The Seventy Weeks of Daniel - Part 7
By Thomas Ice
Last month I dealt with the starting and ending points for the first sixty-nine of seventy weeks of Daniel's prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27). We saw that the time clock of the seventy weeks prophecy commenced about 100 years after Daniel received its revelation in 444 b.c. As I continue in verse 26, it is important to note that God, through Gabriel the archangel, divides the seventy weeks into three sections: "seven weeks," "sixty-two weeks," and "one week" (Dan. 9:27). What is the significance of these divisions?
The Seven Weeks
Since the first seven weeks of years (49 years) is segmented from the whole, to what does it refer to? Without belaboring this point, since it is not a point of significant debate, this first of three segments refers to time when "it [Jerusalem] will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress" (Dan. 9:25c). This modifying statement connects the first seven weeks with the distressing days of Ezra and Nehemiah. Thus, the first seven weeks refer to the time of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Dr. John Walvoord notes:
The best explanation seems to be that beginning with Nehemiah's decree and the building of the wall, it took a whole generation to clear out all the debris in Jerusalem and restore it as a thriving city. This might well be the fulfillment of the forty-nine years. The specific reference to streets again addresses our attention to Nehemiah's situation where the streets were covered with debris and needed to be rebuilt. That this was accomplished in troublesome times is fully documented by the book of Nehemiah itself.
The fact that this prophecy divides the seventy weeks of years into three sections will come into to play later when examining the single week in verse 27.
The Sixty-Two Weeks
The next segment of time is the sixty-two weeks of years that are said to follow the first seven weeks of years. The total of the two parts equal sixty-nine weeks of years or 483 years. The sixty-two weeks follow consecutively the first seven weeks because there are no textual indicators or historical events that would lead to any other conclusion. The sixty-two weeks will end with the arrival of "Messiah the Prince." Daniel 9:25 says, "until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks." Messiah the Prince can be none other than the Jewish Messiah—Jesus the Christ. As was noted in the previous article, Dr. Harold Hoehner has demonstrated that the seven and sixty-two weeks (that is sixty-nine weeks) ended on the day of Christ's triumphal entry. This is diagramed in the chart below, which was adopted from Dr. Hoehner's book. The fulfillment of the seven and sixty-two weeks is recorded in Luke 19 as follows:
"And when He [Jesus] approached, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, 'If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. . . . because you did not recognize the time of your visitation'" (Luke 19:41-42, 44).
After the Sixty-Two Weeks
We now enter the area of the greatest controversy concerning the seventy weeks prophecy. The debate is focused upon whether the seventieth week follows consecutively the first sixty-nine. I believe that the seventieth week is postponed until a future time we know as the tribulation. Defense of a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks will be the topic of most of the material that I will cover in the rest of this series.
The issue now before us can be divided into two basic views, regardless of how a specific individual may handle the details. The two views are whether all seventy weeks of years have already been fulfilled in the past, or whether the final, seventieth week is future. Note what Daniel 9:26 says:
Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
Textual Reasons For A Postponement
Before I look at broader arguments for a parenthesis, I want to point out reasons from the Daniel 9 passage itself. Critics of our literal, futurist understanding of this text claim that there is no justification for a gap or postponement between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week. Perhaps no one is more shrill in his criticism of a gap than preterist Gary DeMar, who says:
The "gap" that has been placed between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel's prophecy was created because it was needed to make the dispensational hermeneutical model work. Nothing in the text of Daniel 9:24-27 implies a "gap."
He later asks the following question:
Since there is no gap between the seven and sixty-two weeks, what justification is there in inserting a gap between the sixty-ninth week (seven weeks + sixty-two weeks = sixty-nine weeks) and the seventieth week?
I believe that there are textual reasons for a gap of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week! First of all, the text says, "Then after the sixty-two weeks . . ." In other words, after the seven plus sixty-two weeks, which equals sixty-nine weeks of years (483 years). The Hebrew text uses a conjunction, combined with a preposition, usually translated "and after," or better "then after." "It is the only indication given regarding the chronological relation between these sixty-two weeks and the cutting off of the Anointed One. This event will occur 'after' their close, but nothing is said as to how long after." Robert Culver clearly states the implication of what this text says:
There can be no honest difference of opinion about that: the cutting off of Messiah is 'after' the sixty-two weeks. It is not the concluding event of the series of sixty-two weeks. Neither is it said to be the opening event of the seventieth. It is simply after the seven plus sixty-two weeks.
Steven Miller summaries developments in the passage thus far as follows:
After the reconstruction of Jerusalem in the first seven sevens (forty-nine years), another "sixty-two sevens" (434 years) would pass. Then two momentous events would take place. First, the "Anointed One" would come (v. 25), then he would be "cut off." Apparently his coming would be immediately at the end of the sixty-nine sevens, . . ."
There is no real debate among conservative interpreters as to who is spoken of by the phrase "the Messiah will be cut off," as a referral to the crucifixion of Christ. Thus, it means that Jesus would be crucified after completion of the seven and sixty-second week, but before the beginning of the seventieth week. For this to happen it requires a gap of time between the two time periods. This is not the result of an a priori belief like dispensationalism, as claimed by some. G. H. Lang notes, "it is here that the interval in the Seventy Sevens must fall. This is not a matter of interference, but of fact."
For interpreters like Gary DeMar, who advocate a continuos fulfillment view of all seventy weeks without a break, it is they who must put both the crucifixion of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem, some forty years later, into the final week of years which is only seven years in length. Yet, DeMar accuses those of us who see a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week as exercising "'silly-putty' exegesis," of stretching out this biblical timeframe in a manner not supported by the text itself. DeMar argues that Christ's death took place in the middle of the final week, which would then draw to a conclusion in a.d. 33 with the conversion of Paul (an event which in no way is even remotely alluded to in Gabriel's prophecy). What DeMar fails to tell his readers is that while he rails against a gap, he is oh so silent about how to ram, cram, and jam two events separated by forty years into a seven year period. Perhaps his approach should be called "shoehorn" exegesis!
A closer look at DeMar's problem reveals a grave contradiction in his understanding of Daniel 9:24-27 and his view of Matthew 24:15 as having been fulfilled in a.d. 70. "The abomination of desolation is mentioned in one Old Testament book (Dan. 9:27; 11:31; 12:11)," declares DeMar. He then states that "[T]here was no doubt in the minds of those who read and understood Jesus' words in Matthew 24:15 that the abomination of desolation prophecy was fulfilled in events leading up to the temple's destruction in a.d. 70." Clearly DeMar links the fulfillment of the abomination of desolation in Daniel 9:27, which will occur in the middle of the week, with the Roman destruction of the temple in a.d. 70, some 40 years later. Sorry Gary, but even with the flexibility of new math, the numbers don't add up. There is no way to ram, cram, and jam events that occurred at least forty years apart into seven years.
Randall Price notes that "the events in verse 26: 'the cutting off of Messiah,' and of 'the people of the prince,' are stated to occur after the sixty-nine weeks. If this was intended to occur in the seventieth week, the text would have read here 'during' or 'in the midst of' (cf. Daniel's use of hetzi, 'in the middle of,' verse 27). This language implies that these events precede the seventieth week, but do not immediately follow the sixty-ninth. Therefore, a temporal interval separates the two." Only the literal, futurist understanding of the seventy weeks of Daniel can harmonize in a precise manner the interpretation of this passage. Maranatha!