An exegetical approach to Israel’s Prophetic Destiny

a33c58e69a0084ea1829e088e9b9d179Seventy Sevens:

An exegetical approach to
Israel’s Prophetic Destiny

 

 

Introduction

 

The prophetic portions of the Book of Daniel have intrigued and captivated Bible readers for millennia. Scholars, Preachers and Laymen, alike, have spilt much ink over the historic and futuristic implications of this inspired work. None of Daniel’s writings has received as much attention as the prophecy of the “Seventy Weeks”. It is this prophetic revelation wherein the restoration of the nation of Israel is revealed; the chronological date of the expected first advent of Messiah; the rise and rule of the “man of sin”; and the ushering in of the Millennial Kingdom.

Daniel’s prophetic contribution to Scripture (beginning 605 B.C.)  has been a key to unlocking the chronology of Bible prophecy. God spoke through Daniel to predict the rise of three, and the fall of four major empires in ancient world history. With precise accuracy the prophesies proclaimed the fall of the mighty Babylonians; the Medo-Persian’s rise and fall; Alexander the Great, and his mighty Greeks sweeping  in to conquer all of the known world; and the crushing power of the Roman Empire. Daniel, further, gives detailed references to the divisions of the Greek empire, after the sudden death of Alexander, and the subsequent fighting of the Ptolemys and Seleucids, not to mention, the rise of the infamous Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

When the reader comes to the portion of Scripture containing the prophesy of the seventy sevens or seventy “weeks” in Daniel 9:24-27; he knows he is looking into the future (from the time of Daniel) towards the Final Kingdom. Some have denied the latter portion of that statement and claimed that the prophecy was fulfilled in Israel’s history; nonetheless, the Word rightly divided will reveal the future state of the Messianic Kingdom pertaining to the restoration of national Israel.

 

The Jeremiah Connection

The prophet Jeremiah plays an inextricable role in the mindset of Daniel. One will also realize that there are three distinct aspects of the following portion of Scripture: “I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years” (Daniel 9:2, NASB). (1) Daniel believed in the infallibility of the prophetic ministry of Jeremiah. Daniel came to realize that the seventy-year prophecy of Jeremiah was coming to a completion, as Darius the Mede became ruler over Babylon. (2)Jeremiah had also predicted that Israel’s sojourn in Babylon was to last 70 years (Jer. 25:11–12).[1] Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jer. 25:11–12) had revealed God’s plan for the nation only up to the end of the 70-year Babylonian Captivity. Daniel wanted to know what would transpire after that. His previous two visions (Dan. 7–8) of forthcoming events dealt primarily with Gentile nations that would rise, beginning with Babylon. (3) This portion of Scripture is significant because it demonstrates that Daniel truly believed that the prophets were spokespersons for God Almighty. Thus, then Daniel begin to intercede.

                                        A Plea from the Prophet

The man of God began to intercede on behalf of his people that at the conclusion of Jeremiah’s 70 years, national repentance would release the Jews back to their land and usher in the kingdom of God. His petition unto the Lord contains Daniel’s pleadings with Him:

“O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us “So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary” (Da. 9:16–17).

 

As Pentecost writes, “Gabriel was dispatched by God to satisfy Daniel’s desire and to reveal God’s program for His people until its consummation in the covenanted kingdom under Israel’s Messiah.[2] “Daniel had been heard by God, and one of God’s mightiest angels, Gabriel (“mighty one of God”), had come with an answer because Daniel was “highly esteemed” (also NASB; “greatly beloved,” NRSV, KJV). “Highly esteemed” is a translation of the Hebrew ḥămûdôt, which describes something or someone desired or counted precious.”[3]

 

Gabriel’s Interpretation of Seventy Years 9:24–27

In what seems to be an angelic visitation, from the Archangel Gabriel, Daniel is instructed to attend carefully to the eschatological message about to be revealed to him. The following message and corresponding interpretation is essentially an Old Testament equivalent to the Apocalypse of the New Testament, and as stated above, is the “key” to understanding much of the apocalyptic writings of the New Testament.

