Daniel’s 70 Weeks (Daniel 9:24-27)

The 70 weeks is almost universally understood to be “70 weeks of years.” Thus, a “week” is 7 years. Why is that? The original Hebrew word for week means “a period of seven” and can apply to days or years. A more literal translation of Daniel 9:24 would be “seventy sevens are determined.” Importantly, the only way to get close to the events described in the passage is to understand it this way―70 times 7 or 490 years. It’s also noteworthy that “seven” is sometimes used figuratively in Scripture to depict fulfillment or completion. So, the whole prophecy took 70 x 7―or 490 years, if taken very literally. The time line begins with a “decree.” There are four decrees in Scripture that are possible starting points for the prophecy, but the precise dates are in question:

       Decree                                 Date                        69 Wks/483 Yrs                70 Wks/490 Yrs

Ezra 1:1-4 (Cyrus)              538/537 BC                     55/54 BC                             48/47 BC

Ezra 6:3-14 (Darius)          520/518 BC                     37/35 BC                             30/28 BC

Ezra 7:12-26 (Artaxerxes)     457 BC                             27 AD                                34 AD

Neh. 2:1-8 (Artaxerxes)     454/444 BC                    30/40 AD                            37/47 AD     

None of these timelines work out perfectly to the historical facts according to the description in the text, so the 70 weeks is probably not to be understood strictly literally, but rather for a general time-line. The content of the 70 weeks is more important than the precise starting date. Note: Some commentators favor the timeline beginning in 457 BC and ending in 34 AD in order to try to make it fit perfectly―when Stephen was stoned and the gospel went out to the world. But that doesn’t work because the text ends with the Jewish-Roman War about 4 decades later (66-70 AD).

  1. But many scholars use the 457 BC starting date when King Artaxerxes decreed that the Israelites (who had not already done so) could return to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile (Ezra 7:12-26). Using that starting date, the end of the sixty-ninth week (69 x 7 = 483 years) ended about AD 27. That date is likely when Jesus began his ministry. The text says that after the sixty-two weeks (which is on top of the seven weeks from verse 25, totaling sixty-nine weeks), the Anointed One (Jesus) was “cut off” (crucified). This happened in history in about AD 30.[1]
  • The “end to sacrifice and offering” would apparently occur at the 70 ½ week point.[2] That’s when the temple was destroyed in AD 70. The Jewish-Roman War began in AD 66, but the Romans retreated and the Jews claimed victory. Nero started over. He sent Vespasian and his son Titus for the final assault on Jerusalem. This assault began in February AD 67 and the temple was destroyed in August AD 70. That’s exactly 3 ½ years, or “half a week.” This is precisely the half of a week described in Daniel 9:27.
  • Who are the two “princes?” The first prince (9:25) is the “anointed one” or the Messiah Jesus, who atoned for iniquities. The second prince (“who was to come” in 9:26) may also have been Jesus (Acts 6:14), but conceivably was a different prince―the Roman general Titus, the one who destroyed the city and sanctuary.
  • When was the Abomination of Desolation (9:27 and 12:11) fulfilled? According to the text of Daniel 9, it had to be at the same time as the Jewish-Roman War. Jesus confirmed this, teaching that it would happen in his literal generation (Matthew 24:15, 34) coincident with Jerusalem being surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20-24, 32). Note: “When YOU see the abomination of desolation” (24:15, Jesus speaking to his contemporaries). These facts are an insurmountable problem for dispensationalists that put the fulfillment of the 70 weeks thousands of years in the future.
  • This timeline is consistent with Daniel 12 which describes “the time of the end” happening when the “power of the holy people would be shattered” (12:7) and the “regular burnt offering taken away” (12:11). Note that the “time, times, and half a time” of Daniel 12:7 is 3 ½ years and is consistent with the timeline of Daniel 9. These things happened in AD 70. This also perfectly matches Revelation 11:2 when the holy city would be trampled for 42 months―also 3 ½ years.
  • Was there a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week? YES. The sixty-ninth week (483 years) ended in about AD 27. And the 490 years would fall at AD 34, but the ending events described in the text happened about four decades later at the Jewish-Roman War. So, the gap was small―about forty years. Thus, the prophecy is not strictly literal. But, in addition to Daniel 9:24-27, numerous passages of Scripture suggest that the writers saw Jesus’ earthly ministry and the destruction of Jerusalem (Jesus’ coming in judgment) as two parts of the same event (Isaiah 61:1-2; Zechariah 12:10-11; 14:1-3; Malachi 3:1; 4:1-6; Matthew 3:1-12; Luke 11:29-32; Hebrews 10:11-13). The dispensational view of a gap of thousands of years is reading a presupposition into the text. That’s an illegitimate interpretation that makes a mockery of the clear teaching of the text and historical facts.[4]

CONCLUSION: The 70 weeks of Daniel unambiguously ends with the Jewish-Roman War, when God used to Roman army as the instrument for his vengeance against apostate Old Covenant Israel (Matthew 23:29-24:2). Further, Jesus declared that all Old Testament prophecy would be fulfilled in his generation (Luke 21:22; cf. Acts 3:24).

NOTE: Josephus and other ancient writers believed that the 70 weeks period was fulfilled in the Jewish-Roman War of AD 66-74. See The Early Church Fathers and Daniel’s 70th Week – Prophecy Questions.

[1] FYI, some translations confuse verse 25 by making two sentences out of it, making it seem that the “anointed one” would appear after 7 weeks. Young’s Literal Translation, however, shows only one sentence:  “And thou dost know, and dost consider wisely, from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem till Messiah the Leader [is] seven weeks, and sixty and two weeks: the broad place hath been built again, and the rampart, even in the distress of the times.” This makes it clearer that the appearance of the “anointed one” would be 69 weeks from the starting date of the prophecy, or about AD 27.

[2] It’s also possible that the half of the week spoken of in 9:27 was the second half of the 70th week. In that case, the prophecy ends in AD 70.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish%E2%80%93Roman_wars

[4] A few commentators say that the fate of the people, the city, and the temple was to be merely DETERMINED (but not accomplished) within the 70 weeks. This view is an attempt to make the prophecy be fulfilled exactly by the 490th week. But that is forcing the text to say what you want it to say, i.e. reading something into the text that is not there. Daniel 9:24a clearly says that the holy city’s fate would be determined within the 70 weeks. Confirmation comes from the “end” (of the 70 weeks) being with the war (9:26b).

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply