Within the Word of God there are numerous verses and passages that are up for interpretation. Whether we are reading from the book of Romans, Genesis or even Proverbs, there are passages that theologists and others will debate the true meaning for years to come. One of these passages up for debate comes from the Book of Daniel. Daniel chapters 7-12 is full of prophecy and visions from God that Daniel cannot understand without God's wisdom. One passage from Daniel that has been up for interpretation is Daniel 9:24-27 which says:
"A period of seventy sets of seven has been decreed for your people and your holy city to finish their rebellion, to put an end to their sin, to atone for their guilt, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to confirm the prophetic vision, and to anoint the Most Holy Place. Now listen and understand! Seven sets of seven plus sixty-two sets of seven will pass from the time the command is given to rebuild Jerusalem until a ruler—the Anointed One —comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt with streets and strong defenses, despite the perilous times. “After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. The end will come with a flood, and war and its miseries are decreed from that time to the very end. The ruler will make a treaty with the people for a period of one set of seven, but after half this time, he will put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. And as a climax to all his terrible deeds, he will set up a sacrilegious object that causes desecration, until the fate decreed for this defiler is finally poured out on him.” 1
In this paper I will discuss what the fulfillment of the prophecy includes, when the starting and ending time for the prophecy is, how the division of the prophecy divides and what each division includes, and what the purpose of the prophecy was.
First thing is to explore the background to this verse. Daniel is now over 80 years old, about 65 years after he was taken captive from his home. King Darius, who was King Xerxes son, is now in control of the land in which Daniel is in. Daniel is in prayer to God trying to understand and have wisdom on the writings of Jeremiah the prophet. Daniel in Chapter 9:17-18 pleads with The Lord to restore the kingdom, which is Jerusalem. Daniel was aware that the prophecy by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 29 by about to be fulfilled. The prophecy said that the 70 years of captivity was coming to an end. So Daniel pleaded to The Lord on wisdom on the prophecy and for The Lord to keep His promise even though His people are not following him. While Daniel is still praying, the angel Gabriel visits him. It is important to state that this visit was not just a dream or a vision, he came in human form. When Daniel says in Daniel 9:21 that Gabriel, the man I had seen in my vision. Daniel does not call him an angel of The Lord, or does he call this a dream or vision. Then Gabriel goes on to explain to him that he was there to give Daniel knowledge and understanding.
First we need to look at the time frame of the verses given. In verse 9:24, Gabriel states the phrase "seventy sets of seven." There are a lot of different minds that have tried to stipulate on exactly how this translates to modern day time frames. The four views brought up by Miller are: 1. "There are literal years extending through the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. According to this view, the "sevens" or "weeks" are made up of seven years each, resulting in a total period of 490 years."2 The second view is that "the "seventy sevens" are symbolic periods of time ending in the first century A.D. Young holds that the first period of seven sevens extends from Cyrus's decree allowing the return of the Jewish exiles in 538 B.C. to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.3 Thirdly, the other "symbolic periods of time ending at Christ's second coming...the seventy sevens are a prophecy of church history...from Cyrus's decree in 538 B.C. until the return of Christ at the end of age."4 The last viewpoint listed in the book by Miller is that "they are literal years ending with Christ's second coming. This view agrees with the first that the sevens are literal seven-year periods totaling 490 years."5 This last view splits up the years between the time of Ezra and Jeremiah, the next group of years from Christ coming in the beginning of the New Testament to modern day times. Then the last seven represent 7 years of tribulation. Zaspel puts it as "Given the details of the prophecy this "seventy periods of seven" must refer to periods of years. No other time period would allow enough time to embrace all the events specified. Furthermore, Daniel had been thinking in terms of periods of seven years, specifically ten of them."6 What is not described in this part is that these split of seven years are set in groups.
The groups of sevens are split up into 3 groups. The first "sevens" is seven sevens. This seven sevens is in reference to the time it takes for the city of Jerusalem to be re-built. In this passage we see the frustration of Daniel that the temple had not even been started yet, so that is why he is pleading to God. The second set of sevens is 62 sevens. Gabriel states in 9:25 that at the conclusion of the first set of sevens and the second group of sevens, that will lead to the "Anointed One, the ruler." Jesus was considered to be the ruler and the anointed one numerous times through the Old Testament and the New Testament. But we don't know at exactly what point the prophecy of the sixty-nine sevens was fulfilled. The fulfillment of the prophecy could have taken place at Jesus' birth, baptism or his sermon on Palm Sunday where he presented himself as the promised Messiah of the Old Testament prophecies. But many state that the fulfillment is most likely when Jesus started His ministry and that was after His baptism. But the second part of the second sevens was that the ruler and the Anointed one would be "cut off." This is the end of the of the second set of sevens. The third part to this passage is the coming destruction of the temple.
