This post examines the first crucial, fundamental conviction which underpins much end time theology. It is particularly targeted to Christians with an interest in end times theology. This post examines the widely accepted conviction that the periods of seven in the seventy sevens prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 are sevens of years. It is expected that the conclusions will generate some strong resistance, but I implore you to examine the interpretation very carefully so that we engage in fruitful debate at the deepest level in order to establish the truth.
It is very significant that in Daniel 9:24-27, the Hebrew word for seven (which occurs six times and simply means a period of seven) is always unqualified whereas in Daniel 10:2-3 the same Hebrew word for a period of seven is twice qualified with the Hebrew “of days”. It is never specifically stated in Daniel 9:24-27 that the periods of seven are periods of seven years, therefore the omission must be intentional. There are three possible reasons. Firstly, the interpretation is obvious from the context, secondly it is symbolic and never intended to identify a specific length of time and thirdly it does identify a specific length of time, but a length which can vary in each case and/or be only determinable from the context of the interpretation. The fact that Daniel is impassioned to pray for His people, the city and the sanctuary comes from his recognition that the seventy years of desolation for Jerusalem prophesied by Jeremiah (25:11, 29:10) is nearly completed. The mention of seventy years in Daniel 9:2 does not, of itself, provide sufficient context to be certain that the sevens are sevens of years as some scholars infer. Others, based on the seven-times judgments in Leviticus 26, infer that the length of Daniel’s prophecy must be 70 years times seven (490 years), however the passage in Leviticus 26 means seven times more severe, and therefore that may not necessarily be in length. Therefore, additional evidence in the form of precise prediction resulting from this interpretation is needed to establish that periods of seven years is intended.
For those of you who go for a literal interpretation, note that since Daniel did not specify the length of the period of seven then the most literal interpretation should do so as well.
The content of Daniel’s intercession to God in Daniel 9 is fervent prayer for the restoration of the people, the city and the temple as prophesied by Jeremiah 25-33 and Daniel is clearly not particularly interested in the timing of this restoration, other than that it occurs and begins as predicted since 70 years have nearly been fulfilled. Gabriel’s prophecy is given in answer to Daniel’s prayer and in fact is quite explicit that Daniel will know its beginning after seven sevens by the appearance of an anointed ruler (Daniel 9:25a). Keep in mind that we know quite precisely that the prophecy in Jeremiah 25 of 70 years of desolation for Jerusalem was given in 605 BC and that Daniel was probably present in Jerusalem when it was given and that the prophecy by Gabriel was probably given in 538 BC when only 3 years remain before it would fulfilled.
Many of you I know will disagree with this interpretation, but the burden of proof that the periods of seven are periods of seven years still rests upon you. And recognise that the Hebrew text in Daniel 9:25 says “an anointed ruler” not “the Messiah” as translated in the KJV and some other translations. If you examine the Hebrew text of this verse, it is also apparent that it is a beautifully balanced chiasm which reveals that the seven sevens and the sixty two sevens are quite distinct making the ESV translation of this verse much more likely. Unfortunately, many of us have been misled by the KJV into thinking that this prophecy is about the coming of Jesus. It clearly is not and the chiasmic structure of this verse rules out that this prophecy can be used to predict the year of Jesus crucifixion. Without this prediction it is impossible to prove that sevens of years were intended.
Having said all this it is quite extraordinary that in establishing this prophecy to prove the year of crucifixion that the start time chosen is some 80 years in the future and is chosen to ensure that the calculation works. In addition, we do not know the end time as both 30 AD and 33 AD are possible. I am amazed, that given the huge uncertainty and ambiguity and doubtful nature of the interpretation, that so many proclaim their end time theology with such confidence. There are so many different and confidently expressed views that in reality we should express our view with great caution and uncertainty and present them for careful testing. In reality, most, if not all preterist and futurist views depend on a very shaky interpretive foundation.
The next post will examine the basis for concluding that the time, times and half a time in Daniel 7:25, Daniel 12:7 and Revelation 12:14 is 3½ years.