Daniel’s prophecy of the “70 Weeks” may be the most important prophecy in the Bible and the most amazing. Its sweeping panorama allowed the wise in ancient Israel to know the exact timing of the arrival of Jesus upon his first coming. It also provides incredible details about Jesus’s second coming.
Although I’ve never done an article on the 70 Weeks before, I have received dozens of questions and comments about the prophecy. So I thought it wise to do a detailed study of it. When I say it is “the most important” prophecy, obviously that is an hyperbole. All prophecies are important, but a prophecy that foretells the entire plan of salvation, redemption and deliverance is pretty important.
The word we translate as weeks is “SHABUIM” or period of seven. Although this period could be seven days, weeks, or months, most scholars attribute to a period of 70 times 7 years. The Hebrew agricultural cycle revolved around these units of seven years that mimic a week with six days of toil and a Sabbath rest. The 7 year cycle involves six years of agricultural sowing and reaping followed by a sabbatical year where the ground is left fallow.
Examining this vision will take more than one installment. So this is only PART ONE of a three part series.
PART ONE: Daniel Prays
The prophecy was given to Daniel after one of the longest continual prayers of repentance in the Bible. We learn what prompted the prayer.
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. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. (Dan. 9:1-3)
First, Daniel, the faithful scribe tells us the timing of prophecy. This was in the first year of Darius the Mede. Some have suspected that Darius was actually another name for Cyrus the Great, but this passage seems to indicate he was the son of the Median king, the Ahasuerus (Ahasuerus is a title not name). Darius was not Persian and much is made of this. He is always referred to as a Mede. Notice he was “made” king, he didn’t assume the position of himself. Likely this means that Cyrus made Darius king after he conquered Babylon in order to put down any revolt and to establish a Persian style government. Since this vision takes place in his first year, this is the first year after Babylon was conquered. Whether it occurred prior to or after Daniel’s night in the Lion’s den is not clear. It was only a few years later that Cyrus assumed the throne, so this vision was given during that time that Darius was appointing Satraps (governors) and in the basic time of the Lion’s den.
What prompted this prayer was “bible study.” I find this fascinating. I have been learning a great deal of what God has planned in the relatively near future. I bet you have as well. Has this knowledge driven us to our knees in repentance? It should. This is the greatest lesson from this article IMO. That God’s revealed plan should inspire our prayers. Let’s all resolve to do just that after this article. It is one form of the application of prophecy.
Daniel then prayed and asked God’s forgiveness for the sins of his people, his nation, and their rulers. He assumed personal responsibility and says “we” not “they” did this or that. This is again, an instruction for us on how to pray! In the Letter to Pergamum in Revelation Jesus said this, “ But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam.” Jesus will hold us personally responsible for the error of others in our churches! This is incredible and poorly understood. We need to be our brother’s keeper and to instruct them in the truth.
That is part of the reason I wrote the book, Are We Ready For Jesus,
so that we can all help instruct our brothers and sisters in our own churches who may not be aware of what is coming upon the earth. The most effective way is to buy a copy for your pastor first. Ask him to watch the video at www.arewereadyforjesus.com. And pray a prayer like Daniel’s.
God’s Anger or God’s Mercy?
A traditional thinking of many in the Church based on a Pre-tribulation Rapture thinking is that Daniel’s 70th Week is “punishment” on the Jews or “God’s Wrath.” Daniel specifically prayed that God turn his anger away from his people and Jerusalem. “O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem” (Dan. 9:16). So is the prophecy of the 70 Weeks about continued punishment for the Jewish people or or it a message of hope? Was Daniel’s prayer granted?
We are told that Gabriel was immediately dispatched at the very beginning of Daniel’s requests and God’s answer was given in the form of this vision. What does this vision show?
- The Jews will return from exile and rebuild Jerusalem
- The Messiah will come! In fact the exact timing of his first coming is given
- The Temple will be rebuilt
- And although the Jews will encounter problems, Messiah will ultimately be victorious.
