A problem with many of the attempts to interpret Daniel's 70 weeks is that the context is ignored. In the introductory portion there are references to Jeremiah's prophecy (Daniel 9:2) and the curse of the law of Moses (Daniel 9:11 & 13). And the date of the vision, the first year of Darius, also seems significant. Some scholars have identified Darius with Cyrus, interpreting Daniel 6:28 as "So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, even the reign of Cyrus the Persian."
Darius was 62 years old when he came to power (Daniel 5:31), and 62 "weeks" is the duration of the second section of the 70 weeks.
These facts connect the prophecy of the 70 weeks with the reign of Cyrus, and it is his decree, mentioned in Isaiah 44:28, for building both the temple and the city of Jerusalem that begins the 70 weeks. The decree was issued in 538 BC.
Any interpretations of the 70 weeks prophecy that overlook the background information provided in Daniel 9 are doomed to fail! The relation of the 70 years of Jeremiah to the 70 weeks must be recognized.
There are three verses in Jeremiah's prophecy where a time span of 70 years is mentioned. They are Jeremiah 25:11,12, & 29:10.
And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.
For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
Daniel's prayer of confession, in the first part of Daniel 9, shows he understood the Babylonian captivity to be a fulfillment of the curse that Moses wrote about in the law long before, as the consequence of Israel not obeying God's laws. This is evident from Daniel 9:11, 13-14.
Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.
As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.
Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.
There are four periods of "seven times" associated with the curse. They are mentioned in the following verses:
The city of Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 587
much of Jewish popluation was carried away captive to
described in Jeremiah 39. In 538 BC, 49
years after the destruction of Jerusalem, the decree of
Cyrus allowed the Jews to
return to Jerusalem. Daniel 9:11 shows the first
of the "seven times" of Leviticus 26 must be included in
the 70 years of Jeremiah's prophecy.
Now consider that the 70 weeks are divided into 3 sections. The 70 weeks are a continuation of Jeremiah's 70 years, so with the 70 years of Jeremiah's prophecy there are actually 4 periods, corresponding to the 4 periods of "7 times" in Leviticus 26.
Using the 70 years of Jeremiah, and the 4 periods of "7 times" in Leviticus 26, (mentioned in Daniel 9:11) the 70 weeks prophecy can be explained and understood. A period of "7 times" is a "week" or "seven". The 70 years of Jeremiah and the 3 sections of the 70 weeks are the 4 periods of "7 times" of the curse. This immediately shows the following:
The question of the appropriate units for each section of the 70 weeks is crucial for its correct interpretation. Many take an extremely simplistic approach, and assume the 70 weeks are 70x7=490 years, but the 70 weeks are clearly not equal to 490 years. From the decree of Cyrus in 538 BC to the start of the ministry of Christ in 28 AD there are 567 years. The 7 weeks and the 62 weeks fit this span of time if one counts leap years in the first 7 weeks, as 7x7=49 leap years spans 133 years. In the ancient Hebrew calendar, the months were lunar months, and some years had an extra month. Regular years had 12 months, and leap years had 13 months. There were 7 leap years in 19 years. So in a three year period there would be at least one leap year, and possibly two. Leap years can be considered a unit of time, much like Olympiads were for the Greeks.
How do we know that Daniel used leap years as units in the 70 weeks? The scriptures help us to properly interpret Daniel's numbers. John uses the expression "time, times and a half" in Revelation; he also uses 1,260 days and 42 months, which all allude to Daniel's time periods. The numbers 1,290 days and 1,335 days mentioned in Daniel 12 also represent a symbolic 3½ years where there are various combinations of leap years and regular years, and months of 30 days.
1,290 days = 13 * 30 + 2 * 12 * 30 + ½ * 12 * 30 (Daniel 12:11)
1,335 days = 12 * 30 + 2 * 13 * 30 + ½ * 13 * 30 (Daniel 12:12)
1,260 days = 12 * 30 + 2 * 12 * 30 + ½ * 12 * 30 (Revelation 12:6)
These numbers show how leap years (with an extra month) are used by Daniel, and this suggests that the units in the first section of the 70 weeks prophecy may also be leap years.
The pattern of "time, times and a half" is evident in the above numbers. The 1,290 days and the 1,335 days show that Daniel used leap years to derive his numbers. These cannot be literal periods of three years and a half, as lunar months are not exactly 30 days.
The first 2 periods in Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy (7 weeks and 62 weeks) span the time from the decree of Cyrus, 538 BC, to the beginning of the ministry of Christ, around 28 AD. This is plausible if the first 7 "weeks" are 49 leap years, that is years with an extra month. In 19 years there are 7 leap years, in the Hebrew calendar. So 7 "weeks" of leap years is 7x19=133 years.
As mentioned previously, the second section of the 70 weeks is 62 weeks, and 62 was the age of Darius the Mede (or perhaps Cyrus) when he was made king. So the second section is 7x62 years, or 434 years. Thus the first 69 "weeks" are 133+434=567 years, 538 BC to 28 AD.
Just as there is no lapse in the curse of Leviticus 26, there can be no gaps in the 70 weeks.
The last week or "seven" of Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy is the time during which Christ "confirms the covenant with many". It consists of two half weeks, one being the 3½ years of the ministry of Jesus on earth, and the other 3½ years being a symbol of the whole Church age, from the crucifixion to the end of the age. It is the "time, times and a half" of Daniel 7:25.
The 70th week begins when Christ began his ministry, and continues to the end of the age. Christ was "cut off" at the end of the first 3½ years. The notion of a gap between the 69th and 70th week is disproved by Daniel 9:27, "in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease". That happened in 70 AD, which must be "in the midst of" the 70th week and shows that the last 3½ years are not literal years but a symbol of a much longer period of time, the entire age of the Church, in which Christ "confirms the covenant" with believers and the gospel goes to the world. Daniel 9:4 describes God as "keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him". What covenant is it that Christ confirms for one week in Daniel 9:27? The same one, of course! It is the gospel of our salvation, that Christ confirms by sending his holy spirit to those who believe.
The final half week is the "time, times and a half" mentioned in Daniel 7:25 and other prophecies; it is the Bible's label for the age of the Church when the gospel goes to the world. With this interpretation, there is no basis for claiming that the 70 weeks prophecy predicts a 3½ year period of "tribulation".
So we have the following correspondence between Jeremiah's prophecy of 70 years captivity, the "7 times" of Leviticus 26, and the three sections of the 70 weeks, Daniel 9:24-27:
1st 7 times = captivity in Babylon = 49 years from 587 BC to 538 BC (included in Jeremiah's prophecy of 70 years)
2nd 7 times = 7 weeks = 49 leap years = 133 years
3rd 7 times = 62 weeks = 434 years
4th 7 times = 1 week = 3½ years + (symbolic) 3½ years
In the last "week", Christ confirms his covenant with believers, which still continues today as the gospel goes to the world.
The scope of the 70 weeks prophecy is far too great to cover completely in this brief article. Many people have studied it their whole lives and have not figured it out. This study has only touched the surface but it seems to me that the context given by Daniel is often ignored leading to false conclusions. This is an important prophecy for Christians to get right! For more information, see:
Copyright © 2007 by Douglas E. Cox
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