Daniel's "Seventy Weeks"
An Historical and Exegetical Analysis
copyright 1991, Fred G. Zaspel
Purpose of Paper
Interpreters agree that Daniel's famous prophecy of "seventy weeks" finds its fulfillment in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, but exactly how the time-frame is to work out is a matter of some debate. Differences arise primarily from disagreement as to, 1) chronological methods and, 2) the terminus a quo and the terminus ad quem of the specific years in question. Most disagreement centers on the eschatological significance of the prophecy.
Virtually all of the interpretations of this prophecy which are commonly given are forced to make certain interpretive assumptions and/ or leave certain details of the passage unexplained in order to stand. The purpose of this paper is to examine and account for all of these often overlooked details and identify as closely as possible the terminology, people, and time-frame of Daniel 9:24-27.
Daniel's "Seventy Weeks" Prophecy
From a study of Jeremiah's prophecy Daniel had calculated that the time of Israel's captivity (seventy years) was about to end (Dan.9:1-2). Interrupting his fervent prayer in this regard the angel Gabriel "informed" him (9:22) of coming events related to the people of Israel. The content of that prophecy, recorded in Daniel 9:24-27, follows (author's translation).
(24) "Seventy sevens are determined upon your people and upon your holy city to bring transgression to an end, and to seal up sin, and to make atonement for guilt, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal the vision and prophet, and to anoint the holy of holies.
(25) So know and have (this) insight, (that) from the issuing of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince, (shall be) seven sevens. And (for) sixty-two sevens the street and moat shall return and be built, even in times of distress.
(26) And after the sixty two sevens (the) anointed one shall be cut off but not for himself. And the city and the holy (place) shall be destroyed by the people of the coming prince. And his destruction shall be in the outpouring; and until the destruction there shall be war, desolations are decreed.
(27) And he shall cause a covenant to prevail with the many for one seven. But (for) half of the seven he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease; and upon the wing (shall come) a desolating abominable idol, even until the end, and until that which is decreed shall be poured out upon the desolator."
New Testament References
Final decision regarding the interpretation of any Old Testament prophecy can be made, of course, only after the New Testament citations/allusions to that prophecy are taken into account. This passage of Daniel is treated by New Testament authors at least three times.
Jesus made express reference to Daniel's "abomination of desolations" as the identifying sign of the "great tribulation" (Mt.24:15). But since this phrase ("desolating abominable idol") occurs also in Daniel 11:31 and 12:11 it must be determined which is Jesus' exact point of reference. All sides acknowledge that Daniel 11:31 refers to the altar or idol of Zeus that Antiochus Ephiphanes placed in the holy of holies of the Jerusalem temple in June, 168 B.C. Since Jesus' reference to Daniel's idol was spoken of as yet future (to Him), this cannot be His point of reference. It seems that the idol of Daniel 12:11 is the very same as that of 9:27, and in both cases the thought connects the ending of sacrifices with the abomination of desolation. It would be difficult to demonstrate any reference to 12:11 as over against 9:27; the two speak of the same. In His Olivet discourse, then, Jesus makes specific reference to Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks.
A comparison of the details of Daniel's seventieth week with 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13 demonstrates further New Testament dependence upon this passage. They have in common, among other things, the idol, the blasphemy in the temple, and a three and one half year reign. This jumps ahead in the study a bit, but the following chart shows what the passages have in common and thereby demonstrates their common theme.
Characteristics of the Coming Prince
|Characteristict: Dan.9 II Thes.2 Rev.13||
(Man of Sin)
(Beast from Sea)
|Makes blasphemy in Temple||
|Succeeds in Deceiving with Signs||
|Reign of Terror||
|Empowered by Satan||
|3½ Year Reign||
|Destroyed by Christ at His coming||
Granted, several of the points on the chart are yet to be established, but given the commonness of the passages it is impossible not to see them as speaking of the same event(s).
With this link of Daniel's prophecy to the Olivet Discourse and other New Testament eschatological passages, Daniel's prophecy becomes pivotal. It provides the key and establishes the framework of further prophetic discussion. Understanding it properly is critical, then, to the proper understanding of prophecy as a whole.
The Significance of the Term "Seventy Sevens"
The term "seven" (shabua') is used six times in this passage, and as in all of its twenty occurrences in the Old Testament it indicates a definite period of seven.
Leupold, Young and Keil all understood the "weeks" as symbolic periods, but this idea is both hopelessly confusing and contrary to the normal and easiest usage of the terms. Keil understood the first seven as representative of the time from Daniel to Christ--roughly 550 years, and the next sixty-two sevens as representative of the time from Christ's first to His second advents--already nearly 2,000 years. Now if seven can mean 550, then can we assume that sixty-two means 4,872 and that Christ will return before that date? And then that last seven (whatever it symbolizes) should signify something near eighty years! Then there is the difficulty of explaining how the Messiah being "cut off" can refer to Christ's second coming. The whole idea renders words meaningless.
The prophecy, then, concerns a definite period of "seven sevens." Seven periods of days or months leave no room for the fulfillment of the details of the prophecy and would render meaningless Jesus' reference to the seventieth seven as yet future (to Him). Given the details of the prophecy this "seventy periods of seven" must refer to periods of years. No other time period would allow enough time to embrace all the events specified. Furthermore, Daniel had been thinking in terms of periods of seven years, specifically ten of them (Dan.9:1-2). This was the length of the captivity determined by his people's violation of the sabbatic year (cf. 2 Chron.36:21; Jer.25:11-12). Israel had neglected precisely seventy sabbatical cycles; to put it another way, their disobedience continued 490 years. The time specified by Gabriel to Daniel here is very appropriately the same. It breaks down as follows:
|Seven sevens||= 49 years|
|Sixty-two sevens||= 434 years|
|One seven||= 7 years|
|Seventy sevens||= 490 years|
Daniel's prophecy concerns a time frame involving 490 years.
By way of an aside, it is in order here to highlight a common error that should be avoided. Following the lead of Sir Robert Anderson many posit a meaning to "years" different from the usual. "Prophetic years" are said to be of only 360 days, measured by the Jews' twelve months of thirty days each. This approach is then used to add consecutively sixty-nine 360-day years to pinpoint the exact day/year of Christ's earthly ministry. The idea is extremely attractive, because years then add up differently and, depending upon the terminus a quo, more closely to specific events in the life of Christ.
However, the theory seems to have been born out of a supposed necessity, and the obvious problem with this approach is that it overlooks the fact that the Jews knew very well how many days should be in a year; and so as necessary they added an "intercalary month" to "correct" their calendar. Moreover, it seems that Daniel himself understood the "years" of Jeremiah in the usual sense (9:1-2). The prophecy should be understood by counting the years specified, not by adding and/or deleting days which are not specified. This is how Daniel calculated the end of the seventy years' captivity, and this is most naturally how we should understand the years he prophesied also.
It is also noteworthy that while some interpreters would leave us in hopeless confusion concerning the time-frame of Daniel's prophecy, even to the point of asserting that such cannot yet be certainly known, Daniel himself did not have that trouble in interpreting Jeremiah. It is not assuming too much to expect these years spoken of by Gabriel to Daniel to be as clear as those of Jeremiah.
The following dates have been suggested as pertinent to the chronology of Daniel's seventy sevens. They will serve as potential reference points as the study progresses.
605 B.C. --Jeremiah's prediction of Judah's captivity
--First captives deported to Babylon
587 B.C. --God's word came to Jeremiah promising the
re-inhabiting of Jerusalem
586 B.C. --Jerusalem fell, the first temple was destroyed, and most
of the remaining Jews were deported to Babylon
558 B.C. --Cyrus II (the great) became king of Persia and enlarged
his kingdom to include Media (among others)
539 B.C. --Cyrus' general, Gobryas, attacked the Babylonians
538 B.C. --Gobryas defeats Babylon, kills Belshazzar, & becomes
king (a.k.a., Darius the Mede)
--Daniel's "Seventy Weeks" prophecy
--Cyrus' decree to end Jewish captivity
536 B.C. --Foundations of the second temple were laid, thus
ending the 70 year captivity (605-536)
458 B.C. --Artaxerxes' decree to rebuild temple
445 B.C. --Artaxerxes' decree to rebuild Jerusalem
6? B.C.-A.D. 33? --Life of Christ
A.D. 70 --Fall of Jerusalem
Note: The following briefly summarizes the various suggestions regarding the dates of the life of Jesus.
