Prophecy of Seventy Weeks
|Chapters of the Book of Daniel|
1: Induction into Babylon
The Prophecy of Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9 in the Book of Daniel) is a prophecy in which Daniel, pondering the meaning of Jeremiah's prediction that Jerusalem would remain desolate for seventy years, is told by Gabriel that the seventy years really means seventy weeks of years, or 490 years.
The Book of Daniel is set in the late 7th and 6th centuries BCE, the period of the Babylonian exile, but the majority of scholars do not take this at face value and see it as a product of the 2nd century BCE. The "seventy weeks" prophecy is cited as an example of how some scholars believe apocalyptic authors of the Hellenistic age reinterpreted the prophets (in this case, Jeremiah) in the light of their own circumstances.
- 1 Structure
- 2 Background
- 3 Interpretation
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Daniel 9 consists of an introduction (verses 1-3), a prayer (commonly called the Prayer of Daniel, verses 4-19), and an angelic discourse explaining verses 25:11-12 and 29:10 from the Book of Jeremiah (verses 20-27):
- Introduction, verses 1-3: the vision is set in "the first year of Darius son of Xerxes, a Mede by descent, who had been appointed king over Babylon;" its subject is "the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years."
- Prayer of Daniel, verses 4-19: Daniel prays to God admitting the sins of Israel and the justice of God's punishment (i.e., the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple and the exile of the Jews in Babylon); he reminds God of his past salvation of Israel from Egypt, and asks him to forgive Israel's sins and restore the city and the temple.
- Angelic discourse (verses 20-27): The angel Gabriel explains Jeremiah's prophecy: Jeremiah's "seventy years" are to be understood as "seventy sevens" (seventy weeks) of years.
Book of Daniel
The book of Daniel is a Jewish apocalypse, one of a large class of writings, none of them now canonical, in which an ancient seer is given a revelation relevant to the age in which the books were written. Like these other writings, Daniel is pseudonymous, probably taking its prophet from the figure mentioned in the book of Ezekiel alongside Noah and Job as righteous and wise men of the distant past. The broad consensus in mainline scholarship is that the stories in the first half of the book (chapters 1-6) are legendary, and that the visions in the second (chapters 7-12) were composed by unknown authors during the 2nd century in response to the Maccabean crisis.
The Book of Daniel is set during the Babylonian exile of the Jews, although only a minority of scholars accept this at face value. The exile lasted approximately fifty years, from the capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE (the deportation in 606 BCE mentioned in Daniel 1 seems unlikely, and is apparently based on a passage in 2 Chronicles 36:6) to the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 538. (Verse 1 gives the setting for Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks as "the first year of Darius the Mede, ... who was made king over Babylon", but no such person is known to history).
Persian rule lasted some 200 years before being overthrown by Alexander the Great. After Alexander's death in 323 BC his empire split into rival kingdoms, and two of these, the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Selucid dynasty in Syria, fought for control of Palestine. By 202 BCE the Seleucids had the upper hand, but the wars had left them almost bankrupt. Antiochus IV Epiphanes attempted to recoup his fortunes by selling the post of high priest to the highest bidder, and the existing high priest, Onias III, a man respected for upholding Jewish tradition, was deposed and later murdered. Jerusalem became split between those Jews who supported the Greeks and those who supported tradition. In 168 BCE Antiochus came down forcefully on the side of the Hellenisers: Jewish worship was forbidden, the daily sacrifice abolished, and an altar to Zeus set up in the Temple (December 168 BCE). As persecutor of the Jews, Antiochus became the new Nebuchadnezzar for the generation that wrote Daniel.
Jeremiah's prophecy of seventy years and Daniel's seventy weeks of years
In verse 2 Daniel reads Jeremiah's prediction that Jerusalem would remain desolate for seventy years. Daniel doesn't identify the passage, but chapters 25:11-12 and 29:10 are the obvious candidates: "This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years..." (Jeremiah 25:11-12); "This is what the Lord says: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place..." (Jeremiah 29:10).
