Seventy weeks have been decreed: WHEN did the 490 years begin and when did the first 483 years end?

DispensationalismThis second article in the series compares the time indications for the Seventy Weeks in Daniel 9 to the Dispensational interpretation.  Dispensationalism takes the second decree of Artaxerxes (445/4 BC) as the one that restored Jerusalem.  But since this decree does not fit the time of Christ, Dispensationalism reduces the 483 years by about 7 years by interpreting these as 360-day years.  This brings us to Christ’s  triumphal entry into Jerusalem as the appearance of the Messiah in 9:25.  Dispensationalism assumes that God suspended His covenant with Israel at the Cross.

Decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem

9:25 reads:

from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem …” (NASB).

Seventy WeeksThe Seventy Weeks began with this decree.  As stated in the previous article, restore, in the original text, does not mean the same as rebuild.  Restore means to give the city back to its previous owner.

In the article Which decree four decrees by three different Persian kings over a period of about 90 years, are considered.

Cyrus:

King CyrusThe decree by Cyrus in 538/7 BC allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem and therefore to rebuild Jerusalem, but it did not restore Jerusalem to the nation to serve as their national capital.

Darius:

The decree by Darius I 520 BC simply confirmed Cyrus’ edict.    

Artaxerxes in 457 BC (Ezra 7:1-26):

As discussed in the article Which Decree, this decree, for the first time, granted autonomy of Judah.  It restored Jerusalem as judicial and executive capital to the nation.  In this decree the king said, “Whoever does not obey the law of your God … must surely be punished by death …” The Persian king thereby 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.

A further indication that this is the decree intended by 9:25 is the fact that, if we add Seventy Weeks (490 years) to 457 BC, we come to the time of Christ.

Artaxerxes in 445/4 BC (Neh. 1-2):

Nehemiah, cupbearer to Artaxerxes IDispensationalism takes this as the decree that restored Jerusalem.  This decree, however, did not “restore” Jerusalem.  This decree only dealt with the physical construction of the city walls.  When Nehemiah asked for this decree, he did not even ask to rebuild the city.  He only asked for permission to go to Jerusalem (2:5) and for wood for the walls (2:8).  This decree was also too late to fit the time of Christ.

Dispensationalism claims that the second decree of Artaxerxes I for the first time authorized the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but that is also not true.  All four decrees above, by allowing the Jews to return to Judah and to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4; cf. Is. 45:1), implicitly allowed the Jews to rebuild their cities.  Please see the article Which decree for a fuller discussion.

Seventy Weeks – Prophetic Years

9:25 continues:

 “until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (9:25 NASB)

Dispensationalism prophetic yearsDispensationalism proposes that the Messiah Prince is Jesus Christ and that He would appear 7+62=69×7= 483 years after the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (9:25), but 483 years from 445/4 BC brings us to about AD 40; far beyond the Cross.  Dispensationalism therefore proposes that the 483 years are “prophetic years” of 360 days each; not 365 days.  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 Artaxerxes’ second decree to the crucifixion, assuming the crucifixion was in AD 33 or AD 32.

However, as discussed in The Covenant in Daniel 9, the covenant pattern forms the framework for the Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9.  Since the covenant is based on Israel’s seven-year cycle, and since the Seventy Weeks are an extension of God’s covenant with Israel, these must be literal years.  To explain:

Sabbath Years

In Leviticus 25 God commanded Israel to allow the land to rest every seventh year (v2), similar to the weekly Sabbath day of rest.  Israel had to work the land for six years (v3), but in the seventh year the land had to rest (v4).  In this way the years on the Jewish calendar were divided into sevens, where each seventh year is a Sabbath.

Warning of exile

Leviticus 26, which contains the covenant promises and warnings, warned Israel that it would be in exile for every Sabbath year not observed.  While they are in exile, the land will enjoy its rest.  The Sabbath years were therefore made part of the covenant threat of exile.

490 years of disobedience

Jeremiah prophesied that Israel would be in exile for 70 years.  Each of Jeremiah’s 70 years of exile therefore was a Sabbath year.  This is confirmed by 2 Chronicles 36:21. Each of the 70 years therefore represent 7 years of disobedience.  Consequently, the 70 years represent the equivalent of Seventy Weeks (490 years) of disobedience, prior to the exile.

Seventy Weeks renewed covenant

The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore extended God’s covenant with Israel for a new cycle of Seventy Weeks, in which every seventh year will be a Sabbath year.  The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9 refer to these weeks of years, and therefore are literal solar years.

This confirms that the second decree of Artaxerxes does not fit the time of Christ.

Difference in dates

The second decree of Artaxerxes I is dated by most dispensationalists to 445 BC, but by some to 444 BC:

Interpreters that use March 14, 445 BC as the date of the decree (e.g. Sir Robert Anderson) count 173880 days to end on 6th April, AD 32 as the date for Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Interpreters that use March 5, 444 BC as the date of the decree (e.g. Hoehner) count 173880 days to March 30, AD 33 as the date for the triumphal entry, and the crucifixion six days later on April 5, AD 33.

Dispensationalism sometimes claims that its calculations fit the historical events precisely, but the difference in the dates places doubt over such claims.

Triumphal entry

Daniel 9:25 reads:

from the issuing of a decree … until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks“.

In other words, the Messiah would appear 483 years after the decree.

In Dispensationalism the “Messiah the Prince” (the anointed in the KJV) is Jesus Christ and 9:25 refers to His triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days before His crucifixion.  However, 9:25 refers to the appearance of the Messiah; not His disappearance.  It seems to say that the Messiah will commence His ministry at the end of the 69 weeks; not end His ministry.

Jesus baptizedJesus did not begin His ministry at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  He began His work as Messiah about three years earlier at His baptism, where He was “anointed” and introduced to Israel:

John the baptist said, “so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water” (John 1:31).

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power” (Acts 10:38).

God 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.

Covenant suspended at the Cross

As stated, in Dispensationalism the first 483 years came to an end at Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (a few days before His death), with the last seven years postponed to the end of the age.

However, Seventy Weeks (490 years) are promised by God as years of Jewish preference (“for your people and your holy city”), and the preference which Jews enjoyed continued after the Cross.

Early Church History

During the first few years after the Cross the Holy Spirit only came on Jews and the gospel was preached only to Jews.  The church consisted only of the “circumcised” (cf. 10:45; i.e. Jews) and they did not associate with the uncircumcised (Acts 10:34-35).  See Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church.

About three or four years after the Cross the Jews persecuted these Jewish Christians, commencing with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7; 8:1). See Judea and Samaria Phase of the Early Church.

Immediately following this persecution (Acts 10) Peter received his dream of the unclean beasts (Acts 10:19-20).  Up to that point in time these Christian Jews kept their distance from Gentiles, as all Jews did.  But through this vision God told him, and the church, to preach the gospel also to Gentiles (v34-35).  Simultaneously the Holy Spirit suddenly and powerfully led the Christians to take the gospel to the uncircumcised (non-Jews).  At that time the period of Jewish preference came to an end.

End of the Seventy Weeks

The prophecy does not mention any specific event for the end of the Seventy Weeks, but it is more or less obvious that the end of the Seventy Weeks is also the end of God’s covenant with Israel.  In other words, we should be able to identify some event in history that indicates the end of God’s covenant with Israel.  It is proposed here that the Seventy Weeks came to an end when the Holy Spirit led the Christians to take the gospel to non-Jews.

Stoning of StephenThis conclusion is supported by Stephen’s speech.  Both Daniel’s prayer and Stephen’s speech are based on God’s covenant with Israel.  While Daniel confessed the sins of his people and prayed for the mercy promised in the covenant, Stephen’s speech was an announcement of God’s judgment in terms of the covenant.  In other words, Stephen announced the end of the Seventy Weeks.

These three or four years after the Cross were therefore part of the 490 years.  Please see the article, Stoning of Stephen, for more detail.

Summary

Decree The 490 years began with “a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem”.  Restore, in the original text, does not mean to rebuild.  Restore means to give the city back to its previous owner.  The decree of Artaxerxes in 457 BC restored Jerusalem as judicial and executive capital to Israel.  This decree also fit the time of Christ.  Dispensationalism takes the second of Artaxerxes (445/4 BC) as the decree that restored Jerusalem.  But this decree only dealt with the physical construction of the city walls.  This decree also does not fit the time of Christ.

Prophetic Years The second decree of Artaxerxes does not fit the time of Christ.  Dispensationalism therefore reduces the first 483 years by about 7 years by interpreting these as “prophetic years” of 360 days each; rather than literal years of 365 days each.  However, the covenant pattern forms the framework for Daniel 9.  Since the covenant is based on Israel’s seven-year cycle, and since the 490 years are an extension of God’s covenant with Israel, these are literal years.

