Treatise on the Seventy Sevens
By: Dale DePriest
This document will compare and contrasts the various interpretations of Daniel 9:24-27. There are many views that have been proposed for this important prophecy but at this juncture there seem to be two dominant ones. These two views, called the second advent view and the first advent view, will be compared in this treatise and are called View A and View B respectively. A few other views will be mentioned in passing.
View A: The Second Advent view. This view basically holds that there is a gap between the first 69 weeks of the prophecy and the final week, which is only fulfilled by the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. This view is held by most commentators today. The main arguments presented below are crystallized by the Dallas Theological Seminary in their book "Bible Knowledge Commentary," however when additional points were raised by other commentators these will also be presented.
View B: The First Advent view. This view basically holds that there is no justification for the gap theory since the 70 weeks can easily be accounted for by viewing the prophecy contiguously. The best arguments for this view have been presented by Philip Mauro in his document: "The Seventy Weeks and The Great Tribulation." His arguments will be supplemented where needed with other information.
View C: This view is a variation of the First Advent view where the starting point is different. It will be presented in the discussion of starting points for the seventy weeks.
View D: This view uses verse 22 in Daniel to tie the chapter 9 prophecy to the chapter 8 prophecy. The argument is that Gabriel is explaining more about his explanation of chapter 8 since it was unclear to Daniel. Since there are also various interpretations of chapter 8 this view can be broken further into two subviews based on the interpretation of the 2300 time period in chapter 8. The major source for this view is a book by Uriah Smith on prophecies of "Daniel and the Revelation."
Readers wishing to do their own research on this subject can use the following references as starting points for their study. The Second Advent view is available in any bookstore since most modern commentators profess this view. "The Bible Knowledge Commentary" is available on-line from iExalt in hardcopy or as a STEP book. "The Seventy Weeks and The Great Tribulation" is available on-line from the Online Bible and as a palm e-book.
Context: In any scripture passage it is always a good idea to understand the context which is generally provided by earlier verses and sometimes augmented by knowledge of culture and history of the period. In this case Daniel is found studying prophecy and praying. The prophecy is from Jeremiah (Jer 25:11-12) where Daniel understands that the 70 years of captivity is about to come to an end and the people will be allowed to return to their land as prophesied in Isaiah.
Disclaimer: I am sure I am not able to fully represent the positions of these authors and even if I could it is beyond the scope of this document to present all of their arguments. I would recommend that each reader do further study by reading the literature for him/herself to determine which view is correct. Or perhaps there are elements of each of the views that are correct. It is often the case with prophecy that there are multiple fulfillments in which there is a fulfillment of most of the prophecy in what we can see of history but a further fulfillment in the spiritual realm or in some future event such as the Tribulation. In any event the information presented below should provide a starting point for further study.
The Bible text: Daniel 9:24-27
"Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. 25"So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. 26"Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27"And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate." NASB
Verse 24 begins with Seventy weeks or heptads. This is a unitless measure like the English word dozen. It applies to seven of anything and all commentators agree that in this context it means Seventy times Seven years which equals 490 years. Thus the time is fixed (subject to gaps?!, literally the word 'determined' means cutoff in the sense of being carved out of a block of time.) and a decree has been issued. The people are Jew's and the holy city is Jerusalem. There are six tasks that must be fulfilled.
View A: At the end of the 490 years God will finish the transgression of Israel. The verb "to finish" means "to bring something to an end." Israel's sin of disobedience will be brought to an end at Christ's second coming when she repents and turns to Him as her Messiah and Savior. Then she will be restored to the land and blessed, in answer to Daniel's prayer.
View B: Daniel himself had confessed this, saying, "Yea, all Israel have transgressed Thy law, even by departing that they might not obey Thy voice. Therefore the curse is poured upon us" (Da 9:11). But the angel revealed to him the distressing news that the full measure of Israel's "transgression" was yet to be completed; To finish the transgression could mean nothing less than the betrayal and crucifixion of Israel's promised and expected Messiah. This is the final and ultimate transgression of Israel.
