Daniel the Prophet

Daniel the Prophet

Chapter Nine

Seventy Weeks

Daniel 9

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The Book of Daniel gets more and more fascinating as it progresses, and you will read in this chapter how Daniel is told of some very specific timing with regard to the sacrificial death of the Messiah and the length of the still-to-come reign of the Antichrist.

But first we are told that Daniel was studying the writings of his contemporary, Jeremiah, regarding the fate of the Jewish people and the duration of their captivity by the Babylonians. This is quite interesting in that this shows that Daniel was acquainted with Jeremiah and understood that he was a prophet, recognition that Jeremiah sadly lacked from the majority of Jews who remained in Judah at the time.

During this tumultuous time in Judah’s history, the Lord had given that nation three major prophets — Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah.

Daniel, as we know, was taken away captive when Nebuchadnezzar besieged and conquered Jerusalem the first time in 605 BC.

Ezekiel was taken amongst those that Nebuchadnezzar deported to Babylonia (Ezekiel 1:1) from Jerusalem after he besieged and took the city a second time in 597 BC. The Jews had rebelled against the yoke of Babylon, but Nebuchadnezzar made short work of that rebellion. Jehoiachin had inherited the throne after his father Jehoiakim died, but had only reigned for a few short months before this defeat. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin, his family and attendants, and 10,000 others back with him to Babylonia. And Nebuchadnezzar appointed Zedekiah, the last of Josiah’s sons, as king in his nephew’s stead (2Kings 24:10–17).

Jeremiah during all this remained in Judah and prophesied from the time of Josiah, all the way through the reigns of his sons and grandson, and the total destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 587/586 BC. Later, after the Babylonian governor was assassinated, Jeremiah accompanied the Jews who had remained in Judah into their self-exile in Egypt.

It is interesting to note that the Lord mentions Daniel three times in Ezekiel’s prophecies (Ezekiel 14:14,20; 28:3). It seems that Daniel’s probity and wisdom must have been proverbial amongst the Jews of the exile. And Daniel in this chapter is reading Jeremiah.

There are two places in Jeremiah’s writings where the Lord said that the Jews would go into captivity in Babylon for 70 years:

The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying: ... And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

Jeremiah 25:1–2,11

For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

Jeremiah 29:10

This is a very specific and precise prophecy that was fulfilled in two very significant ways: Firstly, the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem three times. Fed up with the continuing rebellions, Nebuchadnezzar desolated the city and the temple in 587/586 BC. Secondly, the Jews were indeed in exile in and around Babylon, serving the kings of that land for 70 years. Let’s examine the dates:

Nebuchadnezzar first took captives away from Jerusalem in 605 BC, and it seems this was regarded as the start of the 70 years. Cyrus gave permission for the exiles to return in 538 BC, but that return didn’t occur till 536 BC. In that year, 42,360 Jews returned under Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:7–10; 2:64) — to whom Cyrus had given the temple paraphernalia taken by Nebuchadnezzar — and under Jeshua the priest and Zerubbabel. Seventy prophetic years (see explanation of prophetic years later in this chapter) is equal to 69 solar or calendar years. 605 BC to 536 BC is 69 years.

Daniel, upon reading these scriptures, prays one of the most heartfelt prayers found in the Bible, confessing, and asking the Lord to forgive, both his and his people’s iniquities. And then once again the archangel Gabriel appears to Daniel to give him another revelation. This revelation also concerns the number 70, but this time it has to do with a period of “seventy weeks.”

The revelation predicted among other things the year that Jesus the Messiah would be crucified. Yet it was worded in such a way as to make its fulfillment even more amazing than just stating a given date. It hinged its fulfillment on events, which at the time of Daniel receiving this prophecy (circa 538 BC), had yet to occur.

The word “week” is translated from the Hebrew word transliterated as shabua. Aside from having the meaning of a seven-day week, it also has the literal meanings of “seven” and “unit of seven.”

In Genesis there is found a passage that also uses this word shabua, and it is concerning the patriarch Jacob. He had been working seven years for his uncle, Laban, with the intent of earning the right to marry Laban’s younger daughter Rachel. Laban tricked Jacob by substituting his older daughter Leah in the marriage bed on the night of the wedding. Jacob was incensed, but Laban insisted that it was only proper that the older daughter should marry first, but he agreed that if Jacob fulfilled Rachel’s “week, we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years” (Genesis 29:27).

Here shabua means a period of seven years, and it can be assumed then that “weeks” in the prophecy of Daniel 9 can also be understood to mean “periods of seven years.”

When we add the 7 weeks and the 62 weeks mentioned in Daniel 9:25, we come up with a total of 69 weeks. Then if we multiply 69 times 7, we arrive at a figure of 483 years. God was telling Daniel that 483 years would pass between the time that the command was given to return and rebuild Jerusalem and the death of the Messiah, Jesus.

