Daniel 9 and the 70 Weeks, Pt. 1

March 24, 2013 at 12:01 PM

All of Daniel makes for interesting reading, but in some says, the 9th chapter of Daniel stands alone because Daniel 9 is essentially the only place in all of Scripture where the topic of the 70 weeks are introduced and discussed.  As one can imagine, because the contents of Daniel 9 deals with Eschatology (the study of end times/last days), there are many books and articles that have been written on the subject, from a variety of viewpoints.  Much of it evolves around the question of whether or not a “gap” of time actually exists between the 69th and 70th weeks.

Before I get started, I want to point out that I realize I will not likely change any opinions on this topic.  Then again, that’s not the purpose of this article (or any other article or book I write).  The purpose of presenting this article (like all of my previous ones) is simply to inform you, the reader, as to how I have arrived at various conclusions, for those who are interested in knowing.  Like you, I have strong opinions and I simply like to share them, for whatever they may happen to be worth.  Also like you, I like to think that my careful study has brought me to correct conclusions.

So, in an effort to keep this subject fairly succinct, I may have to break it up into a few parts simply because a good deal needs to be covered.  I hope you’ll bear with me and maybe we’ll both learn something new as we delve deeply into Daniel 9.

I should probably also mention that I am not going to deal with authorship of the book of Daniel in his article.  A tremendous amount has been written about it and I have studied much.  In the end, I fully ascribe to our Lord’s view of the book of Daniel; that it was written by the Daniel, not an imposter who came later and essentially looked back over the historical landscape, but wrote as if it was all in front of him.  As far as I’m concerned, the book of Daniel was written by one person – Daniel – of the Hebrew Bible who writes about the times in which he lived and those times that were ahead of him even to the end of the current age.

All right, let’s get started!

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years,” (Daniel 9:1-2)

Daniel here notes when he penned these words; when chapter 9 was written.  He states that it was in the first year of Darius, the Mede.  Daniel is likely referring to Cyrus, the Persian here (of the Medo-Persian Empire that followed Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire).  The Septuagint version uses “Cyrus” (also known as Cyrus the Great) instead of “Darius.”

Daniel’s main point here is that he had been reading the writings of the prophet Jeremiah and through it had learned that Israel’s 70-year captivity (in Babylon) appeared to be almost over, according to his reckoning.  Obviously, if this were true, it was cause for excitement.

Because of this realization, Daniel immediately turns to prayer.  We should take note.  The truth of Scripture should bring us to our knees, but all too often, we simply store it in our heads, whether it makes any impact at all on our hearts.

Starting in verse 3 through verse 19, Daniel beseeches the Lord.  His prayer is filled with confession for his as well as Israel’s sins.  He also takes the time to make requests of the Lord.  It is a beautiful, heartfelt prayer from Daniel, who it appears, takes on the unofficial role of high priest for the nation of Israel here since there really was no one else.

We learn in verse 20 that as he was praying “the man Gabriel” came to him, essentially interrupting his prayer.  Daniel likely referred to Gabriel as a “man” and not an “angel” because he looked like a man.  In fact, all the angels throughout Scripture who appeared to human beings are reported to have resembled men, so the fact that Daniel references Gabriel as “a man” is not surprising to us.

Daniel notes that he was familiar with Gabriel because he had seen him previously in a vision.  Gabriel arrives to tell Daniel that he came to specifically inform Daniel of a number of things that turn out to be related to future events and even the end times; the end of the age.  He also notes that Daniel is “highly esteemed,” which is likely the best accolade one could receive from an angel.  It says a great deal.

The next part of Daniel 9 is what we are going to be focusing in on, to see if we can determine whether or not there is any “gap” at all in the passage of time related to any portion of the 70 weeks.

24 Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.

25 So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.

26 Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.

27 And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

I’ve left the numerical references for the individual verses so that the verse will be easier to locate when I refer to them by number. Note that Gabriel begins with an interesting statement.  We know that Daniel had been previously reading Jeremiah and in doing so, learned that the 70 years the prophet had spoken of were almost completed.  So Daniel was thinking about years here, not “weeks” (even though the text says “weeks” in English).

Yet, Gabriel essentially tells Daniel that, looking ahead, there would be 70 “weeks” that have been decreed for your people (Israel) and your holy city (Jerusalem).  Why did Gabriel use the word “weeks” here, instead of years?

Actually, he did not use the word “weeks,” which would have been shavuot in the Hebrew.  The word that appears in the Hebrew is shavuim and it translates to mean “a period of sevens” or simply “sevens.”  The text in English should read “Seventy sevens have been decreed for your people…” however, this, in and of itself, does not give us what we need to know precisely.  The question that naturally arises is “Seventy sevens” of what?

It would be similar if my wife asked me one morning if I would be willing to run to the store and pick up a dozen.  My first question would be “a dozen what?  Donuts?  Eggs?  Golf balls?  Just what exactly does my wife want me to pick up in the form of 12?  She would need to clarify this for me before I could go to the store to successfully complete the mission for her.

Just hearing Gabriel say “seventy sevens” does not tell Daniel much.  Daniel needs more information.  Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum indicates that Gabriel is really presenting a bit of a play on words to Daniel here.  (cf. Footsteps of the Messiah, p 188).  What Gabriel is saying in essence is “Daniel, it’s not 70 years, but 70 sevens of years.”

Since the entire context of this chapter is bound up in the teaching of Jeremiah – 70 years for Israel’s captivity that were almost up – it makes sense because of that context to understand that Gabriel is saying to Daniel that “seventy sevens of years” is the meaning of his statement.  This ultimately translates to 490 years or 70 sevens (“weeks”) of years (70 x 7 = 490).

Most commentators understand that this is the length of time that is ultimately meant in the passage (though some stand in disagreement of this position).  In reality, the text should say “Seventy sevens of years are decreed for your people…” when translated into English.  Instead, the translators translated it to “Seventy weeks are decreed for your people…” and the meaning is buried.

So, if we are talking about a length of time that extends 490 years into the future from Daniel’s perspective, what’s the problem?  Shouldn’t this period of time have already lapsed long ago?  Absolutely, if no gap in any portion of the full 490 years (“weeks” or “sevens of years”) exists.

We will begin looking at this more closely with an upcoming article in which we will answer this very question.  Stay tuned!

Entry filed under: Religious - Christian - Prophecy. Tags: , , , .

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