"One of the most important prophecy passages in the whole Bible is that of God’s prophecy given to Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27. This passage constitutes one of the most amazing prophecies in all the Bible. If worked out logically, this text is both seminal and determinative in the outworking of one’s understanding of Bible prophecy".
Let the postmillennial and amillennial commentators look long and steadily at this fact. This prophecy is a prophecy for Daniel’s people and Daniel’s city. No alchemy of Origenistic spiritualizing interpretation can change that.
It has been well observed by various writers that if the seventy weeks are to end with the death of Christ and the incoming destruction of Jerusalem, it is simply impossible-with all ingenuity expended in this direction by eminent men-to make out an accurate fulfillment of prophecy from the dates given, for the time usually adduced being either too long to fit with the crucifixion of Christ or too short to extend to the destruction of Jerusalem.
-George N. H. Peters
One of the most important prophecy passages in the whole Bible is that of God’s prophecy given to Daniel in Daniel 9:24-27. This passage constitutes one of the most amazing prophecies in all the Bible. If worked out logically, this text is both seminal and determinative in the outworking of one’s understanding of Bible prophecy. Especially for those of us who believe that prophecy should be understood literally, it is essential that a right understanding of this central text be developed and cultivated. Thus, with this article, I am beginning a series that examines Daniel’s prophecy for the purpose of providing a consistently literal interpretation of the passage.
Enemies of Literal Interpretation
Critics of the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy must strike down the plain meaning of Daniel’s prophecy in their failed attempts to strike down the prophetic precision found in biblical prophecy. Critic, Gary DeMar declares:
While nearly all Bible scholars agree that the first sixty-nine weeks of Daniel’s prophecy refer to the time up to Jesus’ crucifixion, only dispensationalists [literal interpreters like myself, T.D.I.] believe that the entire seventieth week is yet to be fulfilled. Without a futurized seventieth week, the dispensationalist system falls apart. There can be no pretribulational rapture, great tribulation, or rebuilt temple without the gap. How do dispensationalists find a gap in a text that makes no mention of a gap?
I agree with DeMar that much rides on Daniel’s prophecy. I hope to demonstrate in this and coming articles that the only interpretation of Daniel’s seventy-weeks that explains all aspects of this great prophecy is the consistently literal approach. Should the overall approach of this prophecy be literal or allegorical? If literal, then this would mean that the numbers should be taken literally and do count. Yet some think that numbers don’t count.
This facilitates the adoption of the symbolical interpretation of the numbers, which, . . . we regard as the only possible one, because it does not necessitate our changing the seventy years of the exile into years of the restoration of Jerusalem, and placing the seven years, which the text presents as the first period of the seventy weeks, last.
Harry Bultema observes:
The angel himself gives a literal explanation and it would be nonsensical to insist on giving a symbolical interpretation of a literal explanation. If the exegetes had always obeyed the angel’s interpretation as is evident from practically every word he speaks, then this text would never have been so obscured by all kinds of human conjectures and imagined “deep” insights.
Reasons For Literal Numbers
There are solid reasons why the numbers in Daniel’s prophecy should be taken literally. First, chapter 9 opens with Daniel realizing from Jeremiah’s writings that Israel’s captivity would last 70 years. These were literal years. Since the prophecy delivered by Gabriel to Daniel in 9:24-27 is related to the 70-year captivity, it follows that the 70 weeks of years are equally literal. Second, since definite numbers are used in the prophecy (7, 62, and 1 weeks), it would be strange indeed for such odd numbers to not have literal meaning. Leon Wood asks, “Why should definite numbers be applied to periods of indefinite lengths?” Nothing in the context suggests a non-literal use of numbers in this prophecy.
Setting the Context
We know from the beginning of chapter 9 (verse 2) that Daniel had read about “the number of 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.” The two passages which Daniel surely studied were Jeremiah 25:11-12 and 29:10-14. Both texts clearly speak of Israel’s Babylonian captivity as limited to a 70-year period. Both passages also blend into their texts, statements that look forward to a time of ultimate fulfillment and blessing for the nation of Israel. This is why Daniel appears to think that when the nation returns to their land, then ultimate blessing (the millennial kingdom) will coincide with their return. Daniel’s errant thinking about the timing of God’s plan for Israel occasioned the Lord’s sending of Gabriel “to give you insight with understanding” (Dan. 9:22).
God was not yet ready to bring history to its destined final climax. Thus, He told Daniel that He was going stretch out history by seventy times seven years (i.e., 490 years). Dr. David Cooper wrote the following paraphrase that I think accurately captures the sense of the passage:
Daniel, you have been thinking that the final restoration will be accomplished and the full covenant blessings will be realized at the close of these seventy years of exile in Babylon. On this point you are mistaken. You are not now on the eve of the fulfillment of this wonderful prediction. Instead of its being brought to pass at this time, I am sent to inform you that there is decreed upon your people and the Holy City a period of "seventy sevens" of years before they can be realized. At the conclusion of this period of 490 years the nation of Israel will be reconciled and will be reinstated into the divine favor and will enter into the enjoyment of all the covenant blessings.
The Meaning of “Weeks”
One of the Hebrew classes I took while a student at Dallas Theological Seminary was called “Exegesis of Old Testament Problem Passages,” taught by Dr. Kenneth Barker. Dr. Barker thought that Daniel 9:24-27 had more problems for an interpreter to solve than any other passage in the entire Old Testament. Dr. Barker did not mean by the term “problem” that these made the text unknowable, but that an item was difficult and required great care and skill to determine the meaning. He thought that there were 14 problems that an interpreter needed to solve in order to correctly understand the passage. The first issue that needs to be dealt with was the meaning of the term “weeks,” found at the beginning of verse 24.
For those aquatinted with Hebrew, they will notice that the same word appears twice at the beginning of verse 24. That twice used word is “sâbu‘îm,” meaning “seventy sevens.” This Hebrew word appears first as a plural noun, followed by the participle form, functioning as an adjective. That this Hebrew phrase should be rendered as “seventy sevens,” is unanimously agreed upon by representatives of all interpretative schools. There is also great consensus that the “seventy sevens” refers to years, since this is what Daniel was contemplating in Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10-14, as evident in Daniel 9:2. Thus, our Lord has in mind seventy weeks of years, or 490 years.
The next word appearing in the Hebrew text in verse 24 is a verb translated “have been decreed.” This word appears only here in the entire Old Testament. This verb has the basic meaning of “cut,” “cut off,” and came to mean “divide,” or “determine.” It appears that Gabriel choose this unique word to emphasis that God was carefully choosing or determining the length of Israel’s history. “Just as a wise person never cuts or snips at random, the Lord as the all-wise God does so even less. All His works are determined form eternity, and the times also are only in His hands.” Wood adds, “The thought is that God had cut off these 490 years from the rest of history through which to accomplish the deliverances needed for Israel.” G. H. Lang declares:
Decreed means divided or severed off from the whole period of world-empire in the hands of the Gentiles, as to which Daniel was already well informed. It points to a fixed and limited period, of definite duration, forming part of a longer period the duration of which is not fixed, or at least not declared.
Daniel’s People and City
For whom did God reveal this period of prophetic destiny? The text says that they have been decreed “for your people and your holy city.” This is such an obvious statement, yet too many interpreters attempt to shoehorn in a people not mentioned in the passage. In the sixth century b.c., when Daniel wrote, who were Daniel’s people and holy city? Clearly it can only refer to Israel as Daniel’s people and Jerusalem as Daniel’s holy city. Yet many interpreters insist that it means something more, something different than what the text actually says. For instance, H. C. Leupold says, “Here, as so often in prophecy, terms like God’s “people” and God’s “holy city” broaden out to the point where they assume a breadth of meaning like that found in the New Testament (cf. Gal. 6:16).” Another non-literalist, E. J. Young, says, “It is true that the primary reference is to Israel after the flesh, and the historical Jerusalem, but since this very vs. describes the Messianic work, it also refers to the true people of God, those who will benefit because of the things herein described.”
