Daniel and the 70 Weeks
R. Yehudah ben Shomeyr
Messianic Prophecy has become a tangled bramble of, “He said, She said,” tit-for-tat banter between Christians, Messianic and or Natsari Judaism and Rabbinical Judaism. Both arguing and making statements and claims piled so high and thick, like a well woven conspiracy theory, one wonders if finding the truth is even possible at this point. Granted, both sides employing bias and even deceptive scholarship in order to prove ones stance. Like with any “Messianic Prophecy” one party claims it’s messianic another claims it’s historical or eschatological and another says it’s both. Who does one believe if any? It is enough to make one want to walk away and not even attempt to navigate the maelstrom of theological slurry.
Have you ever played the game Kerplunk? The game where you randomly jam sticks into an upright cylindrical tube and rest a handful of marbles of the bed of those randomly placed sticks? The objective is to strategically remove the sticks one at a time and not allow any of the marbles to drop through the spaces between the sticks. It is your hopes that your opponent will pull that one stick that will cause all the marbles to come crashing to the bottom. Could this be the lynch pin that will crumble the anti-missionary arguments? Could this be the stick that causes all the anti-missionary marbles to come falling through the gaps?
THE BOOK OF DANIEL:
To begin one must authenticate the book of Daniel itself, for even this is one of the first things to be thrown into question, not by Judaism, but by secular scholars.
The book of Daniel is said to have been written by the Prophet Daniel in 6th Century B.C.E./B.C. Critics seem to reject this truth because of the detailed prophecies regarding the history of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome contained within the book. They feel, due to its pinpoint accuracy that it is too good to be true and thus had to be written after the fact. Critics deny the supernaturality of prophecy itself and thus throws into question virtually every prophet and prophetic book of the Tanak and thus critics claim it was actually written in 2nd century B.C.E. But consider this; manuscript fragments from the Book of Daniel were found in Qumran, the hiding place near that of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but not enough time would have been available for the book to reach the Essene community at Qumran for it to be copied there. We must also consider the fact that the Judaism at large accepts the Book of Daniel as part of the Tanak bears witness to its authenticity. The Qumran documents and Yeshua's confirmation that the Tanak is authentic validates the authenticity of The Book of Daniel and confirms that Daniel did write his prophecies centuries before they were fulfilled.
Second, we must look at the translation of Daniel and the so called discrepancies between the Christian and Jewish rendering of the text as well as the designation of chapters and verses.
The anti-missionaries will point to old and bias archaic English Christian translations in order to attempt to prove their point that Gentiles and Christians are ignorant and irresponsible with rendering the Hebrew correctly. They also argue that Christian/Messianic/Gentile ignorance of Jewish custom, literature and theology impedes them in coming to an accurate and correct conclusion on a “Messianic Passage.” Jewish culture and extra biblical literature has little and many times nothing to do with the crux of a messianic Prophecy itself. The bottom line is that regardless of the English translation we must ultimately go back to the Hebrew on which all translations are based.
And who cares about the designation of chapter and verse, in the original Hebrew, there were no chapter and verse designation and no punctuation and so this is just a moot distractionary argument to pull one away from the meat, point and truth of the matter. Such things as chapter and verse and punctuation of the Biblical texts only came about in modern times in order to aid us, the modern reader and it does not take away from the Hebrew itself.
HISTORICAL vs. MESSIANIC:
The first thing the anti-missionaries do is to deny Daniel 9 to be Messianic in anyway but rather, historical. They claim the prophecy of Daniel 9 is about Cyrus (Daniel 9:25) and Alexander Yannai (Daniel 9:26) followed by the destruction of Jerusalem. The text if taken in unbiased context has nothing to do with King Cyrus and who, exactly, is Alexander Yannai anyway and what does this person have to do with Bible Prophecy? This person isn't even mentioned anywhere in the Bible!
You see, the anti-missionary tactic is to claim that what Christian and Messianics call, “Messianic Prophecy” has nothing to do with Messiah. Anti-missionaries hedge their bets that the people they are speaking with have little to no knowledge on Hebraic Hermeneutics and thus play on this ignorance in order to make their arguments appear legitimate and true. You see there are four levels of Hebraic Interpretation displayed by the Hebraic acronym “PaRDeS” meaning “paradise” in Hebrew:
· Pashat: The plain or literal level of interpretation.
