7. Daniel's Vision of the Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9:20-27)


Audio (40:27)

Michelangelo, 'Daniel' (1508-12), fresco, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Vatican, after restoration of 1980-94.
Michelangelo, 'Daniel' (1508-12), fresco, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Vatican, after restoration of 1980-94.

Daniel's vision of the Seventy Weeks (9:20-27) is closely tied to Daniel's prayer of confession and intercession earlier in the chapter (9:1-19). However, because Daniel's vision is controversial in our day, I've decided to devote an entire lesson to this vision, in particular to the four verses that conclude the chapter (9:24-27).

Gabriel Appears to Daniel (9:20-23)

20  While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill -- 21  while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight[235] about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22  He instructed me and said to me, 'Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23  As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision." (9:20-23)

The evening sacrifice would have been between 3:00 and 4:00 pm. The bringer of this vision is the angel Gabriel, whom we met in Daniel 8:16, and who, in the New Testament, appears to Zechariah and Mary.

The vision came in direct response to Daniel's intercessory prayer for the return of God's people to their homeland in Jerusalem (9:23). The vision that follows, confirms to Daniel that Jerusalem will be rebuilt (9:25), but then reveals that the return to the Holy Land and rebuilding the temple at Jerusalem is not the climax of Bible history. Much is yet to come.

Seventy Sevens (9:24)

Miller calls verses 24-27 "four of  the most controversial verses in the Bible."[236] Daniel has prayed for the restoration of Israel, since the seventy years prophesied by Jeremiah are nearly complete. But Gabriel answers with seventy-sevens.

"Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy." (9:24)

Verse 24 tells us that six purposes will be completed over this whole Seventy Sevens time period. How you interpret these actions depends on how you interpret "the anointed one" in verse 26. Since I take "the anointed one" in verse 26 ultimately as Jesus, not the high priest Onias III, this affects my interpretation below. The first two purposes seem closely related.

  1. To finish transgression. The word suggests restricting or restraining sin.[237]
  2. To put an end to sin. One of the words points to sealing to designate that something is securely closed.[238]

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

"The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." (1 John 3:8)

  1. To atone for wickedness, that is, to forgive. "Atone for" is kāpar, "to make atonement, reconciliation." The name of the Jewish feast of Yom Kippur uses a related word, kippūr, "atonement."[239] Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

"He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)

  1. To bring in everlasting righteousness. Our righteousness does not depend on us, but on Jesus who justifies us, that is, declares us righteous.

"By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities." (Isaiah 53:11)

"For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD,
as the waters cover the sea." (Habakkuk 2:14; Isaiah 11:9b)

  1. To seal up the vision and prophecy. To seal could mean to affirm with an official seal, or to close up something so no one could see it until the seal is finally broken. I don't think this means that God will no longer reveal through prophecy; we have prophets in the New Testament Church. Rather, it probably means to authenticate by accomplishing all that God had revealed to Jeremiah, the focus of Daniel's prayer of intercession earlier in this chapter.
  2. To anoint the most holy. This could refer to anointing the temple when it is rebuilt, but probably points to the anointing of the Anointed One, Jesus the Messiah, who will accomplish God's work (Matthew 12:6).

Baldwin says that this verse "is speaking of the accomplishment of God's purpose for all history."[240] I don't see how these actions could have been completed by the time of the Maccabees, as some interpreters would have us to believe. They are the work of God through his Christ, Jesus our Lord.

Q1. (Daniel 9:24) In what ways can we find in Jesus the fulfillment of the six tasks found in verse 24?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1582-q1-fulfilled-in-jesus/

Assumption behind the Interpretations

My approach to studying this prophecy may be frustrating to some. Instead of giving you the "right" answer to the puzzle, I'm going to examine the various ways interpreters have solved each piece of the puzzle. After looking at the prophecy piece by piece, I'll give you my own tentative conclusion. By that time, I hope, you'll realize that our interpretations must only be tentative, since so many assumptions must be made in interpretation, and unless all of our assumptions are correct, our interpretation will be flawed. Yes, I think we can see the overall pattern, but some of the details elude us.

The Seventy Sevens -- literal or figurative?

"Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble." (9:25)

In verse 25, Gabriel divides the entire period into three parts.

  1. The first seven "sevens."
  2. The next sixty-two "sevens."
  3. The last "seven," is divided in the middle, as we'll see in verse 27.

How to interpret these periods is fraught with difficulties. The first issue we have to face is whether to take the numbers as literal years or as symbolic periods.

Literal Years

The most straightforward approach would seem to take these numbers as years, since the context here is Daniel praying about the seventy years of exile prophesied by Jeremiah. To support this conclusion, the calculation of the Year of Jubilee in Leviticus (which is related to Jeremiah's prophecy) seems to translate Sevens into years.

"Count off seven sabbaths of years -- seven times seven years -- so that the seven sabbaths of years amount to a period of forty-nine years." (Leviticus 25:8)

Seventy Sevens would equal 490 years. The problem is that while you can get one or two of the periods to work using the approach of literal years, you can't make all three periods work easily. In other words, no view of the literal numbers interpretations I am aware of allows you take the numbers at face value without further explanation. I'll discuss the details below under the heading "Counting the Years."

