The 490 years of Daniel 9 – Evaluation of the Four Major Interpretations

Daniel’s prophecies are the foundation on which the prophecies in the book of Revelation have been built. For example, Daniel symbolizes the Antichrist as a little horn that becomes exceedingly great (Dan 8:9). Revelation symbolizes the Antichrist as a beast from the sea (Rev 13:1). But the similarities between the little horn and the beast show that the beast IS THE SAME AS the little horn. For that reason, to understand Revelation correctly, we first have to interpret Daniel correctly. 

In the academic consensus of today, Daniel was written in the time of Antiochus IV in the year 165 B.C. and does NOT contain any divinely inspired prophecies (see Critical interpretation). If that is true, any study of Daniel is a complete waste of time.

In the traditional Historical-Messianic interpretation of Daniel 9, the prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In this interpretation, the final event prophesied in Daniel 9 was the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Therefore, in this interpretation, because God gave the prophecies in Revelation AFTER Jerusalem was destroyed, Revelation does not refer AT ALL to the Daniel 9-prophecy.  

In the Dispensational interpretation, the last week of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9 is the last seven years before Christ returns and everything in Revelation, except the letters to the seven churches (chapters 1-3), happens during those seven last years.

In the Consistent Symbolical interpretation, everything in the Daniel-9 prophecy is symbolic. For example, Jerusalem symbolizes the church. 

The purpose of this article is to discuss the prophecy of the 70 weeks (490 years) in Daniel 9:24-27 and to evaluate these four major interpretations. This article is a summary of several more detailed articles. See here for the list of detailed articles. Links are provided to the detailed articles.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

SPECIFIC TOPICS

(1) Overview of the prophecy and the major interpretations
(2) With which decree did the 490 years begin?
(3) The 490 years are God’s covenant with Israel.
(4) Did God suspend His covenant with Israel when Jesus died?
(5) Who confirms what covenant during the seven last years?
(6) What is destroyed in verse 27?
(7) Does the prophecy list events chronologically?
(8) When are the goals fulfilled? – Christ’s first or second advent
(9) Is there a messiah at the end of the first 49 years?
(10) Do all prophecies in Daniel 9 describe the same crisis?
(11) Do Daniel’s prayer and the prophecy belong together?

EVALUATION OF THE MAIN INTERPRETATIONS

(12) Liberal-critical
(13) Consistent Symbolical
(14) Dispensational
(15) Historic-Messianic
(16) Pre-Wrath Dispensationalism

OTHER RELATED TOPICS

(17) Where do we find Jeremiah’s 70 years in history?
(18) How did the early church fathers interpret Daniel 9?
(19) The book of Nehemiah gives context to Daniel 9.

1. OVERVIEW

Jerusalem destroyed

Daniel received the prophecy in Daniel 9 at a time when Israel was in captivity in Babylon and Jerusalem was in ruins. The chapter consists of two parts; (1) Daniel’s prayer for Jerusalem and his people, and (2) the prophecy which he received while still praying.

The prophecy gives Israel 70 weeks to fulfill six glorious goals, including making an end to sins and to make reconciliation for iniquity (Daniel 9:24).

Israel’s calendar had two types of weeks: They had weeks of days like we still have today but they also had weeks of years. Every week of years consisted of seven years in which the seventh was a year of rest; a Sabbath for the land (Lev 25). The 70 weeks are weeks of years and, therefore, equal to 490 years.

Rebuild JerusalemThe 490 years will begin with “a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:25). “Seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (69 weeks = 483 years) later, “Messiah the Prince” would appear. Daniel did not pray for either these wonderful goals or for the Messiah but the Messiah seems related to the goals.

According to Daniel 9:26, some undefined time “after the sixty-two weeks,” two things will happen:

    • The Messiah will be cut off (killed) and
    • The people will destroy the city.

The final verse of the prophecy (Dan 9:27) identifies two things that will happen during the 70th week:

      • For the full week, “he” will “make a firm covenant.”
      • In the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice.”

Particularly the final seven years are interpreted very differently by the different schools of thought:

MESSIANIC-HISTORICAL

The historical messianic view was affirmed by many throughout church history, such as Calvin and Luther. In this view, the prophecy is primarily about the first advent of Jesus Christ:

The 490 years began with Artaxerxes’ first decree in 458/7 BC.

At Jesus’ baptism, the first 483 years came to an end. At the same time, the last seven years began.

3½ years later – in the “midst of a week” – He was killed, causing “sacrifice and the oblation to cease” (v27) in terms of significance.

God’s covenant with Israel did not end when Jesus died. God continued to send the Holy Spirit with power but to JEWS ONLY. God’s 490-year covenant with Israel came to an end 3½ years later when Israel rejected the Holy Spirit by killing His Spirit-filled disciples.

LIBERAL

Today, this is the dominant view in academic circles. Most proponents of the liberal view do not believe in miracles or in prophecies. For that reason, they propose that Daniel was written after the events it accurately “predicts.” For this reason, critical scholars believe that the book of Daniel was written during the mid-2nd century BC by an unnamed Jew. The crisis in Daniel, including in Daniel 9, is seen as the conflict with the Seleucids (Greek Empire) in general and the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus Epiphanes (167 BC) in particular. For a further discussion, see the Liberal Interpretation.

DISPENSATIONAL

In Dispensationalism:

The 490 years began with Artaxerxes’ second decree in 445/4 BC.

The first 483 years came to an end with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem; a few days before His death.

The final seven years are separated from the first 483 years by a huge gap and are seen as the final seven years before Christ returns, commencing with the rapture of the church. During the 70th week, the Antichrist – a prince of a revived Roman Empire – will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world a 3½-year tribulation during the latter half of the seven years.

SYMBOLIC

Except for Daniel 9, all Daniel’s prophecies are symbolic. But in the Consistent Symbolical view, Daniel 9 prophecy is also symbolic. For example, Jerusalem symbolizes the church. The periods are also interpreted as symbols: The first 7 weeks end with Christ’s first advent, and the 62 weeks is the period of the Christian church. And the final week symbolizes the end-time rule of the Antichrist.

This view believes that Daniel is divinely inspired and that the purposes of the 70 weeks, as listed in Daniel 9:24, are fulfilled in Christ. Therefore, this may also be called the symbolic messianic view.

The purpose of this series of articles is to evaluate these alternative interpretations.

The detailed article is available here.
To the list of articles at the top.

2. WHICH DECREE?

The 490 years begin with “a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem” (Dan 9:25). The purpose of this article is to identify this decree. Several historical decrees with different dates have been suggested by scholars.

RESTORE

The right decree will both “restore” and “rebuild” Jerusalem. The word translated as “restore” (shûb) does not mean the same as “rebuild.” To rebuild means to physically reconstruct. Shûb means to return ownership of a city to the previous owner (e.g., I Kings 20:34).

In Daniel 9:25, it means more than merely allowing the Jews to live in the city. Since Jerusalem was the judicial capital of the nation, to restore the city means to return it to the Jews to serve as their capital from where they would govern themselves according to their own laws.

JEREMIAH’S PROPHECY

JeremiahCritical scholars believe that Daniel 9 describes the persecution of the Jews by the Greek king Antiochus IV; around 165 BC. To fit 490 years between the decree and the time of Antiochus, they select the earliest possible decree. They propose that the decree was a prophecy by Jeremiah that God would bring Israel back from exile. But even if we take the earliest possible such ‘decree’, we still only have 440 years between the ‘decree’ and Antiochus; not the 490 years required by the prophecy.

CYRUS

In 538/7 BC, Cyrus issued a decree in which he announced: “The God of heaven … has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah” (Ezra 1:2-4). This decree allowed the Jews to return to Judea and to rebuild the temple. By implication, it also allowed them to rebuild Jerusalem. But that decree did not “restore” Jerusalem, for it did not allow the Jews to govern themselves. They were still ruled directly by Persian laws.