· Remez: The text is hinting or alluding to something else.
· Drash: The practical applicable level of a passage.
· Sod: The spiritual or mystical level of interpretation.
They claim their arguments to true by only focusing on the pashat and Drash level of a Messianic Prophecy and leaving out the Remez and Sod level of interpretation and using it only when it suits their arguments. It is one of the biggest double standards they play when dealing with Messianic Prophecy.
Again the anti-missionary will gladly site Rabbinic literature when it seems to fit their argument and in order to give it a little more clout, but again, banking on the ignorance of the people, leave out such arguments that will cast doubt on their argumentative conclusions.
The Talmud itself warns about this kind of bias and deceptive activity:
"May the curse of heaven fall upon those who calculate the date of the advent of the Messiah, and thus create political and social unrest among the people. - (Sanhedrin, 97b.)
And due to the fact after Messiah Yeshua’s coming, the events surrounding him lined up with Yeshua being Messiah so well, that for fear others would conclude that this Yeshua is indeed Messiah, if you read a commentary of the same Talmudic passage, they forbad calculating Daniel 9 and other time oriented Messianic Passages all together!
“Rabbis after the time of Christ have pronounced a curse on anyone who would attempt to calculate the dates of this chapter.” (Talmud Sanhedrin 97b, Soncino ed., p. 659.)
This would mean that what was said in Talmud Sanhedrin 97b implies that the rabbis did indeed recognize that Daniel chapter nine predicted the time of Yeshua’s death, and were so concerned that this might cause Jewish people to recognize that He was the Messiah that they pronounced a curse on those who calculated the dates revealed in Daniel 9. Why? Because there is no other Messianic prophecy that so perfectly foretells the coming of Messiah and the year of His baptism and crucifixion. Non-Messianic Jews would realize they had missed the first coming of the Messiah if they understood this prophecy, but they avoid it believing this passage is cursed. The one passage proving they missed the Messiah and they won’t read it! So we can see the beginnings of the anti-missionary conspiracies! I have always said that one must look into the Rabbinic literature and Scriptural commentaries before the coming of Yeshua in order to see the truth of these Messianic Prophecies. Because it was after Yeshua’s death, resurrection and ascension that they began to re-interpret what we know today as the Messianic Prophecies to make it seem they are not messianic at all.
Rabbi Maimonides, also known as the Rambam, the preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, said this about Daniel 9:24-27 – “Daniel has made known to us the knowledge of the end times. However, since they are secret, the wise rabbis have barred the calculation of the days of Messiah’s coming so that the untutored populace will not be led astray when they see that the End Times have already come but there is no sign of the Messiah" (Igeret Teiman, Chapter 3 p.24.)
So the Rambam, one of the most revered Jewish commentators believed that Daniel accurately predict in advance events related to the “end times,” including the date of the coming of the Messiah! He concludes that this is a Messianic Prophecy and said nothing about it having to do with Cyrus or some other figure.
Rabbi Moses Abraham Levi said, “I have examined and searched all the Holy Scriptures and have not found the time for the coming of Messiah clearly fixed, except in the words of Gabriel to the prophet Daniel, which are written in the 9th chapter of the prophecy of Daniel (The Messiah of the Targums, Talmuds and Rabbinical Writers, 1971) p.141-142.”
The Book of Daniel was written during the Babylonian Exile of the House of Judah, or the Southern Kingdom, consisting of the Tribes of Judah and Levi, on account of their sins and disobedience to the Torah and its covenants between Israel and G-d Himself.
II Chron. 36:20-21 And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.
GAVRIEL’S MESSAGE TO DANIEL:
Daniel saw the Medo-Persian Empire defeating the Babylonian Empire as a sign (based on Jer. 25:11-12) that the 70 year slavery of his people has finally come to an end.
Dan. 9:1-2 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
Jer. 25:11-12 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.
Seeing this so clear and plain Daniel (9:3-19) prays and fasts, supplicating for the forgiveness and restoration of the nation of Judah and in order to determine what G-d would have His People do next. To be clear this has nothing to do with Gentiles or them replacing Israel in the form of the “New Testament Church.”
