Daniel’s 70 “Sevens” Explained

The prophecy contained in Daniel chapter 9 has been a much discussed chapter of the Bible.  The passage has confused many Biblical readers for years.  In the sixth century BC, God was giving Daniel a timeline for what was going to come and the amount of time that it would take.  As the modern reader looks at this prophecy 2600 years later, they have the advantage of understanding that some of the prophecy has been fulfilled.  Likewise, the reader may look forward to the remaining portion of prophecy being fulfilled as literally as the first part has been.

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up prophecy and to anoint the most holy.” – Daniel 9:24

The first area of confusion lies in the seventy ‘sevens’.  It must be remembered that the entire Jewish system was designed under a system of sevens.  There were seven days in a week, the seventh day being the Sabbath.  Every seventh year was to be a Sabbath year when no crops were to be planted or harvested.  After seven sets of seven years (or seven Sabbath years) the Israelites were to celebrate The Year of Jubilee.  (The Israelites never celebrated the Sabbath year, nor The Year of Jubilation despite God’s command.)

Thus it should come as no surprise that as God describes His prophetic timetable to Daniel that it should be based on sevens.  An alternate translation of seventy ‘sevens’ would be seventy weeks.  In this case it is seventy weeks of years or 70 x 7 – 490 years total.  It is generally accepted that seventy ‘sevens’ is in reference to weeks and not days, weeks or months.  Common sense and simple math lead us to realize that the events described in the chapter could not occur in 490 days or weeks.  At 490 months – 40 years, 10 months, this would still be a stretch to accomplish what is described and does match any historical facts or dates that are associated with this prophecy.  Thus by process of elimination and understanding we arrive at seventy ‘sevens’ of years, or 490 years.

“Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild the Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’  It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench but in times of trouble.” – Daniel 9-25

The first historical reference appears in this verse with the rebuilding of Jerusalem .  Some may mistake this decree with the one by Cyrus in 538 or 539 BC to allow the Jews to return and rebuild the temple.  Instead, this is the decree found in Nehemiah 2:1-8.  Nehemiah records the date which he speaks to the king.  It is in the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes.  Because no day is given, according to the Jewish system of dating, the first day of the month is to be assumed.  This translates to March 5, 444 BC .

It would take Nehemiah only 52 days to rebuild the walls surrounding the city.  However, it would take much longer to clear away the rubble left from the destruction of the city more than 150 years beforehand.  Also, “streets and a trench” had to be rebuilt.  Although no date is ever recorded in scripture, this has been assumed to take 49 years, or what the first seven ‘sevens’ are in reference to.

“After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing.  The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.  The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.” – Daniel 9:26

After the rebuilding of the city an additional sixty-two ‘sevens’ pass.  This equals 483 years.  Many may be quick to add 483 years from March 5, 444 BC and reach the date of March 5, 40 AD as the time when the Anointed One is cut off.  However, there is no historical significance with this date and further understanding must be applied.

It must be understood that the Jewish calendar contained only 360 days.  This can be confirmed by noting that the time of the Great Tribulation is referred to as “a time, times, and half a time” in Dan 7:25 , 12:7, and Rev 12:14 .  The same time period is referred to as 1260 days in Rev 11:3 and 12:6.  Finally, it is written as 42 months in Rev 11:2 and 13:5.  By doing the math, one will note that months are counted as 30 days.

This can bring us to the following chart as copied from “The Bible Knowledge Commentary” by John Walvoord and Roy Zuck.

 

Jewish Calendar (360 days/ year) Gregorian Calendar (365 days/ year)
(7 x 7)+(62 x 7) = 483 years 444 BC to 33 AD = 476 years *
      483 years       476 years
X    360 days = X    365 days =
173,880 days 173,740 days
  +    116 days in leap years **
  +      24 days = (March 5 – March 30)
  173,880 days

 

* Only one year occurred between 1 BC and 1 AD giving a total of 476 and not 477 years

** In 476 years there would have been a total of 476/4 = 119 leap years.  However, three days are subtracted because every 100 years a leap year must be skipped but every 400th year it is kept.  This gives a total of 116 leap days and not 119.

