Dead Sea Scrolls Explain Daniel’s 70 Weeks

The Dead Sea Scrolls explain the 70 Weeks Prophecy in many unexpected ways. In this article we’ll go over them.

This is the third in a series of articles based on aspects of my new book, 70 Times 7, about Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy. The previous two articles can be accessed below:

Who Was Darius the Mede?

Did the Jews Calculate the 70 Weeks of Daniel?

This article focuses on the Dead Sea Scrolls which were written in the two centuries before the coming of Jesus. They give us a fist hand view of how Jews of the biblical era interpreted Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy. 

Hopefully, this article wets your appetite for the type of in-depth biblical and historical analysis you’ll get reading 70 Times 7 and why I am so excited to share it with you.  And this is just a small sampling of the analysis of the scrolls and the other topics covered in the book.


The Dead Sea Scrolls

The Dead Sea Scrolls are probably the most significant archaeological discovery of all time. In the late 1940’s, a wayward sheep climbed into a rock cave in the cliffs that flank the Dead Sea. The sheep’s Bedouin shepherd threw a rock into the cave to chase the sheep down so he didn’t have to climb the cliff. “Clink.” The rock hit something man-made. Another  rock and another “clink.” The shepherd had to see what was making this sound. He found a number of clay jars (that is what had made the “clink” sound.) Inside of these jars were fairly well preserved scrolls.

The Bedouin sold the first 7 scrolls found to a part-time antiquities dealer. The dealer then sold them to historians in Jerusalem and the rest is history. The historians realized these were authentic scrolls from the last century before Jesus. Further excavations revealed more caves with scrolls. In total fragments from nearly 1000 scrolls have been discovered.

These scrolls are believed to comprise the “library” of the Jewish community that lived on the banks of the Dead Sea at Qumran. Most historians believe these Jews were of the Essene sect, who had separated themselves from the Jerusalem community and lived a somewhat “monastic” lifestyle, farming and studying the scriptures.

Approximately a quarter of the scrolls were Scripture, representing every book of the Old Testament except Esther. The rest of the scrolls are primarily of a religious nature. Many are “pesher” texts that interpret books of the Bible or biblical themes. Others are apocryphal books like Enoch and Jubilees, while still others are community-based laws and procedures.

Carbon dating of the scrolls place most of them in the period 160 BC to 100 BC, although some are slightly more recent  than that (the community disbanded during the Roman war in AD 70). Some scrolls were found in very good condition, but many, if not the majority, are in fragmentary form.

Value of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The biblical scrolls have value by allowing us to compare our current translations and manuscripts to what existed prior to Jesus’s birth. For the most part, we have learned that our current translations which are based on manuscripts that are only 1000 years old compare very nicely with the 2000 year old manuscripts found at Qumran. There are exceptions, however. A few years ago, I wrote THIS ARTICLE (CLICK HERE) showing how it appears that Isa. 53 was possibly altered to point away from Jesus by deleting a few words. The Dead Sea Scrolls version of Isaiah predates any possible changes to discredit Jesus.

From a historical perspective, the commentary scrolls hold enormous value showing how the Jews of that era (or at least the Essenes) interpreted the Bible.

When it comes to the 70 Weeks Prophecy and the Book of Daniel, this carries a lot of weight. A major purpose of the first 69 “weeks” of the prophecy was to point to the first coming of Jesus. A lot of theories have been developed about what this prophecy means, but wouldn’t it be nice to know what the users of that prophecy (ancient Jews) thought about it?

Dead Sea Scrolls and Daniel

Eight copies of Daniel were found. Among the prophets, it ranked second only to Isaiah in the number of copies found. This showed that the Qumran community valued Daniel a great deal.

The age of the oldest copy of Daniel found there is also significant. It was written in the text of the early second century BC (200-150 BC). This is explosive. The secular community supports a theory that Daniel was a forgery written after the Maccabean revolt  of 165 BC. They believe this because the Book of Daniel contains numerous very specific prophecies about that time. Secularists don’t believe that prophecy can really be fulfilled. To them, if a prophecy was written and came true, it must have been written after the fact. If a copy of Daniel was found older than their estimates, the secularist’s theory is shot.

[Of course, Josephus records that the High Priest showed Alexander the Great a copy of Daniel 8 around 330 BC, but Josephus is only considered accurate when he supports a secular theory, not when he opposes it.]

