BY: DAVID A. GREEN
“Seventy weeks have been determined for your people and your holy city, to shut up the transgression, to seal up sin, to cover over iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophet, and to anoint the Most Holy Place. (Dan. 9:24)
So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the Prince, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and trench, even in times of distress. (Dan. 9:25)
Then after the sixty-two weeks the Anointed One will be cut off and nothing shall remain to Him [or, “but not for Himself”]. And the people of a coming prince [or, “of [the] coming Prince”] will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will be with the flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. (Dan. 9:26)
And He will confirm a covenant with the many for one week, and in the middle of the week he will cause sacrifice and offering to cease; and on a wing [or, “overspreading”] of abominations will come a desolator, even until the end. And that which was decreed shall pour out on the desolator.” (Dan. 9:27)
Here is a short answer to your question (with approximate dates):
The first seven “weeks” began in 538 B.C. with the issuing of the word of Cyrus to rebuild the temple and the city.
The first seven “weeks” ended and the sixty-two “weeks” began in 445 B.C. when Nehemiah rebuilt Jerusalem.
The sixty-two “weeks” ended and the last “week” began in A.D. 28, with the anointing of the Lord at His baptism. During that “week,” He confirmed the New Covenant with “the many” (His disciples). Also in that week, in A.D. 30, He was “cut off.” (murdered)
The cessation of “sacrifice and offering” that took place “in the middle of the week” might refer to the atoning death (cutting off) of the Messiah. (I will discuss below other possible meanings of the cessation of “sacrifice and offering.”)
“The Desolator” was the body of Jewish reprobates who captured and desecrated the temple, and who flooded the city with war, abominations and desolations in A.D. 66-70.
The last “week” ended and the “seventy weeks” were fulfilled in A.D. 70, when God poured out His wrath on “the Desolator,” when the people of a coming prince (or Prince) destroyed the city and the sanctuary. The people of the coming prince might refer to the Roman armies of Caesar. (I will discuss below other possibilities as to who the “prince” and the “people” might have been.)
Christ’s “week“-long work of Covenant-confirmation then came to an end. The old covenant disappeared and the New Covenant was established. The reign of Sin and Death was abolished, and everlasting righteousness was brought into Israel and Jerusalem. “Vision and prophet” were sealed up (brought to an end / abolished), and the Most Holy Place (the universal Church) was anointed.
The “seventy weeks” covered a period of roughly 600 years, from about 538 B.C. to A.D 70, from the time of the fall of Babylon to the fall of “Babylon” (Jerusalem).
(To see why I do not interpret the “seventy weeks” as “seventy weeks of years,” (490 years) please see Q&A #97.)
Here is a more detailed exposition of Dan. 9:24-27:
When Daniel received the prophecy of the “seventy weeks,” the people of Israel including Daniel himself were in captivity in Babylon. The City of Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians, and they remained in ruins.
Jeremiah had prophesied that after seventy years of captivity were completed, God would destroy Babylon and would restored the people of Israel to Jerusalem. (Jer. 25:11,12; 29:10-14) Daniel understood that he was living in the last hour of that seventy-year Babylonian captivity, and this is what prompted him to pray (Dan. 9:2,3):
“O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” (Dan. 9:16-19)
VERSE 25: The first “seven weeks” were God’s answer to Daniel’s prayer for his people and for his holy city, and it was in less than a year after Daniel received the prophecy of the “seventy weeks,” in about 538 B.C., that the first “seven weeks” began. After the Kingdom of Babylon fell in 538 B.C., the Persian king Cyrus issued, “the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” (II Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; Isa. 44:24,26,28; 45:13; Dan. 9:25; Josephus, Antiquities, xi, 6,12) Thousands of Israelites immediately packed their belongings and began the journey back to Judea.
The end of Israel’s seventy-year Babylonian captivity was the beginning of the “seventy weeks.” The two periods of time were consecutive.
