TO: more detailed discussion: Daniel 9; Seventy Weeks
A Word version of
this article is available here.
This is a 22 page summary of the 39 page article on Daniel 9.
When Daniel received the prophecy in Daniel 9 in 538 BC, the Jewish nation was in captivity in Babylon, and Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins. The first 19 verses of Daniel 9 record Daniel’s prayer for the temple and the city. In verses 20 to 23 the angel Gabriel appears to Daniel and verses 24 to 27 contain the extremely compact prophecy itself.
Gabriel told Daniel that seventy weeks have been decreed for his people and their holy city. It is generally agreed that each “week” represents seven years and that the Seventy Weeks consequently indicate a period of 490 years.
The city Jerusalem is one of the two major foci of the prophecy. Daniel prayed for Jerusalem (9:18), and Gabriel told him that Seventy Weeks were decreed for the city, starting with “the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” (9:25). Jerusalem will be rebuilt (9:25), but, Daniel had to also hear that Jerusalem would again be destroyed (9:26).
The other main focus of the prophecy is the ‘Messiah the Prince’. He will appear at the end of 69 weeks (483 years), but “will be cut off”, which means to be killed.
Gabriel explains that the 70 weeks is sub-divided into three sub-periods; 7 weeks (49 years), 62 weeks (434 years) and 1 week (7 years):
- No specific event marks the end of the first 49 years, but because this would be 49 years after the decree to restore Jerusalem, most commentators assume that it relates to the restoration of the city.
- Then, for a very long time (62×7=434 years) nothing happens. At the end of this long period the messiah appears (9:25) and is later “cut off” (9:26).
- During the last seven years a covenant is confirmed and an end is made of “sacrifice and grain offering” (v27).
All the action is therefore reserved for beyond the long period of 434 years, implying that the purpose of the long period of 434 years is simply to locate these dramatic events in time.
The seventy weeks has a specific purpose. Gabriel announced six glorious goals for the seventy weeks, including “to make an end of sin” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (9:24). This means that the purpose of the Seventy Weeks, allocated to the Jewish nation, was to solve the sin problem of the whole human race.
MESSIAH AFTER 49 YEARS
In the RSV and some other translation of Daniel 9:25 the messiah prince appears after 49 years and therefore cannot be Jesus Christ. (The decree, as will be discussed, was issued more than 400 years before Christ.) In the NASB, KJV and some other translations the messiah prince appears after 7 + 62 weeks (483 years) and therefore can be Jesus Christ.
The reason for the difference in the translations is punctuation (commas, full stops, etc.). In the original Hebrew there was no punctuation. The RSV follows the punctuation added by the Jews about 500 years after Christ. There seems to be no reason to follow the Jewish translation. They had a motive to remove Jesus from the prophecy.
This problem can be resolved by noting that this passage is poetry and then by analyzing its structure. The table below presents a portion of the prophecy:
from .. decree to restore .. Jerusalem
until Messiah the Prince
and sixty-two weeks
will be built again
cut off after 62 two weeks
This analysis shows that the text alternates between the City and the Messiah. It further shows that the seven weeks relate to the rebuilding of the city and that the end of the sixty-two weeks relates to the Messiah.
Most interpreters assume that Daniel 9 refers to the same crisis as the other prophecies in Daniel. However, Daniel 9 does not refer to the same crisis, for the following reasons:
The following, found in the other prophecies, is absent from Daniel 9:
- Persecution of the saints;
- Restoration of the sanctuaryafter the prophesied destruction (Daniel 9 ends in chaos and desolation.);
- The beasts (kings 7:17) and horns (kings 7:24) that precede the evil power.
- While Daniel 9 ends with “desolate, even until a complete destruction” (9:27), the other prophecies end with the return of Christ:
- the “time of the end” (8:17);
- the destruction of the evil one (7:26; 8:25; 11:45);
- the return of Christ and the eternal kingdom (2:44; 7:18, 27; 8:25 (without human agency, compare 2:45); 12:2), and
- the resurrection of the dead will arise (12:2) and “everlasting life” (12:2).
The following, found in Daniel 9, is absent from the other prophecies:
- Destruction of the city;
- Killing of the Messiah;
The following are differences between Daniel 9 and the other prophecies:
- In Daniel 9 the temple is destroyed while in the other chapters it is only profaned.
- In Daniel 9 the temple is first restored and then again destroyed. In the other prophecies the sequence is the reverse.
- The time periods are different; (2300 evening morning (8:14), 1260 days (7:25 and 12:7), 1290 days and the 1335 days (12:11, 12) versus 490 years, 49 years, 434 years and 7 years) If the 2300 “evening morning” is converted to 1150 days, it is equal to 3 years and 55 days, which still does not equal to anything in Daniel 9.
- The time periods in the other prophecies are all given in a symbolic context, and form part of long range prophecies. Daniel 9 uses no symbolic language, and the last 7 years are seven literal years.
- Daniel 9 focus specifically on the Jewish nation, the Holy City, and the sanctuary (9:24), while the other prophecies predict a series of heathen empires and kings.
Daniel 9 therefore does not describe the same crisis as the other prophecies.
GOALS FULFILLED IN JESUS CHRIST
The third goal for the 490 years is “to make atonement for iniquity”. This Jesus did. He was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). His blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). He was sacrificed for our sins and did away “with sin” once for all when he offered himself (Hebr. 7:27, 9:26-28). Through His own blood He has obtained eternal redemption (Hebr. 9:12). See also Hebr. 10:10, 12, 14.
The fourth goal is “to bring in everlasting righteousness”. People sometimes argue that Christ did not bring in “everlasting righteousness” because this is still a world dominated by sin. However, on the other hand, note how the Bible speaks of the everlasting consequences of the cross as a current reality:
- “Eternal redemption” already exist (Heb. 9:12).
- We are already reconciled to God by the death of His Son (Rom. 5:10, 11; Col. 1:20).
- He already does not count our trespasses against us (2Co 5:19 NASB; see also; Col 1:22).
- Justification of life to all men is already obtained (Rom 5:18).
- The world is already saved (John 3:17).
- God already reconciled all things to Himself, and already made peace through the blood of His cross (Col 1:19-20)
Furthermore, Daniel 9:24 reads:
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city … to bring in everlasting righteousness”.
In other words, everlasting righteousness was to be attained through Daniel’s people, during the 490 years, not at the end of that period or at a later date.
END OF THE SACRIFICIAL SYSTEM
According to Daniel 9:27 “he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering”. This is interpreted by critical scholars as the work of Antiochus IV, 168 years before Christ, by dispensationalism as the work of the Antichrist during the seven years prior to the return of Christ and by historical Protestantism and in this document as the death of Christ.
The death of Christ did not cause the Jewish sacrifices to cease immediately. The Jewish sacrifices continued until the destruction of Jerusalem forty years later. But when Jesus ascended to heaven and became High Priest (Hebr. 6:20), the law changed (Hebr. 7:12), including the sacrificial system (Hebr. 7:19; 8:4; 9:22). Jesus set “aside the first [sacrifices and offerings] to establish the second” (Hebr. 10:9). (See also Hebr. 8:13; Eph. 2:15)
This was strikingly confirmed by a miracle. At the moment Jesus died “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51; cf. Mark 15:38). This unmistakably signified the end of Israel’s sacrificial temple rituals.
The sacrificial system pointed forward to the Lamb of God. When Jesus—the Lamb of God—died, He fulfilled the significance of those sacrifices. The sacrificial services terminated at the death of Christ in the sense of its loss of meaning.
While verse 24 lists six goals, verses 25 to 27 describe seven events, including the appearance of Messiah the Prince (v25) and the killing of the Messiah (v26). The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore implies that this world’s sin problem would be solved through, first, the appearance of the messiah (verse 25), followed by his killing (verse 26) and “a stop to sacrifice and grain offering” (9:27). With the hindsight of the New Testament, this seems very much like a prediction of the Jesus Christ and of His death on the cross. He was “Jesus the Messiah” (Matt 1:1, cf. 1:16, 17; 2:4; John 1:41, 4:25). He was put to death, resulting in the end of the sacrificial system. Jesus therefore links the goals to the predicted events. This provides the foundation for interpreting the prophecy.
