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Daniel’s Seventy Weeks: What It Says Would Happen (Daniel 9:24-27, Part 4)

Marcelo has a B. S. in English Education and experience as a Spanish teacher. He enjoys science fiction and fantasy.

Wailing Wall in East Jerusalem

林高志, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

林高志, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

This article is the fourth article of my series of prophecies on Daniel’s seventy weeks (Daniel 9:24-27). I encourage you to follow my profile, read article 1, read article 2, and read article 3 before you read this article so you can know what I have said thus far and understand my reason to interpret the passage as I do.

So then, having stated that [1] the better translation of the passage is that found in the English Standard Version, [2] the prophecy is divided into three time periods (one of 49 years, one of 434 years, and one of 7 years), (3) the prophecy is not about the Messiah (Jesus), and [4] the prophecy is about a third temple that would be built (maybe, anointed or consecrated) in answer to Daniel’s prayers, I now want to focus on the other things the prophecy tells.

I see the 7 weeks + 62 weeks + 1 week as the backbone of the prophecy, and in this article I want to focus on the meat (the flesh) of the prophecy.

What Events Does The Prophecy Foretell?

Look now at the events indicated in the prophecy (I have numbered the events in the order they appear in the prophecy):

1 - Seven things happen at the end of 70 weeks (v.24)

  • Put an end to the transgression
  • Make an end of sin
  • Make atonement for guilt
  • Bring everlasting righteousness
  • Seal up the vision
  • Seal up the prophet

Anoint the holy place of holy places (the most holy place)

2 - The word to restore and build Jerusalem goes out (v.25)

3 - The count for 7 weeks begins

4 - An anointed one and prince comes

5 - The count for 62 weeks begins

6 - Jerusalem is built with squares and moat for 62 weeks, which are troubled times

7 - The count for 62 weeks ends

8 - An anointed one is cut off and has nothing left (v.26)

9 - The people of the prince who comes destroy the city and the sanctuary*

10 - There is war*

11 - The end comes with a war*

12 - Desolations have been decreed*

13 - He makes a strong covenant with many for one week (v.27)**

14 - For half of the week, he puts and end to sacrifice and offering**

15 - On the wing of abominations comes one who makes desolate***

16 - The decreed end is put on the desolator***

I want you to notice that from my list of 16 events, there are events that I did not mark with asterisks, events that I marked with one asterisk, events that I marked with two asterisks, and events that I marked with three asterisks.

If we attempt to arrange the 16 events above, event #1 (verse 24) is clearly the last event of them all. That 70 weeks were determined to accomplish the event in verse 24 means that it will take the full 70 weeks for these events to happen.

Apart from event #1, the events that I did not mark with asterisks (events 2-8) appear to be in chronological order (since they are organized by the order of the weeks), and therefore they are easier to understand.

Of the events that I marked with asterisks, only events #13 and #14 are clearly placed within one of the 70 weeks; the other events I marked with asterisks do not seem to be assigned to any of the 70 weeks, nor do they seem to be in chronological order. For this reason, it is harder to interpret how these events fit together in a timeline, and therefore there are different interpretations of this prophecy).

The events I marked with with one asterisk (9-12) appear to be related to each other: they speak about the destruction of the city and the sanctuary. Notice the biblical text does not make a direct statement to assign a week to these events events.

The events marked with two asterisks (13-14) appear to be related to each other: they say that someone makes a covenant for one week and then makes an end of sacrifices and offerings during half of the week. Notice the biblical text directly assigns a week to these events (logically, the last week).

The events marked with three asterisks (15-16) appear to be related to each other: they talk about the desolator, how he comes on the wings of abomination and receives a decreed end. Notice the biblical text does not assign a week to these events.