The first “seven weeks” lasted about ninety years and ended with the rebuilding of Jerusalem by Nehemiah in about 445 B.C. (Neh. 2:5; 6:15) The “times of distress” during which the city was rebuilt are related in Neh. 1:3 – 6:13. Because the city had no walls and no gates, the people were constantly being mocked, demoralized, threatened, accused, deceived and terrorized by their enemies. (Neh. 2:19; 4:1-3,7,8,11,12,14,16-23; 6:1-13) Because of these things, the nation was in “great distress” and “reproach.” (Neh. 1:2-4; 2:3,13,17) The times of anxiety ended with the completion of Jerusalem’s walls and gates in about 445 B.C.
The “sixty-two weeks” were from the completed rebuilding of Jerusalem by Nehemiah until the first appearing of the “Anointed One,” (“Messiah”) “the Prince,” (“the Ruler,” “the Leader”). The “sixty-two weeks” ended at the beginning of Christ’s ministry, when God “anointed” Him with the Holy Spirit and power in about A.D. 28. (Lk. 3:22-23; Acts 10:38) The “sixty-two weeks” covered the intertestimal centuries from Nehemiah / Malachi to the anointing of Jesus. It was a period of roughly 470 years.
VERSES 26 & 27: The last “week” was from Christ’s first appearing at His baptism to His Second Appearing at the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” in A.D. 70. It was from the anointing of Messiah the Prince to the anointing of the Most Holy Place. The last “week” lasted about 42 years. It was the period of time in which Christ the Ruler, through His earthly ministry and through the Holy Spirit, confirmed the New Covenant with “the many”:
“For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers.” (Rom. 15:8)
Because the last “week” began with the baptism of Christ, the “covenant” that was confirmed during that week can be none other than the New Covenant. There was no other covenant that began to be confirmed at the beginning of Christ’s ministry.
Within that “week” of Messianic Covenant-confirmation, Messiah was “cut off.” He was rejected by the leaders of the people and put to death outside the city in about A.D. 30.
“And in the middle of the week,” He caused “sacrifice and offering to cease.” (Dan. 9:26) Here are three possible ways of interpreting what this means:
1. For those who put their trust in the blood of Christ, there was “no longer any offering for sin.” (Heb. 10:18) For believers, Christ’s sacrifice ended the need for animal sacrifices. If this is the meaning, then the cutting off of the Messiah and the cessation of “sacrifice and offering” are virtually synonymous, and both took place in the “middle” of the “week.”
2. The Messianic cessation of “sacrifice and offering” could refer to God’s giving up of fleshly Israel to reprobation. After the nation had thoroughly rejected the blood of the New Covenant, Israel became apostate, and there no longer remained a “sacrifice for sins.” (Heb. 10:26,27) In this interpretation, the cessation of “sacrifice and offering” refers to a spiritual, national catastrophe. This, I think, is in harmony with the symbol of the “middle” of the week (a “broken” time of tragedy). Also, if the cessation of sacrifice is God’s reprobation of the apostates, then the “abominations” in the next phrase are the direct and immediate result of that national reprobation. (This second interpretation is the one I prefer.)
3. The Messianic cessation of “sacrifice and offering” might be taken in a strictly literal sense. As a consequence of the offering-ceasing sacrifice of the Messiah, (Heb. 10:18) and of the national cessation of “sacrifice for sins” due to Israel’s apostasy, (Heb. 10:26) Jerusalem became flooded with abominations and wars, until the daily animal sacrifices literally ended in about August of A.D. 70, shortly before the city and the sanctuary were destroyed. (Josephus, Wars, vi, 94)
In the time of Israel’s apostasy, in about A.D. 66, a “Desolator” came “on a wing of abominations.” The “Desolator” filled the Holy City with abominations and desolated it with the flood of war, until “the end.”
“The end” was when God poured out His wrath on the “the Desolator,” when the people of a coming prince (or “of the coming Prince”) completely destroyed the city and the sanctuary, along with the Desolator, in August-September A.D. 70.
