Part I of this book explored the 70 weeks prophecy within the panoramic context of YHWH’s plan to reconcile all mankind to Himself through Yeshua, the Messiah promised in the Scripture. That context included a look at the covenant of Daniel 9:4, which we traced back to Moses, Abraham, and ultimately the garden of Eden and mankind’s original sin.
Now, with this foundational perspective firmly fixed in our minds, we will take a closer look at the blueprints for this great prophecy and see if we can get a clearer picture of what YHWH intended when He sent the angel Gabriel with this incredible prophetic message of a coming Messiah.
As a high-school-educated plumber, I don’t have the ability or the desire to dazzle you with fancy arguments. What I can offer is what I hope is a reasonable and common-sense look at the passage and the evidence for how we should interpret it that seeks to see the prophecy through its Second Temple era context. This context matters deeply, because this period in biblical history is where the countdown to the Messiah originates. It is the events described in the books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah that provide us with an accurate date in history upon which to calculate the 70 weeks prophecy—and see where (and to whom) it brings us. Without the chronology of the Second Temple era, it is impossible to prove that Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled the prophecy of 70 sevens.
But I have some unsettling news to share with you related to the Second Temple era and the prophecy of Daniel 9. Even though the Bible is rich in details, this period of time is almost totally ignored by those who write on the prophecy of 70 weeks. In other words, most of the interpretations of Daniel 9 that you and I have read simply don’t have any biblical foundation at all! And it doesn’t matter whether you believe Yeshua fulfilled the prophecy of 70 weeks at some point in the past or will do so at some point in the future. Without a biblical understanding of Second Temple chronology, the foundation is still missing.
As Christians we often point to the fact that some scientists make unreasonable assumptions about the theory of evolution. I mean come on, we still haven’t seen that conclusive “missing link” proving that man evolved from some primal ooze. Yet in the overwhelming majority of the cases, we as Christians cannot provide a single missing link to connect the most important messianic prophecy in the Bible with its own internal biblical and secular chronology. Is it too strong to call this theological hypocrisy? Folks, I don’t know about you, but I hate being a hypocrite. So let’s remedy that in the following pages. Even if we don’t end up agreeing in the end, at the very least, I promise that by the conclusion of this discussion you will have reasonable facts upon which to connect biblical and secular history with the coming of the Messiah. Fair enough?
So let’s get to it.
As we investigate this prophecy, the following visual outline might be helpful:
Overview of the 70 Sevens
The text of Daniel 9:24–27 breaks down the prophecy into several important segments, or epochs, if you will. The biblical text starts in verse 24 with a summary of six important goals which are accomplished by the 70 sevens. Keep in mind for future reference that the six goals of Daniel 9:24 all take place during these 70 sevens. They don’t take place before, after, or in some gap in between. If during our investigation we find that any of these goals have been fulfilled in the course of biblical history, then we know from the context of verse 24 that their fulfillment fell during the 70 sevens. I know this may seem like it’s just common sense, but keep this in mind for later—it will become important. The six goals of Daniel 9:24 in the context of the 70 sevens are the very heart of this messianic prophecy.
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 reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (Daniel 9:24)
In perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of modern scholarship regarding Daniel 9, many unhinge the Messiah Yeshua’s death and resurrection from the prophecy of 70 sevens by placing it outside of this 70 sevens time frame. If that makes you just a little uncomfortable, I understand, because it does me as well. This strange disconnect is just one of the many aspects of modern scholarship on the passage that we’ll explore in subsequent chapters.
7 Sevens to the Messiah
I’ve had a special interest in the prophecy of 70 sevens for most of my life. I’ve read many books that have interpreted this prophecy in a multitude of different ways, and if you were to ask me what is one of the most ignored parts of the prophecy, I would have to say it is the last part of the following passage:
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. (Daniel 9:25a)
In clear, unequivocal terms, the angel Gabriel explains to Daniel that from the “commandment to restore and build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince” there will be 7 sevens (shabuwa). This might seem like a straightforward statement on its own, but it creates an interpretational problem for scholars, because it seems impossible for the same Messiah to arrive after 7 sevens yet still be alive to be “cut off” nearly 62 sevens later as described in Daniel 9:26. A little confusing, isn’t it?
Well, the key to this interpretational puzzle is found in the 13th Enumeration. Do you remember in Book I, The 13th Enumeration: Key to the Bible’s Messianic Prophecy, where we learned that the apostle Matthew represented Yeshua as both the 13th and 14th generation in Matthew 1? Do you remember the name of the missing king who was left out of the list between the 13th and 14th generations? Yes, that king’s name was Jehoiakim, “Whom YHWH Raises Up.” This gap between the 13th and 14th generations marks in beautiful symbolism the exact start of the 70 years’ captivity of Judah, as well as the start of the captivity of the young man named Daniel, who nearly 70 years later was given the very prophecy we are exploring in this book. You will be thrilled to learn in the following pages that this gap in the lineage of Yeshua, this “mistake” so many have pointed to over the past centuries in an attempt to discredit the Scriptures, is in fact the very key to understanding how the Messiah can come after 7 sevens and then nearly 62 sevens later still be alive to be “cut off” for the sins of mankind!
