8. The Seventy Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27)
Before this prophecy is examined in detail,
several important preliminaries call for attention.
These are not the only difficulties, but they are
surely enough to raise doubts about the validity of the traditional
- 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
- 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
- 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:
- Seven sevens are assigned to the re-building of Jerusalem.
This requires forty nine years. No other unit
of time will serve.
- 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
- Is the prophecy so approximate as to leave an unexplained
margin of 3½ years?
- ‘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
- The prophecy runs ‘unto Messiah the
Prince.’ This surely calls for further
reference long after the crucifixion.
- “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
- What has the ‘destruction of city and
sanctuary and the desolation of Jerusalem’ (v.26) got to do with the
- 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
- Which is the “one-week” for which the
covenant is confirmed (v.27)?
- 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?
Enough of negatives. It is high time to attempt
something more positive and more loyal to the details of the
Two plain and clear facts must not be lost sight
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.
- Messiah is cut off at the end of the 69th week.
- The seventy weeks culminate in “Messiah the
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
AB = the re-building of Jerusalem
BC = the long wait: 62 x 7.
CD = A.D. 30-67.
D = the Roman War, A.D.
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:
- The details of verse 24 all seem to require reference to the
- to finish the transgression (of Jerusalem).
- to make an end of (the nation’s) sin.
- to make reconciliation for (Israel’s) iniquity.
- everlasting righteousness.
- to seal up (i.e. conclude the usefulness of) the vision and prophecy.
- “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?
- “The overspreading of abominations” = Mt. 24:15.
- 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.
- 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