The 70 weeks prophecy: Christ in History 

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1. Introduction

The coming of the Messiah to save mankind from sin was promised from the very beginning. God did not want any to be in ignorance of the time when the Messiah would come (Am 3:7). Thus, in the form of the 70 weeks prophecy given in Daniel chapter 9, God revealed both the precise moment when the Messiah (Christ) would come, what the Messiah would accomplish, and what He would abolish.  The prophecy takes us to the time when sin would be overcome and mankind would be reconciled to God.  

This prophecy refutes those who deny Christ and His role. Thus it is very important to understand it thoroughly.

2. The 70 weeks prophecy

2.1 The context

Because of their idolatry, the Lord led Israel into exile in Babylon (Je 25:11).  The exile began in 605 BC, and continued in earnest after the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Jerusalem (both the city and the temple) in 597 BC.

After Solomon’s death c922 BC, the Hebrew nation split into two: the northern and the southern kingdoms. 

Israel, at the time of the Babylonian exile, is composed of the southern kingdom only (the tribes of Judah and Benjamin) - see The two kingdoms

In Daniel chapter 9, we see the prophet Daniel greatly troubled, lamenting the great disobedience and sin of Israel which led them into exile.

Daniel includes himself in Israel’s sin, and pleads that God will forgive Israel and have mercy upon them.

Daniel knows that Israel’s exile is coming to an end (Da 9:2).  He pleads for the restoration of the Sanctuary (Da 9:17.

We then see that God hears Daniel’s prayer and sends the Archangel Gabriel to give him understanding. 

2.2 The prophecy

The importance of the prophecy is indicated in that the angel Gabriel was God's messenger (v21 of Daniel 9).

Gabriel gives Daniel a prophecy of the Messiah:

Da 9:24-27  Seventy weeks are determined [Strong’s H2852, a primitive root; properly to cut off, i.e. (figuratively) to decree:—determine ] upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression [Strong’s H6588, revolt], 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 [Strong’s H6944 H6944, qdsh, a holy place or thing, x2 = Most Holy]. 

25  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, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. 

26  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. 

27  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 [Strong’s H4503, an offering] to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation [Strong’s H3617, completion], and that determined [Strong’s H2782, to point] shall be poured upon the desolate. 

The prophecy covers 69 weeks (v25) and a final week (v27), giving a total of 70. To understand the prophecy we must apply prophetic time, in which one prophetic day equals one year of actual time.

2.3 The start and end of the 70 weeks (490 actual years) prophecy

Babylon was conquered in 539 BC by the Persians under king Cyrus the Great - a benevolent conqueror who was tolerant and merciful to his conquests. 

Because of his benevolence, Cyrus granted permission for the return of Israel, which began a lengthy phased return involving several decree

We are given the start event of the 70 weeks prophecy: the decree to restore and to build Jerusalem (v25 above).  We need therefore to determine the precise decree and its date.

Two decrees authorizing Israel’s return were granted by kings Cyrus (c537 BC) and Darius I (c520 BC) respectively.  Both decrees were concerned with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem (completed in 516 BC).  Neither of these decrees, however, granted permission for full restoration.

It is a later Persian King, Artaxerxes 1, who granted a third decree authorizing the full rebuilding and restoration of Jerusalem (v25 above).  Thus we need to know when Artaxerxes 1 ascended the throne.

The ascendency of Artaxerxes 1

The Greek historical records (such as those of Ctesias, a 5th century BC royal physician and historian, and Herodotus, c484 to c425 BC) tell us that Artaxerxes 1 ascended the throne after his father Xerxes 1 was murdered in August of 465 BC. This date is confirmed in the Encyclopaedia Iranica (An international research project dedicated to the study of Iranian civilizations, including those of the Middle East). 

The first year of a Persian king’s reign (his first regnal year), however, was reckoned as the first whole calendar year of his reign (the first part-year of a reign that does not cover a complete calendar year is called the accessional year). 

The Persian year ran from spring to spring.  Thus the first year of Artaxerxes’ reign was counted from the spring of 464 BC. 

As we have seen, it was the third decree, the one granted by Artaxerxes I (Ezr 7:8), that did give permission to fully restore and rebuild Jerusalem, and thereby the nation of Israel.

The decree was granted By Artaxerxes 1 in his seventh year; see Ezr 7:11-28

The exiled Jews left Babylon, under the leadership of Ezra, in the first month (spring) of the seventh year of Artaxerxes, and arrived at Jerusalem in the fifth month (Ezr 7:7-9), i.e. in the autumn.  

Thus the decree was put into effect in the autumn of the seventh year of Artaxerxes I, which is when the rebuilding began.

We need now to date the seventh year of Artaxerxes 1.