7-4 B.C. -- Birth
A.D. 27-30 -- Beginning of ministry
A.D. 30-33 -- Death
Part One: Introduction (verse 24)
The Subjects of the Prophecy
There can be little question about the identity of the subjects of Daniel's prophecy: it concerns the nation of Israel, those for whom he had been praying in their captivity, and Jerusalem, their capital city. "Seventy sevens are determined upon your people and upon your holy city" cannot possibly indicate anything else. Daniel had been pondering the future of his people, and in the writings of Jeremiah he found a partial answer: they would soon be delivered. His subsequent prayer for their deliverance from captivity was interrupted by Gabriel who informed him of still more details of his nation's future--specifically, a period of 490 years.
No interpretation of this prophecy which ignores its Jewish focus should be seriously considered. The nation of Israel was Daniel's concern at this point and the subject of his prayer. In the introduction to the prophecy Gabriel speaks of "your people and your holy city" and of "the holy of holies" (qodesh qadashim), which is clearly and always in the Old Testament a reference to Israel's tabernacle or temple. The prophecy throughout employs such terms as "Jerusalem," "the city," "the sacrifice and the oblation," and "the many." The people and city under discussion could not be made more obvious; namely, the nation Israel and her capital city, Jerusalem.
The Objectives of the Seventy Weeks
By the use of a series of infinitival phrases, verse 24 also states the six-fold purpose of these seven sevens: "(1) to bring transgression to an end, and (2) to seal up sin, and (3) to make atonement for guilt, and (4) to bring in everlasting righteousness, and (5) to seal the vision and prophet, and (6) to anoint the holy of holies."
1) lekale', translated "to bring to an end" (piel from kalah), speaks of "ending," "finishing" or "firmly restraining." Precisely what is "firmly restrained" ishappesha' (transgression), probably to be understood as rebellion, waywardness, that principle of evil within man.
2) The precise reading of the second infinitive is questionable. The Kethib reading signifies, "to seal up sin" (ulechatem chatta'ot). The Qere points instead to the verb root tammam, "to complete, make an end" (hence, KJV, NASB). The "sins" (chatta'ot) spoken of here refer to men's personal, daily sins--their activities of sin. In either case, as Young says, "the thought is that an end will be made of sin as such."
3) "To make atonement for guilt" (ulekapher 'awon) promises the expiation of sinfulness.
All of the first three objectives are, in effect, negative--they speak of the removal of sin and guilt, that which was the cause of Israel's captivity. Together they promise not only atonement but the actual cessation of sin itself. Sin itself (as an inward principle and as a practice) will be ended, and those sins previously committed will be pardoned. The seventy weeks will see the complete removal of the sin of Daniel's people forever.
By contrast, the last three purposes are more positive, speaking of blessings given.
4) "To bring in everlasting righteousness" (ulehabi' tsedek 'olamim) signifies the opposite of what has gone before. Just as God will remove Israel's sin, so also He will "cause to come in" (hiphil) a righteousness that will endure forever.
5) "To seal the vision and the prophet" (ulechatem chazon wenabi') signifies the final fulfillment of prophetic revelation. The time specified will see the perfect completion of all the visions and words of the prophets.
6) "To anoint a holy of holies" (welimeshoach qodesh qadashim) clearly speaks of a ritual consecration of the Jewish temple.
Noteworthy also is the fact that the seventy weeks are here viewed as a unit: "Seventy weeks is [not "are"] determined...." Gabriel is saying that all the objectives will be carried out but not finally until the seventieth week. "Seventy weeks is determined" to accomplish these things:
1) to bring transgression to an end
2) to seal up sin
3) to make atonement for guilt
70 Weeks to... 4) to bring in everlasting righteousness
5) to seal the vision and prophet
6) to anoint a holy of holies.
In summary, the seventy weeks will see the complete removal of Israel's sins forever, the establishment of everlasting righteousness, the final fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecy and the consecration of the temple.
All this helps to establish the time-frame of the prophecy as well. Clearly, it involves the earthly life and ministry of Jesus; His sacrificial work is the atonement being spoken of (#3). But He has not yet "put an end" to the sins of Israel (#1, 2). He has in principle, to be sure, but not in actuality; the sins continue today. Nor have the many prophecies of the Old Testament been fulfilled (#5). Nor has the holy of holies been "anointed" (#6). These words seem to suggest a yet future fulfillment. However, not to jump ahead of ourselves, the remainder of the passage should be allowed to speak to this question also.
