Daniel’s Seventy Weeks

Daniel 9 has been called the “dismal swamp of Old Testament criticism.” There are numerous takes and explanations to the vision of Daniel 9, including a church-age approach, among these being various Messianic approaches, millennial and pre-millennial interpretations, and various church-age interpretations. In this lesson, we’re going to look at this prophecy in context of Jesus statement that He had fulfilled all things written concerning Him and His kingdom and look for a simple, valid explanation to these difficult verses.

The Vision of the Seventy Weeks

The vision comes during the first year of the reign of Darius. Some scholars accept the theory that Darius and Cyrus were one and the same. Both names may refer to the same individual.  Historically, those in Jerusalem were carried away in 605 B.C., and now Darius comes into power 539 B.C. Here, Daniel is reading of the captivity from Jeremiah 25:11, realizes the time of captivity should be ending soon, and prays to God, making confession for the sins of his nation. He pleads for God to listen to his prayer, forgive the past, and restore His people.

In Daniel 9:20, Daniel’s prayer is interrupted by another vision of the angel Gabriel, and the angel says he has come to give Daniel understanding of what is to come to pass. He says that seventy weeks are declared to make an end to sing, make reconciliation, bring righteousness, seal up the past, and bring the anointed one. These weeks are divided up into other events, some tragic, leading up to wrath poured out upon the unfaithful.

The Context of Law

Back in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, we have recorded the blessings and curses of the covenant. Based on the loyalty of the people various results are numerated. In Leviticus 26:23-25, the ultimate consequence is being stripped from the Promised Land, a sword of vengeance, a seven-fold punishment. In verse 34, it is written that the land will have its Sabbaths (see also II Chronicles 36:17-21), and verse 40 promises that the people will one day confess their sins and those of their fathers – which is exactly what Daniel is doing in the ninth chapter of his book. Also, we learn in Isaiah that God is going to use his servant Cyrus in chapter 44:28 to restore Jerusalem and the temple.

Numbers As Symbols

Seventy weeks are seven sets of seven days. We have noted that God would smite His people seven times, and we know that the Sabbaths revolved around the number seven: the seventh day, the seventh year, and the foty-ninth + fiftieth year. This time period is difficult to assign a literal period to, so, in light of the importance of seven in Jewish theology, it is logical to consider the seventy years and the seventy weeks as symbolic period of time.

Seventy years would be ten sevens. Ten cycles of Sabbath rest. The seventy weeks would be seven times seven times ten. (Remember Jesus and Peter on the topic of forgiveness: seventy times seven.) Ten sevens point to Jubilee, a time when the land rested and freedom was granted to those under bondage.

These numbers demonstrates a period of absolute completeness. There is no sensible way you can assign literal years to these numbers and assign them to fitting events. These numbers have been used symbolically in other locations, and it makes sense to view them as symbolic now.

The Goals of the Seventy Sevens

What is to be accomplished in this time period of “ten Jubilees?” Six things are mentioned beginning in verse 24. A finish transgression and an end to sin are promised. Only one brings a true end to the consequences of sin. Binding up and removing sin is only accomplished through Christ’s sacrifice. Atonement for sin will come. Again, in the scriptures, there is only one who brings absolute atonement. This time will bring everlasting righteousness. Vision and prophecy will be sealed up or brought to completion. In Luke 24, Jesus says His life has fulfilled all things written concerning the Messiah. He says early in his ministry that He has come to fulfill, or accomplish, the law. Finally this period will anoint the most holy. Again, Jesus seems a logical conclusion to this statement. He, being seated at the right hand of God, is anointed prophet, priest, and king.

This whole passage pretty conclusively points to the ministry of Jesus, and this fits in with the rest of the prophecy. The anointed one is cut off and Jerusalem is destroyed (the abomination of desolation). Jesus offered Sabbath to His followers, offering rest. In Romans, we are described as free from sin. The Sabbaths and Jubilee years were times of rest and deliverance, and Jesus’ sacrifice releases us from the debt of sin and frees us from the captivity involved. We are granted inner peace and eternal rest.


God’s plan for man has always been restoration and freedom, and the final Sabbath rest is still awaiting His people. God’s plan is cohesive and builds up to the ministry and sacrifice of Christ. When we read these passages, we can see history unfold in God’s plan, and we can understand our Lord is one who keeps His promises for the restoration of His people.

lesson by Tim Smelser