DAYS vs YEARS:
One must recall that prior to this Daniel had a vision in 8:14-16, 27, where the angel Gavriel came to him describing a “2300 day” which is in fact a 2300 year period of time.
Num. 14:34 After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.
Psa. 90:4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
Ezk. 4:6b I have appointed thee each day for a year.
II Pet 3:8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is] with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.
However, due to the intense nature of this visitation Daniel collapsed and was unable to hear the entire interpretation of the vision at the time. We find that the rest of the message relayed to him by the angel Gavriel was given in the vision we read about in Daniel 9.
Dan. 8:14-16, 27; 9:20-27 And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man. And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision… And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it… And whiles I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God; Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision. 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. 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. 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’S MESSIANIC PHROPHECY:
And so we come to the meat of this Messianic Prophecy:
In Daniel 9:24 the word “determined” comes from the Hebrew word, “chathak,” which literally means, “to cut off or to mark out”. The angel Gavriel is telling Daniel that 70 weeks (literally 490 days) had been cut off or marked out for the people of Israel from the 2300 day (2300 years) prophecy in Daniel 8:14. The majority of Gentile English translations of the Bible have translated the phrase to read in Daniel 9:24 as, "seventy weeks." But this is not entirely accurate. In Judaism we know the Hebrew word for "weeks" on account of the observance of the “Feast of Weeks,” known in the Hebrew as “Shavuot.” However, the word that appears in the Hebrew text of Daniel as “shavuim,” meaning “sevens.” The word refers to a “seven” of anything, and the context determines the content of the seven. It appears that Daniel had been thinking in terms of years, specifically the 70 years of exile. He likely thought that the captivity would end after 70 years and that the kingdom would be established after 70 years. Notice though that Gavriel was making a play upon words here in the Hebrew, that it was not “70 years,” but “70 sevens of years,” a total of 490 years (70 times seven).
Daniel 9:24 gives us 6 specific purposes for these “70 weeks” or 490 years:
1. To finish the Transgression: meaning, to finish the exile brought about by Israel’s transgression or rebellion against the Torah.
2. To make an end to sin: meaning, to stop sinning, which by definition is the breaking of the Torah (I John 3:4) and to start keeping or obeying Torah once again.
3. To make reconciliation for iniquity: Meaning, to make a covering or atonement for iniquity, which is “Torahlessness.”
4. To bring everlasting righteousness: To bring an age of righteous living by obeying Torah.
5. To seal up the vision and prophecy: To bring a fulfillment to the prophecy/vision he had by the coming of Messiah.
6. To anoint the Most Holy: This has a double meaning. a.) That the Most Holy One would be anointed; Yeshua Messiah. For Yeshua is the embodiment, a physical manifestation of the spirituality of the Temple Itself. He was anointed when He was baptized by John (Luke 3:22-23; 4:18) and b.) To be more accurate according to the Hebrew, one can say to anoint the Most Holy Place; that being the Temple in Jerusalem which Messiah Yeshua anointed with His Presence by setting foot in the Temple. Yeshua was the physical embodiment of the Shekinah that anointed the Temple.
Dan. 9:24-27 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.
25Know 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.
26And 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.
THE CALENDAR PROBLEM
I know there are those who break down these calculations to the day and even the hour from the Hebraic calendar and convert it to the equivalent on the secular calendar and plug in a multitude of passages to map out Yeshua’s ministry almost day by day. I am not that foolhardy or presumptuous to do so, because I have seen several who have tried to do this and each one came out with a different calculations and interpretation. This is what gives ammunition and so-called validity to the anti-missionaries and their arguments. They point out how we can never agree on anything, especially important Messianic Prophecy. Such details as spoken of in the above does not matter here, what does matter is the big calculations given in our text.