Difference in datesDifferent Dispensational interpretations use different years for Artaxerxes’s decree and for the Cross.  This raises some doubt over to the calculations.

Triumphal entryMessiah the Prince” will appear after 69 weeks (9:25).  In Dispensationalism this is His triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days prior to His crucifixion.  But that was not His appearance; it was His disappearance.  Jesus began His work as Messiah about three years earlier at His baptism, where He was anointed and introduced to Israel.

Covenant suspended at the CrossDispensationalism assumes that God suspended His covenant with Israel at the Cross, but for three or four years after the Cross, when the Holy Spirit came with power on the disciples, the gospel was preached only to Jews.  This period of Jewish preference only came to an and when Stephen announced God’s judgment in terms of the covenant.  These three or four years after the Cross were therefore part of the 490 years.

NEXT:  Whose covenant is confirmed in Daniel 9:27; God’s covenant with Israel or the devil’s?  The 490 years are a renewal of God’s covenant with Israel.  The last seven therefore are also God’s covenant with Israel.

TO:  Daniel 9 Interpretations Overview
TO:  Daniel 9: List of available articles

The Liberal Critical Interpretation of the 490 years promised by Daniel 9 to Israel

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 proposed 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.

This article explains the critical interpretation of Daniel 9, phrase by phrase, but also provides objections to it.

The point of departure

Holy BibleThe point of departure in the critical perspective is:

(1) 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.
(2) That all the visions in Daniel, even Daniel 9, describe the conflict under Antiochus.
(3) That the prophecies in Daniel are actually recorded history in the form of prophecy.

Antiochus desecrated the temple and killed many Jews.  But soon the Jews, through the Maccabean revolt, were able to defeat Antiochus’ army, run them out of their country and rededicate their temple.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 ends with the accumulation of desolations. In Daniel 9 there is no indication of a rededication of the altar.  For this reason critical scholars propose that the book of Daniel was put in its final form prior to the success of the revolt and prior to the restoration of the sanctuary services.  On this basis critical scholars believe they are able to date the compilation of the book precisely.

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city (9:24)

490 yearsThe 490 years must not include the 70 years.  Since Critics must fit the 490 years of Daniel 9 before the time of Antiochus, they must start the 490 years as early as possible.  They therefore start with the destruction of Jerusalem. But this was also when Jeremiah’s 70 years start.  In other words, Jeremiah’s 70 years of desolation are made part of the 490 years (the seventy weeks).  For the following reasons the seventy weeks should not include the 70 years:

Firstly, the Daniel 9 prophecy was received at the end of the 70 years.

Secondly, the 70 years were years of covenant curse, while the 490 years were years of covenant renewal.  The 70 years were years of exile, which was the covenant curse for disobedience.  The promise of the 490 years renewed the covenant.  As stated by 9:24, “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city”.  It is not logical to include the 70 years of covenant curse into the 490 years promised “for your people and your holy city”.

Thirdly, the Jewish calendar was divided into weeks of years in which the seventh and last year was a Sabbath year during which the land had to rest.  The promise of 70 weeks is Daniel 9 is based these weeks of years.  God used the Sabbath years to measure Israel’s obedience.  The covenant promises and curses, recorded in Leviticus 26, linked the exile to the weeks of years.  It warned Israel that they would be in exile one year for every Sabbath year not observed.  During exile “the land will enjoy its sabbaths” (Lev. 26:34-35; cf. 2Ch 36:21).  After Israel went into exile, God sent a message to Israel through Jeremiah that the exile would be 70 years.  In other words, the 70 years of exile were the penalty for 490 past years of disobedience.  The 70 years were not part of the 490 past years of disobedience.  Neither should the 70 years be part of the new cycle of 490 years.

For a further elaboration of these principles, please read The Covenant in Daniel 9.

To finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness … (9:24)

Daniel 9 goalsThe interpretation does not fit the goals.  Why would a faithful Jew, compiling the book of Daniel in the second century, during the period of temple desecration under Antiochus, give these 6 goals for the 8 events predicted in the prophecy?   It would require substantial creativity to find application for goals such as “to make an end of sin” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness” (9:24) to the time of Antiochus, particularly on the basis of the critical assumption that Daniel was written prior to the success of the Maccabean revolt.

The conflict in the time of Antiochus IV was more of the nature of a civil war between pro-Hellenistic and an anti-Hellenistic Jewish factions, than it was a conflict with an external oppressor.  “The severest condemnation of the writer of I Maccabees goes, not to the Seleucid politicians, but to the lawless apostates among his own people” (The introduction to I Maccabees in the NAB).  It is difficult to see how a second century writer could link the goals listed in 9:24 a Jewish civil war.

From the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (9:25)

Decree to restore JerusalemCritical scholars believe that the second century writer of Daniel obtained the idea of the 70 weeks from Jeremiah’s prediction of 70 years of captivity (Jer. 25:11-13; 29:10), referred to in Daniel 9:2.  The standard critical approach is that the 70 weeks of years is a reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s prophecy.  Consequently, critical scholars begin the 490 years with the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

No decree – But then the 490 years do not start with such a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, as required by 9:25, but with the destruction of Jerusalem.  There was no “decree” which speaks of a rebuilding of Jerusalem at that time.

Critics therefore propose that the announcement by God through Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:1-2, 11-12; 29:10) was the “decree” (NASB) specified by Daniel 9:25, but Jeremiah received this word from God 19 years earlier (in 605 BC – year one of Nebuchadnezzar Jer. 25:1, 12).  Furthermore, Jeremiah’s prophecy was not a “decree to rebuild and restore Jerusalem

Until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (9:25)

Masoretic TextIn the Critical Interpretation Cyrus is the messiah in this verse and he appears at the end of the first seven weeks (49 years).  In the NASB, quoted in the heading above, the messiah appears at the end of 7 and 62 weeks, but critical scholars rely on the Masoretic punctuation—as for instance used in the RSV—which places the appearance of the messiah in verse 25 at the end of the first 49 years.  Critical scholars obtain support for this view from Isaiah 45:1, where Cyrus is called the anointed of the Lord:

Thus says the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held“.

(The Hebrews word translated messiah in the NASB is mashiach, and means anointed, and in translated as “anointed one” in some translations (e.g. RSV).)

.  The next year Cyrus issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.  In the critical interpretation the first seven weeks are then the period from the Chaldean 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 the required 49 years (7 x 7).

There is only one messiah. – In the Critic’s view there are two messiahs: The messiah of 9:25 is Cyrus and the messiah in 9:26, who will be cut off, is the Jewish high priest Onias III.  (See below.)  However:

According to the discussion of the punctuation in the article When does the Messiah Appear, there is no messiah after the first seven weeks.  There is only one messiah, and he appears after 7 + 62 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”.

Why 49 years, and not 70? Critics view the 490 years as a reinterpretation of Jeremiah’s seventy years.  If that was true, should the first subdivision of the 490 years not be 70 years, rather than 49?

Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing (9:26a)

As stated, the Masoretic punctuation has two messiahs in the prophecy of Daniel 9; one after 49 years and another one that is cut off 62 weeks (434 years) later (9:26).  Critical scholars use this punctuation and identify the first messiah as Cyrus and the second as the Jewish High Priest Onias III, who was murdered in 171/0 BC.  They find support in the fact that priests are called “anointed” in Leviticus 4:3 and following. In this view Daniel 9 does not refer to Jesus at all.

Onias was no messiah – The Bible uses the term “messiah” exclusively for people that rescue Israel from danger.  Cyrus might be described as a messiah, but Onias was no messiah.  He did not rescue Israel from anything.  Antiochus IV replaced him as high priest with his more liberal brother Jason. A few years later, in 171/0, he was killed.  It was only 4 years later that Antiochus IV desecrated the temple.

Onias was not cut off “after the sixty-two weeks”.  According to the NASB translation of Daniel 9:25 the messiah appears at the end of “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (9:25) and is cut off some undefined period “after the sixty-two weeks” (9:26).  But in the critics’ scheme the messiah (Onias) disappears (is cut off) immediately at the end of the 483 years.

Does not fit the timelineThe second division (the 62 weeks), in the critical interpretation, extends from Cyrus (539/8 BC) to Onias (171/0 BC).  This is only 367 years, 67 years short of the predicted 434 years (62 x 7).  Consequently, the full period of 490 years is actually only 586-164 = 422 years.  Critics believe that 9:24-27 is history written down after the events, in the form of prophecy.  If this was true, then one could rightly expect that the “prophecy” would fit the figures of 49 + 434 + 7 years (7 + 62 + 1 weeks) perfectly, but this difference is accepted by scholars on the assumption that the chronological knowledge, when Daniel was written, was not very exact.

Daniel is historically accurate.  It should be noted that the book of Daniel indeed contains amazingly accurate historical information (although poorly known during the later pre-Christian centuries).  For example:

The author of Daniel is correct in his description of Nebuchadnezzar as the builder of Babylon (4:30).  RH Pfeiffer was compelled to concede, “We shall presumably never know how our author learned that the new Babylon was the creation of Nebuchadnezzar, as the excavations have proved.”

The author was correct in his knowledge that Belshazzar, mentioned only in Daniel and in cuneiform records, was functioning as king when Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC.

On the basis of cunei­form evidence the vexing chronological problem between Daniel 1:1 and Jeremiah 25:1; 46:2 has been solved without any discrepancy.  (See the article Is the Book of Daniel a Fraud? for more information.)

These exam­ples show that the writer of Daniel knew history quite well, and would not have made such a massive mistake with the dates.

The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary (9:26b).

Antiochus IVAntiochus did not destroy the sanctuary.  In the critical interpretation Antiochus Epiphanes is this “prince”, but Antiochus never destroyed the sanctuary.  He turned it into a temple of his own god.  Neither did Antiochus destroy Jerusalem.  He destroyed only part of Jerusalem and massacred many of its inhabitants.  A second century author would have seen with his own eyes that Antiochus did not destroy the temple, but only defiled it (1Macc.1:30-31, 39).

And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week (9:27a)

In the critical interpretation this “firm covenant” 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.

Prince of the covenant – Surely the “prince of the covenant” in 11:22 must be the same as the prince that confirms the covenant for one week (9:27).  But in the critical interpretation the one that makes a firm covenant in Daniel 9 is Antiochus, while Antiochus kills the “prince of the covenant” in Daniel 11.

Antiochus did not make a seven-year pact with anybody.  Critics argue that Antiochus made an agreement with the Hellenizing Jews for one week, but Antiochus IV did not conclude or confirm an agreement with anybody for one week.  His general support for the pro-Seleucid faction cannot be limited to one week.  For instance, he replaced Onias with his pro-Seleucid brother a number of years before Onias was killed.

But in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering (9:27b)

In the critical interpretation Antiochus is also the one who put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering in the middle of the last week (9:27).  Antiochus did stop the Jewish sacrifices.  According to the book of 1 Maccabean the “desolating sacrilege“—a heathen altar—was erected on the great altar of burnt sacrifice on December 4, 167 BC (15 Kislev, 145; 1 Maccabees 1:54).  This was about in the middle of the seven years after Onias was murdered.  In the critical interpretation the abomination of desolation, mentioned elsewhere in Daniel, is assumed to be this heathen altar which Antiochus Epiphanes erected in place of the Lord’s altar for burnt offering (see I Macc. i. 54). (Jewish Encyclopedia).

Jesus put the abomination in His future.  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).

Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)” (Mat 24:15)

Daniel’s prophecies therefore cannot be limited to the time of Antiochus, approximately 200 years before Jesus spoke.  For many people this is sufficient evidence against the critical interpretation.  Daniel is the only book in the Bible which Jesus by name recommended that we understand.

End of the 490 years

Judas Maccabeus
Judas Maccabeus

In the critical interpretation the last week concludes with the rededication of the altar of sacrifice by the victorious Judas Maccabeus.  This is the “anointing of a most holy place” listed as one of the purposes of the seventy weeks (9:24).  The altar of sacrifice was rededication on December 14, 164 BC (25 Kislev, 148; 1 Maccabees 4:52), exactly 3 years after the first heathen sacrifice in the temple.

But do the critics not also say that Daniel was written before the success of the Maccabean revolt?  How would the uninspired writer know about the rededication?  And why would Daniel 9 then end in the accumulation of desolations?  Why does Daniel 9 not mention the rededication?

Why an end?  If the book of Daniel was completed before the end of the 490 years, and if the writer did not foresee the success of the Maccabean revolt, why would he postulate a period of 490 years?  The Critical Interpretation fails to explain what end the writer has in mind.  What was envisaged after the end of the 490 years?

Review of the timeline

The standard critical timeline, discussed above, is as follows:

586 BC: The destruction of Jerusalem and the start of the 490 years
538 BC: The liberation for the Jews and the end of the first 49 years (7 weeks): This was 48 years later; not 49.
171/0 BC: The murder of Onias III and the end of the second 434 years (62 weeks): This was 368 years later, not 434.
167 BC: Abomination of desolation
164 BC: Temple rededicated

One proposed variation on the critical schema is as follows:

The first 7 weeks are from the Captivity in 587 BC until 538 BC: Exactly 49 years.
The next 62 weeks (434 years) are from the date Jeremiah prophesied in 605 BC (Jeremiah 25:11-12) to Onias’ death in 171 BC: Exactly 434 years

The advantages of this proposal are:

It exactly fits the 49 and 434 years required by the prophecy.
It starts the 62 weeks with a “word” (KJV).

The disadvantages are:

(1) Jeremiah 25:11-12 does not speak of the rebuilding of Jerusalem at all.
(2) The first two divisions (7 + 62) run parallel to each other rather than in sequence.  Israel therefore never received its promised 490 years.
(3) The wording of 9:25 requires “seven and sixty-two weeks” (that is, 69 weeks) and not just 62 weeks from “the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” until Messiah the Prince.

Anchor Bible Commentary
Anchor Bible Commentary

A slight variation from the standard critical schema is proposed by the influential Anchor Bible Commen­tary by Hartman and Di Lella.  They do not start the 490 years with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, but with Jeremiah’s later announcement, as recorded in 29:10, which they date to 594 BC.  Otherwise they remain with the standard critical schema.  The benefit of this proposal is that the 490 years do not start with the destruction of Jerusalem, but with a “word”, as required by Daniel 9.  However:

(A) Jeremiah 29:10 was also not a “word to rebuild and restore Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:25 KJV).  Jeremiah 29:10 only speaks of bringing back exiles to Judah.
(B) From 594 BC to 538 BC is 56 years, not 49 years.  Hartman and Di Lella suggest that 56 years is “sufficiently close to the quasi-artificial figure of ‘seven weeks’ of years.  Not everybody would accept the 7 weeks as “quasi-artificial.”
(C) The second section remains too short.  The full period from 594 BC to 164 BC is only 430 years; 50 years short of the required 490 years.

Conclusion

The critical interpretation is today the standard view of modern liberal scholarship, but it is not an unbiased interpretation.  Critical scholars believe that the Bible developed through a process of evolution, with various people over the centuries editing the text.  They also believe, as a priori assumption, that knowledge of the future is impossible.

But the book of Daniel claims that it was written in the six century before Christ, and contains amazingly accurate predictions of the history after the sixth century.  Liberal scholarship must therefore prove that Daniel was written after these events.  Their solution is that it was written during the crisis under Antiochus IV and that the book only focuses on that conflict.   All the prophecies of Daniel are interpreted as referring to that conflict; even Daniel 9.

But if one counts 490 years back from the time of Antiochus you arrive at the year 655 BC; 50 years before the Babylonian exile.  At that time there was no “decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.”  Therefore critics have creative solutions to shorten the 490 years, as discussed above.  No critical scheme reaches 490 years.   There is no critical scheme of interpretation that is able to harmonize 9:24-27 with actual history.

A separate article is available which contains more than sufficient evidence that Daniel must have been written in the sixth century BC, and therefore must be inspired prophecy.  See Is the Book of Daniel a Fraud?

NEXT:  Introduction to Dispensationalism and Daniel 9
TO:  Daniel 9 Interpretations Overview
TO:  Daniel 9: List of available articles

The Dispensational Interpretation of Daniel 9

The full 44 page article on Daniel 9 has been summarized into a 22 page document.  Both articles have been published on this website.  This current article is another summary that focuses specifically on the dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9.

Overview of the Text

Daniel received the Daniel 9 prophecy in 538 BC.  At that time the Jewish nation was in Babylon in captivity, and Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins.  Daniel prayed for Jerusalem (9:16), the sanctuary (9:17) and his people (9:19).  While still praying, the angel Gabriel appeared to him (9:21) and gave him the prophecy contained in verses 24 to 27.

Verse 24

The prophecy starts in verse 24 with the announcement that 70 sevens have been decreed for Israel and their capital city, Jerusalem, listing 6 goals to be achieved through the 70 sevens:

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city,
   to finish the transgression, and
   to make an end of sins, and   
   to make reconciliation for iniquity, and
   to bring in everlasting righteousness, and
   to seal up the vision and prophecy, and
   to anoint the most Holy. (KJV)

Israel had a seven year cycle in which every seventh year was a Sabbath for the land (Lev. 25).  The 70 weeks are 70 of those seven-year cycles, and consequently equal 490 years.

The next three verses describe the events through which the six goals above are to be achieved.

Verses 25 – 26

Verse 25 firstly explains that the 490 years began with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem and that the Messiah would appear 69 sevens (483 years) later.

Verse 25 continues to comment on the rebuilding of Jerusalem during the first 483 years; saying that it will be built “in troublous times”.

Verse 26 jumps forward in time to after the 483 years, stating that the Messiah would be cut off “after” the 69 sevens.

Verse 26 next returns to Jerusalem, stating that it will be destroyed again.  Since 70 weeks have been decreed for Jerusalem, this destruction must occur after the 70 weeks.

Notice how the prophecy moves back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 is a form of poetic parallelism in which Jerusalem and the Messiah are the two foci.  These two foci stand in cause-effect relationships; the city is constructed to receive the Messiah, but is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.

Verse 27

The first part of verse 27 (27a) focuses on the final seven years: “he” will confirm the covenant for the full seven years and will cause sacrifices to stop in the midst of the seven years.

The second part of verse 27 (27b) describes destruction.

The only event during the first 483 years is the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  But much happens during the final seven years, as described by verse 27.  These final seven years are therefore the focal point and climax of the prophecy.

Dispensationalism

In typical dispensationalism the decree to restore Jerusalem (9:25) is the second decree of Artaxerxes I, dated to 445 BC or 444 BC.

The Messiah Prince that would appear 483 years later is Jesus Christ, but 483 years from 445/4 BC would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the time of Christ.  Consequently, the 483 years are 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 calendar years to fit the actual historical time from the decree to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before the Cross, assuming the crucifixion was in AD 33 or AD 32.

The 490 years are not viewed as continuous, but a “paren­thesis” or “gap” is proposed between the first 483 years and the final seven years.  The final seven years will not start until the end of the church age.  They are the last seven years before the return of Christ.  The events described for the last week are the acts of antichrist.  He is a prince of a revived Roman Empire that will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation.

Structure of this Article

There is not much difference between the Dispensational and the traditional Protestant interpretations of the first 483 years.  Both start the 483 years with a decree of Artaxerxes and both end the 483 years in the time of Christ.  The major difference between the Dispensational and the traditional Protestant interpretations is with respect to the final seven years.  In the traditional interpretation these seven years reflect the time of Christ but in the Dispensational interpretation it is the final seven years before the return of Christ.  Most of this document therefore discusses those seven years, which are particularly described by the last verse of the prophecy:

And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease (9:27 KJV)

The first main division of this article identifies the “he” that is responsible for the events of the final seven years.  The second main division discusses the time indications in the prophecy to locate those final seven years in time.  The third main division lists some other issues of the Dispensational interpretation.

He

Verses 26 and 27 read:

26 … after 62 weeks shall Messiah be cut off … and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city … 27 And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease

Much of the discussion in this article revolves around the identity of the “he” in verse 27.

Dispensationalism assumes that the events in verses 25 to 27 are in chronological order.  Consequently:

The final seven years mentioned in verse 27 are placed in time after the destruction of Jerusalem in verse 26.  Since this destruction is dated to 70 AD, the firm covenant of the 70th week (v 27) follows after AD 70.

This would necessitate a gap between the first 483 years and the final seven years.

This would also mean that “he”, who confirms the covenant for that final week, cannot be Jesus Christ, because Jesus was killed at least 40 years earlier.

Since “he” is not the Messiah, Dispensationalism argues that “he” refers to the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD 70 (v26).

It should then logically follow that “he” was the Roman Caesar in 70 AD, and that the last week be identified as the time around 70 AD.  But as already stated, Dispensationalism proposes that this prince will reign during the last seven years before the return of Christ.

These verses will now be analyzed to evaluate these arguments:

Covenant

Dispensationalism interprets the covenant in 9:27 as a covenant with an end time antichrist, but this is God’s covenant with Israel, as indicated by the following:

God’s covenant with Israel included the following:

The land must have a Sabbath every seventh year (Leviticus. 25:1-2).  Israel was to work the land for six years (v3), but not on the seventh (v4).  God made this seven year chronological cycle part of the covenant by using it to count the number of years of exile (Lev. 26:35, 43).  Should Israel become unfaithful (Lev. 26:14-39) God will scatter them amongst the nations (Lev. 26:33) to allow the land to have its rest (v34, 43) for a period of time equal to the years during which the land did not have its rest (v35, 43).  But if Israel confesses their sin (v40), God would renew His covenant with them (v42), that He might be their God (v45).

Daniel 9 follows this covenant pattern:

The prophecy of Daniel 9 was received at the end of Israel’s exile of 70 years (Dan 9:2).  This exile was the covenant penalty for unfaithfulness: Israel was scattered to allow the land to have its rest (2Ch 36:21; Dan 9:11-13; cf. Lev. 25:2).

In his prayer (9:4-19) Daniel confessed the justice of the sentence, the righteousness of Yahweh (9:7) and Israel’s guilt (9:5-11).  In this way Daniel fulfilled the condition for covenant renewal after exile (Leviticus 26:40-41) on behalf of Israel; Daniel prayed for the renewal of Israel’s covenant privileges.

The announcement “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city” (9:24) was a renewal of God’s covenant with Israel in terms of Leviticus 26:42, 45; limited to 490 years.

God’s covenant with Israel is therefore the central theme in the entire Daniel 9.  With this understanding any reference in the prophecy to “covenant” should be interpreted as God’s covenant with Israel.  The promised 490 years is an extension of God’s covenant with Israel.  The “one week” (9:27) is the final seven years of that time-limited covenant.  It is this covenant which “he” shall confirm for one week.

Further indications that this is God’s covenant include the following:

Confirm:  The verb translated “make” in 9:27 by the NASB  means to “confirm” (KJV).  It means that an existing covenant is confirmed.  It is not a verb for the initial making of a new covenant as in the dispensational interpretation where a future antichrist will enter into some pact at the beginning of the last seven years.

The many: “The many” with whom the covenant is made most often refer to God’s people.  For instance, “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)

Since the covenant in 9:27 is God’s covenant, it cannot be confirmed by an antichrist.  It must be confirmed by the Messiah.  It follows that the “he” in verse 27, Who confirms this covenant, is the Messiah.

The prophecy does not mention any specific event for the end of 490 years, but it also follows that the end of the 70 sevens is the end of God’s covenant with Israel.  In other words, we should be able to identify some event in history that indicates the end of God’s covenant with Israel.  This is discussed further below.

DESOLATION

The second part of verse 27 (27b) describes desolation and a complete destruction:

and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate. (KJV)

This may be understood as saying, that, due to much iniquity, he shall make the desolate completely desolate, as decreed.

This section repeats words and concepts used in 26b (the second part of verse 26) to describe the destruction of Jerusalem:

and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (9:26; KJV)

Both verses:

(A)      Refer to desolations (Strong number H8074) that are decreed (Strong number H2782).

(B)      Use water as symbol of the force of destruction.  In verse 26 the desolations will come with a flood, while they are poured out in verse 27.

(C)      Include the concept of completion.  Verse 27 refers to a “complete destruction” (NASB) while verse 26 mentions the end of the city (NASB).

Dispensationalism associates the desolation in verse 27 with an end time despot, but the similarity between the two sections implies that they refer to the same event, which is identified by verse 26 as the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  The Daniel 9 prophecy promises the reconstruction of Jerusalem to receive the Messiah, but it also promises the reverse: the destruction of Jerusalem as a consequence of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah.  The destruction of Jerusalem is therefore an integral part of the Messiah-events of 2000 years ago.  In the parallelism of the prophecy the destruction is described twice, with the description of the final seven years in-between.  Those final seven years must therefore be limited to the Messiah-events of 2000 years ago.  It cannot describe an end time antichrist.

POETIC STRUCTURE

The prophecy uses much parallelism, where two related words or phrases are used together to emphasize a point, for instance:

      • insight with understanding (v22)
      • give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision (v23)
      • your people and your holy city (v24)
      • to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin (v24)
      • know and discern (v25),
      • restore and rebuild (v25),
      • seven weeks and sixty-two weeks (v26)
      • the city and the sanctuary (v26) and
      • sacrifice and grain offering

This repetition of thought is also found in two adjacent verses:

      • I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding” (v22) and “I have come to tell you” (v23)

Perhaps the most important pattern in the prophecy is the way in which the focus shifts repeatedly back and forth between the two foci: Jerusalem and the Messiah:

    1. 25: from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem;
    2. until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
    3. it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
    4. 26: after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing,
    5. and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
    6. 27: he shall confirm the covenant …; and … cause the sacrifice … to cease
    7. … he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation …

Verses 25 and 26 explicitly shift the focus several times between Jerusalem and the Messiah.  The implication is that verse 27 continues this pattern.  This would prohibit the introduction of a new major role-player in verse 27.  Since verse 26 ends with a reference to Jerusalem, the first part of verse 27, which describes the “he” who confirms the covenant for seven years, is the Messiah, while the destruction in the second part of verse 27 should refer to Jerusalem.  This confirms the conclusion from the analysis of the desolation in 27b.

