Series: Thru the Bible
Message: When a week lasts 7 years
When a week lasts 7 years
We’ve been looking closely at the claims and conditions of Daniel 9:24 for weeks now and we should be able to wrap up verse 24 tonight and at least introduce verse 25.
“(24) Seventy weeks have been determined concerning your people and your holy city to put an end to rebellion, to bring sin to completion, to atone for iniquity, to bring in perpetual righteousness, to seal up the prophetic vision, and to anoint a most holy place.”
So far our understanding of Daniel 9:24 is as follows…
- to finish the transgression – that is the dominion of the law.
- to put an end to sin – that is to destroy sin’s absolute power and dominion over mankind.
- to wipe away evil, sins and injustice – that is to destroy sin in relation to the sinner and reconcile them to God.
- To bring in everlasting righteousness – That is to establish rigtheousness as an immediate and perpetual reality.
The LAST is first and the FIRST is last
Tonight we will be dealing with the last portion of the verse FIRST, followed by the first portion of the verse LAST. This sounds confusing, but in order to work through the meaning of the passage, approaching it in this order is helpful. Just trust me on this!
The LAST part of the verse reads,
“To seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy (One or Place).”
These can have at least two meanings:
- One which was made true immediately upon the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
- One which will only apply at the very end of this temporal earthly existence.
“To seal up vision and prophecy”
- This could mean the vision and prophecy given specifically to Daniel.
- It could mean all visions and all prophecies of the Old Covenant.
- It could mean all visions and prophecies regarding these things Gabriel just covered which would be completed when Jesus stated “It is finished”.
- Finally, it could mean all visions and prophecies of all time will come to an end and be replaced with something better as is stated in 1 Corinthians 13.
1Cor. 13:1-13, “(1) If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (3) If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit. (4) Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. (5) It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. (6) It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. (7) It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (8) Love never ends. But if there are prophecies, they will be set aside; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be set aside. (9) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, (10) but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside. (11) When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. (12) For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. (13) And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Since all of the other references in this verse point to the successful completion of Messiah’s physical earthly ministry, I am inclined to believe this “to seal up prophecy and vision” is referring specifically to those prophecies and dreams being mentioned here in the 9th chapter of Daniel.
First is last…
Now we have to circle back to the FIRST portion of the verse and deal with the potential meaning of “Seventy weeks have been determined concerning your people and your holy city”.
We know that the seventy weeks was not literal, and was never intended to be understood that way – that is born out historically.
Now I know that to some, such statements seem like little more than a method of driving the statement into ambiguity in order to avoid being tacked down to a specific and unavoidable time table. Hey I sympathize! Quite honestly I found myself wondering if Christian Scholars were just doing some fancy foot work to MAKE a theological square peg fit clumbsily into a round hole, but as it turns out there is much to support this view from a historical AND a linguistic perspective.
As I said, the words “seventy weeks” don’t literally mean weeks and there is a fair amount of precedence for that reality which is why there is nearly universal acceptance of this idea among scholars, commentators, teachers, instructors – even among those who do not hold closely to Jewish and Christian traditions.
This phrase “seventy weeks” almost certainly refers to seventy sets of seven years which is why it is often referred to as “weeks of years.”
Interpreting “Seventy weeks” as non-literal is NOT some type of dodge. In reality, we possess a rich history of Jewish writings, prophecy and thought to draw upon as well as the Hebrew language itself, all of which conspire together to a conclusion which is unavoidable and even obvious.
As a non-translator, I look at all of this and think much of the confusion could have been completely avoided if translators had simply translated the passage in a more straightforward manner.
The word used here in Daniel 9:24 for “weeks” is the ancient Hebrew word shabuwa’.
A nod and note to the brilliant linguist I often reference in matters like these, namely Spiros Zodiaties. I unashamedly draw from heavily from this man. He was born to Greek parents on the Island of Cyprus and only later learned English after having come to faith in Christ Jesus. As such he became a Greek-American Bible scholar and author.
He first became known to me personally in his publishing of The Hebrew-Greek KeyWord Study Bible which is what I first cut my teeth on in my early years of biblical studies. This bible indexes key terms in the English Bible with the words they were translated from in the original languages and his later Complete Word Study Dictionary today is my “go to” for clarification on Biblical Hebrew and Greek words.