My personal interest in the Dead Sea Scrolls’ copies of Daniel centered on Dan. 9 and the 70 Weeks Prophecy. There are some significant differences between the Septuagint and Hebrew versions of Dan. 9:26-27, and I wanted to see which version the Dead Sea Scrolls preferred. Unfortunately although the early portions of Dan. 9 were preserved, none of the copies contain the section of the 70 Weeks Prophecy.

What are the “Weeks?”

However, the Dead Sea Scrolls are of incredible value in discovering what the 70 Weeks Prophecy is about, even without that section of Dan. 9.

One of the major controversies is about what constitutes a “week” in the 70 Weeks Prophecy.

Seventy weeks (Heb. shabuim) have been decreed for your people and your holy city. (Dan. 9:24)

The Hebrew word translated “weeks” here is shabuim or literally “sevens.” The angel Gabriel told Daniel seventy “sevens” were decreed for his people and Jerusalem; but a “seven” of what? Just this morning on the radio, I heard a radio pastor say just that. “We aren’t told what kind of ‘seven’ it was to be,” he said.

Thinking that shabuim is not a specific term creates all kinds of interpretative problems. If it is not a specific term, teachers can make it mean anything they want it to mean; and they have. Some very learned and well meaning teachers have called it a 360-day “prophetic year.” Some have called it a period based on factors of 13 or 14, and some have called it a week of seven days. This has led to all the wild interpretations of the 70 Weeks Prophecy that you see on the internet or hear on the radio (like this morning).

If the purpose of the 70 Weeks Prophecy was to determine the future of the Jews and Jerusalem, and especially to pinpoint the coming of Messiah the Prince, it can’t be some make-it-mean-anything- you-want term. The term shabuim must mean what Daniel would have thought it meant. It has to be a Hebraic term – one specific to that time and place.

Part of the problem is that this term is not well defined in the Hebrew Old Testament. It is in the Greek Septuagint where the  equivalent term “periods of seven” or hebdomades is used in both Dan. 9:24 and Lev. 25: 1-4. There it refers to the specific period of seven years that God set aside for Israel. Every six years, the Jews would toil and till their crops, but in the seventh sabbatical or Shmitah year, the land would rest.

In fact, the seventy years of exile of the Jews were prescribed by God for the very reason that the Jews had failed to honor seventy of these sabbatical years. The seventy years of neglected sabbaticals (70 times 7 years) resulted in 70 years of exile and then God provided 70 more sabbatical years (70 times 7 years) to bring sin itself to an end. The symmetry is perfect. So it’s very obvious that this is what is meant by shabuim, however, it would be nice to find that Hebrew word exhibiting that exact meaning.

Enter the Dead Sea Scrolls. The non-canonical Book of Jubilees discusses Weeks of years and Jubilee years, however, up until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the only versions were in Greek and Ethiopic.  However, 15 Hebrew copies were found at Qumran. And when these were located, sure enough, the word Shabuim means exactly what we thought it would – it means the very specific Hebraic seven year sabbatical cycle.

The Community Rule document from the Dead Sea Scrolls directly references the Shabuim of the Book of Jubilees and confirms this word meant a sabbatical cycle of seven years.

“And the exact statement of the epochs of Israel’s blindness to all these, behold it can be learnt in the Book of the Divisions of Times (Book of Jubilees) into their Jubilees and Weeks (Shabuim)” (ליובליהם העתים מחלקות ספר ובשבועותיהם.)” CD 16:3-4

The Dead Sea Scrolls and Jubilees

Notice the use of the term Jubilee in the quote above.  And Hebraic sabbatical cycles are directly related to the Jubilee. After seven sabbatical cycles (49 years), the fiftieth year was to be a Jubilee. In the book 70 Times 7, we examine the cycles and Jubilees in great depth and how they are integral to the 70 Weeks prophecy (and the return of Jesus).

Each 49 year cycle is called a Jubilee cycle. And the 490 years of the 70 Weeks Prophecy are nothing if not 10 Jubilee cycles (49×10). To re-enforce this, the angel Gabriel in describing the prophecy specifically sets aside the first 49 years (7 “weeks”) or one Jubilee cycle.

From the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks [one Jubilee cycle] and sixty-two weeks . (Dan. 9:25 NASB, clarification and emphasis mine)

From this we learn many things. First it tells us that the first year of the 70 Weeks countdown would be a specific type of year, a Jubilee year. It also tells us that the final year in the countdown to Messiah the Prince will be a specific type of year, a Sabbatical year. In the book, we explain this in depth with charts and graphs and biblical references.