Notice that both allegorizers appeal to reasons that are outside of the text. They just believe that it refers to individuals beyond Israel because that’s what they believe. Therefore, the text must have in mind some beyond what it actually does say. This is a clear example of reading meaning into the text from one’s own belief system, which is not what the Bible wants us to do. Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 4:6, “that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written.” Gabriel goes out of his way to inform Daniel that the seventy weeks of years are decree for Israel and Jerusalem. Lang notes, “The endeavour to apply this prophecy, in general or in detail, to others than Daniel’s people, Israel, and Daniel’s city, Jerusalem, is an outrage upon exegesis, being forbidden in advance by the express terms used.” Gabriel says that God has specifically cut away those 490 years for Israel and Jerusalem, which would not include the addition of anyone else. Wood expands upon this idea and notes:
It should be noted that Gabriel said the 490 years will be in reference to the Jewish people and the Jewish capital city, which would seem to exclude any direct concern with Gentiles. That this concern is to be with the city, as well as the people, militates against the idea that the 490 years carry reference only to Christ’s first coming and not to His second. It is difficult to see how the physical city of Jerusalem was involved in the deliverance from sin which Christ then effected but it will be in the deliverance from the destructive oppression which the Antichrist will bring prior to Christ’s second coming.
The Six Prophetic Purpose Clauses
As we delve more deeply into the meaning of this text, let’s drop back and note a few structural observations about the passage as a whole (Dan. 9:24-27). Verse 24 is the general statement from Gabriel, while the final three verses provide a particular explanation of the general point. Thus, verses 25-27 will help us understand the main statement of verse 24.
There are six infinitives that tell us when the seventy weeks that have been decreed for Israel and Jerusalem will be fulfilled in history. These six goals are 1) to finish the transgression, 2) to make an end of sin, 3) to make atonement for iniquity, 4) to bring in everlasting righteousness, 5) to seal up vision and prophecy, and 6) to anoint the most holy place. Usually, when a list appears in Scripture, it is important to see if the items should be grouped in subsets.
I believe that these six items are arranged in two groups of three, instead of three groups of two. The first triad has to do with sin, and interestingly these are the exact words that Daniel used in his prayer in 9:5. God is speaking to Daniel’s prayer through the first three goals. The second set of three goals for the 490 year period have to do with God’s righteousness. This was a matter that Daniel was also inquiring about in his earlier prayer (9:7). G. H. Lang agrees when he notes, “for the first three are concerned with the removal of sin, and the last three with the bringing in of righteousness.” “The first three are negative in force, speaking of undesirable matters to be removed; and the last three are positive, giving desirable factors to be effected.”
Division of these six statements into two groups of threes appear to be supported by a structural observation from the Hebrew text. The first three goals are all made up of two word units in Hebrew. The second group of descriptives all use three word phrases. This structural arrangement would lend literary support to the grouping suggested above.
Before we can determine when these six items will be fulfilled, we must first ascertain their purpose. This we will now pursue as we inspect each phrase.
1) To Finish the Transgression
The verb “to finish” looks to bring something to its culmination. It has the idea of “to close, shut, restrain.” Here it has the idea of “firmly restraining” the transgression, thus the specific idea of restraint of sin. “Examination of the use of this word shows that it means the forcible cessation of an activity. It always points to a complete stop, never to a mere hindrance.” In this context it is “the transgression” which is being firmly restrained. As I hope to demonstrate throughout this series, I believe that “finish” looks toward the completion of the 70 weeks at the second coming of Christ to set up His millennial kingdom.