 

The program in the 70 “sevens” (9:24)

As presented by the angel Gabriel, God had a program for the people of Israel and for Jerusalem. The 70 “sevens” were decreed to bring six very specific occurrences to the people and the holy city. These six occurrences could be considered as three ushering “outs” and three ushering “ins”. The ushering “outs” are seen, in verse 24, as transgression, sin, and iniquity. The ushering in is recognized as a “changing of the guard”, more specifically, a changing of the King. Gabriel says, “it has been decreed” (by God) “to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.” Interactions with these six prophetic goals will be dealt with throughout this exegesis.

The implications are clear; God has decreed that He (in the person of Jesus Christ) will reign in righteousness, in the temple, in the holy city, and over the nation of Israel. Arguably, this was God’s program (essentially) when the Israelites heard the voice of God in Sinai (Exodus 19:5-8). Yet, because of their transgressions, sin, and iniquity, they would not lovingly submit to the rule of God, and were therefore made captives in a land that was not their own. From this point, one can understand Daniel’s prayer of repentance on behalf of the nation and his plea unto God to remember His word to Jeremiah, concerning the 70 years in Babylonian captivity.

Pentecost noted, “The basis for the first three was provided in the work of Christ on the cross, but all six will be realized by Israel at the Second Advent of Christ.” [4] He is implying that Jesus made provisions for the first three ushering “outs”, by using the word “basis”. Historical and contemporary evidence suggests that Israel has not finished transgressing, sinning, nor living lawless. Nonetheless, the final Passover Lamb was slain on Golgotha’s hill. The Blood of Atonement satisfied the judicial requirements of holy God for Israel.

For emphasis, Clarence Larkin specifies:

“It is the transgression of ISRAEL that is here referred to, and the finishing of it will be the turning away of ungodliness from Jacob. Rom. 11:26–27. The transgression of Israel has not yet come to an end, and will not until they as a Nation shall be converted.”[5]

 

For purposes of clarity, although all of humanity has been and will be affected by this prophecy; this prophecy is directly given for Israel. “This prophecy, then, is concerned not with world history or church history, but with the history of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.”[6] Here in this context do the 70 “weeks” have their application and mark the completion of God’s program.

 

“Weeks” defined

Daniel is explicit concerning the timing of Gabriel’s arrival and delivery of this prophetic word. “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign” (Daniel 9:1-2a). This “Darius the Mede” is most likely referring to Cyrus the Great, who came to power in Babylon in the year 538/539 B.C. (the author believes 538 B.C.). By now, the reader will know that seventy “7-day weeks” cannot possibly be the intended meaning because 490 days have passed since the visitation. Verse 25 sheds more light on the starting date of the 70 weeks (which did not begin on the day that Cyrus took Babylon).

One might find it useful to note that the Hebrew people were trained to think in segments of sevens (heptads), similar to the way that Westerners think in terms of tens. They would understand that every seventh year was a sabbath year of rest (Lev. 25:1–7). Further, Daniel’s people knew that seven “sevens” or sabbath years would bring them to the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8–12). Thinking along these terms would bring the Hebrew mind to understand that seventy “sevens” would represent a span of 490 years. Certainly, 490 years would account for enough time to allow the events of this prophetic message to run their course, and for God to complete his program concerning Israel by ushering in His messianic kingdom. (In addition, if days were intended, one would expect Daniel to have added “of days” after “70 sevens” for in 10:2–3 he wrote literally, “three sevens of days” [NIV, “three weeks”].[7])

One further note to the reader: the Hebrews of Bible times used a lunar calendar. While somewhat complex to the Western mind, this Hebrew/lunar calendar completes its yearly cycle in approximately 360 days. (This will be important information for interpreting the verses to follow). The “Western” calendar or the Gregorian calendar operates on a solar cycle as opposed to a lunar cycle. This difference amounts to approximately 5 days; the difference between our 365-day calendar and the Hebrew 360-day calendar. This fact becomes significant in the context of 490 years.