The Seven and Sixty-Two Sevens (verse 25)
The prophecy itself begins by stating the terminus a quo of the seventy sevens: "from the issuing of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem." Working on the assumption that, 1) "an anointed one, a prince" must refer to Jesus Christ, and 2) the sixty-two sevens follow immediately after the seven sevens, numerous attempts have been made to identify the terminus a quo by counting backwards 483 years (69 X 7) from some event in the life of Jesus, usually his triumphal entry, to find a decree to rebuild the city. The question, then, is this: When was that "word to restore and to build Jerusalem"?
It cannot be the decree of Cyrus in 538 B.C., for that decree concerned only the temple and not the restoration of the city. Further, it yields a date much too early for the Messiah, 55 B.C.
-483 years (69 X 7)
Nor can it be the decree of Artaxerxes in 458 B.C., for while that time frame may fit ( --> A.D. 26), the decree itself concerns only the temple and not the city.
The decree of Artaxerxes in 444 B.C. specifies the city and the walls, but it is too late, A.D. 40.
-483 years (69 X 7)
Anderson and those who follow his rather ingenious scheme (see p.5) begin the seventy sevens with the decree of Artaxerxes in 444 B.C. and come to a date of A.D. 33.
-483 "prophetic years"
Again, this is very attractive, for the time-frame fits well. However, as pointed out previously, it simply does not do justice to the normal understanding of "years" as Daniel himself calculated them from Jeremiah's prophecy.
1) Exegetical Considerations
Perhaps the difficulty lies in a basic misunderstanding of Gabriel's chronology. Why are the first seven separated from the next sixty-two? And why, in verse 26 does Gabriel say "after the sixty-two sevens" rather than "after the sixty-nine"? This is one factor which none of the above suggestions can even attempt to explain; the assumption is that the division is made for essentially no reason at all.
A normal reading of verse 25 demands a break between the "seven sevens" and the "sixty-two sevens." To take the total sixty-nine together results in a rather awkward reading of the verse, as that of most of the common English versions. It also leaves their separation unexplained, as well as the statement "after the sixty-two weeks" of verse 26. The Hebrew text shows an athnach (period, break in thought) after the words "seven sevens." The pointings of the Masoretes are not inspired, of course, but they are extremely valuable and normally followed as guides in translation. The Masoretic understanding of verse 25a reads,
"So know and have (this) insight, (that) from the issuing of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince (shall be) seven sevens."
Then the prophecy continues,
"And (for) sixty-two sevens the street and moat shall return and be built, even in times of distress."
The New English Bible captures this well:
"from the time that the word went forth that Jerusalem should be restored and rebuilt, seven weeks shall pass till the appearance of one anointed, a prince; then for sixty-two weeks it shall remain restored, rebuilt with streets and conduits."
So also the Revised Standard Version:
"from the going forth of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time."
The sense is that the seven sevens (not sixty-nine) shall issue in the arrival of "an anointed one, a prince." Then the sixty-two sevens follow and will witness the restoration of the city during times of distress.
2) The Seven Sevens
To determine the terminus a quo of the seven sevens, most look for some "official decree" made by some king or ruler concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem. But the text does not demand that. The sevens begin with "the issuing of the word (dabar) to restore and build Jerusalem." No royal decree is required, although it obviously is the "word" of someone capable of seeing that it is carried out. The question, therefore, is this: is there any "anointed one, a prince" arriving forty-nine (7 X 7) years after any "issuing of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem"?
When the Christian reads "an anointed one, a prince" or "messiah prince" (mashiach nagid) he generally thinks immediately of Jesus Christ Who is the Messiah. But the Scriptures are not so restrictive (e.g., 1 Sam.2:10, Hannah of the King; 1 Sam.16:6, Samuel of Eliab; 1 Sam.24:6, David of Saul; etc.). Most significantly, God Himself calls Cyrus "His anointed" (limeshicho, Isaiah 45:1). This is significant, for Cyrus was one who would not even "know" the Lord (Is.45:4)! In his remarkable prophecy Isaiah predicts the arrival of "Cyrus" who will be the deliverer of Israel; as such he would be "God's anointed." Well over 100 years later (538 B.C.), in fulfillment of this prophecy one "Cyrus," king of Persia, who "knew not" the Lord, decreed the end of the Jews' captivity. Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled exactly.