Regarding this word, oddly translated as “weeks”, it is the ancient Hebrew word shabuwa’.
Spiros says this is…
a masculine noun meaning seven. It can refer to a week, a group of seven days or years.
It refers to seven years, a heptad of years (that is a grouping or set of 7s) as in Daniel 9:24-27.
It is also used in a technical sense to name the Feast of Weeks meaning the Feast of 7s (Exodus 34:22; Deut. 16:10).
You may remember that the Feast of Weeks is on the 50th day following Passover.
So 7 weeks of days – aka 49 days, have to have passed since Passover and on the NEXT day is the Feast of Weeks, where the word weeks is Shabuwa.
So The Feast of Weeks is the Feast of Shabuwa and is celebrated on the 50th day – the day following 7 weeks of days – 49 days!
Clark tells us that, “The Jews had Sabbatic years, by which their years were divided into weeks of years, as in this important prophecy, each week containing seven years.”
Guzik suggests an example lifted from Genesis 29:15-28 as an example of using this ancient Hebrew word (shabuwa’) for both “seven days” and “seven years” in the same context.
Gen 29:15-28, “(15) Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?”
(16) Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel.
(17) Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance.
(18) Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.”
19) And Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me.”
(20) So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.
(21) Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my days are fulfilled, that I may go in to her.”
(22) And Laban gathered together all the men of the place and made a feast.
(23) Now it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (24) And Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. (25) So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah.
And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?”
(26) And Laban said, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. (27) Fulfill her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years.”
(28) Then Jacob did so and fulfilled her week (shabuwa’). So he gave him his daughter Rachel as wife also.”
So, given this understanding the prophecy is claiming 70 sets of 7 years – that is 490 years.
Only two questions remain:
- What is being determined regarding Daniel’s people in that time period.
- When does the countdown of 490 years officially begin?
Well our passage says,
“(24) Seventy weeks have been determined concerning your people and your holy city to put an end to rebellion, to bring sin to completion, to atone for iniquity, to bring in perpetual righteousness, to seal up the prophetic vision, and to anoint a most holy place.”
Daniel’s people “could” specifically mean those of Judah, but since Judah’s exile also included Benjamin that seems unlikely. So we are going to proceed under the assumption that Daniel’s people are the Israelite nation as a whole.
Also since ‘the holy city’ of both Judah, Benjamin and the entire nation of Israel is Jerusalem we know which city is being referenced.
So 490 years have been decreed during which God’s will for Israel (not the church and not the world, but Israel) will be accomplished in His sovereignty.
Talbot calls the seventy weeks “God’s calendar for Israel” in that it does not focus on the Gentiles or the church.
Archer says, “The culmination of appointed years will witness the conclusion of man’s ‘transgression’ or ‘rebellion’ against God – a development most naturally entered into with the establishment of an entirely new order on earth. This seems to require nothing less than the inauguration of the kingdom of God on earth.”
Now we HAVE to introduce verse 25 and focus our attention on its first several words in order to proceed. This is because THEY tell us the “when” regarding the starting point of these “weeks”.
Daniel 9:25, “So know and understand: From the issuing of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince arrives, there will be a period of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will again be built, with plaza and moat, but in distressful times.”
This is where paying CLOSE attention to God’s words will serve us well.
God said through faithful Gabriel that the clock’s countdown would begin at
“the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem”.
Here Gabriel reveals to Daniel the starting point for the seventy-weeks prophecy. There was a command to restore and build Jerusalem in history that began this specific time period.
While following this encounter between Gabriel and Daniel there were a total of 4 royal commands given to restore and/or rebuild but clearly Gabriel was only talking about ONE of them. Which one?
Well, we are going to look at all four commands, even though these are books we are about to study in our trek Thru the Bible, these quotes are necessary here and now for what we are studying in Daniel. Again, I think if you are paying close attention you will agree that there is a HIGH level of preciseness associated with each of these accounts which allow for clarity in dating.
On top of this, there is crystal clarity regarding which of these 4 incidents is the one Gabriel was telling Daniel about.
The first decree happened in 538B.C. by the decree of Cyrus the Great.
You may remember that this is in step with the dream of Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar’s son) who dreamt of a lion, a bear, a leopard and a dragon.
Daniel told Belshazzar that these were empires which would supplant his own. The first was the Medo–persian empire which included Darius and Cyrus the Great.
