Prophecy: Seventy Weeks (Part 3)

Daniel’s seventy weeks are divided into three segments: (1) During the first week, Jerusalem would be rebuilt.  (2) During the next segment, which consists of sixty-two weeks, time would pass before the Messiah would appear.  (3) During the last week, the Messiah would appear, confirm a covenant, and be cut off.  It seems that Jerusalem’s fall also occurs during this final week.

Day-Year Theory

Many brethren believe that this period of 70 weeks equals 490 days, with each day representing a year.  Some well-respected brethren have held this position including: (1) Rex Turner, Sr. in Daniel: A Prophet of God.  (2) Gary Workman in “The Seventy Weeks of Daniel” (January 1993 issue of The Restorer).  (3) Wayne Jackson in Daniel’s Seventy Weeks.  (4) David Vaughn Elliot in Nobody Left Behind.

The reasoning is based on three major points.  The first concerns Israel’s neglect of divine instruction concerning Sabbatical years.  Wayne Jackson has written, “Jeremiah had foretold that the Jews would spend seventy years in Babylonian captivity.  Jeremiah’s prophesies were literally fulfilled!  The general time of the confinement was 70 years (Daniel 9:2; 2 Chronicles 36:21; Zechariah 1:12; 7:5).  But why was a 70 year captivity decreed; Why not 60 or 80?  The law of Moses had commanded that Israel should observe every 7th year as a sabbatical year.  The ground was to lie in rest (Leviticus 25:1-7). Apparently, down through the centuries Israel had greatly ignored this divine law.  One scholar noted that, ‘there is not a single recorded place in all of Israel’s pre-exilic history where this sabbatical law was observed’ (Wick Broomall).  Accordingly, in addition to being punished for their other sins (idolatry, etc.) the Jews were sentenced to 70 years of punishment until the land of Canaan ‘had enjoyed its Sabbaths’ (2 Chronicles 36:21).  If each of the 70 captivity years represented the violation of a sabbatical year, as 2 Chronicles 36:21 appears to indicate, this suggests that Israel had ignored that divine requirement for at least some 490 years… The Babylonian captivity was, therefore, sort of a mid-way historical point.  It looked back upon some 490 years of sinful conduct, and then looked forward 490 years to the ‘end of sin.’ Sin (490 years)    <-   Captivity (70 years)   ->    End of Sin (490 years) cf. Daniel 9:24-ff”     (Daniel’s Seventy Weeks)

Second, it is argued that there is precedence for letting a day stand for a year.  Gary Workman has written, “Numbers 14:33-34 and Ezekiel 4:5-6 give precedent for a year” (The Seventy Weeks of Daniel).

Third, it seems to fit.

a)  457 B.C. + 49 years (1st week) = 408 B.C. (Jerusalem rebuilt)

b) 408 B.C. + 434 years (62 weeks) = 26 A.D. (Messiah appears/last week begins)

c)  26 A.D. + 3 1/2 years (midst of week) = 29/30 A.D. (Messiah cut off)

d)  29/30 A.D. + 3 1/2 years (Confirm covenant with many) = 33/34 A.D. (Turner and Elliot suggests – ends with the dispersion from Jerusalem gospel going to the Samaritans).

Indefinite/Complete Theory

Another view is that the 70 weeks is indefinite in time, but represents Israel’s complete future history as a nation.   Some well-respected brethren have held this view, including: (1) Don Simpson in A Textual Study of the Book of Daniel; (2) Dave Miller in “The Interpretation of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel” (a term paper presented to Professor Jack W. Vancil, Harding Graduate School of Religion).

The reasoning is based on four major points. First, why start with Artaxerxes?  It seems more reasonable to start with the decree of Cyrus.  God said that it was Cyrus who would cause Israel to be rebuilt (Isaiah 44:26b-28; 45:13).  God said that it was Cyrus who “shall build my city” (Isaiah 45:13 cf. Daniel 9:25).  Notice: If one starts with the decree of Cyrus, the day-year theory will not fit history [see part 2 for possible starting dates].

Second, true there are passages which equate a day with a year (Numbers 14:33-34; Ezekiel 4:5-6); however, those passages indicate such usage.  Nothing in Daniel’s seventy weeks indicate such usage.  We are usually highly critical (and rightly so) of the Jehovah witnesses, and others – who make such assumptions in other passages.  If this refers to 490 years, why not state such (see Isaiah 7:5-9; Jeremiah 25:12; 29:10).

Third, the number seven and seventy are sometimes used of completeness.  Dave Miller has written, “Seven and its multiples in scripture stand for completeness and finality. Examples of this principle can be seen in Genesis 4:24; Ezekiel 8:11; 39:9; 14; Daniel 4:16, 25; Revelation 1:11; 1:20; 3:1; 6:1; 8:6; 16:1.  Christ did not mean that Peter should only forgive his brother 490 (seventy times seven) times (Matthew 18:21-ff)… Christ was teaching the completeness and perfection of forgiveness.  Thus, the fundamental purpose of the prophesy of the seventy weeks is to show God’s final and complete decree concerning the common wealth of Israel” (“The Interpretation of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel”).

Fourth, it appears that the fall of Jerusalem should be fit into this final week.  Yet, such is not possible if each day equals a year.  David Vaughn Elliot’s response to this last point is that the prophecy “does not require that Jerusalem and the temple be destroyed within that time.  The prophesy states ‘after.’  In no way does it specify how long after. Nevertheless, we cannot help noticing that the doom was sealed during the seventy weeks” (Nobody Left Behind).  Rex Turner Sr. said, “while many of the ‘amillenialist’ scholars contend that ‘the firm covenant with many for one week’ included the destruction of Jerusalem under Titus and Vespasian in 70 A.D., there is not real basis for their averment”(Daniel: A Prophet of God).

Summary of this view: (1) In a short while Jerusalem would be rebuilt.  (2) Time would go by before the Messiah would appear.  (3) Near the end of Jewish history, a Messiah would appear and be cut off.  This position does not see a specific time-table set forth in the passage.

This view seems most reasonably to me.  It poses the least objections.

Stop Time Theory

Some hold to a futuristic view of this passage.  They claim that God’s prophetic clock ran flawlessly for sixty-nine weeks (483 years).  However, Jewish rejection of the Messiah stopped the clock.  The church was set up as a parenthetical project.  The church will one day be raptured.  Then, the focus will return to Jerusalem again, and the clock once more will start ticking to complete the final week.  Question: Where is all of this stated in scripture?

David Vaughn Elliot provides this illustration: “When I lived in Guatemala, I was teaching a young man in his home.  Since he was very knowledgeable in the Bible, prophetic questions kept coming up, including Daniel 9.  One day, I asked him: “Julio, what would you think if I ask you to lend me one thousand quetzals (the nation’s currency)?  I promise to pay you back in eight weeks.’  When seven weeks pass, I come to you and say, ‘Julio, there is a little matter I didn’t tell you.  Between the seventh and the eighth week of our agreement, there is a space of ten years.  What do you think of me?’  Without hesitation Julio said, ‘you would be a swindler'” (Nobody Left Behind).

Final Thought

“Well will it be for us, if we too, in our study of this supremely important prophesy, place out emphasis, not upon dates and mathematical calculations, but upon the central figure who was both anointed and a prince, who by being cut off has made reconciliation for iniquity and brought in the only righteousness that is acceptable with God, even His own eternal righteousness” (E.J. Young, The Prophesy of Daniel, quoted in Dave Miller’s term paper).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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