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Daniel Chapter Nine

Daniel Chapter Nine

The Seventy Weeks


One of the most important and most amazing prophesies in the entire Bible is recorded in the ninth chapter of Daniel.  God revealed to Daniel, through the angel Gabriel, the chronological timetable for the completion of His program with the Jews. Gabriel declares that he was sent to give Daniel skill and understanding concerning Israel’s future – a time, foreknown of God, of Israel’s tribulations and blessings.  The details are so precise, that when viewed with hindsight, they are almost breathtaking.


Dr. J. Vernon McGee introduces the chapter as follows. “This is another one of those remarkable chapters in Scripture.  Dr. Phillip Newell evaluates it, ‘The greatest chapter in the book and one of the greatest chapters of the entire Bible.’  The double theme is prayer and prophecy.  If one were to choose the ten greatest chapters of the Bible on the subject of prayer, this chapter would be included on any list.  The first 21 verses give us the prayer of Daniel, and the final 6 verses give us the very important prophecy of the seventy weeks.”


The late Dr. H.A. Ironside quoting Sir Edward Denny, a noted prophetic student of the last century, called this timetable “The backbone of prophecy”.  Dr. Ironside goes on to say that if this prophesy be misunderstood, “then an effort will necessarily be made to bend all other prophetic scriptures into accord with that misinterpretation.   But if we have a correct understanding of the teaching of this chapter, we can then see readily how all prophecy, without any forcing, falls right into place, and is intimately linked up with this the greatest of all time‑prophecies” (Ironside, Daniel, pp 155).


Daniel had been greatly disturbed by the visions recorded in chapters seven and eight.  He was getting old and he remembered the prophecy of Jeremiah about the length of time that Israel would spend in captivity. The chapter begins as follows, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans – in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem” (Dan. 9:1-2). 


To understand the background for the quoted verses, we need to review what Jeremiah wrote:  “This whole land will become a desolate ruin, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for 70 years.  When the 70 years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation’—[this is] the LORD’s declaration—‘the land of the Chaldeans, for their guilt, and I will make it a ruin forever’” (Jer. 25:11-12).  The writer of Second Chronicles adds these words: “to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years” (2 Chr 36:21).


Daniel understood, as did the writer of Second Chronicles that Israel punishment was tied to their failure to celebrate the Sabbath Year as given in the Mosaic law, where Israel was required to let the ground lie fallow every seven years.  It would appear that for 490 years (70 times 7) they had violated this Mosaic Law, lust missing seventy Sabbath Years.  For this great sin, God said that they would remain in captivity for seventy years – a year for each year they violated the law.


Daniel knew that Israel’s period of captivity was about to be completed because the  Babylonians had been conquered by the Medes.  He was greatly concerned about their future.  With fasting, sackcloth and ashes, Daniel pours out his heart in supplications and confessions to God.  He confesses both the sins of Israel and his personal sins.  About the time of the evening sacrifice (3:00 P.M) the angel Gabriel appeared to him.  “And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.  At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision” (Dan. 9:22-23).


Now let us look at Daniel’s seventy weeks “Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy” (Daniel 9:24).


Scholars often disagree on the interpretation of these verses but most seem to agree that Daniel has reference to a week of years and not a week of days – a period of 490 prophetic years.  The Hebrew word “Shabua” meaning seven, has been translated into the English word “week”.   Thus, Daniel is literally stating a period of seventy sevens or four hundred and ninety periods of time.


Based upon Jewish law and customs, scholars tend to agree that the period of time is years. We will recall that the Mosaic Law required that the Jews keep both a Sabbath based upon days and one based upon years.   Therefore, we will assume the time period for these future events is 490 years of 360 days or 176,400 days.


We must also understand that these 490 prophetic years must correspond with and run concurrently with “the times of the Gentiles”.  The seventy weeks for Israel and “the times of the Gentiles” will both come to an end at the same time.  However, we will find that the “seventy weeks” is not a consecutive time period and within these future years the nation, Israel, will be both destroyed and resurrected.


