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Today, we come to a major passage of Scripture. It is perhaps the greatest prophecy in the entire Bible. It has been called “the backbone of bible prophecy.” This passage is huge. It is made up of only four verses and these four verses give one of the most amazing prophecies in the whole book. What kind of prophecy is this?
It is a MATHEMATICAL PROPHECY. This chapter involves math. It involves a mathematical equation. If you hate math, you won’t like this passage. This is one chapter in the Bible where you have to do some math to understand the prophecy.
Some have called this “the most mathematically precise prophecy in the entire Bible.” It demonstrates the mathematical accuracy of the Bible. It is one of the strongest proofs for the inspiration of the Bible.
It is a MESSIANIC PROPHECY. It mentions the Messiah in these verses, not once but twice. It is the most clear-cut prophecy of the Messiah in the OT. The Messiah in these verses not only dies (Daniel 9:25), He atones for sins (Daniel 9:24). That is the gospel in the Book of Daniel.
It is a MISUNDERSTOOD PROPHECY. These four verses are some of the hardest verses in the Book of Daniel. They are controversial. They raise all kinds of questions. When do the four hundred and ninety years begin? Have they all been fulfilled in the past or will they be fulfilled in the future? Are there any gaps in these years? Who are the two princes mentioned in the passage? Whatever position you take on this passage, you encounter some problems.
Today, we will be doing two things. The passage is deep, so we will go deep. We want to look at these verses PROPHETICALLY. We want to see what this seventy weeks prophecy actually says. We also want to look at them PRACTICALLY. How does this prophecy apply to us today? Some have said that this passage simply cannot be understood and has no practical application to people today.
Both of these statements are false. This passage does speak to us today and, it can be understood today, even though this passage is difficult and we may not agree on everything about this passage. The Angel Gabriel said it could be understood and so did Jesus.
Gabriel said to Daniel, “Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision” (Daniel 9:23 NIV). Jesus quotes Daniel 9 in the Olivet Discourse and said, “whoever reads, LET HIM UNDERSTAND” (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14). He didn’t say, “There’s no point in reading Daniel because no one can understand it.”
Seven Facts about the 70 Weeks Prophecy
What does the seventy weeks prophecy teach? There are seven things that you need to know to fully understand this prophecy.
1) This prophecy was given by an angel
We call it Daniel’s prophecy, but it is really Gabriel’s prophecy. It is the prophecy of an angel.
2) This prophecy covers a period of 490 years
It covers a period of “seventy-sevens” (Daniel 9:24). Scholars argue a lot about this passage but one thing they all agree on is that this is a period of 490 years. This prophecy was an answer to Daniel’s prayer. Daniel prayed about 70 years and got an answer about 490 years.
Seventy times seven is four hundred and ninety but these are not four hundred and ninety days but four hundred and ninety years. The Jews had a week of years as well as a week of days (cf. Leviticus 25:8). The chapter begins talking about a period of seventy years (Daniel 9:2) and ends talking about a period of four hundred and ninety years.
3) This prophecy is about the Jews
Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city (Daniel 9:24 NIV). It is directly related to the Jews and the city of Jerusalem. This is NOT a prophecy about the Gentile world. It is not a prophecy about Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece or Rome.
It is not a prophecy about the US. It is not even a prophecy about the church. It is a prophecy about the Jews. Even after God judged the Jews at the Babylonian Captivity, He still has a plan for them. Even after they rejected their Messiah, God still has a plan for the Jews. Israel is central to the program of God. It is in the center of prophetic events.
4) Six things will take place during this time
Six Messianic Tasks
“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place (Daniel 9:24 NIV)
These are six things that the Messiah will do. These are six Messianic tasks.
1. Some of these are NEGATIVE and some are POSITIVE
Some deal with sin, wickedness and transgression and some deal with righteousness.
2. Some of these tasks deal with the FIRST COMING and some deal with the SECOND COMING of Christ
Jesus solved the sin problem by atoning for sin when he was “cut off” in his First Coming. The passage also deals with the Millennial reign of the Messiah.
3. Some of these tasks are PAST and some are still FUTURE
Some of these have been fulfilled. Some have not. Has Jesus put an end to sin yet? No. One day He will. One day sin will no longer exist on earth.
5) These 490 years are divided into three parts.
They are divided into three parts. Everyone agrees on this. The period of seventy weeks (Daniel 9:24) is divided into into seven weeks (Daniel 9:25) plus sixty-two weeks (Daniel 9:25-26) plus one week (Daniel 9:27).
The 70 weeks add up to 490 years. 7 x 7 is 49 years. 62 x 7 is 434 years. 434 + 49 = 483 years. 483 + 7 = 490 years.
6) This time period starts with a decree
“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ (Daniel 9:25 NIV)
It starts with a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem and it ends with the coming of the Messiah. When was the decree issued? This is where it gets difficult. There were four decrees issued by Persian kings (one by Cyrus, one by Darius and two by Artaxerxes) but only two of them end up in the time of Jesus.
Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild the Temple around 538 BC. It is found in Ezra 1:1-4 but that was a command to rebuild the Temple, not the city and if you do the math, it does not work. 538 – 438 = 55. 55 BC was too early for the time of Jesus.
Darius issued another decree around 519 BC. it is found in Ezra 6:1-12 but that decree also is too early. 519 – 483 = 36. 36 BC is too early. There are two other decrees but, before we look at them, we have to answer one question.
When Exactly Did Jesus Die?
There are two possible dates for the death of Jesus. There are three hints as to when he died.
HINT ONE – He died when Pontius Pilate was governor.
Jesus was the judge in the trial of Jesus. He was the one who executed him/ Pilate ruled Judea from 26-36 AD, so he had to have died sometime during that time period.
HINT TWO – He died on a Friday
According to the Gospels, He died on a Friday called “Preparation Day” (Matthew 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:42). All four of them mention this day.
HINT THREE – He died during Passover.
In fact, He died the very same time that the lambs were sacrificed in the Temple. According to Josephus, the lambs were sacrificed between three and five o’clock, i.e., between the ninth hour and the eleventh hour (Jewish War 6.9.3). Jesus died in the ninth hour.
During 26-36 AD, when Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea, Passover fell on Friday only two times (April 7, 30 AD and April 3, 33 AD). Both of these dates fit one of the decrees to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.
Artaxerxes gave a decree to Ezra for Jews to return to Jerusalem. It is found in Ezra 7:11-26. That decree happened in in 457 BC. 457-483 BC = 26. If Jesus died in 30 AD, 26 BC is a possible date for his baptism (so Leon Wood, Gleason Archer, Walter Kaiser). That was about the time He began His ministry as Messiah and was introduced to Israel.
Artaxerxes gave another decree in 444 BC to Nehemiah (so John Walvoord, Thomas Ice, John Whitcomb). This decree specifically authorized Nehemiah to rebuild the city and walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:1-8) but there is a problem. 444-483 = 39 AD. It does not work.
39 AD is too late but if you use a lunar year (360 day), rather than a solar year (365 day) and calculate in the leap years, it does work. It comes out to Monday, March 30, 33 AD, a possible date for the Triumphal Entry when Jesus rode in on a donkey and the people said baruck haba B’shem Adonai (“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”). Just a week later and Jesus was killed.
Zechariah predicted HOW the Messiah would come (riding on a donkey) and Daniel predicted WHEN He would come. Jesus said the Jews should have understood this prophecy. It told them exactly when the Messiah would come.
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44 NIV)
God held them accountable for not knowing this prophecy. They killed their Messiah and temple and city was destroyed again, just like Daniel 9 predicted. Daniel says that the Messiah would be cut off and a nation would come and destroy the city and the sanctuary.
7) There is a gap between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel
Many scholars say that there is no gap in the prophecy. The prophecy is continuous but there has to be a gap between the 69th and 70th week. It is easy to prove. How do we prove it?
After 69 weeks, the Messiah is cut off, the city is destroyed, and the Temple is destroyed. In the 70th week, another prince makes a covenant and breaks it, puts an end to sacrifices and offerings and sets up the abomination of desolation in the Temple (Daniel 9:27). He cannot do that until a Third Temple is rebuilt. We are still waiting for that to happen. It is almost as if God stopped the clock when the Messiah was cut off.
The 70th week is still future. Jesus said it is FUTURE in Matthew 24. It is something that will happen right before the Second Coming (Matthew 24:29-30). The 70th week will take place in the Tribulation Period. The prince that will come will do exactly what Antiochus Epiphanies did. He was just a type of the Antichrist.
The Messiah in Daniel 9
Daniel 9 PROVES that Jesus is the Messiah. It is definitive proof that Jesus is the Messiah. The evidence is so strong that the Jewish Talmud pronounces a curse on anyone who attempts to calculate the dates of this chapter (Sanhedrin 97b). It so clearly points to Jesus.
1) Daniel mentions the Messiah by name
Isaiah predicts the death of the coming Messiah eight hundred years before it happened but he does not use the word “messiah” (mashiach). Daniel uses it, not once but twice (Daniel 9:25, 26).
2) Daniel tells us specifically when He will come
Daniel says that the Messiah would come when the Temple was still standing. He came while the Second Temple was still standing. After he died, the city and sanctuary were destroyed (Daniel 9:26 NIV).
We are even told the specific year He would come. He will appear sixty-nine weeks of years after a command is given to rebuild Jerusalem. In fact, after sixty nine of the seventy weeks prophecy, he is killed.
He will appear 483 years after the command to restore and build Jerusalem. If we put this in days, it would be 173,880 days (483 years times 360 days)! The Jews could expect that 173,880 days after the prophecy started that the Messiah would present Himself to Israel as the Messiah.
3) Daniel says what will happen when He finally comes
When the Messiah finally comes, the people will not accept him. They will reject him. He was “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3). They said, “We have no king but Caesar.” They not only rejected him, they killed him. He died a violent death. He was “cut off” (Daniel 9:26).
