel began his prayer, “a word went out,” and Gabriel came to deliver that word (9:23).  Gabriel introduced the message as follows (9:23):  “Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.”  Note that this message is a verbal description of events, but it is called a “vision.”  It appears to me that a “vision” in Daniel is a revelation from God by whatever means—a dream, a presentation of visual material to an individual who is awake, or an oral description from a heavenly messenger, as in this case.

            To what degree Daniel understood the vision (9:23), we do not have much of a clue.  There is no interpretation of the material.  It is quite brief and has more meaning as we look back on it than it would for someone looking at the future through this lens.

            The framework of the “vision” is “seventy weeks” (ESV) or “seventy sevens” (NIV).  These seventy weeks are “about” (ESV) or “for” (NIV) “your people and your holy city.”  These seventy weeks or sevens are generally interpreted as a time frame, since a week refers to a span of time.  This time frame is given as the time in which certain things would be accomplished, as follows (9:24):

·          “to finish the transgression”

·         “to put an end to sin”

·         “to atone for iniquity”

·         “to bring in everlasting righteousness

·         “to seal both vision and prophet”

·         “to anoint a most holy place”

These six actions divide in half.  The first three focus on the sin issue.  The first two goals are to end humanity’s rebellion and sinful actions.  What is envisioned is a hammer-blow to sin that will crush its power for all time.  In the third accomplishment, iniquity is covered over, just as the blood of the sacrifice covered the “mercy seat” in the Temple on the Day of Atonement (Exodus 16).  Thus, redemption from sin is accomplished in the first half of these goals.  (See Miller, 259-260.)

            Once redemption takes place, then three more goals can be completed.  With sin no longer a human reality, “everlasting righteousness” can be reality.  Moreover, visions and the prophetic activity will be sealed.  This can be understood both as a closing up of that which is no longer needed as well as a “seal of approval” through the fulfillment of prophecy.  (Miller, 260-261.)

The final goal is “to anoint a most holy place.”  Miller takes this to be an anointing of the Temple that will be used in the Millennium.  He believes that the Temple that is described in Ezekiel 40-43 will be the Temple of the Millennium.  (Miller, 261-262)  I have some reservations about this interpretation, but I shall not address them in this article.

The goals or purposes that are to be accomplished in these 70 weeks are awe-inspiring.  Within the span of a single verse, we are presented with the plans and purposes of God’s redemptive program. 

A week was a basic unit of time that was based on God’s original work of creation (Genesis 1) and that was given to people as the cycle of work and rest (Exodus 20:8-11).  Moreover, seven years was given to the land as the cycle of tilling and lying fallow (Exodus 23:10-11).  After seven of those seven year cycles, the fiftieth year was to be a year of jubilee, when land would return to the family and indentured servants would go free.  If seven sevens are multiplied by another “perfect number,” ten, then one gets 70 weeks, 70 X 7 or 490.  If the idea—that the “weeks” are weeks of years, or seven-year periods—is accepted, then the total time span is 490 years.

Some have considered that the “weeks” refer to time periods, but not specific time periods.  Thus, some have understood the first seven weeks occurred before Christ and the remaining weeks were after Christ until His Second Coming.  By this accounting, the first seven weeks covered about 550 years.  If the following 62 weeks were proportional, then Christ is due in AD 4871!  However, these interpreters did not understand this passage to be parsed in a mathematical way.  (Miller, 255-257)  Another group of interpreters also abandon proportionality in order to “fit” their interpretation of the 70 weeks from Cyrus to AD 70.  (Miller, 254-255)  Another group of interpreters understood the 490 years to fit between Daniel’s time and the time of the cleansing of the Temple in 163 BC.  This group confuses the issue by either starting at 605 BC or 586 BC.  In either case, the 490 years is too long.  The interpreters blame this on the author of Daniel (who they believe wrote in the Second Century BC and who, they believe, was mistaken in his history). 