The noun “transgression” in Hebrew is derived from the verbal root with the basic meaning of “rebel, revolt, transgress.” Transgression is the idea of going beyond a specific limit or boundary. “From all the definitions given we may be certain that it emphasizes the idea of rebellion against God and disobedience to His will.” Gabriel has in mind, in verse 24, more than just sin in general, but a specific sin since the definite article is attached to this word-“the transgression.” “The article in Hebrew, as in Greek, is very definite and points clearly to some outstanding thing or object,” notes David Cooper. “Thus the expression ‘the transgression’ seems to indicate some specific, outstanding, national sin of the Chosen People.” Since the emphasis in this phrase is upon the finishing of Israel’s transgression, then this leads to the conclusion that it will occur at the second coming of Jesus, Israel’s Messiah. Arnold Fruchtenbaum points out that “when speaking of the basis of the second coming of Christ that there are two facets to this basis: first, there must be the confession of Israel’s national sin (Lev. 26:40-42; Jer. 3:11-18; Hos. 5:15) . . .” The emphasis in this first goal is upon when Israel’s national sin-rejection of her Messiah-will be brought to an end. “This passage assumes, therefore,” notes Cooper, “that the whole nation repents and turns to God for mercy and forgiveness. Thus this first phrase implies the conversion of the nation. But what is assumed here is stated specifically in the third phrase.”
2) To Make an End of Sin
The second goal to be completed at the end of the 70 weeks is to make an end of sin. In the Hebrew, the word “to make an of” literally means “to shut, close, seal; to hide, to reveal as a secret,” and has the primary meaning of bringing a matter to a conclusion. Cooper explains:
This word was regularly used to indicate the closing of a letter or an official document. When the scribe had finished his work, the king placed his royal seal upon it, thus showing that the communication was brought to a close and at the same time giving it the official imprimatur.
The Hebrew root word for “sin” is the most commonly used word for sin in the Hebrew Old Testament. Its core meaning is “to miss the mark, to be mistaken”. This is illustrated in Judges 20:16 where it says, “Out of all these people . . . each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss.” This word itself conveys the basic meaning of “to miss, to be mistaken.” Interestingly, the only other uses of this word in Daniel occur in 9:20 (twice). Daniel speaks of “my sin and the sin of my people Israel.” Since this Hebrew word does not have the definite article as did “transgression” in the previous phrase, and since “sin” is plural, it seems refer to the sins in general of the nation. “The sealing up of sins, consequently, signifies their restraint under safe custody.” “Since the cause of sin must be removed before the cure can be effected, this expression assumes that at the time here foreseen the nation will have turned to the Lord, and that by His Spirit a new heart and spirit will have been given to all the people.” Clearly the scene only after the second coming followed by the installation of the millennial reign of Jesus the Messiah.
3) To Make Atonement for Iniquity
The third infinitive “to make atonement for iniquity” is the translation of two Hebrew words. Taking the second one-iniquity-first, we see that it is one of the most common Hebrew words for sin. It has the core idea of twisting or defacing something beyond its intended purpose. While speaking of a sinful act, this word, at the same time, looks to the fact that the reason why one commits iniquity is due to the perverted sinful nature inherited from Adam’s fall. According to The Oxford English Dictionary, “iniquity” means “the quality of being unrighteous, or (more often) unrighteous action or conduct.” Its core meaning is “uneven, unequal, wrong, wicked.” Thus, the idea of iniquity is used here to speak of that most aggressive nuance of sin flowing from human willful disobedience. This paints a picture of the worst kind of offense before God.
Such an offense requires a heroic response from God. Just such a provision is taught in the verb “to make atonement.” Many are familiar with the word “atone” since it takes a prominent place in Israel’s Old Testament sacrificial system. It is used in Genesis 7:14 as both a noun and a verb and carries with it the idea of covering the wood of Noah’s Ark with pitch. When applied theologically to salvation, it communicates “the act functioned to cleanse, wipe away, or purify objects contaminated by sin or uncleanness or make kôper on behalf of persons. This act of purgation served to propitiate Yahweh, thus enabling Him to dwell among His people to work out His purpose through them in the world.” The significance of this third phrase is noted by Cooper who says, doubtless is a clear reference to the time when all Israel in genuine penitence shall acknowledge her departure from God and her national sin. At the same time each individual, of course, will acknowledge his own wrongs and all will call upon God for pardon. Then that which was foreshadowed by the annual atonement will become a reality. At that time the nation will be brought back into fellowship with God and become a blessing in the earth.