The Last Things Were Given First

At this point, I now want to arrange events chronological order. To do this, I want to use as much logic as I can. The sequence of the 16 events I listed is now as follows:

2 The word to restore and build Jerusalem goes out (v.25)

3 The count for 7 weeks begins

4 An anointed one and prince comes

5 The count for 62 weeks begins

6 Jerusalem is built with squares and moat for 62 weeks, which are troubled times

7 The count for 62 weeks ends

8 An anointed one is cut off and has nothing left (v.26)

9 The people of the prince who comes destroy the city and the sanctuary*

10 There is war*

11 The end comes with a war*

12 Desolations have been decreed*

13 He makes a strong covenant with many for one week (v.27)**

14 For half of the week, he puts and end to sacrifice and offering**

15 On the wing of abominations comes one who makes desolate***

16 The decreed end is put on the desolator***

1 Seven things happen at the end of 70 weeks (v.24)

Clearly then, the first event is event #2, the going forth of the word to rebuild Jerusalem. Notice how the goal of rebuilding Jerusalem harmonizes with event#1 in verse 24. If Jerusalem is rebuilt, it means that (1) Israel’s transgression has come to an end, (2) Israel’s sin has come to an end, (3) an atonement for Israel’s sin has been made, (4) everlasting righteousness has been brought, (5) the vision has been sealed, (6) the prophet has been sealed, and (7) the most holy place of holy places has been anointed.

Notice how all these concepts are tied to one another: Daniel was praying for God to forgive Israel and cause His face to shine on His holy mountain, where God’s temple had been. According to Gabriel, a decree will be made to rebuild Jerusalem, and the 70 weeks will end with the full restoration (redemption) of Israel.

The News Were Not All Good

After event #2, events #3 to #8 appear to be listed in chronological order (an order that makes sense). However, although the chain of events begins with a great promise (Daniel 9:24, the seven events that happen at the end of the 70 weeks), things do not remain good, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem does not bring about what is promised in verse 24.

Event #3 is a good one: an anointed one shows up! Because this anointed one can be a prince, a king, a priest, or a prophet, and because the order to build Jerusalem had been given, this anointed one may just be the person to lead the rebuilding of Jerusalem (maybe even its temple, although the prophecy specifically mentions only the rebuilding of the city, not the temple).

Nevertheless, things deteriorate as time goes on. The city is built for 62 weeks (434 years), but this period is identified as a “troubled time.” Afterwards, an anointed one is cut off, the city and the temple are destroyed, and there are war and desolations. Surely, these are not the news Daniel was hoping to hear!

38 Years in Between?

I want you to notice something important: verse 24 is all about what happens at the end of the 70 weeks; verse 25 is all about what happens during weeks 1 to 69; and, verse 26 is all about what happens after the 69th week.

We, Christians, usually think that the anointed one is cut off immediately after week 69 and that the temple is destroyed some 38 years later (more than 5 additional heptads later). We think this because we assume the prophecy is about Jesus Christ, and because we accept as a historical fact that Jesus Christ was crucified approximately in the year 32 AD, and that the temple was destroyed in the year 70 AD.

However, if we exclude what we think is a historical fact, and if we only focus on the passage, the death of the anointed, the destruction of the city, and the destruction of the temple appear as events that happen simultaneously, or within a short time from each other (certainly, not 38 years from each other!).

So, what the biblical text seems to be saying is that, after week 69, the anointed one is cut off and left with nothing because the city and the temple are destroyed. These events all happen shortly after week 69. Moreover, the last two sentences tell us how these events come to be: there is a flood (possibly, armies), there is a war, and everything ends in desolations.

In this way, the significance of the anointed one who is cut off after week 69 is like the significance of the anointed one who came after week 7: the anointed one who came after week 7 was a leader who exercised his ministry (whether as priest, king, or prophet) while the city stood built, whereas the anointed one who is cut off during week 70 is a leader whose ministry ends with the destruction of the city and the temple.

So then, I think that one plausible sequence of these events is as follows:

2 - The word to restore and build Jerusalem goes out (v.25)

3 - The count for 7 weeks begins

4 - An anointed one and prince comes

5 - The count for 62 weeks begins

6 - Jerusalem is built with squares and moat for 62 weeks, which are troubled times

10 - There is war*

11 - The end comes with a war*

9 - The people of the prince who comes destroy the city and the sanctuary*

8 - An anointed one is cut off and has nothing left (v.26)

7 - The count for 62 weeks ends

12 - Desolations have been decreed*

???

1 - Seven things happen at the end of 70 weeks (v.24)

Who Makes The Strong Covenant?

