Prophecy: The “Seventy Sevens” in Daniel

daniels-70-weeks

Introduction

The Book of Daniel presents many visions and prophecies. One prophecy that is particularly interesting is the prophecy of Seventy Weeks that Daniel receives in Daniel 9:24-27 from the angel Gabriel. The purpose of this prophecy is to eradicate sin, provide atonement for sin and transgression, usher in everlasting righteousness, fulfill all prophecy, and anoint the most holy[1].While there would be an increase in opposition and rejection towards God and His purposes, He revealed His plan to bring an end to it and show that His redemption is an everlasting redemption[2]. In other words, Daniel received and relayed a prophecy concerning both the immediate future of his people and the events that were set to transpire in the future for his people and the entire world.

The issue that concerns the majority of scholars and commentators is to what the seventy weeks actually represent. There are four views that are of particular interest in this study pertaining to the seventy weeks that are worth exploring and addressing before a proper conclusion can be made. These four views are: 1. These are literal years extending through the reign of Antiochus IV[3]. 2. These are symbolic periods of time which end in the first century AD[4]. 3. These are symbolic periods of time that end with the second coming of Christ[5] 4. These are literal years which end with the second coming of Christ[6]. This blog will address each of these viewpoints and offer a clear conclusion and case regarding what the prophecy is saying.

The Four Competing Views

The first view holds that these years are literal years extending through Antiochus IV with each of the sevens consisting of seven years each with results in the duration of 490 years when multiplying seven times seventy and is met with horrible historical inaccuracies involving both the beginning of the period and the lack of the arrival of the kingdom of God at the conclusion[7]. It is troubling to have a view that sees no arrival of God’s kingdom. Without such an event, sin itself would still be present and Satan would have the final say in a world that God has promised eternal redemption for.

The second view sees the sevens as symbolic period of time which ended in the first century AD[8]. In this view, the first period (of the three) sevens begins from the decree of Cyrus in 538 allowing the return of Jewish exiles to the time of Nehemiah and Ezra around 440-400 BC with the second period went from 400 BC to the first advent of Christ and the third period ranges from the first advent of Christ to a time after the earthly ministry of Jesus, but before Jerusalem met destruction in 70 AD[9]. This view varies wildly with its dates with none of the periods of time being consistent[10]. It is important that a view be consistent a flow logically. This view fails that test and really hinders itself when it ends some time before 70 AD. Obviously sin is still present and rampant today, so God would not have done as He said in regards to eradicating sin completely.

The third view holds that these sevens are symbolic and end with the second coming of Christ[11]. According to this view, the first period of sevens extends from the decree of Cyrus in 538 until the coming of Christ in the first century AD (550 years) with the second period lasting with the time from Christ until the Antichrist persecutes the church and the third period would result in the defeat of Christ’s church and His status as Messiah[12]. It is painfully obvious to see the issues with this view as it results in the defeat of Christ. Surely God would not allow for that.

As far as the third view is concerned, it should be troubling for any believer. Scripture dictates that there will be a large number of converts to Christianity before His return as Christ will still have His witnesses present (see Matthew 24:14 and Revelation 11:1)[13]. Believers must recognize that the church will always prevail against the advances of the world. Christ founded the church and will see its continuation until He returns and fulfills prophecy in His reign on earth. Any notion of a successful attempt by Satan to destroy the church is simply false. The Antichrist will have his way with political affairs and world conflicts, but the church will remain as this writer believes God will always leave the gauge of free will available.

The fourth view is the most popular and represents the sevens as literal years equaling to 490 years (when multiplying seven times seventy) and end with the second coming of Christ[14]. The first period of years begins with a command to rebuild Jerusalem either from a decree to Ezra in 458 BC or a decree to Nehemiah in 445 BC with the second period of sevens extend to the first coming of Christ (either baptism in 26 AD or His presentation as Messiah on Palm Sunday in 32/33 AD) and the last period of sevens lasting from tribulation until the second coming of Christ[15]. This view is concise and has little contradiction or scriptural error present. It should therefore be the view that is accepted.

