Book of Daniel Bible Study Chapter Commentary 9
Daniel 9: Daniel's 70 Weeks Part 1
by I Gordon
We saw in the last study that Daniel had been reading the prophecies of Jeremiah when he saw that Israel would be in exile for 70 years. Daniel also noticed that at the end of that time it was important for the Israelites to seek God and confess their sinful ways in order for God to restore them to the land of Israel. Well, that is exactly what Daniel did on behalf of his nation. In this study we shall see God's response. And what a response it is!  Before looking at this wonderful prophecy and answer to Daniel's prayer, let's just start with a passage in the New Testament and the words of our Lord.
Let the reader understand...
Matt 24:15-16 'So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel - let the reader understand - then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.
When the disciples questioned Jesus about the signs of His return, one of the things He pointed to was something called the 'abomination of desolation'. Whatever that is! What Jesus did tell us is that it is something significant that is spoken by the prophet Daniel. Well, as we shall soon see, the abomination of desolation that Jesus quoted is from the chapter we are looking at in this study - Daniel chapter 9. But before we begin I want to draw your attention to something else in the passage above. Four little words in fact that Mathew decided to put into the text as he wrote it - 'Let the reader  understand'. So did you just read that? Well, you are now told, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to understand this prophecy in Daniel 9! So with no less an authority that God Himself telling us to understand Daniel chapter 9, let's have a look at this remarkable prophecy!
Ever had an angel answer your prayer?
Daniel 9:20-23 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill - while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and said to me, 'Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision:
So we see that while Daniel is still praying an answer arrives. Quite literally actually, as the angel Gabriel  turns up with an announcement for Daniel and his people. Note also that Gabriel tells Daniel that he is 'highly esteemed'. For Heaven to feel that way about any man is pretty amazing. The word literally means 'precious' and just as Abraham is called the 'friend of God' and John 'the beloved' so Daniel is the one 'highly esteemed' or 'precious'. Daniel is then told that he needs to understand this answer that Gabriel is about to declare. And so do we! This revelation that Daniel would receive is critical to a true understanding of Bible prophecy.
An answer greater than the prayer...
Daniel 9:24 'Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.
Now, straight away you kind of get the impression that God is thinking about much higher and greater things than those that were in Daniel's mind! Daniel had been concerned with the sin of Israel and their current condition in exile and had prayed along those lines. Yet God's answer above is far higher and greater that anything that had entered into Daniel's thoughts or prayer. 
- Daniel is thinking about forgiveness for Israel's current sin and rebellion
God is concerned about eliminating sin and rebellion altogether!
- Daniel is thinking about getting Israel out of Babylon
God is concerned about getting Babylon out of Israel once and for all!
- Daniel is thinking about getting back to Jerusalem to start rebuilding
God is concerned about establishing His own kingdom and Himself as King on earth!
So the message from God is given... '70 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city...' The word decreed literally means determined or 'cut off'. God is saying that He has assigned a period of 70 X 7  (or 490 years  ) for Daniel's people Israel and their holy city. It needs to be clearly pointed out that this period of time is set aside specifically for God to deal with the nation of Israel and Jerusalem. These 490 years do not involve the church but relate to Daniel's 'people and holy city'. By the end of this time period six remarkable things will have been accomplished.
The six accomplishments of Daniel 9
Gabriel outlines 6 things that will have been fulfilled by the end of the 490 years.
- Finish the transgression - This is where Arnold  comes in... He points out that the Hebrew word for transgression is a very strong word for sin and literally means 'to rebel'. If used with a definite article in the Hebrew meaning it is a specific act of rebellion. In context, the specific act of rebellion is the rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus.
- Put an end of sins - The Hebrew for sins used here means to 'miss the mark'. The sins of daily life will be put to an end. It will also mean the end of the effects of sin upon this earth. The curse that came in with Adam and Eve's fall will come to an end.
- Atonement for wickedness - This is the means by which the first two purposes are accomplished. This was achieved at the cross when Jesus made atonement for sin but the national fulfilment of this for Israel is still to come. 
- Bring in everlasting righteousness - This is the age of righteousness that characterises the Messianic Kingdom - the reign of Jesus on this earth. This will be set up at the end of the 490 year period and will last for 1000 years as shown in Revelation 20. It will be a glorious time when the knowledge of the Lord will abound on the earth as the waters cover the sea. We can also apply this to our own life. With the return of the Lord, all believers will be like Him for we shall see Him as He really is. Our fallen nature that drags us down will be gone forever! We will only know everlasting righteousness! If you know yourself well, that is truely a day to rejoice and look forward to!