The Babylonian exile ended in 538 BCE with the decree of Cyrus, the Persian conqueror of Babylon, inviting exiles (not only the Jews) to return to their homes. That was several centuries before the time of the authors of Daniel in the 2nd century, yet it seemed to them that the desolation of Jerusalem had not ended: the people had returned and the Temple had been rebuilt, but salvation for Israel had not been achieved and the people were still suffering. As Jeremiah's seventy years could not apply literally to the time of Antiochus, the author of Daniel provided a creative solution that transformed its meaning. Daniel turns to God in prayer, and the angel Gabriel clarifies Jeremiah's words for him: Jeremiah's "shiv'im" (seventy) is to be understood as "shavu'im shiv'im" (seventy weeks), 490 years. This reinterpretation was based ultimately on the idea of the jubilee year taken from Leviticus 25; similar number schemes are found in other Jewish apocalypses from the same time as Daniel, such as the "seventy generations" of 1 Enoch.
The angelic discourse of Daniel 9:20-27
In verses 20-27 Gabriel explains the meaning of the 70 weeks. After a preamble in verses 20-23 he tells Daniel that the "seventy sevens" are decreed for the people and city (i.e., the Jews and Jerusalem) "to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal (i.e. validate) both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place". The "sin" and "iniquity" are not specified, but probably include the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus and the Hellenizing Jews. Because the series focuses on the re-dedication of the Temple at the end of the time period, it is apparent that is not an ongoing process for the full seventy weeks, but will happen at the end and coincide with the re-dedication of the Temple (the anointing of the "most holy place").
Gabriel then gives a more detailed explanation. "From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven sevens" (verse 25). The first "seven sevens," or 49 years, thus begins with the "word" to rebuild Jerusalem, and ends with the arrival of an "anointed prince", meaning either Zerubbabel, the Davidic prince sent by the Persians to become governor of Judah, or (more likely) Joshua, the first high priest after the exile.
The next 62 weeks, or 434 years, pass without comment, and the prophecy focuses in verses 26-27 on the events of the final week. Gabriel has already told Daniel that these events are preordained, and the prophetic message is that the period of Gentile power is coming to an end. "After the 62 sevens the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed" (verse 26). The ruler "will confirm a covenant with many for one seven, he will put an end to sacrifice and offering, and at the Temple he will put up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him" (verse 27). This is a broad outline of the oppression of the Jews by Antigonus (the "ruler who will come") and his allies the Hellenizing Jews (the "many" with whom he "will confirm a covenant"), from the murder of Onias the high priest (the "anointed one" who is "cut off") in 171 BCE, to December 168, when sacrifices in the Temple were ended and replaced with a pagan altar, the "abomination that causes desolation".
Christian interpretation of Bible prophecy starts with the position (contrasting with modern scholarship noted above) that the book of Daniel was written by Daniel, a noble Jew exiled to Babylon, in the 5th century CE, not by anonymous Jewish authors of the 2nd century CE. Daniel has challenged prophetic interpreters for over two millennia. The signs and symbols to be decoded in chapter 9 include the chronology of the seventy sevens and its division, and the identity of the "anointed one(s)" and of the "ruler who will come" and his actions. Modern interpreters disagree over the details, but they agree that the book as a whole foretells with great specificity information about Jesus and the Second Coming.
For the authors of Daniel, living in the 2nd century, it seemed the exile had not yet ended: the people had returned and the Temple had been rebuilt, but salvation for Israel had not been achieved and the people were still suffering. The period from the exile until Antiochus was characterised by sin, to be ended by the intervention of God and the end-time.
The early Christians took Daniel 9's "anointed one" to be Jesus, with Daniel 9:26, which says that an "anointed one" would be "cut off" after sixty-two weeks, being a reference to his death. The "abomination that makes desolate," described in 1 Maccabees 1:54 as a pagan altar erected over the sacrificial altar in the Temple, was understood in the New Testament (Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14) as meaning the future destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and in later traditions it was sometimes interpreted as the Antichrist.
Daniel 9:25 states that the 'seventy weeks' (generally interpreted as 490 years according to the day-year principle) is to begin "from the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem," but it fails to specify what this "word" is, who issues it, or when. As a result the start-date of the prophecy remains vague. Possible answers have included the date of Jeremiah's original prophecy, the first year of Darius during which Daniel received his revelation, the decree of Cyrus allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem, or one of two directives issued by the later Persian king Artaxerxes I, the first to Ezra, the second to Nehemiah. No matter which of these explanations is used, 490 years will not extend to the modern period.