Daniel did not pray for a messiah. He prayed for the temple and for Jerusalem. But the prophecy includes a Messiah because that was Israel’s purpose. God elected Israel to bring forth eternal redemption through the Messiah. To remove this goal from Israel is to remove the reason for their election. To remove the Messiah from the prophecy is to remove the purpose of the 490 years.
JEREMIAH’S 70 YEARS
Chapter 9 opens with Daniel noticing that the LORD revealed to Jeremiah that Jerusalem will be desolated for 70 years (Dan 9:2, compare Jer. 25:8-14; 29:10-14). He then prayed earnestly for His disobedient people and the desolated city and sanctuary (verses 3-19). In this way the 70 years set the stage for Daniel’s prayer.
… when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the LORD (Jer. 25:11, 12, compare v1)
When the prophecy of Daniel 9 was received, Babylon was already punished. This means that the 70 years has already ended. When did it start?
The 70 years is not the period of Jerusalem’s desolation. According to Jeremiah 25:9-11 and 29:10 the 70 years was the period of Babylonian rule over Judah and the surrounding nations. Babylon’s ruling of nations dates from the overthrow of Assyria in 609 BC. Seventy years later—in 539 BC—Babylon herself was conquered by Cyrus.
The 70 weeks begin with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (v25). The identification of this decree is therefore crucial for a correct interpretation of Daniel 9. A number of alternative decrees have been proposed.
Critical scholars are theologians who do not believe in the divine inspiration of Daniel. They believe that Daniel 9 does not refer to Jesus, but was written during the persecution of the Jews by the Greek king Antiochus (around 165 BC) in the form of a prophecy. Since they have to fit 490 years between the decree and the time of Antiochus, they must select the earliest possible decree. For this reason they propose that the decree of Daniel 9:25 is a decree of God via the prophet Jeremiah. However, there are only 440 years between the very first prophecy by Jeremiah of the destruction and restoration of Jerusalem (in about 605 BC) and the time of Antiochus.
If it is not a decree by God via Jeremiah, it must be a decree by an earthly king. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah mention four different “decrees”, issued by three Persian monarchs over a period of 93 years, which deal with the return of the exiles and the rebuilding of the temple and city:
Cyrus issued a decree in 538/7 BC which allowed Jews to return to Judah and to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4; cf. Isa 45:1). This decree was prophesied by Isaiah. More than a century before Cyrus was born, Isaiah wrote:
Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose’; saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’ (Is. 44:28)
He (Cyrus) shall build my city and set my exiles free (Is. 45:13)
This is also what Cyrus did:
“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you … let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel.” (Ezra 1:2-4)
To allow the Jews to return to Judea, implies the right to rebuild their cities, including Jerusalem, but this does not “restore” Jerusalem, as required by the prophecy:
Interpreters, when analyzing the decree in 9:25, often put the emphasis on the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but the decree of Daniel 9:25 would actually specify that Jerusalem firstly will be restored (shûb) and secondly be rebuilt. “Restore” and “rebuild” are two related but very different actions. To rebuild is to physically reconstruct, but when a city is restored, like in Daniel 9, it means that the city would again be ruled by the Israelites. The Aramean king once said to Ahab, king of Israel:
I will return (shûb, “restore”) the cities my father took from your father. (I Kings 20:34).
These cities have not been destroyed. To “restore” is to return the cities to the original owner. It does not include the idea of rebuilding. Another example is Azariah, king of Judah, who is:
the one who rebuilt Elath and restored it to Judah (2 Kings 14:22)
We find here the same two verbs we found in Daniel—”to rebuild” and “to restore.” The city had been in ruins. It was rebuilt and then it was restored (returned) to Judah to rule as their own. The verb “to restore” means that it was to function again as a city ruled by the Israelites (cf. 1 Kings 12:21).
Based on the usage of the verb “shûb” (restore) in those passages we can conclude that the restoration of Jerusalem in Daniel 9:25 points to much more than rebuilding. Jerusalem was the judicial and executive capital of the nation and symbol of the Israeli people. To restore Jerusalem means much more than to allow the Jews to live in the city, or to rebuild the city. That right they always had. Most of the Jews remained in Judea after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city in 586 BC. To restore Jerusalem means that it will be returned to the Jews to serve as their capital from which they would rule their whole nation, according to their own laws as a theocentric society.
The decree of Cyrus allowed the Jews to return, which implied the right to rebuild their cities, but this decree did not allow the Jews to rule themselves. Following the decree some of the Jews returned to Judea, and the decree allowed them to rebuild the temple, but it did not give Jerusalem back to the nation to serve as their national capital; to make their own laws, or to govern themselves. Jerusalem, as capital of the Jews, was not yet “restored”.
In response to Cyrus’ edict the Jews slowly began to return to their homeland (Ezra 3). Bot more than 15 years later the temple was still in ruins (Hag 1:1-11). 17 years after the decree of Cyrus, Zerubbabel and Joshua, under the influence of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, again started rebuilding the temple (Ezra 5). Israel old enemies—the Samaritans—complained to the authorities. In response, the local governor inspected the work, and wrote a letter to Darius to verify the claims of the Jews. An investigation was made and the decree of Cyrus was found. Darius confirmed the decree of Cyrus by means of an additional edict (ca. 520 BC) (Ezra 6:3-12). The temple was finished and dedicated in March, 515 BC (Ezra 6:13-18).
The decree of Darius simply confirmed Cyrus’ edict, and therefore also did not restore Jerusalem as legislative and executive capital of the nation in order that the Jews may govern themselves.
Therefore the main contenders are the two decrees by Artaxerxes I. He issued decrees in 458/7 and in 445/4 BC.
ARTAXERXES IN 458/7
The decree of Artaxerses I in 458/7 BC (Ezra 7:1-26), about 60 years after the temple was completed, added something important which the previous decrees lacked. It established a legal system based on the Torah for all the Jews in Judea. This included setting up magistrates and judges to enforce the law. By decreeing that “Whoever does not obey the law of your God … must surely be punished by death …” the Persian king made the Mosaic law part of his own law, and granted authority to the Jews to govern themselves on the basis of the law of God. It provides for a measure of judicial and civil autonomy unknown since the Babylonian desolation of Jerusalem and Judea about 130 years earlier.
ARTAXERXES IN 445/4
In the king’s twentieth year (Neh. 2:1) (445/4 BC) Nehemiah, cupbearer to Artaxerxes I, received a report from a group of Jews who had arrived in the Persian capital from Jerusalem:
The survivors there in the province who escaped exile are in great trouble and shame; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire. (Neh 1:3; cf. 2:3).
Nehemiah then requested and obtained permission from Artaxerxes to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city (Neh. 2:5).
In choosing between the two decrees of Artaxerxes, the 458/7 decree fits the specifications of the prophecy better because:
1. The decree of 458/7 “restored” the city to the Jews by allowing the Jews to rule themselves from their capital city.
The Nehemiah-decree did not restore the city to the Jews and substantially added nothing to the previous decrees. It deals only with the physical construction of the walls.
2. The decree of 458/7 fits the time of Christ.
There was exactly 483 years from this decree to the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry (Mark 1:11-14; Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38) at His anointing by the Holy Spirit at His baptism (Acts 10:37, 38) in AD 26/27, as required by the prophecy (7×7+62×7=483). (Remember, no year nil)
If the 490 years began in 445/4 BC, then the Messiah would appear 483 years later in 39/40, which is far beyond the time of Jesus. The dispensational scheme interprets the 483 years as “prophetic years” of 360 literal days each. This reduces the 483 years by approximately 7 years in order to end the period at the time of Christ. However, the prophecy of Seventy Sevens is based on the annual sabbatical cycle. This means that the 70 weeks are 70 literal cycles of seven literal years each. No symbols are used in the prophecy of Daniel 9.