Keeping this in mind, we must now consider what is regarded as a “year” in ancient terms. Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727) wrote: “All nations, before the just length of the solar year was known, reckoned months by the course of the moon, and years by the return of winter and summer, spring and autumn; and in making calendars for their festivals, they reckoned thirty days to a lunar month, and twelve lunar months to a year, taking the nearest round numbers, whence came the division of the ecliptic [path of the sun’s annual rotation] into 360 degrees” (The Coming Prince (1894) by Robert Anderson, page 68). In other words, the year of the ancients consisted of 360 days.

A biblical confirmation of the length of what Bible scholars and commentators sometimes call a “prophetic year” is found in Genesis 7:11,24, and 8:3–4. The time that the biblical deluge in the time of Noah began until the ark came to rest on the top of Mount Ararat is given as 150 days. This period is dated as beginning on the 17th day of the second month of the year and lasting till the 17th day of the 7th month, a period of exactly 5 months. When 150 is divided by 5, we come up with a month being a period of 30 days. If we extrapolate that, then 12 months of 30 days would equal 360 days.

In Revelation 11:2–3, 42 months is equated to 1,260 days. Forty-two months is also equal to three and a half years. If we take the 1,260 days and divide it by 3½, we end up with 360 days in a year.

Next let us look at another biblical hero, Nehemiah. He was the Jewish cupbearer to the Persian king Artaxerxes Longimanus, the fifth king of the Persian Empire. According to Nehemiah’s account in chapter two of his book, it was in the king’s 20th year on the throne that Nehemiah was granted permission to supervise the reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem. Dating this event accurately to our present calendar can be done because the Persian Empire kept precise astronomical records.

The 20th year of King Artaxerxes — and thus the year this command was given to restore and build Jerusalem — is fixed with a fair amount of certainty at 445 BC. Several other decrees issued by Artaxerxes and his predecessors had allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple, but this is the one that gave them permission to rebuild the city walls. As you can read in the book of Nehemiah, this feat was completed — in spite of constant and “troublesome” interference from neighboring kingdoms — in just 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15).

Now it is time to do some math. We need to convert 483 prophetic years into solar years. A solar year consists of about 365¼ days.

(483 x 360) ÷ 365¼ = 476 solar years

If we now add 476 years to 445 BC, we arrive at the year 31 AD . However, since the first day of 31 AD would be the end of the 476 years, to fit in with the prophecy Jesus’ death would have had to happen somewhere within the year 30 AD . Most sources state that Jesus was crucified around 30 AD .

In summary, we know that the “going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem ... and the wall” was in 445 BC. Daniel predicted that after 69 weeks the “Messiah shall be cut off.” Those 69 weeks translate into 476 years of our solar calendar, which, when added to 445 BC, results in the year 30 AD , the year of Christ’s crucifixion. That exact year being predicted over 500 years previously in the Book of Daniel is a remarkable date to arrive at!

There are indications that the Jews of Jesus’ day were expecting the Messiah to come around that time, as Luke records that “the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not” (Luke 3:15). The Jews were very well acquainted with their prophets’ writings, so it’s likely that their awareness of this prophecy from Daniel was the cause of this expectation.

The fulfillment of the first part of this amazing prophecy inspires faith that the rest of it will be fulfilled just as accurately. For, as you may have noticed, there is one “week” of years unaccounted for. Verse 24 refers to “seventy weeks” in order to “make an end of sins” and “bring in everlasting righteousness.” However, verses 25 and 26, which predict the year of Christ’s death, only account for 69 “weeks.” What and when is this last week? It certainly wasn’t fulfilled seven years after Jesus was crucified and then rose from the dead, since an era of “everlasting righteousness” was not ushered in; nor was the vision and prophecy “sealed up” or completed.

As we will see, the last week starts when the Antichrist confirms the covenant with many for one week. It really is the last week — the last seven years.

In verse 26, the prophecy announces that the forces of a prince who is going to come shall destroy the city, meaning Jerusalem, and the sanctuary or temple. This was fulfilled to an extent by the Romans under the then-future emperor, Titus, who razed Jerusalem and its second temple to the ground again in 70 AD . Both the sack of Jerusalem and the slaughter of its inhabitants are related by the Jewish historian Josephus in his Antiquities.

However, verse 27 precludes Titus being the prince spoken of because it says he confirms, or makes, a covenant for a period of seven years. Titus never made such a deal.

This covenant, which plays a pivotal role in Endtime events, apparently allows the resumption of Jewish temple worship with all its requisite animal sacrifices. We deduce that because when this covenant is broken in the middle of the seven years, the sacrifice and offering is brought to an end. At the writing of this book, there is no temple and hence no temple worship. But, according to this and other prophetic passages in the Bible, one is going to be built. (Read chapter 1, “And He Shall Confirm a Covenant” in The Rise and Fall of the Antichrist for a more thorough treatment of this subject.)

And at the breaking of this covenant, we are told cryptically that on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate. In Daniel chapter 11 we are told about the Abomination of Desolation, which is some sort of idol, being placed in the temple. And the peoples of the world are ordered to worship this thing. It is not going to be your everyday idol, either. We don’t know everything about it, but we will delve into it more in chapter 11. (Read also chapter 4, “The Abomination of Desolation,” in The Rise and Fall of the Antichrist.)

