Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy

Prophecies have played major roles in several of my favorite books and movies. Often these prophecies tell of a chosen one who will come to save the day. Some of my favorite stories involving prophecies like these are Willow, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. I especially have enjoyed watching YouTube videos on and reading about the Chosen One Prophecy in Star Wars. There are various theories, but it is generally thought that Anakin Skywalker was the one the prophecy foretold who would bring balance to the force. The Bible includes many prophecies about God’s “Chosen One,” Jesus Christ, but there is a prophecy in Daniel 9 that gives the year that the Messiah will appear. For some reason, most people I encounter have never heard of this prophecy, which is a shame because it is so interesting and accurate.

In this blog post, I am going to discuss this prophecy from Daniel 9 known as “Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy.” First, after showing the verses containing the prophecy, I will briefly explain what the prophecy is thought to mean. After this, I will need to explain two main aspects of the prophecy involving its timeline and when the timeline is thought to have begun. Finally, I will discuss some evidence showing that there are extant manuscripts of Daniel 9 that predate the prophecy.

Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy

Daniel the prophet was living in Babylon in exile when he wrote the book of Daniel.1 He was taken to Babylon after King Nebuchadnezzar deported most of the remaining Israelites around 605 B.C. Daniel 9 is traditionally said to have been written around 535–530 B.C. After reading the prophet Jeremiah’s writings (Jer. 25:11–12), Daniel realizes that the exile should be coming to an end, so he prays to God to forgive Israel for its sins and to bring the Israelites back into the Promised Land.

In response, God sends the angel Gabriel to provide Daniel with an answer concerning his prayer:

24  “Seventy weeks are decreed
about your people and your holy city—
to bring the rebellion to an end,
to put a stop to sin,
to atone for iniquity,
to bring in everlasting righteousness,
to seal up vision and prophecy,
and to anoint the most holy place.
25  Know and understand this:
From the issuing of the decree
to restore and rebuild Jerusalem
until an Anointed One, the ruler,
will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.
It will be rebuilt with a plaza and a moat,
but in difficult times.
26  After those sixty-two weeks
the Anointed One will be cut off
and will have nothing.
The people of the coming ruler
will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
The end will come with a flood,
and until the end there will be war;
desolations are decreed.
27  He will make a firm covenant
with many for one week,
but in the middle of the week
he will put a stop to sacrifice and offering.
And the abomination of desolation
will be on a wing of the temple
until the decreed destruction
is poured out on the desolator” (Dan. 9:24–27).2

There are many aspects of this prophecy that need explaining, but in this post, I am mainly going to focus on the first two verses of this passage.

In what follows, I will explain exactly what the first half of the prophecy entails, but for now, notice that this prophecy is saying after a specific amount of time, an anointed ruler will appear to anoint the holy place and put a stop to and atone for sin. Somewhere in the middle of the timeline, however, the ruler will be cut off. It is thought that this prophecy is foretelling the first coming and death of Jesus Christ in the year 33 A.D. To understand all of this, it is necessary to discuss what this passage means by “Anointed One” and “weeks” and when the timeline began in history.

The Anointed One

First, it is believed that the prophecy is telling of the coming of the Messiah. The Hebrew word in verse 25, mashiyach, is most telling. This word is translated as “Anointed One” in many translations, such as the Christian Standard Bible, New International Version, and the English Standard Version. But it is also translated as “Messiah” in others, such as the New American Standard Bible and the New King James Version. The previous passage, verse 24, shows why the term “Messiah” is best here.

The term mashiyach is used in the Old Testament for priests (Lev. 4:3, 5), kings of Israel (see 1 Sam. 2:10, 12:1–3; 2 Sam. 22:51; and Lam. 4:20), and a future Messiah from David’s line (Pss. 2:2; 132:17–18).3 But it seems that the future Messiah is in view in verse 25 because verse 24 indicates that the arrival of the “Anointed One” will “put a stop to sin,” “atone for iniquity,” “bring in everlasting righteousness,” and “seal up vision and prophecy.” Since normal kings and priests are unlikely candidates for such accomplishments, it is most likely that mashiyach here is referring to the descendant of David foretold to have a kingdom established by God (1 Chron. 17:11) and thought to be the ruler who would remove the curses (see Pss. 72:8, 11-12, 17).

Length of the Weeks

Second, it is believed that the “weeks” mentioned in the prophecy are seven-year periods. The Hebrew word shabuwa` (literally translated as “sevens”) is used to refer to a week of seven days (see Gen. 29:27) and a “week” of seven years (see Lev. 25:8). It is thought that shabuwa` here is referring to a period of seven years because of the context of the passage.4 Earlier in the chapter, Daniel mentioned that Jeremiah’s prophecy included a period of “seventy” years (Dan. 9:2), and since nothing else in the chapter indicates days, it is assumed that years are being referred to in verses 24–27.