DARIUS I

Jerusalem in ruinsIn response to Cyrus’ edict, the Jews slowly began to return to their homeland but they did not rebuild the temple. When Zerubbabel and Joshua began to rebuild the temple 17 years after Cyrus’ decree, they experienced resistance (Ezra 5) from Israel’s old enemies—the Samaritans, who complained to the authorities. (This confirms that the city was still under Persian jurisdiction and has not yet been ”restored” to the Jews.) In response, Darius affirmed Cyrus’ decree through an additional edict (ca. 520 BC) (Ezra 6:3-12). Darius’ decree mentions only the restoration of the temple and simply confirmed and expedited Cyrus’ order. Therefore, it still did not “restore” Jerusalem.

ARTAXERXES I

ArtaxerxesArtaxerxes issued two decrees:

The first is recorded in Ezra 7:12-26. This was in the seventh year of his reign (Ezra 7:7), namely in 458/7 BC.

In 445/4 BC (Neh 2:1), Nehemiah, cupbearer to Artaxerxes I, received a report that “the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire” (Neh 1:3; cf. 2:3). He then requested and obtained permission from Artaxerxes to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the city (Neh 2:5).

One of these must be the decree identified in Daniel 9:24. Dispensationalism prefers the second decree but, for the following reasons, Artaxerxes’ first decree in 458/7 should be accepted as the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem:

RESTORE

Artaxerxes’ first decree (458/7) for the first time “restored” the city to the Israelites for it made the Mosaic law part of the Persian law and granted authority to the Jews to govern themselves on the basis of the law of God (Ezra 7:26). Artaxerxes’ second decree did not “restore” the city because (1) his first decree already did that, (2) the decree said nothing about the right of Jews to rule themselves, and (3) it only dealt with the physical construction of the walls of the city.

FITS THE TIME OF CHRIST

Daniel 9:25 states:

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

In other words, the Messiah (Jesus Christ) will appear 483 years (7×7+62×7=483) after the decree.

Artaxerxes’ first decree fits the time of Christ. Jesus’ public ministry began when He was anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism (John 1:31; Acts 10:37, 38). This was in the fifteenth year of the Roman emperor Tiberius (Luke 3:1, 5, 21), which was the year AD 26/27; exactly 483 years after the decree in 458/7 (457 + 27 – 1 = 483). (One year is deducted because there was no year nil. From 1 BC to 1 AD was one year, not two.)

The decree of 445/4 BC does not fit the time of Christ. If we add 483 years to 445/4 BC, we come to about seven years after Jesus died. To make the 445/4 decree fit the time of Christ, Dispensationalism interprets the 483 years as ‘prophetic years’ of 360 literal days each. This reduces the 483 years by about 7 years. However, as discussed, the “seventy weeks” (Dan 9:24) are based on Israel’s seven-year cycle in which every seventh is a Sabbath year. This means that the 70 weeks are 490 literal years; not ‘prophetic years’.

Furthermore, interpreting the 483 years as “prophetic years” brings us to Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, but that was only a few days before His death. In other words, that was the END of His ministry. In contrast, the implication of Daniel 9:25 is that the Messiah’s ministry will BEGIN at the end of the first 483 years. Jesus’ ministry began about three years earlier when He was “anointed” at His baptism.

REBUILT JERUSALEM

Dispensationalism argues that the decree of Artaxerxes I in 457 BC was not the right decree because it did not specifically authorize the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Dispensationalism claims that Artaxerxes’ second decree was the first to authorize the rebuilding of Jerusalem. But that is not true:

(a) The previous decrees by Cyrus, Darius I, and Artaxerxes I, by allowing the Jews to return to Judah, to rebuild the temple, and to govern themselves, implicitly allowed the Jews to rebuild their cities.

(b) As shown in the detailed article, much evidence exists that the construction of the walls began before Nehemiah arrived.

In summary, Artaxerxes’ first decree fits the description in Daniel 9:25 better than his second because it:

(a) Fits the time of Christ;
(b) “Restored” Jerusalem as judicial capital to the Jews, and:
(c) Implicitly authorized the Jews to “rebuild” the city.

The detailed article is available here.
To the list of articles at the top.

3. COVENANT EXTENDED

PURPOSE

DanielThis article shows that, by determining “seventy weeks” for Israel, God promised to extend His covenant with Israel by 490 years. Consequently, the covenant of the 70th week (Daniel 9:27) is God’s covenant with Israel; not the covenant of an Antichrist.

THE COVENANT EXILE PATTERN

The covenant which God made with Israel lists several penalties for disobedience but exile was the most severe. Leviticus 26 provides the covenant exile pattern:

      1. Should Israel become unfaithful (Lev 26:14-39),
      2. God will send them into exile (Lev 26:33).
      3. But if Israel in exile confess their iniquity (Lev 26:40-41, 44),
      4. God will renew His covenant (Lev 26:42, 45).

God also commanded Israel to keep every seventh year as a Sabbath year of rest for the land (Lev 25:2-4). This divided the Jewish calendar into “weeks” of years. God made the Sabbath year cycle part of the covenant:

    • Firstly, He measured Israel’s faithfulness by their compliance with the annual Sabbaths.
    • Secondly, Israel would be in exile one year for every Sabbath year not observed (Lev 26:34-35; 43).

THE COVENANT IN DANIEL 9

The covenant exile pattern is the thread that unites the prayer and the prophecy in Daniel 9:

(1) The prophecy was received while Israel was in exile in Babylon. Chronicles interpreted Jeremiah’s prophecy as that “the land had enjoyed its sabbaths.” This confirms that this exile was the outcome of the covenant (Jer 29:10; 2 Chron 36:21).

(2) Daniel prayed because Jeremiah prophesied that Babylon would reign for 70 years, because Babylon fell the previous year (539 BC; cf. Dan 9:1) and because he knew that God, in His covenant, promised to renew His covenant (Dan 9:2-3).

(3) Daniel’s prayer is replete with covenant terminology. For example, the peculiar covenant name YHWH (Dan 9:2, 4, 10, 13, 14, 20) and Daniel’s reference to God as the Lord who “keeps the covenant” (Dan 9:4).

(4) Daniel’s prayer followed the covenant exile pattern: He acknowledged the exile as a covenant penalty, confessed Israel’s guilt, and prayed that God would renew His covenant (Dan 9:5-11; 18-19). In other words, Daniel’s prayer was an appeal to God, based on the covenant, to renew His covenant with Israel.

(5) For this reason, and because the prophecy was the answer to Daniel’s prayer, the 70 weeks were a promise by God to renew the covenant.

(6) Since God made the seven-year cycle part of the covenant, the phrase “seventy sevens” identifies this as ‘covenant-time’.

(7) Finally, the 70 years of exile were the penalty of 70×7=490 years of disobedience. Therefore, the promised new 490 years (70 weeks) were to replace the 490 years before the exile which Israel wasted through disobedience.

CONCLUSIONS

(a) The covenant pattern (disobey – exile – repent – covenant renewal) is the framework that unites Daniel’s prayer and the prophecy.

(b) Therefore, the 490 years promised by Daniel 9 are a renewal or extension of God’s covenant with Israel.

(c) Consequently, the covenant that is confirmed during the “one week” (Dan 9:27) is the final seven years of God’s time-limited renewed covenant with Israel.

The detailed article is available here.
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4. THE END OF THE COVENANT

In Dispensationalism, God suspended His covenant with Israel at the Cross and postponed the last seven years to just before Christ returns.

This article shows, from the first chapters of Acts, that that covenant continued for a few years after Jesus died. Israel had one final opportunity to repent. For this purpose, God sent His Holy Spirit, but to Israel alone (Acts 10:45, 47-11:3, 18, 19). For example:

PentecostGod selected Pentecost to pour out His Holy Spirit – a day when Jews from every nation were gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:10, 5). On that day, 3000 Jews repented (Acts 2:38, 41).

