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The Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9)

Over the years, I have studied dozens of interpretations of Daniel 9:24-25, the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks . To refresh your memory, those verses say: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.”

In this article, I want to focus your attention on verse 25, which specifies two divisions that occur during the seventy weeks. The first division is seven weeks in duration. The second division is sixty-two weeks in duration. There is no mention of a sixty-nine weeks division; it is a manmade creation used to gloss over the embarrassing fact that the expositor cannot explain a meaning of the seven-week division that matches history.

Now, take a look at your study Bible notes and/or your commentary on Daniel and see how it explains the first division, the seven weeks. Most don’t. Most simply lump the two divisions together to make a single division of sixty-nine weeks in duration. But, is that good exegesis? “No!” it is not. God specified the seven weeks to Daniel for a distinct purpose and they were recorded by Daniel for our edification. They cannot be ignored and an unverifiable interpretation that does not fully explain them is not acceptable. Predictive prophecy must have exact fulfillment that can be verified in history and it must be clearly understandable if it is a true interpretation.

I can say with certainty that your study Bible notes and/or commentary on Daniel do not explain the chronology of the seven weeks correctly. Some give a general explanation, perhaps venturing a guess that it marks the date for the completion of a wall built in Jerusalem sometime around 400 BCE, but they cannot cite a historical reference about when the seven weeks begin and when they end to support that guess. Disappointingly, none of the traditional interpretations of the seven weeks offer a chronology that can be verified from the Bible and from documented history (it must satisfy both). The well-meaning authors of those study Bibles and commentaries are only guessing about the meaning of the seven-week division if they offer any explanation at all.

In my commentary on the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, I don’t guess. I fully explain the prophecy, including the seven-week division, and do so precisely. I show how that seven-week division aligns with the ancient Jewish Sabbath cycle of seven years, and thus how, by so aligning, it locates the entire prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in history. That is important because the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in Daniel 9 precisely locates the public ministry of Jesus—the Jewish Messiah foretold by Moses and the prophets—in time and does so beyond doubt.

If understanding that aspect of Jesus’ ministry is of interest to you, I invite you to read the interpretation of the Seventy Weeks in Daniel 9:24-27 that I have published in The Messiah Prophecy. In my commentary the seven-week, sixty-two week, and one week divisions that make up the Seventy Weeks are explained in detail, and it also explains the six things specified in verse 24 that were fulfilled by Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. Or, if the traditional interpretations of Daniel 9, which are approximate in fulfillment and chronologically incorrect, are good enough for you, you can choose to decline my invitation. The choice is yours.

Traditional interpretations of Daniel 9 assume that the phrase “Seventy Weeks” is a way of saying 490 years, an assumption that is not supported by Scripture. In order to get that to make sense, those interpreters use a Persian decree, usually the one from circa 458 BCE, as the starting point for their interpretation, which makes the seven weeks (49 years in their interpretative scheme) end in circa 409 BCE. Of the interpretations that try to explain what happened in 409 BCE that was important enough to make that year a part of the prophecy (many don’t even try), most will say that it is somehow associated with the building of Jerusalem, perhaps marking the year when its wall was completed. However, there is no record of such construction being completed around that time that can be verified from Bible chronology or documented history. It’s all speculation, and incorrect speculation at that, which is not the way that Bible prophecy is to be interpreted.

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