4) Daniel mentions the work that He will accomplish by His death
The Messiah will atone for the sins of the nation and the world (Daniel 9:24). He is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
“He was pierced FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS, he was crushed FOR OUR INIQUITIES; the punishment that brought us peace WAS ON HIM, and BY HIS WOUNDS we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord HAS LAID ON HIM the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6 NIV)
5) Daniel predicts what will happen after He is cut off
The city and temple would be destroyed (Daniel 9:26). This is exactly what the Romans did in 70 AD.
There is a Jewish response to the Christian interpretation of Daniel 9. They argue that the passage is NOT messianic. They read the KJV of Daniel 9:25. It says, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks.”
They point out correctly that in Hebrew the word “the” is not in the text. It says mashiach, NOT ha mashiach. Messiah is NOT capitalized in Hebrew. Hebrew does not have capital letters. They also point out that mashiach just means “anointed one.”
The word is used 39 times on the OT. It was used of priests. It was used of prophets. It was used of kings. Saul was called an anointed one. He was a messiah. David was called an anointed one. He was a messiah. Solomon was another messiah but none of them were THE Messiah.
That is true. Mashiach was used in a non-technical sense of someone who was an instrument of God but we know that this chapter is talking about something else. This chapter is undeniably messianic in the technical sense. It mentions finishing transgression, putting an end to sin, to atoning for wickedness, and bringing in everlasting righteousness. These things could only happen when the Messiah comes.
Who will put an end to sin? Who will bring in everlasting righteousness? Cyrus will not do that. Solomon will not do that. King David will not do that. Only the Messiah could possibly do that. It is undeniable.
Applications for Today
We have looked at one of the most amazing prophecies in the Bible. What does this prophecy say to us today? Does it say anything or is it just an incredible prophecy for us to learn. It actually does say some things to us today
1. God answers the prayers of His people.
When we pray, we think that nothing happens. Our prayers bounce off the wall. Not this prayer. Daniel prayed a prayer for the nation. It was a prayer of confession. Daniel confessed the sins of the nation and asked God to restore the Jews back to their land and their temple. It was a prayer based on Scripture. When he did that, something interesting happened. He got an answer. In fact, he got an answer rather quickly. The answer was this prophecy.
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. (Daniel 9:20-21 NIV)
Before he had even finished praying, the answer came. The answer came in the form of an angel. God sometimes uses angels to answer our prayers. Daniel was praying and while he was praying, he was interrupted by an angel, the Angel Gabriel. He came flying. He flew from heaven to earth and he did it quickly. He did it in a matter of minutes, because you can read this prayer in about three minutes.
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24 NIV)
2. God loves His people
He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. (Daniel 9:22-23 NIV)
Jesus knows all of His sheep. He knows our name. He calls us by name (John 10:3). He knows everything about us. He loved us with an everlasting love.
Daniel may have thought bad about himself. He humbled himself. He confessed his sins. He put on sackcloth and ashes. He fasted. Daniel was told what God thought of him by an angel, not once but twice (Daniel 9:23; 10:19).
Daniel was told that he was “highly esteemed” (NIV, NASB), not just esteemed but HIGHLY ESTEEMED. He was “greatly loved” (ESV). He was “highly precious” (Berean Study Bible).
Five hundred years later, this same angel spoke to the mother of Jesus before he was born and said something very similar. He told Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28 NIV). Sometimes we think bad about ourselves and God things highly of us. He is on our side. He is with us, not against us.
Are all people highly favored or only some people? In one sense we all are. Jesus died for us all. He has shown grace to us all. We can all be blessed by God but not everyone got the privilege to be the mother of Messiah. Only Mary did.
Are you highly esteemed by God? There are some things that He esteems. There are some tings that He looks for in people. Daniel had these qualities. What are they?
Isaiah 66:2 says that “This is the one I will esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, who trembles at My Word” (Berean Bible Study). There are three things that God specifically esteems: humility or brokenness, repentance and someone who has a particular attitude toward the Bible. Unfortunately, few Christians have this attitude toward the bible today.
3. God makes some decrees for his people
Seventy weeks are decreed for your people and your holy city (Daniel 9:24 ESV). These four hundred and ninety years were DECREED by God. They must happen. Everything that God decrees will come to pass. Everything that the Bible predicts will come to pass. It is a bible prophecy with mathematical precision.
These decrees are on a divine calendar. We have calendars. God has one as well. It is a calendar for the Jews. God has decreed some things for the Jews. He has also decreed some things for us. We do not always understand those decrees. We do not understand everything about this decree. It may not make perfect sense to us, but it makes perfect sense to Him.
4. God meets the deepest needs of His people
Daniel prayed about Jerusalem and the Temple. God says in the answer, not only will the Temple be rebuilt but the Messiah will appear. Daniel did not pray for the Messiah, but the promised Messiah came with the answer. Before God could fully bless Israel, He had to deal with the sin problem. Before blessing comes to Israel, sin must be dealt with.