Seventy Weeks of Daniel
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
Many believe that Daniel 9:24-27 is the most important passage of prophecy in all of Scripture. Almost every mistake I’ve run across in studying the various interpretations of End Times Prophecy can be traced back to a misunderstanding of this passage. Let’s begin the year with an updated and expanded study of this important prophecy.
Before plowing into it, we’ll back up a little and review the context. Daniel was an old man, probably in his eighties. He’d been in Babylon for nearly 70 years and knew from reading the recently completed scroll of Jeremiah’s writings (specifically the part we know as Jeremiah 25:8-11) that the 70-year captivity God had ordained for Israel was just about over. (Daniel 9:2)
The reason for the captivity had been Israel’s insistence upon worshiping the false gods of their pagan neighbors. Its duration of 70 years came from the fact that for 490 years they had failed to let their farmland lie fallow one year out of every seven as God had commanded in Leviticus 25:1-7. The Lord had been patient all that time but finally had sent them to Babylon to give the land the 70 years of rest that were due it. (2 Chron. 36:21)
The beginning of Daniel 9 documents Daniel’s prayer, reminding the Lord that the 70 year time of punishment was nearly over and asking for mercy on behalf of his people. Before he could finish his prayer, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and spoke the words that we know as Daniel 9:24-27. Let’s read the whole thing to get the overview and then take it apart verse by verse.
Seventy weeks are determined upon 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. 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 weeks and sixty two weeks. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench but in times of trouble. After the sixty two weeks the Anointed One will be cut off and 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 till the end and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one week. In the middle of the week 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 (Daniel 9:24-27).
No prophecy in all of Scripture is more critical to our understanding of the end times than these four verses. A few basic clarifications are in order first; then we’ll interpret the passage verse by verse. The Hebrew word translated weeks (or sevens) refers to a period of 7 years, like the English word decade refers to a period of 10 years. It literally means “a week of years.” So 70 weeks is 70 x 7 years or 490 years. This period is divided into three parts, 7 weeks or 49 years, 62 weeks or 434 years, and 1 week or 7 years. Let’s begin.
Seventy weeks are determined upon 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 [place]. (Daniel 9:24).
Sitting upon His heavenly throne, God decreed that six things would be accomplished for Daniel’s people (Israel) and Daniel’s Holy City (Jerusalem) during a specified period of 490 years. (I’ve inserted the word “place” after Holy at the end of the verse to clarify the fact that it refers to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.)
We should be aware that in Hebrew these things read a little differently. Literally, God had determined to:
1. restrict or restrain the transgression (also translated rebellion)
2. seal up their sins (as if putting them away in a sealed container)
3. make atonement (restitution) for their iniquity
4. bring them into a state of everlasting righteousness
5. seal up (same word as #2) vision and prophecy
6. anoint (consecrate) the most Holy place (sanctuary)
In plain language, God would put an end to their rebellion against Him, put away their sins, and pay the penalties they had accrued, bring the people into a state of perpetual righteousness, fulfill the remaining prophecies, and anoint the Temple. This was to be accomplished through their Messiah (Jesus) because no one else could do it. Had they accepted Him as their savior their rebellion against God would have ended. Their sins would have all been forgiven, and the full penalty paid for them. They would have entered into a state of eternal righteousness, all their prophecies would have been fulfilled, and the rebuilt temple would have been consecrated. It should be noted here that although it appears to have been accepted by Him, God never dwelt in the 2nd Temple, nor was the ark of the covenant and its mercy seat ever present therein.
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 weeks and sixty two weeks. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench but in times of trouble (Daniel 9:25).
Here is a clear prophecy of the timing of the First Coming. When this message was given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel, Jerusalem had lain in ruin for nearly 70 years, and the Jews were captive in Babylon. Counting forward for 62 + 7 periods of 7 years each (a total of 483 years) from a future decree giving the Jews permission to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, they should expect the Messiah.