The first three of the six goals in Daniel 9:24 have to do with the sin of Daniel’s people, Israel. The basis for dealing with Israel’s sin was provided during the first coming of Jesus when He died on the cross and rose again from the dead to pay for the sin of the Jews and for the sins of the entire human race. However, the application of this wonderful provision for sin will not be realized for Daniel’s people until the end of the 70 weeks. This will be fulfilled by the second coming of Messiah at the end of the tribulation period, which is yet future to our day. Leon Wood has an excellent summary of the first three goals.
The first introduces the idea of riddance, saying that the coming 490-year period would see its firm restraint. In other words, God was about to do something to alleviate this basic, serious problem. The second speaks of the degree of this restraint: sin would be put to an end. The third indicates how this would be done: by atonement. Though Christ is not mentioned in the verse, the meaning is certain, especially in view of verse twenty-six, that He would be the One making this atonement, which would serve to restrain the sin by bringing it to an end. It is clear that reference in these first three items is mainly to Christ's first coming, when sin was brought to an end in principle. The actuality of sin coming to an end for people, however, comes only when a personal appropriation of the benefit has been made. Since Gabriel was speaking primarily in reference to Jews, rather than Gentiles . . . this fact requires the interpretation to include also Christ's second coming, because only then does Israel as a nation turn to Christ (cf. Jer. 31:33, 34; Ezek. 37:23; Zech. 13:1; Rom. 11:25-27).
These clauses are prophetically important, because if they are descriptive of items that have yet to be fulfilled, then the seventy weeks of Daniel have yet to be fulfilled. This means that the final (70th week) has to be future to our day since all of the purposes must be brought to completion by the end of the prescribed time period. The first three clauses had to do with the sin issue in relation to Israel, while the second triad relate to God’s righteousness. I will now examine prophetic purpose clauses four through six.
4) To Bring in Everlasting Righteousness
The first of the three Hebrew words that compose the fourth purpose clause is the infinitive which is usually translated into English as “bring in.” This is a widely used Hebrew verb that has the primary meaning of “come in, come, go in, or go.” Since this occurrence of the verb is in the causative Hebrew stem known as hiphil, it has the sense that “everlasting righteousness” will be caused to come in. The righteousness to be brought in is the same word Daniel uses during his initial prayer in 9:7, where righteousness is said to belong exclusively to the Lord. David Cooper explains:
The English word, righteousness, primarily refers to the correct and proper motives and dealings of man with man. God’s righteousness would, therefore, consist of His correct attitude and actions towards His creatures and His standards for them. . . . It also carries that idea.
Thus, the righteousness to be brought in will not be the twisted and volatile standards of human invention. Instead, God’s righteousness will be a changeless measure of God’s enviable code.
The Hebrew Lexicon of Brown, Driver, and Briggs (BDB) says that the Hebrew noun holamim has the core meaning of “long duration, antiquity, futurity,” The Lexicon specifically says that the use in Daniel 9:24 is a plural intensive and thus renders it with the specific sense of “everlastingness, or eternity.” Cooper provides a literal translation of “righteousness of the ages,” which captures its precise English meaning and notes that it signifies that there are rules or formulas of attitude and conduct that are right and will be reckoned as correct throughout all ages- past, present, and future. . . When, however, the 490 years are completed and the Almighty brings in His great regimé of righteousness, these eternal principles of justice and equity will be in force; therefore, Gabriel said that at this future time God will bring in the righteousness of the ages
I believe that this clause is a prophecy concerning the future time we know as the kingdom or millennial reign of Christ (see Rev. 20:1-9). This means that it is yet future to our own day. In contrast to Israel’s many failures of the past to live up to God’s righteous standards (cf. Dan. 9:3-19), this time the Lord will provide everlasting righteousness for the nation. Randall Price points out that Gabriel has. . . in view a theodicial “age of righteousness” (cf. Isa. 1:26; 11:2-5; 32:17; Jer. 23:5-6; 33:15-18) that resolves the theological scandal (note Dan. 9:15-16) of the former age characterized by “the rebellion” (i.e., Israel’s rejection of the Messiah). Therefore, this age will be vindication of God’s promise to national Israel (Ezek. 36:17-23) and a reversal of her condition and fortunes with respect to Messiah, hence a “messianic age” or the messianic kingdom.
