In Daniel 9:24-27 what is meant by the seventy sevens?
The seventy sevens mentioned in Daniel 9:24-27 involved multiple time periods that mark amazing fulfillments and yet-to-be fulfilled aspects of Bible prophecy.
At the time Daniel wrote this prophecy, Jerusalem had been destroyed and its citizens killed or deported to Babylon. Daniel 9 prays for his nation and then Gabriel comes to him and gives him the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27.
Verse 24 begins with seventy "sevens" (NIV) (or "weeks" in some translations) until the restoration of Jerusalem. "Sevens" or "weeks" is a reference to a period of seven years. So seventy weeks means 490 years.
Verse 25 describes a period of seven sevens and sixty-two sevens from the issuing of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of an "Anointed One" who would be "put to death" (v. 26 NIV). This period of time (7 times 7 years, plus 62 times 7 years) equals 483 years. Jewish years were 360 days each, meaning 483 years times 360 would equal 173,880 days. This is equal to 476 years, 25 days using today's Western calendar system.
Most who have researched this area note the starting point as 445 BC during the Hebrew month of Nisan (Nehemiah 2:1-8). This would result in this time period covering 445 BC to AD 30, the year in which the death of Jesus most likely took place. Those who believe the death of Jesus took place in AD 33 use similar calculations to show these dates reach up to this year (In particular, Harold Hoehner's Chronological Aspects of the Life of Jesus Christ persuasively argues the exact number lands in AD 33 on Palm Sunday when Jesus arrives as the Anointed One and is soon killed (or "cut off" (ESV))).
Verse 26 then speaks of prophecy following the time of Jesus' death on the cross. Though some try to connect these events with first-century activities, it appears these events are yet unfulfilled. Verses 26-27 note: "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. 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 at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him" (NIV).
Comparing this passage with prophecies in Revelation, it appears a coming Antichrist ("the ruler who will come") will destroy Jerusalem and the sanctuary during the middle of the tribulation period. There will be a flood, war, desolations, and a covenant for one "seven" (seven years). He will desecrate the temple at the midpoint of the tribulation and ultimately be defeated at his "decreed" end.
In summary, the seventy sevens refer to 490 years, 483 of which have been fulfilled, with a future seven-year period of prophecy yet to take place in the future. We believe this will occur after the rapture during the seven-year tribulation described in Revelation.
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