Vision of Seventy Weeks
Topic: English Passage: Daniel 9:24-27
Good morning, everyone. We are continuing our study of the book of Daniel, and today, we find ourselves in Daniel chapter 9, verses 24-27. I encourage to turn there with me so you can follow along. Today will be especially important for us to focus because we are dealing with a very important portion of Scripture. Daniel 9:24-27. I’ll be reading from the ESV. Here’s what it says:
24 “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. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
One of the great dangers in our Christian life is laziness. There are a lot of ways that can show up in our lives, but one expression is theological laziness. We can give ourselves to understand the twisted plot of a TV show or movie. We can dive into the complex rules of a sport or a board game. But the moment we come against some teaching or doctrine that is new, we’re tempted to turn off or walk away. Part of that, I think, is because we assume that if God wanted us to pay attention, He would have made the material abundantly clear. That’s not always the case, however, and the vision of Daniel 9 is major evidence of that.
In our theological laziness, we come to the visions in the second half of Daniel, and we are tempted to simply move on to something more familiar or more simple. But we need to remember that this is the word of God. As Paul wrote to Timothy: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Even though we aren’t going to have a perfect understanding of everything in the Bible, we trust that His word is going to work in us for our good, as long as we give it the proper attention. Daniel had questions about the visions he was given, and so, it’s okay for us to have questions—or to feel a little lost at times. But God also called Daniel to study and think deeply about what he had been shown. That’s what we see at the end of verse 23.
Daniel is in Persia, and he realizes that the seventy years of exile and captivity—70 years of God’s judgment—are coming to an end. So, he prays to God, humbly confessing the nation’s sin and pleading with God to mercifully restore Israel and Jerusalem.
In response to those prayers, God sends the angel Gabriel with a message. Verse 22 says he came to give Daniel insight and understanding. And before giving Daniel the message, at the end of verse 23, Gabriel says: consider the word and understand the vision.
That is going to be our task today. We are going to consider the word and seek, at least in an introductory way, to understand this vision.
God gives us revelation and wisdom, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have work to do. Dale Ralph Davis put it this way: “a divine gift is not meant to stifle human effort but to stimulate human initiative. The gifts of God are not excuses for sloth but demands for sweat.”
So, we are going to sweat a little bit today. We’re going to have to make an extra effort to track with what’s happening. And we do that, not because I’m demanding it, but because God’s word is worthy of our attention and our efforts.
Daniel 9:24-27 is probably not one of the verses you’re going to find on any of the decorations at Hobby Lobby, but it is a vital passage for understanding God’s plan for the world. It is also one of the most debated passages.
According to commentator, J. Paul Tanner, “the seventy-‘weeks’ prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 represents not only the greatest interpretive challenge to the book of Daniel but may possibly be the most difficult passage to interpret in all the Old Testament.” I tell you that, not because I want to scare or intimidate you, but because I want to prepare you for our study this morning or for any further study you’d like to do on this passage.
I am charged as your pastor to teach the full counsel of God, and that means I don’t have the luxury of saying, “I don’t want to teach on that, so I’m just going to skip it.”
We are dealing with a passage that has multiple pieces, and each piece has a variety of interpretations, which leads to numerous possibilities for how this passage can be understood. Each interpretation has its own set of challenges, too. If we were in a classroom setting, we’d have more time and interaction to deal with these things, but our constraints and purposes this morning don’t really allow for that.
So, to alleviate any of your worries, or possibly add to your frustrations, I am not going to be discussing all the possibilities for interpretation and all the questions that this passage brings up. My focus is going to be what I believe is the best understanding of this vision. After hearing me, or studying this passage more, or reading other material, you may decide that you disagree with me. And that’s okay.
You may leave today, and think, “I’m not sure what Luis believes,” And that’s okay too. Today is not going to be a deep dive, although it might feel like it. This is more like an introduction to this passage. But I still want to make sure I help you grow in your understanding of it.
. If you have further questions, which is a wonderful thing, you can talk to me afterward. I would love to answer what I can and point you in the right direction of some helpful resources.