View A: God will put an end to sin. The verb has the idea of sealing up. Here the thought is sealing something up with a view to punishment (cf. Deut. 32:34; Job 14:17). This emphasized that Israel's sin which had gone unpunished would be punished - in or through Jesus Christ, her Substitute, who would bear the sins of the world on the cross. Then at Christ's second coming He will remove Israel's sin (Ezek. 37:23; Rom. 11:20-27).
View B: Jesus paid the price for sin. Heb 10:12 states: "But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God." See also Heb 1:3
View A: God will atone for wickedness. The verb "to atone" means "to cover or expiate." This too relates to God's final atonement of Israel when she repents at Christ's second coming, as the provision for that atonement has already been made at the Cross. Israel's Day of Atonement should be kept in view here too, as in the first of these six accomplishments. On that day God provided a just basis on which He would deal with a guilty people. The blood applied to the mercy seat ("the atonement cover," Lev. 16:14) over the Ark of the Covenant enabled Him to dwell among His sinful people. Similarly Daniel's prophecy promised that because of Christ's blood, shed on the cross, God would deal with sinners, and here in particular, with sinners in Israel.
View B: We shall, therefore, assume that our translators had good reason for using the word "reconciliation." If, however, it be taken that "atonement" is the better rendering, the conclusion would not be affected; for both atonement and reconciliation were made by the death of Christ upon the cross. The death of Christ as an atoning sacrifice accomplishes both in the case of all who believe in Him. In Romans 5:8-10 these two distinct, but closely related, things are clearly set forth. For we read, first, that "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us," and second, that "when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son."
View A: The second three accomplishments deal with positive aspects of God's program. Being satisfied by the death of Christ, God will bring in everlasting righteousness. The form of the verb "bring in" here means "to cause to come in." The word "everlasting" (here pl. in Hebrew) means ages. Thus this phrase (literally "to bring in righteousness of ages") is a prophecy that God will establish an age characterized by righteousness. This is a reference to the millennial kingdom (Isa. 60:21; Jer. 23:5-6).
View B: One characteristic of God's righteousness, which He was "to bring in" through the sacrifice of Christ (Ro 3:21-26), is that it endures forever; and this is what is emphasized in the prophecy. A work was to be done, and now has been done, which would bring in everlasting righteousness - everlasting because based upon the cross, as foretold also through Isaiah, "My righteousness shall be forever" (Isa 51:8). Jesus Christ has now been made unto us "righteousness" (1Co 1:30).
View A: God will seal up vision and prophecy. All that God through the prophets said He would do in fulfilling His covenant with Israel will be fully realized in the millennial kingdom. Until they are fulfilled, prophecies are "unsealed." ("Seal" translates the same verb used in the second of these six accomplishments.)
View B: This we take to mean the sealing up of God's word of prophecy to the Israelites, as part of the punishment they brought upon themselves. It was distinctly foretold, as a prominent feature of Israel's punishment, that both vision and prophet - i.e., both eye and ear - were to be closed up, so that seeing they would see not, and hearing they would hear not (Isa 6:10).
View A: God will anoint the Most Holy. This may refer to the dedication of the most holy place in the millennial temple, described in Ezekiel 41-46. Or it may refer not to a holy place, but to the Holy One, Christ. If so, this speaks of the enthronement of Christ, "the Anointed One" (Dan. 7:25-27) as King of kings and Lord of lords in the Millennium.
View B: The conclusion that the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Christ, on the day of Pentecost, thereby anointing (2Co 1:21) a spiritual temple "the temple of the living God" (2Co 6:16), furnishes a fulfillment of this detail of the prophecy, a fulfillment which is not only in keeping with the other five items, but which brings the whole series to a worthy climax.
