Daniels’ Prophecy of Seventy Weeks
by: Samuel Reed
Thesis: There are covenantal aspects in Daniels prayer which should be a guide to interpreting the Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9:24-27.
- There are several major interpretations to Daniels Seventy weeks
- View one is that “they are literal years extending through the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes”.
- A second view is a symbolic one.
- There is an alternative symbolic view.
- The approach of Stephen Miller is one that is more literal.
- The context of the passage shows the problems of the Dispensational view.
- The context is regarding the covenant God made with Moses.
- The context of the entire book of Daniel and other passages in Scripture are the keys to understanding the context of the Daniel 9:24-27 passage.
- These verses come after Daniels prayer which is the first 19 verses.
- Part of the context is that he is in exile in Babylon and longs to be back in Jerusalem.
- The focus of Daniels prayer back in 9:4 is to plead with God to keep His covenant of mercy.
- Daniel’s prayer is grounded in the covenant by his use of vocabulary.
- The divine name Yahweh.
- Daniel also uses the word “Lord”
- The Amillennial view of Daniel 9:24-27
- Transgression will be finished
- Sins will be brought to completion
- Iniquity is reconciled
- Eternal righteousness is established
- The vision and prophecy will be sealed
- The Most Holy will be anointed
- The details pertaining to the fulfillment of this prophecy
- Verse 24 convers the entire period
- Verse 25 divides the first sixty-nine sevens
- Verse 26 describes the final seven in indefinite terms
- Verse 27 describes the final seven more specifically
Conclusion: In our passage God wanted Daniel to look beyond the vision to the thing it was foreshadowing. God is not intending Daniel to see a rebuilding of a temple made with hands but of Christ Jesus redeeming His sheep. We must stop looking at the types and shadows of these visions inappropriately. Instead look at what Jesus Christ accomplished at the cross and His final consummation of redemptive history.
There are several major interpretations to Daniels Seventy weeks seen here in Daniel 9:24-27.
24“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put and end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed is poured out on the desolator.”
View one is that “they are literal years extending through the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes”. This view says the “sevens” or “week” are made up of seven years each or 490 years. The decree in verse 25 is said to come from Jeremiahs prophecy of 70 years of captivity in Jeremiah 25:1, 11 which was in 605 B.C. Some in this view believe the date is 586 B.C. which is when Jerusalem fell. The end of the “sevens” is said to be at the end of the persecution of Antiochus. This view divides the seventy sevens as seven sevens, sixty-two sevens, and a final seven. The first group is extended from around the time of the Jewish exiles release by Cyrus. The next group of sixty two sevens is during the time of Joshua to the death of “the high priest Onias III in 170 B.C.” The final seven is the period of time during Antiochus’s persecution from 170-163 B.C.
The possible problem with this view is the “decree” to rebuild Jerusalem would most likely come from a king and not a prophecy in Jeremiah because he does not mention rebuilding the city. He only mentions that the captivity would last seventy years. In other words it seems historically inaccurate because 490 years after 605 B.C is the year 115 B.C. and 490 years after 586 B.C. is 96 B.C.
A second view is a symbolic one which interprets the passage figuratively. This version says the seventy sevens (7 + 62 + 1, each multiplied by seven) are symbolic and ended in the first century. They hold that the first seven sevens began with the decree of Cyrus from 538 B.C. The sixty two sevens run from 400 B.C. to the time when Jesus came the first time. The last seven goes from the first advent of Christ to around 70 A.D. Support for this symbolic view comes from the mention of “seventy” in Daniel 9:2 and the connection it has with the weekly Sabbath in Leviticus 23:3, to the Feast of Weeks in Leviticus 23:11-16, to the sabbatical year in Leviticus 25:3-4, its relationship to the discipline of the people in Leviticus 26 and 2 Chronicles 36:21, and finally to the Jubilee year in Leviticus 25:8. It is believed one can then imply God’s intended perfect or appointed time of completeness. One problem people have with this view is the years of the seven vary too much. For example each of the sevens in the first period are only about 20 years each. Those who disagree say a person should expect the sevens to be far more regular in length.
There is an alternative symbolic view that broadly interprets the passage to say the seventy sevens are referring to prophecy regarding the historical church in history which includes the Old and New Testaments. This time frame extends outward from Cyrus’s decree until the final return of Jesus Christ at the end of the current age. The first set of “sevens” go from the time of Cyrus’s decree in 538 B.C. to the advent of Christ in the first century A.D. This is a period of around 550 years. The next sixty two sevens range from the first advent of Christ to the time of the Antichrist’s persecution at the end of the age. This would be about two thousand years and the spiritual Jerusalem will be rebuilt during that time of trouble. They say during the last seven the Anointed One will be cut off but does not refer to the Messiah being put to death. They argue it is speaking of an attack on Christ and the church at the time of the end. The biggest problem people have with this view is that they are claiming Christ and His church will be defeated during the last days. However Matthew 24:14 and Revelation 11:1 show Christ does not lose control and will always have a number of witnesses to the Gospel.