In terms of how our time will be arranged, we are going to cover 5 major questions about this vision. Some questions will have a longer answer than others, but half our time will be spent on the first four question, and then the rest of our time will be spent answering the fifth question. And that will open up into an outline of its own. So, whether you’re excited or scared, let’s jump into our questions.
Question number 1 is very general: What are these seventy weeks? What are the seventy weeks?
Verse 24 begins by saying: Seventy weeks are decreed. Normally, when we talk about a week, we mean seven days. But the Hebrew word for “week” simply means a group of seven. Literally, this prophecy is about seventy units of sevens. That could mean seven days, but it could also mean seven months or seven years. What does Gabriel mean?
Many commentators believe, and I do too, that the best understanding is that a “week” here refers to seven years. That’s not unnatural to the context or to the Hebrew culture.
Even though most scholars, however, believe a “week” here means seven years, that doesn’t mean they all believe the interpretation of this vision has to have units of seven literal years. Some take this as a symbolic measurement of time. In other words, they believe God said, “seven years,” but they don’t believe that it should be taken literally.
I am not one of those people. I believe there is a literal fulfilment to this chronology. In general, I take Scripture at face value unless I find compelling evidence not to. Obviously, there is poetic language and symbolic language in the Bible, but I think it’s usually obvious when that’s the case.
I believe this vision is about seventy weeks of years—seventy sevens. And just like Jeremiah said the captivity was going to last 70 years, and Daniel understood it litearlly, I think this is giving a definite chronology.
These are seventy weeks of years. God is using a very broad timeline. He has set apart seventy sections of time, and each section is seven years. So, the seventy weeks are seventy periods of 7 years. Total, that’s 490 years.
Here's question number 2: Who is the focus of this time period? Who is the focus of this time period?
If you were tasked to give a history report on the 1800s, you would probably ask your teacher to be a little more specific. Which continent, or which nation, do you want to focus on? God answers that question for Daniel. Just keep reading verse 24: Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city.
If you remember, in Daniel’s prayer, he referred to Jerusalem as God’s city and God’s people, but now God is responding with a reminder that they are Daniel’s people too. I think that would have encouraged Daniel. Remember, this is God’s answer to Daniel’s confession for Israel’s sin and prayer for Israel’s restoration. These seventy weeks are focused on Israel and Jerusalem.
Now, we come to question number 3: What is the purpose of this time period? What’s the result or the outcome of these seventy weeks?
Well, right at the outset, God gives Daniel 6 divine purposes. Here what God is going to accomplish. Let’s finish verse 24: 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.
There are disagreements about whether or not these happen all at the same time or if this is some kind of specified order. But at a minimum, we should be able to say that by the end of these seventy weeks, this is what God will have accomplished. Sin will be put to an end. Sin will be forgiven. Righteousness will reign, and God will have placed His authenticating seal (His anointing) on His chosen people and His chosen place. I believe that’s a reference to the Temple of Jerusalem.
Before we find ourselves getting bogged down in the interpretation of all this, let’s remember that overall, this is a prophecy of hope. Daniel is exiled in Persia, Jerusalem and the Temple have been destroyed, but God promises to restore them. He will accomplish His plan. He will be victorious. And He has already set a timetable for it all.
This brings us now to a fourth question. We know what’s going to happen at the end of it all, but when does all this begin? When do we start counting the weeks?
That’s answered for us in verse 25, which says this: Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks.
Your translation might say seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. There’s a debate here about the grammar, which I’ll address in a moment. But for now, let’s just notice how God describes the beginning of this period. It all starts with “the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem.”
When did that happen? When are we supposed to start counting? Well, that’s another disagreement, and we have several main options. That “word to restore Jerusalem” could be talking about a prophetic announcement made during Jeremiah’s ministry. Or it could refer to one of the royal proclamations made by the King of Persia, either under Cyrus’ reign or under the later King Artaxerxes.
If we use those possibilities, we can say that the beginning of the seventy weeks was somewhere between 620 BC and 445 BC, which is quite a large range of possibilities. You’ll have to study this on your own and come to your own conclusions about the timing, but again we should all agree that this prophecy begins with a hopeful and joyful proclamation that Jerusalem and the Temple will be restored.
