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Daniel’s Seventy Weeks

As I’ve been studying the specifics of Daniel 9:24-27, I’ve learned that though all conservative scholars agree about the 70th week being future, and that the events in verse 26 occur after the 69th week but before the 70th week, several different views exist regarding the beginning and end points of the 69 weeks. The first view I heard, from pastors Jim McClarty and John MacArthur, starts the 69 weeks with the decree of Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem, in either 445 or 444 B.C., and using the lunar calendar of 360 days (instead of our solar calendar of 365 days) gets an end date of around 33 A.D.

Fred Zaspel proposes a more unusual dating, using a solar calendar with three separate segments with gaps in between each part: 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and the 70th week. The starting “decree” was God’s prophecy to Jeremiah that Jerusalem would be restored after 70 years, and that first “seven” ended with the “anointing” of Cyrus as the one who decreed release for the Israelites in 538 B.C. Then comes a gap until 440 B.C., Nehemiah’s time of rebuilding, and 434 years (62 “sevens”) until the birth of Christ in 6 B.C.

Charles Ray’s four part series “A Study of Daniel 9:24-27” is more technical, with lengthy discussion of the technical meanings of the original Hebrew, but discusses the shortcomings of various ideas including a variation on (but not exactly the same as) Fred Zaspel’s. From this study I learn that the lunar calendar use was not all that unknown, and even though, as Zaspel points out, Daniel and the Jews knew that the lunar calendar was lacking, yet apparently the lunar calendar was used by ancients in some cases. I’m still not sure what to make of the distinction between the seven and the 62 years, when many commentators put them together as one block of 69 years, but I have to agree with Charles Ray’s point that a starting point in prophecy would never begin before the point that the prophecy was given; also, the word “decree” refers to an official decree of a king, not merely God’s word in a general prophecy; and true, the prophecy in Jeremiah said nothing specific about rebuilding the walls and city of Jerusalem; it is simply saying that the Jews would spend 70 years in exile, and Daniel already knew that part of the time sequence.

The only really uncertain part, as I see it, is the specific starting and ending points of the 69 weeks, within a general timeframe from 500 B.C. to the time of Christ. Yet the remaining verses are so clear, and verse 26 has been proved out so well in history. Jerusalem has been destroyed, and war and desolation has continued there ever since for the last 2000 years, as Jesus said in Luke 21:24, “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” All of the authors mentioned above (McClarty, MacArthur, Zaspel and Ray) agree on these last verses.

What is easy to miss, as liberals and preterists do, is the clear purpose of these 70 weeks as stated in verse 24, the introduction to the prophecy. A simple reading of these six purposes makes it clear that my partial-preterist pastor is wrong when he says that Daniel’s 70 weeks have been fulfilled. The verse reads in the NIV: “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.” The fifth one alone, “to seal up vision and prophecy,” could not have been fulfilled by the time of 70 A.D., simply because several books of further New Testament revelation came AFTER 70 A.D. John’s gospel, all his epistles, and especially the book of Revelation came as much as 25 years after the destruction of Jerusalem. Since no significant event concerning Jerusalem occurred after 96 A.D., clearly that week hasn’t yet happened. Furthermore, though Christ’s first coming clearly established the basis for completing these six purposes, they have not been completely fulfilled. “Everlasting righteousness” has been introduced in principle, through the work of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives, but that is far from completion. Everlasting righteousness was not brought in by 70 A.D., any more than we are living in the Millennium now or Satan is bound now; everlasting righteousness awaits that glorious, future fulfillment at the end time.

It is still so interesting, in a way, to see the many strange and varied interpretations some people can come up with, when the text concerning the time after the 70th week, and then the final 70th week itself, is so clear — if the person holds up the proper literal-grammatical hermeneutic, considering what the text actually says rather than twisting it to mean something else “allegorically” or “spiritually.” By such flawed reasoning a text can indeed mean many different things, but that does not uphold or honor God’s word. Charles Ray mentions some of the strange variations, such as people who say that “he” who confirms the covenant at the beginning of 9:27 is the Messiah, when clearly the passage is told in a negative way to refer to the anti-Christ. Yet I’ve even heard a more bizarre interpretation (from the preterist pastor): the first 3 1/2 years of the 70th week was the time of Christ’s ministry with his disciples, and the last 3 1/2 years refers to Titus and the Roman army that beseiged and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (a period of military activity that apparently lasted about 3 1/2 years). Huh? The person referred to makes a covenant with the people of Israel, then breaks it halfway through. In what way is Christ’s covenant so short-term, rather than an eternal one? How can the first part of the verse be one person (Christ), and the second part of the verse be Titus?

God be praised, for His word revealed to us, that we can study and learn and grow in it. As John MacArthur lists in his reasons to rejoice, one of those reasons to rejoice is as an act of appreciation for the Scripture.

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