Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Gleanings from Daniel [20]

sabbathyearDaniel’s Seventy Sevens: The Sabbatical Year (Daniel 9:24)

Daniel's 70 weeks prophecy is really an answer to Daniel's prayer earlier in the chapter, when he confessed Israel's sin to God and asked for Israel to be restored to their land. In response, God does answer, and the answer He provides reveals how He will accomplish this answer to Daniel.

I noted in the previous posts how this answer revealed in the 70 weeks prophecy, has resulted in a variety of interpretations pertaining to eschatology. Those interpretations are fueled by specific presuppositions regarding one's hermeneutic - the principles we use to study the Bible. These "rules" of hermeneutics as applied to prophecy distinguishes amillennialism, postmillennialism, and the premillennial perspective.

Those who adhere to either amillennialism or postmillennialism believe we must employ what is called a historical protestant hermeneutic when we interpret the Bible, and this hermeneutic has an impact upon how one understands biblical prophecy or eschatological passages. This particular approach is also known as an apostolic hermeneutic, historic-redemptive hermeneutic, or even a Christological hermeneutic. Kim Riddlebarger, who has written a popular defense of amillennialism, points to three major presuppositions used when using the apostolic hermeneutic to interpret biblical prophecy.

1) The NT provides an over riding explanation of the OT. In other words, the NT must be utilized to interpret to OT. Sometimes the NT interpretation spiritualized the OT so that it is understood in the non-literal sense.
2) OT prophets spoke of the glories of the coming Messianic age from the pre-Messianic age. This means that when OT writers spoke of Israel, the Temple, David's throne, the Kingdom of God, the NT reinterprets all those images to apply to Christ and His Church. The OT images, as real as they may have been, are really types and shadows found in the reality of Christ.
3) Use of the analogy of faith. Basically, this principle states unclear text will be interpreted in light of clear texts. The NT is the clearest revelation we have, so it will illuminate cloudy, OT texts.

Riddlebarger then concludes how his amillennial, classic Reformed view is truly the real, literal interpretative approach because it follows in the literal sense of how the NT writers interpreted the OT prophetic scriptures.

The main problem with this Reformed hermeneutic, however, is that it doesn't take seriously the original revelation it reinterprets. What does the 70 weeks mean to the prophet Daniel at the moment Gabriel is revealing them to him? What does the prophecy mean to the audience receiving the message? Moreover, there isn't really a wholesale re-interpretation of biblical prophecy by NT writers, especially to make it all talk about Jesus. There may be additional, previously unknown application, but the prophecy is either fulfilled by Christ's first coming, partially fulfilled by Christ's first coming with the remainder awaiting fulfillment at His Second Coming, or it awaits completion of the eschatological, latter-days.

When we come to any OT prophecy we need to first interpret its meaning within its own historical context before looking way outside the text to find apparent, additional understandings of the text. We look at Daniel's prophecy in its original context, and then go out to see how the NT may provide additional insight. So, when we look at Daniel's 70 weeks, let us first determine what if means here as we consider God's answer He gave Daniel through the angel.

I noted last time that the key to God's answer to Daniel is found in the opening statement: 70 weeks are determined

The 70 weeks has reference to the 70 years Israel has been in captivity, and the reason why they were in captivity in the first place.

The Sabbatical Year

Israel’s captivity has to do with the sabbatical year. Leviticus 25:2-5 introduces this concept:

2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them:`When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD.
3 `Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit;
4 `but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard.
5 `What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land.

According to Leviticus, after the people of Israel enter the promised land, every 7th year was to be a sabbatical for the land. It was to lay unploughed. If the people failed to obey this command, God promised to bring desolation to their land. Leviticus 26:32-35 states,

32 I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it.
33 I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste.
34 Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies' land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths.
35 As long as it lies desolate it shall rest-- for the time it did not rest on your sabbaths when you dwelt in it.

It is when the people are in captivity that the land will enjoy its sabbaths. Second Chronicles 36:20-21 states clearly this was fulfilled with Israel’s 70 years in captivity.

20 And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia,
21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

The reason Israel went into captivity for 70 years is because Israel failed to obey God and skipped the sabbatical year 70 times during that 800 years since coming into the land in 1405 B.C. So 490 years – over half the time they had been in the land – Israel violated Leviticus 25:2-5. It wasn’t all in a row, but obviously spaced out over that 800 year period that accumulated in missing the sabbatical year for the land 70 times. The angel Gabriel is telling Daniel that another 70 units of 7 years has been decreed for Daniel’s people Israel and Jerusalem, or 490 years.

When Do They Start? Gabriel tells Daniel to know and understand. The idea is one of gaining direct insight. In other words, Daniel is about to learn when the 70 weeks are to begin.

Specifically, they begin when there is a command to rebuild Jerusalem. There are three possible dates appealed to by commentators.

1) The Decree of Cyrus for Israel to return to the land in 538 B.C. This view is problematic, because it doesn’t state for the people to rebuild Jerusalem; plus, it plays havoc on calculating the 490 years.

2) The Decree of Artaxerxes ca. 458 B.C. This decree is noted in Ezra 7:11-26. If we take that date as the starting point, the first 483 years of the seventy sevens takes us to roughly 26 A.D. with Christ’s baptism by John. That could be what the angel meant about the coming Messiah in 9:25. Again, this particular decree doesn’t mention anything about rebuilding Jerusalem, just the temple.

3) The Decree of Artaxerxes ca. 444 B.C. This is noted in Nehemiah 2:5-8. In this chapter, Nehemiah states he has letters from the king (Artaxerxes) to rebuild Jerusalem, not just the temple. If this date is taken, the first 483 years of the seventy sevens end with the last week of Christ’s ministry in the spring of 33 A.D. That would seem to fulfill perfectly the angel’s comment of how the Messiah will be “cut off.” This is the date I personally take, because I believe it fulfills the prophetic parameters set by the seventy sevens.

Labels: ,


Blogger Mike Vlach said...

Fred, thanks for these easy to understand explanations Daniel. This is my first post on these but I have been enjoying all of them.

10:28 AM, March 03, 2011  
Blogger jstricklin said...


Thank you for this article. I've enjoyed studying, and preaching on this passage. I went back and forth between choosing which decree was the beginning of the weeks. The year of Christ's death is what was causing me the greatest difficulty. 458 B.C. works with a AD 30 crucifixion. But you have to use 365 day years. In the end I was convinced that Daniel used a 360 day lunar calendar and was further convinced by Hoehner's argument for an AD 33 crucifixion.

Jon Stricklin

1:19 PM, March 03, 2011  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home