Daniel 9–2. The Seventieth Week of Daniel 9.
Key Notes: God and the numbers. Seventy years of Israel's exile. 69 weeks of Dan. 9 accounted for. Final period unclear.
We have tried to deal with the seventy weeks of years prophesied in Daniel 9, but we are left with an awkward ending. The issue deals with the exact timing of a prophecy, something many shy away from. The question at issue is rather simple. If the 69th week of Daniel 9 takes us to the death of Christ, why not stop there, rather than leave us with an embarrassing long, almost unbelievable end-point to 70 weeks? The interpretation of these difficult numbers has lead many interpreters to dismiss them as symbolic, i.e., not to be understood literally. Interpreters are very reluctant to try to pin down the future because of the excesses of millennial enthusiasts, called chiliasts. Premillennial writers, such as Hal Lindsey, have made detailed charts of the future which are usually scorned. I am tackling a problem for which there is no solution--embarrassing to say, impossible to avoid.
First, the details.
9:24 As we previously read, 70 weeks of years (490) starting from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem would include the time of Messiah's work of putting away sin.
9:25 Know that from the going-forth of the word to rebuild Jerusalem there will be seven and sixty-two (62+7) weeks. For 62 weeks it will be built solidly, although not in a peaceful time.
9:26 After 62(+7) weeks an anointed one will be cut off and come to nothing. This can also be translated "Messiah will be cut off" or "cut a covenant with no one to take His part."
9:27 The people of the Prince to Come, evidently the Beast of Rev.13, will destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood and to the end there shall be wars and desolation.
9:27 And he (presumably the Prince to Come) will make a strong covenant with many for one week; and for half a week he will cause sacrifice and offering to cease, creating the abomination of desolation. Then God's decree will be carried out on him.
First we need to know whether God's promise to Israel was fulfilled. Israel's return from Exile was to be after 70 years. The dates for these events are taken from extra-biblical sources.
*606 BC Daniel and his friends were deported by Nebuchadnezzar.
*597 The second deportation took away the rest of the nobles, the soldiers, and craftsmen. Only the poorest remained. IIK.24:14
*587 Nebuchadnezzar sacked the city and Jerusalem was deserted.
*539 Babylon was conquered by Darius the Mede under the supervision of Cyrus of Persia.
*537 Rebuilding of the temple was begun, then stopped. Ezra 3–4
*516 The temple was complete. Ezra 6
*445 Artexerxes authorized building the city walls. Neh.2
*409 The city wall was complete. Neh.6:15
•At least two 70 year-periods accounting for Israel's exile can be seen:
From the capture of the first prisoners to the beginning of Temple-rebuilding. 606–537BC
From the capture of Jerusalem to the celebration of the Temple-rebuilding. 587–516BC.
Suppose these are coincidences. Do we have other evidence that God keeps His word on our time scale? Should we not just shrug off time questions with "...with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."? IIPet.3:8
•Abraham was told that Israel would be slaves in a foreign land 400 years. (Gen.15:13). The total was 430 years (Ex.12:40), taking into account the good years of Joseph's administration.
•Abraham was promised a son "in the Spring". (Gen.18:10). "And the Lord visited Sarah as He had promised." Gen.21:1
•Israel was condemned to spend 40 years in the wilderness, one for every day the spies were out. (Num.14:34). The numbers were symbolic, but the sentence was carried out as promised.
•Hezekiah was granted 15 extra years of life. IIK.20:6
•Ezek 4. Ezekiel did a siege tableau in which he lay on his side for 430 days. If you start from the time of Ezekiel's deportation (597) and add 430 day - years, you come to 167BC, when the temple would be liberated again from Antiochus Epiphanes.
•Nebuchadnezzar was sentenced to seven years of insanity and "at the end of the days" he was restored. Dan.4:34
•Jonah is an exception. He prophesied that Ninevah would be overthrown in 40 days. But there was an escape clause that the king of Ninevah took advantage of--repentance (Jon.3:7–9)--and left Jonah furious. He fully expected God's judgment to be carried out on the dot.
So we can find 6–8 OT time fulfillments. Many of these numbers are symbolic, being multiples of 7 or 40, but that does not prejudice the question that they represent truthful time intervals. All these prophecies were on a "need-to-know" basis. It does not appear that God plays games with the numbers.
So we come to today's puzzle. Did Messiah come as promised?
From the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (445) there will be 7 weeks (49 years) for its rebuilding. That takes us to 397 BC. One estimate is that the Jerusalem wall was complete 409. Other hints are 398. The chronology between 400–200BC for events in Jerusalem is very soft.
After 7 and 62 weeks, the Anointed One will be cut off.
"Sir Robert Anderson has specified that the seventy sevens began on the first Nisan March 14, 445BC, and ended on April 6, 32AD, the tenth Nisan. The complicated computation is based upon prophetic years of 360 days totaling 173,880 days. This would be exactly 483 years according to biblical chronology." (quoted in Daniel. J.F. Walvoord; Moody,’71, p.228)
If Christ died at the end of the 69th seven, what happened to the remaining 49 years after 32–3 AD? "The people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary" (9:26). That takes us up to 70AD with twelve years left over. Twelve years remain to be accounted for and nothing in subsequent history matches. When did the further ruin occur, and the abomination of desolation? The final destruction of Jerusalem was in 130AD. Titus and his legions are only a partial fulfillment. (Matt.24:15). Time dribbles out.
However, a principle is being honored. The time of the end--Antichrist and his demise--is not on a "need-to-know" basis. Dan.2 tells us that it will be during the tenure of the Roman Empire. Dan. 7 says the same, and the end of the Man of Sin is clearly given, but not when.
Jesus was specifically not specific. "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you...." Acts.1:7. "But of that day or that hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Mk.13:32.
Why can't we know? "As were the days of Noah, so will the coming of the Son of man." (Matt.24:37) "Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming." "Therefore you also must be ready for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect." (Matt.24:42,44). If we knew when He was coming, we would get ready only at the last possible moment. Since we do not know, we are to be at our duty-stations at all times. It is the test of our faithfulness and commitment, a testimony to the Spirit's work in our lives.
In conclusion, the 70th year of Daniel breaks off with about twelve years to spare. Almost 2500 years have passed since Daniel heard this word. We know that, and we know why, but it is still awesome to think that God's patience has waited so long, and waits now as it did in the days of Noah.
P.S. This is one attempt to solve a very difficult problem. There may be better solutions.