Symbolic Numbers

An alternative approach is to see the Seventy Sevens as symbolic numbers, since seven is often a symbol of completeness in the Bible. Ten, on the other hand, seems to be a "convenient rounded figure for an amount greater than a few."[241] Seventy, a multiple of 7 and 10 seems to be used symbolically as 70 nations on earth (Genesis 10) and 70 disciples sent out (Luke 10). In 2 Chronicles 36:21, Jeremiah's "seventy years" of keeping Sabbath years seems to count only the period between the desolation of the temple (587 BC) and the decree of Cyrus (539 BC), which is actually 48 years, not 70 actual years.

 Here are a couple of examples of numbers being used symbolically in the New Testament.

  • Forgiveness. Peter asked how many times he had to forgive. Jesus answered seventy times seven (or, perhaps, seventy-seven; Matthew 18:20-21). Here Jesus takes the number of completeness and multiplies it by the number of completeness, then by the number 10. Would Peter only have to forgive 490 times maximum? No. That's not the point. Peter must always forgive.
  • The 144,000 (Revelation 7:4; 14:1, 3) is a symbolic number -- the number of apostles multiplied by the number of patriarchs times 1,000. One thousand is the common "large number," used much like we use it in the phrase, "I wouldn't do that for a million dollars." Is 144,000 a precise number? No. It is a symbolic number.

Goldingay argues that Daniel is not trying to offer chronological information but "chronographical," that is a stylized scheme of history used to interpret historical data, rather than arising from it.[242] F. F. Bruce prefers the term "schematic numbers."[243] Similarly, E. J. Young sees these as symbolic periods of time, not literal.[244]

Seven "Sevens" and Sixty-two "Sevens" (9:25)

The first two periods are described in verse 25.

"Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble." (9:25)

Most of the interpretations I have seen lump these two periods together, 7 + 62 = 69, rather than explain what is happening during the first Seven. What happens during the first Seven just doesn't seem to be very clear to us.

The Anointed One

Once you've decided whether the numbers are literal or symbolic, you need to determine the identity of "the anointed one, the ruler."[245] We see two mentions of an anointed one in verses 25 and 26.

"Anointed One" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "Messiah" (KJV) is māshîaḥ (from which we get our word "Messiah"), "anointed one," from māshaḥ, "anoint, spread a liquid."[246] The word is sometimes used of kings (1 Samuel 2:10; 2 Samuel 22:51; Psalm 2:2; 18:50). High priests were anointed (Exodus 40:13; Leviticus 16:32). Once God refers to Cyrus II as his "anointed one" (Isaiah 45:1).

"Ruler" (NIV), "prince" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) in both verses 25 and 26 is nāgîd, "ruler, leader, captain"[247] (though they refer to different individuals). It is important to note that there are no capital letters in Hebrew or Aramaic to denote deity, so the reader must determine (rather than the text itself) whether this anointed one is Jesus or someone else. As we'll discuss in a moment, the two primary figures suggested for the "anointed one" in 9:26 are either Onias III, the last high priest of the line of Zadok, or Jesus of Nazareth.

Jerusalem Will be Rebuilt (9:25)

According to verse 25 Jerusalem will be rebuilt[248] with public squares[249] and a moat[250], a defensive structure associated with a rampart. This rebuilding will be carried out "in times of trouble." The accounts of Ezra and Nehemiah indicate the enemies who sought to stop the rebuilding of Jerusalem's wall. I don't know that Jerusalem ever had an actual mote; perhaps the word indicates general defensive structures.

Determining the Beginning Point

The next question facing the interpreter is the beginning point of the prophecy, when the "issuing of the decree[251] to restore and rebuild Jerusalem" was given. Certainly, Cyrus II gave a decree about 538 BC allowing the first wave of exiles to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple under Zerubbabel (Ezra 1).[252] However, apparently the city itself wasn't restored nor its walls completed at that time (Nehemiah 2:12-15). So others take the beginning of the "Seven" from a decree[253] by King Artaxerxes I Longimanus (464-424 BC), directing Nehemiah and Ezra to return to Jerusalem and repair its walls (Ezra 7; Nehemiah 2:9), which occurred about 445 BC.[254]

Counting the Years

Interpreters now face the question of how to count the years. Of course, if you take the numbers as symbolic, making an exact count isn't as important. But if you see these as literal days, then counting is very important. Here are some approaches.

Maccabean Interpretation. Non-messianic interpreters, typically those who see Daniel as pseudo-prophecy written after the fact, take the seven seventies as literal years. Behrmann took the beginning point as Jeremiah's prophecy (605 BC), 49 years later, Cyrus's accession (556 BC), and -- if you let the 49 and 434 years run concurrently -- the death of the high priest Onias III in 171 BC, followed seven years later by the rededication of the temple (164 BC).[255] Others who hold this interpretation feel that Daniel was just mistaken about the number of years.