SUPERNATURAL BEING

The prince in verse 26 is described as follows:

the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.

In Daniel chapter 10 we read of a prince of Greece that is to come:

I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; … the prince of Greece is about to come.  … Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince. (10:20, 21; see also 12:1)

Since it is a supernatural being that is speaking here (10:16, 18), the prince of Persia against which he fights (10:20), the prince of Greece that is about to come and “Michael your prince” (10:21) that supports him are also supernatural beings.  The NASB quoted above interprets them as “forces”. They are not human beings.

Each of the princes (of Persia, of Greece and “Michael your prince”) represent a nation.  Michael can be called the prince of Israel (12:1).

The similarity implies that the prince of 9:26 is also a supernatural being or “force” that represents a nation.  This prince represents the Roman nation.

The “he” in verse 27 therefore cannot refer back to the prince in verse 26 because the “he” in verse 27 seems to be a human being.

DOMINANT FIGURE

Dispensationalism proposes that the “he” in verse 27 refers to the prince whose people destroy the city in verse 26 because this prince is the last person mentioned in verse 26.  However, the “prince that shall come” is not the subject of that clause in verse 26.  It reads “people of the prince”, not “the prince of the people”.   The “prince” in verse 26 is a subordinate figure.  The dominant figure in the entire prophecy and in verse 26 is the “Messiah”.  Based on grammar the Messiah should be preferred as the antecedent of the “he” in verse 27.

ROMAN PRINCE

The people that destroyed the city (9:26) were the Romans.  Their “prince” must therefore be the prince of the Roman Empire.  In the Dispensational system the “he” in verse 27 is this Roman Prince that will rule in the final years before the return of Christ.  This means that the Roman Empire must exist during those final years.  How can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it ceased to exist?  And how can one claim that the Roman Empire of ancient history was the people of an end time antichrist if the people and their prince live 2000 years apart?

It is proposed here that since the prince in verse 26 is the Roman Prince, and since no known ruler of the Roman Empire ever confirmed a covenant with the Jews for seven years, that this prince cannot be the “he” in verse 27.

STOP SACRIFICE

Daniel 9:27 reads:

in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering

In the dispensational interpretation this is the physical destruction of the sanctuary and its services by an antichrist, which means that the sanctuary is to be destroyed in the middle of the last seven years.  However, since the full 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people (9:24), the sanctuary and its services will not be destroyed during the 490 years, but only after the end of it.  This stop that is put to sacrifice and grain offering must therefore be something different from the physical destruction of the sanctuary and its services, as in the Dispensational interpretation.

To understand what the termination of sacrifices means requires an understanding of how it relates to the other aspects of the prophecy:

Verse 24 lists six goals to be attained through Daniel’s people during the 490 years, including “to make atonement for iniquity” and “to bring in everlasting righteousness”.

The major events of verses 25 and 26 are the appearance (v25) and the killing of the Messiah (v26).

Verse 27 focuses on the final seven years, which is the climax of the 490 years, and says that an end will be put to sacrifices in the middle of those seven years.

The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore implies that this world’s sin problem would be solved through the appearance and killing of the messiah, while “sacrifice and grain offering” will be stopped (9:27).  In the view of New Testament this is a description of Jesus Christ:

He was “Jesus the Messiah” (Matt 1:1, cf. 1:16, 17; 2:4; John 1:41, 4:25).

He was killed.

He solved the sin problem of the world.  He fulfilled the goals in verse 24 through His death.  He made “atonement for iniquity” (John 1:29; Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 7:27, 9:26-28; Hebr. 9:12; 10:10, 12, 14) and brought in “everlasting righteousness” (Heb. 9:12; Rom. 5:10, 11; Col. 1:20; 2Co 5:19; Col 1:22; Rom 5:18; John 3:17; Col 1:19-20).

His death caused sacrifice to cease.  Jewish sacrifices continued until the destruction of Jerusalem forty years after the death of Christ, but these sacrifices pointed forward to the ultimate sacrifice of Lamb of God.  When Jesus—the Lamb of God—died, He fulfilled the significance of those sacrifices.  The Jewish sacrifices were consequently terminated at the death of Christ in the sense of its loss of meaning.  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)  In this way His death caused “sacrifice and the oblation (NASB: grain offering) to cease” (9:27).

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).  This signified the end of Israel’s sacrificial temple rituals.

Daniel 9 is therefore thoroughly a messianic prophecy and the termination of sacrifices in verse 27 refers to the sacrifice that ended all other sacrifices.  The “he” therefore refers to the Messiah.

Verse 27 refers to the death of Christ in this way to link it to the goals in verse 24.  Through the ritual animal sacrifices, sins were pardoned.  But these sacrifices were all made in expectation of the great and final sin offering which made a final “end of sins” (9:24), made final “reconciliation for iniquity” and brought in “everlasting righteousness” (9:24).  Jesus Christ is the messiah in verse 25 that was “cut off” (v26) to achieve the goals in verse 24, thereby causing the sacrificial system to cease (v27).

REPETITION

But then questions may arise: If the termination of the sacrifices and the killing of the messiah is the same event, why is the one described as “after the 62 sevens”, (9:26) and the other as in the “midst of” the last seven (9:27)?  And why is the destruction of Jerusalem mentioned between the killing of the Messiah and the stop that is made to sacrifices?

The answer to this question is found in the repetition (parallelism) of the prophecy, as described in the section dealing with the poetic structure.  Since the prophecy so often repeats concepts, the repetition of the events of verse 26 by verse 27 is to be expected.  To understand this repetition requires a high level view of the prophecy.  It consists of three divisions; each provides information relative to a different period of time:

I.      Verse 24 announces the 490 years and sets the goals for that period.

II.      Verses 25 and 26 describe events relative to the first 483 years, including the killing of the Messiah and the consequential destruction of the city after the end of the 483 years.

III.      Verse 27 describes the same events, but relative to the final seven years.

It has previously been shown that the desolations in 27b (the second part of 9:27) repeat the desolation of Jerusalem in 26b.  Since the termination of sacrifices in 27a (the first part of 9:27) is an explanation of the killing of the Messiah in 26a, verse 27 repeats verse 26:

A: Messiah B: Jerusalem
26 after the sixty-two weeksthe Messiah will be cut off and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary
27 he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week … in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction

CONCLUSION

The purpose of this first main division of this article is to identify the “he” in verse 27.

“He” is not the prince of verse 26 because:

      • The prince in 9:26 is not a human being.
      • The prince in 9:26 is not the main character in verse 26.
      • The covenant in 9:27 is God’s covenant with Israel, and cannot be confirmed by a prince of people that destroys Jerusalem.

“He” is not an end time antichrist because:

      • If “he” is an end time antichrist, then “he” refers to the prince in verse 26, but that is a prince of an empire that no longer exists, namely the Roman Empire.
      • If “he” is an end time antichrist, then he physically terminates the sacrifices in the midst of the last seven years, which implies the destruction of the temple, but since the full 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people (9:24), the sanctuary will not be destroyed during that period.
      • Both the sections immediately before and after the description of the last seven years in verse 27 describe the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  This limits verse 27 to the time of Christ.

 “He” is the Messiah because:

      • The Messiah is main character in verse 26 and in the entire prophecy.
      • The covenant in verse 27 is God’s covenant with Israel, which must be confirmed by the Messiah.
      • The prophecy of Daniel 9 has a poetic pattern: it repeatedly shifts the focus between the two foci of the prophecy; Jerusalem and the Messiah.  In this pattern “he” in the first part of verse 27 is the Messiah.
      • The termination of the sacrifices in verse 27 is the death of Christ because the goals in verse 24 and the arrival and killing of the Messiah (9:25-26) identify this as a messianic prophecy, and because the sacrifice of the Lamb of God caused all animal sacrifices, which pointed forward to this one astounding sacrifice of the Son of God, to cease to have meaning.

The Messiah appeared at the end of the long period of 69 sevens in about 26 or 27 AD.  Since this same Messiah confirms the covenant for the final seven years, these final seven years cannot refer to events after 70 AD.  The fundamental assumption in Dispensationalism (that the events are provided in chronological order) is therefore not correct.

TIME INDICATIONS

The previous main division discussed the identity of “he”.  The current main division investigates the time indications to identify the final seven years during which “he” works.  It shows that these seven years do not fit an end time antichrist, but that they do fit the time of Christ.

RESTORE

The 490 years begin with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (v25).  Dispensationalism identifies this as the second decree of Artaxerxes I in 445/4, but this decree did not “restore” Jerusalem.

Restore means to give the city back to be ruled by its previous owner.  For instance, the Aramean king said to Ahab, king of Israel that he will “return” (same Hebrew word shûb) the cities his father took from Ahab’s father (I Kings 20:34).  These cities have not been destroyed.  “Restore” does not include the idea of rebuilding.  Another example is 2 Kings 14:22.

