Harry Whittaker
Visions in Daniel

8. The Seventy Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27)

Before this prophecy is examined in detail, several important preliminaries call for attention.

  1. The occasion of the prophecy.

    The Babylonian regime was over, and immediately Daniel began to study his Bible prophecies to learn about the restoration of his people. He ‘understood by the books’ (obviously, Jer. 29:10,12) the duration of the captivity. It is possible to ascertain from the allusions in the rest of chapter 9 that Daniel had in his Bible: Jeremiah, Isaiah, Psalms, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Kings—at least, these, and almost certainly Ezekiel.

  2. Had Daniel been a good twentieth century Christadelphian his reaction would have been: God has fixed the date on His calendar, and now that date is here, so all I have to do is sit back and wait for things to happen. Instead, he prayed, and in such fashion as to shame his modern brethren.

  3. The ‘seventy weeks’ prophecy is usually regarded as the classic instance of ‘a year for a day’ in the understanding of prophetic time-periods. It is nothing of the sort, for the original phrase is not ‘seventy weeks’, but ‘seventy sevens’, the unit of time not being specified. (By contrast, Dan. 10:2 has the literal word: ‘weeks’).

  4. Seven sevens are assigned to the re-building of Jerusalem. This requires forty nine years. No other unit of time will serve.

  5. The usual understanding of this prophecy may be summarised thus: B.C. 457 (Ezra 7:8) plus 486½ = A.D. 30½ (the crucifixion). When this is considered critically, all kinds of unexplained difficulties come to light:

    1. Is the prophecy so approximate as to leave an unexplained margin of 3½ years?
    2. ‘Finish transgression, make an end of sins (or sin offering), to seal up the vision and prophecy (i.e. to complete its usefulness).’ Were all these achieved in the death of Christ?
    3. The prophecy runs ‘unto Messiah the Prince.’ This surely calls for further reference long after the crucifixion.
    4. “After three score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off.” The normal meaning of these words would require the crucifixion at the end of the 69th week.
    5. What has the ‘destruction of city and sanctuary and the desolation of Jerusalem’ (v.26) got to do with the crucifixion?
    6. For the unused 3½ years, it is customary to point to the death of Stephen. After such a rich prophecy about Messiah, is not this something of an anticlimax, great man though Stephen was?
    7. Which is the “one-week” for which the covenant is confirmed (v.27)?
    8. Why should the abomination of desolation (v.27), forty years after the crucifixion, come into a prophecy which runs only to the death of Christ?
These are not the only difficulties, but they are surely enough to raise doubts about the validity of the traditional explanation.

Enough of negatives. It is high time to attempt something more positive and more loyal to the details of the prophecy.

Two plain and clear facts must not be lost sight of:

  1. Messiah is cut off at the end of the 69th week.
  2. The seventy weeks culminate in “Messiah the Prince.”
It needs to be remembered that almost all the visions in Daniel include in their sequence an interruption of the continuity. In chapter 2, there is necessarily a hiatus between the legs of iron and the feet of iron and clay. The vision of the four beasts (ch.7) likewise has a break where the ten horns come into the interpretation. In chapter 8 the explanation makes a sudden leap to the Last Days after verse 17. And it is generally agreed that chapter 11 has a sudden switch from P.C. to the Last Days either at verse 40 or at the junction with 12:1.

The details (a), (b), mentioned above, prepare the mind for the same phenomenon in chapter 9.

The clear anticipations of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple (v.26, 27) seem to demand a gap of forty years after the time when “Messiah is cut off.” But, more than this, the culmination in “Messiah the Prince” (v.25) seems to require the Kingdom at the completion of the seventy weeks.

These main ideas can only be satisfied by the following synthesis:

AB = the re-building of Jerusalem
BC = the long wait: 62 x 7.
CD = A.D. 30-67.
D = the Roman War, A.D. 67-70.
E = an Elijah prophet (3½ years), and the anointing of the most Holy One.

Here are appended a few brief notes to help elucidation of some of the less obvious phrases:

  1. The details of verse 24 all seem to require reference to the final consummation:
    1. to finish the transgression (of Jerusalem).
    2. to make an end of (the nation’s) sin.
    3. to make reconciliation for (Israel’s) iniquity.
    4. everlasting righteousness.
    5. to seal up (i.e. conclude the usefulness of) the vision and prophecy.

  2. “The people of the prince that shall come to destroy city and sanctuary” and “war and desolations” must be the Romans in A.D.70—who else?

  3. “The overspreading of abominations” = Mt. 24:15.

  4. Gabriel made reference to the prophecy he communicated to Daniel when he said to Zacharias, immediately after allusion to Malachi’s Elijah prophecy, “thou shalt be dumb...because thou believedst not my words which shall be fulfilled unto their time” (Lk. 1:20).

  5. Revelation 11:2 does not foretell a long drawn-out period of Jerusalem’s desolation; it describes the final 3½ years down-treading in the Last Days (see “Revelation”, HAW, on this).

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