“On a wing of abominations”: The word “wing” could be a reference to the temple (a wing or pinnacle of the temple). If this is the meaning, then the phrase could mean that the “abomination of desolations” (Septuagint) issued forth from the temple of God and filled the city. This agrees with the history of the times:
In about A.D. 67, the Zealots captured the temple and made it their fortress and their “shop of tyranny.” (Josephus, Wars, iv, 151) From God’s house, they terrorized the people and spread abominations and desolations throughout Jerusalem until the city was utterly consumed in the “flood” of war in A.D. 70.
Or the word “wing” might instead be a metaphorical reference to the “overshadowing” or “overspreading” (KJV) of abominations throughout the city. In this interpretation the basic meaning is the same, but there is no reference to the temple. In either case, the entire city was going to be filled (covered, overspread) with abominations.
Compare Isa. 8:7,8, which uses both the metaphors of a flood (Dan. 9:26) and of overshadowing “wings” (Dan. 9:27):
“Now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory; and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks. And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.” (Isa. 8:7,8)
“The Desolator”: The Desolator, as we have said, filled the city with abominations, desolations and war until the end, when God poured out His wrath on the Desolator in the destruction of the city and the sanctuary. History tells us that the Jewish reprobates in Jerusalem, from about A.D. 66 to 70, filled the temple and the city with abominations and desolations during their continual wars. Their beastly desecrations of the holy places and their slaughters of the people did not cease until “the end,” when Titus and his legions leveled the city, along with the reprobates, in September of A.D. 70.
Let us look for a moment at the wording of Dan. 9:26:
“…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…” (Dan. 9:26)
In this verse, the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” in A.D. 70 immediately followed the cutting off of the Messiah in A.D. 30. We should infer from this that the destruction of Jerusalem was the direct consequence of the cutting off of Messiah the Prince.
This means that the desolators who were destroyed in the city were themselves guilty of crucifying Christ. (See Rev. 1:7) Jesus confirmed this teaching in Matt. 21:37-45; 22:7. The chief priests and the Pharisees murdered (“cut off“) the Messiah, and because of that crime, God brought those murderers to a “wretched end” when He sent “His armies” and destroyed the City and the Sanctuary, in fulfillment of Daniel’s “seventy weeks.”
“The people of a coming prince”: Here are three ways of interpreting what this might mean:
1. The Roman armies of Caesar (Vespasian or Titus): If this is the meaning, then this reference to Caesar the “prince” is a parenthetical statement between two statements about Messiah the Prince. (This, incidentally, was John Calvin’s interpretation of “the people of the coming prince.”)
2. The Roman armies of Christ: The Romans could have been designated the people / armies of Messiah the Prince because they were sent by His decree and for His purpose. (Compare Matt. 22:7.)
3. The followers of Christ: Christians destroyed the city and the sanctuary through their faith, (Matt. 21:21; Mk. 11:23; Rev. 8:8) through their prayers (Lk. 18:7) and through their God-given judgment on the Last Day. (Zech. 14:5; I Thess. 4:14; Jude 1:14,15; Rev. 17:14; 18:20) Believers were the Lord’s invading army. (I Cor. 14:21-22) The “angels” (messengers) who poured out the wrath of God upon apostate Israel in the book of Revelation were Christians. (Compare Rev. 21:9 and 22:9; KJV, NASB) The term “coming Prince” may be a reference to Christ’s Second Coming after His having been “cut off.” (This third interpretation is the one I prefer.)