So in 538B.C. the Persian Empire commanded the Jews of the Babylonian exile to return to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple through Cyrus the Great.
This is recorded in Ezra 1:1-5 and Ezra 5.
Ezra 1:1-8, “(1) In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in fulfillment of the LORD’s message spoken through Jeremiah, the LORD motivated King Cyrus of Persia to issue a proclamation throughout his kingdom and also to put it in writing. It read: (2) “This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “‘The LORD God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build a temple for him in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. (3) Anyone of his people among you (may his God be with him!) may go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and may build the temple of the LORD God of Israel – he is the God who is in Jerusalem. (4) Anyone who survives in any of those places where he is a resident foreigner must be helped by his neighbors with silver, gold, equipment, and animals, along with voluntary offerings for the temple of God which is in Jerusalem.’” (5) Then the leaders of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and the Levites – all those whose mind God had stirred – got ready to go up in order to build the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem. (6) All their neighbors assisted them with silver utensils, gold, equipment, animals, and expensive gifts, not to mention all the voluntary offerings. (7) Then King Cyrus brought out the vessels of the LORD’s temple which Nebuchadnezzar had brought from Jerusalem and had displayed in the temple of his gods. (8) King Cyrus of Persia entrusted them to Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the leader of the Judahite exiles.”
Ezra 5, “(1) Then the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied concerning the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. (2) Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak began to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. The prophets of God were with them, supporting them. (3) At that time Tattenai governor of Trans–Euphrates, Shethar–Bozenai, and their colleagues came to them and asked, “Who gave you authority to rebuild this temple and to complete this structure?” (4) They also asked them, “What are the names of the men who are building this edifice?” (5) But God was watching over the elders of Judah, and they were not stopped until a report could be dispatched to Darius and a letter could be sent back concerning this. (6) This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai governor of Trans–Euphrates, Shethar–Bozenai, and his colleagues who were the officials of Trans–Euphrates sent to King Darius. (7) The report they sent to him was written as follows: “To King Darius: All greetings! (8) Let it be known to the king that we have gone to the province of Judah, to the temple of the great God. It is being built with large stones, and timbers are being placed in the walls. This work is being done with all diligence and is prospering in their hands. (9) We inquired of those elders, asking them, ‘Who gave you the authority to rebuild this temple and to complete this structure?’ (10) We also inquired of their names in order to inform you, so that we might write the names of the men who were their leaders. (11) They responded to us in the following way: ‘We are servants of the God of heaven and earth. We are rebuilding the temple which was previously built many years ago. A great king of Israel built it and completed it. (12) But after our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he delivered them into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and exiled the people to Babylon. (13) But in the first year of King Cyrus of Babylon, King Cyrus enacted a decree to rebuild this temple of God. (14) Even the gold and silver vessels of the temple of God that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and had brought to the palace of Babylon – even those things King Cyrus brought from the palace of Babylon and presented to a man by the name of Sheshbazzar whom he had appointed as governor. (15) He said to him, “Take these vessels and go deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt in its proper location.” (16) Then this Sheshbazzar went and laid the foundations of the temple of God in Jerusalem. From that time to the present moment it has been in the process of being rebuilt, although it is not yet finished.’ (17) “Now if the king is so inclined, let a search be conducted in the royal archives there in Babylon in order to determine whether King Cyrus did in fact issue orders for this temple of God to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us a decision concerning this matter.”
The second decree was made by Darius who also was part of the Persian Empire. He commanded the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem in 517B.C. which is recorded in Ezra 6:1-15.
