Seventy Weeks of Daniels Prophecy
Seventy Weeks Of Daniel's Prophecy (Da 9:25-27). This is so important a link in sacred prediction and chronology as to justify its somewhat extensive treatment here. We first give an exact translation of the passage.
"Seventy heptads are decreed [to transpire] upon thy nation, and upon thy holy city, for [entirely] closing the [punishment of] sin, and for sealing up [the retributive sentence against their] offenses, and for expiating guilt, and for bringing in [the state of] perpetual righteousness, and for sealing up [the verification of] vision and prophet, and for anointing holy of holies. And thou shalt know and consider, [that] from [the time of] a command occurring for returning and building [i.e. for rebuilding] Jerusalem till [the coming of] Messiah prince, [shall intervene] seven heptads, and sixty and two heptads; [its] street shall return and be built [i.e. shall be rebuilt], and [its] fosse, and [that] in distress of the times. And after the sixty and two heptads, Messiah shall be cut off, and nothing [shall be left] to him; and people of the coming prince shall destroy the city and the holy [building] and his end [of fighting shall come] with [or, like] a flood, and until the end of warring [shall occur the] decreed desolations. And he shall establish a covenant towards many [persons during] one heptad, and [at the] middle of the heptad he shall cause to cease sacrifice and offering; and upon [the topmost] corner [of the Temple shall be reared] abominations [i.e. idolatrous images] of [the] desolator, and [that] till completion, and a decreed [one] shall pour out upon [the] desolator." In ver. 24 we have a general view of the last great period of the Jewish Church (see the middle line in the diagram). It was to embrace four hundred and ninety years, from their permanent release from Babylonian bondage till the time when God would cast them finally off for their incorrigible unbelief. SEE WEEK. Within this space Jehovah would fulfil what he had predicted, and accomplish all his designs respecting them under their special relation. The particulars noted in this cursory survey are, first, the conclusion of the then existing exile (expressed in three variations, of which the last phrase, "expiating guilt," explains the two former, "closing the sin" and "sealing up offenses"); next, the fulfilment of ancient prophecy by ushering in the religious prosperity of Gospel times; and, lastly, as the essential feature, the consecration of the Messiah to his redeeming office.
The only "command" answering to that of ver. 25 is that of Artaxerxes Longimanus, issued in the seventh year of his reign, and recorded in the seventh chapter of Ezra, as Prideaux has abundantly shown (Connection, s.a. 409), and as most critics agree. At this time, also, more Jews returned to their home than at any other, and the literal as well as spiritual "rebuilding of Jerusalem" was prosecuted with unsurpassed vigor. The period here referred to extends "till the Messiah" (see the upper line of above diagram); that is, as far as his public recognition as such by the voice at his baptism, the "anointing" of the previous verse; and not to his death — as is commonly supposed, but which is afterwards referred to in very different language — nor to his birth, which would make the entire compass of the prophecy vary much from four hundred and ninety years. The period of this verse is divided into two portions of "seven heptads" and "sixty-two heptads." as if the "command" from which it dates were renewed at the end of the first portion; and this we find was the case; Ezra, under whom this reformation of the state and religion began, was succeeded in the work by Nehemiah, who, having occasion to return to Persia in the twenty-fifth year after. the commencement of the work (Ne 13:6), returned "after certain days," and found that it had so far retrograded that he was obliged to institute it anew. The length of his stay at court is not given, but it must have been considerable to allow so great a backsliding among the lately reformed Jews. Prideaux contends that his return to Judea was after an absence of twenty-four years; and we have supposed the new reform then set on foot by him to have occupied a little over three years, which is certainly none too much time for the task (see the lower line of the diagram). The "rebuilding of the streets and intrenchments in times of distress" seems to refer, in its literal sense, to the former part especially of the forty-nine years (comp. Nehemiah 4), very little having been previously done towards rebuilding the city, although former decrees had been issued for repairing the Temple; and in its spiritual import it applies to the whole time, and peculiarly to the three years of the last reform.