Messianic Interpretation. The other main group of interpreters see the "anointed one" as Jesus the Messiah.

It's important to note that the exact date for Jesus' crucifixion isn't without question, but based on the officials at Jesus' trial, considerations of astronomy (which determined the setting of Jewish months), and the framework of Jesus' ministry, most scholars see Jesus' death taking place on Passover of 30 AD or of 33 AD.[256] The year 32 AD is considered "impossible."

If you take the beginning point as Artaxerxes's Decree to Nehemiah (445/444 BC), then 483 years take you to Jesus' death at Passover, 32/33 AD, but only if you use so-called "prophetic years," that is, lunar (360 day) years, rather than 365-day years (as the Jews did).[257] The final seven years, seen as the period of the tribulation, would come after an indeterminate gap. This is the view, for example, of Walvoord and most dispensationalist interpreters.

Another approach is to take the beginning point as Artaxerxes's decree to Ezra in 458 BC. This takes you to the beginning of Jesus' public ministry, 26 AD. The stopping of sacrifices and offerings would refer to Jesus' death, 3-1/2 years later. The final half-week is pushed into indefinite future.

Both of these Messianic interpretations posit a "gap" or "parenthesis" to take up the space between Christ's death and Christ's Second Coming. The problem is that this "gap theory" is rather arbitrary and has no basis in Daniel's prophecy or the rules of Bible interpretation. It could be correct, but there is no evidence in the text to support it.

The Final "Seven" (9:26-27)

"26  After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come[258] will destroy[259] the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War[260] will continue until the end, and desolations[261] have been decreed[262]. 27  He will confirm a covenant[263] with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple][264] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end[265] that is decreed is poured out[266] on him.[267]" (9:26-27)

Let's examine what will happen during the final Seven. Though I believe in a Messianic interpretation of these verses, I'll show you how some interpret this as fulfilled by the high priest and Antiochus Epiphanes. I do this because I think it is likely that Antiochus is a type[268] or forerunner of the Antichrist (the antitype).

1. "The Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing[269] (26a). "Cut off" means here, "to destroy by a violent act of man or nature," that is, be killed.[270] The Maccabean interpretation sees this as Onias III, the last legitimate high priest of the family of Zadok, a pious and faithful man (2 Maccabees 3:1), who served from 187-175 BC. He was replaced by Antiochus Epiphanes in 175 BC  and then murdered a few years later. None of his offspring served as priests after him. He had nothing. The messianic view is that this refers to Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified as a common criminal, and had no physical offspring. He was dead and buried. He had nothing. But he rose! Hallelujah!

2. "The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary" (26b). The Maccabean interpretation sees "the ruler who will come"[271] as Antiochus Epiphanes, who caused widespread death and destruction in Jerusalem and defiled the temple, though the temple itself was not demolished nor was the city razed (1 Maccabees 1:30-31). Or this ruler could well refer to the Roman emperor or the general who besieged Jerusalem from 67 to 70 AD, and utterly destroyed both the temple and the city of Jerusalem.[272] Or this ruler could be the Antichrist referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2 (written about 50 AD), 1 John 2:18; 4:3 (written somewhere between 70 and 90 AD); and Revelation 13 (written about 90-95 AD).

3. "The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed" (9:26c). The "end"[273] -- whether it refers to the city or to anointed one  -- will come like a flood, quickly and overwhelmingly. War[274] will continue. Desolations[275] -- an emptying of the city or land, and/or appalling events -- are decreed[276] by God. For the Maccabean interpretation, we read in 2 Maccabees:

"[Antiochus] commanded his soldiers to cut down relentlessly everyone they met and to kill those who went into their houses. Then there was massacre of young and old, destruction of boys, women, and children, and slaughter of young girls and infants. Within the total of three days eighty thousand were destroyed, forty thousand in hand-to-hand fighting, and as many were sold into slavery as were killed." (2 Maccabees 5:12-14, NRSV)

Jesus talked about wars continuing.

"And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs." (Matthew 24:6-8)

Revelation speaks about final battles (Revelation 16:14-16; 19:11-21; 20:7-10).

4. "He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven'" (9:27a). "Confirm the covenant" (NIV, KJV), "make a strong covenant" (NRSV, ESV) is two words, berît, "covenant" and the verb gābar, "prevail, be mighty, have strength."[277] Baldwin observes that this verb "has the implication of forcing an agreement by means of superior strength."[278] "He" seems to refer to "the ruler who will come." The Maccabean interpretation sees this as Antiochus Epiphanes who found apostate Jews to cooperate with him in Hellenizing Judea[279] (1 Maccabees 1:11a).

Antiochus sought to unite his kingdom through a single pagan religion (1 Maccabees 1:41-43). Probably a covenant was made by the Romans with cooperating Jews during the Jewish rebellion in 67-70 AD. But this could also refer to the Antichrist described in 2 Thessalonians 2, who authorizes only those who bear the "mark of the beast" to buy and sell (Revelation 13:16-17).

