Daniel’s Seventy Sevens: Prophetic Date Setting (9:25-27)
I have been considering Daniel chapter 9, and my study has taken me to the prophecy of Daniel's 70 weeks. It was a revelation given during the first year of the new Medo-Persian empire. Daniel recognized that the 70 years of Israel's captivity were coming to an end. He offers a two-fold prayer: Confession of sin and the request to restore Israel to the land.
The angel, Gabriel, is sent to provide an answer for Daniel that consists of describing a decree by God entailing an allotted 490 years for the prayer to be answered. The 490 years revealed here are based upon the Jewish Sabbatical year. Every 7th year the land was to rest (Leviticus 25:2-6). Seventy Sabbatical "weeks" are appointed for Israel before transgressions are finished and restoration takes place.
As I noted last time, there are three primary views of when those 490 years started. There is only one official decree that I believe fulfills the language of Daniel when Gabriel says, "From the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem;" I believe the seventy sevens started with Artaxerxes decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 444 B.C. The story behind the decree is recorded for us in Nehemiah 2.
Artaxerxes began his reign in 464-463 B.C. The time of the decree would have been Artaxerxes 20th year (Assuming Nehemiah was using a calendar year from October to October). Knowing that the Persians used an accession year chronology, meaning the 1st year was not counted, 444 B.C. would be 20 years or so after he came to the throne.
I personally believe God is revealing through Gabriel to Daniel a specific prophetic chronology that any serious student can study and determine with startling precision when these particular events take place in time. There is no reason why that conclusion can't be drawn. I say that for four reasons:
I. Prophetic Year
How long was a year in Daniel's mind? Or should we say God's mind?
Was a year suppose to be 365 days? How we understand our current day calendar? If we subtract 490 years that places the end of the 70 weeks in the 40 A.D.s or so. That would be well beyond when we know certain details of Daniel's prophecy would have been fulfilled, the cutting off of the Messiah.
I think there are some biblical indicators that tell us God had in mind 12 months of 30 days.
There is historical precedent for this.
In Genesis 7:11, the flood began on the 17th day of the 2nd month. Genesis 8:4, the flood waters end on the 17th day of the 7th month. That would be 5 months total. Additionally, Genesis 7:24 says "The waters prevailed on the earth 150 days." Five months of 30 days would be 150 days. There is no reason to think these numbers are "analogous" or "symbolic" in nature.
But this is Genesis, not Daniel, a prophet who lived several thousand years past the flood. Fair enough. Turning to the book of Daniel, Daniel 7:24, 25 says the "little horn" known as the end-times Anti-Christ has his duration fixed for 3 1/2 times. I take that to be 3 1/2 years, for in Revelation 13:4-7, John's commentary on this Anti-Christ, he is said to rule for 42 months of 1260 days, or 3 1/2 years. Doing the math, that would be 30 day months.
II. Prophetic Precision
One will note that Gabriel divides the seventy sevens into 3 groups:
7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 1 week.
= 7 weeks would be 7x7 or 49 years.
= 62 weeks would be 62x7 or 434 years.
= 1 week would be 7 years.
Daniel 9:25-26 - The first set of 7 weeks, 49 years, Gabriel says Jerusalem was rebuilt and turned into a thriving city. This is the first years following Nehemiah and Ezra's ministry in Jerusalem. The next set of 62 weeks, or 434 years, takes us to what the prophet describes as the coming of "Messiah the prince" who is Jesus Christ.
49 + 434 will give us 483 years. Thus, from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to what Daniel states is "the cutting off of the Messiah" (v. 26) will be 483 years. The question then is, "Can we determine the time when this cutting off of the Messiah takes place? I believe we can with certainty.
Harold Hoehner, in his book, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, provides one of the best comprehensive surveys detailing the historical precision of these prophetic years. Hoehner builds upon and refines the original calculations made by Sir Robert Anderson in his book, The Coming Prince. Their summary of these calculations are thus,
If these are 483 prophetic years of 12, 30 day months as I believe they are and as I noted above, then 483 x 12 x 30 = 173,880 days. If we divide those "days" by our solar calendar of 365 days, we get 476 solar years. Synchronizing those 476 years with our modern calendar by multiplying 476 by 365 days, we get 173,740 days. If the decree to rebuild Jerusalem happened in 444 B.C., and calculating for leap years of which there are 116 days (173,856), brings us to 33 A.D. Hoehner adds 25 days to the original calculation of Anderson to get the date of Nisan 10 (March 30th), 33 A.D. This would be the Triumphal Entry of Christ presenting Himself to the Nation of Israel as their Messiah. Four days later, on Nisan 14, (April 3rd), the Messiah the Prince was "cut off."
