What are the seventy weeks of Daniel?

Daniel chapter 9 contains one of the most detailed accounts of the end times in the Bible. This prophecy divides the events coming after the Babylonian captivity into "weeks." The Hebrew word for weeks has a broader meaning than it does in English, simply denoting a period of "seven," whether that means days or years. Scholars believe the seventy weeks means seventy weeks of years, a period totaling 490 years.

The prophecy begins with a summary purpose: "Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place" (Daniel 9:24).

The first seventy weeks (49 years) begin with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, which at the time was destroyed by the Babylonians: "Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks" (Daniel 9:25). There are a few different places in the Bible where a decree is given to restore the temple at Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1–4; 5:13–17, 6:6–12; 7:11–26), but there is only one place where the decree is given to rebuild to city and its walls, found in Nehemiah 2:1–8. This occurred in 445 BC. The rebuilding of Jerusalem accounts for the first seven weeks, or forty-nine years. After that there would be a period of sixty-two weeks. This makes for a total of 483 years until the Anointed One, the Messiah, would come.

The Messiah appears at the end of the second period of weeks: "Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time" (Daniel 9:25). Some scholars believe that the 483 years were completed at the birth of Jesus, others say it was completed at His baptism, and still others believe it was completed at His crucifixion. One of the most meticulously calculated arguments is for the completion of the 483 years at Jesus' triumphal entry. Sir Robert Anderson in his book The Coming Prince calculated that, based on the Jewish 360-day year at the time of Daniel, the 483 years totaled 173,880 days. When counted out from the prophecy to rebuild Jerusalem in Nehemiah 2, the coming of the Messiah landed on April 6, 32 AD.

Jesus Himself seemed to expect the Jews to know the day He would be coming. On the day of His triumphal entry, after He entered the city riding on a donkey, He wept over the city and said to the people, "Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation" (Luke 19:42–44).

Daniel 9 then predicts Jesus' death and the next period of weeks: "And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing" (Daniel 9:26). We then see the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem: "And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary" (Daniel 9:26). This was fulfilled in AD 70 when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. The verse goes on to say, "Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed." This part of the verse seems to speak both to the events of AD 70 and to future events.

Daniel 9:27 says, "And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator." According to a premillennial, dispensational perspective, this transitions to the end-times, seven-year tribulation. The "prince to come," mentioned in Daniel 9:25, who makes a covenant is the Antichrist. The Antichrist makes a covenant with the people, and in the middle of the last seven years he puts an end to the sacrifices and offerings.

Daniel 9:27 also talks about what is often called the "abomination of desolation." While Antiochus IV Epiphanes did sacrifice a pig on the temple altar around 167 BC, it was just a foreshadowing of what is yet to come. Jesus spoke of the "abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel" in Matthew 24:15, well after Antiochus' actions.

This last week of the prophecy is still yet to be accomplished. We know that it did not occur because the purpose of the seventy weeks mentioned at the beginning of the prophecy has not been fulfilled (Daniel 9:24). There has not yet been an end of sin and transgression, nor is there everlasting righteousness. Jesus has "atone[d] for iniquity" on the cross. But we still await His millennial reign and then a new heavens and new earth (Revelation 20—22). Knowing that much of Daniel's prophecy has already been fulfilled gives us assurance and hope that God will be faithful to fulfill the remainder. For now, we are in a period of pause "until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" (Romans 11:25).

Related Truth:

In Daniel 9:24-27 what is meant by the seventy sevens?

What is going to happen in the end times?

How much of end-times prophecy has been fulfilled?

What is the end times tribulation?

What is the importance of the second coming of Jesus Christ?

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