This certainly sounds like a vision of hope not a vision of punishment or anger. Any period of time that includes the ministry of my Messiah is not punishment!
Some have considered it “punishment” because the number “70” is included. The original 70 year exile to Babylon was a punishment. Those that believe this way say that this punishment is being multiplied in the 70 Weeks by a factor of 7! Leviticus 26 seems to support this thinking: “If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins.” Interestingly, however this prescription is given three additional times in Leviticus for a total of four “seven times.” (Lev. 26:18,21,23,28) Rather than a punishment of 70 years or 490 years, it is a prescription of 1960 years! This four fold punishment is ignored by those holding to this theory of “punishment”.
So what do I think Lev. 26 is talking about? Well first of all it is pretty clear it DOESN’T apply to the 70 Weeks. The 70 Weeks vision is given prior to the Jews returning to the land! This seems incredibly harsh to apply a “seven times” punishment in advance of the sin that causes it!! Second the “seven times” punishments seem to indicate events that happened in AD 70.
Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat. I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you. I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas. I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it. You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste. (Lev. 26: 29-33)
As horrible as these things are, they are an accurate picture of AD 70. But they are not accurate of things happening during the 70 Weeks. AD 70 occurred OUTSIDE the period of the 70 Weeks. During every moment of the first 69 Weeks and the first half of teh 70th Week, Israel was or will be within the land NOT in exile. So in my opinion, the 1960 years of Leviticus 26 may involve the “second exile” of Israel that began in AD 70 and continued until 1948. We also know a “third exile” is coming in the final 3 1/2 years of the 70th Week of Daniel.
Pastor Tim Warner, in his book Time of the End, applies this 1960 year period from AD 70 to AD 2030. He links this to a possible return of Jesus. In my thinking this “might” make sense. The original punishment was an “exile” and the this second 28 times longer period is given an exile as well. The sin that led to this longer exile was greater: the rejection of Jesus as Messiah. However, any “return of Jesus” projection must be taken with a grain of salt. The Lord has not revealed the date of his return yet, and we should NOT ascribe to any date as “set in stone” in my opinion. However, I find this theory interesting.
Most importantly of all, Jesus attributes this period 70 times 7 to forgiveness not to punishment!!
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matt. 18: 21-22)
Jesus is teaching us that during the 70 Weeks (seventy times seven) forgiveness is available and he uses that well know period as a metaphor for Peter. After this period, after Jesus returns, judgment and God’s punishment will come.
So for all these varied reasons, there is no basis for calling this period a time of punishment or wrath. It was given to Daniel as a prophecy of hope.
This can be confusing. Here is a graphic that displays the various times of Wrath and Grace applied to Israel from the Babylonian invasion in or about 606 BC to the present.
The Purpose of the Most Important Prophecy in the Bible
The purposes of 70 Weeks (all of which are related to Grace) are clearly delineated by Gabriel the angel:
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. (Dan. 9:24)
These various purposes of the 70 Weeks are even further proof that the time period is one of hope. Among the end results of it are an end of sin and everlasting righteousness!
This period of time is “decreed.” We have discussed previously that there is a “link” between Daniel’s dream interpretations and visions. We have already shown in The Four Beasts of Daniel that the dream interpretation of Dan. 2 (Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of the Statue) and the vision of Dan. 7 share multiple similarities and are about the same events. In a future article we will demonstrate how there are almost two dozen shared passages between the visions of Dan. 8 and Daniel’s Great Vision Prophecy in Dan. 10-12. I also contend that there is a link between Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the Great Tree in Dan. 4 and this vision of the 70 Weeks. We will explain that in much more detail later in PART TWO of this series of articles, but for now notice that that vision is “decreed” as well as this one: “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers (Dan. 4:17).”