The "sixty-two weeks" of ver. 26, be it observed, are not said to commence at the end of the "seven weeks" of ver. 25, but, in more general terms, after the "distressing times" during which the reform was going on; hence they properly date from the end of that reform, when things became permanently settled. It is in consequence of a failure to notice this variation in the limits of the two periods of sixty-two weeks referred to by the prophet (comp. the middle portions of the upper and of the lower line in the diagram) that critics have thrown the whole scheme of this prophecy into disorder, in. applying to the same event such irreconcilable language as is used in describing some of its different elements. By the ravaging invasion of foreigners here foretold is manifestly intended the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman troops, whose emperor's son, Titus, is here styled a "prince" in command of them. The same allusion is also clear from the latter part of the following verse. But this event must not be included within the seventy weeks; because, in the first place, the accomplishment would not sustain such a view — from the decree, B.C. 459, to the destruction of Jerusalem, A.D. 70, being five hundred and twenty-eight years; secondly, the language of ver. 24 does not require it — as it is not embraced in the purposes for which the seventy weeks are there stated to be appointed to Jerusalem and its inhabitants; and, lastly, the Jews then no longer formed a link in the chain of ecclesiastical history in the divine sense — Christian believers having become the true descendants of Abraham. At the close of the verse we have the judgments with which God would afflict the Jews for cutting off the Messiah: these would be so severe that the prophet (or, rather, the angel instructing him) cannot refrain from introducing them here in connection with that event, although he afterwards adverts to them in their proper order. What these sufferings were, Josephus iarrates with a minuteness that chills the blood, affording a wonderful coincidence with the prediction of Moses in De 28:15-68; they are here called a "flood," the well known Scripture emblem of terrible political calamities (as in Isa 8:7-8; Da 11:10,22; Na 1:8).
Ver. 27 has given greater trouble to critics than any other in the whole passage; and, indeed, the common theory by which the seventy weeks are made to end with the crucifixion is flatly contradicted by the cessation of the daily sacrificial offerings at the Temple "in the middle of the week." All attempts to crowd aside this point are in vain; for such an abolition could not be said to occur in any pertinent sense before the offering of the great sacrifice, especially as Jesus himself, during his ministry, always countenanced their celebration. Besides, the advocates of this scheme are obliged to make this last "week" encroach upon the preceding. "sixty-two weeks," so as to include John the Baptist's ministry, in order to make out seven years for "confirming the covenant;" and when they have done this, they run counter to the previous explicit direction, which makes the first sixty-nine weeks come down "to the Messiah," and not end at John. By means of the double line of dates exhibited in the above diagram, all this is harmoniously adjusted; and, at the same time, the only satisfactory interpretation is retained — that, after the true atonement, these typical oblations ceased to have any meaning or efficacy, although before it they could not consistently be dispensed with, even by Christ and his apostles.
The seventy weeks, therefore, were allotted to the Jews as their only season of favor or mercy as a Church, and we know that they were not immediately cast off upon their murder of Christ (see Lu 24:27; Ac 3:12-26). The Gospel. was specially directed to be first preached to them; and not only during our Savior's personal ministry, but for several years afterwards, the invitations of grace were confined to them. The first instance of a "turning to the Gentiles" proper was the baptism of the Roman centurion Cornelius, during the fourth year after the resurrection of Christ. In this interval the Jewish people had shown their determined opposition to the new "covenant" by imprisoning the apostles, stoning Stephen to death, and officially proscribing Christianity through Sanhedrim. Soon after this martyrdom occurred the conversion of Saul, who "was a chosen vessel to bear God's name to the Gentiles;" and about two years after this event the door was thrown wide open for their admission into the covenant relation of the Church, instead of the Jews, by the vision of Peter and the conversion of Cornelius. Here we find a marked epoch, fixed by the finger of God in all the miraculous circumstances of the event, as well as by the formal apostolical decree ratifying it, and obviously forming the great turning point between the two dispensations. We find no evidence that "many" of the Jews embraced Christianity after this period, although they had been converted in great numbers on several occasions under the apostles' preaching, not only in Judea, but also in Galilee, and even among the semi-Jewish inhabitants of Samaria. The Jews had now rejected Christ as a nation with a tested and incorrigible hatred; and having thus disowned their God, they were forsaken by him, and devoted to destruction, as the prophet intimates would be their retribution for that "decision" in which the four hundred and ninety years of this their second and last probation in the promised land would result. It is thus strictly true that Christ personally and by his apostles "established the covenant" which had formerly been made, and was now renewed with many of the chosen people for precisely seven years after his public appearance as a teacher; in the very middle of which space he superseded forever the sacrificial offerings of the Mosaic ritual by the one perfect and sufficient offering of his own body on the cross.