The objection to the decree of 458/7 is usually that this decree does not explicitly authorize the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem. As stated before, even the decrees of Cyrus and Darius implicitly authorized the Jews to rebuild their cities. It makes no sense to argue that they are allowed to return to Judea, but not to rebuild Jerusalem. In addition, the following points will show that the decree of 458/7 did authorize the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem.
3. Ezra understood his decree as allowing construction.
In prayer Ezra said that God gave them, through the Persian kings “to raise up the house of our God, to restore its ruins and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem” (Ezra 9:9, NASB). Some argue that “wall” should be understood figuratively because a city wall in those days was extremely important. It gave protection and formed the basis for self-governance. But if it was meant figuratively, it should have read “a wall around Judah”, and not a “wall in Judah”. Furthermore, this verse mentions two things that require physical construction; the temple and the wall. Since “the house of our God” is literal, the wall probably is also.
4. Construction of the walls was initiated before Nehemiah arrived.
Firstly, Nehemiah 2:15 describes how Nehemiah inspected the wall before he did any work on the wall. In the next verse there is a reference to “the Jews, the priests … who did the work”.
Secondly, Nehemiah repaired the walls in only 52 days (Neh. 6:15). It is unlikely that the damage caused in 586 BC, together with the neglect of the next 150 years, could be reversed in less than two months while battling constantly with opposition.
Thirdly, a group of Persian officers wrote to Artaxerxes complaining that “the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city; they are finishing the walls…” (Ezra 4:12). The letter asked the king to stop this project, which he did. When the governors received his reply, “they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease” (vs. 23). This interruption does not refer to Nehemiah’s work on the walls since no such interruption is recorded in the book of Nehemiah and because Nehemiah completed the walls of the city within 52 days. Since Nehemiah finished the walls, this interruption, and therefore this work on the walls, must have been before Nehemiah.
5. Nehemiah expected the walls to be completed before he went to Jerusalem.
About 13 years after Ezra arrived at Jerusalem—in 445/4 BC—Nehemiah is informed that “the walls of Jerusalem” were broken down and the gates destroyed by fire (Nehemiah 1:3). Nehemiah was deeply shocked at the news—he wept for days (Neh. 1:4). The fact that Nehemiah was devastated by the news implies that he expected to hear that the walls and gates have been completed. This means that permission to rebuild the walls and gates was already granted, and that Nehemiah knew about people that went to Jerusalem for that purpose.
In summary, the 458/7 decree fits the specifications of the prophecy better because it fits the time of Christ, restored Jerusalem as judicial capital to the Jews, and authorized them to rebuild the city.
THE COVENANT IN DANIEL 9
Leviticus lists the good laws which the LORD gave at Mount Sinai via Moses (Lev. 25:1). Particularly important for Daniel 9 is that, when they come into the land which He shall give them, the land shall enjoy a sabbath year of rest every seventh year (Lev. 25:2). The Lord instructed Israel to work the land for six years (v3), but not on the seventh (v4).
Leviticus 26:14-39 records the covenant curses. These are the awful things that will happen to Israel, should they fall into disobedience. These curses climaxed in the curse of exile. God will lay waste their cities, make their sanctuaries desolate (v31) and scatter the people among the nations (v33). While they are scattered among the nations, the land will enjoy its sabbaths (v34). The land will observe the rest for all the days which it did not observe while Israel was living on it (v35).
But if Israel in exile would confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers (Lev. 26:40), then YHWH will remember His covenants with Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham, and He will remember the land (Lev. 26:42), that He might be their God (v45).
The covenant sequence is therefore as follows: (1) Disobedience, (2) Exile, (3) Confession and (4) Restoration. It is very important to notice that this covenant sequence is the central theme in Daniel 9:
1. The 70 years, that sets the stage for Daniel 9 (see verse 2), was a fulfillment of the covenant curse of exile:
to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete. (2Ch 36:21)
Daniel also confirmed this in his prayer when he said that Israel’s desolate condition was the result of God bringing the covenant curses on His disobedient people, because of their covenant breaking (vss. 11-13).
2. Daniel fulfilled the requirement for covenant renewal after exile.
On behalf of Israel Daniel confessed the justice of the sentence, the righteousness of Yahweh (v7) and Israel’s guilt (v5-11), as required by the covenant (Lev. 26:40).
3. Daniel prayed for the renewal promised by the covenant (Lev. 26:42 ft.; Deut. 30: 3 ft.).
Daniel prayed that God would restore Israel. Although his appeal does not explicitly refer to the covenant, but to God’s “great compassion” (v18), Daniel did, right at the beginning of his prayer, set his hope in the Lord who “keeps the covenant” (9:4). The covenant is both the ground of Daniel’s confidence and the basis for his plea.
4. Daniel’s prayer is replete with covenant terminology.
Daniel 9 is the only chapter in the book to use the peculiarly covenantal name YHWH (vss. 2, 4, 10, 13, 14, 20). The many other covenant words found here are ‘ahab, “love” (vs. 4), hesed, “covenant loyalty” (vs. 4), sub, “turn” (vss. 13,16), and hata, “sin” (vss. 5,8, 11, 15).
5. The prophecy promises covenant renewal.
Also without explicitly referring to the covenant, the prophecy assures Daniel that his prayer would be answered and Israel would be restored as God’s covenant people (v25), as promised by the covenant.
6. The 70 weeks are sabbatical weeks of years, and the sabbatical pattern is integrated into the covenant.
The Seventy Weeks are sabbatical because the “weeks” refer to the seven-year chronological cycle in which each seventh year was a sabbath for the land (Lev. 25:2 ff.).
This is confirmed by the relationship between the Seventy Weeks and the seventy years prophesied by Jeremiah. As “prophesied” by Leviticus and confirmed by 2 Chronicles 36:21 quoted above, each of the 70 years was a Sabbath, and each of the 70 years represented 7 years of disobedience. Consequently the 70 years represent the equivalent of 490 years of disobedience. The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore awards Israel a new cycle of 490 years, in which each seventh year would also be a Sabbath.
The sabbatical pattern is covenantal because God made it part of the covenant by using it to count the number of years of exile (Lev. 26:35, 43), and because the Lord elevated the Sabbath to be a perpetual sign of the covenant between Him and His people (Ex. 31:13-17; Ezek. 20:12, 20).
In conclusion, Daniel 9, as a whole, follows the covenant pattern of Leviticus 26. The prayer (Daniel 9:4 ff.) corresponds to the confession required by the covenant (Leviticus 26:40-41), and the Seventy Weeks prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) corresponds to the covenant restitution and renewal of Leviticus 26:42, 45. The covenant in Leviticus 25 and 26 is a very important source standing behind the prophecy of Daniel 9.
THE COVENANT IN DANIEL 9:27
Daniel 9:27 reads:
And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week
Since the divine covenant is the central theme throughout Daniel 9, it is also God’s covenant with Israel, as extended by the prophecy of Daniel 9 for a further 70 weeks of years, which is in view in 9:27. The context speaks against the supposition that an altogether different covenant is abruptly introduced here at the climax of the prophecy. Further evidence for this is as follows:
1. In most instances where the word “covenant” is used in the book of Daniel, it refers to God’s covenant.
The word “covenant” appears in 6 verses in Daniel. In four verses it is explicitly God’s covenant with Israel (Dan 9:4; 11:28, 30, 32).
2. The “he” in verse 27 refers to the Messiah.
This “he” is often interpreted as “the prince that shall come” (vs. 26) and as a future Roman enemy of the people of Israel whose people destroyed “the city and the sanctuary” (9:26) nearly 2000 years ago in 70 AD. This means that the people and their prince live 2000 years apart. This is an unnatural interpretation.
The dominant figure in verse 26 is the “Messiah”. The “prince” in verse 26 is a subordinate figure. It is not even the subject of the clause. The subject of the clause is “the people.” The fitting grammatical antecedent of the “he” in verse 27 is the “Messiah” in verse 26.
3. The verb translated “make” in 9:27 is actually the word for “make strong”, or “confirm”, which means it refers to a covenant that existed before the last seven years.
The verb here is “gâbar” (make strong, cause to prevail). It is not a verb for the initial making of a covenant. It has in view the enforcing of the terms of a covenant previously granted, and should be translated as “confirm the covenant”, as in the KJV, or as “strengthening a covenant” as in Young’s Literal Translation.
According to the dispensational interpretation a future antichrist will enter into some pact at the beginning of the last seven years and then succeeds—in the course of that week—to break his covenant. Such a situation, it must be insisted, would be the diametrical opposite of what verse 27 describes. The evidence of the usage of gâbar refutes conclusively the idea that it is some new covenant.
And even if “he” makes a new covenant for one week, then he cannot break his covenant in the middle of the week, as interpreted by dispensationalism.
4. “The many” with whom the covenant is made most often refers to God’s people
the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, As He will bear their iniquities. (Isa 53:11; see also Dan 11:33, 39; 12:3; Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 9:26-28; Rom 5:15, 19; 1Co 10:33)
The covenant in 9:27 is therefore God’s covenant with Israel.
Daniel 9 does not specify a specific event for the end of the Seventy Weeks, but the end of the Seventy Weeks will be the end of all Jewish privileges as the covenant people, argued as follows:
The Seventy Weeks was an extension of God’s covenant with Israel, and therefore ends when God’s covenant with Israel ends, as also indicated by the phrase, “Seventy weeks are cut off for your people and your holy city” (9:24).
Since verse 27 indicates that “he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week”, this last of the 70 weeks come to an end when the messiah no longer maintains His covenant with Israel.
For a few years after Jesus’s death, under God’s guidance, the Christians continued to live practically as Jews (a sect of Judaism), the gospel was preached only to the “circumcised” (cf. 10:45 – i.e. Jews) and actions were still confined to Jerusalem. This is indicated by the following:
(a) There is no mention of non-Jews in the first seven chapters of Acts.
(b) God guided the message to the Jews only in those early years.
The apostles and other believers received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, when Jews from all every nation were gathered in Jerusalem (2:10, 5). This implies that God chose this occasion in order that the apostles would preach repentance to the Jews. Peter preached to the gathered Jews to repent (2:38). On that day 3000 were added to the church (2:41, cf. 5:11).
In Acts 3 God gave Peter to heal a lame man at the temple (3:2, 7). This implies that God chose this location to provide the opportunity for the gospel to be preached at the temple. All the people gathered around them, full of amazement (3:11). Peter urged them to “repent, so that your sins may be wiped away” (3:19). Many believed, and the church grew to 5000 men (4:4).
After the apostles were jailed (5:18), an angel released them and told them to go and speak to the people in the temple (5:20). They preached every day in the temple (5:42).
(c) As from Acts 10 God suddenly and powerfully redirected the gospel message to non-Jews.
God gave Peter the vision of unclean animals (Acts 10:19-20) to convince him to accompany “without misgivings” the uncircumcised men which Cornelius sent. Many people think that this vision was about what Christians may eat or not eat, but when Peter arrived at Cornelius, he interpreted his vision: “God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (10:28). Peter also declared “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (v34-35). Peter therefore previously thought that God was partial to the Jews, and that non-Jews were unholy or unclean. The fact that God had to give Peter this vision confirms that disciples and other believers in the first few years after the cross did not associate with the “uncircumcised”.
A number of circumcised believers went with Peter to Cornelius (10:23, 45). While Peter was speaking to a group of uncircumcised people in Cornelius’ house, the Holy Spirit fell on the listening gentiles (10:44, cf. v45) and they spoke in tongues (10:45). This amazed the “circumcised” that came with Peter (10:45). The fact that they were amazed is evidence that this was the first time that the Holy Spirit fell in this way on uncircumcised people.
When “the circumcised” in Judea heard about these things, they took issue with Peter (11:2), asking why he went to uncircumcised men and ate with them (11:3). After Peter explained what happened, they declared: “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (11:18). This again confirms that, prior to this point in history, the believers did not associate with the uncircumcised, which means that the gospel was focused exclusively on the circumcised.
This sudden shift in gospel focus was caused by the persecution of God’s Spirit filled people.
In Acts 6 the gospel still focused on the circumcised. “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (6:7). But in Acts 10 God redirected the gospel to the gentiles by giving Peter the vision. Most of the intermediate verses describe the persecution of the believers, which started with the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7 (8:1) and ended with the conversion of Paul (9:31).
This sudden shift in gospel focus occurred about 3½ years after the Cross.
Merrill C. Tenney gives 30 AD at the most probable year for the crucifixion and 32/33 as the most probable date for Stephen’s death. R. Jewett dates Paul’s conversion to AD 34. Since this should at the most months after the stoning of Stephen, the Stoning of Stephen could be as late as 34 AD.
This sudden shift in gospel focus was the end of the Seventy Weeks.
As argued above, the Seventy Weeks come to an end when the Messiah no longer maintains His covenant with Israel. Since the gospel went exclusively to the Jews during the first few years after the Cross, God’s covenant with the Jews did not come to an end at the Cross. But since God suddenly redirected the gospel from the Jews to all people a few years after the cross, this must be the end of the Seventy Weeks.
It also seems appropriate that Israel would seal the termination of the covenant with the rejection and persecution of the people to whom God gave His Holy Spirit, just as they persecuted Jesus a few years prior.
This conclusion also fits the time specifications exactly. There was exactly 483 years from the decree to the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry at His baptism, as required by the prophecy. 3½ years later He offered Himself as the Lamb of God, “putting a stop to sacrifice and grain offering” (9:27). Another 3½ years later, at the end of the 490 years, the covenant with Israel came to an end.
Still further evidence for this conclusion is found in Stephan’s speech:
Stephen announced the end of the Seventy Weeks.
Like Daniel 9, Stephen’s speech is based on God’s covenant with Israel. While Daniel confessed the sins of his people and prayed for the mercies of the covenant, Stephen’s speech was a pronouncement of God’s judgment in terms of the covenant.
In contrast to Peter some time earlier (cf. Acts 4:8-12), Stephen made no effort to defend himself. He did not refute the charges against him. In contrast to other speeches in Acts, he did not call his hearers to repentance. Rather, he cites God’s mighty acts on behalf of His people in the past—keeping His side of the covenant. Then he lists the failures of the Jewish people—explaining that the Jewish people did not keep their side of the covenant. After his long recital of Israel’s history, he announced his verdict:
You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it (Acts 7:51- 53).
After announcing the verdict, Stephen “gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (7:55). The Bible consistently says that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God (Luke 22:69; Hebr. 8:1-2; 10:12; cf. Col 3:1; Rom 8:34; Acts 2:33; 5:31; Mar 16:19; 1 Peter 3:22). But Stephen saw Him standing. It is therefore proposed that Jesus stood in judgment, and that Stephen was the conduit through which Jesus’ judgment was announced to the Jewish nation. Their time of probation had come to an end and they have failed to keep the covenant (cf. v. 53), and because of this they were no longer the people of the covenant. The change of the pronoun from “our” (vs. 11, 19, 38, 44 and 45) to “your fathers” (v. 51) means more than a simple breakage in Stephen’s solidarity with his audience. It also implied the definitive end of the covenant relationship between God and Israel as a nation.
God does not hold the Jews’ sin against them.
After the Cross God offered a last opportunity to Jerusalem and its leaders. If the opportunity was accepted, repentance and forgiveness would be received as God’s gift. But the Jews rejected the Holy Spirit by rejecting the people on which the Holy Spirit fell. Stephen literally represented the beginning of Christianity as a universal religion. The final seventy weeks that God had decreed for Israel were finished, and they were now no longer the people of the covenant.
The end of the covenant with Israel does not imply the end of God’s interest in the Jews as individuals. God elected Israel and conferred to them a series of privileges, in order to enable them to be the channel for His blessing to all other nations. Thus the covenant must be understood in terms of mission. So to state that the Jews are no longer the people of the covenant does not mean that God has rejected them all, but only that God has chosen another method to execute His missionary plan. In his last moment Stephen prayed: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60). These words, however, were much more than a prayer. They were the genuine expression of God’s will in relation to those people. “If they do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again” (Romans 11:23).
Next, the four major interpretations of Daniel 9 will be discussed.
CONSISTENT SYMBOLICAL (AMILLENNIAL) INTERPRETATION
The key notion in this interpretation is that the numerical figures in 9:24-27 do not define precise periods of time, but are symbolic:
- The first division of 7 weeks begins with the edict of Cyrus in AD 538 and ends with the first advent of Christ.
- The second division of 62 sevens is the period of the Christian church; from the First to the Second Advent.
- The third division of one week is the last period of history—the time of tribulation caused by the antichrist—which begins with the advent of the antichrist and ends with his defeat at the Second Advent of Christ.
Similarly, “Jerusalem” is symbolically understood as the church.
This interpretation has some serious shortcomings:
- The third division is made part of the second division. This truncates the prophecy to 69 weeks instead of 70.
- Daniel wanted to know when the desolation of Jerusalem—the symbol of his nation—will end. If Gabriel gave him a prophecy in which the periods of time are not definite, then Daniel did not receive an answer. Daniel 9:25a is especially formulated as a reference to a particular time.
- The numbers 62, 1 and 3½ are not typical symbols in apocalyptic literature.
- There is no exegetical evidence anywhere in the book of Daniel to support the view that Jerusalem should stand for anything other than the actual city of Jerusalem.
- If the 70 weeks end with the defeat of the anti-Christ, why does the prophecy not say anything about the eternal kingdom, as the other prophecies do (Dan 7:13-14, 27; 12:1-3), but rather ends in the accumulation of desolations?
These weighty objections have drawn few interpreters in recent years to adopt the consistent symbolical interpretation.
CRITICAL VIEW OF DANIEL 9
The point of departure in the critical perspective is that the book of Daniel was written during the persecution of the Jews by the Greek king Antiochus IV, somewhere between 168 and 163 BC. They believe that all the visions in Daniel describe that conflict; even Daniel 9. They propose that Daniel was written after the events described in the prophecies have taken place, even though presented as prophecies.
According to this interpretation:
- The first division (seven weeks) is the period from destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC to Cyrus’s decree of liberation for the Jews in 538 BC.
From 586 to 538 is 48 years, which is only one year short of 49.
- The “anointed one” of Daniel 9:25 appears at the end of the first 49 years (7 weeks), and is Cyrus.
Critics therefore use the Masoretic punctuation—as for instance used in the RSV—which places the appearance of the anointed in verse 25 at the end of the first 49 years. They find support for this from Isaiah 45:1, where Cyrus is called the anointed of the Lord.
- The second division (62 weeks) extends from 538 BC to the murder of the high priest Onias III in 171/0 BC.
This is actually 367 years, significantly less than the “predicted” 434 years, but this difference is accepted on the assumption that the chronological knowledge of that age was not very exact.
- The last week starts in 171/0 BC with the death of Onias. Onias III was the “anointed one” to be “cut off” after 62 weeks (9:26).
Critics therefore have two different messiahs in the prophecy. In this view Daniel 9 does not refer to Jesus at all. The messiahs in Daniel 9 is either Cyrus and one or more Jewish high priests.
- The “prince who is to come” (9:26), whose people “will destroy the city and the sanctuary” (9:26) is Antiochus Epiphanes.
His armies partially destroyed Jerusalem and massacred many of its inhabitants.
- The “he” that will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering in the middle of the last week (9:27) is also Antiochus Epiphanes.
Antiochus did stop the Jewish sacrifices. He erected a heathen altar on the great altar of burnt sacrifice on December 4, 167 BC. The first sacrifice on it was offered ten days later on December 14, 167 BC.
- The abomination of desolation, mentioned elsewhere in Daniel, is this heathen altar.
- During the second half of the last week; therefore during the 3½ years after December 167 BC, the saints were persecuted (Daniel 7:25) and the sanctuary “thrown down” (Daniel 8:11).
The persecution and the throwing down of the sanctuary are described in the other prophecies of Daniel, but not in Daniel 9.
- The “firm covenant” that “he” will make with the many for one week (9:27) is the cooperation between Antiochus and the Hellenizing Jews.
The Hellenizing Jews are the Jews that adopted Greeks customs at the expense of Jewish customs.
- The last week concludes with the rededication of the altar of sacrifice by the victorious Judas Maccabeus on December 14, 164. This is the “anointing of a most holy place” listed as one of the purposes of the seventy weeks (9:24).
In Daniel 9 there is no indication of a rededication of the altar after the sacrifices have been terminated. Daniel 9 ends with an accumulation of desolations. This is inconsistent with the history in the time of Antiochus, where the loyal Jews (Maccabeans) were able to defeat Antiochus’ army, run them out of their country and rededicate the temple. The critics’ solution to this is that the book of Daniel was put in its final form during this last half of the final week, but prior to the restoration of the sanctuary services and even before the revolt, or at least before the success of the revolt. This is why they believe that they are able to date the compilation of the book accurately.
One of the problems critics have to deal with is that Daniel 9 says that “the prince who is to come”—which they interpret to be Antiochus IV—will “destroy the city and the sanctuary” (9:26). Antiochus never destroyed the sanctuary, but turned it into a temple of his own god. But to justify that Antiochus did destroyed the city, critics argue that the city walls defined a city (no walls, no city) and that Antiochus pulled down the wall of the city (1Macc.1:30-31, 39; Josephus’ Ant., XII, V, 4).
OBJECTIONS TO THE CRITICAL VIEWPOINT
1. Critics limit the events of Daniel to the time of Antiochus, but:
- Jesus put the abomination of desolation Daniel’s prophecies in His future (Mat 24:15).
- It will require substantial creativity to find application for goals such as “to make an end of sin” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” to the time of Antiochus.
- Antiochus destroyed only part of Jerusalem, and he did not destroy the temple at all, while 9:26 requires the destruction of both.
2. In the Critic’s view there are two messiahs. The Messiah of 9:25 is Cyrus and the Messiah in 9:26 is Onias III. However:
- According to the discussion of the punctuation above, there is no messiah after the first seven weeks.
- Two different messiahs in two consecutive verses are unlikely. 9:25 and 9:26 must refer to the same Person because both are described as “Messiah”.
- The Bible use the term “messiah” exclusively for people that rescue Israel from danger. Onias could not have been a messiahbecausehe died 4 years before Antiochus IV desecrated the temple.
- According to Daniel 9:25 there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, until Messiah the Prince. The messiah therefore appears at the end of the 483 years. In the critics’ scheme this messiah (Onias) disappears at the end of the 483 years.
3. According to the critics Antiochus is the one that kills the “prince of the covenant” (11:22). The “prince of the covenant” in 11:22 must surely be the same as the prince that confirms the covenant for one week (9:27). But this latter prince is also Antiochus in the critical interpretation. Therefore Antiochus kills himself.
4. Critics use the destruction of Jerusalem as starting point, but the 490 years begin with a “word” to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25). There is no “word”, datable to 586 BC, which speaks of a rebuilding of Jerusalem.
5. Critics view the revelation received by Jeremiah as the “word” or “decree” (NASB) specified by Daniel 9:25, but:
- Jeremiah received this “word” in 605 BC.
- Jeremiah’s prophecy did not speak of the restoration or rebuilding of Jerusalem.
6. Critics view the 490 years as a reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s seventy years, but then the first subdivision of the 490 years should have been 70 years, not 49.