5. "In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering" (9:27b). Clearly Antiochus Epiphanes put a temporary end to the Jewish sacrificial system in the temple (1 Maccabees 1:45). Elsewhere in Daniel's visions we see clear references to Antiochus Epiphanes.

"His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice." (11:31a)

Of course, the daily sacrifices were ended by Antiochus Epiphanes.[280] That would be the Maccabean interpretation.

However, when Jerusalem fell in 70 AD, the Romans sacked and destroyed the temple, utterly ending the sacrificial system permanently; it has not been restored to this day. Christians see the sacrificial system as obsolete, fulfilled by Christ's death on the cross for our sins.

Then, putting an end to sacrifice and offering could refer to the Antichrist, the "man of lawlessness," who Paul talks about.

"He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God." (2 Thessalonians 2:4)

What temple this is we can't be sure. Some believe that the temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt before Christ returns, but this could be a symbolic or spiritual use of "temple," which we sometimes see in Paul's epistles. According to Revelation, the Antichrist, the "beast rising out of the sea," will exercise authority and persecute God's people for 42 months (one half of seven years), demanding exclusive worship (Revelation 13:5-8).

6. "And on a wing [of the temple][281] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation" (9:27c). This was literally fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes in 168 BC. 1 Maccabees, written about 100 BC, uses a similar phrase:

"Now on the fifteenth day of Chislev [November/December] in the one hundred forty-fifth year [168 BC], they erected a desolating sacrilege[282] on the altar of burnt offering." (1 Maccabees 1:54)

In Daniel's final vision we see two references to this -- apparently referring to the desecration under Antiochus Epiphanes. He erected in the temple a shrine to Zeus and sacrificed pigs on the altar. There are other references in Daniel also.

"His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation." (11:31)

"From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days." (12:11)

However, we see the same phrase in Jesus' predictions of the fall of Jerusalem as a future event, fulfilled (at least partially) in 70 AD.

"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel -- let the reader understand...." (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14)

As mentioned above, Paul tells us of a similar desecration by the Antichrist, "the man of lawlessness":

"... He sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God." (2 Thessalonians 2:4)

7. "The end that is decreed is poured out on him" (9:27d). Finally, God will put an end[283] to this.  This ruler who opposes God and his people will himself be judged. God's wrath will be poured out[284] on this one who desolates God's temple[285]. Antiochus Epiphanes died suddenly of disease in 164 BC, four years after the "abomination of desolation" was erected in the temple. The Roman General Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. He became Emperor Augustus Caesar in 79 AD and died of a fever two years later. And we read that the Beast (the Antichrist) and the False Prophet are thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). There is judgment. The Kingdom of God prevails.

A Synopsis of the Major Interpretations of the Seventy "Sevens"

Is your head swimming yet? I sympathize with you. Let me summarize. Perhaps that will help. There are four major interpretations, with lots of variations within them.

1. Literal time periods with Antiochus Epiphanes as the end-point

This Maccabean interpretation begins the 490 years at the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, and the  termination as Antiochus's persecution (164/163 BC). But this is only 422 years, so these interpreters assume that Daniel was mistaken about chronology and the coming of the kingdom. This view sometimes takes the "anointed one, the ruler" in verse 25 as Cyrus II (or Zerubbabel or Joshua, Zechariah 4:14), and the "anointed one" in verse 26 to refer to Onias III, the last legitimate high priest of the descendants of Zadok, deposed in 175 BC  and murdered in 171 BC.[286]

The so-called "historical view" has the advantage of a close tie-in with the theme of Antiochus Epiphanes as clearly seen in chapters 8, 10-12. A good case can be made that Antiochus is the initial focus of Daniel's prophecy (though its proponents generally interpret Daniel's visions as historical narratives written after the fact as if they were predictive prophecy). Baldwin writes:

"The historical interpretation is surely correct in seeing a primary fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy in the second century BC, but to confine its meaning to that period is to close one's eyes to the witness of Jesus and the New Testament writers in general that it also had a future significance."[287]

2. Symbolic time periods with the first century AD as the end-point

A second view sees the time periods as symbolic, not literal. This is the view, for example, held by conservative amillennialist scholar E.J. Young.[288] Seven Sevens cover the period from the decree of Cyrus until the completion of the work of Ezra and Nehemiah, approximately 440 to 400 BC. Sixty-two Sevens from about 400 BC to the first advent of Christ, "who alone," says young, "can be described as an anointed one, a prince."[289] During this time the city is completely rebuilt, though in stressful times. The final Seven encompasses Christ's First Advent to sometime after Christ's death, but before 70 AD.

3. Literal time periods with Christ's Second Coming as the end-point

A third view, often held by premillennialist and dispensational interpreters, sees the 70 Sevens as literal time periods -- years -- with Christ's Coming as the end-point. The seven Sevens extend from command to rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra, 458 BC or Nehemiah, 445 BC) to the completion of work, 49 years later. The sixty-two Sevens (434 years) extend either to Christ's baptism (about 26 AD) or his presentation of himself as Messiah on Palm Sunday (32/33 AD). Key to this view is that you stop counting for "the time of the Gentiles." That whole period is skipped. The final Seven years begin at the end of present age, with terrible tribulation for Israel and the world, during which the majority of Israel will be saved. The final Seven is terminated by Christ's coming and Kingdom, which will last 1,000 years.[290] One obvious weakness of this view is that it uses 360-day "prophetic years" rather than 365-day years as did the Jews. Also it arbitrarily skips counting years during the Church Age. Typical of this view would be Miller and Walvoord.