Some preterists have proposed that the Jews were “the people of the coming Prince,” because the Jews were Christ’s people, and it was the Jews themselves who destroyed Jerusalem. In my opinion, that interpretation conflicts with the history of the event. Though the reprobate Jews did bring Jerusalem to ruin and desolation, they did not “destroy the city and the sanctuary.” It was the hands of the Romans that brought upon the Jews that final stroke, against the will of the rebels within the city. (Lk. 19:43,44)
1. The destruction of the city and the sanctuary
2. The shutting up of the transgression
3. The sealing up of sin
4. The covering over of iniquity
5. The bringing in of everlasting righteousness
6. The sealing up of vision and prophet
7. The anointing of the Most Holy Place
These last six things were all in process of being fulfilled during the last “week,” the “week” of Messianic Covenant-confirmation. These blessings were not fulfilled for Daniel’s “people” and for his “holy city” before A.D. 70. Daniel’s “people” (i.e., “all Israel,” the elect, the living and the dead, including Daniel himself) were not freed from sin until the Parousia:
“And thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” (Rom. 11:26)
“Transgression” / “sin” was not “finished” for the “holy city,” until after the abominations came to an end in the city in A.D. 70. Only after Jerusalem was destroyed did God cleanse Jerusalem of all her sins and make her “new”:
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband . . . and nothing unclean and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev. 21:2,7)
The “wages” of sin is Death (condemnation and alienation with God). But when Death was destroyed in the Kingdom of God in A.D. 70, sin was “shut up” and forever “sealed.” Death no longer issues forth from the sins of God’s children, because the power of His Cross swept away the Ministry of Condemnation and Death (the Law) in A.D. 70, robbing sin of its power, and robbing Death of its sting. Through the work of the Son, Death is nullified and Sin is defeated. In the New Heavens and New Earth, the sins of all God’s holy ones, living and dead, are “covered over,” buried in the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19), forever forgotten, and hidden from the eyes of God:
“…The former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from mine eyes. For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isa. 65:16,17; cf. Deut. 32:43)
The Advent of the New Heavens and the New Earth in A.D. 70 also marked the consummation of the Advent of “eternal righteousness”:
“But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.” (II Peter 3:13; cf. Rom. 4:23,24; Gal. 5:5)
“For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.” (Gal. 5:5)
Also at that time (A.D. 70), “vision and prophet” were sealed up (brought to an end). This is parallel to I Cor. 13:8-10, where God said that when “that which is perfect” came, (i.e., the perfected Most Holy Place) then prophecy, tongues and knowledge (i.e., revelatory gifts) would be abolished. This happened when all things were fulfilled, when the sinful city and the hand-made sanctuary fell, and when the sinless City and the God-made Sanctuary came down from out of Heaven in A.D. 70. (Lk. 21:22; I Peter 4:7)
Finally, it was through the anointing of the Holy Spirit that the whole City of Jerusalem became “the Tabernacle of God,” when the worldly Holy Place fell in 70. (Heb. 9:1,8) Under the old covenant, every article of God’s tabernacle was consecrated by the anointing of oil. (Ex. 30:25-30; 40:9; Lev. 8:10,12) In the same way, in the Last Days, God taught His elect ones the truth of His Gospel through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, (II Cor. 1:21,22; I Jn. 2:20,27) until all of them had come to know Him. (Jn. 6:39) Then came “the end,” (Dan. 9:26) when the whole Body of God’s holy ones, the living and the dead, was raised up to become His anointed (Spirit-taught) “Most Holy Place” in the New-Covenant world. (Jn. 6:44,45; Eph. 2:21,22; Heb. 8:11-13; Rev. 21:3)
One final thought: To the prophet Daniel, the prophecy of the “seventy weeks” might have sounded contradictory. Gabriel first told him (in verse 24) that at the end of “seventy weeks,” the transgression would be finished, an end would be made of sins, atonement would be made for iniquity, everlasting righteousness would be brought in and the Most Holy Place would be anointed. It is safe to say that Daniel rejoiced when he heard these promises.
But then when Gabriel came to the end of the prophecy, he said that the Messiah would be killed and that the city and the sanctuary would be destroyed. Gabriel offered no further explanation.