The approach of Stephen Miller is one that is more literal. This Dispensational view holds the first “sevens” are literal seven year periods totaling 490 years and begin with the command to rebuild Jerusalem. He mentions that this begins with the decree in Ezra around 458 B.C. or with Nehemiah in 445 B.C. This period ends around fourty-nine years later when Ezra and Nehemiah completed their work. The sixty-two sevens of 434 years begin and go until Christ’s baptism in A.D. 26 or until Palm Sunday in A.D. 32/33. It is thought the time of the Gentiles or church age is not counted. It is at the end of the current age when God will finally finish dealing with Israel and the final seven years begin. These final seven years are yet future and precede Christ’s Second Advent. At some time during this period there is a great tribulation. During this time the majority of Israel along with other people will come to faith in Jesus Christ. The period of the great tribulation ends with Christ’s second coming where He establishes His earthly kingdom. The earthly kingdom is supposed to last for one thousand years. It is interesting Miller does not include the various problems with this view such as the covenantal aspects of Daniels prayer.
The context of the passage shows the problems of the Dispensational view. The context of chapter 9 is Daniel pleading with God regarding the covenant He made with Israel at the time of Moses. By claiming a literal interpretation, Dispensationalists miss what is literally being referred too. They are missing the work of Jesus Christ at His first coming. The passage is actually showing the active and passive obedience of Jesus Christ. Dispensationalists are wrongly using the Old Testament to interpret the New Testament which is the exact opposite of what should be done. The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. In an attempt to turn the passage into a map to understanding the Antichrist during the end times they fail to follow the context of Daniel and the prophets that show it is a passage about Christ. They get the future seven year tribulation period in this passage and that the Antichrist comes and betrays Israel. Somehow there are two plans for believers, one for Israel and one for believing Gentiles. The problem is the peace treaty in 9:27. It is not with the Antichrist but with Christ in this passage.
The context of the entire book of Daniel and other passages in Scripture are the keys to understanding the context of the Daniel 9:24-27 passage. These verses come after Daniels prayer which is the first 19 verses. Part of the context is that he is in exile in Babylon and longs to be back in Jerusalem. He is praying for God to restore Jerusalem and the Temple. The broader background of his prayer is in Jeremiahs 25 where Jeremiah foretells that Israel will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years. Gabriel is immediately sent to answer Daniels prayer in order to let him know that the prophecy in Jeremiah has been completed and the promise of restoration is about to be fulfilled. So, the focus of Daniels prayer back in 9:4 is to plead with God to keep His covenant of mercy. This is all pointing forward to a time when God not only restores his people but consummates the covenant made with Moses in Leviticus 26:42 and detailed in Jeremiah 29:10.
Daniel’s prayer is grounded in the covenant by his use of vocabulary. Daniel 9 verses 2, 4, 10, 13, 14, and 20 are the only places in the book were he uses the divine name Yahweh. This is the covenantal name of God used in the various covenants and should be used in the context of the covenant Daniel is praying about. Daniel also uses the word “Lord” which is referring to the dominant or sovereign party in the covenant. Once again this is a term that is rare in the Book of Daniel because it is only found in Daniel 1:2. Meredith Klien mentions numerous covenantal terms used by Daniel and said, “The prayer is indeed saturated with formulaic expression drawn from the Mosaic treaties, particularly from the Deuteronomic treaty. This broader background is showing the picture that Israel has broken the covenant and what is being shown in Daniel chapter 9 is God’s assurance of covenant renewal. Daniel’s prayer is similar to other covenant breaking confessions by Israel such as Ezra and Nehemiah. Their concern was to confess they had broken the covenant. Those prayers were followed by acts of God renewing their hope.
The Reformed Amillennial view of Daniel 9:24-27 seems to be the interpretation that answers the most questions in a reasonable manner. There are six aspects of this passage that can be seen in the work of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament is filled with types and shadows of Jesus Christ. Therefore, in verse 24 we see transgression will be finished, sins will be brought to completion, iniquity is atoned, everlasting righteousness is established, the vision and prophecy will be sealed, and the Most Holy will be anointed. Christ fulfilled these six things at the first advent in the sense of the already but not yet.
Christ finished the transgression, made an end to sins, reconciled iniquity, and brought everlasting righteousness. Hebrews 9:26, “…but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Romans 5:10, “…we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…” Hebrew 13:20, “…the God of peace…brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant…” He did seal up the visions and prophecy. Luke 24:44, “…all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.” Matthew 11:13, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” Acts 3:18, “…those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.” Finally, Christ is the anointed One. Matthew 3:16, “And Jesus, when he was baptized…saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him”. Luke 4:18, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…” Acts 10:38, “…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” Christ is the Messiah, the Anointed One, He is our King and High Priest. He has entered heaven the holiest place of all for His sheep making it open to all who are found in Him. Believers who are in Him are also anointed because He is the true Temple. He established us as stones in that Temple making it a current status and not a future one. 2 Corinthians 1:21, “Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God”. Therefore, “the seventy weeks” of Daniel is not referring to a future physical temple it is the time period up to and including Jesus’ once and final offering of Himself for sin.
Verse 25 shows the command from God had been set forth by the Persian king Cyrus in Ezra 1:1. By it the people were restored unto the Messiah the Prince. Note Isaiah 44:28, “who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and he shall fulfill all my purpose; saying of Jerusalem, She shall be built, and of the temple, Your foundation shall be laid.” This verse is splitting the seventy weeks into three parts. The first is the seven weeks or fourty-nine years where the temple is restored and Jerusalem built. The sixty-two weeks are 434 years from that time to the coming of the Messiah and then final week of His ministry. The word for restore “shuwb” means to turn back (to God), repent”. In light of its use in Jeremiah 4:28, “…I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back (shuwb) from it”; this is a spiritual turning back.
In Scripture the command to restore the priesthood, sacrifices, judges, and the law began at the time of Artzxerxes I in 457 B.C. Ezra 7:21, “And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily…” However, the command to rebuild Jerusalem came from the same king but later in 445 B.C. This is seen in Nehemiah 2:1, 5, 8. During this fourty-nine year week we see it was “in troublous times.” Ezra 4:23, “…made them to cease by force and power.” Nehemiah 9:37, “…we are in great distress.” 4:17, “They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.” All this restoration and rebuilding took place literally in 49 years. The total time until the first advent of Jesus is then sixty-nine more weeks or 483 years. That is, 457 B.C. minus 445 B.C. plus 483 years equals the time period of Christ when Pontius Pilate was in Judaea (26-36 A.D). The start of the final seven years then began.
Daniel’s 70th week is discussed in chapter 9:26-27. We see verse 26 is repeated in verse 27 but with more detail. It is just said in a different way. Isaiah 53:8, “…for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” Jesus was crucified three and a half years into His ministry which is the final week of Daniel. Jesus has confirmed the covenant with many because He has enacted the covenant with His own blood. Daniel mentions “the people of the prince that shall come” which refers to the armies of Titus. Mark 13:14 and Luke 19:43-44 provide even more detail about what was to happen as judgment on the Jews for rejecting Christ. Prince Titus of Rome came and destroyed the temple after setting up pagan gods in it. Some translations use the word “he” in verse 27. Some say it is referring to the Antichrist. The ESV and NASB use “And on the wing of abominations shall [or will] come one who makes desolate.” The ISV says, “Destructive people will cause desolation.” Jesuit Priests Francisco Ribera and Lacunza stressed this was a gap in Daniel’s 70 weeks with the purpose of fostering error in the Protestant view of end times. Reformers at the time saw the Pope as being the Antichrist and Catholics wanted to change the view. Edwin Erving, John Nelson Darby, C.I. Scoefield, and Ironside continued the futuristic error of applying to the Antichrist the past deeds of Christ in Daniel 27.
Daniel 9:24-27 is said to be the pillar of dispensational eschatology. They say it is the chronological key to all NT prophecy. However, they are leaving out the work of Jesus and the Apostles. One must remember that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Jesus has fulfilled the prophecy in the sense of the already but not yet. His final consummation is to come at one time. Jesus is ruling and reigning right now based on His completed work and these end times will last a very long time. Believers will continue to be persecuted and persecuted more severely when Satan is loosed from his current bondage. The imminent sign of the end may well be when Jews are becoming true believers in Him in large numbers. One can pray that Christ returns quickly. In our passage God wanted Daniel to look beyond the vision to the thing it was foreshadowing, Christ’s first advent and work. God is not intending Daniel to see a rebuilding of a temple made with hands but of Christ Jesus redeeming His sheep. We must stop looking at the types and shadows of these visions inappropriately. Instead one must look at what Jesus Christ accomplished at the cross and His final consummation of redemptive history.
Goodrick, Edward W, and John R Kohlenberger III. The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.
Kline, Meredith G. The Covenant of the Seventieth Week. July 6, 2006. http://www.meredithkline.com/klines-works/articles-and-essays/the-covenant-of-the-seventieth-week/ (accessed Feburary 11, 2014).
Miller, Stephen R. The New American Commentary: Daniel. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1994.
Thomas, Robert L. Hebrew Bible Lexicon. 1998. http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/7725.html (accessed 02 16, 2014).
 (Miller 1994, p. 253)
 (Miller 1994, p. 253)
 (Kline 2006)
 (Thomas 1998)