4.  Symbolic time periods with Christ's Second Coming as the end-point

A fourth view believes that the 70 Sevens are symbolic periods of time and are a prophecy of Old and New Testament church history from Cyrus' decree (538 BC) until Christ's return. The details may vary, but this view typically holds that seven Sevens extend from Cyrus' decree until the coming of Christ, about 550 years. The sixty-two Sevens extend from Christ's coming to persecution of the church by Antichrist (at least 2,000 years).  The final Seven seems to include the Great Tribulation and ends with Christ's advent. Keil and Baldwin hold this view. Baldwin sees the last Seven beginning with the first coming of Christ and extending until his Second Coming.

My Conclusions about Daniel's Seventy Weeks

It's only fair, having taken you through the various issues concerning Daniel's Seventy Weeks and the various interpretations, to let you know where I come out -- and why.

Let me begin by sharing that I courted my wife over jigsaw puzzles. I can remember lining up dozens of pieces of an uninterrupted blue sky and trying to fit each of the pieces to each other in each direction to see if I could make any of them go together. A few times I would put a couple of pieces together that almost fit, but ended up damaging the edges of both pieces. I can also remember putting together a puzzle only to find that a few key pieces were just missing. It was frustrating -- except that it afforded an excuse to spend a pleasant time with my girlfriend!

I think Daniel's Vision of the Seventy Weeks is something like a puzzle with some of the pieces missing. Part of it seems clear enough, but we're missing something, like part of the vision is "sealed up" until the Last Days when it may be revealed. I don't want to force pieces to fit that don't really fit. But some parts of the vision seem intelligible to me.

Numbers. I'm convinced that Daniel's numbers are not precise, literal numbers that come out exactly. So far I don't think that anyone has come up with a scheme to make all the numbers fit precisely. Perhaps we need to get over our twenty-first century precision and be willing to round up or down a few years. I'm not sure the ancients were as precise as we are concerning such things, especially in the case of numbers that surely have some symbolic sense. Having said that, I think it's quite remarkable that the period from a decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the time when "the Anointed One will be cut off" (9:26a), that is, Christ's death on the cross, is so close to 483 years -- not precise, but very close indeed!

Anointed One. I believe that "the anointed one" in both verses 25 and 26 refers to Jesus the Messiah, not to an anointed high priest.

Antichrist. "The people of the ruler who will come" refers, I believe, to the followers of a future Antichrist. The reason I believe this is that both Jesus and Paul and the Book of Revelation see the "abomination of desolation" and Antichrist as a future event. While Antiochus Epiphanes is certainly a type of the Antichrist in the Book of Daniel, the figure that we see here and elsewhere in Daniel and the New Testament far exceeds him in wickedness and power.

Tribulation and Final Half-Week. The Final Week of Daniel's Seventy Weeks seems to refer to the same period of Great Tribulation that we see in Jesus' teaching on the Last Days (Matthew 24) and Paul's exposition on the Man of Lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2). "In the middle of the 'seven'" (9:27b) the persecution seems to be the greatest. This seems to conform to the three-and-one-half year time frame that we see elsewhere in Daniel (7:25; 12:7, 11, 12; 8:13-14) and in Revelation (11:2-3; 12:6, 14;  13:5). I'm uncomfortable with the "gap theory" that leaves out the whole Church Age and skips directly to the Great Tribulation; perhaps I'd rather call this a missing piece of the puzzle that wasn't revealed to Daniel.

The End. It is also clear to me that "the end that is decreed" (12:27) refers to judgment by the Ancient of Days and his Christ, the Son of Man (7:9-14, 26-27), when Christ returns, the believers are raised, and the final judgment takes place.

I think it's important that we have great humility concerning whatever interpretation we hold of Daniel's Seventy Weeks. We shouldn't fight over it. We shouldn't discriminate against brothers and sisters who don't agree with our particular scheme. History is littered with many, many, many schemes to interpret Daniel. Who are we to be so proud and inflexible?

Q2. (Daniel 9:24-27) Why do you think people fight with each other over the interpretation of difficult Bible passages? According to Romans 14:1-5, what should be our attitude towards those who disagree with us on the non-essentials of the faith?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1583-q2-love-and-disagreement/

Q3. (Daniel 9:24-27) Why do you think there are so many interpretations of Daniel's vision of the Seventy Sevens? What is your interpretation of the various key parts of the vision?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1584-q3-interpreting-the-70-weeks/

Lessons for Disciples

Daniel: Faithful Discipleship in a Foreign Land, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Available in book formats: paperback, Kindle, PDF

This is a difficult passage. Nevertheless, it has several lessons for us disciples.

