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Daniel's Seventy Weeks: Two Christian Interpretations (Daniel 9:24-27, Part 1)

Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.

The Prophet Daniel

The Prophecy in Context

In the ninth chapter of the book of Daniel, we read that, by reading the book of Jeremiah, the Prophet Daniel understood that the devastation of Jerusalem would end after 70 years.

The devastation of which Daniel speaks is generally understood to be the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC.

According to Jeremiah 25:11-12, the people of Israel would serve the king of Babylon for 70 years, and God would afterwards punish Babylon and bring the Jews back to their land (Jeremiah 29:10).

In Daniel 9, after realizing that the devastation would last only 70 years, Daniel prayed for God to forgive Israel. In his prayer, Daniel confessed that Israel had transgressed God’s law, recognized that the curse of God’s law had fallen on Israel, and prayed for forgiveness and the restoration of Israel in light God’s words to Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:14).

In answer to Daniel’s prayer, Gabriel (an angel) gave Daniel a prophecy concerning 70 weeks (Daniel 9:24-27), which weeks (according to Gabriel) would begin when the word to rebuild Jerusalem went forth (Daniel 7:25).

The Content of The Prophecy

As previously mentioned, the prophecy of the 70 weeks can be found in Daniel 9:24-27. The reader is advised to read the prophecy from either the New King James Version or the King James Version to understand (a) how the prophecy is usually interpreted and (b) matters I will discuss in my next article (you are invited to follow my profile to receive a notification when I publish my next article).

In verse 24, the Angel Gabriel told Daniel that in 70 weeks had been determined for seven events related Daniel’s people (Israel) and holy city (Jerusalem) to take place:

  1. Finish the transgression
  2. Make an end of sins
  3. Make reconciliation for guilt
  4. Bring everlasting righteousness
  5. Seal up vision
  6. Seal up prophecy
  7. Anoint the Most Holy

In verses 25-27, several other events are foretold:

Verse 25

  • There would be a command to restore and build Jerusalem
  • Seven weeks and sixty-two weeks would transpire
  • Messiah the Prince would be after those weeks
  • The open square and the wall would be built again
  • But those would be troublesome times

Verse 26

  • After the sixty-two weeks, Messiah would be cut off, but not for Himself
  • The people of the prince who is to come would destroy the city and the sanctuary
  • The end of the city would be with a flood
  • There would be desolations until the end of the war

Verse 27

  • He would confirm a covenant with may for one week
  • In the middle of the week, he would bring an end to sacrifice and offering
  • On the wing of abominations would come one who makes desolate
  • The determined consumption would be poured on the desolate

Considerations for Interpreting The Prophecy

Interpreters usually take several matters in consideration to provide an interpretation of the prophecy.

(1)

The “word” Gabriel spoke of, the word to rebuild and restore Jerusalem, the catalyst for the rest of the events in the prophecy, is most likely the permission Artaxerxes gave Nehemiah in 444 BC (Nehemiah 1:3, 2:1-8) to rebuild the wall and the gate of Jerusalem.

Although Cyrus had made a significant decree sometime between 538 BC and 536 BC (Ezra 1:1-3), interpreters identify the “word” with Artaxerxes’ permission instead of Cyrus’s decree because Cyrus’s decree was about rebuilding the temple, whereas Artaxerxes’ permission was about rebuilding the wall and gate of Jerusalem, which is more like the word Gabriel spoke of, a word to rebuild and restore Jerusalem.

(2)

Interpreters often identify the 70 weeks of which Gabriel spoke as 70 heptads of 7 years, not 70 literal weeks. The reason is that, in Hebrew, the text does not really say “seventy weeks” but “seventy sevens,” and Daniel had been considering the 70 years prophesied by Jeremiah.

Moreover, the prophecy of the 70 weeks clearly announces the destruction of Jerusalem and the second temple, which came to pass in the year 70 AD.

(3)

Another consideration is that, between the years 1 BC and 1 AD, there was no year 0.

(4)

Another consideration is that biblical years sometimes lasted 360 days instead of 365.25 days. This is usually seen from Revelation 12:6, where the 1,260 can be divided into 3.5 years of 360 days, or 42 months of 30 days.

Also, since Noah’s flood started on the 17th day of the second month and ended on the 17th day of the seventh months, and since Genesis indicates that the flood lasted 150 days, then each of the five months had to last on average 30 days, which means that a full year of such months would last 360 days.

(5)

The other consideration is that the 7 weeks and 62 weeks mentioned in Daniel 9:25 amount to 69 weeks. They interpret the passage to mean that he Messiah would come after a total of 69 heptads of 7 years.

Having taken all these things in consideration, we are now ready to look at the two prevalent Christian interpretations of Daniel’s 70 weeks.