Through Peter, God healed a lame man at the temple (Acts 3:2, 7) to allow Peter to preach to the Jews at the temple. Consequently, thousands more repented (Acts 3:19; 4:4).

After an angel released the apostles from jail, he told them to speak to the people in the temple. They preached every day in the temple (Acts 5:18, 20, 42).

Peter told the Jews that God exalted Jesus “to His right hand … to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).

In those first chapters of Acts, not a single non-Jew accepted the gospel or received the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 10:45). The church consisted of Jews only (Acts 6:7).

Before Peter received the vision of the unclean animals (Acts 10:11-12, 19-20), the Christians thought of Gentiles as “unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28; 11:12). Therefore, they did not associate with Gentiles (Acts 11:2-3) or proclaim the gospel to them. They also thought that God preferred Jews over other people (Acts 10:34-35) and that only Jews could receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:23, 44-45). Peter’s visit to Cornelius was the first time that uncircumcised people received the Holy Spirit. Through Peter’s vision and the events of Acts 10, God taught the Christians to take the message to the Gentile world.

STEPHEN ANNOUNCED THE END.

In Acts 6, the gospel proclamation still focused on the circumcised (Acts 6:7). But in Acts 10, God, by giving Peter the vision, redirects the gospel to non-Jews. This change was brought about by the persecution of the believers. Specifically, Stephen’s death was the turning point. He announced the end of the covenant:

In contrast to other speeches in Acts, Stephen did not call his hearers to repentance. Rather, from history, he showed that God was faithful but that the Jewish people failed to keep their side of the covenant.

Stephen’s speech was, just like Daniel 9, based on God’s covenant with Israel. But while Daniel confessed the sins of his people and prayed for the mercies of the covenant, Stephen pronounced judgment in terms of the covenant (Acts 7:51- 53).

The Bible consistently says that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God (e.g., Luke 22:69; Heb 8:1-2). But Stephen saw “Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). Jesus stood to announce judgment on the Jewish nation through Stephen, namely, the end of God’s covenant with Israel.

Merrill C. Tenney gives 30 AD as the most probable year for the crucifixion and 32/33 as the most probable date for the stoning of Stephen and the conversion of Paul. R. Jewett dates the stoning of Stephen as late as 34 AD. Stephen, therefore, died about 2 to 4 years after the Cross.

CONCLUSIONS

God’s covenant with Israel did not come to an end at Christ’s death. After He died, Israel, as a nation, still had one final opportunity to repent. The end of the covenant came two to four years after the Cross, when Israel, by killing God’s Spirit-filled disciples, rejected the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 6:8-13).

Since the 490 years of Daniel 9 were an extension of God’s covenant with Israel, the 490 years came to an end when Christ, through Stephen, announced the end of the covenant.

Last seven yearsThe final seven years are the period from Jesus’ baptism in AD 26/27 until Stephen died in about AD 33/34.

During these final seven years, Jesus confirmed God’s covenant with Israel: Never before or after in human history has God appealed so strongly for the heart of any nation as He did, firstly, through Christ’s personal ministry on earth for 3½ years and, secondly, through the Holy Spirit during the 2 to 4 years after He died.

490 years

WHAT IF ISRAEL REPENTED?

If Israel accepted the message brought by the Holy Spirit during the years after Christ’s death, history would have been very different. Then the nation of Israel would have proclaimed “the excellencies of Him” to the entire world in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the goals for the seventy weeks would have been fulfilled.

The detailed article is available here.
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5. WHO CONFIRMS WHAT COVENANT?

According to Daniel 9:27, “he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week.” This is the last of the 70 weeks; the last seven years. The “he” must refer to somebody mentioned in the previous verse. That verse refers to two people:

    • The Messiah who is “cut off” and
    • The prince that shall come,” whose people will destroy the city.

In Dispensationalism, the first 69 weeks came to an end in the year when Jesus died but the 70th week will be the last seven years before Christ returns. The “he” is then interpreted as the “prince” of verse 26 and as an end-time Antichrist that will make a covenant with “many.”

In contrast, the purpose of this article is to show that “he” is the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and that it is God’s covenant with Israel that “he” will “make.

OBJECTIONS

Firstly, this article offers the following objections to the view that “he” refers to an end-time Antichrist:

(1) “The people of the prince,” who destroy the city (v26), are the first century Roman Empire. If the prince is an end-time Antichrist, then the people and their prince live 2000 years apart.

(2) The wording of the text of Daniel in no way indicates a gap between the 70th and the previous 69 weeks.

(3) Allocating the last seven years to an end-time Antichrist divides the prophecy into two unrelated prophecies; one about Christ 2000 years ago, and one about an end-time Antichrist.

(4) If the last “week” is the seven years before Christ returns, then it ends with Christ’s return but the prophecy gives no indication of His return.

(5) In Dispensationalism, the Roman Empire will be revived in the end-time. But how can the Roman Empire be revived 1500 years after it has ceased to exist?

(6) Dispensationalism also requires the temple to be rebuilt twice; firstly, a few hundred years before Christ and, secondly, in the end-time. But the prophecy promises only one rebuilding.

GOD’S COVENANT

Secondly, this article argues as follows that the covenant of the 70th week is God’s covenant with Israel:

(1) As discussed, the 490 years are an extension or renewal of God’s covenant with Israel. Therefore, the seven-year covenant in 9:27 must be the last seven years of that 490-year covenant.

(2) As also discussed, God’s covenant with Israel is the central theme in Daniel 9 that unites the prayer and the prophecy.

(3) Of the six times that the word “covenant” appears in Daniel, four times it is explicitly God’s covenant with Israel (Dan 9:4; 11:28, 30, 32).

(4) The verb translated as “confirm” (the covenant) is not a verb for the making of a new covenant but for maintaining an existing covenant. Then, it can only be God’s covenant with Israel.

(5) “The many,” with whom “he” confirms the covenant, most often refers to God’s people (e.g., Isa 53:11; Dan 11:33). Then it must be God’s covenant.

“HE” IS THE MESSIAH

Thirdly, by showing that the “he,” who confirms the covenant, is the “Messiah” (Jesus Christ), and not the Antichrist, this section confirms that the covenant of the last “week” is God’s covenant:

(1) The poetic pattern of the prophecy shifts the focus back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah. In this pattern, it is the Messiah who confirms the covenant for seven years.

(2) The prophecy is structured as a chiasm. In a chiasm, the first item corresponds to the last, the second to the second last, etc. In Daniel 9, the “one week” in verse 27 corresponds to the Messiah.

(3) In verse 26, the subject is “the people of the prince;” not the prince. The main person in verse 26 is the “Messiah.” He is, therefore, the appropriate antecedent for “he” in verse 27.

(4) Verse 26 describes the prince as “to come.” “The prince of Greece” is also “to come” (Dan 10:20). But he is a supernatural being representing the Greek Empire (Dan 10:16, 18). This implies that “the prince” of 9:26 is also a supernatural being; representing the Roman Empire. The “he” of verse 27, who is a human being, therefore, cannot refer back to the prince in verse 26.

(5) The Messiah arrives at the end of the 69th week (v25). Given the goals in verse 24, this causes us to expect great things. This implies that it is the Messiah who does the great things in the 70th week.

(6) The “he” of verse 27 also “put a stop to sacrifice.” Given that the purpose of the 490 years includes “to make atonement for iniquity” (v24) through killing the messiah (v26), “he” is the Messiah. His death solved the sin problem of the world. The Jewish sacrifices did not stop immediately but did point forward to the Lamb of God and lost their meaning when He died.

CONCLUSION

During those last seven years, Jesus confirmed God’s covenant with Israel: Never before or after in human history has God appealed so strongly for the heart of any nation as He did, firstly, through Christ’s personal ministry on earth for 3½ years and, secondly, through the Holy Spirit during the 2 to 4 years after He died.