The Historicist method began before the 1st century CE and continues to the present. Biblical Scholars have interpreted the 70 weeks vision in the Historistical methodology for nearly two millinia as illustrated in the following table.
|List of Historicist Biblical Expositors who commented on the 70 weeks
from the 3rd to 19th centuries
The vision of the 70 weeks is interpreted as dealing with the Jewish nation from about the middle of the 5th century BCE until not long after the death of Jesus in the 1st century CE and so is not concerned with current or future history. Historicists consider Antiochus Epiphanies irrelevant to the fulfillment of the prophecy.
- Seventh-day Adventists
The Seventh-day Adventist interpretation of Daniel chapter 9 presents the 490 years as an uninterrupted period. Like others before them they equate the beginning of the 70 weeks "from the time the word goes out to rebuild and restore Jerusalem," of Daniel 9:25 with the decree by Artaxerxes I in 458/7 BCE which provided money for rebuilding the temple and Jerusalem and allowed for restoration of a Jewish administration. It ends 3½ years after the crucifixion. The appearance of "Messiah the Prince" at the end of the 69 weeks (483 years) is aligned with Jesus' baptism in 27 CE, in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar. The 'cutting off' of the "anointed one" refers to the crucifixion 3½ years after the end of the 483 years, bringing "atonement for iniquity" and "everlasting righteousness". Jesus is said to 'confirm' the "covenant" between God and mankind by his death on the cross in the Spring (about Easter time) of 31 CE "in the midst of" the last seven years. At the moment of his death the 4 inch (10 cm) thick curtain between the Holy and Most Holy Places in the Temple ripped from top to bottom marking the end of the Temple's sacrificial system. The last week ends 3½ years after the crucifixion (i.e., in 34 CE) when the gospel was redirected from only the Jews to all peoples.
Some of the representative voices among exegetes of the last 150 years are E. W. Hengstenberg, J. N. Andrews, E. B. Pusey, J. Raska, J. Hontheim, Boutflower, Uriah Smith, and O. Gerhardt.
|Illustrations explaining the beginning and ending dates of the 70 weeks
according to Historicist interpretation
- Jehovah's Witnesses
Similarly to the historical-messianic interpretation, Jehovah's Witnesses believe the 70 'weeks' represent 490 years. However, they believe that Artaxerxes' first year of rule was 474 BCE (rather than the secularly determined 464 BCE), and that the period began when Nehemiah went to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem "in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes", which they believe was 455 BCE.
They hold that the sixty-ninth week ended in 29 CE, when they believe Jesus was identified as the Messiah at his baptism. In their interpretation, Jesus was then "cut off" (executed) half way through the seventieth week, which ended in 36 CE.
In the view of historic premillennialism, Philip Mauro (1921) proposed that the discourse on the Mount Olivet (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) is an expansion of Daniel's "seventy weeks" prophecy. His research was influenced by the works of Martin Anstey (1913). In addition to the historical-messianic interpretation above, Mauro adds that, "the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary" (9:25) is prophetic of the "desolation" of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 CE (Matthew 24:1-22; Luke 21:20-24) Mauro compares the words of Gabriel: "seventy weeks are determined upon thy people to finish the transgression" (Daniel 9:24) with Jesus' words: "Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers" (Matthew 23:32), interpreting these narratives as referring to the rejection and crucifixion of the Christ.
The Dispensational interpretation (beginning in the 19th century) extends the last week beyond the present day as in:
The consistent symbolical interpretation reads the numbers in verses 24 to 27 as symbolic. In this view the 490 years begin with the edict of Cyrus in 538 BCE, which permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem2 Chronicles 36:22-23 = Ezra 1:2-4. The first division of 7 weeks ends with the first advent of Christ. The second division is the period of the Christian church, stretching from the first and to Second Advent. The third division of one week is the last period of history—the time of tribulation caused by the Antichrist—which begins with the advent of the Antichrist and ends with his defeat.
Supporters of this view include Kliefoth, who is credited to be the first to establish exegetically the symbolic interpretation. He is followed, by and large, by Keil, Delitzsch, Leupold, Philip, Grelot and others.