The coming destruction of the temple is a topic that many think has already happened. Many view this subject as a subject worth talking about. The coming apocalypse creates a lot of buzz in today’s society and there has been many people that try to use "Bible math" to figure out the date of this destruction. Some people see the destruction of the temple as when the Romans destroyed the temple in the 1st century. But Daniel's prophecy states that the person that will destroy the temple would come from the seventieth seven, and this would not fit the time frame of Daniel's prophecy. Some others say that the ruler or the people of the ruler to destroy the temple is the Jewish people who gave Jesus to die. John Calvin states "Without the slightest of doubt, he [Gabriel] here signifies that God would inflict dreadful vengeance on the Jews for their murder of his Christ."7 I find this interpretation hard to believe as one, it does not fit the timetable of the prophecy of Daniel. How can the two groups of weeks overlap each other? It is pretty clear that the second set of sevens is clearly defined as the start of either Jesus' ministry or His birth. In either of these cases, Calvin's interpretation of the weeks would overlap each other.
The last sevens of the prophecy of Daniel is the seven years of tribulation. Many view the fulfillment of the Seventieth week has already happened and that was with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. As Gundry puts it "The making of a firm covenant (or confirming or causing to prevail of a covenant, v. 27a) refers to Christ's securing the benefits of the Abrahamic covenant of grace during His earthly ministry. (The subject of the verse according to this view is not "the prince who is to come," but another prince, "the Messiah.") The causing of the sacrifice and oblation to cease (v.27) has to do with the abrogation of animal sacrifices by Christ's self-sacrifice."8 Many view that when Christ dies, that this served as fulfillment of the prophecy. The part of the prophecy that states the sacrifice to cease is fulfilled by Jewish people no longer having to sacrifice animals as Jesus Christ was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. But this again does not correlate with the time line of Daniel's prophecy. The last seven weeks spans over seven years. Halfway through the time of tribulation, the antichrist will most likely cease worship and sacrifice of ourselves to God, which means he will outlaw it. The antichrist plays an important role in this prophecy. The antichrist is portrayed here in Daniel 7 and Daniel 9. In Daniel 7 he is mentioned as leader of the European Union of Gentile nations. He is stated as in intellectual genius and an oratorical genius. As LaHaye and Hindson state it "The one called antichristos (antichrist) denies the existence of Christ, whereas pseudochristos (false Christ) affirms himself to be Christ. The Biblical picture is that he is both."9
While we can speculate on dates and time frames, people and meaning, no one will ever know for certainty on the true meaning of Daniel’s vision in chapter 9. It is one of the most debated Biblical topics of today’s age. While I believe that the last seven weeks have yet to be fulfilled in the seven years of tribulation, I can also see how many others can believe that it has already been fulfilled. The one thing that I need to remember personally is that no matter what, I know that if I pray for wisdom and guidance, to be ready for what God has in store for me. As Daniel was praying for help, guidance and wisdom, God gave him exactly what he asked for, and to this day, it is hard to interpret.
Calvin, John. John Calvin Commentary of the Book of Daniel. http://m.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom25.iv.xxxv.html. Last accessed April 21, 2013.
Gundry, Robert H. The Church and the Tribulation: On the Futurity of the Seventieth Week. Zonderman Publishing House. 1973. Accessed via
http://gospelpedlar.com/articles/Last%20Things/70weeks.html. Last accessed April 21, 2013.
LaHaye, Tim. Hindson, Ed. The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy. (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers), 2004.
Miller, Stephen R. The New American Commentary: Daniel. Vol. 18. (Nashville: B & H
Publishing Group). 1994. 253.
Zaspel, Fred G. Daniel's "Seventy Weeks". 1991. Accessed via http://www.biblicalstudies.com/bstudy/eschatology/daniel.htm. Last accessed April 21, 2013.
1 Unless otherwise notes, all Bible references will be made in NKJV.
2 Miller, Stephen R. The New American Commentary: Daniel. Vol. 18. (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group), 1994. 253
3 Ibid. 254.
4 Ibid. 255.
5 Ibid. 257.
6 Zaspel, Fred G. Daniel's "Seventy Weeks". 1991.
8 Gundry, Robert H. On the Futurity of the Seventieth Week. Zonderman Publishing House. 1973. 188.
9 LaHaye, Tim. Hindson, Ed. The Popular Encyclopedia of Bible Prophecy. (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers.) 2004. 24.