7. Critics make Jeremiah’s 70 years of desolation part of the Seventy Sevens or 490 years, but during those 70 years the land received its rest which it did not receive during the previous cycle of 490 years. The 490 years promised in Daniel 9 is a new cycle that follows after the exile.
8. Critics believe the second division (62 weeks) extends from 538 BC to the murder of the high priest Onias III in either 171/0 BC, but that is only 368 years not 434 years (62×7) as required by the prophecy. 368 years is too short by about 67 years. Consequently the full period of 490 years is actually only 422 years (from 586 BC to 164 BC).
9. Critics have the sacrificial system re-instated at the end of the last seven years, but:
- There is no indication in Daniel 9 that the sacrifices will be reinstituted. Daniel 9 ends in the opposite, namely in increasing chaos.
- If 70 weeks have been determined for the city of “thy people” (9:24), then the sacrifices will not be reinstated at the end of this period.
10. Critics say that Antiochus will “make” an agreement with the Hellenizing Jews for one week, but Antiochus’ general support for the pro-Seleucid faction cannot be limited to one week.
The critical interpretation is today the standard view of modern liberal scholarship, but it is not an unbiased interpretation. It is based on the a priori assumption that the book of Daniel does not contain any inspired prophecy, that it was written during the conflict under Antiochus IV and that the book only focuses on that conflict. A separate article is available on the date of Daniel, which contains more than sufficient evidence that it must have been written in the sixth century BC, and therefore must be inspired prophecy.
The dispensationalist view on eschatology is today held extensively by evangelical Christians, in spite of its recent origin.
The importance of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in Dispensational teaching can hardly be exaggerated. Dispensational interpretation of Revelation is primarily dependent on its interpretation of Daniel 9.
The dispensational interpretation of the time aspects of 9:24-27 is also known as the “parenthesis” or “gap” interpretation. The 490 years are not viewed as continuous. Instead the interpretation posits a “parenthesis” or “gap” between verses 26 and 27 of Daniel 9; between the first 69 weeks and the last or 70th week. The last week is still to come in our future.
The dispensational view is as follows:
- The “word” to restore Jerusalem (9:25) is the second decree of Artaxerxes I. This decree is dated by most dispensationalists to 445 BC, but by some to 444 BC.
- The Messiah Prince (Jesus Christ) would appear 483 years later, but 483 years from 445/4 BC would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the lifetime of Christ. Consequently, the 483 days are to be understood as “prophetic years” of 360 days each. This gives a total of 173,880 days (483 x 360), which is equal to 476 solar years plus some days. In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 years to fit the actual historical time from Nehemiah to the crucifixion, assuming the crucifixion was in AD 33 or AD 32.
- Artaxerxes granted his permission to Nehemiah on Nisan 1 (March 5 in 444 BC or 14 March in 445 BC), and the 173880 days stretch to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (April 6, AD 32 or April 5, AD 33).
- The 70th week is separated from the 69th week by a vast gap of over nineteen centuries. The entire “church age” is a gap during which the prophetic clock has stopped ticking. The 70th week will not be fulfilled until the end of the church age.
- The gap ends and the last seven years begin with the “rapture”. This includes the resurrection of dead saints and the translation of living saints. They will secretly be removed from the earth.
- The 70th week pertains to the acts of antichrist. The antichrist is a revived Roman empire whose prince is said to be the antichrist—a future God-opposing tyrant. The antichrist will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation during the latter half of a delayed seventieth week.
- The 70 weeks do not include the death of Christ. The 69th week ends 6 days before His death, while the 70th week is still in our future. Consequently the promises of 9:24 have not been fulfilled in the work of Christ on earth, but will only be fulfilled at the end of the future 70th week.
This interpretation of Daniel 9 is grounded on the view that “Israel” throughout the Bible always refers to literal Jews. According to this belief the Old Testament prophecies and promises of the glorious rule of God’s people must be fulfilled unconditionally and literally to the restored Jews.
OBJECTIONS TO THE DISPENSATIONAL INTERPRETATION
The objections to the dispensational interpretation are summarized below.
Dispensational statements are given in bold.
This is followed by counter-arguments in normal text.
1. The 490 years start with Artaxerxes’ second decree.
This decree did not “restore” Jerusalem as judicial and executive capital of the nation, as required by the prophecy. See discussion above.
2. The 490 years have 360 days each.
The “weeks” of the Seventy Weeks are sabbatical weeks of years, where each seventh year is a Sabbath. Each year is therefore a normal literal solar year. There is no justification for reading this prophecy symbolically.
3. The appearance of the Messiah (9:25) at the end of the 483 years is Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
Jesus appeared about three years earlier when He was “anointed” and introduced to the world at His baptism. “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power” (Acts 10:38) and proclaimed this Anointed One to be His Son or King (Mark 1:9-11; cf. Ps. 2:6, 7) on the day of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist:
so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water. (John 1:31)
4. The Jewish period ended at Jesus’s triumphal entry, to be resumed much later.
The Jewish period did not end at Jesus’s triumphal entry, or at the Cross. For the first three or four years after the Cross the gospel was preached with the power of the Holy Spirit exclusively to Jews. It was only three or four years after the Jews started to persecute the believers that Peter, in a dream, received the instruction to take the gospel to the gentiles (Acts 10).
5. The “firm covenant” of the 70th week (v 27) follows after the destruction of the city in verse 26 in AD 70. Therefore the 70th week must follow after 70 AD, which necessitates a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks.
The events in the prophecy are not presented in chronological sequence, for instance:
- The rebuilding of the city (25c) is mentioned after the appearance of the anointed one (25b), while the city was rebuilt four hundred years before the Anointed.
- The prince causes sacrifices to cease (9:27) after the sanctuary is destroyed (9:26), but if the sanctuary is destroyed there remains no sacrificial system to be ceased.
- Since 70 weeks have been determined for the city of “thy people” (9:24), the destruction of the city and the sanctuary in verse 26 must occur after the 70 weeks, and therefore after the 70th week of verse 27.
To determine the actual chronological sequence it must be noted that the prophecy is presented in a poetic form of parallelism with two foci—Jerusalem and the Anointed, and alternates between the two:
|9:25a commandment to restore||9:25b unto the anointed one|
|9:25c Seven weeks||9:25c – and 62 weeks|
|9:25d shall be built again||9:26a – after the 62 weeks anointed cut off|
|9:26b destroy||9:27a – firm covenant – one week – sacrifice cease|
|9:27b abominations … maketh desolate|
Because of this poetic parallelism, the assumption of a strict chronological sequence is incorrect.
6. The desolation at the end of verse 27 is concurrent with the end that is made to sacrifice and offering “in the middle” of the 70th week (earlier in the same verse). Daniel therefore placed the “abomination of desolation” exactly in the middle of the last week. Our Lord placed the “abomination of desolation” at ‘the end,’ just before His second coming in glory (Matthew 24:15, 21, 29, 30). The Seventieth Week therefore must also come at the end of the present age, just prior to Christ’s coming in glory.
The first assumption is the reasoning above is that the desolation of verse 27 is concurrent with making an end to sacrifice and offering. This is not so:
- According to the literary analysis the termination of the sacrifices relates to the Messiah while the desolation has to do with the city, some 40 years later.
- The messianic context of the prophecy demands that the termination of sacrifices must refer to the Cross.
The second assumption in the reasoning above is that Daniel 9:27 refers to an “abomination of desolation”. This is also not true. 9:27 refers to a desolator that arrives shortly after (on the wing of) abominations. The phrase “abomination of desolation” is used elsewhere in Daniel for something that is set up (11:31; 12:11), not a desolator. Similarly, our Lord spoke about the “abomination of desolation” as something that stands in the holy place (Matthew 24:15; or “standing where it should not be” Mark 13:14). The abomination of Matthew 24:15 and the desolator in Daniel 9:27 are related, but different things. An “abomination of desolation” is some repulsive sin, which leads to destruction. A desolator is a destroyer. It is therefore not appropriate to link Matthew 24:15 to Daniel 9:27 as if they refer to the same thing. The “abomination of desolation” is something that belongs to the other prophecies in Daniel, and those are not limited to the 490 years or to the Jewish nation, as is the prophecy in Daniel 9.