In the latter part of this verse we have a graphic outline of the terrible catastrophe that should fall upon the Jews in consequence of their rejection of the Messiah — a desolation that should not cease to cover them but by the extinction of the oppressing nation it forms an appendix to the main prophecy. Our Savior's language leaves no doubt as to the application of this passage, in his memorable warning to his disciples that when they should be about to "see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place," they should then "flee into the mountains" (Mt 24:15-16; comp. 23:36, 38).
In the scheme at the head of preceding page, several chronological points have been partially assumed which entire satisfaction with the results obtained would require to be fully proved. A minute investigation of the grounds on which all the dates involved rest would occupy too much space for the present discussion; we therefore content ourselves with determining the two boundary dates of the entire period, trusting the intermediate ones to such incidental evidences of their correctness as may have been afforded in the foregoing elucidation, or may arise in connection with the settlement proposed (see Browne, Ordo Soeclorum, p. 96-107, 202). If these widely distant points can be fixed by definite data independently of each other, the correspondence of the interval will afford strong presumption that it is the true one, which will be heightened as the subdivisions fall naturally into their prescribed limits; and thus the above coincidence in the character of the events will receive all the confirmation that the nature of the case admits.
1. The Date of' the Edict. — We have supposed this to be from the time of its taking effect at Jerusalem rather than from that of its nominal issue at Babylon. The difference, however (being only four months), will not seriously affect the argument. Ezra states (Ezr 7:8) that "he arrived at Jerusalem in the fifth month [Ab, our July-August] of the seventh year of the king," Artaxerxes. Ctesias, who had every opportunity to know, makes Artaxerxes to have reigned forty-two years; and Thucydides states that an Athenian embassy sent to Ephesus in the winter that closed the seventh year of the Peloponnesian war was there met with the news of Artaxerxes's death: πυθόμενοι ... Α᾿ρταξέρξην... νεωστὶ τεθνηκότα (κατὰ γὰρ τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον ἐτελεύτησεν)) (Bell. Pelop. 4, 50). Now this war began in the spring of B.C. 431, as all allow (Thuc. 2, 2), and its seventh year expired with the spring of B.C. 424; consequently, Artaxerxes died in the winter introducing this latter calendar year, and his reign began some time in B.C. 466. The same historian also states that Themistocles, in his flight to Asia, having been driven by a storm into the Athenian fleet, at that time blockading Naxos managed to get safely carried away to Ephesus, whence he despatched a letter of solicitation to Artaxerxes, then lately invested with royalty, νεωστὶ βασιλεύοντα (Bell. Pelop. 1, 137). The. date of the conquest of that island is B.C. 466, which is, therefore, also that of the Persian king's accession. It is now necessary to fix the season of the year in which he became king. If Ctesias means that his reign lasted forty-two full years, or a little over rather than under that length, the accession must be dated prior to the beginning of B.C. 466; but it is more in accordance with the usual computation of reigns to give the number of current years, if nearly full, and this will bring the date of accession down to about the beginning of summer, B.C. 466. This result is also more in accordance with the simultaneous capture of Naxos, which can hardly have occurred earlier in that year; I may add that it likewise explains the length assigned to this reign (forty-one years) by Ptolemy, in his astronomical canon, although he has misled modern compilers of ancient history by beginning it in B.C. 465, having apparently himself fallen into some confusion, from silently annexing the short intermediate periods of anarchy, sometimes to the preceding and at others to the ensuing reign. The "seventh year" of Artaxerxes, therefore, began about the summer of B.C. 460, and the "first [Hebrew] month" (Nisan) occurring within that twelve- month gives the following March-April of B.C. 459 as the time when Ezra received his commission to proceed to Jerusalem for the purpose of executing the royal mandate.