Interestingly enough, precisely forty-nine (7 X 7) years earlier (587 B.C.) God had "issued His word" to Jeremiah promising the end of Israel's captivity and the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Jer.32:1, 6-9, 13-17, 24-27). Coincidence? There cannot possibly be any "word to restore and build Jerusalem" any more significant than His. It would seem easiest to understand Daniel as thinking of this word. Can it be accident that history and these prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel all line up so precisely? It would be extremely difficult to think so. In fact, given the complex, precise accuracy of this time-frame, to deny it would require some explanation.
It seems, then, that the seven sevens began in 587 B.C. with God's word to Jeremiah concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem and ended in 538 B.C. with Cyrus' decree to end Jewish captivity.
587 B.C. (God's word to Jeremiah)
+49 years (7 X 7)
538 B.C. ("an anointed one, a prince" --Cyrus)
3) The Sixty-Two Sevens
The sixty-two sevens (62 X 7) signify 434 years which, if added on from 538 B.C., would result in a date (104 B.C.) well before the time of Jesus Christ and of no related historical significance. Clearly, if this date (538 B.C.) be adopted as the terminus ad quem of the seven sevens, it must be explained how the sixty-two weeks run to the time of Jesus Christ, assuming the need to do so.
No terminal point is specified for the sixty-two sevens, but verse 26 states that "after the sixty two sevens Messiah shall be cut off." Given that this is a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the sixty-two sevens must run out prior to that time. Notice it is "after" ('achare, Aramaic form) the sixty-two sevens that Messiah is cut off. No mention is made of how long after; predictive prophecy would allow a broad definition. Nor is it said to be during the seventieth seven. It is simply "after" the sixty-two. That is all that can be forced from the text.
But with the clear distinction between the seven sevens and the sixty-two sevens established, the question must be asked: Are these sixty-nine sevens to be simply taken together and added consecutively without interruption? Could their separation instead signify a "time-gap" between them? This would not be at all unusual in Biblical prophecy (e.g., Dan.11:2-3; Micah 5:1-2), and there is nothing to indicate that such a "gap" between the first seven and the next sixty-two sevens would constitute any violation of the text. In fact, a gap between these two periods is the only explanation available to account for their separation. Moreover, if the rebuilding of Jerusalem be taken as the terminus a quo of the sixty-two sevens, then such a time-gap is specifically stated.
The structure of the 490-year complex seems to predict three separate periods of time, together totaling 490 years but embracing much more. The seven sevens have their own terminus a quo and terminus ad quem specified. The sixty-two sevens are said to begin at a time other than the terminus ad quem of the previous seven. And the one (final) seven follows the events of verse 26, which are themselves "after" the sixty-two! It is not hermeneutical assumption which posits these time-gaps but exegetical necessity.
The question that remains, then, is, Would a time gap between the seven and the sixty-two sevens help to reconcile the overall time-frame? Are there any historically significant dates which could mark the beginning and end of the sixty-two sevens?
"And (for) sixty-two sevens the street and moat shall return and be built, even in times of distress" describes graphically the events of the time of Nehemiah which are very familiar to the Bible student. It would seem here that the rebuilding of Jerusalem (not necessarily the decree, this time) is the terminus a quo of the sixty-two sevens.
The theories that either the crucifixion or the triumphal entry marks the terminus ad quem of the sixty-two sevens (whichever year of the crucifixion be preferred) yield a date which is too late and of no historical significance in relation to the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
30 A.D. 33 A.D.
-434 years (62 X 7) -or- -434 years (62 X 7)
405 B.C. 402 B.C.
The same would be true of a date working backwards from Jesus' baptism, as many have suggested, which would yield a date of either 408 B.C. or 405 B.C. Again, these are of no historical significance in regards to the terminus a quo of the sixty-two sevens. All of these theories result in a date well after the completion of the rebuilding of Jerusalem under Nehemiah.
What of the date of the birth of Christ? It is well known that Herod died in 4 B.C. It is not known how much time had elapsed from his notorious decree to slay the infants unto his death. And that decree itself was some considerable time after Jesus' birth, for it included the Bethlehem infants "two years old and under" (Mt. 2:16). Given this information, 6 B.C. is a common and safe designation for the date of Christ's birth.
Now if this marks the end of the sixty-two weeks, their beginning would be in 440 B.C. Is there anything of related significance to that date?