- Seal up vision and prophecy - The word seal up means to 'cause a cessation' or 'to bring completely to fulfilment'. The Hebrew prophets saw as far forward as the Messianic kingdom. They didn't prophecy of events in the New Heaven and New Earth. When Jesus' kingdom is setup at the end of the 490 years, their prophecy will have been fulfilled. The Old Testament prophecies of the coming glorious day will have come to fruition and their visions and prophecy will finally cease in the sense that it will now be all fulfilled.
- Anoint the most holy - From the Hebrew this should read 'anoint a most holy place'. Daniel had been thinking of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the temple which lay in ruins. The Messianic Kingdom will have a temple build by the Lord Himself (Zech 6:12-15)
The timeline until Messiah!
Daniel 9:25 'Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild 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.
Again Daniel, (and you!) are told to 'know and understand this'. Just as Gabriel has said earlier and just as Mathew has instructed his readers, so the command goes out again to understand this prophecy! And we see here a remarkable statement - an exact time for when the Messiah (the Anointed one) will come! The 70 sevens of the previous statement has now been divided into 7 sevens, 62 sevens and 1 remaining seven which will be discussed in the next study. The first 7 sevens involved the time period where the city of Jerusalem was rebuilt. The 7 sevens and the 62 sevens combined constitute the time period until the Messiah comes. We are told explicitly that from the decree to restore  and rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah will be 7 + 62 sevens, or 69 X 7 = 483 years. This decree was given by king Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 2 in 444 B.C. and the 483 prophetic years conclude on Nisan 10, 33 A.D. 
The spotless Lamb of God
Nisan 10? Is that significant? Yeah, according to God's decree in Exodus 12:1-3, it was on the 10th Nisan that all of Israel had to take a spotless lamb that would be sacrificed 4 days later on the 14th Nisan!
Exodus 12:1-3 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 'This month (Nisan) is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.
The end point of this 483 year period is the very day that Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem (in fulfilment of Zech 9:9) and allowed the people to worship Him as the kings of the Jews - the Messiah! And yet knowing their heart and what would transpire in just four short days  , Jesus said to them on that day:
'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 the 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 .' (Luke 19:41-44)
William Newell writes
"There was only one occasion in our Lord's earthly ministry on which He is depicted as presenting Himself openly as Zion's King, the so-called 'Triumphal Entry,' recorded in each one of the Gospels and fulfilling Zech 9:9 and Psalm 118:26."
This remarkable prophecy gives us an exact date that the nation of Israel could expect their Messiah. It is concrete proof for those that long to know who the Messiah is and when He came. No wonder we are told on multiple occasions to know and understand this prophecy! And yet, we are only half way through this great prophecy. Events that transpire between the end of the 69th 'seven' and the start of the 70th 'seven' are still to be looked at - as is the very important last 7 years of Daniel's prophecy. Though Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world at the end of the 69th 'seven', yet we have not yet seen 'everlasting righteousness' established on this earth yet. Daniel's 70th week still remains and what was not completed in the first 483 years of this prophecy, God will fulfil in the last 7 years. How? How can God turn the entire nation and seal up this amazing prophecy in 7 years? Well, just you wait because that will be the focus of the next study!
 ↩ Chuck Missler calls it 'the most pivotal chapter in Bible prophecy'. Others have called it 'the backbone of Bible prophecy'. It is certainly a remarkable prophecy.
 ↩ It is totally unique as far as I know for one of the gospel writers to interject their own little instruction into the text. As Mathew wrote the gospel he believed that this sign of the coming of Jesus was so important that he should write something directly to the readers of his gospel and tell them that they needed to understand this! Note also what Mathew wrote - He didn't write 'Let the teacher understand' or 'Let the scholar understand' or 'Let the end times prophecy buff understand'... No, the Bible says let the reader understand. And that, my dear friend, means you!
 ↩ Gabriel is not said to be an archangel but is one of the highest ranking in the angelic realm. Michael, who is an archangel, is always seen in a warrior/protector role in connection with the nation of Israel. But if you have got a big announcement, send Gabe. Gabriel seems to be the one sent when announcements about the coming Messiah are made.
 ↩ This is obviously an example of a couple of scriptures that we should remember when praying:
Isaiah 55:8-9 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD. 'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'
Eph 3:20-21 'Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.'
 ↩ Daniel had seen from the prophecies of Jeremiah that Israel would be exiled for 70 years. But now God seems to be saying that the total fulfilment for Israel's restoration isn't going to be 70 years but 70 X 7 years! Where does God get these numbers from? Does He make them up? We know that 7 is God's perfect number and is the seal of God throughout scripture but is there anything else to this? Why would God multiply the whole length of the exile period by 7? One answer could be Lev 26:14-21. Please have a read. This lays out the punishment for disobedience as stated in the law of God. But then notice verse 18 - 21
'If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over . I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of the land yield their fruit. If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve...'