Not all views believe the prophecy is still ongoing (see views one and two). These sort of views are represented by non-futurists. Non-futurists believe that all of the restoration goals presented in Daniel 9:24 were satisfied in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus in a very literal and consecutive fashion without interruption[16]. Non-futurists point to temporary Jewish revolts, but these revolts led to only more destruction and exile, not restoration[17]. Moreover, Gabriel told Daniel that the one who laid waste to the Temple would be destroyed in 9:27 and this never occurred as Titus paraded through Rome with the Temple vessels[18]. It becomes apparent here that even if one were on the fence concerning these views, they could easily dismiss views one and two. This leaves only the third and fourth views with the third view foretelling the defeat of Christ’s church and His function as Messiah[19]. It therefore becomes necessary to embrace the fourth view and continue on from this point in light of the fourth view.

Exegesis

A proper exegesis and study is helpful to break down the passage of scripture itself to better ascertain what all is going to transpire over the duration of the prophecy. Daniel realized that the time for his people to return to Jerusalem was approaching and put his heart and soul into a prayer acknowledging the curse of the covenant law still on his people and confessing the sins of himself and his people[20]. God sent Gabriel to reveal the prophecy of seventy sevens in response to the prayer[21].

The first element of 9:24 describes a period of time known as seventy “sevens” which is spoken with no unit of time given which means this may be days, weeks, months, or infinite periods of time[22]. The majority consensus regarding this passage is that it refers to years given the familiarity the Hebrews had with sevens of years with only two types of sevens are mentioned in scripture: days and years which only allows for years to remain as the proper interpretation[23].

The second element of 9:24 focuses on the time period being set aside for the Jews and Jerusalem and this is evidenced by the fact the revelation that was given was an answer to a prayer from Daniel which centered on the Jewish people[24]. The third element of 9:24 concerns the goals of this time period. These goals are the finish of transgression, end sin, atone for wickedness, bring everlasting righteousness (at the end of the seventy years), seal up vision and prophecy (prophecy is completely fulfilled), and anoint the most holy (future temple)[25].

In 9:25, the seventy sevens become divided into three different groups with the first group beginning with a decree that allowed for Jews to restore and rebuild Jerusalem which is correctly identified with the decree of Artaxerxes I to Ezra in 458 BC which allowed for the Jews to return to Palestine and also concerned the establishment and practice of services at the temple (see Ezra 7:11-26)[26]. After a period of sixty-nine sevens (seven sevens plus sixty-two sevens), the “Anointed One” would arrive and then be “cut off” and this person is rightfully considered to be Jesus Christ given that an end to sin was to come[27]. During this time period Jerusalem would also be rebuilt with a trench and streets in a stark contrast to the level city Daniel saw when he received this prophecy[28].

Verse 26 speaks to events after the reconstruction of Jerusalem in the first of the three groups of sevens (forty-nine years) leading to the second group of sevens (434 years) which would see the arrival and death of Jesus (or the “Anointed One”) with His coming being at the end of the first sixty-nine sevens[29]. As verse 26 continues, it speaks to the future destruction of Jerusalem by Rome (the people of the ruler) and will also be the persecutor of Israel in the seventieth seven[30]. Rome would destroy Jerusalem in 70 AD in similar fashion to a flood as they swept over and destroyed the city[31].

Verse 27 outlines the events of the seventieth seven. Important to note is that the seventieth seven is concluded by the second coming of Christ so the events described here occur seven years prior to the return of Christ[32]. It is indicated that the seventieth seven would not follow the sixty-ninth in a consecutive fashion and this pits a gap that is consistent with an Old Testament phenomenon known as prophetic prospective in which gaps between the initial and second advent are not apparent[33]. John Walvoord notes, “Obviously, if the fulfillment of the last seven years immediately followed the preceding period, there would be no time in which to consider the destruction of Jerusalem as part of the fulfillment, which would precede the last seven years.”[34] He also notes, “The end came for Jerusalem in AD 70, and following that, war continues with its desolations as history has confirmed.”[35] This acknowledgment of a time gap makes it all the more difficult to assign any concrete year to the fine seven within the prophecy. This does not mean that many have not tried, but all of their attempts have been in vain and produced nothing but embarrassment for themselves.

