Saturday, August 31, 2013
Problems with the 70 Weeks
The ancient Jews believed the Hebrew word shabuwa, used in Daniel 9, referred to a week of years. Their conclusion was based on the Mosaic Law recorded in Leviticus 25. The Israelites worked the land for six years but in the seventh year the land was given a Sabbath of rest. Moreover, it is common knowledge that Christ was born circa 5 BC and that he died circa 30 AD. In addition, we have benefited from the twentieth century science of archeology which has enhanced our knowledge of ancient Persia and Rome. But the question still persists: In what year did the 70 weeks begin?
The main problem is identifying “the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” which marked the beginning of the 70 weeks (Daniel 9:25). Was it the decree of Cyrus, Darius, or Artaxerxes? The most suitable choice would be Cyrus’ decree in 538 BC which brought about the end of Jeremiah’s 70 years (Daniel 9:23). Many believe the commandment to end the 70 years was the same commandment that began the 70 weeks, a graceful interpretation indeed.
Cyrus’ decree was the most famous commandment for rebuilding Jerusalem. By it, the Jews were released from their captivity in Babylon and restored to their homeland in Judah. They were also permitted to rebuild their temple. While the rebuilding of Jerusalem was not expressly mentioned in Cyrus’ decree, many believe it was implied because the returning Judeans needed lodging near the temple's reconstruction site. Furthermore, the rebuilding of Jerusalem was foretold by Isaiah the prophet as one of the accomplishments of Cyrus the Great (Isaiah 44:28; 45:13).
Now the first 69 weeks of Daniels prophecy represent the period from Cyrus’s decree until the time of the Messiah. The length of that period appears to be 483 years (69 x 7). But 483 years, reckoned from 538 BC, brings us to 55 BC which was fifty years before the birth of Christ. An alternate solution requires an examination of the timekeeping of ancient cultures.
For ancient civilizations, the moon was the celestial body that determined time. However the length of a lunar year was only 354 days. Taking into consideration the sun & the seasons, the Babylonians developed a 19 year cycle whereby 7 years had an extra month. In other words, one week of 13 month years elapsed with the passing of each 19 year cycle. Hence the average length of the Babylonian year was 365 days.
Daniel, who was held captive in Babylon, was well aware of the Babylonian concept of time. The first 69 weeks of his prophecy were divided into two parts, 7 weeks and 62 weeks, suggesting different interpretations of time for each part. Assuming part one represents weeks of 13 month years elapsing over 19 year cycles and part two simply represents weeks of years, the result is as follows: (7 x 19) + (62 x 7) = 567. When 567 years are reckoned from 538 BC, we arrive at 30 AD, the year when Christ was crucified. For clarification of this fascinating interpretation, read my notes which are published under comments.
Alternate interpretation: the command of the God of Israel to Cyrus the Great in 540 BC, as foretold by Isaiah the prophet, marked the beginning of the 70 weeks. Click The Messianic Seventy Weeks on the sidebar. The first 69 weeks of that interpretation correspond precisely with Wacholder’s table of sabbatical cycles. Click Sabbatical Cycles on the sidebar.