With that, let’s move on to our final next question. Ad this is going to take the rest of our time. Here’s question number 5: What are the main events of this prophecy? What are the main events?
The way I see it, after these seventy weeks begin with a proclamation of Jerusalem’s restoration, we have 8 events remaining—eight distinct events, at least that’s how I see it as they are described in verses 25-27.
You don’t have to rush to write all this down, because we’ll go through it in a moment one at a time. But just to get the big picture, in verse 25, we have event number 1: an anointed one comes. Then, number 2, the Temple is rebuilt.
In verse 26, we have three more events. Number 3, an anointed one is killed. Number 4, Jerusalem is destroyed. And number 5, wars will come.
The final three events come in verse 27. Number 6, a covenant is made. Number 7, sacrifices end. And number 8, the destroyer is destroyed.
I’m going to go through these one at a time, but again, this is only an introduction, so we’ll be moving pretty quickly. And remember, a lot of this is debated by scholars and commentators and pastors, so I’m okay if you study this for yourself and come to a different conclusion.
Event number 1 is that an anointed one comes. Verse 25 says the first section of these seventy weeks ends with the coming of an anointed one, a prince. What is that talking about? This first event is going to need a little more explanation than the others.
Earlier, I pointed out a grammatical difference between the ESV and other translations. That grammatical difference affects whether or not you believe that event number 1—the coming of an anointed one—happens seven weeks after the proclamation, or seven plus 62 weeks after the announcement.
For those who take the timeline literally and believe the anointed one comes only seven weeks after the proclamation—49 years later—they generally say the anointed one is King Cyrus, the Persian King whom God calls “His anointed” in Isaiah 45.
For those who believe the anointed one comes after the 7 and the 62 weeks, they generally believe this is a reference to Jesus Christ.
That’s because 7 plus 62 is 69 weeks. And 69 times 7 gives you 483 years, so it’s got to be a long time after and that can be aligned with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. That’s also why some translations capitalize “Anointed One” or “Messiah” which mean the same thing.
Just to let you know, the calendar math here gets very complicated because Hebrew years are different than our own, and so, again, there’s a debate about how to calculate all this. I’m not going to get into that today. You can study that on your own.
My main point is that, once these seventy weeks have begun, the first main event is the coming of an anointed one, someone specially chosen by God for a task. Let’s move on to event number 2.
The second event is that the Temple is rebuilt. The end of verse 25, speaking of Jerusalem, says: it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.
I believe that’s a reference to the Temple being rebuilt by Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and eventually even Herod the Great. That would have been an amazing promise to Daniel. Jerusalem and the Temple are going to be rebuilt. But now we see the first sign of difficulty. This will happen during “a troubled time.”
If you know anything about Israel’s history during Zerubbabel and Ezra and Nehemiah, and during the intertestamental time, and under Herod the Great, you’ll know that’s an appropriate description. Israel was troubled.
As the next events unfold, we are going to see a clear turn toward sadness. We started with a prophecy of hope, but now it becomes a prophecy of gloom.
Coming now to verse 26, we have the third event, Event number 3: an Anointed One is killed.
Look at verse 26—And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing.
I agree with many scholars who understand this prophecy as a reference to the death of Jesus Christ. He was praised by the people as He entered Jerusalem, but then the multitude turned their backs on Him as they shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Israel’s Messiah was put to death.
After that, we come to event number 4: Jerusalem is destroyed. Let’s continue verse 26. It says: And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood.
I believe that the prince mentioned here is not the same as the prince mentioned earlier. This is speaking about people in connection to another ruler. I believe this is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, and after Paul’s missionary journeys, and after most of the Apostle’s deaths, the nation of Israel pushed hard against the Romans, and the Romans pushed back, eventually destroying the second Temple. This was also in fulfilment of Jesus’ words that not one stone of the Temple would be left upon another.
Next is event number 5. And it’s not so much of an event, but of a reality: Wars will come. Wars will come. Verse 26 ends by saying: and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.