As can be seen by this differing interpretation, prophecy can sometimes be a very difficult thing to interpret. View B places a high degree of significance to Christ's crucifixion while view A does not consider that it fulfilled any of the six points of this prophecy although it is viewed as an enabler. As a matter of fact view A, as will be shown later, does not include Christ's crucifixion as being in any of the 490 years of this prophecy, but instead is relegated to a separate period. Note that not every author who professes View A would agree that all of the 6 points have not been meet. For example: Robert Stevens, in his series Life Discovery, considers the first 3 requirements of verse 24 to have been met by the crucifixion while the last 3 depend upon a fulfillment in the tribulation period. No matter which of the above views is deemed correct it seems clear that there should be some standards and principles to be used when approaching Bible prophecy. Here is a quote from Philip Mauro that may be used as a starting point: "The first of these controlling principles is, neither to accept nor to give forth as settled interpretation anything that rests upon surmise or mere probability; but only what is supported either by direct proof from Scripture, or by reasonable deduction therefrom. We maintain that it is far better to have no explanation at all of a difficult passage than to accept one which may turn out to be wrong. For it is not easy to give up an idea when once we have committed ourselves to it." Most commentators would likely subscribe to this principle in theory but the practice may be a bit different. A few may consider themselves above all this since they get direct revelation from God.
Verse 25 provides the starting point for the Seventy Sevens, "from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem." First we see that this is a commandment and secondly that commanded must include rebuilding Jerusalem. A little research shows that there are 5 candidates picked by various commentators or at least proposed as choices. They are (listed in chronological order):
Again all of the commentators say picking the right starting point is the key but then they all pick a different point! It seems that where they want to end up dictates where they start.
View A: This view selects the last point mentioned above so that the calculation will end up where they want to be. All commentators in this group use the calculation of Sir Robert Anderson who worked out the time schedule. His results in 49 years reaching 397 BC and another 434 years reaching 33 AD on the very day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. In order to make this work he used the calendar established by Ptolemy (a gentile chronologist) and a 360 day year which is variously described as a prophetic year or a Jewish year. This is an amazing mathematical exercise that coincides with Jesus being 33 years at the time of his crucifixion. It would be even more amazing if it weren't for the fact that the A.D. calendar marking Jesus' birth weren't off by 3 years making the real Palm Sunday in 30 A.D.
Criticism: (a) This decree was not a decree but only a verbal agreement between Neimiah and Artaxerxes. (b) The rebuilding quoted was to repair the walls and the rebuilding was clearly an earlier decree. (c) The calendar used is not correct. (d) The dating scheme of 360 day years is flawed.
Rebuttal: (c) The calendar is the best available and there is no reason to think it is not correct, as it is verified using good scholarship including eclipse data. (d) O.B. Green points out that the 150 days of Noah's ark is recorded as being exactly 5 months which proves a Bible year is 360 days since 5 months times 30 is 150 days. (Gen 7:11, 8:2-4)
View B: This view uses the Cyrus decree as the starting point 539 B.C. and insists that the calendar of Ptolemy is only accurate back to Alexander the Great and cannot be trusted during the time of the Persians. Cyrus must be the starting point since this is the only one mentioned as being part of God's plan (see Isaiah 44:24-45:1). The end point for this prophecy is Jesus' baptism by John marking the start of His public ministry.
Criticism: (a) The Ezra decree as recorded in the Bible only talks about rebuilding the temple. (b) The Calendar we have is accurate so this date is too early.
Rebuttal: (a) The Ezra documentation (Ezra 1:1) is incomplete. Josephus records that the decree included rebuilding the city. Ezra even records some complaints that they were working on the city and walls to the exclusion of the temple. (b) When the secular calendar disagrees with the Bible then the Bible wins. There is some dispute over the eclipse records.
View C: This view ends up at the exact same point as view B but uses a starting point of the first decree of Artaxerxes and using a regular year reaches the point of Jesus' baptism. This view shows the 49 years time is recorded in vs. 25 as the time the city was rebuilt. Under this view the 3 decrees beginning with Cyrus are all viewed as one continuous decree with more detail and as a unit fulfills Jeremiah's prophecy.
View D: This view starts at the same point as View C but parallels the first advent view of Chapter 9 with a 2300 year view of chapter 8 that results in a final year of 1844 when Jesus was to return. Currently this view has been modified to say that Jesus is judging Old Testament saints and will eventually get to us in Gods time. A second version of View D (View E) starts at Jeremiah's prediction and uses 2300 as days. Then the chapter nine chronology results in an interpretation of the 490 years being fulfilled by Antiochus IV as a precursor antichrist as is the same interpretation of the small horn in chapter 8.
