Saturday, July 2, 2022

Understanding the Prophecy of the 70 Weeks

  by James C. Morris –

Seventy weeks were revealed to Daniel in the following words:

Seventy weeks are determined

For your people and for your holy city,

To finish the transgression,

To make an end of sins,

To make reconciliation for iniquity,

To bring in everlasting righteousness,

To seal up vision and prophecy,

And to anoint the Most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24)

First, we need to understand that, although most of our English translations say seventy “weeks,” the Hebrew word translated “weeks” is שבוע, shabuwa' in our alphabet, in the plural, שבום, shabwim in our alphabet (word number 7620 in Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary.) This word simply means “sevens,” and is used in the Old Testament for both a period of seven days and a period of seven years.

This can be seen in the sabbath year of rest the LORD decreed for the land. He told Moses “When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard.” (Leviticus 25:2-4) Compare this with the LORD’S command to “Remem­ber the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:8-11) The same word, “sabbath,” was used to describe both the seventh day and the seventh year.

This shows that in the Old Testament the concept of a “week” applied equally to periods of seven days and seven years. Only the context can show whether days or years was meant. And in this case, the context clearly shows that the meaning could not even possibly be days. So it is not simply interpretation to take seventy weeks as meaning 490 years. Nor is this an application of the so-called “day-year principle.” This is a fully legitimate meaning of the Hebrew words used in this passage.

Next, we need to notice who these seventy weeks were “determined” for.

Seventy weeks are determined

For your people and for your holy city.” (Daniel 9:24a)

This was spoken to Daniel. And Daniel’s people were unquestionably the Jews, and his holy city was unquestionably Jerusalem. Thus, these “Seventy weeks are determined” for the Jews and for Jerusalem. This means that any attempt to apply them to any other group or any other place is wresting scripture.

Next, we need to notice the purpose of these “seventy weeks.” They “are determined”


To finish the transgression,

To make an end of sins,

To make reconciliation for iniquity,

To bring in everlasting righteousness,

To seal up vision and prophecy,

And to anoint the Most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24b)

First, there can be no doubt that “the transgression” of the Jews and of Jerusalem is not, even to this day, finished. So this goal of the “seventy weeks” has unquestionably not yet been accomplished.

The goal “To make reconciliation for iniquity” was unquestionably accomplished at Calvary. But most of the Jews and of Jerusalem have not yet repented, so, even to this time, “everlasting righteous” has not yet been brought in for the Jews and for Jerusalem.

But the scriptures plainly tell us that both of these will eventually be accomplished for the Jews and for Jerusalem. For the Lord plainly promised:

In that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious; And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing For those of Israel who have escaped. And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy--everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning.” (Isaiah 4:2-4)

And again, He also promised:

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

So we see that the scriptures indeed tell us, and in explicit words, that in a future day the goals of making “an end of sins” and bringing in “everlasting righteousness,” will indeed be accomplished for the Jews and for Jerusalem.

Again, the goal “To seal up vision and prophecy” cannot have been accomplished for the Jews and for Jerusalem until everything prophesied for them has been accomplished.

But now we come to the goal “To anoint the Most Holy.”

This term “Most Holy” is the Hebrew words קךשים׃ קךש, qodesh qodesh, that is, the Hebrew word qodesh, which means holy, doubled. (This is word number 6944 in Strong’s Hebrew dictionary.) This is not, as many have supposed, a reference to the Lord Jesus, but to the place behind the veil. The first time this was said was concerning the tabernacle, as we read in Exodus 26:33-34, “you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy. You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy.” And the second time it was said was concerning the temple built by Solomon, as we read in 1 Kings 6:16, “Then he built the twenty-cubit room at the rear of the temple, from floor to ceiling, with cedar boards; he built it inside as the inner sanctuary, as the Most Holy Place.” (Notice that in both of these passaes, the word place is in italics, indicating that it was not in the Hebrew text.) This word is again used of that room of Solomon’s temple in 1 Kings 7:50 and 8:6, in 2 Chronicles 4:22, and 5:7 and 11, and of the same room in the millennial temple as it is described in Ezekiel 41:4, 44:13, and 45:3.