The detailed article is available here.
To the list of articles at the top.

6. WHAT IS DESTROYED IN VERSE 27?

Verse 26 ends with the destruction of Jerusalem. Verse 27 begins with the seven last years and ends with further destruction. The question in this article is what that last destruction is:

Most translations of verse 27 read that a desolator will be destroyed (e.g. NASB). In that case, in the context of verse 26, where the Roman Empire destroys Jerusalem, this would refer to the destruction of the Roman Empire. If that is correct, and if we also assume that that destruction happens at the end of the last seven years, it cannot be the fall of the Roman Empire in the sixth century AD. Then it is possible to argue, as Dispensationalism does, that it is the destruction of an end-time revived Roman Empire.

However, in certain more literal translations, the desolations are poured out on the desolated one, which, again in the context of verse 26, would be Jerusalem.

Since different translations are possible, we should use the context to interpret this verse. For the following reasons, it is proposed that the destruction in verse 27 is the same as the destruction mentioned in verse 26, namely the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70:

The Cross(1) The prophecy has a poetic pattern that repeatedly jumps back and forth between Jerusalem and the Messiah. In this pattern, the destruction in verse 27 is the destruction of Jerusalem.

(2) The events in the Daniel 9 prophecy also form a chiasm. In this chiasm, the destruction in the last part of verse 27 stands in opposition to (links to) the construction of Jerusalem.

(3) The description of the destruction in verse 27 repeats key words and concepts from the description of the destruction in verse 26. These include “desolations” that are “determined,” water as a symbol of the force of destruction, and the concept of “complete destruction.

(4) In Matthew 24:15 referred to “the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel.” This is possibly a reference to Daniel 9:27. If that is true, then that confirms that that destruction is the destruction of Jerusalem because the parallel account of Jesus’ statement makes clear that that is what He referred to (Matt 24:15-19; Luke 21:20-23).

INTERPRETATION

Verse 27 says that a desolator will arrive shortly after (on the wing of) some repulsive sin (an abomination). In the context, the repulsive sin is Israel’s rejection and killing of its Messiah. The desolation is the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans 40 years later.

The detailed article is available here.
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7. CHRONOLOGICAL SEQUENCE

Daniel 9 first mentions the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and then the “firm covenant” of the 70th week (Dan 9:26-27). Dispensationalism argues that the 70th week will be later than AD 70, which would require a gap between the first 483 years and the last seven years.

However, Daniel 9 does not list events chronologically. For example, while verse 25 mentions the appearance of the Messiah first and then the rebuilding of the city, the city was rebuilt four centuries before the Messiah appeared.

POETIC PATTERN

To understand the sequence in which the events are listed, note that the prophecy alternates between two foci; Jerusalem and the Messiah:

JERUSALEM MESSIAH
v25 decree to rebuild until Messiah the Prince
7 weeks 62 weeks;
built again v26 Messiah cut off …
destroy v27 firm covenant for one week

The Jerusalem-events are in chronological sequence. The Messiah-events are also in chronological sequence.

This pattern identifies the “he,” who confirms the covenant (v27), as Jesus. He died in the middle of that week. He confirmed the covenant with Israel personally before His death and, after He died, through the Holy Spirit, which He sent to Jews only.

But the relationship between the Jerusalem-events and the Messiah-events is not chronological but one of cause and effect: The city was rebuilt to receive the Messiah (Dan 9:25) but again destroyed because it did not accept the Messiah (Dan 9:26; cf. Luke 19:44; 21:20-24).

CHIASM

Daniel 9:25-27 is also structured in a chiasm:

Messiah cut off 26a
Construction 25c —— Destruction 26b

Messiah the Prince 25b ———– Covenant one week 27a
Construction 25a ———————- Destruction 27c

A chiasm emphasizes the statement at the center, in this instance, the death of the Messiah. The chiasm identifies the “he,” who confirms the covenant for the final “week” (verse 27), as the Messiah. It also identifies the destruction in verse 27 as that of Jerusalem.

CONCLUSION

The previous articles have argued that the first part of verse 27 describes the seven years around the Cross and that the last part of verse 27 describes the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. This means that verse 27 repeats verse 26. Both verses first describe Christ and then the destruction of Jerusalem. Verse 27, therefore, does not follow chronologically after verse 26.

The detailed article is available here.
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8. WHEN ARE THE GOALS FULFILLED?

Daniel 9 goalsDaniel 9:24 sets 6 goals for the 490 years. In the traditional interpretation, Jesus’ life and death fulfilled these goals.

In Dispensationalism, in contrast, these goals will only be fulfilled at the end of the 490 years, namely when Christ returns. However, verse 24 gave these goals to Israel and gave Israel 490 years to fulfill them. To propose that these goals will only be fulfilled when Christ returns is to deny Israel its responsibility and to deny the 490 years their purpose. Israel must fulfill these goals DURING the 490 years.

Furthermore, Daniel did not pray for a messiah or for the goals in verse 24. He only prayed for Jerusalem and the temple. But the prophecy includes a Messiah because the goals were to be fulfilled through the Messiah.

To further evaluate these interpretations, consider the goals individually:

FINISH TRANSGRESSION,
END SINS

The first two goals are:

      • to finish the transgression and
      • to make an end of sins.”

That seems to be a single goal, stated in two ways. They must be understood within the context. At the time, Israel was in exile due to their sins. In his prayer, Daniel confessed Israel’s sins (Dan 9:5, 13, 20) and prayed to God for forgiveness (Dan 9:19). Therefore, when he hears that Israel receives 490 years “to make an end of sins,” he would have understood that Israel must make an end of the sins in their society that led to the exile.

These goals were not fulfilled. The prophecy promises the Messiah (Jesus Christ – Dan 9:25). These two goals, therefore, in particular, required Israel to accept the Messiah when he comes. But they killed Him.

RECONCILE FOR INIQUITY,
BRING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS

The third and fourth goals are:

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

“To make reconciliation for iniquity” seems to be a rather clear picture of the Cross of Christ. God, through Jesus, ALREADY made “reconciliation for iniquity” (2 Cor 5:19; Rom 5:10, 11; Col 1:19-22).

Righteousness” is the opposite of “iniquity,” Therefore, and because the first two goals express a single thought, “make reconciliation for iniquity” and “bring in everlasting righteousness” are the same thing. Since Jesus made “reconciliation for iniquity” through His life and death, that same act also brought in “everlasting righteousness.

Although in one sense, “everlasting righteousness” will only exist after the end of the Millennium (cf. Rev 20:7-8), in another sense, it already exists “through Jesus Christ our Lord” for the Bible speaks of the eternal consequences of the cross as an existing reality (e.g., 1 John 5:11-12; Heb 10:10, 14).

SEAL UP THE VISION AND PROPHECY

This is the fifth goal. “Seal up” can mean:

(1) To hide or conceal (e.g., Dan 12:4), but to conceal vision and prophet hardly seems appropriate as a goal for the 490 years. OR

(2) To make an end to something. However, these goals were given to ISRAEL to fulfill DURING the 490 years and it does not make sense to say that Israel had to make an end to vision and prophet during the 490 years. OR

(3) To validate something. Since the other possible meanings do not fit, it is proposed that this is the intended meaning, namely that the Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah were to come true through the events of the 490 years; particularly through the appearance and the death of the Messiah (e.g., Rom 15:8).

ANOINT THE MOST HOLY

This is the sixth and final goal. The “most holy” is the central chamber of the sanctuary. To anoint the most holy place means to inaugurate it (Heb 9:18-23). But to which temple does the prophecy refer?

We assume that the goals are listed chronologically. For that reason, and since the third and fourth goals already point to Christ’s life and death, the last goal cannot refer to the temple that was rebuilt after the exile – centuries before Christ.

Since all six goals were to be fulfilled DURING the 490 years, it cannot be the inauguration of a temple that will exist after Christ has returned.