5)To Seal Up Vision and Prophecy
This triad of Hebrew words commences with the same infinitive used above in the second clause which was “to make an end of sin.” The notion of this Hebrew word “seal up,” carries the idea of completion. In this context it is rendered “seal up” since the last thing done by a writer as he completes a letter or document is to seal up the finished product. Charles Feinberg expounds that this refers to giving the seal of confirmation to Daniel and his vision by fulfilling his predictions. In Isaiah 8:16, this phrase meant that the prophecy was complete, and the command was given to bind it up, to roll it up like a scroll and seal it. Again, in Daniel 8:26 the thought was to seal up the prophecy and make a permanent record of it, so that when it is fulfilled the event can be compared to the prophecy to show how completely the one corresponds to the other.
The dual nouns, which are singular, are literally translated “vision” and “prophet.” Prophet is a concrete noun put for the abstract thing that the prophet produces, which is prophecy. Vision is a prophetic vehicle (cf. Dan. 7), while the human instrument is the prophet who produces the prophecy. Both are collective nouns for the sum total of all vision and prophecy. Some think that this clause was completed during the first coming of Jesus. Preterist Ken Gentry advocates this view:
The fifth result . . . has to do with the ministry of Christ on earth, which is introduced at His baptism: He comes “to seal up vision and prophecy.” By this is meant that Christ fulfills (and thereby confirms) the prophecy (Luke 18:31; cf. Luke 24:44; Acts 3:18).
Gentry’s naked assertion is typical of those who advocate such a position, which is lacking any exegetical support. Allan MacRae rightly concludes that there “is no Scriptural warrant for saying that the functions of the Old Testament vision and prophecy came to an end at the time of Christ’s first advent or that these terms do not also include visions and prophecies of the New Testament.” Harry Bultema declares,
“Prophecy” does not refer to Christ here but to prophecy in general. The “vision” this verse speaks of is not a reference to this vision nor to any of the other visions Daniel received, but together with the word “prophecy” refers to all predictions. A scroll was not complete until it was completely filled. Thus this sealing of a scroll became a symbol of fulfillment (Isa. 8:16). So also here it indicates a complete fulfillment of all prophecy.
This fifth prophetic declaration, like the previous can only refer to a future time when all prophecy will be fulfilled relating to Israel. There are yet hundreds of future prophecies relating to Israel and Jerusalem that await a future fulfillment.
6) To Anoint the most Holy
The sixth and final prophetic clause begins with the Hebrew verb usually translated as “anoint” means to pour oil on something or someone. BDB says that it is used specifically in Daniel 9:24 to “anoint or consecrate to religious service.”
This much debated phrase usually translated in English as “most holy” is a dual use of the same Hebrew word. This is a common occurrence in Hebrew when the superlative of a noun is intended and such is the case here. The first use of the word is singular, while the second one is plural and can literally be rendered “most holy,” or “a most holy place.” The German commentator C. F. Keil notes that the same exact phrase is used in Ezekiel 45:3 of a future temple and concludes that “the reference is to the anointing of a new sanctuary, temple, or most holy place.” Specific reasons for this interpretation of the sixth clause is stated well by Leon Wood.
The phrase “holy of holies” (qodesh qadashîm) occurs, either with or without the article, thirty-nine times in the Old Testament, always in reference to the Tabernacle or Temple or to the holy articles used in them. When referring to the most holy place, where the Ark was kept, the article is regularly used (e.g., Ex. 26:33), but it is not when referring to the holy articles (e.g., Ex. 29:37) or to the whole Temple complex (e.g., Ezek. 43:12). In view of these matters, it is highly likely that the phrase refers to the Temple also here, which, in view of the context, must be a future Temple; and, since the phrase is used without the article, reference must be to a complex of that Temple, rather than its most holy place.
