I wrote this paper while a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. The slant is definitely dispensational. I have not done much editing. Many would disagree about the things which I state as being "obvious."
For a good exposition from a non-dispensational point of view, I recommend the volume on Daniel in the Barnes' Notes series. In keeping with the theme of this website, Comparative Orthodox Protestant Theology, I intend to write a paper on this subject giving non-dispensational views in more detail. Exactly WHEN I'll get around to that, I cannot say.
NOTE: The footnotes are at the bottom of this document. One of these days, I'm going to figure out something better to do with them.
Daniel's prophecy of seventy weeks, recorded in Daniel 9:24-27, provides us with one of the most inclusive summaries of prophetic events to be found in the Scriptures. The purpose of this paper is to exposite these four verses as they relate to the prophetic program of Israel. This exposition will be given from a premillennial, dispensational viewpoint. It is not the intent of the author to refute other viewpoints. Therefore, while other views may at times be stated, this paper will not deal in depth with these views.
This vision took place in the first year of Darius the Mede (9:1) which, according to Scofield,1 was approximately 539 B.C. Daniel was in Babylon, having been taken there as a captive from the land of Judah when he was a youth. Daniel had been reading the prophecy of Jeremiah which said that God "would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem" (Dan. 9:2, see Jer. 25:11). The time was now drawing near when these seventy years would have elapsed, and with this in mind Daniel is encouraged to pray, with much con- fession, that God would restore His people to their land.
As Daniel continued his prayer, the angel Gabriel appeared and touched him "about the time of the evening oblation"(v.21). Gabriel told Daniel, "I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications, the commandment came forth, and I am come to show thee; for thou art greatly beloved. Therefore, understand the matter, and consider the vision" (v.23). Apparently while Daniel was praying he was thinking not only of Israel's restoration in the near future, but he was wondering also about their entire destiny. God therefore sent Gabriel to reveal Israel's prophetic program to him.
Verse 24 introduces this prophecy, stating, first of all, the duration of the time period covered. It is to last "seventy weeks" or, literally, "seventy sevens." Just what is meant by this expression has been the subject of much controversy. Most commentators agree that actual weeks are not intended here, since, as Young puts it, "The brief period of 490 days would not serve to meet the needs of the prophecy, upon any view."2 Some amillenarians believe that the weeks refer to indefinite periods of time. But it seems best to understand the "seventy weeks" as referring to seventy "weeks of years," i.e., seventy periods of seven years each, or 490 years. This is the only interpretation which gives any literal meaning to the prophecy and, as we shall see, it fits very well into the passage.
That this prophecy applies to Israel is obvious by the reference to "thy people" (i.e., Daniel's people, the Jews) and "thy holy city" (Jerusalem).
Six things are to be accomplished during these "seventy weeks," according to verse 24. These things are; (1) finishing the transgression, (2) making an end of sins, (3) making reconciliation for iniquity, (4) bringing in everlasting righteousness, (5) sealing up the vision and prophecy, and (6) anointing the most Holy. An indepth discussion of each of these six things is beyond the scope of this paper. Let it suffice to say that (1) and (2) refer to the fact that sin will somehow be dealt with, (3) probably refers to Christ's work on the cross, (4) probably refers to Christ's second coming, (5) refers to the fact that the prophecy about to be given will be consummated within the "seventy weeks," and (6) refers either to the anointing of Jesus Christ as King at His second coming, or perhaps to the anointing of the holy of holies in the millennial temple.
Verse 25 describes some of the events of the first sixty nine weeks of years. We see, first of all, the event which marks the beginning of the seventy weeks of years. This event is "the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem." There has been no small amount of controversy concerning the date on which this decree was made. Calvin states that this was "the first decree of Cyrus, which permitted the people freely to return to their country."3 But a look at 2 Chronicles 36:22Ä23 and Ezra l:1-4 reveals that Cyrus' decree did not mention the city, but only the temple. Furthermore, if the sixty nine weeks were to begin at this time (538 B.C.), they would end in the middle of the first century B.C. Since there were no significant events at this time to mark the close of the sixty nine weeks, these verses must be interpreted non-literally if the first decree of Cyrus in 538 B.C. is accepted.