In our last article, we indicated that the Jews of the first century were using the 70 Weeks prophecy to countdown to the Messiah. How did they know when to start the countdown and when to look for the Messiah? In part because the start was a Jubilee year and the finish point was a sabbatical year. They were observing these type of years and knew when to start and finish.

Not only does this help explain the what Jews were looking for in the  first century, it tells us about the what the 70th Week of Daniel will be like. The final year of the 70th Week will be a sabbatical year and Jesus will return on a Jubilee year. In my books Revelation Deciphered and Rapture: Case Closed? we suggested this idea. You may think this is a new idea, it isn’t. 2000 years ago, the Essenes in Qumran thought the same thing!

“For He will restore them and proclaim freedom to them and make them abandon all of their sins. This shall take place during the sabbatical cycle (shabua) of the first jubilee following the nine jubilees, and on the Day of Atonement f[alling] at the end of the jubilee, the tenth.” llQMelch 3 Π, 4-8.

This quote is from a pesher or commentary document. In it, the writer is describing Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy. Notice he says that it is 10 Jubilees long (just as we are saying). Also notice he says the Messiah will return at the end of the 10th Jubilee (end of the 70th Week of Daniel) to proclaim freedom to the Jews and take away their sins! Not only that, notice it says the Messiah will return on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

Joseph Lenard and Don Zoller wrote their landmark book “The Last Shofar!” less than ten years ago in which they theorized Jesus will return at the physical second coming on Yom Kippur. I have supported that concept in all of my books. Looks like we were a little late coming to that conclusion. The author of the Melchizedek Pesher beat us by about 2000 years! However, he didn’t have the New Testament to rely on. All he had was the Book of Daniel and the 70 Weeks Prophecy.

Dead Sea Scrolls Explain Daniel’s 70 Weeks


18 thoughts on “Dead Sea Scrolls Explain Daniel’s 70 Weeks”

  1. But the Bible says even the angels in heaven don’t know so how can you say it will be on the day of atonement

    1. Thank you for this great, great question Elsa. I’m so glad you asked it. First, the reference to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is from the Melchizedek Pesher from the Dead Sea Scrolls, written over 2000 years ago. It was their opinion that the 70th Week of Daniel would end after 10 Jubilee cycles exactly on the Day of Atonement and I agree with this ancient observation, but it was their thought not just mine. Second, the passage you are quoting is Matt. 24:36. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Notice it says “that day” and its a reference to the last day that Yeshua, Jesus mentioned – Matt. 24:29-31, the day that the sun and moon darken and the Lord appears coming of the clouds of heaven and raptures his people, the elect. That is the day that the angels don’t know about.

      This does NOT occur on the last day of the 70th Week of Daniel and is not the same event as Rev. 19:11-15. This will probably shock you and most others as it is the mistaken opinion of the 99% of the ekklesia (chruch) that Matt. 24:29-31 is the physical Second Coming when Jesus rides a white horse and fights Armageddon. It is not. It is the Prewrath Rapture of the elect which occurs approximately one year earlier than the physical Second Coming. The Prewrath Rapture takes place after the sixth seal and one year of Trumpet and Bowl judgments follow it prior to Jesus and the elect mounting white horses and returning to fight Armageddon.

      It is way too lengthy a proof text to explain in this comment section. In my future, yet unpublished new book Simplifying the Rapture which should be published in the late Autumn, I devote an entire chapter to the 11 proofs that Matt. 24:29-31 and 1 Thess. 4:15-16 are the same event AND six additional proofs that Matt. 24:29-31 and Rev. 19:11-15 are not the same event. Hopefully you’ll pick up a copy when it comes out.

      Until then, suffice it to say, that I don’t believe that Matt. 24:36 and the angels not knowing the timing of Rapture in any way contradicts the opinion of the ancient Essenes who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls. I think they were spot on in their opinion of the end of Daniel’s 70 Weeks.

        1. Elsa, the Day of Atonement is Yom Kippur, it is one of the Feasts of the Lord as found in Lev. 23. It always occurs on Tishri 10 of the Jewish calendar.