The events that remain to be allocated in the chronology are the following:

13 - He makes a strong covenant with many for one week (v.27)**

14 - For half of the week, he puts and end to sacrifice and offering**

15 - On the wing of abominations comes one who makes desolate***

16 - The decreed end is put on the desolator***

There are different views about who makes the strong covenant. Although, Christians generally agree that the covenant in this passage is the means by which the sacrifices and offerings cease, some think the one who makes the covenant is the Messiah, and others think the one who makes the covenant is the Antichrist. However, since we now have reason to think this prophecy is not about the Messiah, let us use the terminology that appears in the text: we need to figure out whether the one who makes the covenant is the second anointed one or the prince who is to come.

Let us consider that, for Daniel and the believers of his time, putting an end to sacrifice and offering was not a good thing. In chapter 9, Daniel had been praying for the temple to be rebuilt precisely because he thought sacrifices and offerings were important and good. It is only the New Testament (Christian) perspective that deemphasizes the importance of sacrifices and offerings, but this perspective is not found in Daniel’s prayer in Daniel 9.

Such perspective completely disregards Daniel’s perspective, the perspective of Daniel’s audience, and the perspective of the rest of the book of Daniel (in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11, the interruption of the sacrifices was a bad thing).

Logically, then, it is more likely that the one who makes a strong covenant with many for one week (the same one who causes sacrifice and offering to cease in the middle of the week… three and a half year later) is the prince whose people destroy the city and the temple (unless the anointed one who was cut off had betrayed Israel and caused the sacrifice and offerings to cease).

Taking in consideration that it is not the anointed one, but the prince, who puts an end to sacrifice and offerings, a possible sequence of events could be as follows:

2 - The word to restore and build Jerusalem goes out (v.25)

3 - The count for 7 weeks begins

4 - An anointed one and prince comes

5 - The count for 62 weeks begins

6 - Jerusalem is built with squares and moat for 62 weeks, which are troubled times

10 - There is war*

13 - He makes a strong covenant with many for one week (v.27)**

14 - For half of the week, he puts and end to sacrifice and offering**

11 - The end comes with a war*

9 - The people of the prince who comes destroy the city and the sanctuary*

8 - An anointed one is cut off and has nothing left (v.26)

7 - The count for 62 weeks ends

12 - Desolations have been decreed*

???

1 - Seven things happen at the end of 70 weeks (v.24)

Who Is The Desolator?

The events that remain to be allocated in a chronology are the following:

15 - On the wing of abominations comes one who makes desolate***

16 - The decreed end is put on the desolator***

Identifying the desolator would at first appear easy because no one really thinks that the anointed one is the desolator. Indeed, when we wanted to identify the subject that makes the covenant and then causes the sacrifice and offerings to cease, we had only two likely candidates: the anointed one who was cut off, and the prince who was to come.

However, if the “one who makes desolate” (the desolator) is the prince, why does the text not refer to the prince as “he” (as it previously did in verse 26), but as “one who makes desolate.” That the text refers to the desolator not as “he” (whose antecedent could then be the prince) appears to signal the the desolator is not necessarily the prince.

So then, is the desolator the anointed one? No, of course not. That would mean that the anointed one is a traitor, and the text does not really seem to indicate that, since the fall of the anointed one and the destruction of the city and the temple appear to all be bad news for Daniel and Israel.

So then, a possible (though theoretical) order of the events would be as follows:

2 - The word to restore and build Jerusalem goes out (v.25)

3 - The count for 7 weeks begins

4 - An anointed one and prince comes

5 - The count for 62 weeks begins

6 - Jerusalem is built with squares and moat for 62 weeks, which are troubled times

10 - There is war*

13 - He makes a strong covenant with many for one week (v.27)**

14 - For half of the week, he puts and end to sacrifice and offering**

11 - The end comes with a war*

9 - The people of the prince who comes destroy the city and the sanctuary*

8 - An anointed one is cut off and has nothing left (v.26)

7 - The count for 62 weeks ends

12 - Desolations have been decreed*

15 - On the wing of abominations comes one who makes desolate***

16 - The decreed end is put on the desolator***

1 - Seven things happen at the end of 70 weeks (v.24)

However, I remain open to the idea that the desolator is the prince; in which case the order would probably be something similar to this:

2 - The word to restore and build Jerusalem goes out (v.25)

