In Part I we looked at the purpose of the seventy weeks prophecy found in Daniel 9. We discovered that the goals of the prophecy centre around Israel’s sin and judgement and the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. In Part II we look into the actual timing and events of the prophecy.
One of the first hurdles to understanding the prophecy is to identify the “command” in verse 25.
“Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.” (Daniel 9:25 NKJV)
This command would involve the building and restoration of Jerusalem. There are several candidates for this command.
- Cyrus’ Decree in 538 B.C. Found in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 and in Ezra 1:1-4; 5:13, 17, 6:3. The focus of this decree is on the Temple and as a result the city remains largely untouched. A far cry from the restoration prophesied.
- Artaxerxes’ first decree in 457 B.C. Found in Ezra 7:11-26. Ezra certainly understood this decree to include the rebuilding of the walls (Ezra 9:9). It also included the restoration of civil government.
- Artazerxes second decree in 444 B.C. Found in Nehemiah 2:1-8. This passage specifically mentions rebuilding the walls. However, some scholars argue that this is not a decree proper. It should more correctly be viewed as a letter that strengthens the original decree issued to Ezra.
Artaxerxes first decree in 457 B.C. is the most likely one referred to in Daniel 9:25. The prophecy states that from this decree until “Messiah the Prince there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks”. These sixty-nine weeks total 483 years. Adding this to 457 B.C. we arrive at the date of 27 A.D. This is a very likely date for the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the prophecy divides this period into two parts, the first being seven weeks or 49 years. According to some Bible commentators, the historian Prideaux declared Nehemiah’s last action in rebuilding the city occurred in the 15th year of the Persian ruler Darius Nothus. This is exactly 49 years from the issue of this decree.
The Final Week
“26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” (Daniel 9:26-27, ESV).
Dispensationalism teaches that what follows the sixty-ninth week is not the seventieth week but a gap of indeterminate time that has now already stretched to almost 2,000 years. Not only is this gap not apparent in the text itself, inserting this gap causes the whole point of an over-arching seventy weeks to break down. If there is a gap in the chronology the entire point of being able to time the events according to the period of 490 years disappears. Such a gap in the prophecy is not textually, or historically warranted.
Back to the text, we see that there are two groups of events specified in the passage.
First, those that occur “after the sixty-two weeks” (that is, some time after the first 483 years):
- The anointed one, the Messiah, is “cut off”
- The “people of the prince who is to come” destroy the city of Jerusalem and the Temple
Secondly, those that occur during specifically in the final week (within the last 7 years):
- A covenant is confirmed for one week
- Halfway through this week, the one who confirmed the covenant puts an end to sacrifice and offering.
The Hebrew language shows that the covenant is better seen as being ‘confirmed’ rather than made. What is the covenant that is confirmed for 7 years? Clearly it is the covenant that is featured throughout this chapter in Daniel, the covenant that God has with His people. After the first 69 weeks, “Messiah the Prince” appears (v25), this occurred in 27 A.D. when Jesus began his public ministry. 3 ½ years later, half way through the last ‘week’, Jesus was crucified, or “cut off”. Jesus sacrifice put an end to the old sacrificial system forever. Interestingly, the time of Christ’s earthly ministry (the first 3 ½ years of this week) was dedicated to the Jewish people. Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24 ESV). After Christ’s crucifixion, the Gospel is predominantly focused on the Jews. Only at the stoning of Stephen in 34 A.D., about 3 ½ years later does the Gospel go out to the Gentiles (Acts 8:1). As we can see the covenant is confirmed with the Jewish people for 7 years as the ministry and gospel focus almost exclusively on the Jews. Half way through this time, the Messiah is “cut-off” and at His crucifixion he puts an end to sacrifice and offering. Once the seven years is complete (that 70th week), the Gospel is no longer the domain of the Jew but begins to be proclaimed throughout the Gentile world.
Destruction of Jerusalem
What about the destruction of the city and Temple and the abomination that makes desolation in verses 26 and 27? As I showed in an earlier post, the abomination of desolation prophesied here is the same event spoken about by Jesus in Matthew 24. This clearly finds fulfillment in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. The issue is that obviously the destruction of Jerusalem occurs past the end of the time frame for the 70 weeks.
Remember, however, that there are two events that occur after the 69th week; the Messiah being cut off and the city and sanctuary being destroyed. Verse 27 tells us that the Messiah’s death occurs in the middle of the 70th week. However, it does not say when the prophesied destruction occurs, beyond being some time after the 69th week.
The destruction of Jerusalem is not one of the goals of the prophecy (see Part I, Daniel 9:24), but is the consequence of the transgression of Israel and the death of the Messiah. Within in the 70 weeks time-frame, Israel’s sin was sealed and reserved for judgement. Ultimately this was carried out in 70 A.D. This is exactly the way that Jesus Christ interpreted this prophecy in Matthew 24.
Daniel’s 70-weeks prophecy is all about the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. It focuses on the covenantal relationship between God and Israel. The Jewish people would finish the transgression by finally rejecting God by crucifying Jesus. This sin is sealed up and reserved for judgement which ultimately came in the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, just as Jesus himself also prophesied it would in Matthew 24. Jesus sacrifice would finally atone for sin and bring in everlasting righteousness.
Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy Timeline Chart (PDF File, 2.5MB)
- Timeline of the Apostle Paul (External Link)
- The Commandment to Restore and to Build Jerusalem (External Link)
- Chronology of Jesus’ Life (External Link)