And all this is going to happen until the consummation, the very end, when God’s frightening judgments are poured out on the desolate. (See “The Plagues of the Wrath of God” and “Armageddon,” chapters 10 and 11 in The Rise and Fall of the Antichrist.)

When that is over, the following stipulations in Daniel 9:24 will all surely be fulfilled: “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.”

Jesus died for our sins at the end of the 69th week, and we have thus been recon-ciled. And after the 70th week, the transgression of the Antichrist’s reign in Jerusalem and in the temple will be finished. Everlasting righteousness will be ushered in with the establishment of God’s kingdom on Earth after Jesus’ Second Coming, which takes place at the end of the seventh year of the Antichrist’s reign. The vision and prophecy will be fulfilled and sealed, and Jesus will be anointed King of all the Earth. (See “The 1000-year Reign of Jesus Christ,” chapter 2 of From the End to Eternity.)


[meh SIGH uh] (anointed one) — the one anointed by God and empowered by God’s Spirit to deliver His people and establish His kingdom. In Jewish thought, the Messiah would be the king of the Jews, a political leader who would defeat their enemies and bring in a golden era of peace and prosperity. In Christian thought, the term Messiah refers to Jesus’ role as a spiritual deliverer, setting His people free from sin and death.

The word Messiah comes from a Hebrew term that means “anointed one.” Its Greek counterpart is Christos, from which the word Christ comes. Messiah was one of the titles used by early Christians to describe who Jesus was.

In Old Testament times, part of the ritual of commissioning a person for a special task was to anoint him with oil. The phrase anointed one was applied to a person in such cases. In the Old Testament, Messiah is used more than 30 times to describe kings (2 Samuel 1:14,16), priests (Leviticus 4:3,5,16), the patriarchs (Psalm 105:15), and even the Persian King Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1). The word is also used in connection with King David, who became the model of the messianic king who would come at the end of the age (2 Samuel 22:51; Psalm 2:2). But it was not until the time of Daniel (sixth century BC) that Messiah was used as an actual title of a king who would come in the future (Daniel 9:25–26). Still later, as the Jewish people struggled against their political enemies, the Messiah came to be thought of as a political, military ruler.

From the New Testament we learn more about the people’s expectations. They thought the Messiah would come soon to perform signs (John 7:31) and to deliver His people, after which He would live and rule forever (John 12:34). Some even thought that John the Baptist was the Messiah (John 1:20). Others said that the Messiah was to come from Bethlehem (John 7:42). Most expected the Messiah to be a political leader, a king who would defeat the Romans and provide for the physical needs of the Israelites.

According to the Gospel of John, a woman of Samaria said to Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming.” Jesus replied, “I who speak to you am He” (John 4:25–26). In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, however, Jesus never directly referred to Himself as the Messiah, except privately to His disciples, until the crucifixion (Matthew 26:63–64; Mark 14:61–62; Luke 22:67–70). He did accept the title and function of messiahship privately (Matthew 16:16-17). Yet Jesus constantly avoided being called “Messiah” in public (Mark 8:29–30). This is known as Jesus’ “messianic secret.” He was the Messiah, but He did not want it known publicly.

The reason for this is that Jesus’ kingdom was not political but spiritual (John 18:36). If Jesus had used the title “Messiah,” people would have thought He was a political king. But Jesus understood that the Messiah, God’s Anointed One, was to be the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13–53:12). The fact that Jesus was a suffering Messiah — a crucified deliverer — was a “stumbling block” to many of the Jews (1 Corinthians 1:23). They saw the cross as a sign of Jesus’ weakness, powerlessness, and failure. They rejected the concept of a crucified Messiah.

But the message of the Early Church centered around the fact that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Christ (Acts 5:42; 17:3; 18:5). They proclaimed the “scandalous” gospel of a crucified Messiah as the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:23–24). John wrote, “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ [the Messiah]?” (1 John 2:22).

By the time of the apostle Paul, “Christ” was in the process of changing from a title to a proper name. The name is found mostly in close association with the name “Jesus,” as in “Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24) or “Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1). When the Church moved onto Gentile soil, the converts lacked the Jewish background for understanding the title, and it lost much of its significance. Luke wrote, “The disciples were first called Christians [those who belong to and follow the Messiah] in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).

As the Messiah, Jesus is the divinely appointed king who brought God’s kingdom to Earth (Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20). His way to victory was not by physical force and violence, but through love, humility, and service.

(Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

  1. Introduction
  2. A Captive of Babylon
  3. The Image in the Dream
  4. Three Who Wouldn’t Burn
  5. The Madness of the King
  6. The Handwriting on the Wall
  7. The Lion’s Den
  8. The Beasts from the Sea
  9. The Ram, the Goat, and the Future King
  10. Seventy Weeks
  11. Spiritual Warfare
  12. The King of the North
  13. The Closing Message
  14. In Conclusion