The interpretative scheme that is best known is one that seeks to follow the text in Daniel very closely.  In that text, there are three groups of weeks—a group of 7, a group of 62, and a group of 1—to make a total of 70 weeks.  If one follows the text closely (9:25), one notes that the first two groups, the group of 7 and the group of 62, are accounted for before the “anointed one, a prince.”  The translations of verse 9:25 vary considerably among the versions.  Some capitalize “Anointed One” or translate it as “Messiah,” and some do not.  There is no definite article with the word, so its meaning is somewhat up in the air.  The more significant variation among the translators is the two groups of weeks. (Thanks to .)   At least two versions (ESV and New Revised Standard Version) translate the two sets of weeks as applying to two parts of the sentence:

·         7 weeks from the word to rebuild until the coming of the anointed one

·         62 weeks during which the rebuilding goes on

The other versions that I looked at apply both sets of weeks to the first period:  7 weeks and 62 weeks from the word to rebuild until the coming of the anointed one.  The remaining part of the sentence is additional material.  To make this clear, please compare the following two quotations:

·          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.  (ESV)

·         Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. (NIV)

My knowledge of Hebrew is insufficient to critique these alternatives.  I favor the latter translation (NIV as one example), which applies the two groups of seven to the first period of time, from the word to rebuild until the Messiah.  I base this on three reasons, as follows:

·         The Hebrew puts the two time periods (seven weeks and sixty-two weeks) together and then separates the following material—“it will be rebuilt…”—from the earlier part of the sentence by “and.”

·         The Septuagint understands the two groups to apply to the earlier part of the sentence and translates consistent with the second (NIV) translation.

·         It does not make much sense to apply the longer period, sixty-two weeks, to the time for rebuilding, especially since it is mentioned second.  Miller understands the earlier period of seven weeks (49 years) to be the main time of rebuilding during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (Miller, 266). 

Verse 9:26 is even more complex than 9:25 and contains a huge amount of material.  The second period, the sixty-two week period, is mentioned, but not the seven week period.  Consistent with the NIV translation of verse 9:25, this second period would be a period after the rebuilding effort, as follows:

·         First period of seven weeks:  the rebuilding effort described at the end of verse 9:25:  “It will be rebuilt with streets…”

·         Second period of sixty-two weeks:  a non-descript period, after the seven week period, until the Anointed One, the Prince comes (9:25). 

·         After the second period, the Anointed One will be cut off and have nothing (9:26).

This sentence, which begins verse 9:26, seems to be understood as a forecast of the death of the Messiah (the Anointed One).  Was this one of the Scriptures Jesus used on the walk to Emmaus to explain why He had to die (Luke 24:25-27)?  Next comes a sentence that can throw one off balance without careful reading, because it begins to describe another ruler:  “And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.”  (9:26b, ESV)  Note that it is not “the prince,” but the “people of the prince” who destroy the city and the sanctuary.  Consider how we (and Daniel) are whipsawed by these prophecies.  First, there is a word going forth to rebuild.  Then, there is a rebuilding.  Then, the Anointed One comes.  However, he is cut off.  Then, what had been rebuilt is destroyed by an obscure “people of the prince who is to come.”  This latter prince cannot be equated with the former prince or ruler who is the Anointed One, because it does not seem consistent that an Anointed One would be party to the destruction of the city and the sanctuary.  The best “fit” for this prophecy is the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70 by the Romans.  Now, we tie the Romans to the “prince who is to come.”

            Now, there is mention of the “end” (9:26c).  The latter part of 9:26 is translated several ways.  I shall not delve into the details of the differences among these.  There are actually two “ends” in 9:26c.  The first “end” is translated either as the end of the city, the end of the prince who is to come, or “the end.”  The majority view seems to be that the first “end” is the end of the city and sanctuary—which comes like a flood.  This would be a characterization of the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.  The second “end” is viewed by most translators as an end equivalent to the last days (“the end”).  I believe that it is the “end” that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24:14 (ESV):  “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”  The period until “the end” is characterized by war and desolations.