The Two Prevalent Christian Views

A Preterist Interpretation of Daniel’s 70 Weeks

The more traditional and less popular interpretation of the 70 weeks prophecy is as follows:

  • The 70 weeks are 70 heptads of 70 years (a total of 490 years)
  • The heptads began with the decree on 444 BC.
  • The Messiah would be cut off (crucified) after the 69th heptad
  • The Messiah would be cut off (crucified) halfway through the 70th heptad
  • Through his death, the Messiah would make a covenant with many
  • Through his death, the Messiah would cause sacrifice and offering to cease
  • The prince to come is General Titus; and, the people of Titus are the Romans
  • The Romans would eventually destroy Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD (several years after the 70th week)

The way the more traditional and less popular interpretation calculates the dates is as follows:

  • The Messiah died halfway through the last heptad: that is, the Messiah died in the year 486.5 of the 70 heptads, not in the year 490
  • Interpreters convert the 486.5 years of biblical years that last 360 days to modern calendar years that last 365.25 days by multiplying 486.5 years by 360 days, and by afterwards dividing the product (174,140 days) by 365.25 days. The result is 479.5071 years.
  • Interpreters then add to 444 BC (that is, -444) the 479.5071 years, and the result is the year 34.5071, or the year 34.5 AD.
  • Finally, interpreters subtract one year to compensate for there being no year 0.
  • According to this interpretation, then, the Messiah died (and resurrected!) sometime in the year 33 AD.

Though the death of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, events Gabriel mentioned in Daniel 9:24 were fulfilled:

  • The transgression of Israel was over
  • The sins of Israel were over
  • Israel’s sins had been reconciled
  • Everlasting righteousness was brought in
  • The vision was sealed (Jeremiah’s vision)
  • The prophecy was sealed (Jeremiah’s prophecy)
  • Jesus, the Most Holy, was anointed king.

Notice that, from this point of view, all 490 years have been fulfilled.

Ken Wimer Explains The Seventy Weeks

A Futurist Interpretation of Daniel’s 70 Weeks

The newer and more popular interpretation of the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 is as follows:

  • The 70 weeks are 70 heptads of 70 years (a total of 490 years).
  • The heptads began with the decree on 444 BC.
  • After 69 heptads (but not during the 70th heptad), the Messiah (the Christ) would be cut off
  • Jerusalem and its temple would eventually be destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 AD
  • History would resume its course (from the year 70 AD to some unknown year that is still future)
  • The last heptad of 7 years is the Great Tribulation described in the book of Revelation
  • The king who makes a covenant is not the Messiah, but the Antichrist
  • The Antichrist will make a covenant with many (with Israel) for 7 years
  • After 3.5 years, the Antichrist will betray Israel, and cause sacrifices to cease (this interpretation assumes and maintains that there will be a third temple in Jerusalem during the still future great tribulation).

The way the newer and more popular interpretation calculates the dates is as follows:

  • The 70 heptads represent 490 years.
  • The Messiah died after the year 483 of the 70 heptads
  • Interpreters covert the 483 biblical years of 360 days into modern years of 365.25 days by multiplying 483 years by 360 days, and by afterwards dividing the product (173,880 days) by 365.25 days. The result is 476.0574 years.
  • Interpreters then add to 444 BC (that is, -444) the 476.0574 years, and the result is the year 32.0574, or the year 32 AD.
  • Finally, interpreters subtract one year to compensate for there being no year 0.
  • Although it would seem that, according to this interpretation, the Messiah died (and resurrected!) sometime in the year 31 AD, interpreters generally arrive to the year 32 AD through additional considerations of the season when the decree in 444 BC was given.

Though the death of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, events Gabriel mentioned in Daniel 9:24 were fulfilled:

  • The transgression of Israel was over
  • The sins of Israel were over
  • Israel’s sins had been reconciled
  • Everlasting righteousness was brought in
  • The vision was sealed (Jeremiah’s vision)
  • The prophecy was sealed (Jeremiah’s prophecy)
  • Jesus, the Most Holy, was anointed king.

Notice that, from this point of view, only 483 years have been fulfilled. Daniel’s 70th heptad (or 70th week) is the Great Tribulation, of which the book of Revelation speaks, and which will take place in the future.

Mark Winger Explains The Seventy Weeks

Comparing The Two Interpretations

As you can see, both interpretations understand Daniel’s prophecy about the 70 weeks to be really about the crucifixion of the Messiah, the Christ. Both interpretations maintain that Jesus of Nazareth is that Messiah, and that He died sometime around the year 33 AD. For this reason, this prophecy is often used in Christian apologetics.

Of course, there are also interesting and important differences between both interpretations. According to the preterist interpretation, it is the Messiah who makes the covenant with many, and who causes sacrifice and offering to cease (and He did all this in the past). According to the futurist interpretation, it is the Antichrist who makes the covenant with many, and who causes sacrifice and offering to cease (and he will do all this in the future).

In my previous articles on Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, I have moved toward a preterist interpretation of the books of Daniel and Revelation. I am leaning toward this interpretation for the sole reason that I do not see how the seventieth week is still in our future (if you had been a Jew living in the times of Daniel, you would not have concluded from the passage that the 70th week would take place over two thousand years after the 69th week).

However, having analyzed the prophecy of Daniel’s 70 weeks in more detail, I am not fully persuaded bv either of these interpretations. Therefore, I invite you to follow my profile to receive a notification when I publish my next article on Daniel’s 70 weeks.

© 2022 Marcelo Carcach