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The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9 Part One

• Daniel Baker

Posted in Bible, Book of Revelation, Eschatology, Old Testament, Theology

If you've read much of anything connected to the end times, you've likely heard about "the great tribulation." Or maybe you've even heard about Daniel's 70 weeks. These issues are connected to our view of the end times or eschatology, "the study of the last things." All of this can be endlessly fascinating but also wildly speculative. Arriving at solid conclusions from the biblical text can be difficult at times, impossible at others. Here we want to examine one piece of this complex puzzle, Daniel 9:24-27.

It is in Daniel 9:24-27 that some people see a "great tribulation." Christians who interpret the passage in this way generally identify themselves as Dispensational Premillennial, a view recently made famous by the Left Behind series of novels (and videos and a ton of other materials). These Christians believe in seven dispensations from creation to the new creation and that Jesus will return before a literal thousand-year reign on earth before his final return to being the new heavens and new earth (yes, he returns quite often with this view).

Their interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 is that we are given a literal, chronological calendar of God's redemption from the rebuilding of Jerusalem until the binding of Satan at the start of the millennium. They would argue that the weeks begin with the decree of Artaxerxes in 483 B.C. and extend until the triumphal entry of Jesus in A.D. 30.[1] But then it gets interesting because they claim that the 70th week is the final 7-year great tribulation. Their solution is to insert a gap between the 69th week and the 70th week that has now extended almost two-thousand years. Once this last week begins we'll have the tribulation and the arrival of some "prince" who will bring world peace, desecrate the temple in Jerusalem, and then finally be destroyed. After this 70th week the millennium will begin with Satan having finally been bound.

The question, though, is whether Daniel 9:24-27 supports such a view. I don't think it does. In this post I'll give you an approach that I think does more justice to the actual words of Daniel. In what I say I'm very influenced by Kim Riddlebarger, E.J. Young, Meredith Kline, and Sam Storms.[2] I could add that I've also been influenced by the apostle John and his Revelation. That work gives us much insight into Daniel 9. We'll approach the passage verse-by-verse and see if we can unpack its message.

Seventy Weeks the Super-Jubilee

"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 passage opens with a mention of "seventy weeks" (literally "seventy sevens") and the rest of the passage will explain the different segments of these "seventy weeks." "Week" is taken by virtually all commentators as "a week of years" or "seven years." So, we have 70 periods of 7 years meant. But why is the timeline of history given in this precise manner? Is it coincidentally because this is the literal number of years for the fulfillment? I don't think so. A much better approach is to read this text in light of other texts, a critical practice when it comes to interpreting unusual or difficult passages.

Meredith Kline[3] points out that 70x7 is the same as 10x49. Okay, so now we're back in algebra class? Not exactly. "Seven" in the Bible calls to mind the opening days of Creation and this preeminent Sabbath cycle. For Israel much of their life revolved around this repeating pattern of seven days. But it doesn't stop with their week. In fact, the land itself was to preserve a Sabbath cycle of 7 years. They were to farm their land for six years and then give the land a Sabbath in the seventh year (Lev. 25:1-7). Obviously, the 70 "sevens" of Daniel have some similarity to this.

But what Kline developed further was seeing that the year of Jubilee has a connection here. The year of Jubilee was the year after 7 cycles of 7 years (Lev. 25:8-13) or 49 years. This year of Jubilee was a kind of super-celebration of God's provision and a time when all would return to their own lands free of all debts and live in the abundance of the Lord.

This should strike us immediately because Daniel speaks of 70 cycles of 7 years, which is 10 cycles of the Jubilee time period. So, the year after this 10-fold Jubilee cycle would be a kind of super-Jubilee that would bring all the blessings of God to the people of God in a super-abundant manner. Kline says this is the Messianic age. This is when we finally experience the eternal bliss wrapped up in the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21-22) where the antichrist is forever destroyed and the redemption of Christ is consummated. So, Daniel's 70 weeks, then, start where Daniel is and extend until the Messianic age.

Numbers in the Bible

Dealing with the numbers of the Bible in this way might be new to you, but a safe approach is to say that the more references you have to a particular number being used in a particular way the stronger your conclusions can be about that number. Thus, a single reference to a single number has to be treated with much more hesitancy. This is why I feel that "666" (Rev. 13:18) is a number to interpret with a very open hand. It is used only here and about the only Biblical connection we can make is that man was created on the 6th day of Creation, so maybe it is 6 in triplicate like "holy, holy, holy" is tripled for emphasis. That's an important connection, but it's the only one we have. The number 7 is in a very different class because it is found so abundantly throughout the Bible. It seems to tie strongly to the perfection and wholeness of the seven days of Creation, and then it appears in the weekly and annual cycles of the Israelites. In Daniel's 70 weeks we are tapping into this extensive textual material.

Seventy Weeks to Accomplish Our Redemption

Daniel 9:24 also describes the purpose of these ten Jubilee cycles, which is nothing short of the entire salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ. Firstly there is the list as it relates to our sin: "to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity." Christ's shed blood brought our atonement, redemption, propitiation, and justification (Rom. 3:21-25). Further, through his cross we also died to sin forever (Rom. 6:1-5). This destruction of sin and its judgment and power won't be fully complete in its effects until the new heavens and new earth, but we have entered into Christ's redemption already.

Then Daniel prophesies of three more effects of Christ's redemption: "to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy place." "Everlasting righteousness" speaks to our glorification, and sealing "vision and prophet" has to do with God bringing all things to their end. Anointing "the holy place" speaks to God's anointing of the "most holy one" who is Jesus or maybe even the new Jerusalem, because "its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb" (Rev. 21:22).

So, putting verse 24 together, then, we learn that in this 70-week expanse of time God will fully accomplish the redemption of his people. The age to come or God's super-Jubilee (the tenfold Jubilee) will begin immediately afterwards. This is the first point to grasp. In our next post we'll look at the rest of the passage.


[1] The MacArthur Study Bible (2006) lays out such a timeline.

[2] Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism (2013); E.J. Young, Daniel (Reformed Expository Commentary, 1972); Meredith Kline, "The Covenant of the Seventieth Week," available at,%20Meredith%20-%20The%20Covenant%20of%20the%20Seventieth%20W.pdf. Originally published in The Law and the Prophets (Nutley, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1974); Sam Storms, Kingdom Come (2013). See also Joyce Baldwin, Daniel (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, 1978).

[3] "The Covenant of the Seventieth Week."

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