Daniel 9:25 speaks of “seven weeks and threescore and two weeks (62 weeks).” 62 + 7 = 69 or 69 x 7 = 483. It is believed by some scholars that in the time of Daniel most of the known ancient calendars calculated a year as 360 days (Hebrew, Mayan, Egyptian, Babylonian and many others). Some scholars believe that an astronomical event such as perhaps a close passing of Mars, a meteor or comet striking the earth, lengthened the time the earth takes to rotate time around the sun to the current 365.25 days per year. Some scholars also believe that there was a prophetic calendar the Jews used consisting of 360 days. Another reason some scholars say that we should apply a 360 day calendar to Daniel's prophecy is because of various Bible references that allude to a fixed 30-day month view of time. For example, in Genesis 7:24, it says that the flood lasted 150 days. And, in Genesis 7:11, it says the flood began in the 17th day of the second month. And in Genesis 8:4, it says that the flood subsided on the 17th day of the seventh month, when the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. So, these passages present us a 5-month period of time that is described as being 150 days in length. And that of course is five 30-day months. If we take the 360 days prophetic calendar and break up the 483 years into days we get 173,880 days. The angel Gavriel was telling Daniel that 173,880 days after the command is given to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” the Messiah would come.
This decree to rebuild was given in Ezra 7 and Nehemiah 1 and 2, it was also given at different times and by different pagan kings (Cyrus in Ezra 1:1-4, Darius in Ezra 6:8-12 and Artaxerxes in Ezra 7:11-26) but I believe this is specifically dealing with Artaxerxes in Ezra 7:11-26 in the 7th year of his reign. Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy pointed to a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem as the starting date for the 70 weeks. Information provided by Ezra indicates that this prophecy was fulfilled by the decree of Artaxerxes which authorized Ezra to restore and rebuild Jerusalem by allowing him to establish a judicial system based on the Law of the Lord in Jerusalem and throughout the Trans-Euphrates province. The decree also allowed for the rebuilding of the city. Nehemiah makes it clear that in computing the years of the reign of Artaxerxes he was using a fall-to-fall calendar making it possible for us to identify the seventh year of the king Artaxerxes the 1st as 457 B.C.E./B.C.
Daniel 9:25 states that from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and thus the Temple until the Messiah, which can only be speaking of Yeshua, is 7 weeks and threescore and two weeks, Three score is 60 + 2 = 62 weeks. So this is 7 + 62 = 69 weeks from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the first coming of Messiah.Daniel 9:26 speaks of what lay at the end of this “69 week” period, that the Messiah would come and be “cut off,” Hebraically meaning killed. Messiah was killed but not because of anything He had done criminally, but on behalf of the people as an atoning, substitutionary sacrifice to atone for (as Dan. 9:24 states) the “iniquity,” the Torah breaking of the people.
Next in the verse we have the phrase that indicates that the Temple that was rebuilt will once again be destroyed. This occurred by the Romans in 70 C.E./A.D. who “flooded” Jerusalem and destroyed it and the Temple.
The following is a chronological summary of Daniel 9:24-26
1. There would be a decree to rebuild Jerusalem.
2. Jerusalem and the Temple would be rebuilt.
3. Then an Anointed One (messiah) would be “cut off” or shall we say, “rejected” or “killed.”
4. Then Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed again.
The following is a summary of how Daniel 9:24-26 was fulfilled.
1. After the Medo-Persians had conquered the Babylonian Empire which included the land of Israel. Persian King Artaxerxes gave permission to the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem, which was still in ruins after having been destroyed earlier by the Babylonians.
2. The Jews rebuilt the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.
3. Then, in about 33 C.E./A.D., Yeshua entered Jerusalem as the Messiah who had been promised by Prophets. However, many people rejected Yeshua as the Messiah and He was crucified by the Romans.
4. About 40 years after Yeshua was crucified, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple and the Temple has not been rebuilt since then.
Here is a quote that to me, “seals the deal” regardless of what your method of calculation of these weeks are:
“In Nehemiah 2:1 we see the decree to rebuild, issued in the 20th year of King Artaxerxes, (about 445 B.C.) Messiah comes 483 years after the decree to rebuild is issued [Calculated by adding 7 weeks (49 years) + 62 weeks (434 years)] this arrives at about the time of Yeshua's triumphant entry in Jerusalem. Messiah comes 434 years after rebuilding, or 483 years after decree is first issued giving permission to rebuild -- hence 483 years (7 weeks + 62 weeks). Working form earlier permissions to rebuild (Cyrus' earlier decree) arrives at about the birth of Yeshua, instead of near the end of His earthly life. Either way it's calculated, only Yeshua could be Moshiach -- no one else fits into Daniel's timeframe.” -- http://www.lightofmashiach.org/daniel9_26.html
Finally, Dan. 9:27
27And 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.
This last verse brings much trouble and confusion to folks due to the sometimes Anti-Semitic, but definite Anti-Torah, Pro-Pre-Tribulation Eschatological slant the majority of Christianity puts upon it.
This last “week,” making the “70 weeks” spoken of in Dan. 9:24 and 27 I believe to represent Yeshua’s life which He came and confirmed the covenant of Torah (Matt. 5:17-20) with many, Jew and Gentile, and did not do away with it. Next we have His death where He was cut off “midweek.” This caused the “sacrifice and oblation to cease” meaning in the Hebrew to “desist” or “repose,” not necessarily to completely stop all together as many Christians would claim. Also notice it says, “sacrifice” and “oblation” in the singular leading one to believe that it was referring to a specific sacrifice and not all of them. So Yeshua’s death did not put an end to the Levitical sacrificial system.
What is the purpose of the animal sacrifices anyway? Two predominant reasons:
· It was to be a physical object lesson that pointed to the coming Messiah and what He would do. It acted as a credit card that covered, did not take away, and rolled back the sin debt until someone, Messiah, could come along and pay it. In the time of the Third Temple the sacrifices will be a reminder of the Messiah who came and what He did (Is. 56, 66; Zech. 14:16-21). The sacrifices before Yeshua came only pointed to the Messiah which was to come, and the sacrifices after Yeshua, and that will take place in the Millennial Reign, point back to Messiah’s atoning work.
· It provided and will provide food, materials and income for the Priests and their families (Leviticus 5-10).
So animal sacrifices after Yeshua’s work on the cross is not a slap in the face to what His redemptive work and as we pointed out prophecy states sacrifices will resume again when the third Temple is rebuilt.
Let me be clear, salvation is a gift from G-D to all who will accept Yeshua the Messiah, the Living Torah, confesses, repents, and turns away from their sins. This is Faith Righteousness. This will result in becoming spiritually alive and indwelt with the Ruach Ha Kodesh of G-D. This in turn will cause one to desire to love, obey, and please G-D. One shows this by keeping the Written Torah. This is Works Righteousness. In other words, one will walk in the footsteps of Yeshua Moshieynu (our Messiah) by walking in the Torah. Salvation comes by grace through faith alone. Salvation is not earned by Torah observance. If we love Him we WILL keep His Commandments (Torah).
You see at Yeshua’s death the earth shook the temple curtain was torn in two which would temporarily put a halt to the sacrifice (singular) and oblation (singular) (Matt. 27:50-54).
“John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, and Isaac Newton all connect the 70th week with the Messiah. When Christ cried “It is finished,” the priests were officiating in the temple. It was the hour of the evening sacrifice, and as the Passover lamb representing Christ was about to be slain, “the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake and the rocks rent” (Matthew 27:51). “ -- http://amazingdiscoveries.org/S-deception_Jesus_70-week_prophecy_Daniel.html
Though Dan. 9:27 is speaking of a specific sacrifice and oblation, ultimately we can say the sacrifice and oblation have ceased due to the fact the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E./A.D. and has yet to be rebuilt. But again, this ceasing is temporary, because we see that it will be rebuilt and the sacrifices will resume according to Zechariah. So this prophecy has nothing to do with the antichrist and what he is said to do to the 3rd Temple.
“And for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate” I feel is speaking of the corruption the Temple during Yeshua’s day which was controlled by the Sadducees who in turn was controlled by the Romans; which during His life Yeshua exposed. This made the Temple desolate as well as after His death, The Presence of G-d left the Temple and after this according to the Talmud the Temple doors could not remain shut, the west most flame of the Menorah would not light and the scarlet cord ceased to turn white (Talmud Bavli, Yoma 39b). The Temple would remain this way “until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate,” which I believe refers to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E./A.D. which was the judgment upon those who made it become a desolation in the first place.
So you see, this very time specific prophecy is indeed Messianic and can only be referring to and fit one specific person in history, Yeshua the Messiah. This Messianic Passage proves that The Messiah (Yeshua) came and went and the Non-Believing Orthodox Jews of today missed Him because they refused to calculate the timeline due to the Talmudic dictate; and when they do, they purposely and knowingly misinterpret the passage in order to subdue and deceive others.