While the 69 weeks mentioned in verse 25 would seem to indicate a period of 483 years (7 * 69 = 483), it is thought that the prophesied period is actually a period closer to 476 years. This is because it is known that prophetic years in the Bible are only 360-days long.5 For example, Rev. 2:11 includes a prophecy that the holy city will be trampled for forty-two months (3.5 years). In the next verse (Rev. 2:12), this same period is described as 1,260 days (1,260 / 360 = 3.5). So, this means that the Messiah is being prophesied to arrive about 476 years (173,880 days) after the “issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.”

Beginning of the Decree

Third, the seventy weeks are believed to have begun in 444 B.C. As mentioned, the prophecy said the Messiah would arrive after the “issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” There are several dates that include decrees regarding the rebuilding of Jerusalem, including 583 B.C., 520 B.C., 457 B.C., and 444 B.C. Each of these dates involves various rulers (e.g., King Cyrus, King Darius, and King Artaxerxes) making decrees involving the rebuilding of Jerusalem and its wall to varying degrees (see Ezra 1:1–4, 5:1–6:15, and 7:13–26). However, the date of 444 B.C., when King Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem (see Neh. 2:1–6), is the preferred date because it is the only decree that includes a command to rebuild both the city of Jerusalem and its wall.6

Fulfillment of the Prophecy

All these considerations entail that, around 530 B.C., Daniel prophesied the Messiah would arrive and “be cut off” at about 33 A.D. This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist (and was anointed by the Holy Spirit), was accepted into Jerusalem as the coming descendant of David, and was crucified on the cross outside of Jerusalem (~30–33 A.D.).7 This amazing prophecy not only foretold of Jesus’ crucifixion, but it also foretold the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. after Jesus’ death.

The Book of Daniel and the Dead Sea Scrolls

While many people today are skeptical of supernatural claims, this prophecy deserves some consideration not only for its accuracy, but also because there is solid evidence that it existed in writing before Jesus was ever born. Specifically, many manuscripts containing most of the book of Daniel were found in the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.8 The manuscripts contained parts of every chapter of Daniel, except for chapter 12.9 Scholars have dated some of the manuscripts at 60 A.D. and other manuscripts to as late as the 2nd century B.C.10 Additionally, it has been found that the Dead Sea Scrolls were very accurately translated compared to Hebrew manuscripts thousands of years older.11

Conclusion

As fun as it is to think about the prophecies in some of my favorite movies and books, nothing can beat Daniel’s Seventy-Weeks Prophecy in my mind. It is questionable as to whether Anakin Skywalker actually fulfilled the prophecy of the Chosen One. The last three movies from Disney showed that perhaps it was Rey all along. But there is no question as to whether Jesus fulfilled Daniel’s prophecy. This is yet another reason why the Bible is my favorite book to read, study, and think about.

For visual learners, here is a video created by Timothy Mackie and Jonathan Collins of The Bible Project that touches on the book of Daniel; it doesn’t explain the Seventy-Weeks Prophecy, but it gives a good overview of the book:


Footnotes

  1. See Stephen R. Miller, Daniel (Nashville: B&H Publishers, 1994), 23.
  2. Christian Standard Bible.
  3. John F. Walvoord, Daniel, edited by Philip E. Rawley and Charles H. Dyer (Chicago: Moody, 2012), 287.

  4. Walvoord, Daniel, 274.

  5. There are complicated reasons for prophetic years containing 360 days (involving the Hebrew calendar) that I don’t have room to explain. For a detailed explanation see Walvoord, Daniel, 297–300.

  6. Nehemiah mentions the wall in verse 3 and asks permission to rebuild the city in verse 5.

  7. There is a lot of scholarly debate revolving around this prophecy concerning the correct date of the decree, the length of the years of the “sevens,” and others (see Walvoord, Daniel, 272–286; and Miller, Daniel, 252–265). However, the possibility that this prophecy was accurate to the year is amazing nonetheless.

  8. Many of the scrolls can be viewed online at https://www.deadseascrolls.org.il/explore-the-archive/image/B-362014.
  9. I don’t believe that any of the manuscripts included Dan. 9:24–27. See Gerhard Hasel, “New Light on the Book of Daniel from the Dead Sea Scrolls,” https://biblearchaeology.org/research/divided-kingdom/3193-new-light-on-the-book-of-daniel-from-the-dead-sea-scrolls?highlight=WyJkYW5pZWwiLCJkYW5pZWwncyJd.

  10. Hasel, “New Light on the Book of Daniel from the Dead Sea Scrolls,” https://biblearchaeology.org/research/divided-kingdom/3193-new-light-on-the-book-of-daniel-from-the-dead-sea-scrolls?highlight=WyJkYW5pZWwiLCJkYW5pZWwncyJd.

  11. See Normal L. Geisler and William E. Nix, From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible (Chicago: Moody, 2012), 202.


*The featured image of Jesus’ triumphal entry is from The Kingstone Bible, vol. 2, The Exile (Leesburg: Kingstone Comics), 342. Image used with permission: © 2016 Kingstone Comics.

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