So the question is, did Israel repent after the 70 years in exile? We know that Daniel did on behalf of his nation but even in his prayer Daniel stated (Dan 9:13) : 'Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us , yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth . '
It seems to me that Israel as a nation didn't repent but actually got quite comfortable living down in Babylon and while God would fulfil the prophecies of Jeremiah to bring them back after the 70 years, the entire punishment and restoration for that nation was not going to be 70 years but 70 X 7 years - 490 years!
 ↩ Some Bibles use the word 'weeks' instead of 'sevens' which is unfortunate. The Jewish believer and Hebrew Scholar Arnold Fructenbaum writes concerning Daniel 9:24:
"One of the greatest tragedies in biblical interpretation is that the word has been translated here as 'weeks'. This would require the Hebrew word shavuot. But the word used here is shavuim which does not mean weeks, but simply means 'sevens'. As such it could refer to seven of anything just as the English word "dozen" simply means twelve and can be twelve of anything... In it's context it obviously must be seven of years because Daniel has been dealing with years. He has been counting up the seventy years of Babylonian captivity... Daniel is told that it is not seventy years but that "seventy sevens of years" must pass before the introduction of the Kingdom"
 ↩ Aggh, that's Fructembaum, not Schwarzenegger. As mentioned above the former is a Messianic Hebrew Scholar where as the later is a previous Mr Universe, 'Govenator' for California, and slightly aging Hollywood action star. The former Arnold is very useful when looking at Bible prophecy and the Hebrew in Daniel 9 but not so good in action movies. The later Arnold has racked in millions from action movies but his knowledge of the Hebrew in Daniel 9 is severely lacking. I guess you could say that Arnold Fructembaum is the Arnold Schwarzenegger of scholarly Jewish believers when it comes to Bible prophecy.
 ↩ How many holy feasts did the nation of Israel have? That's right, 7. So how many were in the spring and how many in the autumn? That's right, 4 in the spring and 3 in the autumn. How many of the spring feasts did Jesus fulfil at his first coming? That's right, all of them. Passover, Unleavened bread, firstfruits and Pentecost were all fulfilled spiritually. But how many of the autumn feasts were fulfilled? That's right... none of them. They all await fulfilment in the return of Jesus. My point? Well, Jesus fulfilled Passover at His first coming by dying as the Passover lamb for our sins. And yet, there was an entirely different day that Israel celebrated as the day when their sins were atoned for. This was one of the autumn feasts called the 'day of atonement'. This will be fulfilled for the nation of Israel when, as a nation, they look to Jesus as the Messiah and have their sins atoned for. This will occur at the end of the tribulation (Daniel's 70th 'week') when Jesus returns. Read all about it in Zech 12 & 13.
 ↩ David Guzik writes concerning this decree:
'The Bible presents four possible decrees that might fulfill this description:
- Cyrus made a decree giving Ezra and the Babylonian captives the right to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple in 538 b.c. (Ezra in 1:1-4 and 5:13-17)
- Darius made a decree giving Ezra the right to rebuild the temple in 517 b.c. (Ezr_6:6-12)
- Artaxerxes made a decree giving Ezra permission, safe passage, and supplies to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple in 458 b.c. (Ezr_7:11-26)
- Artaxerxes made a decree giving Nehemiah permission, safe passage and supplies to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the walls in 445 b.c. (Neh_2:1-8)
Only the last of these four decrees was a command to restore and build Jerusalem. The first three each focused on the temple, not on the street or on the wall.'
 ↩ It is beyond the scope of this study to go into the specific details like why the Neh 2 passage is the best starting point for the 490 year prophecy, why use a 360 day year or how to calculate the exact end point. But I would draw your attention to the following studies of Dr. Thomas Ice for more information if you are interested:
On where to start the 490 years from:
On where the 483 years ends:
On the division of the 7 sevens and 62 sevens:
 ↩ When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey the crowds proclaimed 'Hosanna, hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'. This was a Messianic title from Psalm 118 which they were quoting. It is interesting to see what else Psalm 118 tells us. Right before this passage it says 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.' Though these people proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, the nation had already rejected the capstone of Israel. Again, after saying 'blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord' it carries on to say ' bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.' Though on this day, the 10th Nisan, the people proclaimed Him king, yet within 4 short days they would be calling for His death and the Lamb of God would be bound and sacrificed.