Jerusalem was the judicial and executive capital of the Israeli people.  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.  This the second decree of Artaxerxes I in 445/4 did not do.  This decree only dealt with the physical construction of the city walls.

The decree that did restore Jerusalem was the first decree of Artaxerses I in 458/7 BC (Ezra 7:1-26).  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.

REBUILD

Dispensationalism claims that the second decree of Artaxerxes I for the first time authorised the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but that is not true.  Different decrees were issued by different Persian kings over a period of about 90 years prior to this decree, and all of them, by allowing the Jews to return to Judah and to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4; cf. Is. 45:1), implicitly allowed the Jews to rebuild their cities.  This is confirmed by the following:

Nehemiah expected the walls to be completed before the second decree of Artaxerxes I, as indicated by his reaction to the news that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the gates destroyed by fire (Neh. 1:3); he was deeply shocked and wept for days (Neh. 1:4).

Nehemiah found some work done on the walls when he arrived.  When he inspected the walls (Nehemiah 2:15), before he had done any work himself, he referred to “the Jews, the priests … who did the work” (v16).

Also, before the second decree of Artaxerxes I, a group of Persian officers wrote to Artaxerxes that “the Jews … are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city; they are finishing the walls …” (Ezra 4:12).  Artaxerxes then instructed that the rebuilding be stopped, which was done.  This must have been before Nehemiah because he completed the walls of the city within 52 days, with no interruption.

The second decree of Artaxerxes I therefore did not, for the first time, authorise the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

SEVENS

Verse 25 reads:

from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks

The Messiah would therefore appear 483 years after the decree, but 483 years from the second decree of Artaxerxes would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the time of Christ.  As stated above, Dispensationalism interprets the 483 years as “prophetic years” of 360 days each.  In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 years to fit the actual historical time from the second decree to the crucifixion, assuming the crucifixion was in AD 33 or AD 32.

However, as discussed above, the covenant pattern forms the framework for Daniel 9.  As “prophesied” by Leviticus and confirmed by 2 Chronicles 36:21, each of the 70 years of exile was a Sabbath year.  Therefore, each of the 70 years of exile represents 7 years of disobedience, and the 70 years of exile represent in total 490 years of disobedience.  The Daniel 9 prophecy therefore extends God’s covenant with Israel for a new cycle of 490 years.  Since the covenant timing is based on the seven year cycle, every seventh year would also be a Sabbath for the land (Lev. 25:2 ff.), and every year a normal literal solar year.

The covenant therefore links the seven year chronological cycle to the Daniel 9 prophecy.  There is no justification for a symbolic reading of these years as prophetic years of 360 days each, which means that the second decree of Artaxerxes does not fit the time of Christ.

TRIUMPHAL ENTRY

Daniel 9:25 reads:

from the issuing of a decree … until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks

The implication is that the Messiah will start to act as such at the end of the 69 sevens.

In the Dispensational interpretation the Messiah Prince is Jesus Christ and His first appearance, mentioned by 9:25, is His triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days before His crucifixion.  However, Jesus did not begin His work at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  His work began about three years earlier at His baptism when He was “anointed” and introduced to Israel (Acts 10:38; Mark 1:9-11; cf. Ps. 2:6, 7).

JEWISH PERIOD AFTER THE CROSS

In the Dispensational interpretation the first 483 years came to an end at Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (a few days before His death), with the last seven years postponed to the end of time.

However, the 490 years are promised by God as years of Jewish preference, and the preference which Jews enjoyed continued after the Cross.  During that period the Holy Spirit only came on Jews and the gospel was preached only to Jews.  The church consisted only of the “circumcised” (cf. 10:45); i.e. Jews and they did not associate with the uncircumcised (Act 10:34-35).

The period of Jewish preference came to an end about three or four years after the Cross, when the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.  This was preceded by the persecution of the believers by the Jews, commencing with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7; 8:1).  Immediately following this persecution (Acts 10) Peter received his dream of the unclean beasts (Acts 10:19-20), through which he was shown that it is okay to associate with people that were not circumcised (v34-35).  Simultaneously the Holy Spirit suddenly and powerfully led the Christians to take the gospel to the uncircumcised (non-Jews).

These three or four years after the Cross were therefore part of the 490 years.

This conclusion is supported by Stephen’s speech.  Both Daniel’s prayer and Stephen’s speech are based on God’s covenant with Israel.  While Daniel confessed the sins of his people and prayed for the mercy promised in the covenant, Stephen’s speech was an announcement of God’s judgment in terms of the covenant.  Stephen announced the end of the Seventy Weeks.

GAP

Dispensationalism puts a vast gap of 2000 years between the first 69 sevens and the last seven.  However:

The wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a gap.  There appears to be no 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.

It destroys the simple unity of the prophecy and divides it into two completely separate and unrelated prophecies; one about Christ 2000 years ago, and one about some future antichrist.  This gap redirects the focus of the prophecy from Jesus to an end time antichrist.

The last seven years is the climax of the 490 years because all important events occur after the long period of 483 years.  The only event during the previous 483 years is the construction of the city.  But the prophecy records significant events for the last seven years.  The covenant is confirmed for the last seven years and the sacrifices are caused to cease in the middle of these seven years.  The only purpose of the 483 years is therefore to foretell the timing of the final seven years.  Hence, to dislodge that final seven years from the previous 483 years and to propel it into the distant future is to defeat the purpose of the 483 years.

RETURN OF CHRIST

Dispensationalism maintains that the last week ends with the return of Christ, but the prophecy in no way indicates the return of Christ.  If the 490 years are to end with Christ’s return, would verse 27 not end with a description of His glorious return, as the other prophecies in Daniel do?  In contrast the Daniel 9 prophecy ends in the accumulation of desolations and chaos.

SUMMARY

The question in this second major division is where the final seven years fit in time.  This question has already been answered in the previous main section, where it was argued that the “he” that confirms the covenant for those seven years, is the Messiah.  Those seven years must therefore be the time of the Messiah.

The time-indicators in the text confirm this by identifying the final seven years as follows:

The 483 years, and therefore the full 490 years, began when Jerusalem was restored to Israel to serve as judicial capital, which was the first decree in 458/7 BC.

These 70 sevens are 70 seven-year-agricultural cycles, and therefore not symbolically interpreted as “prophetic” years of 360 days each.

Exactly 483 years after 458/7 BC Jesus was introduced to Israel at His baptism in AD 26/27, and began His work.  The Dispensational schema has to convert the 483 years into 360 day years to make them fit, but 483 normal literal years exactly fit the time from Artaxerxes’ first decree to the Messiah’s baptism.

To insert a gap between the first 483 years and the final seven years is to distort the prophecy.  The final seven years therefore began when Jesus was baptized.

The end of the seven years is not the return of Christ.  But, about seven years after His baptism, the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.  This was the end of God’s 490 year covenant for Jewish preference.  The kingdom of God was then taken away from them (Mat. 21:43).

In the midst of those seven years Jesus was killed, thereby causing the forward-pointing function of the sacrificial system to cease.

Jesus Christ confirmed God’s covenant with Israel during the final seven years through His personal preaching for 3½ years before His death and by sending His disciples to Israel only for a further 3½ years after His death.

Israel sealed the end of the covenant with their rejection of the Holy Spirit when they persecuted His Spirit filled disciples.  Since 490 years were decreed for Jerusalem (v24), Jerusalem was not destroyed during those 490 years, but only in 70 AD.

OTHER ANOMALIES

SECOND REBUILDING

The prophecy promises the rebuilding of the city and the sanctuary, followed by its destruction.  This was fulfilled with the rebuilding of Jerusalem a few hundred years before Christ and its destruction in 70 AD.  But the Dispensational interpretation requires the sanctuary to be rebuilt again in the future.  Such a second rebuilding is not promised by the prophecy.  If the intention was that the sanctuary would be rebuilt again after the destruction of the city in verse 26, but before the termination of the sacrifices in verse 27, then the prophecy would have explicitly stated this, given that it is so clear about the rebuilding in verse 25.

SACRIFICES RESUMED

In the Dispensational interpretation the Jewish sacrificial system will be revived, but there never can 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).  That is the very meaning of the statement:

in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering (9:27)

GOALS ACHIEVED

Daniel 9:24 lists 6 goals to be achieved by the events of the 70 sevens, including:

“to make atonement for iniquity” and

to bring in everlasting righteousness”.

In Dispensational interpretation the 69th week ends a few days before the death of Christ, namely at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, while the seventieth week still lies in our future.  Consequently the 70 weeks do not include the death of Christ, which means that the goals of 9:24 have not been fulfilled by Christ 2000 years ago.