 

The divisions of the 70 “sevens” (9:25–27)

The angel exhorts the prophet to “know and discern” because he was delivering Daniel the answer to his prayer. Beyond the “70 years” of captivity”, Gabriel is conveying that God has decreed an additional “70 weeks” before God “would complete his messianic redemption of the Jews and Jerusalem (which includes both advents of Christ)”.[8] At this point, it is evident, that “time” plays a tremendous role in this prophetic message. Verse 25 marks three clear divisions in these 70 weeks of years. They are divided into seven weeks (49 years), 62 weeks (434 years), and one week (seven years).

 

Seven weeks (49 years)

There is much debate over the beginning of each of these three divisions, even as there are debates over when these 490 years conclude. Verse 25 declares the beginning of this 70-week program will begin with “a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem”. To assume there is a consensus among conservative scholarship, concerning this specific “decree”, would be dreaming. Some assume (as does Athas)[9], the decree to return and rebuild Jerusalem is generally acknowledged as the decree of Cyrus issued in 538 BCE (the symbolic view). However, this does not seem correct. The decree of Cyrus only allowed the return of the Jewish exiles for the express purpose of a rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 1).

One must clearly identify the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem as more than just a release of exiles for the purpose of worship. Interestingly, Price and Ice disagree with Miller concerning the specific decree. Price and Ice argue for the decree by Artaxerxes, issued to Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and 444 BC. Miller makes his claim, “the decree to Ezra in 458 B.C. is the correct starting point for the seventy sevens, but a survey of the events contained in the first sixty-nine sevens is necessary to demonstrate the appropriateness of this option.”[10] Even other highly respected biblical scholars hold to a broad sweep of all of the previously proposed solutions to the specific “decree”.

There is no doubt that this decree is of major importance. Therefore, the accepted view here is that of Artaxerxes I’s decree issued to Nehemiah in 445 BC. The reason for this choice is suggested in Nehemiah 2:5-8. This decree to Nehemiah specifically mentions the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Neh 2:5), which is the strongest argument in favor of it.[11] Yet, whether it be the decree to Ezra or the decree to Nehemiah, it is clear that the city was in a state of ruin 100 years after the return of the exiles upon the decree of Cyrus in 538 BC. “The first seven weeks of forty–nine years bring us to 397 BC. and to Malachi and the end of the Old Testament. These were “troublous times,” as witnessed by both Nehemiah and Malachi.”[12]

 

62 weeks (434 years)

The 62 weeks introduces the “Anointed One the Prince”. There is little disagreement among conservative scholars that this “Anointed One” is none other than Jesus of Nazareth. These 62 weeks span from the days of Malachi the prophet until March A.D. 33 (the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem). It is conceded, that Daniel is given much revelation that depicts the horrific reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanies; however, to separate the “anointed one” from “the prince” grammatically, and then ascribe “the prince” to Antiochus IV is ridiculous.

Gurney has made this error in the following assessment of this prophesy:

Radical scholars have no doubt that this prophecy points to the time of Antiochus epiphanies and no further. The “anointing of a most holy place” is said to be the re-anointing of the altar of sacrifice by the victorious Judas Maccabeus. The “anointed one” who was “cut off” was the murdered high priest, Onias III. The “prince who is to come” was Antiochus epiphanies, whose armies particularly destroyed Jerusalem and massacred many of its inhabitants. He made a “covenant” with the Hellenized Jews for “half a week” (3 1/2 years) he abolished the “sacrifice and offering”. His crowning “abomination” was the erection of a heathen altar on the great altar of burnt sacrifice.[13]

 

Since this is the main thrust of opposing arguments, it seems fitting to quickly dismiss this theory. When one considers the duration between “issuing of a decree” (March 5, 444 BC) and the completion of seven “weeks of years” plus 62 “weeks of years”; the sum total of years is 483. Although the years do not match up perfectly, it makes more sense to apply the prophecy to the time of Christ (476 years) as opposed to the days of Antiochus (269 years). The “Anointed One the Prince” is certainly a messianic title.

