Notes on the vision of seventy weeks given to Daniel.
Scripture: Daniel 9:20-27
You can listen to the audio of this Bible study here. (62 minutes)
Before even beginning to consider the instruction that Daniel is given in these verses we need to remember their connection to what has gone before.
In Chap 7 Daniel had been given instruction on the little horn that would rise in the period climaxing in the end, the pouring out of Divine wrath and the coming of the Saviour having been invested with His earthly kingdom by the Ancient of Days.
Two years later, in chapter eight, he is again instructed in this little horn as far as its political origins are concerned and given further information as to his relation to Israel—the rebuilt Temple and its recommenced sacrifices (a sign of the end). The same timeframe is in view in both instances although looked at from a different perspective. Although some explanation is given 8:15-27 some matters, particularly related to the chronology, remain unclear, 8:27.
It is these remaining obscurities that Gabriel now comes to remove as he gives Daniel to understand the prophetic timeline that exists in the purpose of God for Israel and Jerusalem. This of course is a matter that has been much upon his mind of late as he has prayed over Jer 29:10-14. Although 14 years have passed there is still a desire in his heart to understand these matters and now at last the answer comes.
I HE OBTAINED THE NECESSARY SKILL IN UNDERSTANDING AS HE SPENT TIME IN PRAYER.
1. A knowledge of the course of this age is only obtained from God. None but God can communicate to man such knowledge, because none but He knows. Cp Is 46:9-10
2. The role of penitent prayer in gaining that wisdom and skill.
a) This knowledge is obtained in answer to prayer. Cp v22-23.
b) Sin is a hindrance to such understanding. Sin has an effect upon our ability to discern the truths that God has revealed. His confession was an instance of obedience t revealed truth, Jer 29:12-14.
3. The work of the Heavenly messenger, commissioned by Christ, v21-22. Gabriel acts here as God’s messenger. Gabriel = ‘mighty one of God’. His coming is a display of God’s mighty power! The knowledge that the saint needs is communicated by the Holy Ghost, John 16:13-24.
II THE SEVENTY WEEKS GIVE A TIME LINE OF GOD’S PURPOSE CONCERNING ISRAEL.
1. The nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem are very clearly in view, v24. The same nation and the same city as are in view in Jer 29:10-14! Jerusalem X6 (v2, 7, 12, 16, 25); indirect refs X4 (v17, 18, 19, 20). God is not done with Israel! The rigid focus on Jerusalem in the first part of the chapter sets the scene for v20-27.
2. The time line stretches from Daniel’s time right to the end. The end of the seventieth week (v24, 27) corresponds to the end in view 8:11-14, 17, 19, 23, 7:10-11, 26—the destruction of the Antichrist as the desolator of the Temple. Six specific matters, v24, are referred to relating to Israel which indicates the end of Divine displeasure against the nation; to fulfil all prophecy; and to cleanse and anoint the Holy of holies.
3. The seventy week time line deals with precisely defined periods of time. Week = simply, a group of seven, a heptad – not necessarily of ‘days’ as we automatically think. The unit in view here is years—n.b. that a period of seventy years was already in Daniel’s mind! The Hebrews used seven almost as we use the base ten (decade). Cp Gen 29:27, Deut 15:1. They were accustomed to think in terms of sabbatical years. These seventy weeks represent a period of 490 years.
a) A beginning, v25. This is not the decree of Cyrus, Ezra 1:1 which marked the end of the 70 years of captivity. It is rather the decree of Artaxerxes, Neh 2:1—approx 80 yrs after the first return from exile. This occurred in 454 BC.
b) Several key points, v25-26. The purpose of this is to emphasize that this is real time/history measured by standard time measurements.
i. The rebuilding of the wall and the reconstruction of the city, v25. A period of 49 years is in view here.
ii. The death of Christ as Messiah the prince. The end of the sixty ninth week reaches to the death of the Saviour. In the last week of His life He was heralded as the King of Israel and was crucified as such (Matt 21:4-5, 27:37). The year was AD 29, the month Nisan—483 years, 69 ‘weeks’ after Neh 2:1.
c) A break. If the seventy weeks reach to the end and yet 483 of the 490 years had already gone when Christ died there must be a gap in the timeline—it has been suspended, the prophetic clock stopped ticking. This timeline specifically relates to Israel and Jerusalem, which in the purpose of God have been set aside for a time as the Gentiles are gathered in. The ‘prophetic clock’ will start again in the final seven years of time as once more God begins to deal with Israel and Jerusalem, to climax His purpose of redemption in that nation.
i. A precedent, I Kings 6:1. Two dates here—a calendar date and a symbolic one following the pattern of the seventy weeks. Cp Acts 13:20 [450 yrs Judges], 21 [40 yrs Saul], I Kings 2:11 [40 years, David], 40 yrs Egypt to Canaan = 570 years (not including the ministry of Joshua). The book of Judges records 111 years spent by Israel in various captivities to their enemies. Allowing for 3 years of Solomon’s reign at this point, v1 and for Joshua’s ministry you can arrive at 480 yrs—the emphasis of this symbolic date is on the time that they walked with God! Essentially there are 111 years ‘dropped’ from the calendar! [570-111-3=456 + Joshua = 480. The necessary 24 years for Joshua’s ministry seems a reasonable figure.
ii. Other examples. Cp Is 61:2 (Luke 4:20: He closed the book at a critical point in the text because there is a ‘delay’ in the Divine purpose); I Cor 15:23-24: two ‘delays/gaps’ are in view here. 2000+ years between Christ’s resurrection and His people’s rising again; 1000 years between Christ’s return and the end as He must reign (v25).
d) The character of the interval. Wars and desolation are the character of the intervening time, Matt 24:6-7.
4. The seventieth week will be marked by the activity of the Antichrist, v26-27. He is the Prince that shall come—n.b. the link with the Roman destroyers of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, v26. Read the words carefully: it is the people (Romans) of the future prince (Antichrist) that will destroy the Temple.
a) He makes a covenant with many in Israel, v27.
b) He breaks that covenant. At the 3 1/2 year point he discontinues the Temple worship and sets up the abomination of desolation (8:11-13) that will bring down the wrath of God upon him and the earth at the return of Christ. This is the final 3 1/2 years of the age, a period of tribulation, 7:21, 25.
c) His end, v26. His end will be with a flood/overflowing. Cp Is 10:22, 28:18. The consummation is the wrath of God poured out on the desolator.
III THIS TIME LINE SETS OUT THE DETERMINATE COUNSEL OF GOD.
Cp v24, 27, Acts 2:23, Mark 13:32. God works out His purposes, Eph 1:11.
1. God has determined the course of earth’s history—what will be done and when.
2. This is His determination concerning Israel. Nothing can stop His plan for that people!
3. It is a determination to consummate judgment and wrath on Antichristianity, v27.