According to most scholars, whether liberal or conservative, the most likely date for this decree would be 445 B.C., or the twentieth year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, when Artaxerxes commissioned Nehemiah to start rebuilding the city. The sixty nine weeks would then end in the first half of the first century A.D., when Jesus Christ was carrying out His ministry, which makes this view very attractive.4
That which marks the close of these sixty nine weeks is "the Messiah the Prince." But note that this time period is expressed in two parts: "From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks." A good explanation for this two part expression is that it took seven weeks, or forty nine years, to complete the reconstruction of Jerusalem. This explanation receives support from the last portion of the verse which states that "the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times." Nehemiah's description of the condition of the city in 2:12-16 suggests that the streets were covered with debris and therefore needed to be cleared and rebuilt. It is also revealed in that book that the work was carried out in "troublous times."5,6
Verse 26 describes two events that occur after the close of the first sixty nine weeks. The first of these is that the Messiah will be cut off. This is obviously a reference to the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we add the sixty nine weeks of years, or 483 years, to 445 B.C., assuming, as did the Jews, 360 days per year, are brought to approximately 30 A.D., or roughly the time of Jesus Christ's ministry. And now we see that after these sixty nine weeks, He is to be cut off. And He was!
The next phrase, "but not for Himself," would be best rendered as Kelly7 has suggested, "and shall have nothing" or, as Walvoord has suggested, "there is nothing for Him," which gives the same sense. Walvoord has suggested that this is a reference to the fact that "nothing that rightly belonged to Him as Messiah the Prince was given to Him at that time."8
The second great event which is mentioned is that "the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." This is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Looking forward to verse 27, it is obvious that the prince alluded to in verse 26 is the beast of Revelation 13 and the "little horn" of Daniel 7:8. This "little horn" comes up out of the fourth beast of Daniel 7, which can be easily demonstrated as a symbol of the Roman Empire. This "prince that shall come," then, is a Roman, and "the people of the prince that shall come" mentioned in verse 26 are therefore the Romans. It was the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
A comparison of this verse with Matthew 24 and Revelation 13 makes it obvious (There's that word again! - CAS) that this verse, which describes the seventieth week of years, refers to the tribulation. The entire church age is inserted between the sixty ninth and seventieth weeks. The intercalation of the church age is not expressly revealed in Daniel or, for that matter, in any of the Old Testament prophets. It was not revealed until after the rejection of Christ when in Matthew 13 Christ reveals its characteristics in parabolic form, and even then it was not comprehended by His disciples, as is obvious from Acts 1:6.
The first thing we read in this verse is that "he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week." The beast will make some sort of covenant with the unbelieving Jews of Israel. This covenant is to be in effect for "one week," or seven years. These are the seven years of the tribulation, or the seventieth week.
In the "midst of the week," halfway through the tribulation, the beast will "cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease." Apparently the Jews by this time will have built a temple and will be worshipping according to that which is set forth in the Mosaic covenant. But the beast will put a stop to this after three and a half years.
The next clause is better translated, "upon the wing of abominations he shall make it desolate." This construction is hard to understand, but one thing that is certain is that it has reference to the beast's desecration of the temple. Christ spoke of the setting up of the "abomination of desolation" in the holy place of the temple as marking the beginning of the "great tribulation." We are given more information regarding this abomination in Revelation 13:14-15, which tells us that the beast will have an image of himself set up in the temple. This will happen "in the midst of the week" and, as just mentioned, will mark the beginning of the "great tribulation," or the last three and a half years of the seventieth week. These last three and a half years are the "time and times and the dividing of time" during which the "little horn" shall "wear out the saints" (Dan. 7:25).
This desolation will continue until "the consummation," which is the second coming of Christ. At that time the beast, according to Revelation 19, will be cast into the lake of fire.
The prophecy of the seventy weeks covers from Nehemiah's commission to rebuild Jerusalem to the time of Christ's return. These four verses provide for us a terriffic overview of Israel's prophetic program which gives us a better understanding of where the more detailed prophecies of Scripture fit into the overall picture.
1Scofield, C.I., Ed. The New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 911.
2Young, Edward J. The Prophecy of Daniel, p. 196, according to Walvoord, p. 218.
3Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Prophet Daniel, Vol. II, p. 219.
4Walvoord, John F. Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come, pp. 225-227.
5Ibid., pp. 227-228.
6Ke1ly, William. Lectures on the Book of Daniel, pp. 159-160.
7Ibid, p. 160.
8Walvoord, p. 230.
Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Prophet Daniel, Vol. II. Edinburgh, Calvin Translation Society. 1853.
Culver, Robert D. Daniel in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Ed. by Pfeiffer and Harrison. Chicago, Moody Press, 1962.
Farrar, F. W. The Book of Daniel, The Expositor's Bible. Ed. W. R. Nicoll. New York, Hodder and Stoughton, n.d.
Kelly, William. Lectures on the Book of Daniel. London, G. Morrish, 1881.
Scofield, C. I., Ed. The New Scofield Reference Bible. New Edition Ed. English, et. al. New York, Oxford University Press, 1967.
Walvoord, John F. Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation. Chicago, Moody Press, 1971.
Walvoord, John F. Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come. Chicago, Moody Press, 1974.