          Hebraic years start on Tishri 1 (Yom Teruah or Rosh Hashanah) in most years. However on a Jubilee year, the year begins 10 days later on Yom Kippur. The return of Jesus to free the Jewish captives on a Jubilee just makes sense. And if Daniel’s 70 Weeks are 70 Hebraic cycles of 7 years each organized into 10 Jubilee cycles of 49 years each, then this fits perfectly. Which is why the ancient Jews who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls pictured Daniel’s prophecy this way. I recommend you pick up a copy of 70 Times 7 for yourself. There is a lot more information three.

  2. Nelson, I stumbled upon something interesting regarding these weeks and I hope you can hear me out. The 62 and 7 weeks were previously fulfilled, we see that and know it as a fact. But often times prophecy has a dual fulfillment. Okay here’s where I’m going with this: In 1535 Suleiman the Magnificent decreed for Jerusalem to be rebuilt – this is exactly 69 “7s” from 2018. (2018 – 483 = 1535). Also, in 1969 the Jewish Knesset ruled to rebuild Jerusalem and that is 7 “7s” ago (2018 – 49 = 1969). So could it be that this is the year prophecied for the final “7” to begin?

    1. Those are very interesting coincidences John. I have no idea if that means anything or not and neither does anyone else, but it is interesting. Thanks for sharing that for all our readers.

      A quick internet search shows that there is a stone with an inscription from 1535-1538 (variable dates) from Suleiman. Also the meanings of “rebuild and restore” and “square and moat” from Dan. 9:25 have specific meanings that 99% of commentators don’t understand. However, being this would be dual fulfillment (post-shadow) of the original, I don’t think that makes all that much difference.

      As with all of these things, Jesus’s command is to “watch” – so that is what I recommend we all do.

  3. Excellent article! Question, are you proposing that a jubilee period is 49 years and not 50? In my studies I have concluded that the 50th year is the jubilee year and then the next year is year one of the next jubilee cycle.

    1. Yes, John, 49 year cycles with the Jubilee being the first year of the next cycle. This is fully explained in the book and is the way Jubilees were accounted in the ancient book of Jubilees. Now it is a non-canonical book BUT, it wouldn’t have been so highly regarded by Christians and Jews of that era IF it was wrong about how the Jubilee was observed. It may be wrong about other things but the method of accounting for Jubilees had to be correct.

      The fifty year cycle is a western thing, not Hebraic IMO.

        1. The book also then identifies other potential jubilee dates in biblical history using the date of the start of Daniel’s 70 Weeks as a starting point. I think this will be mind-blowing for many. It was for me.

          Now in terms of whether these dates can be extended into the future is debatable in my mind as I personally believe the jubilee cycles were suspended upon the death of Messiah Jesus. Whether they will pick up again on the same pattern or a new one is unknown.

          1. Nelson I only just discovered your writing and I’m already a fan and have already bought one of your books. I will enjoy reading and learning and getting to know you better. As far as jubilee periods extending further than Christ’s death I will offer this: The Ottomans ruled over Israel (the land) from 1517 – 1917 (8 50-year jubilees), 1917 (Balfour Declaration) – 1967 (Israel regaining Jerusalem) = 1 50-year jubilee period, 1967 – 2017 = yet one more 50-year period where we saw the Revelation 12:1,2 Great Sign appear. Depending on what calendar one uses we could very well be still in the midst of one of these 50-year increments. (was not trying to dive down a rabbit hole on your thread, sorry).

          2. The Bible isn’t specific on Jubilees John, so we will just agree to disagree, all it says is the year after the 7 sabbatical cycles, the 50th year, is the Jubilee. It doesn’t say to inject an extra year or to allow the sabbatical cycles to continue in an unbroken pattern (just as weeks of days do) and make the first year of the next cycle the Jubilee. Both work, and there is historical evidence for the second pattern as I mentioned. Read 70 Time 7 when it comes out and tell me what you think after reading it.

            As far as the three dates 1517, 1917 and 1967 falling multiples of 50 years apart, there are many biblical examples falling 49 years apart. It all tends to be conjecture – except for the Book of Jubilees (IMO).

            BTW, that would have made 2017 a Jubilee in your system. What do you think? Was it?

      1. I am Evangelist Dan Goodwin… author of the book GODS FINAL JUBILEE. I enjoyed your article. Love to get together with you some time.