This is distinguished from generic places that were holy, by calling those “a holy place,” using the Hebrew words במקןם קךןש, quadosh maqom in our alphabet, (words number 6918 and 4725 in Strong’s Hebrew dictionary.) This expression can be found in Leviticus 7:6 and 10:17.

And although the language is Greek instead of Hebrew, the term “Most Holy” is also used in the New Testament. It refers to the place behind the veil in Old Testament worship in Hebrews 9:25. And in verse 12 of the same chapter it refers to a similar place in heaven. And in Jude 20 it is used in regard to our faith.

The term “most holy” is also used of the “altar of the burnt offering” in Exodus 29:37 and 40:10, and of the offerings in Exodus 30:10, and 36, in Leviticus 2:3 and 10, 6:17, 25 and 29, 7:1, 6, 12 and 17, 14:13, 21:22, 24:9 and 27:28, in Numbers 18:9 and 10, in Ezra 2:63, in Nehemiah 7:65, and in Ezekiel 42:13.

So the “Most Holy” that was to be anointed in Daniel 9:24 cannot refer to the Lord Jesus because in the entire rest of the Bible, this term is never, even once, used of God himself. It has to refer to the “Most Holy” place of the future temple after it has been cleansed as described in Daniel 8:13-14, where we read, “Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, ‘How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled under foot?’ And he said to me, ‘For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.’ ”

But after this introductory part of the vision, in which Daniel was told both who these “seventy weeks” were “determined” for, and what was to be accomplished in them, Daniel was further told:

Know therefore and understand,

That from the going forth of the command

To restore and build Jerusalem

Until Messiah the Prince,

There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;

The street shall be built again, and the wall,

Even in troublesome times.”

(Daniel 9:25)

Here we have sixty-nine weeks, or 483 years, “from the going forth of the command To restore and to build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince.” Some claim that there is historical evidence that our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem occurred exactly 483 Hebrew years, to the day, after this order went forth. I cannot personally testify as to the accuracy of this claim. But history indeed confirms that it occurred at approximately that time.

But now the Divinely inspired account contains a break. We read:

And after the sixty-two weeks

Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;

And the people of the prince who is to come

Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.

The end of it shall be with a flood,

And till the end of the war desolations are determined.” (Daniel 9:26)

Two things were to happen after the sixty-two week second part of these pre-determined seventy weeks. “Messiah” would “be cut off,” and “the people of the prince who is to come” would “destroy the city and the sanctuary.” And we know that both of these indeed happened exactly as prophesied. “Messiah” was indeed “cut off,” and “the city and the sanctuary” were indeed destroyed. The first of these plainly refers to our Lord’s death at Calvary. The second was done by the ancient Romans under the leadership of Titus. Since Titus was a Roman, and Daniel was told this would be done by “the people of the prince who is to come,” this “prince who is to come” has to be, like Titus, a Roman. He cannot come from any other nation, for then “the prince who is to come” would not be “the prince” of “the people” who destroyed “the city and the sanctuary.”

But we also know from history that these two events did not happen within a seven year period. Most historians feel that the errors in our calender make the actual date of Jesus’ birth 4 BC. Since Jesus lived thirty-three years, that puts his death in 29 A.D. But according to history, the city was not destroyed until 70 A.D., forty-one years after that. So even if there are small errors in the accepted dates of history, we know that “the city and the sanctuary” were not destroyed in the same “week” (a seven year period) that our Lord was crucified. But we need to notice that both of these events are mentioned before the last week is even mentioned. So here we see that there is an undeniable break in the scriptural account of the “seventy weeks.”

And the last “week” is treated differently. The prophecy does not even say that it is the seventieth “week.” The only reason we know that it is the seventieth “week” is because all the rest of the “weeks” had already been used up. So this “week” has to be the seventieth one. We read:

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many

for one week;

But in the middle of the week

He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.

And on the wing of abominations shall be

one who makes desolate,

Even until the consummation, which is determined,

Is poured out on the desolate.” (Daniel 9:27)

But in addition to this we need to notice a detail in each of these prophetic statements that almost everyone seems to have missed. For it has become almost standard for teachers of Bible prophecy to say that “the Antichrist,” after making a seven year covenant with “the Jews,” will break that covenant in the middle of the week and attack them in their land. But that is not what this prophecy says. For in this verse there is a distinct change in actors.