  1. Prayer and fasting touch the heart of God. Verse 23 reminds us that God sent an answer to Daniel as soon as he had begun to pray.
  2. Humility. Over the many centuries, there have been a great many different interpretations of Daniel's vision. We ought to approach every interpretation with a bit of skepticism -- and humility.
  3. Jesus is the fulfillment of God's plan for mankind. Verse 24 can't be fulfilled by man without God. But this is what Jesus our Messiah came to do!
  4. It's going to get worse before it gets better. Verses 26 and 27 foresee war, destruction, desolation, and persecution (also seen in Jesus' teaching in Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation). But at the end, the destroyer will be destroyed. We must prepare ourselves to endure over a considerable period of time.
  5. God will deliver his people. Daniel's vision has often been an encouragement to saints undergoing persecution. He knows the pain of the persecution his people endure. And that persecution will not last forever. The Redeemer will end it all with his Second Coming.

Q4. Why do you think Daniel's visions and prophecies have been an encouragement to Christians throughout the centuries when they are undergoing severe persecution?
http://www.joyfulheart.com/forums/topic/1585-q4-encouragement-in-persecution/

Prayer

Father, thank you for prophets who see things afar off. Thank you that you are bringing an end to the reign of terror brought about by the world, the flesh, and the devil. Protect your people during times of persecution and help us to remain faithful to you. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"24  Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.

25  Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26  After the sixty-two 'sevens,' the Anointed One will be cut off 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. 27  He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing [of the temple] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him." (9:24-27, NIV)

Endnotes

[235] "Swift flight" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "being caused to fly swiftly" (KJV), "in my extreme weariness" (NASB) is the Hofal participle of the verb ʿēp along with the noun ye'āp, from the same root. BDB shows the meaning as "be weary, faint," which, doubled with ye'āp would intensify it to "extreme weariness." Goldingay (Daniel, p. 228) notes that the translations "to fly swiftly," literally, "flying in flight" (NJB), presuppose that ʿēp has a homonym meaning, "to fly," which would be a by-form of ʿûp, "fly, fly about, fly away." Miller (Daniel, in loc.) sees "extreme weariness" as a better translation since: (1) Conjecture of a Hebrew verb is necessary to come up with "swift flight." (2) The Scriptures don't assume that all angels have wings; here Gabriel has the appearance of "a man" (9:21). (3) Daniel would have been extremely tired after a prolonged period of fasting and praying (9:3). TWOT comments: "However, it would seem equally strange for angels to grow weary but the action of this verb could perhaps be assigned to Daniel who may be wearied because of his praying and fasting (cf. KD loc. cit). Since seraphim and cherubim have wings and since angels appear with wings in Enoch 61, perhaps it would be best to accept the traditional translations--'fly swiftly'" (TWOT #1582).

[236] Miller, Daniel, in loc.

[237] "Finish" is kālāʾ, "withhold, shut up, keep back, refrain, forbid." The basic meaning of this root is to restrict the flow or movement of a thing or person ... to indicate the interruption of what is in progress or would naturally be in progress (J.N. Oswalt, TWOT #980).

[238] "Put an end to" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "make an end to" (KJV) is two words: tāmam, "be complete, finished" (BDB) and ḥātam, "affix a seal, seal up ... sealing designates that which is securely enclosed" (Jack P. Lewis, TWOT #780). "Sin" is a doubling of the Hebrew noun ḥaṭṭāʾt, "sin, sin offering."

[239] TWOT #1023.

[240] Baldwin, Daniel, p. 169.

[241] B.C. Birch, "Number," ISBE 3:561.

[242] Goldingay (Daniel, p. 257) cites L.L. Grabbe, "Chronography in Hellenistic Jewish Historiography," in Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers, 17 (1979), 43-68, especially pp. 43-44.

[243] F. F. Bruce, Biblical Exegesis in the Qumran Texts (London: Tyndale Press, 1960), pp. 67-74. Speaking of the use of such numbers found in Qumran texts, Bruce says: "The figures given are schematic rather than material on which a chronologer could build with confidence" (p. 68).

[244] Young (Daniel, p. 196) quotes Keil (and believes he is correct), that the reference is to "an intentionally indefinite designation of a period of time measured by the number seven, whose chronological duration must be determined on other grounds."

[245] Punctuation of verse 25 is seen by some to be significant.  The NIV, NASB, and KJV put a comma or no punctuation after "seven weeks" (following Theodotion's Greek translation and the Latin Vulgate). The NRSV and ESV put a semicolon or period after "seven weeks," indicating the atnach (a caret mark) in the ninth century AD Masoretic Text. Of course, there were no vowel points or punctuation marks in the early Hebrew text, as indicated in scrolls recovered from Qumran. According to some, the full stop makes it more likely that the anointed one in verse 25 can be a different person than the anointed one in verse 26. I don't think there's enough evidence to make a decision based on punctuation.

[246] Victor P. Hamilton, māshîaḥ, TWOT #1255c.

