Maybe the most amazing prophecy in the Bible, much of which already has been fulfilled, was given by the angel Gabriel to Daniel (Dan. 9:21-23). It is very important, because the last part of it appears to be the primary biblical prophecy specifying the time period demarcating the future end of this age—a time period referred to by many as “The 70th Week of Daniel” (see “C-12”). The prophecy comprises four verses, and I will label each verse for subsequent easy reference.
Seventy “sevens” are decreed for 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 (Dan. 9:24).
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 “sevens,” and sixty-two “sevens.” It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble (Dan. 9:25). After the sixty-two “sevens,” the Anointed One will be cut off and will 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 until the end, and desolations have been decreed (9:26). He will confirm a covenant with many for one “seven,” but in the middle of that “seven” he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And one who causes desolation will place abominations on a wing of the temple until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (9:27).
seventy “weeks” decreed
The term “sevens” (or “heptads”) in this prophecy should be interpreted “weeks of years,” which I will refer to as “weeks.” Thus, seventy “weeks” is 70 sets of 7 years each, or 490 years. God had decreed or determined (meaning that it would happen as planned) that a period of 490 years would pass, during which certain events—relating specifically to Daniel’s people (the Jews) and to the holy city (Jerusalem) of his homeland—would take place.
By the conclusion of this time period of 490 years, an end would be put to the transgression and sin of Daniel’s people. Atonement (amends) would be made for all prior sins, enabling his people to be at one with God again; and a time of everlasting righteousness would begin. All remaining visions and prophecies would be fulfilled, and the anointing of the most holy (or Most Holy Place—see “the slain goat and the ‘scapegoat’”: C-5, P-II) would take place in the final Temple (Ezek. 41:4c—see “millennial Temple”: C-13, P-II). All of this was predicted by Dan. 9:24.
The idea of grouping a “week” of seven years together was well-known to the children of Israel. God had told them that for six years they should sow the land and eat the crops, but in the seventh (sabbatical) year they were to let the land rest and also let the poor people, and then the animals, eat what was left over from the abundant crop yield which God would provide during the sixth year (Exo. 23:10,11; Lev. 25:2-7,20,21). The seven-year (“weekly”) cycle then was begun again. (It is reminiscent of a regular week of seven days, ending on the Sabbath Day.)
Moreover, after seven “weeks” of years (49 years, or a “week of weeks”), the fiftieth year was to be consecrated as a “Year of Jubilee,” when each person would return to his family property and clan (Lev. 25:8,10). The land was not to be sowed nor to be harvested in the usual manner, debts were to be forgiven, property was to be returned, servants were to be released, and other good things were to occur (25:8-55).
This grouping of seven “weeks” of years should remind the reader of the Feast of Weeks (see “Shavuot, Feast of Weeks, or Feast of Harvest” and “Pentecost”: C-4, P-IV), consisting of seven literal weeks (49 days) beginning with Jesus’ resurrection (on the Feast of Firstfruits) as the first day and culminating the fiftieth day with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost—a glorious day indeed.
I believe that the end of the seventy “weeks” (490 years), likewise, will bring a time of needed rest for Israel (and for a war-torn world); the return of the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus, back to earth; and a time of peace, justice, and joy unknown in the history of the world since before Adam and Eve disobeyed in the Garden of Eden. However, I do not believe that the wonderful time of “Jubilee” will last only one day or one year; it will last for 1,000 years—the glorious Millennium (seeC-13)—which are as a “day” to the Lord (Psalm 90:4a; 2 Pet. 3:8).
The Babylonians attacked and occupied Judah and Jerusalem in 605 B.C., began taking Jewish captives back to Babylon in 598 B.C., and destroyed Judah, Jerusalem, and the temple in 587 B.C. (This was the same magnificent temple built by King Solomon—see “God’s promise to David”: C-2, P-III.) Most of the people, including Daniel, were taken captive back to Babylon. For seventy years, as prophesied (Jer. 25:11, 29:10), Daniel’s people remained in captivity. (Coincidentally—or maybe not—this was virtually the same amount of time that Jews were locked up in the former USSR before their third major, mass exodus back to Israel began in 1989.) Near the end of the seventy years, Daniel read the prophecy by Jeremiah in the Scriptures (Dan. 9:2); and he prayed and petitioned God that his people would be released (9:3-19). Soon thereafter, the liberation and move back to Israel took place (Ezra 1:1-2:70).