The Wall and Moat During 62 Sevens
The next segment of the prophecy is a period of time when the street (plaza) and wall are rebuilt. This is the longest section of the prophecy and is equal to 62 sevens or 434 periods of time:
. . . and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. (Daniel 9:25b)
The word “street” used here in the text is the Hebrew word rechob, and it means a broad or open place, i.e. a plaza. Many believe this plaza is a reference to the open place of the temple complex proper. We will look at the chronology in more detail later, but briefly, this temple was completed in the sixth year of Darius ‘the Great’ Artaxerxes (516 BC).
Ezra 7-10 records a gathering of the people to the temple plaza in the seventh year of Artaxerxes. Nehemiah, the governor of Jerusalem, did not complete the wall of Jerusalem until the twentieth or twenty-first year of Artaxerxes. Centuries later, Herod would undertake a massive remodeling effort of the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. As John 2:20 notes, Herod’s improvements of the temple complex lasted at least forty-six years. I think it reasonable to conclude that it is this lengthy period of construction and reconstruction from Nehemiah to Herod that is covered by the 62 sevens of Daniel 9.
For accuracy’s sake regarding the plaza and wall construction efforts under the “Artaxerxes” of Persia, it should be noted that Artaxerxes was a title that applied to several Persian kings during the Second Temple era. In the coming chapters, we will explore the biblical context of the Second Temple era to determine the identity of this Persian king who was so instrumental in helping the Jewish people rebuild Jerusalem, but for now his identity must remain one of the best-kept secrets of the Bible’s Second Temple chronology.
The Messiah Cut Off after 62 Weeks
In Part I of this book we showed how Daniel’s prayer for the covenant and mercy of YHWH was in reality a call for the coming Messiah. Daniel further pleaded with YHWH to forgive Israel’s sins and return to the desolate sanctuary. With this context in mind, we now turn to one of the greatest interpretational ironies of the Bible’s prophetic texts. The prophecy of Daniel 9 is a chronological blueprint for the coming Messiah, yet many scholars today believe the most important event in YHWH’s redemptive plan for mankind is not part of the prophecy of 70 weeks.
And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself. (Daniel 9:26)
I’ll try to explain. Daniel 9:26 states that the Messiah will be “cut off” after 62 sevens. Take a look at the chart below. After the 62 sevens (62 x 7 = 434) that follow the original 7 sevens, only the final seven is left. This means 69 sevens have run their course. Common sense would indicate that Yeshua’s death and resurrection, the most important messianic event in biblical history up to this point, would take place in the final seven or week of the prophecy. Yet many scholars today unhinge the Messiah’s redemptive efforts on our behalf from the prophecy of 70 sevens and instead place Yeshua’s death and resurrection into the period of a now nearly two-thousand-year gap between the 69th and 70th sevens of Daniel 9.
Think about the implications of that for a moment. The very essence of the six goals of Daniel 9 is the answer to Daniel’s desperate plea for forgiveness and reconciliation for his people’s sins against YHWH. Yet, according to many well-meaning and equally well-respected scholars, the very act that defines that forgiveness and reconciliation is missing from the prophecy of 70 weeks.
O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name. And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before YHWH my God for the holy mountain of my God . . . (Daniel 9:19–20)
So what do you think? Is the greatest messianic prophecy in the Bible missing the very events that define and fulfill the Messiah’s redemptive purpose as it relates to mankind’s sins? Such a scenario would seem improbable, but let’s see where the evidence leads. We can rest assured in the knowledge that the Bible’s messianic message is congruent even if our own understanding seems clouded sometimes.
The Final Seven
By far the most controversial aspect of Daniel 9 amongst biblical scholars is the final “week” or seven of the prophecy. Today, the predominant scholarly position is that the final seven is a yet-future time known commonly as the Great Tribulation, a period of cataclysmic upheaval and war that will culminate in the second coming of Yeshua the Messiah. This position holds sway in the general population as well, and there’s a good chance that you too hold or have held it. But before we completely prejudice this part of the 70 sevens, let’s take a look at what the Scripture says concerning this final period of time in Daniel’s prophecy:
And after threescore and 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 the 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. (Daniel 9:26–27)
Verse 26 above tells us that the Messiah is cut off after the 62 sevens, the city and the sanctuary (which had not yet been rebuilt as of the time Daniel was given the prophecy) are destroyed, and war and desolations are determined until the consummation. Verse 27 adds further detail by explaining that “he” shall confirm a covenant for the final week, but on the “wings of abomination” he shall make the temple desolated until the consummation.