“The times of the Gentiles” began when the Israelites were living in Jerusalem and were taken into captivity by the Babylonians.   In the second and seventh chapters of Daniel we looked at this age as it was prophesied.  In the second chapter God gave King Nebuchadnazzar a vision of an image with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass and legs and feet of iron and clay.   Each of these metals represented a world power that would rule during the age of the Gentiles.  We showed how the last of those world powers (Rome) is still dominating world government today.   The “seventy weeks of Daniel” must be interpretative in light of “the times of the Gentiles.”


Now let us return to the details of Daniel’s seventy weeks. “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined” (Daniel 9:25-26).


Notice that the seventy years are divided into different periods of time.  From the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem will be 49 years.  History has shown that the decree was issued to Nehemiah (Neh 2:1‑8) by Artaxerxes in the twentieth year of his reign to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.  Artaxerxes was the Mede‑Pesia king and the date was probably the month of Nisan (March) 445 B.C.   Within 49 years or 7 weeks the city was rebuilt, the last of the Old Testament prophets had spoken and God ceased to communicate with his people.


Daniel says that after 7 weeks and 62 weeks or a total of 69 weeks, the Messiah will come and will be cut‑off.  For many years God was silent and then suddenly He began to speak through John the Baptist declaring the kingdom was at hand.   But God’s chosen people were blind and did not recognize their own Messiah who was introduced to them by John the Baptist.  They nailed Him to the cross and He died for the Sins of all.  The Jewish Messiah was cut‑off from His people just as Daniel had prophesied.  But it was not the Jews who cut the Messiah off, but the Messiah who cut Himself off from the Jews.


Scholars have calculated the 69 weeks beginning with March 14, 445 B.C. and taking into account leap years as coming to a close on April 6, A.D. 32.   It is amazing how close this date corresponds with the date that Jesus died upon the cross.  Jesus was crucified by the Roman Empire and almost 40 years later the city of Jerusalem was burned to the ground by the Roman General Titus thus fulfill­ing Daniel’s prophesy.   The burning of Jerusalem also brought about complete destruction of the nation Israel.


There remains one week or seven unaccounted years in Daniel’s seven weeks.   But God had a surprise for His people.   He stopped the clock on His program with the Jews and turned to a special “called-out” group that would become “The Church”.  For many years, yet to be known, He has revealed Himself through “The Church”.  But the day will come when He will turn again to His chosen nation – seven years before He brings “the times of the Gentiles” to a close.


Now let us look at the last week that will last for seven years. “Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate” (Daniel 9:27)


After Israel is restored to their land the Gentile nations will triumph in bringing about a world government under a world leader.  This New World leader will come from one of the nations, which traces its roots to the old Roman Empire.   He will be disguised as a great humanitarian who promises peace, prosperity, and plenty.  To the Gentiles, this man will have at last triumphed over the unjust and the evil of the world.   Man will realize his destiny and will find his utopia of peace and goodwill upon the earth.


The Jews will also be deceived and will believe that they will have found the promised Messiah.  The prince, as Daniel calls him, will enter into a covenant with Israel and promise them peace and security.   Finally they will be allowed to rebuild their temple and restore their sacrifices. But Daniel says “in the midst of the week” (three and one‑half years) the prince will break his covenant and turn against the Jews. These last three and one‑half year will be a time of great tribulation; more severe than the world has ever known.  Daniel called it “abomination of desolations” in chapter eight and Jeremiah called it “a time of Jacob’s troubles”.


The Apostle John was taken up into heaven in a vision and was allowed to see these catastrophic events which are yet to occur and he recorded his vision in Revelation chapters four through nineteen.  Many believe that the great tribulation is a New Testament concept, but careful study shows that it is an Old Testament concept that has been more fully developed in the New Testament.   Both the Old and New Testament gives the time period as three and one‑half years – also given as forty‑two months, “a time, times, and half a time and 1260 days.   The prince (known as the infamous Antichrist) referred to in Daniel 9:26‑27 will become the beast of Revelation chapters thirteen, seventeen and nineteen.


Note: Josh McDowell in his book “Evidence that demands a Verdict” provides more details on the seventy weeks.  Click on: “Seventy Weeks of Daniel” for more information