The dispensational interpretation begins the 490 years with the permission Artaxerxes I Longimanus gave to NehemiahNehemiah 2:5-8. This is dated by most dispensationalists to 445 BCE (e.g. Sir Robert Anderson), but by some to 444 BCE. The “messiah” at the end of the 7+62 weeks is Jesus Christ, but because 7+62 = 69 weeks = 483 years from 445/4 BCE would extend to about CE 40—far beyond the lifetime of Christ—the 483 years are reduced to 476 years by interpreting these 490 years as "prophetic years" each consisting of only 360 literal days. Consequently the 483 years end with the crucifixion in CE 33 or 32. The 70th week is separated from the 69th week by a vast gap of over nineteen centuries. The entire "church age" is a gap during which the prophetic clock has stopped ticking. The 70th week does not start until the end of the church age, when the church will be "raptured” from the earth. During the 70th week the Antichrist—a revived Roman tyrant that will oppose God—will oppress the Jews and bring upon the world, during the latter half of a delayed seventieth week, a 3½ year tribulation.
The dispensational interpretation of the chronological scheme of 9:24-27 is very widely used today in the English-speaking world and beyond. Of the leading voices the following are representative JA Seiss, Sir Robert Anderson, The Scofield Reference Bible; LS Chafer; AJ McClain and HA Ironside.
In dispensational premillennialism, described in more detail above, a 'hiatus', which some refer to as a 'biblical parenthesis', occurs between the 69th and 70th week of the prophecy, into which the "church age" is inserted (also known as the "gap theory" of Daniel 9). The seventieth week of the prophecy is expected to commence after the rapture of the church, which will incorporate the establishment of an economic system using the number '666', the reign of the beast (the Antichrist), the false religious system (the harlot), the Great Tribulation and Armageddon.
- Collins 2003, p. 75.
- Bandstra 2008, p. 445.
- Reid 2000, p. 315.
- Knibb 2006, p. 435.
- Holbrook 1986, p. 110.
- Hammer 1976, p. 2.
- Hammer 1976, p. 3.
- Collins 2002, p. 2.
- Bar 2001, p. 211.
- Reid 1998, p. 315.
- Pasachoff & Littman 2005, p. 43-45.
- Hammer 1976, p. 8.
- Collins 1998, p. 86.
- Hammer 1976, p. 8-11.
- Seow 2003, p. 30.
- Brettler 2010, p. 214.
- Kratz 2001, p. 109.
- Portier-Young 2013, p. 270.
- Gallagher 2011, p. 137.
- Brettler 2010, p. 214-215.
- Collins 1998, p. 109.
- Collins 1998, p. 94.
- Nelson 2013.
- Collins 1998, p. 108-109.
- Seow 2003, p. 180.
- Boyer 1992, p. 30.
- Knibb 2009, p. 194.
- Collins 2013, p. 86.
- Collins 2013, p. 87.
- Froom 1950, pp. 17–18, "The molding, energizing force of Old Testament prophecy was already evident in Jewish history long before the dawn of the Christian Era. The Messianic hope of the Jews, and their national aspirations, which were based on prophecies, profoundly affected their fundamental attitude toward other nations. It permeated their entire thinking and action..."
- After table in Froom 1950, pp. 456–7
- After table in Froom 1950, pp. 894–5
- After table in Froom 1948, pp. 528–9
- After table in Froom 1948, pp. 784–5
- After table in Froom 1946, pp. 252–3
- After table in Froom 1946, pp. 744–5
- Daniel 9:25
- Ezra 7:15-26 "With this money be sure to buy ... offerings, and sacrifice them on the altar of the temple of your God in Jerusalem ... then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold ... anything else needed for the temple of your God that you are responsible to supply ... appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God."
- Based on General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists 2005, pp. 358–359
- Daniel 9:24
- Daniel 9:27
- Matthew 27:51
- Mark 15:38
- Luke 23:45
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- E.B. Pusey, Daniel the Prophet, 2nd ed. (New York 1885), pp. 184-269
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- O. Gerhardt, Die messianische Weissagung Daniel 9:24-27, NKZ 38 (1927): 561-87
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- Walvoord, A commentary by John F. (1989). Daniel: the key to prophetic revelation. (Moody Paperback ed. ed.). Chicago: Moody Press. ISBN 9780802417534.
- Daniel 9 The Seventy Weeks, Jews for Judaism audio file
- True Messiah - Properly Anointed; False Messiah - Smeared with Ointment, Virtual Yeshiva article by UriYosef
- The 9th chapter of Daniyyel by Mordochai ben Tziyyon, former Professor of Jewish Bible Studies at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
- The 70 Weeks and 457 B.C.
- When Did the Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9:24 Begin?
- A Critical Examination of the Seventy Weeks Prophecy