Criticism: (a) 2300 cannot be interpreted as years in this context. (b) The church age is not mentioned in the Old Testament at all. It is a mystery that was not revealed until New Testament times. (c) No one can determine when the end times will start.
Messiah the Prince is generally held to be Christ in View A, B, and C. Another view (View F) holds that this is a reference to Cyrus who is called the Lord's anointed in Isaiah 45:1. This view uses Jeremiah's prophecy as a starting point for the 49 years and the 434 years is viewed as the time needed to rebuild the city (up to when it was destroyed in 70 A.D.). This view requires a gap in the first two periods. (source: Scofield) The views A-D see a continuous time period for the 49 years and the 434 years with the end of the 49 years marking the rebuilding of the city and/or the end of the Old Testament canon. In this view the 434 years marks the time between the testaments plus some time into the Gospel period. View E is continuous but stops short of the New Testament times.
The Messiah that is cut off as mentioned in verse 26 is interpreted as Christ in most views. (In the view that Antiochus IV is the prince, View E, then the Messiah is the Jewish high priest Onias III, who was murdered in 171 BC (2 Macc 4; cf. Dan 11:22).) The rest of verse 26 is the key disagreement between the First Advent view and the Second Advent view.
View A: The people are the Roman soldiers who destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The prince is the antichrist who will eventually come from this people group. The chronology as outlined in this view is: The Messiah will crucified after the 62 weeks of years, then the City will be destroyed, and finally there will be wars and rumors of wars as predicted in the Olivet discourse by Jesus. Finally the 70th week as described in verse 27 will be reached.
Criticism: (a) There is no justification for breaking up the continuos view of this prophecy and to so defeats the whole purpose which was to alert the Jews of the coming Messiah. Having breaks means there is no definitive calendar of prophecy that can be trusted. (b) How can the leader of the Army come centuries later than the Army? (c) The wording of the verse does not indicate that the warnings of desolation must come after the city is destroyed.
Rebuttal: (a) O.B. Green states that there are many gaps in timelines of the Bible. In 1 Kings 6:1 it is stated that it was in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel came out of Egypt that Solomon began building the temple. If we will take the chronological Bible dates and follow them through from the Exodus to the 4th year of Solomon, we will find it is 611 years, or 131 years more than what is stated in 1 Kings 6:1.
View B: This period is within the 70th week. Christ's crucifixion marks the middle of the week and while the destruction of Jerusalem is not part of the prophecy of verse 24 it was sealed at that time and carried out later. Later is this case was 40 years as it recorded many times in scripture as the time God uses to carry out a sentence or provide relief from a sentence, such as the 40 years in the wilderness. Christ asked for forgiveness on the cross and the 40 years was granted. The prince is Titus and the people are the Roman soldiers who destroyed the city in 70 A.D. The rest of the verse is a warning about the destruction of the city. This view also sees the Olivet discourse as an extension of this prophecy, but views this discourse as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
Criticism: Amillenarians teach that Christ's First Advent ministry was in the 70th "seven," that there was no interval between the 69th and 70th "sevens," and that the six actions predicted in Daniel 9:24 are being fulfilled today in the church. This view, however, (a) ignores the fact that verse 26 says "after the 62 sevens,'" not "in the 70th seven,'" (b) overlooks the fact that Christ's ministry on earth was three and one-half years in length, not seven, and (c) ignores the fact that God's six actions pertain to Daniel's "people" (Israel) and His "Holy City" (Jerusalem), not the church.
Rebuttal: Calling this the view of amillenarians is a "red herring" since the view has nothing to do with the millennium (a) After 62 weeks does not say that it is not in the 70th week since clearly the 70th week is after the 69th. (b) When a heptad is basic unit of measure then you can't quibble with where inside the heptad the event occurs. Can you say Christ did not arise on the 3rd day because he arose in the morning and the 3rd day was not finished? If a prophecy is to appear in a certain year is it wrong if it appears before December? (c) The six actions were completed by Christ's finished work on the cross and not by the church as alleged.