2. The Date of the Conversion of Cornehius. — The solution of this question will be the determination of the distance of this event from the time of our Savior's Passion; the absolute date of this latter occurrence must, therefore, first be determined. This is ascertained to have taken place in A.D. 29 by a comparison of the duration of Christ's ministry with the historical data of Lu 3:1-23; but the investigation is too long to be inserted here. SEE CHRONOLOGY. A ready mode of testing this conclusion is by observing that this is the only one of the adjacent series of years in which the calculated date of the equinoctial full moon coincides with that of the Friday of the crucifixion Passover, as any one may see — with sufficient accuracy for ordinary purposes — by computing the mean lunations and the week-day back from the present time. This brings the date of Christ's baptism to A.D. 25; and the whole tenor of the Gospel narratives indicates that this took place in the latter part of summer.
The following are special treatises on this prophecy: Hulsius, Abrabanelis Com. in LXX Heb. Confut. (Breda, 1653); Calov, De LXX Septimanis (Vitemb. 1663); Sosimann, De LXX Hebd. Daniel (Lugd. 1678); Schonwald, Diss. de LXX Hebd. (Jen. 1720); Marshall. Treatise on the 70 Weeks of Daniel (Lond. 1725); Markwick, Calculation of the LXX Weeks of Daniel (ibid. 1728); Pfaff, Diss. de LXX Hebd. (Tub. 1734); Pagendorn,
Diss. de Hebd. Danielis (Jen. 1745); Ayrolus, Liber LXX Hebdomatum Resignatus (Romans 1748); Offerhaus, De LXX Septimanis Danielis (Groning. 1756); Parry, On Daniel's 70 Weeks (Northampton, 1762); Michaelis, Versuch uber d. 70 Wochen Daniels (Gott. 1771); also Epistoloe de LXX Hebdomadibus (Lond. 1773); Hasenkamp, Neue Erkltr. d. 70 W. (Lemgo, 1772); Kluit, Explicatio LXX Hebd. (Middelb. 1774); Jung, Chronologia LXX Hebd. (Heidelb. 1774); Blayney, Dissertation on the 70 W. (Oxf. 1775); Winter, Sermons on the 70 W. (Lond. 1777); Lorenz, Intepret. Nov. LXX Hebd. (Argent. 1781); Wiesner, Inquis. in LXX Hebd. (Wirceb. 1787); Vri, Interpret. LXX Iebd. (Oxon. 1788); Butt, Commentary on the 70 W. (Lond. 1807); Faber, Dissertation. on the 70 W. (ibid. 1811); Stonard, Dissertation on the 70 W. (ibid. 1825).; Scholl, Comment. de LXX Hebd. (Francf. 1829); Steudel, Disq. de LXX HJebd. (Tub. 1833).; Wieseler, Die 70 W. erortert (Gott. 1839); Hoffmann, Die 70 Jahrwochen (Nutremb. 1836); Denny, Chiarts of the 70 W. (Lond. 1849); Blackley, The 70 W. Explained (ibid. 1850). See also the Stud. un d Knrit. 1834, 2, 270; 1858, 4; (Gettysb.) Eangel. Rev. April, 1867, 3; Goode; Warburton Lect. for 1854-58 (Lond. 1860). SEE DANIEL.