To avoid confusion, it’s important to distinguish the decree that freed the Jews from their captivity from the one that gave them permission to rebuild Jerusalem.
When he conquered Babylon in 535BC Cyrus the Persian immediately freed the Jews. It had been prophesied 150 years earlier in Isaiah 44:24-45:6 and was fulfilled in Ezra 1:1-4. But according to Nehemiah 2:1-9 the decree to rebuild Jerusalem was given in the first month of the 20th year of his reign by King Artaxerxes of Persia (March of 445 BC on our calendar, about 90 years later).
About 125 years ago Sir Robert Anderson unlocked the secret of Daniel’s 70 weeks when he teamed up with the London Royal Observatory to discover that prophetic years are 360 days in length and consist of 12 months of 30 days each. This is also the only way you can make the three measures of the Great Tribulation (1260 days, 42 months, or 3 1/2 years) come out the same. Therefore the 70 weeks of Daniel consist of 490 years of 360 days each. He published this discovery in a book called The Coming Prince, a commentary on Daniel’s 70th Week.
From their research, we also know that exactly 483 years after the decree of Artaxerxes the Lord Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to shouts of “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord” (Luke 19:38)! It was the only day in His life that He permitted His followers to proclaim Him as Israel’s King, fulfilling Daniel’s prophecy to the day! The Hebrew in Daniel 9:25 calls Him Messiah the Prince, denoting the fact that He was coming as the Anointed Son of the King and was not yet crowned King Himself.
In Luke 19:41-45, Jesus reminded the people of the specific nature of this prophecy. As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace–but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” He held them accountable for knowing Daniel 9:24-27.
A few days later He extended that accountability to those who would be alive in Israel during the End Times. “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel–let the reader understand– then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Matt 24:15-16) They will also be required to understand Daniel 9.
After the sixty two weeks the Anointed One will be cut off and 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 till the end and desolations have been decreed (Daniel 9:26).
First came 7 sevens (49 years) and then 62 sevens (434 years) for a total of 69 sevens or 483 years. The Hebrew word for Anointed One is Mashiach (Messiah in English). At the end of this 2nd period, their Messiah would be cut off, which means to be executed or literally destroyed in the making of a covenant, having received none of the honor, glory, and blessing the Scriptures promised Him.
Make no mistake about it. Jesus had to die so these 6 promises could come true. No one else in Heaven or on Earth could accomplish this. We can only imagine how different things would have been if they had accepted Him as their Messiah and let Him die for their sins so He could bring them into everlasting righteousness with His resurrection. But of course God knew they wouldn’t, so He had to do things the hard way.
Do you realize what that means? It wasn’t killing the Messiah that put the Jews at odds with God. After all, He came to die for them. No. It’s that in killing Him, they refused to let His death pay for their sins so He could save them. This had the effect of making His death meaningless to them. That’s what severed the relationship.
Because of that, we now get the first hint that all would not go well. Following the crucifixion, the people of a ruler yet to come would destroy Jerusalem, and the Temple—the same Temple that God decreed would be consecrated. The Israelites would be scattered abroad, and peace would elude the world.
We all know that Jesus was crucified and 38 years later the Romans put the torch to the city and the Temple destroying both. Surviving Jews were forced to flee for their lives, and in the ensuing 2000 years, I don’t believe a single generation has escaped involvement in a war of some kind.
After the crucifixion something strange happened: The Heavenly clock stopped. 69 of the 70 weeks had passed and all that was prophesied to happen during those 483 years had come to pass, but there was still one week (7 years) left. There are hints in the Old Testament that the clock had stopped several times before in Israel’s history when for one reason or another they were either under subjugation or out of the land. And in the New Testament we’re also given hints that while God is dealing with the Church, time ceases to exist for Israel (Acts 15:13-18). But the clearest indication of the stopped clock is that the events foretold in Daniel 9:27 simply haven’t happened yet.