It is, therefore, proposed that it refers to the inauguration of the temple in heaven (Heb 8:1-2; 9:24). While the earthly tabernacle was inaugurated with the blood of animals, the “heavens” (the tabernacle in heaven) were “cleansed” with Jesus’ blood (Heb 9:12, 19, 21, 23). There is no literal temple in heaven. The earthly tabernacle was a copy of this true tabernacle (Heb 8:5; 9:24), meaning that the earthly temple and its ceremonies were symbols of REAL EVENTS in salvation history. For that reason, it is proposed that, while the fifth goal point to Jesus’ life and death on earth. the sixth goal symbolizes the eternal and cosmic consequences of His death.

CONCLUSION

The first two goals required Israel to be faithful but they failed. But Jesus – one of the Jews – fulfilled the other four goals on behalf of Israel.

However, there is a sense in which Dispensationalism is right. IF Israel accepted the Messiah, history would have been very different. IF Israel were faithful, they would have proclaimed God’s message to all nations and perhaps Jesus would have returned at the end of the 490 years. For a further discussion, see Christ’s Return was delayed.

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9. WHEN WILL THE MESSIAH APPEAR?

Daniel the prophetsThrough this prophecy, God promised Israel both 490 years and a Messiah (a savior). The 490 years were to begin with a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. The 490 years are divided into three parts:

      • 7 weeks (49 years),
      • 62 weeks (434 years), and
      • 1 week (7 years).

There was no punctuation in the original Hebrew. Due to assumptions about punctuation, translations differ with respect to WHEN the Messiah would appear:

In some translations, the messiah appears after the first 49 years. In that case, the messiah cannot be Jesus Christ because decrees to restore Jerusalem were issued more than 400 years before Christ.

In other translations, the messiah appears after the first 483 (49+434) years. This does bring us to the time of Christ.

Two different messiahsFor the reasons below, the translations where the Messiah appears AFTER 483 years should be accepted as correct:

(A) The ancient Greek translations of the Old Testament, made in the time before Christ, treat the 7 and 62 weeks of Daniel 9:25 as a single period at the end of which the Messiah appears. 

(B) When the Jews added punctuation to the Hebrew for the first time – about 500 years after Christ – they put a divider between the 7 weeks and the 62 weeks. It is based on this divider that, in some transla­tions, the messiah appears after the first 7 weeks. But we should not follow the Jewish punctuation, for the Jews had a motive to remove Jesus from the prophecy.

(C) According to verse 26, the Messiah will be killed after the 7+62 weeks (483 years). If he appears after the first 7 weeks (49 years), then he would be more than 400 years old when he was killed.

(D) Verses 25-27 are written in the form of a poem that goes back and forth between the city of Jerusalem and the Messiah, as shown in the table below. In this structure, the 7 weeks relate to the rebuilding of the city, while the 62 weeks relate to the Messiah. This implies that Jerusalem would be restored and rebuilt after 49 years while the Messiah would appear after 483 years (7+62 weeks):

JERUSALEM
from … decree to restore … Jerusalem
seven weeks
will be built again
MESSIAH
until Messiah the Prince
and sixty-two weeks
cut off after 62 two weeks

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10. SAME CRISIS?

The prophecies in Daniel 2, 7, 8, and 11 run parallel to one another. They predict and describe the Antichrist that will arise out of the Roman Empire. It will persecute God’s people for “a time and times and half a time” (Dan 7:25). This is a very important period and is mentioned several times in different forms in Revelation (Rev 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5).

In Daniel 9, God promises 70 weeks (490 years) to Israel (Dan 9:24). The last week (last seven years) is the crux of the prophecy but is described in only a single verse (Daniel 9:27).

In both the critical and dispensational interpretations, the “time and times and half a time” of Daniel 7 are part of those last seven years. In these interpretations, therefore, Daniel 9:27 describes the same crisis as the other prophecies in Daniel. However, there are many differences between Daniel 9 and the other prophecies in Daniel:

The following are in Daniel 9 but not in the other prophecies:

    • Destruction of Jerusalem (Dan 9:26);
    • Destruction of the temple (Dan 9:26); (In the other prophecies, the temple will be profaned but not destroyed.)
    • Killing of the Messiah (Dan 9:26);

The following are in the other prophecies but not in Daniel 9:

    • Preceding empires or kings;
    • Persecution of God’s people (Dan 7:25; 8:24; 11:33; 12:7).
    • Time of the end” (Dan 8:17, 19, 12:4, 9),
    • Return of Christ (Dan 2:34-35),
    • Destruction of the Antichrist (Dan 7:26; 8:25; 11:45),
    • Eternal kingdom (Dan 2:44-45; 7:18, 27; 8:25), and
    • The resurrection of the dead, and “everlasting life” (Dan 12:2).

Other differences:

    • While Daniel 9 focuses exclusively on Israel, the other prophecies predict a series of heathen empires and kings.
    • The other prophecies cover the time from ancient Babylon until the return of Christ. Daniel 9 focuses on the 490 years allocated to Israel (Dan 9:24).
    • In the other prophecies, the temple is first desecrated and then restored (Dan 8:14). In Daniel 9, the sequence is reversed.
    • The periods are very different.
    • Daniel 9 is a literal prophecy using literal periods. The other prophecies in Daniel are symbolic.

CONCLUSIONS

(1) The prophecies in Daniel 2, 7, 8, and 11 predict the same crisis, namely the Antichrist persecuting God’s people.

(2) Daniel 9 does not describe that same crisis. Daniel 9, therefore, does not describe the Antichrist.

(3) This argues against the critical and dispensational interpretations for, in those interpretations, Daniel 9:27 describes the Antichrist.

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11. PRAYER AND PROPHECY

Daniel 9 consists of two parts; Daniel’s prayer, and the vision which Daniel received while still praying. Higher criticism claims that Daniel’s prayer and the prophecy do not fit together and that the prayer was added later. However, that view is based on the assumption that Daniel was written in the time of Antiochus IV. If one accepts that the book was written in the sixth century BC, as the book itself claims (Dan 9:2), then the link between the prayer and prophecy is very clear:

Babylon fell the previous year (539 BC; cf. Dan 9:1) and Daniel prayed that God would restore Israel, as He promised to do through Jeremiah (Dan 9:2).

Through the 70 weeks-prophecy, God responded to Daniel’s prayer and promised to renew His covenant.

But the most persuasive evidence for the unity of Daniel 9 is the fact that Yahweh’s covenant is the thread that unites the prayer and the prophecy:

(1) The exile to Babylon was the penalty for unfaithfulness prescribed by the covenant.

(2) Daniel’s prayer was Israel’s confession of guilt, as required by the covenant for covenant renewal.

(3) Through the prophecy, God promised to renew the covenant.

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12. LIBERAL-CRITICAL INTERPRETATION

WHEN WAS DANIEL WRITTEN?

Holy BibleAccording to Daniel itself, it was written in the sixth century BC. But it contains accurate predictions of later empires. 

Liberal scholars, who dominate the academic world, do not accept that accurate predictions of the future are possible. For that reason, they propose that Daniel was written after the events it so accurately seems to predict. In other words, the accurate predictions in Daniel, actually, are recorded history written in the form of prophecy.

More specifically, liberals assume that Daniel was after Antiochus desecrated the temple in 167 BC but before the success of the revolt and the rededication of the temple in 164 BC. 

THE LIBERAL SCHEMA

In the standard liberal timeline:

      1. The 490 years began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
      2. The first 49 years came to an end with Cyrus’ decree in 538 BC, which allowed the Jews to return to Judah.
      3. At the end of the next 434 years, Onias III was the messiah that was “cut off” (murdered) in 171/0 BC.
      4. It is Antiochus who:
        1. destroy the city and the sanctuary,
        2. make a firm covenant … for one week,
        3. but in the middle of the week … put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering.
      5. After the successful Maccabean revolt, the temple was rededicated in 164 BC. This was the end of the 490 years.