Since the final seven years is the climax of the 490 years, these goals are particularly achieved by the events of the last seven years, as described by 27a:

And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease

But in the dispensational interpretation this is the work of an end time antichrist, and will not fulfill the wonderful goals of verse 24.  Dispensationalism therefore proposes that these goals will be fulfilled by the return of Christ, which will occur at the end of the last seven years.  Apart from the fact that the 490 years do not end with the return of Christ, this proposal denies the 70 sevens their purpose,  Daniel 9:24 declares that the 70 sevens were allocated to Israel to achieve the goals stated in verse 24 during the 490 years, through Daniel’s people, not by the end of the 70 sevens:

Daniel did not pray for a messiah.  He prayed for Jerusalem.  But the prophecy includes the Messiah because that was Jerusalem’s purpose: Jerusalem was to be rebuilt and 490 years were allocated to it to receive the Messiah.

Neither did Daniel pray for the goals in verse 24, but the goals were added because that was the purpose of the Messiah.   The Messiah was the means and the goals were the end.  To remove these goals from Israel and Jerusalem is to remove the reason for Israel’s election.

OTHER OBJECTIONS

In the dispensational interpretation the antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel after 3½ years, but according to 9:27 the covenant is confirmed for the full seven years.

In the dispensational interpretation the return of Christ will make an end to sin, but Dispensationalism also proposes that sin will continue for 1000 years after the return of Christ.

Dispensationalism postulates the Millennium as a period of Jewish dominance, thereby allocating in total 1490 years to the Jews.  The prophecy allocates only 490 years.

GOALS FULFILLED IN JESUS CHRIST

Dispensationalism protests against the traditional Protestant interpretation of Daniel 9, as defended by this article, by claiming that Christ’s first advent did not fulfill the six goals for the seventy weeks (9:24).  A possible interpretation of these goals is therefore presented:

The first goal is “to finish the transgression”.  The definite article “the”, which is not used with the other goals, identifies the transgression as something specific.  The 490 years were a probation period for the Jews.  It is proposed that this goal was a challenge to the Jewish nation to manifest their loyalty toward Him and bring an end to the sinful state of their society that led to the exile.  As mentioned above, the 70 years of Babylonian domination represent 490 years of disobedience.  By awarding Israel an extension of their covenant for a further 490 years God gave Israel the opportunity to succeed where it previously failed.  This goal was not achieved.  Perhaps this goal was particularly relevant to the three years after the Cross when Israel received the Holy Spirit, and had a final opportunity for revival.  If they, as a nation, did receive the Christ in those final years, the history of the world would have been very different.  If they did receive Him, God might have again renewed His covenant with them, and used them mightily to take His word to the entire world, and Jesus might have returned long ago.

The second goal is “to make an end of sin”.  Jesus, as the second Adam and representative of the people of the world, made an end to sin.  By never committing a sin, He defeated the accuser (Rev. 12:10) by showing that it is possible for man to live a life free from sin through the power of God, thus nullifying Satan’s claim for dominion of this world.

The third goal 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, cf. Matt. 26:28; Hebr. 7:27, 9:26-28; 9:12 and 10:10, 12, 14).

The fourth goal is “to bring in everlasting righteousness”.  According to the Bible Christ did this as well.  According to the New Testament “eternal redemption” already exist (Heb. 9:12) and we are already reconciled to God by the death of His Son (Rom. 5:10, 11; Col. 1:20).  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).

The fifth goal is “to seal up vision and prophecy” the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah were validated or authenticated by the Cross.

The sixth and last goal is “to anoint the most holy place”.  The phrase “most holy” occurs more than 40 times in the Old Testament, and always refers to the sanctuary, with one possible exception.  The “most holy” therefore refers to the most holy portion of the temple.  But it is not an earthly temple.  It was the temple in heaven (Hebrews 8:2); the “true tabernacle” (8:2), not made with hands (9:24; cf. 8:1-2), of which the earthly tabernacle was a copy (8:5; 9:24).  This temple was anointed with “better sacrifices” (9:19, 21, 23) “through His own blood” (Hebr. 9:12).  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.

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).

CONCLUSION

The vast majority of the people on earth do not believe in the supernatural, and since the Bible is a book about the supernatural, it is rejected.  Inside the Church one major school of thought shares this view, and believes that Daniel does not predict anything, but that it reflect the events of Antiochus, more than 100 years before Christ.

Dispensationalism is the other major system of belief within the Church.  The prophecies of Daniel are the foundation on which the book of Revelation has been built, as explained in other articles.  An incorrect interpretation of Daniel’s prophecies inevitably leads to a distortion of Revelation’s prophecies.  The typical dispensational interpretation puts everything in the last 19 chapters of Revelation in the final seven years of Daniel 9’s 490 years, which are interpreted as the final seven years before the return of Christ.  Since this article has shown that those seven years do not describe end time events, but the Messiah-events 2000 years ago, the view here is that the dispensational interpretation of Revelation is completely misguided.

The view of Daniel 9, as presented in this article, once was the majority view in the Church, but today is held by so few people that it is effectively non-existent.  But Daniel was promised:

… seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase. (12:4)

 

AVAILABLE ARTICLES Word documents
Daniel 9: Full 44 page article Daniel 9: Full document
Daniel 9: 22 page summary of the Full article Daniel 9: Summary
Daniel 9: The dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 Daniel 9: Dispensational
Daniel 9: The dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 – Summary Daniel 9: Dispensational summary

 

The Dispensational Interpretation of Daniel 9 – Summary

This article has been substantially revised.  Please see Introduction to Dispensationalism Daniel 9 for the revised article.  The current article is still valid, and serves as a summary of the main point.

Overview of the Text and of the Dispensational Interpretation

Jerusalem in ruins

Daniel received the Daniel 9 prophecy in 538 BC.  At that time the Jewish nation was in captivity in Babylon, and Jerusalem and the temple were in ruins.  Daniel prayed for Jerusalem, the sanctuary and his people.  While still praying, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and gave him the prophecy in verses 24 to 27:

70 sevens have been decreed for Israel and their capital city, Jerusalem, to achieve 6 goals (v24).

It is generally agreed that each seven represents seven years.  The 70 sevens consequently equal 490 years.

The 490 years began with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (v25).

In a typical dispensational interpretation this is the second decree of Artaxerxes I, dated to 445 BC or 444 BC.

483 years later the Messiah Prince would appear (v25).

In Dispensationalism this is Jesus Christ, but 483 years from 445/4 BC would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the time of Christ.  Consequently, the 483 years are understood as prophetic years of 360 days each.  In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 calendar years to fit the actual historical time from this decree to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His death, assuming the crucifixion was in AD 33 or AD 32.

Jerusalem would be rebuilt “in troublous times” (v25).
After the 483 years the Messiah would be cut off (killed) (v26).
Jerusalem will be destroyed again.

Notice how the prophecy moves back and forth between the two foci; Jerusalem and the Messiah.  These two foci stand in cause-effect relationships; the city is constructed to receive the Messiah, but is again destroyed because it did not receive the Messiah.

“He” will make strong a covenant for the full seven years and will stop sacrifices in the middle of the seven years (v27).

The only event during the first 483 years is the reconstruction of Jerusalem.  But much happens during the final seven years, as described by verse 27.  These final seven years are therefore the real purpose of the prophecy.  The 483 years merely serve to locate the last seven years in time.

In Dispensationalism:

The Gap

The 490 years are not viewed as continuous, but a “paren­thesis” or “gap” is proposed between the first 483 years and the final seven years, which will be the seven years before the return of Christ.

The final seven years describe the acts of antichrist.  He is a prince of a revived Roman Empire that will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world a 3½ year tribulation.

The second part of verse 27 describes destruction (v27).

He

Verse 26 refers to two people: the Messiah that is “cut off” and “the prince that shall come”.  Verse 27 continues with a “he”:

he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease

Dispensationalism argues that “he” refers to the prince whose people destroyed the city in AD70, and that this prince will reign during the last seven years before the return of Christ.

The article (Who is he?) discusses the identity of the “he” in verse 27 and concludes that the “he” in 9:27 is the Messiah because:

The God’s Covenant with Israel is the central theme in the entire Daniel 9.  The covenant in 9:27 must therefore also be God’s covenant, and it must therefore be the Messiah who confirms it.

The word “confirm” (9:27) means that this covenant existed prior to the 70th week.  Then it can only be God covenant with Israel, and it must be the Messiah that confirms it.

The parallelism of the Poetic Pattern of the entire prophecy indicates that “he” in verse 27, who makes strong the covenant for seven years, is the same as the Messiah that is cut off in verse 26.

The dominant figure in the entire prophecy and in verse 26 is the “Messiah”.  He is therefore the appropriate antecedent for “he” in verse 27.