The terminus a quo of the sixty-two weeks seems to be Nehemiah's rebuilding of Jerusalem. Nehemiah's request to Artaxerxes to return to the city was in April, 444 B.C. (Neh.2:1). According to Josephus (Antiquities, XI, V, 7), Nehemiah went first to Babylon to find volunteers among the Jews to return with him. With this and the various preparations involved and the obtaining of building materials (which is probable, since his rebuilding began soon after his arrival in Jerusalem), his actual arrival in Jerusalem would have taken some time, probably several years. Josephus puts it at "the twenty-fifth year" of Artaxerxes -- 440 B.C. Again the years fit exactly.
440 B.C. (The beginning of the rebuilding in times of distress)
+434 years (62 X 7)
6 B.C. (Birth of Christ)
The prophecy fits perfectly with the events of history.
To summarize, the seven and sixty-two weeks unfolded as predicted as follows:
587 B.C. ("issuing of a word" from God to rebuild Jerusalem)
-49 years ("seven sevens")
538 B.C. ("an anointed one, a prince" Cyrus, ends Jewish captivity)
(gap of unspecified duration)
440 B.C. ("street and moat return in times of distress")
-434 years ("sixty-two sevens")
6 B.C. (birth of Jesus Christ)
The dates are too exact to be dismissed lightly, and they stand well as a firm apologetic for the Divine/supernatural character of the prophecy.
The advantage this interpretation has over the others is obvious. Not only does the time-frame fit more exactly, but no elaborate chronological schemes are needed to demonstrate it. Further, it gives honest attention to all of the details of Daniel's text, gives clear explanation to his separation of the seven and the sixty-two weeks, and explains his speaking of "after the sixty-two sevens" (v.26) rather than of sixty-nine. These are tasks which the alternatives are quite unable to do. It also offers a significant terminus a quo and terminus ad quem to both the seven and the sixty-two weeks. It even aligns more closely with the textual pointing of the Masoretes. In short, this interpretation leaves no loose ends; it accounts for all the data involved and fits very well with the historical record.
"After the Sixty-Two Sevens" (verse 26)
The "Cutting off" of Messiah (verse 26a)
Verse 26 introduces another "messiah" or "anointed one" (mashiach) Who virtually all agree is Jesus Christ. The substitutionary character of his sacrificial work is mentioned ("cut off [yicaret, niphal imperfect] but not for Himself") and marks the outworking of the six-fold purpose of the seventy sevens (v.24). Because of such wide agreement on this point, it is not necessary to belabor it here.
It is worthy of note, however, that this cannot be the same "anointed one" as that of verse 25. This is evident by the fact that mashiach nagid (v.25) appears at the close of the seven sevens; this masiach appears "after the sixty-two weeks."
The Destruction of the City and Holy Place (verse 26b)
Verse 26 also predicts a destruction of "the city and the holy (place)" by the people of "the coming prince" (nagid habo'). That the destruction spoken of here is that of A.D. 70 is so widely agreed upon that no defense of it is necessary here. What is interesting is that the verse carefully specifies that it is "the people of the coming prince" and not the prince himself that will destroy the city. The people who destroy Jerusalem are said to be related in some way to "the coming prince." The significance of this becomes clearer in verse 27 (see comments on pages 18-20).
The description of this prince is significant. He is "the coming one" (habo', participle, determined state). Such a description would indicate, 1) his importance, 2) his previous mention (at least that Daniel had been made aware of him), and perhaps 3) his later significance. His importance is evident by the presumably wide-spread notice of him upon his arrival. His previous mention (by Daniel) and his later significance will be taken up in the discussion of verse 27.
The Destruction of the Prince (verse 26c)
"And his end (weqitso) shall be in the flood" signifies the destruction of "the coming prince." As Young points out "flood" (shetep) is used elsewhere as descriptive of the outpouring of God's wrath. The pronoun is more properly "his" rather than "its," referring to nagid ("prince"). "His" end will be under divine judgment. God Himself will destroy "the coming prince" with overwhelming judgment.
Prolonged Desolation (verse 26d)
"And until the end there shall be war, desolations are determined." This is descriptive of war, to be sure. But what is the significance of "until the end"? The end of what? The statement seems to indicate perpetual trouble upon the city of Jerusalem until the eschaton, which end is mentioned in verse 27. History has witnessed the fulfillment of this exactly. Following Jerusalem's destruction in A.D. 70 (v.26b), the city has had more than its share of war (cf. Luke 21:24).