            Verse 9:27 begins with the activity of a “he.”  The antecedent of this “he” would most likely be the “prince who is to come” who is mentioned in 9:26b.  He will make a firm covenant with “many” for one week.  Since we have accounted for 69 of the 70 weeks that were mentioned in 9:24, we assume that the final week is now meant as the period of this covenant.  Who are the “many”?  It could be a vague term relating to lots of people.  The Greek “many” often relates to the majority, but that is usually with the definite article, which is absent in both the Hebrew and the Septuagint.  We might conclude that the “many” are enough people to bring the covenant into effect.  Though we are not told who these “many” are, the rest of the verse would lead to the conclusion that they are probably the Jews.  That is not a firm conclusion, however.

            For “half of the week” (ESV, 9:27b) is probably the most literal translation.  Other translations supply more information than seems to be there.  For example, NIV says that “in the middle of the seven…” However, we are not told when this half a week is, whether it is after the first half or if it is a chunk out of the middle:  say, one-quarter, then one-half, then one-quarter.  If one follows the narrative, it makes sense that the half of a week is at the latter end of the week.  This conclusion is because it appears that the actions during the half of a week are a betrayal.  There is a firm covenant (9:27a), but then, the prince puts an end to sacrifice and offering (9:27b).

            The final part of the verse (9:27c) seems to be very difficult to translate.  Some translators were influenced by the Septuagint (evidently) and others follow the Hebrew.  I surveyed seven translations and they vary widely.  Most of them do not make a whole lot of sense.  There is mention in all of them of some sort of desolation or abomination.  In some cases, it involves the Temple and, in some, a wing of the Temple, but this is not clear.  With one exception, the translations all mention that an end of the person or entity that causes the desolation has been decreed.  This verse is often related to verse 11:31, which does mention the “abomination that makes desolate.”  That verse also mentions taking away the daily sacrifice.  So, the two verses have much in common.

            The following table is an attempt to summarize this passage.
DANIEL 9:24-27





70 weeks are decreed for your people

70 weeks or 490 years are forecast for Daniel’s people during which 6 goals are accomplished to fulfill the redemptive plan of God.


From decree to the Anointed One, 7 weeks and 62 weeks

The period until the Messiah will be 49 years plus 434 years (total of 483 years).


Rebuilt with squares and a moat

The city will be rebuilt.



Anointed One cut off

Messiah will die (the cross of Jesus).


People of the prince will destroy the city

A people of another prince will destroy the city and the sanctuary (AD 70 destruction); its end will be like a flood.


War until the end

Until “the end” there will be wars and desolation.



He shall make a covenant

The prince to come will make a covenant with many for one week (7 years).


½ week: end to sacrifices

For the second half he will end the sacrifices and offerings.