Intriguing information to be sure, but does the prophecy speak to events past or future? Does Daniel 9:26–27 speak to a coming Messiah or a yet-future Antichrist? These are the questions of the hour, and we will seek to answer them in the coming pages, but first let me introduce you to the heroes and villains of this era in biblical history. For all that it remains vague and shadowy to many a reader, the Second Temple era is one of the most intriguing in biblical history. It is my privilege to take you on a guided tour.
A Fascinating Cast of Characters
As we explore the biblical history related to the prophecy of 70 sevens, we meet a fascinating cast of characters whose lives are inexorably entwined with the events of this monumental period in Jewish history. Realistically, we can’t properly understand the prophecy of 70 sevens if we don’t understand the history of the Second Temple era, and the best way to understand this era is to see it through the eyes of those lived it. Here is the biblical cast of heroes we’ll learn about as we relive this pivotal era in Jewish history.
- Daniel: Beloved prophet of YHWH and recorder of the 70 sevens prophecy.
- Cyrus the Great: “King of Babylon” and the only secular ruler whom the Bible calls YHWH’s “anointed” (Messiah).
- Ahasuerus: A ruler of Persia after Cyrus (Ezra 4:6). “Ahasuerus” was a title held by several other Persian kings as well.
- Ahasuerus: A Persian king who chose Hadassah (Esther) as his queen (the book of Esther).
- Artaxerxes: A ruler of Persia who stopped construction of the Second Temple (Ezra 4:7).
- Joshua: High priest and leader of the repatriated Jewish captives.
- Zerubbabel: Governor of Jerusalem, contemporary of Joshua the high priest.
- Darius ‘the Great’ Artaxerxes: The most famous Persian king, ruler over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. The Persian king who allowed the temple construction to continue.
- Hadassah (Esther): Queen of Persia who delivered the Jewish people from their enemies.
- Ezra: Priest and scribe, teacher of the law, and son of the high priest Seraiah.
- Nehemiah: Cupbearer to an Artaxerxes of Persia, governor of Jerusalem after Zerubbabel.
- Artaxerxes: The unnamed king of Persia who allowed Ezra to beautify the temple and Nehemiah to rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem. As already noted, this was a title held by several different Persian rulers.
For those wondering if it is really important to understand what the Bible has to say about this era of biblical history, let me ask you a question. If your professor told you George Washington came to America with Christopher Columbus, what would you think about his grasp of early American history? Wouldn’t you have reasonable cause to question his view and any conclusions he’d made based upon that flawed understanding?
Now what if I told you we’ve made an error of similar magnitude and that this error has completely altered our view of the Bible’s Second Temple history? Take a look at the above list once more. Some of the heroes on that list have been moved to another era in biblical history altogether, despite the rich chronological evidence of the Bible that this is where they belong. Impossible, you say! Ask yourself, then, which of the above heroes you can place in their biblical context using the Bible’s own internal evidence. I’m not asking what you believe or what you’ve been told about these people and when they lived, but what you can prove using a reasonable rendering of the biblical record. That’s much more difficult, isn’t it?
“So what?” you might ask. “So we mixed up a bit of Old Testament chronology that really doesn’t matter all that much anyway. What’s the big deal?” You couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, as I’ve stated earlier, this era is the basis upon which we build our chronological proof that Yeshua is the Messiah promised in Daniel 9. Second, the prophecy of 70 weeks is one of the major pillars of modern-day eschatology. In other words, Daniel 9 provides a major portion of the framework upon which we build our understanding of the events which will happen during the tribulation and leading up to the second coming of Yeshua. It affects our understanding of our own day and of the future. This is not one of those times when we can say “close is good enough.” As good stewards of YHWH’s Word, it is our responsibility and privilege to ensure we get this correct.
Let me reassure you: the Bible’s chronological record is accurate and congruent. It can be understood. In fact, I personally believe the chronology of the Bible is a key to seeing how YHWH has worked in the past and thus providing a glimpse into the future as well. It doesn’t require convoluted arguments and incredible exceptions or a PhD in quantum physics to understand. We simply have to read it in its most natural and reasonable context. I can’t promise you that you will agree with all of my conclusions about Daniel 9 and the prophecy of 70 sevens by the time you’ve finished this book, but I will guarantee you that if you are willing to make just a little effort, you will gain a commanding understanding of the Second Temple era, and you will see the prophecy of 70 sevens from an entirely different perspective. Are you willing to make the effort?
Countdown to the Messiah
Daniel 9 and the 70 weeks prophecy is a biblical promise and countdown to a coming Redeemer. This introduction has given us an idea of some of the beauty and challenges we will face as we explore the specifics of this wonderful prophecy. As with any good investigation, we will start with the information we can determine with reasonable certainty and see what revelations this leads to.
Every countdown has a starting point, and the starting point for the prophecy of 70 sevens is the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. Let us now turn our attention to the events that begin the Bible’s most famous countdown to the Messiah.
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