Without exegeting any of the details of Daniel 9:24, Ken Gentry, like many non-literal interpreters, simply declares that this clause refers to Jesus, “at His baptismal anointing that the Spirit came upon Him (Mark 1:9-11).” As Leon Wood documented above, this expression is never used of a person, only of things. “So it is not a reference to the Messiah. Nor to the church, for the church is nowhere mentioned or found in the whole prophecy of Daniel,” declares Harry Bultema. “It refers to Daniel’s people Israel. . . . It refers to the state of bliss and holiness of all Israel after the Savior has come to Zion and has turned away the ungodliness from Jacob (Rom. 11:26).” Thus, we see that this final prophetic purpose clause also awaits a future fulfillment.
Conclusion of the Six Clauses
As we survey the lessons from all six prophetic purpose clauses, we find that none of them have yet to be fulfilled in their entirety. Therefore, we know from the goals that our Lord set for His people (Israel), and for His city (Jerusalem), that there remains a time of future fulfillment.
“Therefore, this twenty-fourth verse of our chapter,” notes David Cooper, “read in the light of the various predictions of the prophets, is obviously a forecast of the establishment of the kingdom of God upon earth in all its glory.” G. H. Lang echoes Cooper’s thoughts when he concludes:
We have now before us an outline of the whole prophecy. And, after considering the statement of results which are to follow God disciplinary dealings, we cannot but conclude that the close of the Seventy Sevens must coincide with the end of the present order of things and the beginning of the Coming or Millennial Age.
Even C. F. Keil, the German scholar, cannot resist the clear implications of this prophecy when he states: “From the contents of these six statements it thus appears that the termination of the seventy weeks coincides with the end of the present course of the world.”
Israel's Sabbatical Year
In reaching a correct understanding of Daniel 9:24-27, it is most helpful to understand the circumstances that occasioned the giving of this revelation by God to Daniel. No one questions that the occasion relates to Israel’s Babylonian captivity for failure to observe the sabbatical year in their calendar that was given to the nation by the Lord. But how does that relate to the 70-weeks prophecy? That is what I want to examine next. As part of the stipulations in the Mosaic Law Code, Israel was to let her land lay fallow every seventh year. Scripture says,
“Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. And all of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you’” (Lev. 25:2-6).
Leviticus 26 provides the sanctions that God would impose upon His nation for the years that Israel did not obey the specifications of a sabbatical year.
Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it (Lev. 26:34-35).
For the land shall be abandoned by them, and shall make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, shall be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes (Lev. 26:43).
The Lord provided a Divine commentary to the nation on how they were keeping or not keeping His Law in the historical book of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. Thus, the Lord explains why Israel was sent away to Babylon for 70 years in the following passage:
And those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. all the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete (2 Chr. 36:20-21).
What passage in Jeremiah was the statement in Chronicles referring to? The following two references provide the answer.
And this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years (Jer. 25:11).
For thus says the Lord, “When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place” (Jer. 29:10).
It is clear from the above passages that God had a specific reason behind the deportation of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) to Babylon for 70 years. This would mean that Israel violated the sabbatical year 70 times. The Jews entered the Promised Land around 1400 b.c. and were deported to Babylon around 600 b.c. This means that they were in the land about 800 years before the Babylonian deportation. Had they disobeyed the sabbatical year commandment every seventh year, it would mean that they should have been in captivity for about 114 years. Instead, they were held captive for 70 years, meaning that they were disobedient for only 490 of the 800 years in the land. This would mean that there were breaks or gaps in the accumulation of the 490 years, during the 800-year period, that resulted in Israel’s 70-year captivity. Why is this important? Because many of the critics of the literal interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 insist that it is unreasonable to have gaps in that 490-year period. Of course, it is not since there were many gaps in the 490-year period related to the Babylonian Captivity.
Critics of a Future 70th Week
Preterist Gary DeMar is one of the most outspoken critics of a yet future 70th week of Daniel. DeMar argues that there are never any gaps in any time periods in Scripture that he examines. He declares, “If we can find no gaps in the sequence of years in these examples, then how can a single exception be made with the ‘seventy weeks’ in Daniel 9:24-27?” Interestingly, DeMar does not examine the 490-year period that took place during the 800 years of Israel’s occupation of the land as mentioned above. As I have noted, there are all kinds of gaps within this sequence. There were roughly 310 years of gaps interspersed throughout the 800-year period. This makes it directly related to the 70-weeks prophecy given to Daniel. DeMar acknowledges that Daniel’s 70-weeks are related to the violation of the sabbatical year laws of Leviticus 25 and 26, and connected to 2 Chronicles 36 and Jeremiah 25. But he fails to observe the fact that the 490 years of Daniel 9:24-27 are derived from the 490 years of Israel’s violation of the sabbatical years prescribed by God in His covenant with the nation.