        It is my opinion that Jubilee cycles are in fact 50 year cycles. The 50th year is the Jubilee…. and is NOT the beginning of the next Sabbatical cycle. Stick with Scripture.. ALWAYS!
        49 year cycles will NEVER come out right. I believe Gen 6:1-4 is a reference to 120 50 year Jubilee cycles… 6000 years.

        1. Thanks for writing Don. BTW, you mention “stick with scripture always.” Of course!!! I don’t know if you are aware that a 49 year cycle is just as biblical as a 50 year cycle. It simply means that the first year of the next 49 year cycle is the Jubilee, it’s still the 50th year. The Bible doesn’t specify which of the two systems to use. That is why I appeal to a non-canonical, but highly regarded first century text, the Book of Jubilees. My point is, if the Jews of that era and Early Christians, as Epiphanius, Justin Martyr, Origen, Diodorus of Tarsus, Isidore of Alexandria, Isidore of Seville, Eutychius of Alexandria, John Malalas, George Syncellus, and George Kedrenos all thought it canonical. This doesn’t make it inspired – I don’t think it is. HOWEVER, it is highly unlikely that those folks who actually lived during that period and celebrated Jubilees (like the Essenes of the Dead Sea Scrolls) would support a book that they knew was WRONG about how to calculate the Jubilee. No, it just makes so much more sense that the Jubilee would not disrupt the regular cycle of “weeks” of sabbatical cycles, doesn’t it?

          As far as Gen. 6:3 that you refer to “Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” probably does not mean what you indicate. First, God stated this AFTER the beginning of any 6000 year countdown. It was most likely in the days of Noah, approximately 1000 years after creation. So there was only 5000 years left on a 6000 year calendar (which I support BTW). Rather, the 120 years were likely literal years before the flood. The majority of Bible teachers support that view as I do. Others contend that it means human lifespan won’t exceed this amount. Obviously this is not a “proof text” for a length of Jubilees as the word Jubilee isn’t found there.

          I always try to keep an open mind and never say “never,” as we are all frail humans and in some matters we can only suppose what God meant if it isn’t directly stated such as “have no other God’s before me.” Take that one to the bank, but Jubilee dating is not so firmly stated.

          1. Leviticus 25 is the “Proof” text. It describes the cycles simply and perfectly. The 7th year is a sabbath. The 49th year is a sabbath…. and completes the giant super sabbath called JUBILEE….. and the entire 50th year is the Jubilee. It then would start all over with year #1 of the 7 year sabbatical cycle. You can not read anything else into the text. NOWHERE does Leviticus say to begin counting the next sabbatical cycle during the 50th/jubilee year. For one thing…. it breaks a principle… 6 days shall work be done… seventh is rest. 6 years they sow…. seventh year they reap. The can not sow during the 50th year…. it can not be year one of sabbatical cycle.

            Just my opinions of course…. but they are based on Scripture…. not the writings of men.

            As for Gen 6…. nobody can be 100% sure…. but I believe it is a prophetic passage speaking of 120 jubilees making up the 6000 years/six days of creation. Nowhere is 120 years the expected life span of a man.

          2. Dan, At one time I favored the 50 year cycle, but changed my mind. But it is one of those areas that is not 100% certain biblically. The 49 year cycle matches up with scripture in my view, not in yours. That’s okay, I’m not dogmatic. However, the 49 year cycle certainly answers a lot of questions in terms of Daniel’s 70 Weeks. I invite you to pick up a copy of the book 70 x 7 when it comes out. See what you think after seeing all teh evidence.

            Now, Lev. 25 does not say what you are contesting that it says. It doesn’t say we are to inject an extra week and then start the cycle over. It doesn’t say we are to make the first year of the next cycle the Jubilee either. It just says the 50th year is the Jubilee. Scripture is silent on method. Your point about six years of sowing and reaping is good, but again, scripture is not specific if an exception was made in the Jubilee or not, scripture is silent. The methodology of the Jubilee is a mystery in Lev. 25.

            However, Daniel’s 70 Weeks may be the closest we come as an example. 2 Chron. tells us that the 70 years of exile were to make up for 70 neglected Sabbath years. 70 x 7 years of sin, 70 years of punishment, then another 70 x 7 years until God does away with sin. It is a perfect symmetry. God prescribed 490 years to accomplish his purposes not 500. However, despite the fact I prefer the 49 year cycle because it best matches the 70 Weeks and it is almost assuredly what the Jews practiced during the second temple period till the time of Jesus, it isn’t 100% assured that is God’s design. We are left with questions.

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