Cyrus, king of Persia (who, along with Darius of Media, had conquered Babylon—see “stronghold ‘doors’ and ‘gates’ in the heavenlies”: C-10, P-III), decreed that the temple in Jerusalem should be rebuilt (Ezra 1:2-4). However, this was not the decree which would begin the countdown of the 70 “weeks” (Dan. 9:24a); the decree to start the latter period of 490 years was one to “...restore and rebuild Jerusalem...” (9:25a), not to rebuild the temple. In fact, the new temple was completed decades before permission was given by King Artaxerxes (Neh. 2:1-8) to rebuild the walls and city of Jerusalem (2:17).
Nehemiah heard that the Jewish exiles who had returned to Israel were in trouble, the wall of Jerusalem was still broken down, and its gates were burned (Neh. 1:3). He wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed for days (1:4-11ab).
Now, Nehemiah was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes (Neh. 1:11c), who noticed that Nehemiah was sad; when asked why, Nehemiah replied that it was because his city (Jerusalem) was in ruins (2:1-3). Their dialogue resulted in the king’s giving his approval (in effect, decreeing) for Nehemiah to return to this city of his fathers to rebuild it (2:5,8b). This decision was made in the month of Aviv (also called Nisan—2:1); the year is placed by many Bible scholars as 445 B.C. Thus, Daniel’s seventy “weeks” of years officially had begun.
The first 69 of the 70 “weeks” (of seven years each) in the prophecy were divided into two segments: seven “weeks” and sixty two “weeks” (Dan. 9:25a) of years. As it happened, after the agreement by King Artaxerxes to allow Nehemiah to restore Jerusalem, it took 49 years (or 7 “weeks” of years) to rebuild the walls and the city, which included streets and a trench, at a troubling time and with much opposition to the rebuilding (Neh. 4:1-6:19; Dan. 9:25b).
After these first 7 “weeks” (49 years), there would be 62 more “weeks” (434 years) which would have to pass (bringing the total to 69 “weeks” or 483 years) before the Anointed One would come (Dan. 9:25a). (Remember, the “Anointed One” is another name for the Messiah—see “names for and attributes of the Messiah”: C-3, P-I.) Now, a Jewish year consisted of 360 days, with occasional adjustments necessary due to the small disparity between the 360-day year and the correct 365¼-day year. Thus, the 483 Jewish years were more like 476 actual years.
Adding these 476 solar years to the time of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Aviv, 445 B.C.), one arrives at 32 A.D. (Considering that there was no “zero” year, the count from Aviv, 1 B.C., to Aviv, 1 A.D., was only one year, not two.) So in 32 A.D.—plus or minus a year or two, considering yearly disparate adjustments—on Aviv 10, Jesus Christ made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (see “parallels between Jesus and the Passover lamb”: C-4, P-I), completing the fulfillment of Dan. 9:25a.
This “anointed ruler” of Dan. 9:25a is the Messiah, the future ruler of the world (see “reign of Jesus”: C-13, P-II). He was predicted to come 69 “weeks” of years (subdivided into segments of 7 “weeks” and 62 “weeks”) after the decree went out to rebuild Jerusalem. Jesus did this. However, it also was predicted that, after the same time period (“after the sixty two ‘sevens’” means following the final 62-“week” segment of the 69 “weeks” of years), the Anointed One (Messiah) would be “...cut off and will have nothing” (Dan. 9:26a). Thus, the fulfillment of this latter prophecy should have been at virtually the same time as that of the first prophecy of the ruler’s (Anointed One’s or Messiah’s) “coming”—and it was. In fact, on Aviv 14, only four days after His last entrance into Jerusalem on Aviv 10, Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem (see “parallels between Jesus and the Passover lamb”: C-4, P-I).
This is how three other Bible translations render this prophecy (Dan. 9:26a): 1) “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself” (King James); 2) “...but after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be slain, although there is nothing against Him” (Modern Language); and 3) “After this period of 434 years, the Anointed One will be killed, his kingdom still unrealized” (Living Bible). Putting these pieces together, the forecast was that, even though there would be no valid accusations against Him, the Messiah would be “cut off” (Isa. 53:8c) or slain—not for Himself but for others (53:8d)—with His Kingdom on earth still not officially in place.
When Jesus came into Jerusalem on Aviv 10, He came as the saving Messiah and King; unfortunately, He was not accepted as such. Had He been, the last 7 of the 490 years (seventy “weeks”) would have continued uninterrupted from that point. Instead, though, the time count abruptly paused and was put on hold after 69 of the 70 “weeks” (483 of the 490 years) had passed.