How could the devastating ending of the “weeks” in verses 26 and 27 be compatible with the joyful ending of the “weeks” in verse 24? How could the “seventy weeks” be consummated in both the destruction of the temple (Dan. 9:26) and in the anointing of the temple? (Dan. 9:24) Or how could the resurrection of the dead and glorification of the saints be fulfilled when the power of the holy people is shattered? (Dan. 12:1-3,7)
This paradox is the heart of the preterist interpretation of Bible prophecy. It is what the futurists and the “Jews” have missed for centuries upon centuries: The destruction of (earthly) Jerusalem meant the advent of (heavenly) Jerusalem, and the destruction of the (earthly) Most Holy Place meant the consummated anointing of the (heavenly) Most Holy Place. The (spiritual) sons of the kingdom inherited the kingdom when the (fleshly, unbelieving) sons of the kingdom were cast out of the kingdom. (Matt. 8:12; 13:38,43) This is the preterist key that unlocks the meaning of the “seventy weeks.”
Before I answer that question, let me first answer another question:
When did the “seventy weeks” end?
Perhaps the most common view among preteristic interpreters is that the “seventy weeks” ended around A.D. 35, or so. Many say at the martyrdom of Stephen. Here are four reasons why I disagree with that view and hold to an A.D.-70 consummation of the “seventy weeks“:
1. If the “seventy weeks” were fulfilled in about A.D. 35, then the Parousia and the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” are reduced to a supplemental appendix or an addendum to Gabriel’s prophecy of the “seventy weeks.” The Parousia becomes a subordinate episode in the prophecy, an event that took place some 35 years after the time that was determined for Israel and the Holy City. It seems to me that to relegate the Parousia to such secondary status is strangely out of step with the spirit of the prophets.
2. Gabriel’s prophecy begins with this statement: “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city…” (Dan. 9:24) Then the prophecy ends with the destruction of the holy city. It is reasonable to infer from the words of the prophecy that the shattering of the power of Daniel’s “people” (Dan. 9:24; 12:7) and the complete destruction of Daniel’s “holy city,” (Dan. 9:24,25,26) were both included in the things that were “determined” for Daniel’s “people” and for his “holy city.”
3. In the previous Q&A, we saw that the six blessings of Dan. 9:24, which all took place in the end of the “seventy weeks,” were consummated in A.D. 70, in the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary.”
4. If the destruction of Jerusalem falls outside of the seventy weeks, then we are forced to “hopscotch” through verses 26 and 27. The first part of verse 26 is within the “seventy weeks,” but then the second part of verse 26 is some 35 years after the fulfillment of the “seventy weeks.” And then the first part of verse 27 is within the “seventy weeks,” and then the second part of verse 27 is some 35 years after the “seventy weeks.”
Now to answer your question: Doesn’t “seventy weeks” mean “seventy weeks of years,” that is, 490 years?
Because the “seventy weeks” were consummated in Christ’s Parousia in A.D. 70, they could not have been speaking of a literal 490 years, for two reasons:
1. There were more than 3 ½ years (or even 7 years) between the cutting off of the Messiah and the destruction of the city and the sanctuary. That makes the last week at least 40 years long.
(Some preterists have proposed a “gap” in or before the last “week,” between the cutting off of the Messiah and the Jewish Wars that led to the destruction of Jerusalem. This was Max King’s position in his 1971 book The Spirit of Prophecy. In my opinion, that “solution” is an attempt to force fit the “weeks” into the mold of a literal 490 years.)
2. Because the “seventy weeks” were consummated in the Parousia, the “seventy weeks” could not have been a literal chronology. If they were, it would have become possible to calculate the years to the Parousia. Since no man could know the times or the seasons or the day or the hour, not even the Son of Man, (Matt. 24:36; Acts 1:7) the “seventy weeks” had to have been meant symbolically.
The “seventy weeks” were seventy undefined periods of time that were to be consummated in the fulfillment of all “vision and prophecy.” In using the symbolic word “weeks,” the angel Gabriel was being intentionally indefinite as to the time that would reach unto the Parousia. “Seventy weeks” (or “seventy sevens”) is no more literal than “seventy times seven” in Matt. 18:22. It signified the “completion” or “fullness” of redemption that would come at the Parousia, at the destruction of the earthly city and sanctuary.