In other words, Israel and the world will be characterized by violence and destruction. An eternal age of peace and righteousness has not yet come.
Now, if you notice, verse 26 is speaking of things that will take place after the 7 and the 62 weeks. But verse 27 speaks of the final week. It doesn’t explicitly say that these 70 weeks have to be immediately after the other. So, based on what verse 27 says, I believe that there is a gap of unspecified time between week 69 and the final week. That would be a gap when God’s focus is not specifically on the nation of Israel since they are the focus of this prophecy.
That gap, I believe, is the church age. God’s people don’t have to come through a specific nation. He is currently gathering people from every nation and tongue. It’s not something that God explicitly stated in the Old Testament; it was a mystery.
But in the end, and I believe Revelation and Romans and the Old Testament prophets affirm this, God will turn back to the nation of Israel, and this final week will come to pass. And we’ve talked about this a little in our study of Daniel. There will be a seven-year Tribulation under the reign of a final Antichrist.
This, I believe, is the focus of verse 27. And there are three more events. Event number 6: A covenant is made. Verse 27—And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week.
This is Antichrist consolidating power for himself. If you remember our study in Daniel 7, this was the little horn that is given dominion for a short time. That short time is 7 years; that’s one week here—one group of seven.
What’s next? Event number 7: sacrifices end. Sacrifices end. Verse 27 continues: and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate.
What’s half of seven years? That’s 3 and a half years. That’s going to be the most severe portion of Antichrist’s reign. In Daniel 7, it would last for a time, and times, and half a time. That’s 1 plus 2, plus a half, which is 3½ years. If you count is by months, you get 42 months, which is what Revelation 11 and 13 say. If you count each month as having 30 days, that’s 1,260 days, which is also mentioned in Revelation. So, again, I think this is a timeline we can take literally, and God repeats it in multiple ways.
For three and a half years, Antichrist will war against Israel, and he will put an end to their worship of God. He will be ruthless and cruel.
But, his reign will not last forever. And that brings us to the end of verse 27, event number 8: the destroyer is destroyed. All of this will only take place “until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
In the end, as we’ve been saying, God wins. And His people win.
So, despite all the disagreements involved in a prophecy like this, what can we definitively take away from God’s message to Daniel? Let me try to summarize what I think would have been some of the main message Daniel would have understood.
Message number 1: Things are going to get better. Things are going to get better.
Do you believe that? Daniel was asking for Jerusalem to be restored, and God said: “Yes, it it’s going to be restored. Daniel, you can have hope. You can have confidence.” And so can we—if we trust in God through Jesus Christ.
Our struggle against sin is going to end. Our struggle against the temptations of this world is going to end. Our physical pains, our financial problems, our relational issues—that’s all going to be solved one day. Things are going to get better.
But we also have message number 2—Things are going to take a while. Things are going to take a while. Things are going to get better, but it’s going to take some time.
How long? Well, for Daniel, he thought waiting seventy years was long. And then God said to him, “Daniel, my plan for Israel is more than just 70 years. My timeline is going to be 70 times 7 years.” God doesn’t work on our timelines, right? He’s always working, but He’s a lot more patient than we are.
What we need is a trusting perseverance and endurance. We’re in a marathon. Dale Ralph David calls it a “long obedience” or a “long faithfulness.” He writes, “We are not thrilled by the call to ongoing obedience and long-term endurance. We want a God with microwavable ways and imminent solutions.”
Patience is not our strongpoint, is it? But we need to learn and we need to practice. Things are going to take a while, and we need to trust in God. Right now, it feels long, but once we’re on the other side, we’ll realize how brief it was.
And lastly, a final message for us: Things are going according to plan. Things are going according to plan.
Who’s plan is that? It’s not our plan; it’s God’s plan. We need to keep that in mind. No matter how bad things might get—no matter how much we see evil appear to triumph—things are in God’s hands.
He’s got it all planned out. He’s got His calendar all set, and everything He has ordained will come to pass at the exact moment He intends for it to happen. He will triumph, and we will triumph with Him, if we belong to Him through Jesus Christ.