20 Studies in Bible Prophecy
Study 7 - The Disclosure Of The Seventy Weeks
Daniel 9 has been called "the backbone of prophecy". The understanding of this most important prophecy is essential to a correct appreciation of the divine programme for the ages. Here we have the key to the under-standing of all New Testament prophecy. It is an amazing prophecy, given to Daniel, who was not only a prophet, but a student of prophecy. In the first year of Darius (v1), a fact which shows that the final six chapters of this prophecy are not chronologically arranged, Daniel was studying the Old Testament Scriptures available to him, probably (Jer. 25:9-14 and 29:10-14), when he was stabbed awake by the discovery that the 70 years captivity had well-nigh run its course.
This sent Daniel to seek the Lord, and the Rev. Geoffrey R. King remarks, "I believe with all my heart that the reason why Advent Testimony is not being blessed today in most places as it should be is because the people of God are simply taking prophecy as a thrill and are not doing what Daniel did. Daniel was thrilled by the prophecy, but it brought him to his knees."
So Daniel 9 contains both a prayer and a prophecy, and two-and-a-half millennia nearer the goal of his prophecies, these two great subjects are still intimately linked together. While the lessons we could learn from this chapter about prayer are tremendous, our main consideration must be the vision of the seventy weeks.
When Daniel had studied and prayed, Gabriel came to give him understanding. The angels are ministering spirits (Heb. 1:14), and one writer points out, "Hezekiah prays and an angel destroys the host of the Assyrians. Cornelius prays and an angel directs Peter. The church at Jerusalem prays and an angel opens the doors of Peter's prison. Their agency is no less real because they are invisible." In Daniel's case the unveiling begins (vs. 24-27), giving the chronology of Israel's future history in the prophecy of the seventy weeks.
The Prophetic Year
Daniel had been meditating about seventy weeks and God revealed to him seventy periods, which in our English translation are called "weeks", generally accepted as a generic term, simply meaning "sevens" or "weeks" of years. He had been praying about Israel's deliverance from her Babylonian captivity, and God's answer went far beyond that date. It gave Daniel an insight into God's plan for His own people from the termination of the servitude of Babylon, through the centuries to the "cutting off" of the Messiah at Calvary, and beyond to the completion of the times of the Gentiles and the return of the Lord in glory to reign in righteousness.
The Disclosure Of The Seventy Weeks
The seventy sevens of v.24 form a total of 490 years. Since Daniel was interceding with years in his mind, God answered him in years. That would seem to be a logical conclusion.
Before examining the commencing date for this period of years, it is necessary to remind ourselves, as Sir Robert Anderson points out, the prophecy was given in Babylonian years which consisted of twelve months of 30 days, or 360 days. Likewise the Jewish year was lunisolar, which fact can be seen if one examines carefully (Gen. 7:11; 8:3, 4; Rev. 11:2, 3), where 42 months are described as 1260 days. Those were lunar years in contrast to our Gregorian year of 365 days.
The Precise Date Marking The Commencement Of This Prophetic Period
If we look at v.25 it becomes clear that this prophetic period was to begin with an edict "to restore the city" (Jerusalem). There are three dates affecting the temple and they are chronicled in the book of Ezra. First, that of Cyrus in 536 BC (1:1-3). Secondly, that of Darius in 519 BC, and thirdly that of Artaxerxes in 458 BC. But none of these can be the starting point foretold to Daniel, since they were only concerned with the temple. However, in (Neh. 2:1-9), in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, which Sir Robert Anderson gives as the 14th March, 445 BC, the edict was given. From this date to the Messiah the Prince, would be 69 weeks, or 483 prophetic years. Sir Robert Anderson shows that this period expired on the very day which our Lord rode into Jerusalem, the first Palm Sunday. He avers, "Of all the days of the ministry of Christ on earth, no other will satisfy so well the angel's words, 'unto Messiah the Prince'." Surely this fact demonstrates the accuracy and authenticity of God's prophetic truth.
The Prophetic Fulfilment Of The Sixty Nine Weeks
Look at (Dan. 9:24-27) and observe the three divisions of this period of "seventy sevens" or 490 years.
Verse 25 .... "seven weeks" or 49 years.
Verse 25 .... "sixty two weeks or 434 years.
Verse 27 .... "one week" or 7 years.
The first seven weeks (49 years) were to be taken up in the restoration of the city of Jerusalem. Look at (Neh. 4:1-14; 6:1-14) and find the particular difficulties of this period. This brings us to the close of the Old Testament. Then comes the intertestamental period of some 400 years when heaven was silent, yet His people were in possession of this most amazing prophecy. Faced with the opposition of those silent centuries they had the glorious knowledge that when those 483 years would expire, the Messiah would appear.
The Disclosure Of The Seventy Weeks
The 62 weeks, or 434 years run from the restoration of the city unto Messiah the Prince. As we have seen, this brings us to Palm Sunday when many hailed Him as King, while the rulers of the nation rejected Him, and some four days later He was "cut off", a term used normally of the death penalty (See Lev. 7:20). There can be no doubt that Calvary was in view here, a fact which can be backed by (Isa. 53:8).