[247] Nāgîd is from a root denoting, "to place a matter high, conspicuous before a person" (Leonard J. Coppes, TWOT #1289b). Harris points out, "The word is used almost fifty times and is applied to leaders in several fields -- governmental, military and religious. The word usually is singular and refers to the man at the top, the king, the high priest, etc. But there are references to leaders and captains in the army" (R. Laird Harris, TWOT 1289b).

[248] "Rebuilt" (NIV), "built again" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is two verbs, shûb, "return" and bānâ, "build, rebuild" (TWOT #255).

[249] "Streets" (NIV, NRSV, KJV), "squares" (ESV) is the singular noun reḥōb, "open place." The term is always used of a square, market place, or pasture within a town or village (William White, TWOT #2143d).

[250] "Trench" (NIV), "moat" (NRSV, ESV), "wall" (KJV) is ḥārûṣ, "trench, moat," only found here. Basic to the meaning of the verb ḥāraṣ are the concepts "to cut or sharpen" and "to decide (TWOT #752b). In Akkadian harīṣu denotes a ditch or moat associated with a rampart (Goldingay, Daniel, p. 229).

[251] "Issuing of the decree" (NIV), "the word went out" (NRSV), "the going out of the word" (ESV), "the going forth of the commandment" (KJVB) is two nouns, môṣāʾ, "act or place of going out" (TWOT #893c) and  dābār, "word, speaking, speech, thing" (TWOT #399a).

[252] "Proclamation" in Ezra 1:1 is two words, the noun qwl, "voice" and the Hiphil stem of the verb ʿābar, "pass over/by/through," here, "cause to make/move" (TWOT #1556). The NRSV renders it: "sent a herald."

[253] "Decree" in Ezra 7:13, 21 is  ṭeʿēm, "taste, judgment, command" (TWOT #2757a).

[254] Walvoord, Daniel, pp. 224-227; Baldwin, Daniel, p. 170. However, some take this king to be Artaxerxes II Mnemon (404-359 BC), dating the return about 398 BC (C.E. Amerding, "Ezra, Book of," ISBE 2:264-266; R.K. Harrison, "Artaxerxes," ISBE 1:306).

[255] Georg Behrmann, Das Buch Daniel (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck, 1894), cited in Goldingay, Daniel, p. 257.

[256] H.W. Hoehner and J.K. Brown, "Chronology," in Joel B. Green, et al. (editors), Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (second edition; InterVarsity Press, 2013), p. 137.

[257] Hoehner, Harold W., "Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, Pt 6 : Daniel's Seventy Weeks and New Testament Chronology." Bibliotheca Sacra 132 (1975), pp. 47-65. He makes some corrections to the work of Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) in The Coming Prince (London; Hodder, 1881; tenth edition published about 1914-15).

[258] "The ruler who will come" uses the noun nāgîd we saw in verse 25, but is clearly another ruler than the Anointed One. His "people" will "destroy the city and the sanctuary."

[259] "Destroy" is shāḥat, "destroy, corrupt." The object of this verb may be a city (Sodom, Jerusalem); a dynasty (the house of David); nations who harass God's people (Babylon); most often God's own covenant people and their possessions (Victor P. Hamilton, TWOT #2370).

[260] "War" is milḥāmâ, "battle, war," from lāham, "fight, do battle" (TWOT #1104c).

[261] "Desolation/s" in verses 26 and 27 is shāmēm, "be desolate, appalled," which we saw in 8:13. Cf. 9:18. Also in 11:31 and 12:11, in the phrase, "abomination that causes desolation."

[262] "Decreed" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "determined" (KJV), also in verse 27, is the Niphal participle of ḥāraṣ, "cut, sharpen, decide, determine." In most places "the word connotes the concept of 'determined' and refers to something which cannot be changed. Perhaps the basic idea of 'cut' is evident here in that that which is incised cannot be altered" (TWOT #752).

[263] "Confirm the covenant" (NIV, KJV), "make a strong covenant" (NRSV, ESV) is two words, berît, "covenant" and the Hiphil stem of gābar, "prevail, be mighty, have strength, be great"(TWOT #310). "It has the implication of forcing an agreement by means of superior strength" (Baldwin, Daniel, p. 171).

[264] "Wing [of the temple]" (NIV), "in their place" (NRSV), "the wing of abominations" (ESV), "overspreading of abominations" (KJV). The Hebrew word is kānāp, "wing, winged, border, corner, shirt" (TWOT 1003a). The "pinnacle" of the temple in Matthew 4:5 is literally "little wing" (Greek pterugion) (Young, Daniel, p. 218).

[265] "End" (NIV), "consummation" (KJV) is kālâ, "full end," from kālâ, "accomplish, cease, determine." The basic idea of this root is "to bring a process to completion (John N. Oswalt, TWOT #982).

[266] "Poured out" is nātak, "be poured, drop (of rain), be melted or molten." Such things as water, groans, divine wrath, and curses are poured forth (TWOT #1442).

[267] "Him" (NIV), "the desolator" (NRSV, ESV), "the desolate" (KJV) is the Qal participle of shāmēm, the verb used in the phrase "abomination that causes desolation."

[268] A look at vocabulary is important. You often see the words "type" and "antitype," where the type prefigures the actual antitype, "One that is foreshadowed by or identified with an earlier symbol or type, such as a figure in the New Testament who has a counterpart in the Old Testament" (TheFreeDictionary.com). "Type" means "a figure, representation, or symbol of something to come," such as an event in the Old Testament that is believed to foreshadow another in the New Testament (TheFreeDictionary.com). "Prototype" is similar, but slightly different: "an individual that exhibits the essential features of a later type" (Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary). Just to confuse us, "prototype" can also be a synonym of "archetype," which means, "the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies" (Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary).

[269] Because of the variableness of this word, Baldwin notes, "The exact meaning is far from clear." "Have nothing" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "not for himself" (KJV) is 'ayin, "nothing, nought." This word is basically a negative substantive used most frequently in the construct form. The word therefore has no single meaning and the exact translation must be determined in each context (Jack B. Scott, TWOT #81).

[270] "Cut off" is the Niphal stem of kārat, "be cut off, cut down." The word is used in the Pentateuch for "cut off" (by death penalty) from one's people (BDB). "There is the metaphorical meaning to root out, eliminate, remove, excommunicate or destroy by a violent act of man or nature. It is sometimes difficult in a given context to know whether the person(s) who is 'cut off' is to be killed or only excommunicated" (Elmer B. Smick, TWOT #1048).

[271] "The ruler who will come" uses the noun nāgîd we saw in verse 25, but is clearly another ruler than the Anointed One. His "people" will "destroy the city and the sanctuary."

[272] "Destroy" is shāḥat, "destroy, corrupt." The object of this verb may be a city (Sodom, Jerusalem); a dynasty (the house of David); nations who harass God's people (Babylon); most often God's own covenant people and their possessions (Victor P. Hamilton, TWOT #2370).

[273] "End" is qēṣ, "end," from the verb qāṣaṣ, "cut off, sever, separate in two." This noun is used in a context of judgment (Genesis 6:13; Ezekiel 7:2-3; Isaiah 9:7).

[274] "War" is milḥāmâ, "battle, war," from lāham, "fight, do battle" (TWOT #1104c).

[275] "Desolation/s" in verses 26 and 27 is shāmēm, "be desolate, appalled," which we saw in 8:13. Cf. 9:18. Also in 11:31 and 12:11, in the phrase, "abomination that causes desolation."

[276] "Decreed" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "determined" (KJV), also in verse 27, is the Niphal participle of ḥāraṣ, "cut, sharpen, decide, determine." In most places "the word connotes the concept of 'determined' and refers to something which cannot be changed. Perhaps the basic idea of 'cut' is evident here in that that which is incised cannot be altered" (TWOT #752).

[277] The verb is the Hiphil stem of gābar, "prevail, be mighty, have strength, be great"(TWOT #310).

[278] Baldwin, Daniel, p. 171.

[279] Driver, Daniel, p. 141.

[280] "[Antiochus] sent an Athenian senator ... to pollute the temple in Jerusalem and to call it the temple of Olympian Zeus.... The temple was filled with debauchery and reveling by the Gentiles, who dallied with prostitutes and had intercourse with women within the sacred precincts, and besides brought in things for sacrifice that were unfit. The altar was covered with abominable offerings that were forbidden by the laws" (2 Maccabees 6:1-5).

[281] "Wing [of the temple]" (NIV), "in their place" (NRSV), "the wing of abominations" (ESV), "overspreading of abominations" (KJV). The Hebrew word is kānāp, "wing, winged, border, corner, shirt" (TWOT 1003a). The "pinnacle" of the temple in Matthew 4:5 is literally "little wing" (Greek pterugion) (Young, Daniel, p. 218).

[282] "Desolating sacrilege" is two words, bdelygma erēmōseōs. Bdelygma, is generally, something that causes revulsion or extreme disgust, a "loathsome, detestable thing," here, "something that is totally defiling, abomination, pollutant" (BDAG 172, 2). Also found in Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14. Erēmōsis is the "state of being made uninhabitable, devastation, destruction, depopulation" (BDAG 392).

[283] "End" (NIV), "consummation" (KJV) is kālâ, "full end," from kālâ, "accomplish, cease, determine." The basic idea of this root is "to bring a process to completion (John N. Oswalt, TWOT #982).

[284] "Poured out" is nātak, "be poured, drop (of rain), be melted or molten." Such things as water, groans, divine wrath, and curses are poured forth (TWOT #1442).

[285] "Him" (NIV), "the desolator" (NRSV, ESV), "the desolate" (KJV) is the Qal participle of shāmēm, the verb used in the phrase "abomination that causes desolation."

[286] Driver, Daniel, p. 138-140; Goldingay, Daniel, p. 262.

[287] Baldwin, Daniel, p. 173.

[288] So Young, Daniel, pp. 220-221.

[289] Young, Daniel, p. 220.

[290] Preferred by Miller, Daniel, in loc.


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