He will confirm a covenant with many for one week. In the middle of the week 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 (Daniel 9:27).
It’s vital to our understanding of the End Times that we realize two things here. First, the Age of Grace didn’t follow the Age of Law. It merely interrupted the Age of Law seven years short of its promised duration. These seven years have to be completed for God to accomplish the six things the angel listed in verse 24 for Israel.
And second, the Age of Grace was not the next step in the progression of God’s overall plan but was a deviation from it. Once the rapture comes, nothing like the Age of Grace will ever happen again. (Ephes. 2:6-7) Even when Israel accepts the New Covenant, as Jeremiah 31:31-34 promises, they won’t enjoy the same benefits the Church has enjoyed. The relationship the Church has with the Lord will never be repeated with any other group. Ever.
But before we try to understand the 70th week let’s review a rule of grammar that will help make our interpretation of verse 27 correct. The rule is this: Pronouns refer us back to the closest previous noun. “He,” being a personal pronoun, refers to the closest previous personal noun, in this case, “the ruler who will come.” So a ruler who will come from the territory of the old Roman Empire will confirm a 7-year covenant with Israel that permits them to build a Temple and re-instate their Old Covenant worship system. 3 1/2 years later he will violate the covenant by setting up an abomination that causes the Temple to become desolate, putting an end to their worship. This abomination brings the wrath of God down upon him, and he will be destroyed.
The most obvious way in which we know these things haven’t happened is that the Jewish Old Covenant worship system requires a Temple and there hasn’t been one since 70 AD when the Romans destroyed it.
Some say this prophecy was fulfilled during the Roman destruction, but most believe it’s yet future, partly because of the term Abomination that causes Desolation. It’s a specific insult to God that has happened only once previously. Antiochus Epiphanes, a powerful Syrian king, had attacked Jerusalem and entered the Temple area in 168BC. There he had sacrificed a pig on the Temple altar and erected a statue of the Greek god Zeus with his own face on it. He then required everyone to worship it on pain of death. This rendered the Temple unfit for worshiping God and so incensed the Jews that they revolted and defeated the Syrians. This is all recorded in Jewish history (1st Maccabees) where it’s called the Abomination of Desolation. The subsequent cleansing of the Temple is celebrated to this day in the Feast of Hanukkah.
Paul warned us that in the latter days a world leader will become so powerful that he will exalt himself above everything that is called god or is worshiped and will stand in the Temple proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thes 2:4). In Rev 13:14-15 we’re told that he’ll have a statue of himself erected and require everyone to worship it on pain of death. In Matt 24:15-21 Jesus said that the Abomination that causes Desolation spoken of by Daniel will kick off the Great Tribulation, a period 3 1/2 years long that coincides with the last half of Daniel’s 70th week. The similarities between this coming event and the one from history being so obvious, most scholars are persuaded that one points to the other since nothing in the intervening years fits so completely.
Soon And Very Soon
A new leader will soon emerge on the scene, a man with great personal charisma. Following a devastating war in the Middle East, he’ll present a plan to restore peace, by which he will quickly captivate and control the world. Since all true believers will have recently disappeared from Earth in the rapture of the Church, he’ll have no trouble persuading most remaining inhabitants that he is the promised Messiah, the Prince of Peace. He will astound and amaze them all with feats of diplomacy and conquest, even performing the supernatural.
When he claims to be God, all hell will break loose on Earth and 3 1/2 years of the most terrible times mankind has ever known will threaten their very existence. But before they’re all destroyed the real Prince of Peace will return and overthrow this impostor. He will set up His kingdom on earth, a kingdom that will never be destroyed or left to another.
Having given His life to finish transgression, put an end to sin, atone for wickedness and bring in everlasting righteousness, and having fulfilled all Biblical vision and prophecy, He will anoint the most Holy Place and receive all the honor, glory and blessing the Scriptures promise Him. Israel will finally have her Kingdom back and will live in peace with God in her midst forever.