Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Messianic Seventy Weeks

Part 5 of Daniel's Messianic Prophecy

Daniel 9:1-23

Chapter 9 of the Old Testament book of Daniel begins in 538 BC.  It was the first regnal year of Gubara a.k.a. Darius the Mede who was made king of Babylon.  During that time, Daniel was being held captive in Babylon.  He was part of the first wave of deportations following Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Jerusalem in 606 BC.

Daniel observed that the seventy years of Babylon’s desolations of Jerusalem, prophesied by Jeremiah, were drawing to a close and he began to pray for the release of Judeans from their captivity in Babylon.  Daniel realized that Jeremiah the prophet measured time in lunar years.  The starting point of Jerusalem’s desolations began with Daniel’s own deportation in 606 BC.  Seventy lunar years later we arrive at 538 BC.

The calculation can be made as follows:  There were 68 solar years between 606 and 538 BC.  To convert solar years into lunar years, we multiply by 365.2425 and divide by 354.372.  The result is 70 years and 30.45 days. 

Therefore, if Daniel was deported on November 1, 606 BC at 7 PM and Zerubbabel arrived in Jerusalem on October 2, 538 BC at 8:12 AM, there would be exactly 70 lunar years between the two events.

During Daniel’s prayer, the angel Gabriel appeared and informed him that, at the beginning of his supplications, the command was issued (by Cyrus the Great to let the exiles go free).  Then Gabriel revealed the 70 week Messianic prophecy to Daniel.

Daniel 9:24-27

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make atonement for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.

Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks: the streets shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.

And after sixty-two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.

And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

The commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem marked the beginning of the seventy weeks.  Its identification has long been the subject of debate.

Some identified the commandment with Artaxerxes’ decree, in 458 BC, that sent Ezra to Jerusalem.  While Ezra brought several hundred exiles and an offering for the temple with him from Babylon, his ministry was one of spiritual reform and not rebuilding Jerusalem.

Sir Robert Anderson identified the commandment with Artaxerxes’ letters that authorized Nehemiah to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem in 445 BC.  Up to that point in time, few people lived in Jerusalem.  Nehemiah finished the wall in 52 days and the Jews felt well protected from their enemies.  That led to one tenth of the population of Judah moving to Jerusalem.  However, Artaxerxes’ letters granted Nehemiah safe passage to Jerusalem and enough timber to rebuild the wall and to build himself a home in the Holy City.  That’s a far cry from the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.      

Still others believed that as Jeremiah’s seventy years drew to a close, the seventy weeks began.  They identified the commandment with Cyrus’ proclamation in 538 BC, a copy of which can be found in part 4, "The Conquest of Babylon."  However, Cyrus’ proclamation dealt explicitly with rebuilding the temple but only implicitly with rebuilding Jerusalem because the builders needed lodging in close proximity to the temple’s reconstruction site.

I believe the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem was God’s command to Cyrus the Great which was prophesied by Isaiah:

It is I who says of Cyrus, "He is My shepherd and he will perform all My desire."  And he declares of Jerusalem, "She will be built," and of the temple, "your foundation will be laid."  I have aroused him in righteousness; he will build My city, and will let My exiles go free.

God had an agenda regarding Jerusalem.  Cyrus was an instrument chosen to carry out His agenda.  God aroused the spirit in Cyrus, hardening his heart towards Babylon and softening it towards the Jews.  He commanded Cyrus to free the Jewish exiles and rebuild Jerusalem including the foundation of the temple.  It was imperative that Cyrus conquer Babylon in order to free the exiles.  Assuming the conquest of Babylon was part and parcel of God’s commandment to Cyrus, His command must have been given before October 12, 539 BC.  Cyrus had to recruit Gubara and plan a course of action.  The year, 540 BC, would have been a reasonable time for God’s commandment.

(This article will only be concerned with the first sixty-nine weeks.  For a description of the final week, click Jerusalem's Third Temple on the sidebar.) 

The seventy weeks do not refer to weeks of days but rather weeks of years.  The first 69 weeks were divided into two parts, 7 and 62 weeks, suggesting different interpretations of time for each part.

The first seven weeks represent weeks of years within longer cycles of time.  Daniel had become well acquainted with the Babylonian concept of time.  Shortly after he was deported to Babylon, the Babylonians discovered a 19 year cycle in which 7 of the 19 lunar years had an extra month.  In other words, within each 19 year Babylonian cycle, there was one week of 13 month years.  Thus 7 weeks of 13 month years elapsed with the passing of seven 19 year Babylonian cycles or 133 years.

The 62 weeks are less abstruse.  They simply represent weeks of Babylonian years.  Sixty-two weeks are the equivalent of 434 years.

Remember that a 19 year Babylonian cycle matched up almost perfectly with nineteen solar years.  Therefore, the sum of the two parts is 567 solar years.  Five hundred and sixty-seven years after God’s commandment to Cyrus, we arrive at 28 AD, the year of Messiah the Prince.

Luke 3:1-3, 21-23

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was the tetrarch of Galilee, the word of God came to John, in the wilderness.

And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins.

Now it came about when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased.”

And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age.

Jesus baptism marked the beginning of His earthly ministry.  He was baptized in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar. 