Verse 27 continues as it addresses the final seven. The Antichrist will enter into a treaty with Israel offering them peace, but he will put an end to sacrifice and offerings in the middle of the seven (or after three and a half years)[36]. The final seventh is known as the tribulation period (known as the great tribulation) and this is when the Antichrist will persecute those who believe as well as run havoc on the earth, but Christ will return and put an end to the reign of the Antichrist[37].

Conclusion

This writer certainly agrees with the timetable consensus presented in this paper. Logically, it syncs up with the events presented both historically and in the Bible. All four views presented seem to represent noble attempts at dissecting the passage, but only the fourth view holds up to the test of time. The fact that there is a gap between the second period of weeks and the final seven is not by mistake. God’s plan has always been God’s plan and mankind is simply living within it. It could be that these periods of years are like weeks to the Father as presented in this paper. The fact is man simply does not know the answer.

The question becomes then: What is man to do with this information? Certainly a focal point in evangelism is the saving of souls to avoid the pain of the tribulation period.  Because the focus of Daniel is set on the Maccabean age, man can only speak with sincere confidence in regards to that age[38]. Predicting when the final seven years will occur may be a futile endeavor, but it certainly weighs in the mind of any believer, apologist, or evangelist. With this in mind, this passage in Daniel serves as a wakeup call to remind the Christian that God has not completed prophecy and there is a great time of tribulation set to occur.

The Book of Daniel is one full of wonder and mystery. From a vision of bests to a prophecy regarding the end of days, Daniel presents a past, present, and future that hinges on the very Word of God. Because God keeps all of His promises and fulfills all prophecy that He has given, it is necessary to view Daniel in the light of His Truth. The seventy sevens in Daniel are clearly representative of years given the above presentation of the four leading views regarding this passage. Christians are living in a time of great inner turmoil. On the one hand, Christians clearly long for the day that the Savior returns and sets things right in the world. This can be considered one of the factors with the predictions that have been made over the span of many years regarding the final seven years. Yet, Christians also know that there is more work to be done if man’s heart is going to be tested in such a fashion as the Antichrist intends to do. Christians are reminded that nobody truly knows the day or the hour that these events will transpire and only God Himself does[39].

[1] Gary M. Burge and Andrew E. Hill. The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2012): p. 795.

[2] Gary M. Burge and Andrew E. Hill. The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary: p. 796.

[3] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary. 1st ed.  (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994): p. 253.

[4] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 254.

[5] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 255.

[6] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 257.

[7] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 253.

[8] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 254.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 255.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: pp. 255-256.

[13] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 256.

[14] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 257.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Edward Hindson and Tim LaHaye, gen.eds.  The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy. 1st ed.  (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2004): pp. 357-358.

[17] Edward Hindson and Tim LaHaye, gen.eds.  The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy: p. 358.

[18] Edward Hindson and Tim LaHaye, gen.eds.  The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy: p. 359.

[19] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 256.

[20] Ed Hindson and Gary Yates, gen, eds,, The Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2012): p. 360.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: pp. 257-258.

[24] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: pp. 258-259.

[25] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: pp. 259-261.

[26] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 263.

[27] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 265.

[28] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 266.

[29] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 267.

[30] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 268.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: p. 269.

[33] Ibid.

[34] John F, Walvoord, Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times 3rd ed., (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Distribution, 2011): p. 247.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary: pp. 270-273.

[38] William Nelson, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Daniel, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2012): p. 241.

[39] Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32.

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charlestinsley

My name is Charlie Tinsley and I blog about The Bible. In particular, I post my thoughts, commentaries, and Bible Study teachings I have done. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Science in Religion Summa Cum Laude with a Biblical Studies Minor. I am currently studying for a Masters In Divinity at Eastern Mennonite Seminary with PhD ambitions in the study of Theology. I am married and have been for several years and I currently reside in Virginia.

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