March 30, 30 AD occurs on a Sunday.  It is historically known as Palm Sunday.  On that Day Jesus would enter Jerusalem to the waving of palm branches and shouts of “Hosannah!”  Jesus wept as he approached the city that day.  He understood God’s timetable and knew that the time was up.  The Israelites, if they had been attentive to prophecy would have understood as well because the very day had been told to them.  Luke 19:41-44 describes this.

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace- but now it is hidden from your eyes.  The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and your children within your walls.  They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.’”  (emphasis added)

The people of Jerusalem had missed the opportunity and the time had come for the Anointed One to be cut off.  According to vs 26, it would be after the sixty-two ‘sevens’ that the Anointed One would be cut off.  To be cut off is to be killed, just as many of the Jewish laws written in Leviticus called for the lawbreakers to be cut off.

In case there is any doubt that Jesus is the Anointed One to whom the passage is referring, Christ literally means “anointed one.” 

Because of their failure to recognize the coming of the Anointed One, “The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.  The end will come like a flood: war will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.”

History shows beyond a doubt that it was the Romans who entered the city of Jerusalem in AD 70 and flattened it.  The temple was torn apart literally stone by stone.  Because of fire, the gold of the temple melted and ran because the cracks in the stones.  The soldiers pried apart the stones to retrieve the gold.  Over 1 million Jews were killed in the attack and another 90,000 were taken as slaves.

Since that time, war has continued.  Bloody battles were fought over this land for centuries during the Crusades.  In 1948 the nation of Israel was recreated and the people still haven’t had peace.  Immediately they were attacked.  Despite an incredible military, the land is far from peaceful and instead resembles a war zone.

Note who was responsible for the original destruction of Jerusalem .  It was the people of Rome .  They are the people of the ruler to come.  Hence, the ruler to come must be a Roman.  The ruler to come is described in the following verse and it is clear that Daniel is referring to the Antichrist.  This all adds up to the fact that the Antichrist himself will be Roman!  (Although many have pointed the finger at the Pope as the Antichrist, this in no way means that this is the person just because he is Roman.  The end times will see a revived Roman Empire and one must remember that the original Roman Empire expanded to include most of modern day Europe !)

“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’  In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering.  And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” – Daniel 9:27

Verse 27 describes the 70th ‘seven.’  At the end of the 69th ‘seven’ there is an unknown expanse of time.  The final ‘seven’ has yet to occur.  The final seven years is the tribulation.  While Daniel does not describe any of the catastrophe that falls upon the earth during that time, he does detail what the Antichrist will be doing during this time.

The Antichrist will sign a peace treaty with Israel .  The Jews will be allowed to sacrifice in their temple once again.  This will be the start of the Tribulation.  Those who are on earth at this time can count the days until the return of Christ.  (I believe that the church will be raptured before the tribulation and no one on earth is actually going to recognize what is happening and start counting because the Christians will be removed.)

In the middle of the final seven years, the peace treaty will be broken.  The Antichrist will put an end to the sacrifices.  Then he will set up an abomination on a wing of the temple.  The Antichrist will command of all people what Satan has always wanted: worship of himself rather than God.  This abomination will likely be an image of some sort of the Antichrist that all the peoples of earth are supposed to worship.

There are some scholars who insist that this abomination has already occurred in the 2nd century BC, however, not all of the details were fulfilled then.  It was only a foreshadowing of what was to come.

During that time Antiochus Epiphanes IV sacrificed a pig to the God Zeus on the altar in Jerusalem .  Such an act was obviously an abomination to the Jews, however it does not fit the details of what is described in Daniel.

At the end of the 70 ‘sevens’ and the end of Daniel 9, we see the power of God displayed.  We need not be concerned about all the things that are to come, as dramatic and fearsome as they may be.  God is in control.  In the end, the Antichrist meets the end that is decreed for him.  That end in described in Revelation 19:20 , “But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.  With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image.  The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”

God is in control of the situation.  He is also in control of the timetable.  Everything will happen according to His purpose.  He has told us through Daniel what his plans are and has given us a partial timetable.  It will be fulfilled literally just as the first part of the prophecy has been! 

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