Daniel's 70 Weeks

Daniel's 70 weeks have to be one of the most famous pieces of predictive biblical prophecy and rightly so. The first 69 of these weeks have happened and they predict the death of our Lord with awesome accuracy. The 70th week is far more contentious with conservative commentators not even agreed as to whether or not it has happened. However I aim to show that by careful analysis of that last three verses of Daniel, and by the simple device of assuming the Bible means what it says, we can get a fairly clear understanding of the import of this seventieth week.

There is so much fluff and hot air between the different expositors that I would rather just use the Bible as my text and take the verses apart piece by piece, which I shall do.

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

The first thing to note is that the 70 weeks is to be measured from the going forth of the command to build Jerusalem. There are four suggested starting points and dates for this event: -[1]

a) The decree of Cyrus in the first year of his reign, 536BC.[2]

b) The decree of Darius Hystapsis in the second year of his reign. 519BC[3]

c) The decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus in the seventh year of his reign 457BC[4]

d) The decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus in the 20th year of his reign 445BC[5]

However if you look at the passages you will find that the first three all pertain to building the house of God, now that was in Jerusalem but it wasn't Jerusalem itself. It was the decree of Artaxerxes in 445BC given to Nehemiah that actually allowed Jerusalem itself to start being built. In fact verse 25 even specifies the wall as part of the rebuilding (which we know waited for Nehemiah) and mentions the duress Nehemiah would be working under.

When looking for an end-point of the 69 weeks we are told that it should be until the coming of Messiah. John 1:41 tells us that the Messiah is the Christ and thus we should look for the 69 weeks to end with a significant date in the Lord's ministry.

Verse 26 then tells us the point we should be looking for, the time when Messiah is cut off. The obvious interpretation of the Messiah being 'cut off' is that he dies and thus we should look to see if the weeks tie in with the death of the Lord.

From this starting point Sir Robert Anderson has done the computation to discover when the 69 weeks end[6]. We know the decree was in the month of Nisan, common practice was to take timings from the start of the month unless otherwise stated. That gives us March 14th 445BC. The Lords death was April 6th 32 AD.

Between those two dates we have: -

476 years * 365 days = 173,740 days

116 leap days = 116 days

24 days (Mar 14->Apr 6) = 24 days

Totals = 173,880 days

173,880 days divided into prophetic years (each one being 360 days) gives us 483 years or 69 sevens. Of course there are those who try to pick holes in the logic, and it does rely upon some secular information so it could be flawed in some details, but clearly this period of 69 weeks points to the death of our Lord and is a remarkable vindication of the accuracy of the prophecy of Daniel.

26a And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself:

Both Clarke and JFB use a slightly different chronology and they place the end of the 69 weeks at the commencement of the Lord's ministry. JFB then has his ministry on Earth as the first 3.5 years of the final seven years; ACC includes 3.5 years of John the Baptist and makes it the full seven years. The obvious objection to this position is that verse 26 clearly states He is cut off after the 62-year block.

26b-27: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

Whilst "Messiah the Prince" is clearly the Lord Jesus the identity of the "prince that shall come" is harder to ascertain, there are three main candidates: -

  1. The Lord Jesus. This is offered by JFB, it suggests that the destruction of the city is Him coming in judgment. This also makes the Lord the confirmer of the covenant that lasts for seven years. This is just plain wrong. Firstly the verse says it is the people of the prince that will do the destroying. We know the Lord's work of judgment he will do himself. Secondly: why would the Lord destroy his own sanctuary? He would cleanse it: but destroy it? Thirdly: one of the main attributes of the new covenant is that it is an everlasting covenant[7] not one of a seven-year duration.
  2. Titus the son of Vespasian. This could be true, at least in type. The people of the prince would thus be the Romans and a legion of Titus did destroy the city in AD70. This is the position taken by ACC.
  3. The little horn of Daniel 7[8]. This position is at least noted by JFB. In support of this view we may first note that the Lord refers to the prince of the world coming[9]. That could be a direct reference to Satan but it could also refer to his underling. Rising from the sea[10] the little horn could easily be of Roman origin which would make b) a typical truth too.

The real question that motivates these different identifications is whether or not the 70th week is still future. If we take the prince to come to be the little horn (as I do) then we are placing the 70th week future.

In fact verse 24 already tells us that the seventieth week is future. It clearly states that the 70th week will 'bring in everlasting righteousness'. This was said to Jews. Do these commentators who place the 70th week behind us really think God would have told the Jews he had brought in everlasting righteousness when the gas chambers were still ahead of them? Everlasting righteousness is not here. Hence the 70th week has not happened or God has seriously under-delivered. Hence the 70th week has not happened.

The main objection to the 70th week still being future is that it means a whole chunk of time is just missing from Daniel's 70 weeks. This is true; in verse 24 Daniel is told the 70 weeks are settled upon His people and upon Jerusalem. Daniel had no interest in (or knowledge of) the church and thus the whole of the church age is excluded from the 70-week measurement. Put another way, God placed 70 weeks upon the Jews but did not declare them to be contiguous.

I believe that the destruction of the city refers primarily to 70AD. The expression 'the end thereof ... and unto the end of the war' refers to an elongated struggle after the destruction of the city. That elongation is happening even today and will continue until shortly after the rapture.

After the rapture the 'little horn' will arise and will sign a seven-year treaty with the Jews[11]. As part of the treaty they are allowed to construct a temple and restore their former worship practices. In the middle of the seven-year tribulation, probably after the resurrection of the beast[12], he breaks the covenant.

The false prophet is by this time constructing the image of the beast[13] that he will place in the temple. To me this is the abomination of verse 27 that the Lord references in Mt 24:15. The Jews will then flee[14] causing the sacrifice and oblation to cease.

I think it is significant that twice Gabriel tells Daniel to understand. This was a difficult vision and much was left unknown. With the benefit of the New Testament, particularly Revelation and Matthew 24 we are in a position to understand Daniel 9 fairly well.

Most genuine Bible-believing commentators agree that the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel are a vindicated truth[15]. There can be no doubt that when all is done and everlasting righteousness is here we will see that Daniel's 70th week is vindicated too.


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