The One Seven (verse 27)
1) The Identity of "He"
Verse 27 speaks of someone coming who will "cause a covenant to prevail with the many for one seven" and at the middle of that seven "cause sacrifice and offering to cease." At issue is the identity of the "he." Some understand it as the "Messiah" of verse 26, Who ratified a covenant by His death. But there are several considerations that militate against this view. First, he is said to "cause a covenant to prevail for one week." Jesus did ratify a covenant, but it is an eternal one. And in order to understand how the covenant sealed in His death could be spoken of as prevailing for seven years we would need some explanation from somewhere. It is impossible to speak of our covenant relationship to Him in such terms. Second, there is no reason to expect any mention of Jesus' cessation of sacrifices at this point; it would be an awkward jump backwards in the flow of thought. Third, the closest antecedent to "he" is "the coming prince" and is thus the grammatical preference. Fourth, the participle "coming" with the definite article (as mentioned above) seems to refer back to someone previously mentioned or already known. Further, there is something significant about the three and one half years of this seven. These considerations together point back to the activities of the little horn in Daniel 7:25 who works blasphemy for "a time, and times, and the dividing of time" -- a period seemingly identical with that of this "he" during the final week. No one is willing to say this speaks of Christ, so are we to think this is meaningless coincidence? Fifth, the activities of this "he" are clearly not those of the Lord Jesus. It would be possible to speak of Christ as ending "sacrifice and oblation" in some sense, but to associate him with "the abomination of desolations" is impossible. Sixth, (to be observed shortly) his activities are cited by the apostles Paul and John in reference to an end time personage. These considerations simply do not allow an association of this figure with the Lord Jesus Christ.
2) His Activities
The activities of this person are described next. "And he shall cause a covenant to prevail with the many for one seven. But (for) half of the seven he shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease." Taken at its face value and since the Bible never anywhere else mentions such a seven-year-covenant, the statement indicates that this person, evidently of considerable position, will enter into an agreement with Israel ("the many," the subjects of the seventy sevens) and will somehow violate that agreement three and a half years later. The details of the covenant are not stated, but they clearly involve the freedom to worship in their temple.
The breaking of this covenant is marked by the coming "upon the wing a desolating abominable idol" which will endure "until the end and until that which is decreed shall be poured out upon the desolator." Virtually all we can know about this act, from this passage of Scripture, is that it is abominable and seems to involve idolatry (shiqutsim). A comparison of this with 2 Thessalonians 2:3ff and Revelation 13 shows unmistakable identification (see chart, page 3). This act of idolatry is what Jesus referred to as "the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place" (Mt.24:15).
The Time Frame
This "coming prince," then, is Paul's "man of lawlessness" and John's "beast from the sea" whose activities are in "immediate" proximity to the return of Jesus Christ (Mt. 24:29; 2 Thes. 2:3ff; Rev.19:11-20:3). It would seem that he is also the "antichrist" of 1 John 4:3. His activities will continue "even until the end, and until that which is decreed shall be poured out upon the desolator." That is, at the "end" (of the final seven) he will be destroyed. This will be his "destruction in the outpouring" (v.26c, see comments above).
It has already been shown that a time-gap exists between the seven and the sixty-two sevens. As it should be expected, then, verses 26-27 reveal the same chronological relation between the sixty-two and the one seven. Daniel writes that the events of verse 26 occur "after" (achare') the close of the sixty-two sevens. Verse 27 then proceeds to describe the events of the final seven. The waw consecutive at the beginning of verse 27 ("and") very naturally continues the narration in chronological and consequential order. The plain reading of the verses, in both the English and the Hebrew, reveals the events of verse 26 to be "after the sixty-two sevens" but before the one final seven. In fact, the burden of proof would lie with any contrary view.
It is clear also that the events of verse 26, stated to be "after the sixty-two sevens," involve far too much time to be included within the final seven. Whatever date for the crucifixion is preferred, it precedes the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) by well over thirty years. Yet both must fit within this 490-year complex! The only way to allow the words of the text to stand is to acknowledge another break in the time-table.
Those who wish to see the final seven as expired in the first century with the destruction of Jerusalem face a difficult problem here. They do not want to admit to a gap between the sixty-two and one seven, so they are left to either take the final seven as symbolic of a larger period of time (than seven years) or simply shrug their shoulders in wonder.