Ezra 6:1-15, “(1) So Darius the king issued orders, and they searched in the archives of the treasury which were deposited there in Babylon. (2) A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana which is in the province of Media, and it was inscribed as follows: “Memorandum: (3) In the first year of his reign, King Cyrus gave orders concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: ‘Let the temple be rebuilt as a place where sacrifices are offered. Let its foundations be set in place. Its height is to be ninety feet and its width ninety feet, (4) with three layers of large stones and one layer of timber. The expense is to be subsidized by the royal treasury. (5) Furthermore let the gold and silver vessels of the temple of God, which Nebuchadnezzar brought from the temple in Jerusalem and carried to Babylon, be returned and brought to their proper place in the temple in Jerusalem. Let them be deposited in the temple of God.’ (6) “Now Tattenai governor of Trans–Euphrates, Shethar–bozenai, and their colleagues, the officials of Trans–Euphrates – all of you stay far away from there! (7) Leave the work on this temple of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this temple of God in its proper place. (8) “I also hereby issue orders as to what you are to do with those elders of the Jews in order to rebuild this temple of God. From the royal treasury, from the taxes of Trans–Euphrates the complete costs are to be given to these men, so that there may be no interruption of the work. (9) Whatever is needed – whether oxen or rams or lambs for burnt offerings for the God of heaven or wheat or salt or wine or oil, as required by the priests who are in Jerusalem – must be given to them daily without any neglect, (10) so that they may be offering incense to the God of heaven and may be praying for the good fortune of the king and his family. (11) “I hereby give orders that if anyone changes this directive a beam is to be pulled out from his house and he is to be raised up and impaled on it, and his house is to be reduced to a rubbish heap for this indiscretion. (12) May God who makes his name to reside there overthrow any king or nation who reaches out to cause such change so as to destroy this temple of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have given orders. Let them be carried out with precision!” (13) Then Tattenai governor of Trans–Euphrates, Shethar–Bozenai, and their colleagues acted accordingly – with precision, just as Darius the king had given instructions. (14) The elders of the Jews continued building and prospering, while at the same time Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo continued prophesying. They built and brought it to completion by the command of the God of Israel and by the command of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia. (15) They finished this temple on the third day of the month Adar, which is the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.”
The third time a formal decree went out regarding the Jews and their home in Jerusalem was in 458BC by Artaxerxes, who also was part of the Persian Empire and is recorded in Ezra 7:1, 10-28.
Ezra 7:1, 10-28, “(1) Now after these things had happened, during the reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia, Ezra came up from Babylon. Ezra was the son of Seraiah, who was the son of Azariah, who was the son of Hilkiah,…
“(10) Now Ezra had dedicated himself to the study of the law of the LORD, to its observance, and to teaching its statutes and judgments in Israel. (11)
What follows is a copy of the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priestly scribe.
Ezra was a scribe in matters pertaining to the commandments of the LORD and his statutes over Israel:
(12) “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven:
(13) I have now issued a decree that anyone in my kingdom from the people of Israel – even the priests and Levites – who wishes to do so may go up with you to Jerusalem.
(14) You are authorized by the king and his seven advisers to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of your God which is in your possession, (15) and to bring silver and gold which the king and his advisers have freely contributed to the God of Israel, who resides in Jerusalem, (16) along with all the silver and gold that you may collect throughout all the province of Babylon and the contributions of the people and the priests for the temple of their God which is in Jerusalem.
(17) With this money you should be sure to purchase bulls, rams, and lambs, along with the appropriate meal offerings and libations. You should bring them to the altar of the temple of your God which is in Jerusalem. (18) You may do whatever seems appropriate to you and your colleagues with the rest of the silver and the gold, in keeping with the will of your God.
(19) Deliver to the God of Jerusalem the vessels that are given to you for the service of the temple of your God.
(20) The rest of the needs for the temple of your God that you may have to supply, you may do so from the royal treasury.
(21) “I, King Artaxerxes, hereby issue orders to all the treasurers of Trans–Euphrates, that you precisely execute all that Ezra the priestly scribe of the law of the God of heaven may request of you – (22) up to 100 talents of silver, 100 cors of wheat, 100 baths of wine, 100 baths of olive oil, and unlimited salt. (23) Everything that the God of heaven has required should be precisely done for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should there be wrath against the empire of the king and his sons?
(24) Furthermore, be aware of the fact that you have no authority to impose tax, tribute, or toll on any of the priests, the Levites, the musicians, the doorkeepers, the temple servants, or the attendants at the temple of this God.
(25) “Now you, Ezra, in keeping with the wisdom of your God which you possess, appoint judges and court officials who can arbitrate cases on behalf of all the people who are in Trans–Euphrates who know the laws of your God. Those who do not know this law should be taught.
(26) Everyone who does not observe both the law of your God and the law of the king will be completely liable to the appropriate penalty, whether it is death or banishment or confiscation of property or detainment in prison.”