Athus, arguing from a Hebraic grammatical point makes the following conjecture:

We assume that the three discrete portions of the seventy‘ weeks’ are all contiguous and successive—that is, that the three stated periods of  ‘weeks’ (7 + 62 + 1) follow one after the other to make one continuous period of 490 years (70 × 7 years). However, only at 9:26 does the narrative specifically indicate such a sequence .This places the death of an anointed one at the end of (or after) the period of sixty-two ‘weeks’ in a way which suggests that the final period of one ‘week’ does indeed follow on from the period of sixty-two ‘weeks’. [14]

 

While Athus can be credited with accurate Hebrew scholarship, it begs the question: How many biblical references are necessary for the (7 + 62 + 1) sequence to be the accurate method of interpretation? Moreover, he validates the introduction and the rejection of the anointed one are within the 62 “weeks” timeframe. The ministry of Jesus definitely meets these criteria, and therefore, must be considered the proper exegesis.

 

The Messiah will be cut off (9:26a)

The end or goal of the prophecy is the appearance of the Anointed One, the Ruler. This refers to Christ Himself. However, Israel as a nation will not have Christ to rule over them. Verse 26 describes this dreadful rejection, “the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing”.

Warren Wiersbe writes:

But this Anointed One, the Christ, will not be permitted to rule; for His people cried out, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). “We will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). The Messiah will be “cut off, but not for himself” (“and will have nothing,” niv). This speaks of His rejection by the Jewish nation (John 1:11; Luke 13:33–35) and His crucifixion as a criminal, turned over to the Roman authorities by His own people and one of His own disciples. But He died for the sins of the world, including the sins of the Jewish nation.[15]

 

The second portion of verse 26 has often been misinterpreted because of the phrase “the prince who is to come”. Some notable scholars have wrongly placed the destruction of the city and the sanctuary during the time of Great Tribulation. Yet, properly understood, Jesus pronounces the destruction of the city and sanctuary upon his entry (triumphal entry) into Jerusalem.

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41–44)

 

History agrees that General Titus, of the Imperial Roman Army, decimated Jerusalem and burned the temple (not leaving a stone upon a stone) in 70 A.D. Thus fulfilling the pronouncement of Jesus and accounting for the prophecy of Daniel 9:26. This pre-understanding allows one to accurately exegete the phrase “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolation’s are determined.” “The Romans are ‘the people of the prince that shall come,’ and that prince is the future Antichrist that Daniel described as “the little horn” and the blasphemous king (7:8, 24–25; 8:23–27).[16] This takes us to the third period.

 

One week (seven years)

Clarence Larkin introduces this final week of sin as well as any other scholar or theologian could do:

Now as the fulfilment of this “Six-Fold” purpose of the “SEVENTY WEEKS” synchronizes with the things that shall happen at the close of this Dispensation, and that are described in Rev. 6:1; 19:21, it is clear that the last, or “SEVENTIETH WEEK” of Daniel’s “Seventy Weeks,” covers the “TIME PERIOD” of Rev. 6:1; 19:21, and confirms the claim that that “Period” is Jewish and has nothing to do with the Church. To prove this it is only necessary to outline Daniel’s “Seventy Weeks.”[17]

 

“The prince who is to come” of verse 26 emerges to sign a (peace) treaty with Israel for seven years (one week). In accordance with pre-trib theology, the signing of this treaty will be preceded by the rapture of the Church, the bride of Christ (I Thessalonians 4:16-17). Now with the bride of Christ celebrating her glorification at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-10); God resumes his final “week” of ushering outs concerning His program with Israel.

Verse 27 indicates a “firm covenant” made with “many people”. Since this entire prophecy is solely concerning Israel, it is easy to understand that the “many people” imply a national body of people. This national body of people raised The Star of David over Israel in May 1948. This national Israel will enter covenant with the Antichrist (the prince that will come). The covenant is to last for seven years; yet it will be broken halfway point (three and one half years).

Isaiah 28:14-22 describes the people of Jerusalem, who make this treaty with the Antichrist, as scoffers and fools. Israel’s leaders will be seeking a solution to their continued military attacks; yet, the Scripture says this deal is “a covenant with death”. For the Jews will be fiercely brutalized, persecuted, and butchered when the Antichrist breaks the covenant in the midst of the final week.