According to Jesus' and Paul's interpretation in Matthew 24 and 2 Thessalonians 2 (respectively), the "great tribulation" and "the day of the Lord" will be marked by this act of idolatry in the temple. This event, yet future to them, has yet to be witnessed by history.
Further, as mentioned above, the six purposes of the seventy sevens have yet to see completion. The sins of Israel have not yet been finished, the Old Testament prophecies have not yet been fulfilled, nor has the holy of holies been anointed. These await fulfillment, and so the seventieth seven must still be future.
Moreover, Jesus specified the "abomination of desolation" of the final seven to be yet future, "immediately" prior to His return (Mt. 24:15, 29). Indeed, it is the sign of the end of the age. Thus, Jesus Himself casts this final week into an eschatological setting.
Finally, all other Biblical references to this period of time ("half of the week"; three and one half years) are in an eschatological setting (cf. Rev. 11:2-3; 12:6, 14).
The time frame of the seventieth seven is clearly eschatological. Nor is this time frame constructed upon hermeneutical or even theological grounds but exegetical. Daniel's seventieth seven awaits the Day of the Lord for its fulfillment (2 Thes. 2:2-3).
One loose end remains. Verse 26 speaks of "the people of the coming prince" destroying Jerusalem (in A.D. 70), while verse 27 speaks of the prince as an eschatological personage. As mentioned previously (pages 13-14), these kinds of "jumps" in time are common in Biblical prophecy and need not seem surprising. Many identify "the people" as the Romans and "the coming prince" as from the realm of the Roman Empire. This view may present difficulties which are easily avoided if "the people" are understood simply as "evil" or "ungodly" people" of [i.e., 'from whom will come'] the coming prince."
Summary and Implications
The statements of the text are very precise. Their interpretation only requires a look into history to see what dates began and ended the seven and the sixty-two sevens and a look into the Scripture to find correlation with the events described in the one (final) seven. The interpretation presented here has sought to account for all the details in the text in a way that is consistent with other related Scriptural statements. Debatable hermeneutical assumptions have been deliberately avoided so that the text could be allowed to speak for itself.
Daniel teaches us that the final seven years of this age will witness a world leader rising to power and eventually working great blasphemy in the temple in Jerusalem--an event which marks the "great tribulation" (Mt.24) and "the day of the Lord" (2 Thes.2). This assumes a political future for the nation of Israel as well as the reconstruction of her temple, an event not uncommon in the prophetic word (Ezekiel 40-43; 2 Thes.2:4; Rev. 11:1-2, etc.). At the culmination of the seventieth seven Jesus Christ will return to execute judgment upon the man of sin and his following (Dan.9:26-27; Mt.24:29ff; 2 Thes. 2:2-12; Rev.19:11-20:3). The nation of Israel will then turn to her Messiah in faith (Zech.12:10) so that her transgressions and sins will be "brought to an end." At last, every Old Testament prophecy will have come to fruition, and the temple itself will be consecrated.
In summation, the seventy sevens unfold as follows
587 B.C. ("Issuing the Word to restore & rebuild Jerusalem")
-49 years ("seven sevens")
538 B.C. ("an anointed one, a prince"; Cyrus)
(gap of unspecified duration)
440 B.C. ("street and moat return in time of distress")
-434 years ("sixty-two sevens")
6 B.C. (birth of "Messiah," Jesus Christ)
(gap of unspecified duration)
Events specified ("after the sixty-two sevens"):
1) Crucifixion of Messiah
2) Destruction of Jerusalem "until the end"
?? A.D. ("covenant prevailing" with Israel)
+3½ years ("the half of the seven")
?? A.D. ("abomination of desolation")
?? A.D. ("the end"; return of Christ; judgment upon
"the coming prince")
Endnotes — Daniel 9
1 The Coming Prince (1957; reprint, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1984), pp. 67-75.
2Edward J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949), p.199.
3 nechetak, niphal perfect, 3rd person masculine singular.
4See also John Bright, A History of Israel. (1959; reprint, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976) p. 382. Also W. F. Albright, The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra, p. 91, and note 185 [cited in John Bright, op cit]).
5The Prophecy of Daniel, p.207.
6See C. F. Keil, Commentary on Daniel, in Commentary on the Old Testament, by C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Vol.9 (reprint, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1985), pp. 362-363.
7So The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, p.1055. Cf. Dt. 29:16; 2 Kings 23:24; Jer. 4:1; etc.