These are the “things that must take place.” They are decided in advance; they are decreed. This phrase “things that must take place” is HA DEI GENESTHAI in the Greek. This phrase “bookends” (it is the first and last verse) the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of the Statue (Dan. 2:29, 45) in the Greek Septuagint. This same phrase “bookends” the entire Book of Revelation. (Rev. 1:1 and Rev. 22:6) By quoting this phrase (that was well known in John’s day), John was signaling that Revelation would be an explanation of Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream. Jesus also used this phrase (HA DEI GENESTHAI) in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:6). In my new book Revelation Deciphered
we discuss this “bookend” in considerable detail as well as other “bookends” in Revelation, Thessalonians, Joel, etc. In my opinion, Revelation cannot be understood outside of these “bookends.” By the way, don’t look for them in the English translations, they are only found in the Greek.
Next we notice that the vision is for Daniel’s people and the Holy City (Jerusalem.) Does this mean that the vision only concerns the Jews? Not at all. Christians have been grafted into the “roots” of Israel: “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree (Rom. 11:17).” The New Covenant was made between the Houses of Israel and Judah and the Lord (Jer. 31:31). We only share in this Covenant because we were grafted in to Israel. In the same way, we as Christians share in the 70 Weeks because of this “grafting.” Because it is a vision of hope, this is something we want to share.
Let us return to the purposes of the vision. The first purpose is to finish “the” transgression. What transgression (Heb: PESHA, meaning “breach of trust” or “rebellion”) is this? It is obvious a specific transgression (singular) or breach of trust. We have learned that when scripture refers to “the” of anything by using the definite article, it means it is the primary example in scripture or it’s an example that had just been mentioned. This can be nothing other than the sin of Adam and Eve, the initial and primary sin in the Bible. This is followed by a related phrase “make an end of sin.” Both of these phrases would seem to imply the finality of sin, but the Hebrew verbs translated “finish” and “make an end of” imply a different meaning.
The Hebrew word KALA is translated “finish” but it actually means “restrain.” The Hebrew word CHATHAM is translated “make an end of” but it actually means “to seal up.” So the 70 Weeks are going to restrain and seal up sin. This is an incredible nuance of understanding! At the end of the 70 Weeks, the Millennial Kingdom will begin. The saints in resurrection bodies will be “sin free,” but the human survivors of Daniel’s 70th Week will be capable of sin. At the end of the Millennial Kingdom, Satan will lead a final rebellion, proof that sin is still possible. During this period, sin will be greatly restrained because Satan is chained in the Abyss, but here will still be sin. Sin will be restrained and “sealed up” (Satan will be “sealed up” in the abyss), but not eliminated.
The second set of purposes are also related: “to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness.” Jesus is our everlasting righteousness and he will bring that to the earth when he reigns from Jerusalem. Also on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) at the end of the 70th Week of Daniel, he will atone for the sins of Israel and “all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.’” (Rom. 11:26-27)
We are also told that all vision and prophecy will be “sealed.” Does this mean all prophecy will be fulfilled by the end of the 70th Week? No, it says it will be sealed. We know that some prophecies extend beyond the 70th Week. I am not 100% sure what this passage means. One possibility is that no future prophecies will be made AFTER the 70th Week is over. This is corroborated by 1 Cor. 13:8 which shows that someday there will be no more prophetic visions. It is also possible that this sealing is a “certification” of the prophecies that have already been given. A ratification of sorts.
Finally, we are told that “the most Holy” will be anointed. In many translations this phrase is “the Holy Place will be anointed.” The word “place” does not appear in the Hebrew, however. So this “anointing of the most Holy” could be an anointing of Jesus at his first coming or even at his coronation as King of the Earth (the Seventh Seal). I personally like that last interpretation. It could also refer to the anointing of the altar in heaven with Jesus’s blood upon his death and resurrection. All these interpretations are possible.
In the next article we will begin to examine the vision itself and specifically look at how it prophesied the first coming of Jesus.