Greetings, Fellow Eschatologists! This is the fourth installment in a series on the subject of Daniel’s 70th week. In this series, we’re studying the origin of the phrase that so many eschatologists use when discussing end time doctrine—“Daniel’s 70th week.” In this post, we will look at the portion of chapter 9 where the angel Gabriel interrupts Daniel’s prayer to give him a message from the Lord. Daniel was praying about Jeremiah’s prophecy saying the Jewish exiles in Babylon would be able to return to Jerusalem after 70 years. Ironically, the angel Gabriel informed Daniel about another prophecy concerning the number 70. In this post, we will learn the purpose of the 70-weeks prophecy, what will be accomplished for the Jewish people upon their completion. Keep reading!
DANIEL’S 70TH WEEK
By Karen Thompson
Fourth in a Four-Part Series
The Angel Gabriel Visits Daniel
Dan. 9:20 And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God; 21 Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. 23 At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.
While Daniel was in the middle of praying his prayer of repentance, he was interrupted by a special visitor—the angel Gabriel. In response to Daniel’s prayer, Gabriel came with a message to give Daniel the understanding for which Daniel was seeking.
Dan. 9:24 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.
Gabriel announced, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city….” How interesting! Daniel is in the middle of a prayer to God about Jeremiah’s 70-year judgment being fulfilled so the exiled Jews could go back to Jerusalem, and here Gabriel shows up with a message about yet another judgment involving the number 70! The time of this judgment is 70 “weeks.” At the end of the 70-week judgment, God’s ultimate will and plan for the children of Israel would be fulfilled! In verse 24, Gabriel outlined what would take place when the 70 weeks is fulfilled. Let’s break it down by phrases. First, Gabriel began by saying:
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city”: It’s important to note that the events of the 70 weeks are about what will happen to “thy people” and the “holy city,” which is to say the Jewish people and Jerusalem. The 70 weeks are all about the Jewish people and Jerusalem!
“To finish the transgression”: The Hebrew word for transgression is pasha and it means “to rebel or revolt.” At the end of the seventy weeks, Israel’s rebellion toward God will have come to an end.
“To make an end of sins”: The whole nation of Israel will repent of its sins and get right with God. Zechariah 12:10–11 tells us how a spirit of repentance will fall on them: “…and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him … In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem.” This is also very interesting. Daniel is in the middle of praying a prayer of repentance for the entire nation, and Gabriel shows up to tell Daniel that after this 70-week judgment, the entire nation will, indeed, repent of its sins.
“To make reconciliation for iniquity”: The word “reconciliation” is the Hebrew word kaphar and it means “to cover, purge, make an atonement.” Israel’s sins will be atoned collectively as a nation.
“And to bring in everlasting righteousness”: When Israel’s rebellion toward God has come to an end and they repent of their sins, they will become that righteous and holy nation. It will be an “everlasting righteousness,” meaning it will never end. This is talking about the Jewish people and Jerusalem being holy and set apart to rule and reign in righteousness with our Lord.
“And to seal up the vision and prophecy”: All the prophetic words and visions spoken about Jerusalem and the children of Israel will be sealed up at this time. This means all the visions and prophesies will be fulfilled and come to pass.
“And to anoint the most holy”: Some think that “most holy” means Jesus, but Jesus is never referred to by that term. Some think this is talking about the temple in Jerusalem. It must be rebuilt, cleansed, and purified after Antichrist’s desecration.
70 Segments of Sevens
Gabriel told Daniel, “seventy weeks are determined for your people” (v. 24). Seventy weeks comes to one year and four and a half months. Did Gabriel really mean that God’s plan for Israel would be accomplished in less than two years? Obviously not, since 70 weeks have already come and gone long ago and it’s never come to pass. So what is up with that? Actually, seventy weeks does not mean 70 actual weeks as we know a week to be. The word for week here is the Hebrew word Shabuwa, and it simply means “segment of seven.”
There is another place in the Word of God where the word “week” is used to denote a span of seven years. In Genesis chapter 29, we read about the story of Jacob falling in love with Rachel, the youngest daughter of Laban. Jacob made an agreement with Laban to work for him for seven years in exchange for his daughter Rachel’s hand in marriage.
On the wedding night, instead of sending Rachel to the wedding tent to spend the night with Jacob, Laban sent his oldest daughter, Leah, wearing a veil over her face to hide her identity. When Jacob discovered the ruse the next morning, he confronted Laban. Laban justified his actions by saying it wasn’t customary to marry off the youngest daughter before the eldest daughter. Laban then said to Jacob, “Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years” (v. 27). Here we see Laban describing seven years as a “week.”
In conclusion, we are dealing with years, not weeks or months. So 70 weeks should be calculated as 70 times 7 which totals 490 years. At the end of 490 years, Israel will have experienced the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise for Israel to be that holy and set apart nation.
The Date of the Decree to Rebuild Jerusalem
Now we must figure out when the 70 weeks began. Daniel 9:25 tells us when the clock starts ticking: “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem….” The clock starts ticking on the 70 weeks when the command is given for Jerusalem to be rebuilt. Many make the mistake of thinking the clock started ticking when the Medo/Persian King Cyrus gave the decree that the exiled Jews could go back to Jerusalem. The mistake is that Cyrus never actually made a decree for Jerusalem to be rebuilt. His decree was for the “temple” in Jerusalem to be rebuilt.
Let’s look at the decree of Cyrus in Ezra 1:1–4: “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.” Very clearly, the decree of Cyrus was to rebuild the temple, not to rebuild Jerusalem.
Who then gave the decree to rebuild the city of Jerusalem? It was King Artaxerxes who gave the command. The story is told to us in the book of Nehemiah. The book starts out with Nehemiah, a Jew and the king’s cupbearer, saying he received a report from his friend and fellow Jew, Hanani, who had just returned from Jerusalem. Nehemiah asked Hanani the condition of the Jewish people in Jerusalem. Hanani reported, “The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire” (Neh. 1:3). When Nehemiah heard this, he became distraught for his brethren in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah chapter two starts out with Nehemiah serving the king his wine. The king noticed that Nehemiah looked depressed and asked him what was wrong. Nehemiah said he had just heard of the dire condition of his brethren at Jerusalem. The king asked Nehemiah what he could do for him. Nehemiah said, “If it please the king, and if thy servant have found favour in thy sight, that thou wouldest send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers’ sepulchres, that I may build it” (v. 5). The king granted Nehemiah’s request and sent him to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. The king gave Nehemiah a letter to Asaph, who was the keeper of the king’s forest, to give him timber to make beams with which to repair the walls and gates of the city. (Neh. 2:5–9) As you can see, King Artaxerxes is the one that gave the command to rebuild Jerusalem, and so that is when the clock starts ticking on the 70 weeks.
In the next post, when we study the 490 years, you’ll see they are divided into three segments of time: 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 1 week. During each of these segments of time, certain events will take place. That’s for next time.
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