The key elements of verse 27 include a covenant, the sacrifices must be ended, and Israel is punished. The words establishing the covenant are: "And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week"
View A: This week is exactly the time of the Tribulation and this verse adds some key elements in that time. The person being described is the antichrist who is the prince referred to in verse 26. He makes a covenant with Israel and then breaks it in mid-week.
Criticism: There is no reference anywhere in scripture to the antichrist making a covenant with Israel. The modern interpretation which takes Christ and the Cross out of the last verse of the prophecy, where it reaches its climax, and puts antichrist and his imaginary doings into it, does violence to the Scripture and serious wrong to the people of God.
View B: This week follows the preceding weeks and represents Christ's ministry to the Jews. The person referred to is Christ. There is no preposition "for" in the text and that the words "one week" do not refer to the duration of the covenant, but to the time when it was confirmed.
Criticism: This covenant could not have been made or confirmed by Christ at His First Advent, as amillenarians teach, because: (a) His ministry did not last seven years, (b) His death did not stop sacrifices and offerings, (c) He did not set up "the abomination that causes desolation" (Matt. 24:15).
Rebuttal: Christ said: "This is My blood of the new covenant, shed for many for the remission of sins" (Mt 26:28). In these words we find four things which agree with the prophecy: 1st, the One who was to confirm the covenant, Christ; 2nd, "the covenant" itself; 3rd, that which "confirmed" the covenant, the blood of Christ; 4th, those who receive the benefits of the covenant, the "many." The identification is complete; for the words correspond perfectly with those of the prophecy, "He shall confirm the covenant with many." (a) While not specifically identified in scripture the time of the ministry to the Jews lasted 7 years. This included 3 1/2 years of Christ's public ministry and 3 1/2 years of ministry to the Jews in the early church prior to turning to the gentiles. This ended with the stoning of Stephen. (b) We ask careful attention to the fact that in (Hebrews 10:12) it is expressly stated that Christ took away the sacrifices of the law when He offered Himself as the "one sacrifice for sins forever, " ere He "sat down on the right hand of God." Those sacrifices, therefore, ceased to exist in God's contemplation from the moment Christ died. Chapter 10 of Hebrews describes God's view on the fulfillment of this prophecy. (c) Titus is the one who brings the abominations and causes the desolation in destroying Jerusalem as explained in Luke 21:20 as the parallel of the version of Matt 24:15. Matthew is couched in secrecy since Jews were the intended audience while Luke makes it clear since his audience was gentiles.
After reading through the verses one question would be: 'Why did Gabriel give this information to Daniel?' It seems that Daniel's prayer earlier in the chapter was focused on Israel's return to its home. It probably looked, to Daniel, like the problems were over after the 70 years of captivity. But God wanted to make it clear that everything would not return to normal as indicated by Gabriel as he laid out the vision for the next 70 times 7 years. There were still disturbing times ahead for the Jews and they needed to be made ready. Even though they had failed God in the past by rejecting his ways they were about to reject his son, which would be the biggest failure that could be imagined, and as a result they would be removed from the land again and dispersed throughout the world. This prophecy was designed to explain all of this to Daniel and to us, if we can interpret it correctly.
Christ specifically mentions Daniel as a prophet in Matthew 24, which brings this passage into any discussion of the seventy sevens. Compare verse by verse the same passages in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and then decide if the discussion is the same and whether the prophecy of Luke is specifically the same as the prophecy in Matthew and Mark. If so then the interpretation must agree as well. Of course, there is always the idea that prophecy can have a further fulfillment.
While not specifically a part of this discussion of the seventy sevens it should be pointed out that the disagreement in this interpretation continues into the vision of Chapter 10, 11, and 12 of Daniel. Both interpretations agree on chapter 10 and chapter 11 up to verse 35. Then at verse 36 the "Second Advent" interpretation takes another jump to the tribulation period with the antichrist fulfilling this prophecy while the "First Advent" view, as advocated by Philip Mauro, sees the fulfillment of this prophecy in King Herod. (Read Philip Mauro's book for more details.)