Thirdly, Jesus mentions the “abomination of desolation in Matthew 24:15 in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. (Compare mat 24:16-19 to Luke 21:20-23.) Perhaps one can also apply it to the time before His return (v23), but that would be an additional meaning.
The reasoning therefore includes three major errors, any one of which would refute the conclusion.
7. There is a gap of 2000 years or more between the first 69 weeks and the 70th week.
An important conclusion from the literary analysis above is that the first part of verse 27 elaborates on the Messiah, while last part of the same verse elaborates on the destruction of the city. This denies the dispensational approach of detaching verse 27 from the previous verses and propelling it into the distant future to the end of time, to describe the events of the last seven years of earth’s history.
Verse 27 is arguably the core of the prophecy. All important events occur after the long period of 69 weeks (483 years). The purpose of the 69 weeks is therefore to foretell the timing of these events. Hence, to postpone that final week of years and to propel it far into the future is to defeat the purpose of the 69 weeks.
Many of the words used to describe the destruction of the city in verse 26 are repeated in the description of the destruction at the end of verse 27 (desolations – decreed – flood/poured out – end of/complete destruction), which implies that these two verses refer to the same events.
The wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a break or gap. There appears to be no valid reason, or defensible ground, for separating the seventieth week from the previous 69. To postpone the last seven years of final crisis to the end of the age is a form of exegesis without a precedent in all prophetic exposition.
8. The covenant in verse 27 is a new covenant made by an end time Antichrist.
The covenant in verse 27 is the divine covenant because that covenant is the central theme throughout Daniel 9, and for the other reasons provided above.
9. The temple will be rebuilt again a second time, after the destruction in verse 26.
The prophecy explicitly promises only one rebuilding of the city and the sanctuary. If the temple was to be rebuilt after the destruction of verse 26, the prophecy would have explicitly stated this, given that it is so clear about the rebuilding in verse 25.
10. The sacrificial system will be resumed.
There is no indication in Daniel 9 that sacrifices will be resumed, as in Daniel 8. Daniel 9 ends in the opposite, namely increasing chaos. The re-instatement of the sacrifices stems from the assumption that Daniel 9 covers the same ground as the other prophecies of Daniel, an idea which has been refuted above.
There can never be a valid return to the old covenant and its earthly temple worship. Christ, the Antitype, has terminated once for all the “shadow” and inaugurated a “better covenant” that offers His righteousness as the everlasting righteousness (see Hebr. 7:22; cf. chap. 10:12; Rom. 3:22, 25).
11. The termination of the sacrificial system relates to an end time Antichrist.
According to the New Testament, through the sacrifice (death) of the Lamb of God, God brought the sacrificial system to an end, made atonement for sin and brought in everlasting redemption. If we—against this background—read that the purpose of the 70 weeks includes “to make atonement and to bring in everlasting redemption” (9:24), and that the events of the 70 weeks include the appearance and death of the messiah, it is more than fair to conclude that the context demands that the termination of the sacrificial system in verse 27 refers to His crucifixion.
His death was the ultimate and real sacrifice for the sins of the human race. We, frail and tiny humans, living on a speck of dust floating in the immeasurable universe, find it difficult to believe in the supernatural. Here Daniel, 500 years before the cross, disclosed a great truth, which is also disclosed by Isaiah 53 when he wrote, ‘pierced through for our transgressions’. We must cling to such proofs of the supernatural. This also tells us much about the nature of the universe. God knows where we are. He died for our sins. We cannot understand why and how because His thoughts are as far above our thoughts as the stars are above the earth, but it is wonderful to understand that the Source of all power and love feels this way about us; undeserving sinners.
12. The sanctuary will be destroyedin the middle of the last week.
70 weeks have been determined for the city of “thy people” (9:24). This promises safety for the city for 70 weeks of years. The sanctuary will not be destroyed during that period. For this reason the city and the sanctuary was destroyed after the end of the 490 years.
13. The 70th week ends with the return of Christ.
The prophecy ends in the accumulation of desolations. It does not refer to the return of Christ. If the end of the last week was the Second Advent, would verse 27 not end in a description of His glorious return, as the other prophecies in Daniel do?
14. The goals of 9:24 will be fulfilled at the end of the 490 years
Daniel 9:24 declares that “atonement for iniquity” and “everlasting righteousness” was to be attained during the 490 years, through Israel.
A strange aspect of Dispensationalism is the proposal that sin will continue for 1000 years after the return of Christ. Furthermore, by postulating the Millennium as a period of Jewish dominance, it allocates in total 1490 years to the Jews; not 490 years.
It was argued above that Jesus made “atonement for iniquity” and consequently brought in “everlasting righteousness” for ages and ages to come.
HISTORICAL-MESSIANIC INTERPRETATION OF DANIEL 9
This interpretation is called Messianic because it interprets this entire prophecy as pointing to Jesus Christ. It is called historical because the full 490 years is interpreted as past history. Daniel 9 has been understood this way ever since the early church. It is only in the recent centuries that dispensationalism and liberal criticism have dislodge the historical-messianic interpretation as the dominant interpretation.
This interpretation can be summarized as follows (Most of the reasoning behind these points is provided above.):
The “commandment” (9:25, RSV) that began the “seventy weeks” was Artaxerxes’s first “decree” of 458/7 BC. This decree restored Jewish self-rule through Jerusalem.
There is no messiah after the first 49 weeks. The messianic-historical interpretation uses the punctuation as reflected in the NASB. The anointed one, the prince, which appear at the end of 483 years, is Jesus; the One that is called Christ.
His appearance was His anointing by the Holy Spirit at His baptism, which also marked the inauguration of His public ministry. He was baptized in AD 26/27, exactly 483 years after the decree in 458/7.
The last “one week” of years follows immediately after the 69th; therefore immediately after His baptism. There is no gap.
The “anointed one” that is cut off (killed) is our Lord Jesus Christ.
While 9:25 describes His public appearance at His baptism at the end of the 483 years, 9:26 refers to His atoning death. “In the midst of the week” (that is, 3½ years after His baptism), Jesus caused the cessation of the entire system of sacrifices appointed for Old Testament times by offering Himself as the once-for-all and all-sufficient sacrifice for sins. The sacrificial system lost its meaning at the Cross because it pointed forward to the Lamb of God.
Scientists are unable to determine the year in which Christ died with certainty. The chronographer must be content to simply cite the range of possibilities and their likelihood. They give the most probable date as April, AD 30. If Jesus was baptized in AD 26/27, then April, AD 30 was approximately in the middle of the seven years after His baptism.
Through His atoning death the purposes of the seventy weeks, as listed in verse 24, have been fulfilled; namely to make “atonement for iniquity” and bring in “everlasting righteousness” (9:24). See below for a further discussion.
The “he” that makes a firm covenant with many for one week is still Jesus Christ, and the covenant is God’s covenant with Israel. The prophecy of Daniel 9 extended God’s covenant with Israel for a final 490 years. Jesus made the covenant strong (Young’s literal translation) through His personal preaching for 3½ years before His death. He also made the covenant strong after His death, while the infant church was still a Jewish sect, by sending His disciples to Israel, powered by the Holy Spirit. In those seven years the gospel went exclusively to Jews. God’s covenant with the Jews therefore did not come to an end when they crucified the world’s Messiah.
The 490 years end when “he” would no longer “confirm the covenant with the many” (9:27). The phrase “seventy weeks are cut off for your people and your holy city” (v. 24), also implies the end of all Jewish privileges as the covenant people at the end of that period. The kingdom of God was taken away from the Jews (Mat. 21:43).