Some believe that the time count beyond the 69 “weeks” did continue and that the 70 “weeks” ended at the time that Stephen, a Jewish believer in Jesus, was stoned by his own people (Acts 7:54-60). However, in my opinion, this assumption cannot be correct because the events of Dan. 9:24 (see “seventy ‘weeks’ decreed” earlier in this part) had not—and still have not—taken place as yet. Furthermore, it was not until decades later (in 70 A.D.) that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. (Incidentally, Stephen gives an interesting, concise account of Israel’s history, up to the point of Jesus’ death, which is well worth reading—Acts 7:2-53).
Jesus prophesied that, since the people “...did not recognize the time of God’s [Jesus, the Messiah’s] coming...” to them (Luke 19:44c), their enemies would attack them and destroy their city (19:43,44ab). In fact, the persecution and destruction sequence began in 62 A.D., when Jews were deprived of their citizenship by the Roman government. In 66 A.D., Roman soldiers looted Jerusalem, resulting in a Jewish revolt which was crushed by the Romans in 67 A.D. Finally, in 70 A.D., the temple was completely destroyed, an event also foretold by Jesus (Matt. 24:2).
This entire segment matches the prophecy that the “...people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary” (Dan. 9:26b). (The “ruler who will come” had not arrived on the scene yet but would come at some unspecified point in the future.) During these final years, the Roman invasion was like a “flood,” causing the people to be carried away and scattered among the nations. Furthermore, war would “...continue until the end...” (of that era in Israel’s history) when the city was desolated (laid waste) and the “sanctuary” (temple) was demolished (9:26bc). Today, Jews world-wide pray for the rebuilding of the temple and the re-establishment of temple worship (see “preparations for the future temple”: P-III).
Some believe that the prophecy of “the ruler who will come” (Dan. 9:26b) was fulfilled by Antiochus IV Epiphanes (see “Prince of princes”: C-8, P-1), a Syrian king who, in 167 B.C., forbade burnt offerings and sacrifices in the temple (1 Macc. 1:45a in the Apocrypha) and erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of the temple (1:54a), the latter being an abomination in the eyes of God-fearing Jews. However, the reprehensible activities of this evil ruler actually were foretold elsewhere by Daniel (Dan. 8:9-14) and explained by the angel Gabriel (8:23-25). (Also, the activities of Antiochus Epiphanes were predicted in Dan. 11:21-35).
As an aside, I am inclined to believe that the 2,300 “evenings and mornings” (Dan. 8:14,26) began with the murder of the legitimate high priest of Israel, Onias III (2 Macc. 4:33-36), in 170 B.C.; and it ended when the temple was rededicated 2,300 days later on Chanukah (Hanukkah) on Kislev 25, 164 B.C. (1 Macc. 4:52-59). Some believe that 2,300 “evenings and mornings” indicates 1,150 full days (each divided into an evening and a morning) and will be the period of desolation of the temple during the future 70th Week. I disagree, because I do not believe the future temple, once it is defiled, will be reconsecrated before the great millennial Temple is built (see “millennial Temple”: C-13, P-II). Others believe the 2,300 “evenings and mornings” represent 2,300 “years,” but I find no compelling evidence to justify this view.
The reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (Dan. 8:9-14,23-25, 11:21-35) took place during a span of years within the first 69 of the 70 “weeks,” not after the 69th “week” had ended. Also, this “stern-faced king” (8:23) was a descendent of Seleucus I Nicanor. He and three others (Ptolemy I Philometor, Cassander, and Lysimachus) were “four prominent horns” (8:8c)—that is, four top officers—of Alexander III the Great (the “prominent horn”—8:5) of the mighty Greek Empire. (Seleucus I Nicanor became ruler of the Syrian Empire, as did Antiochus Epiphanes.)
On the other hand, the future “ruler who will come” (Dan. 9:26b) will be from the revived or revised Roman Empire (see “the 70th Week covenant” and “identity of the end-time ruler”: P-III). There is no question that the activities of Antiochus Epiphanes foreshadowed and paralleled those of “the ruler who will come” (the “Antichrist”).
An alternate viewpoint should be noted here. Some feel the passage Dan. 8:9-14,23-25 refers to activities of the future ruler to come rather than to Antiochus Epiphanes. I am unaware of a way to prove whether this “stern-faced king” (8:23) is the future ruler or is Antiochus; the latter simply seems to have more grounds for acceptance, in my opinion. If I am incorrect, then it does indeed force the future ruler to be a descendant of the Syrian, Seleucus I (as was Antiochus), and possibly even of Antiochus IV Epiphanes himself.
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