This mid-week breach of the covenant, on behalf of Antichrist, will also be distinguished by a termination of the daily sacrifice in the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. Some scholars rightly believe the tribulation temple will be rebuilt upon the Temple Mount during the first three and one half years of the treaty. In order for there to be a stop put to them, the text demands a temple where sacrifices are being presented.

 

On the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate (9:27b)

This time of Great Tribulation will reveal the true spiritual personage behind this figure Antichrist. Revelation 13 describes “the beast” who all the world wondered after, who was given his power, seat and great authority by Satan (identified in Rev. 12:9). This satanically indwelt individual will set up his image or make his throne in the temple of God. Antichrist’s incredible atrocities against his fellow human beings and his attacks upon God himself (cf. 7:21–25) will include even the idolatrous claim that he is deity with an attempt at forced worship of himself (cf. 2 Thess 2:4; Rev 13:8, 14–17).[18]

Nevertheless, the end will come. Satanically inspired human evil will prevail until it is complete. Pentecost concludes, “But then his end will come (the end that is decreed is poured out on him). With his false prophet he will be cast into the lake of fire when Christ returns to the earth (Rev. 19:20; cf. Dan. 7:11, 26).[19]

 

Conclusion

“O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary” (Daniel 9:17). Daniel received an answer to his prayer. God even sent an angelic messenger to reveal that He is a faithful God. The transgressions, sins and iniquity of Israel will be ushered out; everlasting righteousness will be ushered in with the anointing of the holiest of holies. Christ Jesus will receive his kingdom and he will rule from the throne of David, in Jerusalem.

Satan, with all of his devices and pursuits; cannot and will not prevail against the plans and the purposes of God. Although the hour of darkness came upon the world at the passion of Christ, the Light of the World will cast off all darkness. Daniel received a word from God and he was certain that God Almighty would fulfill the promise to His beloved people, Israel. After all, it has been decreed!

References

Athas, George. “In search of the seventy “weeks” of Daniel 9.” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 9 (2009): 1-20.

 

Gurney, R. J. M and Gurney, H. “THE SEVENTY WEEKS OF DANIEL 9:24-27.” Evangelical Quarterly 53 (1981): 29.

 

McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary: The Prophets (Daniel). Vol. 26. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991.

 

Miller, Stephen R. Daniel. Vol. 18, in The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman publishers, 1994.

 

Pentecost, J. Dwight . Daniel. Vol. 1, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, edited by J. F. Walvoord, & R. B. Zuck, 1323-1375. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985.

 

Price, Randall, and Thomas Ice. “Seventy Weeks of Daniel.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy, by Tim LaHaye, & Ed Hindson, 356-360. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2004.

 

Wiersbe, Warren W. The Bible Exposition Commentary. Vol. 1. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1996.

 

[1] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1359.

[2] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1361.

 

[3] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 251.

[4] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1361.

 

[5] Clarence Larkin, The Book of Revelation: A Study of the Last Prophetic Book of Holy Scripture (Philadelphia, PA: Rev. Clarence Larkin Estate, 1919), 49.

 

[6] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1361.

[7] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1361.

[8] Price, Randall, and Thomas Ice. “Seventy Weeks of Daniel.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy, by Tim LaHaye, & Ed Hindson, 356-360. (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2004), 356.

 

[9] Athas, George. “In search of the seventy “weeks” of Daniel 9.” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 9 (2009), 4.

[10] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 263.

 

[11] Ibid. 263.

[12] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary: The Prophets (Daniel), electronic ed., vol. 26 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 157.

[13] Gurney, R. J. M and Gurney, H. “THE SEVENTY WEEKS OF DANIEL 9:24-27.” Evangelical Quarterly 53 (1981): 3.

[14] Athas, George. “In search of the seventy “weeks” of Daniel 9.” Journal of Hebrew Scriptures 9 (2009): 7.

[15] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Resolute, “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2000), 115.

[16] Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Resolute, “Be” Commentary Series (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2000), 116.

[17] Clarence Larkin, The Book of Revelation: A Study of the Last Prophetic Book of Holy Scripture (Philadelphia, PA: Rev. Clarence Larkin Estate, 1919), 50.

[18] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 273.

[19] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 1365.

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