Since seventy weeks were decreed for Jerusalem (v24), the city would not be destroyed during the seventy weeks. God did not purpose the Jewish nation to fail, but through their rejection of the Holy Spirit they lost their divine protection. This led to the destruction of Jerusalem after the end of the seventy weeks. As our Lord looked into the immediate future, He wept over the city (Luke 19:21), saying:
If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation. (Luke 19:42-44)
Beginning in AD 66, wars broke out between the Jews and the Romans. A few days before the AD 70 Passover, the Roman destroyers attacked Jerusalem, breached the wall and overwhelmed the city. The Temple was fired and destroyed. The Jews were ruthlessly slaughtered. Their blood, according to Josephus, flowed in streams down the steps. The desolater had come. The city and temple were in ruins; the desolation accomplished. Hundreds of thousands were slain, tens of thousands sold into slavery, and war followed upon war.
To summarize the messianic-historical interpretation, the decree of Artaxerxes in 478/7 “restored” Jerusalem to the Jews. In AD 26/27, exactly 483 years later, Jesus was baptized. About 3½ years later, in AD 30/31, He was crucified. Another 3½ years later, in AD 33/34, the exclusive role Israel played in the plan of God came to an end. The period from 26/27 to 33/34 is seven years, with the crucifixion “in the midst of” these seven years. Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, after the end of the seventy sevens.
The historical-messianic interpretation has been the dominant one over the centuries, and has offered those that accept it a testimony to God’s foreknowledge revealed through this prophecy.
WERE THE SIX GOALS FULFILLED?
Dispensationalism denies that Christ’s first advent (His earthly life, baptism, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven) fulfilled the six goals of this magnificent Messianic prophecy. The third goal (to make atonement for iniquity) and the fourth (to bring in everlasting righteousness) were discussed above, and it was shown that Jesus did achieve these two goals as “the Lamb of God”. But dispensationalism also points to all the sin remaining in the world and also opposes the idea that the first two goals (to make an end of sin) have been fulfilled by Jesus.
The first goal is “to finish the transgression”. The definite article (“the”) is used with this goal, but not with any of the others. It is therefore probably not transgression in general, but rather specifically the Jew’s historical transgression which Daniel was confessing when he received this prophecy (9:11, 20). If this is the meaning, this goal required the Jewish nation to manifest their loyalty toward Him. They were to bring an end to the sinful state of their society. If this was the intention, this goal was not achieved entirely.
The second goal reads “to make an end of sin”. This is similar, but because it is listed separately, and because it does not have a “the”, it probably refers to something different. Then the only option, in the historical-messianic interpretation, is that it refers to Jesus. He made an end to sin in the sense that, by never committing a sin, He made an end to the complete reign of sin over the peoples of the world. By never committing a sin, even when He was tested to the utmost by being nailed to a piece of wood, he defeated Satan as the accuser (Rev. 12:10) by showing that it is possible for man to live a life free of sin, thus making an end of Satan’s claim for dominion of the world. Jesus, as the second Adam and representative of the people of the world—not only the people of Israel—made an end to “the reign of” sin.
The fifth goal is “to seal up (hatam) vision (hazon) and prophecy (nabi). “Nabi” is actually is the word for prophet, not for prophecy. “Seal up” can have different meanings, such as to hide something, or making an end of something, or to validate something. Since this is mentioned immediately after the fourth goal of bringing in everlasting righteousness, which has been fulfilled by the cross, this sealing up must be related to—or be the consequence of—the cross. One possible meaning therefore is that the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah were to be validated or authenticated by Cross.
The sixth and last goal is “to anoint the most holy place”. The word “place” is added by the translators. Many interpreters understand this as referring to Jesus Christ, but if the goals are listed in the sequence in which they are fulfilled, this could not be His anointing, because He was anointed at His baptism some years prior to His crucifixion. Furthermore, the phrase translated “most holy” (qodes qodasim) occurs more than 40 times in the Old Testament, and in every instance it refers to the sanctuary, with the possible exception of 1 Chronicles 23:13. The “most holy” must therefore refer to the most holy portion of the temple, but which temple is intended? If it referred to the temple that was rebuilt after the exile, the anointing should have been listed before the third goal of “atonement”.
There is another temple. Hebrews indicates that there is a temple in heaven (8:2). This is the “true tabernacle” (8:2), not made with hands (9:24; cf. 8:1-2). The earthly tabernacle was a copy of this true tabernacle (8:5; 9:24). It is called the “holy place” (9:24; 10:19); similar to the words in Daniel 9:24.
Hebrews also explains that this temple was also anointed. Just as the first covenant was inaugurated by sprinkling the tabernacle with the blood (9:21) of the calves and the goats (9:19), the “heavens”—therefore the sanctuary in heaven—were also “cleansed”, but with “better sacrifices” (9:23). “Not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebr. 9:12). In Hebrews Jesus entered the holy place after He obtained eternal redemption at the cross. We find the same sequence in Daniel 9:24—the goal of anointing of the most holy is mentioned after the goal “to make atonement for iniquity”. It is therefore proposed that the anointing of the “most holy” in Daniel 9:24 points to the inauguration of Christ’s priestly ministry in the heavenly temple following His ascension.
In conclusion, as proposed here, all six goals, with the exception of the first, were fulfilled through Jesus Christ on behalf of Israel (verses 25-27). This Hebrew man atoned for the sin of the whole world. Through Israel, and particularly through this Hebrew Man Jesus that became the Lamb of God, God reconciled the world to Himself (Rom. 5:10, 11; 2Co 5:19; Col 1:19-20).
The essence of Daniel 9:24-27 is that within 500 years from the restoration of Jerusalem (after the Babylonian captivity) and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Messiah would arrive. It is understandable that the Talmud places a curse on those who attempt to compute the seventy weeks of Daniel (Sanhedrin 97b (Soncino ed.), p. 659).
It is an irrefutable fact that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his public ministry exactly 483 years (69 weeks) after Artaxerxes’ first decree. Furthermore, the specifications of the prophecy find exact and complete fulfillment in the life, ministry, death and present ministration of Christ, and in the subsequent desolation of the Jewish nation as a result of their rejection of the promised Messiah.
While objections can be raised against all four of the major interpretations of Daniel 9:24-27, the historical-messianic interpretation is not subject to the difficulties encountered by the other systems. It thus recommends itself as the most adequate of the major interpretations. The exact date of the crucifixion and of the end of the 490 years remains uncertain, but compared to the difficulties facing the other interpretations, the relative uncertainty of the chronology of the life of Christ and the events of the early church appears to be insignificant.
A person that accepts Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of this prophecy is astounded by the mathematical exactness of the prophecy, received five hundred years prior to those tremendous events that changed the entire course of human history. Daniel 9 confirms that God knows the future precisely. It conclusively proves Jesus Christ to be the true and only Messiah.
It affirms the truthfulness and reliability of the Bible when predicting future events. This gives me confidence that we will one day see God with our own eyes. The things that we read about in the Bible are really true. There is a wonderful future ahead of us.
The accurate fulfillment of the prophecy is compelling support for the argument that Daniel is real prophecy written in the 6th century BC, and not in the second century BC, as copies of Daniel (Dead Sea Scrolls) have been available to the Qumran sect more than 100 years before the crucifixion.
Daniel did not pray for a Messiah. He prayed for Jerusalem and the temple. But the prophecy he received includes a Messiah because the purpose of the additional period awarded to Israel was to bring fourth the Messiah, and through the Messiah, to achieve the goals listed in verse 24. Israel would be restored, but as a means to an end.
There is no greater unfolding of the gospel provisions in all the prophetic Word than is revealed here and in Isaiah 53. The prophecy of Daniel 9 is precious because it sets forth Jesus Christ as our atoning sacrifice, made on Calvary nineteen centuries ago. We are all sinners and do not deserve to live. Through Him, through faith, I am justified from my sin and you from yours.
TO: more detailed discussion: Daniel 9; Seventy Weeks