(27) Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, who so moved in the heart of the king to so honor the temple of the LORD which is in Jerusalem! (28) He has also conferred His favor on me before the king, his advisers, and all the influential leaders of the king. I gained strength as the hand of the LORD my God was on me, and I gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me.”
The fourth and final decree was also issued by Artaxerxes and was given to Nehemiah in 445B.C. and is recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-8,
“(1) Then in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought to me, I took the wine and gave it to the king.
Previously I had not been depressed in the king’s presence. (2) So the king said to me,
“Why do you appear to be depressed when you aren’t sick? What can this be other than sadness of heart?”
This made me very fearful.
(3) I replied to the king, “O king, live forever! Why would I not appear dejected when the city with the graves of my ancestors lies desolate and its gates destroyed by fire?”
(4) The king responded, “What is it you are seeking?”
Then I quickly prayed to the God of heaven (5) and said to the king,
“If the king is so inclined and if your servant has found favor in your sight, dispatch me to Judah, to the city with the graves of my ancestors, so that I can rebuild it.”
(6) Then the king, with his consort sitting beside him, replied,
“How long would your trip take, and when would you return?”
Since the king was pleased to send me, I gave him a time. (7) I said to the king,
“If the king is so inclined, let him give me letters for the governors of Trans–Euphrates that will enable me to travel safely until I reach Judah, (8) and a letter for Asaph the keeper of the king’s nature preserve, so that he will give me timber for beams for the gates of the fortress adjacent to the temple and for the city wall and for the house to which I go.”
So the king granted me these requests, for the good hand of my God was on me. (9) Then I went to the governors of Trans–Euphrates, and I presented to them the letters from the king. The king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen.”
Now, I do not just grab at things because they “appear to come together”, so I approached this last “decree” with some skepticism because it looked more like “permission” than a decree.
Upon doing a little historical research, it was most common in those days for Persian kings to seal official letters with their signet ring, as a proof of authenticity. Though this account in Nehemiah does not say this was done, it is highly unlikely that the authorization of a city to be rebuilt WITHIN THE EMPIRE by its subjects along with the movement of vast resources funded largely by the king himself would be enforced by letters which did not bear his insignia. THAT is historically undenialble!
The Artaxerxes which Nehemiah was serving was the son of the former king Xerxes and Queen Esther of the Jews.
Conveniently enough for us, we know this practice was in force during the lifetime of Esther due to an incident being recorded in Esther 8:5-10, where the words edict, seal, signet ring and letters are all used in reference to the same event of issuing a decree from the king. It is important enough to go ahead and read it.
Esther 8:5-10, “(8) She said, “If the king is so inclined and if I have met with his approval and if the matter is agreeable to the king and if I am attractive to him, let an edict be written rescinding those recorded intentions of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, which he wrote in order to destroy the Jews who are throughout all the king’s provinces. (6) For how can I watch the calamity that will befall my people, and how can I watch the destruction of my relatives?” (7) King Ahasuerus replied to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, “Look, I have already given Haman’s estate to Esther, and he has been hanged on the gallows because he took hostile action against the Jews. (8) Now you write in the king’s name whatever in your opinion is appropriate concerning the Jews and seal it with the king’s signet ring. Any decree that is written in the king’s name and sealed with the king’s signet ring cannot be rescinded. (9) The king’s scribes were quickly summoned – in the third month (that is, the month of Sivan), on the twenty-third day. They wrote out everything that Mordecai instructed to the Jews and to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces all the way from India to Ethiopia – a hundred and twenty-seven provinces in all – to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, and to the Jews according to their own script and their own language. (10) Mordecai wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it with the king’s signet ring. He then sent letters by couriers on horses, who rode royal horses that were very swift.”
So there you have an example of letters being sent out which are an edict and which are sealed with the King’s signet ring as proof of authenticity.
So, considering the hostility Nehemiah encountered along the way and the fact that he clearly anticipated such hostility, it is only reasonable that these letters were in fact decrees and were validated as having been issued by King Artaxerxes by signet ring.
So back to our question. WHICH of these 4 accounts is the one Gabriel was informing Daniel about and from which we begin our 490 year count-down?
Who can tell me which decree actually fits the prophetic word given to Daniel in Daniel 9:25?
Only the last of these four decrees was a command to restore and build Jerusalem. The first three each focused on the temple, not on the city, the streets or on the wall!
We will examine this as it applies to Messiah in our next session.