TO: more detailed discussion: Daniel 9; Seventy Weeks
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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 he will 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 period of 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 after 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
Daniel 9 prophecies a period of 490 years. It also predicts a messiah appears. In some Bible translations the messiah appears at the end of the first 49 years. Other translations the messiah appears at the end of the 490 years. This difference in the translations is due to assumptions with respect to punctuation, for there was no punctuation in the originally text of Daniel 9. The article When does the Messiah Appear? shows that the messiah appears at the end of the 490 years.
Does Daniel 9 describe the same crisis as the other prophecies in Daniel?
The article Same Crisis discusses the differences between the prophecies and concludes that Daniel 9 deals with Israel specifically, and with the 490 years allocated to her, while the other prophecies deal with all nations and covers the full period from the time of Daniel to the Return of Christ.
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 490 years begin with a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Restore means to return the city to the Jews to serve as their capital from which they would rule their whole nation, according to their own laws. In the article Which Decree, four Persian decrees are considered:
(1) The decree by Cyrus in 538/7 BC allowed Jews to rebuild Jerusalem, but did not give Jerusalem back to the nation to serve as their national capital.
(2) The decree by Darius I 520 BC simply confirmed Cyrus’ edict.
(3) The decree by Artaxerses I 457 BC for the first time granted autonomy of Judah, and if we add 490 years to 457 BC, we come to the time of Christ.
(4) The second decree by Artaxerxes—in 445/4—was too late to fit the time of Christ and simply confirmed his previous decree.
Prayer and Prophecy form a unit
Daniel 9 consists of two parts; the prayer by Daniel, and the prophecy which Daniel received even while he was still praying. A separate article shows Prayer and Prophecy form a unit: God promised, through Jeremiah, to bring Israel back from exile in Babylon after 70 Years (Jer. 29:10). When Daniel prayed, in Daniel 9, the 70 Years of Babylonian exile was nearly over and Daniel prayed for the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophetic promise. In response God sent Gabriel to give Daniel the 70 Weeks prophecy as assurance that Jeremiah’s promise will be fulfilled.
THE COVENANT IN DANIEL 9
Leviticus 26 lists the covenant curses, climaxing in exile. They would be in exile one year for every Sabbath year not observed; “then the land will enjoy its sabbaths”. But if Israel in exile would confess its iniquity, then Israel would be restored to Jerusalem.
Through Jeremiah God informed Israel that they will be in exile for Seventy Years.
The Leviticus 26 covenant sequence of disobedience – exile – confession – restoration is the central theme in Daniel 9, and binds together prayer (confession) and prophecy (of restoration). Please read the article The Covenant in Daniel 9 for more information.
THE COVENANT IN DANIEL 9:27
During the last of the seventy weeks “he” will “confirm the covenant” with “many”. The article Confirm the covenant shows that this refers to God’s covenant with Israel. Through the seventy weeks-prophecy God extended His covenant with Israel for a further 490 years. But during those last seven years the Messiah will confirm God’s covenant with many from Israel. After that the covenant comes to an end.
Chronological sequence in Daniel 9
The prophecy lists 8 events, but not chronological. The prophecy has alternates between two foci—Jerusalem and the Messiah. The Jerusalem-events are in chronological order and the Messiah-events are in chronological order. For further information, see Chronological sequence in Daniel 9.
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 Interpretation
The major interpretations all understand the Daniel 9 prophecy to be literal, in contrast to the other prophecies in Daniel that are symbolic. In the Consistent Symbolical Interpretation everything is symbolic.
Critical View of Daniel 9
The book Daniel was written during the Babylonian Empire in the sixth century BC and contains very precise predictions of the later Medo-Persian and Greek Empires. The liberal critical view of the Bible, which dominates the academic centers of the world, makes the a priori assumption that knowledge of the future is impossible. It therefore must show that Daniel was written after the events it predicts. Its solution is that Daniel was written during the second century BC crisis under Antiochus IV, and that Daniel contains no predictions of events beyond than time. But then Daniel 9 predicts 490 years from the decree to restore Jerusalem until Antiochus, while there are less than 400 years between the Babylonian Empire and Antiochus. These scientists therefore propose creative solutions.
For a discussion of this view, read: The critical interpretation of Daniel 9.
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