Abomination and desolation

Some sort of desolation will occur and the desolator will be destroyed.
            What is left for us to do is to try to coordinate these 70 Weeks with known historical events.  The vision is consistent with the following events:
·         There were several decrees or words that can fit with the “word” to rebuild Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.
·         The city was eventually rebuilt, especially in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.
·         Jesus, the Messiah, came and died on the cross.
·         The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70.
The first issue is to decide what constitutes the beginning of the 70 Weeks.  Jeremiah had given a prophecy that the captivity—and devastation of Jerusalem—would last 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12, Daniel 9:2).  This period would be from 605 BC to about 537 BC, when Cyrus permitted the return of the exiles, or from 586 BC to 516 BC, the completion of the Temple under Zerubbabel (see NIV and ESV Study Bible notes).  This “word” of Jeremiah could be the beginning of the 70 weeks.  However, 69 weeks or 483 years later does not lead one to the time of the Messiah (or anything else).  The permission that was given by Cyrus in 538/537 BC also leads to an unsatisfactory result.
The two “words” or “decrees” that are most likely to be the beginning of the 70 Weeks are either the letter from Artaxerxes I to Ezra (Ezra 7:11ff) (458 BC)  or the permission that Artaxerxes I gave to Nehemiah to repair Jerusalem (444 BC).  The second, frankly, makes the most sense.  However, there are some arguments that favor the first.
·         The second was not a formal decree, which the “word” in 9:25 implies.
·         Nehemiah’s work as governor was probably completed by about 409 BC, since there is historical record that another person was governor by 407 BC.  Since 409 is 49 years after 458, the first period of seven weeks is accounted for. (Miller, 266)
·         In Ezra 4:7-23, the opposition to the Jews and their rebuilding efforts resulted in a report to Artaxerxes I.  This report was before the events in Nehemiah 1-2.  Yet, the report described how the Jews were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.  This means that the decree of Artaxerxes I in 458 implied permission to rebuild the city as well as the Temple.  Due to the opposition, the effort was halted and what had been accomplished was destroyed by fire (Nehemiah 1:3).  (NIV and ESV Study Bible notes)
If one calculates the 483 years of the first 69 Weeks from 458 BC, one comes to the year AD 25.   This is very close to the time of Jesus’ baptism and the beginning of His ministry. 
There has been another calculation that is based on the starting date of 444 BC, which was developed by Robert Anderson (Pentecost, 245-246).  He makes a very precise calculation, to the very day, from the permission that was given by Artaxerxes to Nehemiah to the triumphant entry of Christ on Palm Sunday.  He calculates this to be 173,880 days.  He then calculates that 483 years of 360-day years (“prophetic years”) is equal to 173,880 days.  There are some problems with this elegant calculation.
·         First, he assumes that the year of the crucifixion was AD 32, but most scholars believe it was earlier.
·         Second, he assumes that 360 is a “prophetic year.”  I do not know where he arrives at that decision.  The Jewish calendar was a lunar calendar.  Six months were 30 days and six were 29 days.  This makes a 354 day calendar.  Over a period of 19 years, “leap months” were added in some years so the year would remain consistent with the solar year.  Thus, there was no correspondence in Jewish practice with a 360 day calendar.
            It was to be after the 69 Weeks that the Anointed One would be cut off (9:26a).  This is consistent with the crucifixion in about AD 30.  At an indeterminate time after that, the city and Temple would be destroyed by people of the prince to come (9:26b).  This is consistent with the Roman destruction of AD 70.  The war and desolations (9:26c) have been going ever since.  The events of 9:27 are yet future.  The following table summarizes these conclusions.





Beginning of 70 Weeks

458 BC

Ezra 7:11ff, Daniel 9:25a

Letter from Artaxerxes to Ezra granting permission to rebuild Temple and (implied) to restore Jerusalem

First 7 Weeks

458-409 BC

Daniel 9:25b

Completion of the work of Ezra and Nehemiah, including restoration of Jerusalem

Period of 62 Weeks

409 BC –AD 25

Daniel 9:25b, c

Includes end of Old Testament period and period of the Maccabees; ends with the baptism of Jesus

After the 62 Weeks

AD 30

Daniel 9:26a

The Messiah is cut off; Jesus is crucified

After the 62 Weeks

AD 70

Daniel 9:26b

The Romans destroy Jerusalem and the Temple

After the 62 Weeks

AD 70 to the present

Daniel 9:26c

Wars and desolation

The 70th Week


Daniel 9:27a

The prince to come will confirm a covenant with many.

The midpoint of 70th Week and beyond


Daniel 9:27b, c

After ½ Week, the sacrifice and offering will cease.
            The 70 Weeks of Daniel is an intriguing passages of Scripture.  The previous visions (Daniel 2-8) had given an overview of world history from a Gentile perspective (for the most part).  The 70 Weeks vision gives an overview from a Jewish perspective.  The conjunction of “people of the prince who will come” (9:26b) with the fourth beast of chapter 7 (7:7ff) and the fourth empire of the statue (2:33ff) brings these visions together.  Throughout Daniel there is a pattern of adding layer upon layer of insight and understanding.  The vision of chapters 10-12 continue that pattern as I hope to describe in the next article.
Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible. Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition. 
Miller, Stephen R.  The New American Commentary.  Vol. 18.  Daniel.  Nashville:  Broadman &
            Holman Publ., 1994.
Pentecost, J. Dwight.  Things to Come.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publ. Co., 1958.
The Holy Bible, New International Version.  International Bible Society.  Grand Rapids: 
            Zondervan Publ., 1984.


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