This text may be one of the most disputed passages of Scripture. Is the “seventy weeks” a literal time period? Is it symbolic only? Are the events of the passage specifically designed for the nation of Israel or not? Since the seventy weeks are split into three periods, do they immediately follow one another? Or is there a separation?
In order to accurately interpret its meaning, we must answer some key questions. As we go through each of the following questions, please see the corresponding chart.
What Should We Make of the Word “weeks”?
Hebrew scholars tell us the word weeks is “shabuim” which literally means “sevens.” So, we have seventy sevens. Sevens of what? It could be seven days, seven weeks, or seven years. We don’t know, and the context doesn’t tell us.
If we translate “sevens” as days or weeks, the timing is probably not long enough for all of the events to occur.
If it is seventy sevens of years, that would be 70×7 = 490 years. That is a reasonable amount of time for the events to occur.
But when we say 490 years, it is not according to a 365¼ day solar year. In Scripture, one year is 360 days. We know this because there is a time frame “time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:24-25, Daniel 12:7; Revelation 12:14) indicating 3½ years. This same time frame is said to be 1,260 days (Revelation 11:1-3, Revelation 12:6). Thus, 1,260 days divided by 3½ years equals 360 days. So the actual days of the “seventy weeks” are: 70 x (7×360) = 176,400 days.
What Events Occur in the 70 Weeks?
According to verse 24, there are 6 things that occur during the seventy weeks.
- Finish (restrain) the transgression.
- Make an end (seal-up) sins.
- Cover (atone) for iniquity.
- Bring in everlasting righteousness.
- Seal up vision (revelation) and prophecy.
- Anoint a holy of holies.
Points 1-3 are things to be “rid of,” and they were accomplished by Christ. It is clear that point 3 – cover (atone) for iniquity – has been once for all accomplished in the work of Jesus Christ. He gave Himself at Calvary as a ransom for sin. His resurrection is the proof of the complete sufficiency and finality of His work on the cross! Because of this one great work, the first four points have been fulfilled in principle with His first coming. Points 5-6 will be fulfilled at His second coming. (For further study: See A Commentary on Daniel by Leon Wood)
The timeframe of these events are broken down into three sections (vs. 25, 27): 7 weeks + 62 weeks + 1 week. (Scholars believe that the city and walls of Jerusalem were completed after the “7 weeks” – 49 years – which may explain why Daniel divides the time into “7 weeks + 62 weeks.”) In order to understand these divisions, we should look at a couple of prophecies.
There was a specific prophecy that started the first 7 weeks and one that ended the 62 weeks. But the text clearly separates the 7 weeks and 62 weeks from the last week. So we should look at the first two sections – 69 weeks – together.
When Did the 69 Weeks Begin and End?
The 69 weeks started with the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem in Daniel 9:25. This decree came to pass and is recorded for us in Nehemiah 2:1-8.
In the Jewish calendar, this decree was issued Nissan 1, 444 B.C. which corresponds to our date: March 5, 444 B.C. If you then add 69 weeks (which is 69x(7×360)=173,880 days), you come to Nisan 10, 33 A.D. which corresponds to our date: March 30, 33 A.D.
So, the 69 weeks started March 5, 444 B.C. and ended March 30, 33 A.D.
And what happens on the final day of the 69 weeks? It says “until Messiah the Prince.” March 30, 33 A.D. would have been the day that Jesus was presented to His people as the Messiah as He rode into Jerusalem!!! (See Zechariah 9:9 & Matthew 21:1-10)
For further information on these start/end dates and the calculations please visit An Examination of the Chronological Difficulties of Dr. Harold Hoehner’s & Dr. Thomas Ice’s work By Bob Pickle.
What Happens in Between the 69th Week and the 70th Week? (vs 26)
We are left with an interlude between the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week. It began with the Messiah being “cut off” and having nothing (literally “no one”). As the Lamb of God, Jesus’ death was a once for all sacrificial death for sin. That was followed by the “people of the prince who is to come” (Antichrist) ransacking Jerusalem & destroying the temple (70 A.D. General Titus and the Roman armies). Now that interlude has been almost 2,000 years, and we are still waiting for the 70th week to begin.
What Will Happen During the 70th week (vs 27)?
The final seven year period (7 x 360 days=2,520 days), known as the tribulation, will be composed of a few specific items:
- At its inception, the Antichrist makes a covenant with the many. (Daniel 9:27)
- In the middle, the Antichrist puts an end to sacrifice and grain offering and the abomination of desolation occurs (see also Matthew 24:15)
- At the end, the Antichrist comes to his end at the Second Coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Revelation 19:11-19)
In conclusion, the seventy weeks of Daniel is a specified period of time that God has ordained for His people, in order to bring to pass His promises surrounding the Messiah’s first and second comings. The first coming of the Messiah and His death/atonement for sin was fulfilled according to God’s promise. Because God is faithful to His Word, we can count upon all the other promises in Daniel 9 coming to pass at the end of the 70th week when Christ returns. We can also count on the 70th week occurring as God says it will for the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:24). But the events will affect the whole church because they will see that God keeps His promises. Thus, all of God’s saints should look forward with anticipation to Christ’s Second Coming. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.
For More on the Book of Revelation & End Times
Five Reasons Why Revelation is Hard to Understand
When was the Book of Revelation Written?
The Beast from the Sea Part 1 – Seven Heads
The Beast from the Sea Part 2 – Ten Horns
End Time Events: A Brief Overview
War on Israel – Ezekiel 38
The Church’s New Agenda
Will Christians Know Who the Antichrist Will Be?