DANIEL’S SEVENTY WEEKS
The backbone of prophecy.
Daniel 9 has often been called the most important chapter in prophecy. In it we are given an outline of prophetic events in a series of a few short verses at the end of the chapter; vv.24-27. They disclose a timeline of 490 years, broken down into “weeks” or seven-year groups. The first sixty-nine weeks have been fulfilled already, but the seventieth week is still to come! Daniel’s seventy weeks provide a chronological outline into which we can place other details of prophecy. For this reason, many students of prophecy refer to Daniel 9 as “the backbone of prophecy”.
The Purpose of the Seventy Weeks (v.24)
“Seventy weeks are apportioned out upon thy people and upon thy holy city,” Daniel 9:24a
Daniel had discovered from the Word of God that a remnant would return after seventy years of captivity to the land of Israel (Jer. 25:11-12, 2 Chron. 36:21, Lev. 25), and that the 70 years was almost up (v.2). Daniel knew that Babylon was about to be destroyed. Then Daniel began to pray; confessing his sin, the sin of his people Israel, and beseeching the Lord to forgive Israel, and to restore Jerusalem. Then God lets Daniel into His mind, and says, hold on a minute, the full and final deliverance of the Jews would not be until seventy weeks had run their course. In other words, God’s governmental working with Israel is on a much longer timeline than Daniel ever expected. The word “week” in this verse is “heptad”; it refers to any group of seven. In this case, it is a group of seven years. Seventy weeks is 70 x 7 = 490 years. We learn from this, that the Jews’ deliverance from Babylon long ago is but a foreshadow of the coming deliverance of the godly Jewish remnant from future political Babylon (the Beast) in the Tribulation period.
“To close the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make expiation for iniquity, and to bring in the righteousness of the ages, and to seal the vision and prophet, and to anoint the holy of holies.” Daniel 9:24b
God now gives to Daniel the sixfold purpose for the seventy weeks:
- “to close the transgression”…………………………..To bring Israel’s iniquity to it’s full height.
- “to make an end of sins”………………………………To put a stop to Israel’s rebellion.
- “to make expiation for iniquity”…………………….To grant governmental forgiveness to Israel.
- “to bring in the righteousness of the ages”………To introduce a millennial reign of righteousness.
- “to seal up vision and prophecy”..………………….To bring all prophetic subjects to a close.
- “to anoint the holy of holies”..………………………..To usher in Millennial worship.
The Division of the Seventy Weeks (v.25)
“Know therefore and understand: From the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah, the Prince, are seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks. The street and the moat shall be built again, even in troublous times.” Daniel 9:25
God now gives the principal divisions of the seventy weeks. The weeks begins with the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem. There were two decrees given, and careful study will show which decree is referenced here. In the Book of Ezra, we have a commandment from the king Artaxerxes (called Longimanus), “in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king” (Ezra 7). Then later, in “the twentieth year” of his reign, another commandment was given to Nehemiah (Neh. 2:1) specifically to rebuild the city. This is a particular decree of Artaxerxes, given in 455 B.C. (see Nehemiah 2:1) which marks the beginning of Daniel’s seventy weeks. From that time there would be “seven weeks” (49 years) until the completion of the wall by Nehemiah in 406 B.C.. Then there would be “sixty-two weeks” (434 years) until the time when Messiah would enter the city as “the Prince”; i.e. the triumphal entry (29 A.D.). Only one more week remains!
Calculating the Triumphal Entry. It is incredible how accurately we can calculate the exact year of Christ’s triumphal entry!
We start from 455 B.C.
7 weeks are 49 years
62 weeks are +434 years
69 weeks are 483 years
Deduct -455 years
Add 1 year to adjust the eras B.C. and A.D.
The exact year of Christ’s triumphal entry!
The Interval Between the 69th and 70th Weeks (v.26)
“And after the sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, and shall have nothing; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with an overflow, and unto the end, war, — the desolations determined.” Daniel 9:26
We are now told a number of things that would occur after the 69th week, but before the 70th week. “Messiah cut off” refers to the cross, when Christ was cut off in death, crucified. “And shall have nothing” refers to the way in which He was denied His rights as the Messiah of Israel. The next thing is that the “people of the prince” (the Romans) would “destroy the city and the sanctuary”, which was fulfilled when the Roman armies under Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. Important note: The “prince that shall come” is the first leader of the revived Roman empire, but “his people” come before he actually does. Finally, “the end thereof shall be, etc.” showing that the whole period of Israel’s setting aside would be characterized by one war after another.