Dating the seventh year of Artaxerxes I

We calculate the seventh of Artaxerxes by subtracting 7 from 464 BC (Artaxerxes' accessional year), which gives us 457 BC, specifically the autumn of that year.

We now have the start of the 70 weeks prophecy: the autumn of 457 BC.  To calculate the end date of the prophecy, we simply add 490 years to 457 BC, which gives us the autumn of 34 AD (there is no year 0). 

The 70 weeks prophecy runs from autumn 457 BC to autumn 34 AD. 

2.4  Understanding the 70 weeks (490 literal years) prophecy

The prophecy takes us to the time when mankind’s rebellion would be finished, the power of sin would be broken, and mankind would be reconciled to God and restored to righteousness. 

At the time of the prophecy’s future fulfillment the Most Holy would be anointed (v24) (based on Strong's H4886, the interlinear software ISA2basic gives the original Hebrew for Most Holy: [qdsh] holiness-of [qdshim] holinesses).  This anointing cannot refer to the Most Holy on Earth, because at the Cross the earthly Sanctuary would be abolished. 

It therefore refers to the Most Holy in Heaven, in which the true and final atonement for sin would be made (see section 3, and study: 'The Priesthood of Christ').

483 years take us to the year 27 AD (457 BC + 483). In the autumn of 27 AD Christ was baptized, which marked the start of His ministry. 

In the final week of the prophecy, the 70th week, (7 actual years, 27 AD - 34 AD) Christ would ‘confirm the covenant with many’ (Da 9:27).  God’s saving Covenant with mankind (see study: ‘The Covenant of Grace’) culminates in the Person of Christ.  

Christ is the whole point of the Covenant, which He would confirm by His sinless life and His death - He would ‘seal up the vision and the prophecy’ (Da 9:24).

This takes us to spring 31 AD.  The prophecy tells us that in the middle (Da 9:26,27) of the final week, Messiah would die (be cut off, v26), but not for Himself.  

Christ was crucified in the spring of 31 AD.  Christ, the innocent Lamb of God, who had no sin to cause Him to die, laid down His life for all mankind.

The end of animal sacrifices:  at His death, Christ would cause the ‘sacrifice and oblation (sin offering)’ to cease (Da 9:27).  After the Cross, the mediation in the earthly Sanctuary ceased.  No more earthly sacrifices and offerings were needed to atone for sin - Christ is the sacrifice, He is the offering, whose ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary takes away the sin of the world (see study 'The Priesthood of Christ').

The 70 weeks prophecy ends in autumn 34 AD.  In this year the martyr Stephen, one of the seven deacons chosen to oversee the church (Ac 6:1-5), died at the hands of the Jews (Ac 7:54-60).  

(Note, Scripture does not date the stoning of Stephen, but most scholarship agrees on 34 AD).

From that moment, the Jewish nation, because of unbelief on the part of the Sanhedrin, were rejected as God’s chosen people, and the Gospel went to the Gentiles also.  Individual believing Jews, however, were not rejected.  In fact, many priests believed (Ac 6:7). 

The prophecy summarizes the events that occur after the end of the prophecy (in 34 AD) until the end of the world. 

It refers to the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, and to the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ that will be the cause of wars and desolation (physical and spiritual) until the second advent of Christ (the consummation) to which all things point.  These are addressed in studies: ‘Daniel 8, part 2’,6, and ‘The end time: overview’.

3. Anointing the Most Holy

In the Great Day of Atonement in the earthly Sanctuary (see study: ‘The Day of Atonement’) the blood of the sacrifice for the people anointed the Mercy Seat (by sprinkling) in the Most Holy in the Earthly Sanctuary.  This was accepted, in figure for the time, as atonement for the whole congregation of Israel.

In Da 9:24-27 we see that, at the end of the seventy weeks, everlasting righteousness would be ‘brought in’ by the shedding of Christ’s blood, which anointed the Most Holy.  

This anointing must refer to the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy in Heaven because the Earthly Sanctuary, which was a copy of the Heavenly sanctuary (see He 8:5 and study: ‘The Sanctuary in Heaven’,2), ceased with the sacrifice of Christ, leaving only the Sanctuary in Heaven.  

Anointing the Heavenly Mercy Seat with Christ’s blood ushered in eternal atonement and salvation for all mankind (see study: ‘The Priesthood of Christ’).

4. Summary

The 70 weeks prophecy places Christ in History very precisely.  It also tells us of His role and what He would accomplish.  

It is God’s timetable for conquering sin and death, which was accomplished exactly in the time prophesied.  

Because the 70 weeks prophecy can be dated accurately it proves the year-day principle, and thus it gives us confidence in the other time-dependent prophecy in Daniel chapter 8 - see study: ‘The 2300 days prophecy’.

The prophecy also tells of the desolation that would overtake the world after the end of the prophecy in 34 AD, and continue until the second advent of Christ.

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