OBJECTIONS

The following objections may be raised to this interpretation:

(1) The destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC was not a decree of any kind. The decrees that have to do with Jerusalem’s restoration were much later; Cyrus (538 BC), Darius (520), and Artaxerxes (458 and 445).

(2) From 586 BC to the rededication of the temple in 164 BC was only 422 years; not the 490 years required by the prophecy.

(3) If the timeline starts with the destruction of Jerusalem, then the 70 years of exile run concurrently with the 490 years, which is not logical.

(4) Onias was no messiah. The Bible uses the term “messiah” exclusively for people who rescue Israel from danger. Onias did not save Israel from anything.

(5) In the critics’ scheme, the messiah (Onias) is cut off at the end of the 7+62 weeks. But the text says that the messiah will APPEAR at the end of the 7+62 weeks (Dan 9:25) and be killed some undefined time later (Dan 9:26).

(6) Antiochus never destroyed the sanctuary. He turned it into a temple of his own god.

(7) While liberals limit the crisis in Daniel to the time of Antiochus, Jesus put the abomination of desolation, as predicted by Daniel, in His future (Matt 24:15-16).

(8) Antiochus IV did not conclude an agreement with anybody for one week. His general support for the Hellenizing Jews cannot be limited to one week.

(9) The “prince of the covenant” in Daniel 11:22 is the same person as the prince who confirms the covenant for one week (Dan 9:27). But, in the liberal interpretation, in Daniel 9, Antiochus is that person but, in Daniel 11, he kills that person.

(10) Daniel 9 ends with the multiplication of chaos. There is no evidence in that chapter that the temple will be rededicated.

(11) The liberal view seems to contradict itself. On the one hand, the last week ends with the rededication. On the other, the writer of Daniel did not expect the success of the Maccabean revolt.

(12) If the writer of Daniel did not foresee the success of the Maccabean revolt, why would he postulate a period of 490 years?  What end did the writer have in mind?

(13) The essence of the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 is that, within 500 years from the restoration of Jerusalem, and therefore before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Messiah would arrive but be killed. In the context of goals such as “to make reconciliation for iniquity” and of the New Testament, this must be a prophecy about Jesus Christ. But Jesus finds no place in the liberal interpretation.

(15) Liberals are aware of the concerns raised above but they claim that the second-century writer of Daniel made some mistakes and did not know his history too well. They point to various ‘historical errors’ in the book of Daniel. However, it should be noted that Daniel contains amazingly accurate historical facts that were poorly known during the later pre-Christian centuries and that further archeological research has vindicated Daniel on some points. (For a discussion, see – Is Daniel a Fraud?)

(16) Some prophecies in Daniel can be verified with events AFTER the time of Antiochus. It must, therefore, be true prophecy. For example:

IMPLICATIONS

The liberal interpretation is based on the assumption that Daniel is a fake; that it is history up to the time of Antiochus IV written by an unknown writer in the form of prophecy, with some added uninspired and incorrect speculations of future events. If this was true, we should question the credibility of the entire Bible. In particular, it means that the Book of Revelation, which relies heavily on Daniel, is fiction. The liberal interpretation is an attack on the Christian faith.

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13. SYMBOLIC INTERPRETATION

Except for Daniel 9, all Daniel’s prophecies are symbolic. But in the Consistent Symbolical view, Daniel 9 prophecy is also symbolic. For example:

    • Jerusalem symbolizes the church.
    • The first 7 weeks end with Christ’s first advent.
    • The 62 weeks is the period of the Christian church.
    • The final week symbolizes the end-time rule of the Antichrist.

This view believes that Daniel is divinely inspired and that the purposes of the 70 weeks, as listed in Daniel 9:24, are fulfilled in Christ. Therefore, this may also be called the symbolic messianic view. But this interpretation has some serious shortcomings. For example:

    • The periods overlap.
    • Daniel prayed for Jerusalem but never received an answer.
    • While the prophecy seems to allocate the 490 years and the goals to Israel, it is fulfilled in the church.
    • The periods in the prophecy seem to be literal.
    • The prophecy seems to refer to the literal Jerusalem and literal time.
    • If the 70 weeks end with Christ’s returns, why does the prophecy not say anything about the eternal kingdom?

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14. DISPENSATIONAL VIEW

WHICH DECREE?

In Dispensationalism, the decree with which the 490 years began was Artaxerxes’ SECOND decree of 445/4 BC. However:

Firstly, that decree did not “restore” Jerusalem. To restore” Jerusalem means to allow the Jews to govern themselves according to their own laws.

Secondly, that decree does not fit the time of Christ. To make it fit, Dispensationalism reckons these as years of 360 days each, but the covenant background means that these are literal years.

Thirdly, in Dispensationalism, the 483 years end when Jesus’ ministry ended. But Daniel 9:25 implies that the Messiah’s ministry will BEGIN at the end of the first 483 years.

COVENANT SUSPENDED

In Dispensationalism, God suspended His covenant with Israel at the Cross and postponed the last seven years to just before Christ returns. However, the first chapters of Acts show that God’s covenant with Israel did not come to an end at Christ’s death.

The end of the covenant came two to four years after the Cross when Israel, by killing God’s Spirit-filled disciples, rejected the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 6:8-13).

WHO CONFIRMS WHAT COVENANT?

In Dispensationalism, the “he” of verse 27, who confirms the covenant, is an end-time Antichrist. In contrast, the article What Covenant shows that:

(1) “He” cannot be the Antichrist. For example, the prince who destroys the city in verse 26 is a supernatural being.

(2) The covenant of the 70th week is the final seven years of God’s covenant with Israel. One indication of this is that the “seventy weeks” are an extension of God’s covenant with Israel (Covenant Extended).

(3) Both the poetic pattern and the chiasm of the prophecy identify the “he,” who confirms the covenant (v27), as the “Messiah” (Jesus Christ).

In conclusion, Jesus confirmed God’s covenant with Israel through His personal ministry on earth for 3½ years and, for about the 2 to 4 years after He died, by sending the Holy Spirit only to Jerusalem and only to Jews. Never before or after in human history has God appealed so strongly for the heart of any nation as He did during those seven years.

It is also Jesus who put a stop to sacrifices in the middle of these seven years. The animal sacrifices pointed forward to the Lamb of God. When He died, the sacrifices ceased in terms of meaning and were also physically stopped when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.

WHO IS DESTROYED IN VERSE 27?

The poetic pattern, the chiasm, and the repetition of words show that the destruction in verse 27 is the same as the destruction mentioned in verse 26, namely the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Verse 27 says that a desolator will arrive shortly after (on the wing of) some repulsive sin (an abomination). In the context, the repulsive sin is Israel’s rejection and killing of its Messiah. The desolation is the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans 40 years later.

CHRONOLOGICAL SEQUENCE

Daniel 9 first mentions the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (verse 26b) and then the “firm covenant” of the 70th week (verse 27a). Consequently, Dispensationalism argues that the 70th week will be later than AD 70, which would require a gap between the first 483 years and the last seven years.

However, Daniel 9 does not list events chronologically. For example, verse 25 first mentions the Messiah and then the rebuilding of the city but the city was rebuilt centuries before Christ. As discussed in the previous sections, verse 27 repeats verse 26. Both verses first describe Christ and then the destruction of Jerusalem.

WHEN ARE THE GOALS FULFILLED?

Daniel 9:24 sets 6 goals for the 490 years. In the traditional interpretation, Jesus’ life and death fulfilled these goals.

In Dispensationalism, in contrast, these goals will only be fulfilled at the end of the 490 years, namely when Christ returns. However, verse 24 gave these goals to Israel and gave Israel 490 years to fulfill them. To propose that these goals will only be fulfilled when Christ returns is to deny Israel its responsibility and to deny the 490 years their purpose. Israel must fulfill these goals DURING the 490 years.

