How long is a “week” in Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy? Many think each week is made up of seven 360-day years. Read on to find out why the weeks can’t be 360-day years.
The majority of Christians today assume that Daniel’s mysterious countdown of the 70 Weeks began in 445 BC . This thinking is based on the work of the earliest and most famous Christian author to propose an alternative length to the “Week,” Scotland Yard Inspector Sir Robert Anderson. In his book The Coming Prince (1894), he suggested that the 20th year of Artaxerxes Longimanus was the decree to rebuild referenced in Dan. 9:25 and the start of Daniel’s famous 70 Weeks.
Although the most logical length of Daniel’s “Weeks” is a Hebraic sabbatical cycle of 7 years (a “week” of years or shabuim in the Hebrew), Anderson realized that the math did not work. Sixty-Nine sabbatical cycles of years from this decree in 445 BC was the year AD 39, much too late to have anything to do with the coming of the Messiah. As a “work-around” to this problem, Anderson decided to create something called the “prophetic year” — a 360-day-year. He converted the 69 Shabuim of the prophecy into days (173,880 days) based on his new definition of a “year” formula. When he added this huge number of days to the date of the decree, he arrived at Palm Sunday, AD 32. Viola! Anderson thought he had solved the puzzle, and many still believe this to this day.
New Book 70 Times 7
In the brand new book 70 Times 7, we uncover a dozen reasons why Anderson was not correct. And instead, we offer a precise 69 “week” countdown to the first coming of Jesus made up of Hebraic, sabbatical cycles – the most logical and biblical definition of a “Week.” In addition to being a fantastic apologetic for the truth of the Bible, this countdown provides a “Key” to unlocking the actual dates of the biblical Jubilee and Shmitah years! Additionally, it provides amazing insight into the coming 70th Week of Daniel.
If you desire to learn more about these and dozens of other eschatological topics, pick up a copy of the book:
Weeks Aren’t 360-Day Years
The primary reason that Daniel’s “weeks” are not made up of 360-day years is that the biblical (and historic, non-biblical) definition of a “week” (Heb.: shabuim) is a sabbatical cycle of 7 years. These sabbatical cycles were the primary organization of years prescribed by God in Lev. 25. This division of years was God’s commandment so that the land (and people) could rest and rejuvenate during the sabbatical year:
The Lord then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard.’” (Lev. 25:1–4 NASB, emphasis mine)
This organization of Hebraic years into a Shabua uniquely provides for both the proper timing of God’s mo’edim (Feasts of the Lord) and the sabbatical year during which the land was to lie fallow. Only a Shabua of seven Hebraic years can supply the appropriate timing of both of these features. For this reason, Shabuim “years” of alternative lengths (360 days) are not biblical. Let me state that again, because it is critically important:
Only Shabuim consisting of seven Hebraic, solar/lunar years provide the correct timing of the mo’edim and sabbatical years. And only this type of Shabuim would have been understood by Daniel.
This definition of the Hebrew word translated “weeks” (shabuim) found in Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy is older than Leviticus. In Genesis, when Jacob worked for Laban for the right to marry his daughters Leah and Rachel, Laban referred to a seven-year period as a “week.”
Complete the week (Heb. shabua) of this one, and we will give you the other (Rachel) also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years. (Gen. 29:27 NASB, clarification and emphasis mine)
So there is no doubt that the reference in Dan. 9:24 is to weeks (shabuim) of years or sabbatical cycles. That is what Daniel would have understood and it is the length of time any Jew in the first century trying to compute the first coming of their Messiah would have understood and computed. (In 70 Times 7 we present numerous biblical and historical references to the first century Jews doing just that – using a countdown of 69 sabbatical cycles of years to compute the coming of Messiah).
In our current culture, we group years into units of ten called a “decade.” If today, someone was to say to you, “70 decades have been established for your nation,” you would know exactly what that person meant. It would not be decades of ten “years” of an alternative length (360-days), but traditional years! The Hebrew word we translate “weeks” (shabuim) was a technical term in those days just as decade is today!
This word is found throughout the Dead Sea Scrolls showing that Hebrews of the first centuries BC used the word in exactly this way – to signify sabbatical cycles. In fact, the Melchizedek Pesher from the Dead Sea Scrolls, specifically references the 70 Shabuim of Daniel as being this type of “week.”
More importantly, Daniel would understand that the 70-year exile (for which the 70 Weeks Prophecy was a solution) was largely predicated on Israel’s neglect of sabbatical years.
In II Chron. 36:21, we discover that the Babylonian exile was based on Israel not observing seventy sabbatical years (during a 490-year period) prior to the exile. God chose a punishment of 70 years so the land could rest for the seventy neglected sabbatical years.