The Postponement of Daniel’s Seventieth Week. We know from these verses and other prophetic scriptures that the seventieth week has been postponed. One proof is that the 70th week is mentioned separately from the preceding 69 weeks.
The Seventieth Week of Daniel (v.27)
“And he shall confirm a covenant with the many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and because of the protection of abominations there shall be a desolator, even until that the consumption and what is determined shall be poured out upon the desolate.” Daniel 9:27
Now we come to perhaps the most important verse in all of prophecy. The 70th week is divided in halves, with critical events happening at the termini of each half. First, at the beginning of the week, the prince (the leader of the Roman empire) will extend a covenant of protection to “the many” (Israel). This covenant is a treaty between the prince’s people (Rome) and “the many”, which refers to the Jews. This covenant will undoubtedly be a covenant of protection, referred to in Isaiah 28:15 as “a covenant with death, and with hell”. The apostate nation of Israel will happily enter this covenant to protect them from “the overflowing scourge” (the King of the North) which they know “shall pass through”. Then, “in the midst of the week”, a radical change will occur. The leader of the Roman empire (a different man) will put a stop to Jewish worship. This new leader is the Personal Beast, the “little horn” of Daniel 7. The Personal Beast will come to power in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week, and he will reign for the last 3 1/2 years. What happened to the “prince” who made the covenant? The tenure of that “coming prince” is very short… only 3 1/2 years. We read of this leader, called the “seventh king” (Rev. 17:10); “and when he comes he must remain only a little while”. Evidently, a great upheaval at the middle of the week will result in him being either killed or deposed so that the Personal Beast can take his office. The Personal Beast needs to abolish Judaism (and Christianity) in order to set up his own religion. To do so he will breach the terms of the covenant set up by the earlier prince; “he hath broken his covenant” (Psa. 55:20). This will be a warning to Israel to abandon human protection and turn to the Lord… but they will not heed the warning. As a result of them trusting in the covenant (“the protection of abominations”) God will send the instrument of His judgment on Israel toward the end of the week, called “a desolator” (the King of the North). He will wreak havoc on the land and the Jews during the period called here “the consumption”. The judgment has been pre-measured and “determined” by God to fall on the Jews, here called “the desolate”.
Summary of What We’ve Learned from Daniel 9
Extensions to the Prophetic Week
Extensions to Daniel’s Seventieth Week. The week is divided in two parts; the first 3 1/2 years are known as “the Beginning of Sorrows” (Matt. 24:8). During this period, the 1st six seals of Revelation are unfolded. At the mid-week, Satan falls, and the Beast and Antichrist come forward. Starting at this moment, persecution of the faithful Jews will become markedly more intense. The last 3 1/2 years are known as “the Great Tribulation” (Matt. 24:21). The “midst of the week” therefore becomes a critical event in prophecy. There are a number of other important events that are measured from this point; we call them “extensions” to the week, because some of them run beyond 3 1/2 years. For example, Revelation 13:5 speaks about the length of the Personal Beast’s career being “forty and two months”, the two witnesses will prophesy for 1260 days (Rev. 11:3), and the remnant will be sheltered for 1260 days (Rev. 12:6). All these are measured from the middle of the week. Daniel gives us two other measurements from the middle of the week. In ch.12 we read of “a thousand two hundred and ninety days” and a “thousand three hundred and five and thirty days” specifically measured from “the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away”; i.e. the middle of the week. The 1290 days seems to be a direct answer to Daniel’s question in v.8, about the “end of these things”; i.e. the destruction of the King of the North at the end of ch.11. But then God indicates that a full and final deliverance will take place at 1335 days. By comparing with other scriptures, we can conclude that the final deliverance coincides with the destruction of Gog and Magog!
Three deliverances. The three extensions of the 70th week are three deliverances of Israel:
- 1260 days – Deliverance from Antichrist and Jewish persecution
- 1290 days – Deliverance from the King of the North
- 1335 days – Deliverance from the Russian confederacy