Dr. Harold Hoehner answers critics like DeMar when he notes that “The seventy-year captivity was due to the Jews having violated seventy sabbatical years over a 490-year period and Daniel now saw seventy units of sevens decreed for another 490 years into Israel’s future.” Hoehner has diagramed this relationship as noted in the “Units of Seventy” chart below.
We also know that Daniel himself was familiar with the reason why God had sent His people into the Babylonian captivity from the first part of Daniel 9.
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).
Dr. Leon Wood explains this matter as follows:
since Daniel was here thinking in terms of the seventy-year captivity, he, as a Hebrew, could have easily moved from the idea of one week of years to seventy weeks of years. This follows because, according to 2 Chronicles 36:21, the people had been punished by this Exile so that their land might enjoy the sabbath rests which had not been observed in their prior history (cf. Lev. 26:33-35, Jer. 34:12-22). Knowing this, Daniel would have recognized that the seventy years of the Exile represented seventy sevens of years in which these violations had transpired; and he would have understood Gabriel to be saying, simply, that another period, similar in length to that which had made the Exile necessary, was coming in the experienced of the people.
Even though DeMar recognizes the cause for Daniel’s prayer and the subsequent revelation of the angel Gabriel to Daniel of the 70-weeks prophecy, he fails to recognize that the 70-year captivity was based upon a 490-year period that contained multiple gaps of time. DeMar argues that a gap of time between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel is not justified because there are not other examples of this in Scripture. This appears to justify such a gap if an example of other gaps could be found. We have not only found an example, but it is an example directly related to the 70-weeks prophecy of Daniel. Thus, using DeMar’s standard, he should recognize that a gap in Daniel 9:24-27 is justifiable. I will show other reasons for a future 70th week in forthcoming installments in this series, but thought it important to make this point at this time in the development of the series.
Gary DeMar goes on to insist that it is impossible to have any kind of gap or chronological postponement of time between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel.
As has already been noted, the text says nothing about "a period between the sixty-ninth and seventieth-weeks." There can be no "period between" any time period, whether seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, or years unless a period of time is expressly given. It is impossible to insert time between the end of one year and the beginning of another. January 1st follows December 31st at the stroke of midnight. There is no "period between" the conclusion of one year and the beginning of the next year. Culver, therefore, begs the question. He first must prove that a period of time should be placed between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks before he can maintain that there is a "period between" the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. The "simple language of the text" makes no mention of a gap.
I believe that there is clear evidence why the 70th week of Daniel is yet future and, thus, the necessity of a gap of time between the 69th and 70th week. Just as Gary DeMar and others who do not think that Daniel 9:24-27 can be taken literally are mistaken, I will demonstrate in future articles in this series why this is the correct way to handle this passage. Daniel 9:24-27 allows for a gap of time between the 69th and 70th week because the advancing of God’s program relating to His people Israel was put on hold and will be postponed until a future time. Apparently critics like DeMar are not able to see the time gaps of the past, like the one I demonstrated in this article, so it is not surprising that they do not understand how there is one in God’s future plan for His people Israel.
This paper continues in part two of "The Seventy Weeks of Daniel.
Click here to view: The Seventy Weeks of Daniel Part 2
Dr. Thomas Ice: Heads up The Pre-Trib Research Center. The Pre-Trib Research Center is a "think tank" committed to the study, proclamation, teaching and defending of the Pretribulational Rapture (pre-70th week of Daniel) and related end-time prophecy. Editor: Thomas Ice, : Send correspondence to Rev. Thomas Ice, Executive Director, Address: Pre-Trib Research Center, P. O. Box 14111, Arlington, TX. 70694-1111
Return to Pre-Trib Index
Return to Home Page