Tiberius predecessor, Augustus, died on August 19, 14 AD.  Tiberius ascended the throne shortly thereafter.  By inclusive reckoning, the period from August 19 to December 31, 14 AD was considered his first regnal year.  Hence, his 15th regnal year was 28 AD, the calendar year when Jesus was baptized. 

Jesus was 31 years of age when He began His ministry of miracles.  About two years later He was crucified, not for Himself or for His own crimes but as the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind, followed by the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 AD.

Daniel determined that 28 AD was the year of Messiah the Prince.  We have established that Jesus began His ministry that same year.  Not only was Jesus in the right place at the right time, but His supernatural powers also identified Him as Messiah the Prince.  There were no other candidates.  Jesus was unequivocally and incontestably the Messiah, the Prince, the Christ.     

Can we fully appreciate the magnitude of this prophecy?  Daniel pinpointed the very year when Jesus celebrated His baptism well over five centuries before its occurrence. That was remarkable in itself, but Daniel also foresaw the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and its sanctuary which took place about 40 years after Christ was “cut off” or slain.

Unbelievers are without excuse.  The seventy weeks is the most spectacular prophecy in history, lending credibility to the Bible and especially the Book of Daniel as being written by the hand of God.


  1. Considering the first seven weeks of Daniel's prophecy represent 133 years, it's interesting that 1+3+3=7.

  2. For the scholarly to entertain themselves:
    The 567 Babylonian years between 540 BC & 28 AD represent 29 complete 19 year cycles and an incomplete cycle of 16 years. Does the incomplete cycle have an impact on the equation: 567 Babylonian years = 567 solar years? Use the leap year sequence in the comment section of Part 1: CONCEPTS OF TIME.
    Answer: If the Seventy Weeks began in the first year of a Babylonian cycle, an incomplete cycle of 16 years was 26 days shorter than 16 solar years. Alternatively, if Daniel's prophecy began in the tenth year of a nineteen year cycle, an incomplete cycle of 16 years was 3 days longer than 16 solar years. Consequently, for our purposes, the effect is negligible.

  3. Translations of Daniel 9:26:
    KJ: “cut off, but not for himself”; NAS: “cut off and have nothing”; NIV: “cut off and will have nothing”; RSV: “cut off, and shall have nothing”; Douay-Challoner: “slain: and the people that shall deny him shall not be his”.
    Isaiah 53:8 from the NAS sheds some light on the above:
    “By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?”

  4. In the first year of Christ’s ministry, shortly after his baptism, He cleansed the temple in Jerusalem (John 2). The temple had been under construction for 46 years up to that time. The manner in which the work was performed did not interrupt the temple services. The Douay-Challoner-Confraternity dictionary (published 1950) cites 19 BC as the date when Herod began to expand Zerubbabel’s temple. Forty-six years later we arrive at 28 AD.

  5. In his ANTIQUITIES, Josephus cites 20/19 BC as the date Herod started construction on the temple e.g. the Jewish year begins in late September or early October. Forty-six years later, we arrive at the sabbatical year 27/28 AD.

  6. There were 68 solar yrs between 7 PM, Nov 1, 606 BC and 7 PM, Nov 1, 538 BC. Those 68 solar yrs are the equivalent of 70 lunar yrs + 30 days, 10 hrs & 48 min. Counting back 30 days, 10 hrs & 48 min from 7 PM, Nov 1, 538 BC brings us to 8:12 AM, Oct 2, 538 BC. There were exactly 70 lunar yrs between 7 PM, Nov 1, 606 BC and 8:12 AM, Oct 2, 538 BC. Mathematics: 68 x 365.2425 / 354.372 = 70.085926 lunar yrs; .085926 lunar yrs = 30.45 days (.085926 x 354.372); .45 days = 10.8 hrs (.45 x 24); .8 hrs = 48 min (.8 x 60)

  7. Some believe that Nebuchadnezzar was king rather than prince regent at the time of the first deportation, making 605 BC the year when Daniel was exiled. Furthermore, many believe Daniel’s regnal year reckoning was based on Judah’s civil calendar rather than their sacred calendar. That would place the exiles in Jerusalem in April, 537 BC rather than October, 538 BC. Notably, if Daniel was deported on May 1, 605 BC at 7 PM and Zerubbabel arrived in Jerusalem on April 1, 537 BC at 8:12 AM, there would be exactly 70 lunar years between the two events.

  8. Regnal Year Reckoning: When determining a specific year in the reign of a king, there is accession-year reckoning and non-accession-year (inclusive) reckoning. For example, when a king dies, an heir apparent becomes his successor. Most often this occurs in the middle of a calendar year. Some count that partial year as his accession year and the next calendar year as his first regnal year. Others count his accession year as his first regnal year.

  9. God's command to Cyrus the Great: Isaiah 44:28; 45:13

  10. “And when He began His ministry, Jesus Himself was about thirty years of age.” If His 30th birthday was in 28 AD, His year of birth would have been 3 BC. That’s too late. Herod died shortly after March 13, 4 BC. Christ was born before Herod’s death. If His 32nd birthday was in 28 AD, His year of birth would have been 5 BC. Read part 2: The Christian Era.

  11. "Jesus was 31 years of age when He began His ministry of miracles." I am assuming that He was baptized in the spring of 28 AD before the April 28th Passover and that His 32nd birthday was later that year.
    “About two years later He was crucified...” I’m assuming He was crucified on the Passover that occurred on Friday, April 7, 30 AD.