3 - The count for 7 weeks begins

4 - An anointed one and prince comes

5 - The count for 62 weeks begins

6 - Jerusalem is built with squares and moat for 62 weeks, which are troubled times

15 - On the wing of abominations comes one who makes desolate***

10 - There is war*

13 - He makes a strong covenant with many for one week (v.27)**

14 - For half of the week, he puts and end to sacrifice and offering**

11 - The end comes with a war*

9 - The people of the prince who comes destroy the city and the sanctuary*

8 - An anointed one is cut off and has nothing left (v.26)

7 - The count for 62 weeks ends

12 - Desolations have been decreed*

16 - The decreed end is put on the desolator***

1 - Seven things happen at the end of 70 weeks (v.24)

Nevertheless, if you look closely at event 16, you will see that, whoever the desolator, he must receive his end before the seven events on verse 24 can happen.

Not 7, but 70 Times 7

I think the interpretation I have provided of the prophecy about the seventy weeks is more consistent with the context of the prophecy, Daniel’s prayer and the entire book of Daniel, than the two prevalent Christian interpretations of the prophecy.

Daniel’s prayer requested that God forgive Israel, restore Jerusalem, and cause His face to shine over the holy mount, where God’s temple was supposed to be.

Moreover, we must see that the answer to Daniel’s prayer was actually very complex: although verse 24 promised a positive answer to Daniel’s request (God was saying yes), Daniel was warned that Israel would not immediately receive what Daniel had requested: at least, 490 years would need to pass. Also, Daniel was warned that the second temple (which was destroyed in the year 70 AD) would to be God’s positive answer to Daniel, since that temple would be destroyed as well.

However, the problem with my interpretation is clearly that the math does not to work. I would like to have the first 486.5 years (since the sacrifices and offerings were stopped halfway through the last week) end in 70 AD, since that is when the city and the temple were destroyed by the Romans. Nevertheless, when I subtract 486.5 years from 70 AD, I arrive to the year 416.5 BC, which is 27.5 years after 444 BC, the year when Artarxerxes gave his decree to rebuild the walls and the gates of the city (and I hold that the count for the 490 years must begin with the decree by Cyrus, which happened much earlier).

For this reason, I question whether we have the correct dates for these events. And, since the Jewish calendar has different dates for these events, maybe we all have the wrong dates (I am not in complete agreement with the Jewish calendar either).

However, it is possible that the 70 weeks are symbolical. The number 7 and its multiples are symbolical numbers in the Bible. For example, in the book of Genesis, God created in six days, and He rested on the seventh day. Also, in Matthew 18:22, Jesus instructed his disciples to forgive, not 7 times, but seventy times 7.

Because the number 7 has an important meaning, Daniel's 70 weeks are already symbolic regardless of whether they also point to specific dates in a calendar. In the Hebrew, the 70 weeks are literally called seventy sevens (70 periods of 7).

Morevoer, the way the 70 weeks are divided also emphasizes the number 7.

  • The first period into which the 70 weeks are broken down is the number 7: from the giving of the words to the anointed one, there will be 7 heptads (in Hebrew, 7 sevens)
  • The second period into which the 70 weeks are broken down is 42, a multiple of 7 and 6. Not only is 6 the day on which God created the man (who, without God, is an imperfect being), but it is also an incomplete number, since it needs one more heptad to enter into God's rest (the Sabbath). In other words, God's work is not yet complete. Thus, the number 7 is emphasized in the mind of the reader because it is not there.
  • The third period into which the 70 weeks are broken down is the number 1, which is the sabbatical period needed to complete both the previous imperfect (incomplete) period of 7x6, and the imperfect 69 weeks.

When Answers Lead to More Questions

But my work on this prophecy is not done: there are still questions I need to answer:

  1. How was the prophecy fulfilled?
  2. Where is the third temple?
  3. Is the prophecy related to the Messiah in any way?
  4. How does the prophecy agree with the rest of the book of Daniel?
  5. How does the New Testament agree with the prophecy?

As I continue to study the prophecy, I hope to address some of these matters in future articles. For now, I once again invite you to follow my profile so you can receive a notification when I publish any more articles.

© 2022 Marcelo Carcach