We ultimately will discover that in the 70 weeks of the 70 Weeks Prophecy, God would redeem Israel with seventy additional sabbatical years, creating a perfect symmetry. We illustrate the symmetry of the 70 Weeks Prophecy in the following Figure:
How could these 70 weeks be anything but sabbatical cycles of years? There were seventy sabbatical cycles of “sin” which led to seventy years of punishment. Gabriel told Daniel that God would then provide seventy more sabbatical cycles to bring about an end to sin.
Daniel would have understood Lev. 26:34-35 perfectly. Because he would have understood that the cause of the 70-year exile were 70 missed sabbatical cycles — as we have already seen — there is absolutely no doubt that he also would have understood the meaning of the additional 70 sabbatical years when these were suggested by Gabriel.
So biblically, it should be obvious to all that Daniel’s “weeks” were sabbatical cycles. But what about Anderson’s 360-day years being such a “perfect” match to Palm Sunday?
Anderson believed the countdown of Daniel’s 70 Weeks began with the decree of a gentile king, the “so-called decree” of Artaxerxes in 445 BC. However, scripture never calls this a decree. Nehemiah was granted letters to present to the governors of the provinces, but that is not a decree. But the “so-called decree” is part of the prophecy; it is part of the first 49 years, the times of distress found in Dan. 9:25 during which the construction of Jerusalem was to take place.
These times of distress are described for us in the Book of Nehemiah. One aspect of that Book, that will probably be a surprise to nearly everyone, is that the broken and burned walls of the city of Jerusalem that Nehemiah repaired was recent damage. The walls had already been repaired years before. When Ezra returned to Jerusalem in 457 BC, he saw the completed Temple and the completed wall:
For we are slaves; yet in our bondage our God has not forsaken us but has extended lovingkindness to us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us reviving to raise up the house of our God, to restore its ruins and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem. (Ezra 9:9 NASB, emphasis mine)
Additionally the report of the Palestinians in Ezra 4 gives the sense of the walls being completed earlier in the reign of Artaxerxes:
Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations. (Ezra 4:12 KJV)
I had always understood that Nehemiah repaired the walls originally destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. But that is probably not correct and doesn’t make sense. The passage above clearly shows that Ezra saw that wall in 457 BC. However, twelve years later in 445 BC, Nehemiah received this report:
I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.” When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days. (Neh. 1:2-4 NASB, emphasis mine)
After hearing this, Nehemiah was shocked and wept for days. This was 445 BC — 141 years after the original destruction, 93 years after Cyrus’s decree, and even 71 years after the Temple rebuilding was completed during the reign of Darius. Does it make sense that the Jews in Persia hadn’t gotten news from Jerusalem for seventy plus years that the walls hadn’t been repaired? No, the only logical answer is that this was new damage. There obviously had been some sort of attack on the city. These were the times of distress that Dan. 9:25 prophesied.
In addition, it only required fifty-two days for Nehemiah and the Jews to restore the walls (Neh. 6:15), while it took nearly four years to build a single building (the Temple). Doesn’t it make sense that this was limited damage to the walls if it required such a short period to restore it? I think that makes sense.
So Anderson’s two major premises: that a decree in 445 BC initiated Daniel’s 70 Weeks and that Nehemiah oversaw the original repair of the walls were both mistaken.
Other Problems with 360- day Years
Additionally, it is critical that the Shabuim be actual years, not some sort of mathematical construction based on a specific number of days. Only a year based on the interactions of the sun and moon is truly biblical as indicated in Gen. 1:14. Any year (such as a 360-day year) that is not based on the interaction of the sun and moon is not a biblically-based year.
A theory based on a 360-day year also violates the principle that God does nothing without first revealing it to his Holy Prophets (Amos 3:7). This type of year based on 360-day years is found nowhere in the Bible and would not have been understood by Daniel or the Jewish people.
Also, Anderson’s calculation requires the utmost precision. In order to make it “work,” he made an arbitrary decision. He chose the first day of the month of Nisan as his starting point even though the Bible gives only the month, not the day of the decree (Neh. 2:1). If the actual date of the decree was even a week later, his 69th week would end after the crucifixion not before it!
For all these reasons and more, Anderson’s theory is not biblical. However, I fully realize that his formula is loved and cherished by millions of Christians world-wide, is utilized as a tool in apologetics, and is frequently applied in eschatology, where the 70th Shabua is considered to consist of two 1260-day periods. Unfortunately, based on the numerous proofs given, it is simply mistaken. I realize that giving up this theory may be very hard for many of you, but I suggest re-reading this blog a couple times to allow the full weight of the evidence against Anderson’s theory to sink in.
A More Precise Theory?
Yet, what is likely a more precise countdown to the first coming of Jesus has been uncovered and is waiting in the pages of 70 Times 7. Pick up a copy.