PMT 2013-025 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
Daniel’s seventy weeks prophecy in Dan 9:24-27 is a famous and intriguing passage of Scripture. It’s eschatological character and time-frame provide important information for biblical eschatology. Unfortunately, this is a difficult passage to interpret, though it is thought by the majority of laymen to be quite simple.
I am beginning a brief series on Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks. As we begin I would like first to consider two issues: the structure and the chronology of the seventy weeks.
If we are to understand Daniel’s prophecy, it is extremely helpful to recognize the crucial structure of this unique prophecy. Meredith Kline provides a thorough presentation of the strongly covenantal cast of the prophecy. He meticulously demonstrates that Daniel’s prayer (Dan. 9:3-19) leading up to the prophecy is “saturated with formulaic expressions drawn from the Mosaic treaties, particularly from the Deuteronomic treaty.”
We see that the covenant is a key concern for Daniel. We see this in both Daniel’s prayer and the Lord’s answer to it. Let me explain.
God is a covenant-keeping God (Dan 9:4). And he faithfully keeps covenant even when Israel violates his covenantal statutes (9:5) to the point of repudiating the prophetic covenant-lawyers (9:6, 10) and enduring covenantal curse (9:11-15). Significantly, we must note that Daniel 9 is the only chapter in all of Daniel to use God’s special covenant name Jehovah (yahweh, “LORD,” vv. 2, 4, 10, 13, 14, 20; cf. Exo. 6:2-4). This prayer about covenant loyalty (9:4) receives an answer structured by the covenantal sabbath pattern of seventy weeks (9:24-27), which results in the confirmation of the covenant (9:27).
The clear covenantal structure of this prophecy virtually demands a focus on Christ’s fulfillment of redemption during His ministry. Let us see how this is so.
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Perilous Times: A Study in Eschatological Evil
Technical studies on Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, the great tribulation, Paul’s Man of Sin, and John’s Revelation
The number seven is familiar to students of Old Testament sabbatic law. The prophecy of the seventy weeks follows sabbatic chronology (cf. Lev. 25): The Hebrew word shabuim, which is translated “week” (Dan. 9:24), literally means “sevened.” Daniel receives this prophecy in the first year of Babylon’s fall to Persia (Dan. 9:1), while he contemplates the approaching conclusion of the seventy years’ captivity (9:2). Israel’s failure to observe levitical sabbath-rests for the land (Lev. 26:43; 2 Chron. 36:21) originally causes the Babylonian Captivity.
Interestingly, Leviticus 26 emphasizes the number seven in it’s threatening punishment of Israel: “I will chastise you again sevenfold for your sins” (Lev. 26:18, 21, 24, 28). In his ninth chapter, Daniel wonders what the future holds for Israel, now that Jeremiah’s seventy years prophecy is nearing completion. God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer is to present a new period of seventy that issues forth in six primary results (Dan. 9:24). In this prophecy God gives Israel a renewed time period framed by the number seventy: a period of “seventy weeks.”
The first phase of the seventy weeks is “seven weeks,” or literally “seven sevens” (Dan. 9:25), which results in a value of forty-nine. In Old Testament ceremonial law, forty-nine years leads up to the Year of Jubilee, which is the fiftieth year (Lev. 25:8ff). This is a time of great celebration involving the release of slaves and the return to its owners of all land sold due to indebtedness. This is strongly covenantal in significance and directly relates to the redemptive meaning of the passage.
The total period of “seventy sevens” is also covenantal: seventy covers ten of these seven week periods, thereby standing for a ten-fold Jubilee. The number ten symbolizes completion, in that it represents the full number of digits on a man’s hands. Thus, the seventy sevens (weeks) would appear to point to a complete redemptive Jubilee. This must point to Christ, who brings in the ultimate Jubilee of full and complete redemption (cf. Luke 4:17-21; Isa. 61:1-3; Matt. 24:31) and who is the leading point of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 9:25, 26, 27). Consequently, the seventy weeks demarcates the period in which “the Messianic redemption was to be accomplished.”
But what is the chronological value of this period of seventy weeks? The seventy weeks seem to represent a period of seventy times seven years, that is, a total period of 490 years. Though framed in sabbatic symbolism, it represents an historical period of time, contrary to some who see it as expressive of an indefinite period. Even upon a cursory reading, this is because the prophecy seems to be quite precise in its chronology. Daniel presents a careful measuring and dividing of this number. This also fits well with Daniel’s chronological concern in the Maccabean prophecies in Daniel 8 and 12. Furthermore, ample justification exists in the context and elsewhere in Scripture for “days” actually standing for years:
First, a period of a literal seventy weeks would be too short to accomplish all that is expected. Thus, we should look beyond the literal for the proper measure.
Second, in the preceding context the original seventy years of Jeremiah’s prophecy are clearly on Daniel’s mind (Dan. 9:2). Those seventy years even imply the framework of Daniel’s prophecy. Thus, the context itself suggests years.
Third, only two verses later, Daniel expressly redefines his use of “weeks.” Daniel 10:2 reads: “In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three weeks of days” (!ymiy:,,, yom). He does this, it seems, to distinguish the preceding symbolic weeks-of-years from the following literal weeks-of-days.
Fourth, the Old Testament frequently refers to the sabbath year (the seventh year of the sabbath period) as simply “the sabbath.” Such passages, then, call a year by a term clearly associated with a day, the sabbath day.
Major Bible Prophecies (5 CDs)
Gentry conference lectures on the Seventy Weeks, the Millennium, the Man of Sin, Heaven, and Unfulfilled Prophecies
Fifth, Scriptural precedent exist for speaking of years in terms of days. In Genesis 29:27-28 Jacob labors a “week” for Rachel: “‘Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years.’ And Jacob did so and completed her week, and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife.” This seven-day period clearly stands for seven years: “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her” (Gen. 29:20).
In Numbers 14:34 the forty years of wandering result from the forty days of spying the land: “According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you shall know My opposition.” Ezekiel 4:6 employs the same standard of prophetic measure as Daniel: “I have laid on you a day for each year.”