That these goals were fulfilled will only become visible when Christ returns, but the way in which the Bible speaks about redemption, reconciliation, and everlasting righteousness, these things are a current reality.

OTHER DIFFERENCES

Other differences between the prophecy and the Dispensational interpretation include the following:

The Daniel 9 prophecy explicitly promises that Jerusalem will be rebuilt but, in Dispensationalism, the temple will be rebuilt twice.

According to Daniel 9:27, “he” will confirm the covenant for the full seven years but, in Dispensationalism, the Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel in the middle of the last seven years.

According to the prophecy, 490 years have been determined for the city (Dan 9:24) but, in Dispensationalism, the sanctuary will be destroyed before the end of the 490 years.

If the seven last years end with Christ’s return, as Dispensationalism proposes, we should expect the prophecy to refer to that earth-shattering event, but it does not.

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15. HISTORIC-MESSIANIC INTERPRETATION

PURPOSE

The articles above discuss various specific aspects of the prophecy in Daniel 9. These articles confirm the historic-messianic view. The current section does not repeat the arguments above but simply provides the conclusions. Links are provided to the articles where more information is available.

OVERVIEW

The historical messianic view was affirmed by many throughout church history, such as Calvin and Luther. In this view, the prophecy is primarily about the first advent of Jesus Christ:

The 490 years began with Artaxerxes’ first decree in 458/7 BC.

The first 483 years came to an end at Jesus’ baptism in AD 26/27. At the same time, the last seven years began.

3½ years later, in AD 30/31, in the “midst of a week,” He was crucified, causing “sacrifice and the oblation to cease” (v27) in terms of significance.

God’s covenant with Israel did not end when Jesus died. God continued to send the Holy Spirit with power but to JEWS ONLY.

God’s 490-year covenant with Israel came to an end 3½ years after the Cross – in AD 33/34 – when Israel rejected the Holy Spirit by killing God’s Spirit-filled disciples.

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.

These dates are approximations but it is fairly clear that Jesus was crucified 3½ years after His baptism and that Stephen was stoned 2-4 years later. 

This interpretation is called Messianic because it interprets this entire prophecy as pointing to Jesus Christ. It is called historic because the full 490 years are interpreted as history. This is the way in which the reformers understood Daniel 9. It is only in recent centuries that dispensationalism and liberal criticism have become the dominant interpretations.

VERSE 24

Seventy weeks – 70 weeks of years = 490 years

have been decreed – by God

for your people and your holy city – While other the prophecies in Daniel deal with all nations and all time, this prophecy deals specifically with Israel and the 490 years allocated to her (Same Crisis).

to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin – Israel had to make an end of the sin in her community which led to the exile. In particular, the prophecy promised a messiah, and these goals required Israel to accept Him when He comes. (Goals)

to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness – Jesus fulfilled these goals through His life and death. (Goals)

to seal up vision and prophecy – To confirm the Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah with actual realization. (Goals)

and to anoint the most holy place – Through Jesus’ victory on earth, God was able to expel Satan and His angels from the “holy place” (the temple) in heaven. (Goals)

VERSE 25

So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem – The 490 years began with this decree, namely Artaxerxes’s first “decree” of 458/7 BC. This decree, for the first time, “restored” the city to the Israelites, meaning that it allowed the Jews to govern themselves from the city on the basis of their own laws. This decree did not explicitly authorize the rebuilding of Jerusalem but, by allowing the Jews to return to Judah, to rebuild the temple, and to govern themselves, it implicitly allowed the Jews to rebuild their cities. (Which Decree)

until Messiah the Prince – Jesus Christ

there will be seven weeks – It took 49 years to fully restore and rebuild Jerusalem.

and sixty-two weeks – The Messiah (Jesus Christ) began His ministry when He was anointed by the Holy Spirit at His baptism in AD 26/27, exactly (7+62)x7 = 483 years after the decree in 458/7. (Which Decree?)

it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress – See the book of Nehemiah.

VERSE 26

Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off – The Messiah (Jesus) began His ministry at the end of the 483 years and was crucified (cut off) sometime AFTER the end of the 483 years.

and have nothing – nobody willing to preach Him as the Messiah before the disciples received the Holy Spirit?

and the people of the prince who is to come – The “people” refer to the Roman Empire. Their “prince” is a supernatural being.

will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. – Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD – By promising “seventy weeks” for Jerusalem (Dan 9:24), God promised that the city will not be destroyed before the end of the 490 years. The city, therefore, was destroyed after the end of the seventy weeks.

God did not purpose the Jewish nation to fail, but through their rejection of God, firstly, by killing His Son, and then, by killing the people that are filled with His Holy Spirit, they lost their divine protection. This was confirmed by the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

VERSE 27

And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week – The “one week” is the last 7 of the 490 years. “The many” refer to God’s people. The prophecy of Daniel 9 extended God’s covenant with Israel for 490 years (Extend Covenant). The covenant of the 70th week (the last seven years), therefore, is the last seven years of God’s covenant with Israel (What Covenant). This means that God’s covenant with Israel did not come to an end when they crucified the Messiah (Covenant Suspended). The “he” who makes a firm covenant with many for one week (Dan 9:27) is still Jesus Christ. He “confirmed” (KJV) the covenant:

By His personal ministry for 3 or 4 years before His death, and,

After His death, by sending His disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, only to Jerusalem and only to Jews. (Covenant Suspended)

Never before or after in human history has God appealed so strongly for the heart of any nation as He did during those seven years.

Daniel 9 first mentions the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (verse 26b) and then the “firm covenant” of the 70th week (verse 27a). However, Daniel 9 does not list events chronologically (Chronological Sequence).

but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering – “In the middle of the week” was 3½ years after His baptism. It is also Jesus who put a stop to sacrifices in the middle of these seven years. By offering Himself as the once-for-all and all-sufficient sacrifice for sins, He caused the cessation of the entire system of Old Testament sacrifices in terms of meaning. The sacrifices pointed forward to “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29) and lost their meaning when He died. This was also when He made “atonement for iniquity” and brought in “everlasting righteousness” (Dan 9:24).

and on the wing of abominations – Meaning, shortly after some repulsive sin, namely Israel’s rejection and killing of its Messiah and of God’s Holy Spirit (Who is Destroyed?).

will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” – This destruction is the same as the destruction in verse 26, namely the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. (Who is Destroyed?)

END OF THE 490 YEARS

The prophecy does not provide any specific event for the end of the 490 years. The only indication is that “he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week.” In other words, since the 490 years were an extension of God’s covenant with Israel (Extend Covenant), the end of the 490 years will be when “he” no longer confirms God’s covenant with Israel.

The end of the covenant came two to four years after the Cross when Israel, by killing God’s Spirit-filled disciples, rejected the Holy Spirit, beginning by stoning Stephen. (Covenant Suspended)

CONCLUSIONS

It is an irrefutable fact that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his public ministry 483 years (69 weeks) after Artaxerxes’ first decree. Furthermore, the specifications of the prophecy find complete fulfillment in the events during the seven years around the Crucifixion.

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).

Daniel did not pray for a Messiah. He prayed for Jerusalem and for the temple. But the prophecy he received in response to his prayer includes a Messiah because the purpose of the 490 years granted to Israel was to bring forth the Messiah and, through the Messiah, to achieve the goals in verse 24.

The historical-messianic interpretation offers those that accept it a testimony to God’s foreknowledge. 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 before those tremendous events that changed the entire course of human history.

These things give 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.

490 years

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17. JEREMIAH’S 70 YEARS

Jeremiah predicted that Israel would be freed from Babylonian captivity after 70 years (Jer 25:11, 12). Daniel 9 begins with Daniel noticing this prophecy (Dan 9:2). He then prayed earnestly for his people Israel. In this way, the 70 years set the stage for Daniel’s prayer and for the subsequent prophecy. Where do we find these 70 years in history?

The prophecy of Daniel 9 was received after the Babylonian Empire was already defeated by the Medo-Persian Empire (Dan 9:1). Have the 70 years already come to an end at that time?. And when did it begin?

Jerusalem was destroyed in BC 586 but that was not the beginning of the 70 years because the 70 years were not the period of Jerusalem’s desolation. It was the period of Babylonian rule (Jer 25:11). The 70 years, therefore, run from 609 BC, when Babylonians finally defeated Assyria, until 539 BC, when Cyrus conquered Babylon.

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18. CHURCH FATHERS

SURVEY OF VIEWS

Justin Martyr (A.D. 153–165) did not mention Daniel 9.

Irenaeus (A.D. 180) mentioned it but did not interpret the periods or the Messiahs.

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 200) included both Jesus Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in the 490 years. The final week includes Nero’s erection of an “abomination” in Jerusalem as well as the destruction of the city and temple in AD 70. This implies a gap between the end of the first 69 weeks (the time of Jesus) and the last week (the time of the destruction of Jerusalem).

Tertullian (A.D. 203), by making certain calculation errors, was able to include both Jesus Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in the 490 years without a gap.

Hippolytus (A.D. 202–230) interpreted the Messiah as Jesus Christ but, similar to Dispensationalism, interpreted the final week as a future period of seven years when the Antichrist will rule.

Julius Africanus (A.D. 232) proposed that the full 490 years came to an end with Jesus’ baptism.

For Origen (A.D. 215), the Messiah in Daniel 9:25 is Jesus Christ and Daniel’s seventy-weeks prophecy was fulfilled in Christ.

The church historian Eusebius (A.D. 314–318) interpreted the first half of the week as the 3½ years of Jesus’ public ministry and the second half as fulfilled after Jesus was resurrected. In the middle of the ‘week’, He “put a stop to sacrifice” (Dan 9:27) through His death.

Apollinaris of Laodicea (A.D. 360) regarded the seventy weeks as the time between the two advents of Christ. The 70th week would be a period at the end of the world when the Antichrist will literally enter the temple and issue a decree outlawing the offering of sacrifices.

Julius Hilarianus (A.D. 397) was the first patristic writer to adopt a non-Messianic interpretation of the Seventy Weeks. For him, the event that marks the middle of the week was the pollution of the temple by Antiochus which introduced heathen images in the temple.

Jerome (A.D. 407) simply summarized the positions of several earlier church fathers.

Augustine (A.D. 407-430) stated that the 70 weeks were fulfilled at Christ’s first advent.

CONCLUSIONS

From the available literature, some vital conclusions can be drawn:

(A) WEEKS OF YEARS

All the early church fathers, along with Jewish scholars, interpreted the “weeks” as weeks of seven years and applied this quite literally.

(B) HISTORIC-MESSIANIC

Of the 12 Christian writers surveyed above, 3 (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Jerome) did not offer interpretations. Of the remaining 9, all but one of them held to some form of messianic interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy, meaning that the prophecy referred to Jesus Christ. The exception was Hilarianus who held to fulfillment in the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century B.C. Of the 8 messianic interpretations:

Two (Apollinaris and Hippolytus) opted for a messianic-eschatological position in which the Messiah is Jesus in His first advent but the last week is some future point beyond the first century, such as the reign of Antichrist.

The remaining six all favored a messianic-historical position, meaning that the entire seventy weeks were fulfilled at some point in the first century A.D.

In conclusion, although they varied greatly in their details, there was a strong consensus among the early church fathers that Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy was fulfilled in Christ.

(C) A GAP

Three of these early Christian writers required a gap between the first 69 weeks and the last week:

Clement proposed that the 62 weeks led up to the first advent of Christ and the final week includes the destruction in AD 70.

For Eusebius, the 69 weeks concluded in the days of King Herod in 36–32 B.C. and the last week was the years before and after Jesus died.

Hippolytus viewed the final week eschatologically – at the time when the Antichrist will reign.

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OTHER IMPORTANT ARTICLES

For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.   

13 Replies to “The 490 years of Daniel 9 – Evaluation of the Four Major Interpretations”

  1. Great thanks for the interpretation of Daniel 9. I have just got a better understanding on it. So, I have to wait patiently for the second coming of Christ who is our Rock and Redeemer to save us from our shortcomings. Pls,God Father, through my great Helper, Holy Spirit, have mercy on me and renew myself as a new child of Yours, Through Christ, Amen!!

  2. I believe every word that is found in the scriptures are true and wil come to pass. God said it and I believe it. Thats the end. Waiting for Christ to return.
    .

    1. Yes, may His kingdom come, may His will be done. How wonderful will that not be! But until then, what do we do with all the differing views of what Jesus said? How do we know that we really understand what He said?

  3. The writer of Daniel 9 is a strict sabatarian so 1 week = 6 years:
    70 weeks=490 years: destruction of temple in 587 to desolation of temple in (587-490=) 167 year of Antiochus abomination of desolation.
    62 weeks= 372 years from cyrus decree for rebuild Jerusalem 539 to desecration of temple in (539-372=) 167 that notorious year again.
    1week = 6years The length of the war against Antiocus
    1/2 week = 3 years length of abomination of desolation i.e time from Antiochus defiling temple to judas Maccabeus reinstating it according to josephus.

    which leaves the time (birth data) of an anointed prince 7 weeks =42 years
    539-49= 497 (Birth date of Nehemiah?) who completed the task set by cyrus so the number 7 is appropriate (denoted completion)

  4. I am researching Daniel 9. I was trained as a Premillenial Dispensationalist but in the last few years I have found it untenable. So I’m especially interested in Daniel 9. I have found your work to be very interesting. I will continue my research. Thank you.

  5. How do you account for the restoration of Israel as a nation in 1948 and Jerusalem in 1968 which gave them the golden opportunity to retake the temple, but for some inexplicable reason – choose NOT to? Also, the Hebrew language being reborn? I do not think God is done with Israel or the Jewish people.

    1. I have been in a season of not belonging and not knowing where to focus my energy. I am feeling healed and ready to move to the next step. However, I do not know what that is. For me, loving God with my whole heart is the goal, but what does that look like? How do I do that? Where do I belong? Looks like I have a lot of questions to take before the Lord in prayer. While I wish I could have just skipped this whole season, I am trusting Him to work it all out for Good. Thanks for the post!

      1. Hi, I would read the three books by Rick Joyner; The Quest, The Call and The Torch and the Sword. It helped me. I don’t seem to fit anywhere, but those books helped me to understand that God is working His plan, and we are part of His plan.

    2. Whatever the rebirth of Israel means, it CANNOT mean what Dispensationalism believes it means. According to the Apostle Paul, Jerusalem below is “cast out.”

      Could it be that Jerusalem is the Harlot of Revelation? It seems that Jews do control most of the world, but Jesus said His Kingdom is not earthly, and to love the world means to not love the Father. Israel is also trusting in military strength and is trusting in other nations to protect them, which is something God condemned them for in the Old Testament. In other words, Jerusalem and Israel have become no different than any other nation of the world. And the apostle John said that they, who reject His Son, HAVE NOT THE FATHER, and THEY ARE ANTICHRIST.

      Is it possible that there could be a replay of the first century, where Israel joined with Rome in persecuting God’s true people, until at last God’s wrath came upon them?

      The Kingdom was taken away from earthly, natural Israel and given to a people who would produce its fruit. Jesus said to His disciples, Fear not, little flock, for THE FATHER IS PLEASED TO GIVE YOU THE KINGDOM.

      Jesus’ death was the death of the old creation. One died, therefore all died. His resurrection was the beginning of a new creation, a new birth. Israel as a nation has been circumcised through the death of Jesus. The fleshly, natural has been cut off, and the remnant has been raised up, a New Jerusalem, a heavenly Mount Zion. Jerusalem below is still in slavery to sin and is OF THE WORLD.

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