The prince in 9:26 is a supernatural being who represents the Roman nation, while the “he” of verse 27 is a human being, and therefore cannot refer to a supernatural being.  Therefore the proper antecedent for “he” is the Messiah.

According to Daniel 9 this world’s sin problem would be solved by the killing of the messiah (v26), and an end will be made to the sacrificial system (v27).  In the light of the New Testament the end is made of the sacrificial system by the Lamb of God.  The “he” therefore is the Messiah.

 “He” in 9:27 cannot be an end-time despot, because:

The desolation in verse 27 is a repeat of the destruction of Jerusalem in verse 26.  The covenant in verse 27 is therefore confirmed prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  It cannot be an end-time covenant.

How can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it ceased to exist?

Since the 490 years have been determined for the city of Daniel’s people, the sanctuary and its services will not be destroyed during the 490 years, but only after the end of the 490 years.  The last seven of the 490 years therefore cannot be the end of the age.

TO: Who is he?

TIMING

The previous section discussed the identity of “he”.  This section investigates the time indications to identify the final seven years during which “he” works.

RESTORE

The 490 years begin with the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (v25).  Restore means to give the city back to be ruled by its previous owner.  Dispensationalism identifies this as the second decree of Artaxerxes I in 445/4, but this decree did not “restore” Jerusalem.  The decree that did restore Jerusalem was the first decree of Artaxerses I in 458/7 BC (Ezra 7:1-26).

Rebuild

Dispensationalism claims that the second decree of Artaxerxes I for the first time authorised the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but that is not true.  Different decrees were issued by different Persian kings over a period of about 90 years prior to this decree, and all of them, by allowing the Jews to return to Judah and to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4; cf. Isa 45:1), implicitly allowed the Jews to rebuild their cities.  This is confirmed by evidence from the Old Testament.

Sevens

The Messiah would appear 483 years after the decree (9:25), but 483 years from the second decree of Artaxerxes would extend to about AD 40—far beyond the time of Christ.  Dispensationalism therefore interprets the 483 years as “prophetic years” of 360 days each.  In this way the 483 years are shortened by 7 years to fit the actual historical time from the second decree to the crucifixion.

However, as discussed in The Covenant in Daniel 9, the covenant pattern forms the framework for Daniel 9.  As “prophesied” by Leviticus and confirmed by 2 Chronicles 36:21, each of the 70 years of exile was a Sabbath year.  Therefore, each of the 70 years of exile represents 7 years of disobedience, and the 70 years of exile represent in total 490 years of disobedience.  The prophecy of Daniel 9 therefore extends God’s covenant with Israel for a new cycle of 490 years.  Since the covenant timing is based on the seven year cycle, every seventh year would also be a Sabbath for the land (Lev. 25:2 ff.), and every year a normal literal solar year.

This means that the second decree of Artaxerxes does not fit the time of Christ.

TRIUMPHAL ENTRY

The Messiah will start to act as such at the end of the 69 sevens (9:25).  In the Dispensational interpretation this is His triumphal entry into Jerusalem; 5 days before His crucifixion, but Jesus began His work as Messiah about three years earlier at His baptism when He was “anointed” and introduced to Israel.

JEWISH PERIOD AFTER THE CROSS

In the Dispensational interpretation the first 483 years came to an end at Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (a few days before His death), with the last seven years postponed to the end of time.

However, the 490 years are promised by God as years of Jewish preference, and the preference which Jews enjoyed continued after the Cross.  During that period the Holy Spirit only came on Jews and the gospel was preached only to Jews.  The period of Jewish preference came to an end about three or four years after the Cross, when the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.   These three or four years after the Cross were therefore part of the 490 years.

GAP

Dispensationalism puts a vast gap of 2000 years between the first 69 sevens and the last seven.  However, the wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a gap.  To postpone the last seven years of final crisis to the end of the age destroys the simple unity of the prophecy and divides it into two completely separate and unrelated prophecies; one about Christ 2000 years ago, and one about some future antichrist.  It redirects the focus of the prophecy from Jesus to an end time antichrist.

The last seven years is the climax of the 490 years because all important events occur after the long period of 483 years.  The only purpose of the 69 sevens is therefore to foretell the timing of the final seven years.  Hence, to dislodge that final seven years from the previous 483 years and to propel it into the distant future is to defeat the purpose of the 483 years.

RETURN OF CHRIST

Dispensationalism maintains that the last week ends with the return of Christ.  If this was the case, would verse 27 not end with a description of His glorious return, as the other prophecies in Daniel do?  In contrast the Daniel 9 prophecy ends in the accumulation of desolations and chaos.

THE TIME OF THE MESSIAH

The time-indicators in the text identify the final seven years as follows:

The 490 years began with the decree in 458/7 BC.

Exactly 483 literal years later the Messiah appeared at His baptism in AD 26/27.

This was also the beginning of the final seven years.

About seven years later the gospel was suddenly redirected from Jews only to all people.  This was the end of God’s promised 490 years of Jewish preference.

In the midst of those seven years Jesus was killed, thereby causing the forward-pointing function of the sacrificial system to cease.

Jesus Christ confirmed God’s covenant with Israel during the final seven years through His personal preaching for 3½ years before His death and by sending His disciples to Israel only for a further 3½ years after His death.

Since 490 years were decreed for Jerusalem (v24), Jerusalem was destroyed after those 490 years in 70 AD.

OTHER ANOMALIES

Second Rebuilding

The prophecy promises the rebuilding of the city and the sanctuary, followed by its destruction.  This was fulfilled with the rebuilding of Jerusalem a few hundred years before Christ and its destruction in 70 AD.  But the Dispensational interpretation requires the sanctuary to be rebuilt again in the future.  Such a second rebuilding is not promised by the prophecy.  If the intention was that the sanctuary would be rebuilt again after the destruction of the city in verse 26, but before the termination of the sacrifices in verse 27, then the prophecy would have explicitly stated this, given that it is so clear about the rebuilding in verse 25.

Sacrifices Resumed

In the Dispensational interpretation the Jewish sacrificial system will be revived, but there never can 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” (see Hebr. 7:22; cf. chap. 10:12; Rom. 3:22, 25).

Goals Achieved

Daniel 9:24 lists 6 goals to be achieved by the events of the 70 sevens, including:

    • “to make atonement for iniquity” and
    • to bring in everlasting righteousness”.

Dispensationalism proposes that these goals will be fulfilled by the return of Christ, which will occur at the end of the last seven years.  Apart from the fact that the 490 years do not end with the return of Christ, this proposal denies the 70 sevens their purpose.  Daniel 9:24 declares that the 70 sevens were allocated to Israel to achieve the goals stated in verse 24 during the 490 years, through Daniel’s people, not by the end of the 70 sevens.

Other Objections

In the dispensational interpretation the antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel after 3½ years, but according to 9:27 the covenant is confirmed for the full seven years.

In the dispensational interpretation the return of Christ will make an end to sin, but Dispensationalism also proposes that sin will continue for 1000 years after the return of Christ.

Dispensationalism postulates the Millennium as a period of Jewish dominance, thereby allocating in total 1490 years to the Jews.  The prophecy allocates only 490 years.

GOALS FULFILLED IN JESUS CHRIST

Dispensationalism protests against the traditional Protestant interpretation of Daniel 9, as defended by this article, by claiming that Christ’s first advent did not fulfill the six goals for the seventy weeks (9:24).  A possible interpretation of these goals is therefore presented:

The first goal (to finish the transgression) was a challenge to the Jewish nation to manifest their loyalty toward Him and bring an end to the sinful state of their society that led to the exile.

The second goal (to make an end of sin), the third goal (to make atonement for iniquity) and the fourth goal (to bring in everlasting righteousness) were achieved by Jesus through His death.  According to the New Testament Bible “eternal redemption” already exist (Heb. 9:12).

The fifth goal is “to seal up vision and prophecy; the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah were to be validated by what the Messiah did.

The sixth and last goal is “to anoint the most holy place”.  The “most holy” refers to the most holy portion of the temple.  But it is not an earthly temple.  It was the temple in heaven (Hebrews 8:2); the “true tabernacle” (8:2), not made with hands (9:24; cf. 8:1-2) that was anointed with “better sacrifices” (9:19, 21, 23) “through His own blood” (Hebr. 9:12).

CONCLUSION

Verse 27 is the key verse of the prophecy and the major point of disagreement between the traditional Protestant and the Dispensational interpretations.  It has been argued above that this is a description of Jesus in His work as Messiah during the final seven years of God’s renewed but time-limited covenant with Israel, nearly 2000 years ago.

 

AVAILABLE ARTICLES Word documents
Daniel 9: Full 44 page article Daniel 9: Full document
Daniel 9: 22 page summary of the Full article Daniel 9: Summary
Daniel 9: The dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 Daniel 9: Dispensational
Daniel 9: The dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9 – Summary Daniel 9: Dispensational summary

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