III. Prophetic Princes
It is at this point where divergent, eschatological interpretation come into play with the remainder of Daniel’s prophecy.
It is noted that there is a discussion of two “Princes” in this passage: Messiah the Prince (v.25) and the prince of the people who are to come (v.26). I believe these are two, separate individuals. But many amillennialists and postmillennialists, and to some extent, historic premillennialists, believe there is only one prince being spoken of here throughout the entire text: Jesus Christ.
They understand that Christ being “cut off” makes his death an “abomination of desolation” (vs.27) in that Jesus made an end of the temple sacrificial system. The OT promises of the Messiah were fulfilled in Christ’s death, being “cut off,” and His Resurrection. He made an end of the Mosaic law and in doing so, makes the temple "desolate.” The “people of the prince” speak of the Jewish nation who rejected their Messiah, or cut Him off. Daniel is describing their destruction in vs.26. Even though the Roman army destroyed the temple and Jerusalem, ultimately, their destruction was by their own hand, as it were, when they crucified their true Messiah.
There a some problems with this position. The most notable is that Jesus did not make a “covenant” (v.27) for “one week” that was broken in the middle of that week. Unless we make this “week” typological in some fashion, the week here has to be the last 7 years of the prophetic seventy-sevens.
The nearest antecedent for the “he” who shall confirm the covenant (v.27) is the “prince” of the people who are to come in v.26. Examining all the relevant biblical data, the only conclusion one can make and be true to the meaning of the text here is that this “prince” is a separate prince from “Messiah the Prince” (v.25) We have encountered him before in Daniel 7:25. There, that individual, described as a “little, blasphemous horn,” is said to persecute God’s people for a 3 1/2 years.
What Gabriel is revealing to Daniel is that Messiah the Prince, Jesus Christ, will be “cut off.” That happened on the 14th of Nissan, when He was crucified to make atonement for sin and establish the new covenant. He is said to be “cut off, but not for himself.” His death was sacrificial in nature.
Then, at some future point, the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city of Jerusalem. The “prince,” who is the little horn of Daniel 7:25, is identified with the fourth beast. That fourth beast is understood to be the Roman Empire. Hence, “the people of the prince who is to come” has to be the Roman army when they came in 70 A.D. and tore down the temple and burned Jerusalem. This is highlighted in Luke 19:41-44 and other portions of Christ’s Olivet Discourse in Mark 13, Matthew 24.
IV. Prophetic Gap
The first 483 prophetic years lead us up to Christ’s first coming. However, there is one week of 7 years unaccounted for. I believe they are yet future, detailing Christ’s second coming. Which means to say there is a “gap” between the first 69 weeks and the last week.
Amillennialists and postmillennialists do not like the idea of a gap. It is one of the major points of contention, and in some cases ridicule, on the part of non-premillennialists. But the idea of a “telescoping” of prophecy, where some of the prophecy is fulfilled at one point, then a gap of time takes place, then the rest is fulfilled at a later point, is not uncommon in Scripture.
For example, Jesus cuts Isaiah 61:1-2 when he applies this prophecy to Himself in Luke 4:16-21. He did not include Isaiah’s words, “And the day of vengeance of our God” which speaks of a future judgment.
Additionally, even those who do not wish to see a long, 2,000 year gap existing between the 69th and 70th week have to have a gap of at least 40 years or more if the final week was allegedly fulfilled in 70 A.D.
Why is there a gap?
I think the reason is simple: Daniel’s vision does not include the mystery of a NT church that expands God’s redemptive purposes to include the gentiles. God is gathering additional subjects for the kingdom by the means of the Church. This is what is called, “the time of the gentiles” that Jesus spoke of in Luke 21:20-24 and Paul mentions in Romans 11:25. Israel is currently in a state of blindness, because we are experiencing the “time of the gentiles.”
Labels: Defending Premillennialism, Gleanings from Daniel