First, it says:

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;

But in the middle of the week

He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.”

Here the actor is distinctly called “he” two different times.

But then, suddenly, the actor changes. For the next stanza reads:


And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate.”


The actor, which had been “he,” suddenly changes to “one.” This clearly identifies the “one who makes desolate” as someone different from the “he” who “shall confirm a covenant with many for one week.” The identity of this “one who makes desolate” is not revealed in this prophecy. But he is identified in Isaiah 7, 10, 14, 30, and 31, in Micah 5, and in Nahum, as someone that the scriptures call “the Assyrian.” The significance of these many prophecies has been missed because most scholars simply assume that they are only speaking of the ancient attack on Hezekiah by the Assyrian king Sennacherib. But these prophecies are filled with details that have most certainly never been fulfilled.

Now some imagine that the “he” in Daniel 9:27 is speaking of the Lord himself. They think that the almost unanimous opinion of the translators about this sentence is incorrect, and imagine that the words “for one week” should be translated “in one week.” And imagine that the words “in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering” refer to our Lord. But that notion violates a rule of grammar that is the same in all languages. That rule is that whenever the word “he” is suddenly introduced, it refers to whoever is under discussion, which, unless the context indicates otherwise, is the last man mentioned. And in this case, the last man that had been mentioned was “the prince that shall come,” whose “people” were going to “destroy the city and the sanctuary.” The interpretation that this refers to our Lord also makes the last part of this prophecy jump back in time, instead of being sequential, as is the rest of this entire prophecy.

And this wrested interpretation ignores what these “seventy weeks are determined for.” We have already noticed that they were determined for Daniel’s “people” (the Jews) and for Daniel’s “holy city.” Jerusalem. But this wresting of the prophecy makes them for all mankind, not just for the Jews and for Jerusalem.

But the problem with this wresting of the word of God is not just a matter of misinterpreting the actual words of this prophecy. It does violence to the entirety of end time prophecy. For this is far from the only prophecy that speaks of an end time “week.”

An end time covenant that will not be fulfilled is spoken of in another prophecy. Isaiah 28:14-18 says:

Therefore hear the word of the LORD, you scornful men,

Who rule this people who are in Jerusalem,

Because you have said,

We have made a covenant with death,

And with Sheol we are in agreement.

When the overflowing scourge passes through,

It will not come to us,

For we have made lies our refuge,

And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.’

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:

Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation,

A tried stone, a precious cornerstone,

a sure foundation;

Whoever believes will not act hastily.

Also I will make justice the measuring line,

And righteousness the plummet;

The hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,

And the waters will overflow the hiding place.

Your covenant with death will be annulled,

And your agreement with Sheol will not stand;

When the overflowing scourge passes through,

Then you will be trampled down by it.’ ”

So we see that the scriptures clearly foretell an end time covenant that God will not allow to be fulfilled.

And in addition to this, there are no less than six other prophecies that mention an end time fulfillment of this last week. For the last verse of Daniel 9 clearly says that there would be a great event “in the middle of the week.” This event divides the “week” into two half weeks. And one or the other of these two half weeks are seen in six other end time prophecies. They are spoken of as “a time, times, and half a time,” (three and a half years) as “forty-two months,” (again, three and a half years) and as “one thousand two hundred and sixty days,” (exactly three and a half Hebrew years, which were composed of twelve months of thirty days each.) So the two halves of this seventieth “week” are described in six other prophecies which have unquestionably never been fulfilled.

The first half of this final “week” is first seen in Daniel 7, where in verse 25 “the saints shall be given into” the hand of the “little” “horn” of verse 8, which became “greater than his fellows” in verse 20, “for a time and times and half a time.” It is also seen in the “forty-two months” for which “the beast” “was given authority to continue” in Revelation 13:5. It is again seen in Revelation 11:3, where God’s “two witnesses” “will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”

The second half of this week is seen in Daniel 12, where “the fulfillment of” the “wonders” (verse 5) shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.” (verse 7) We see it again in Revelation 12:7, where “the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” And finally, it is seen in the “forty two months” during which “the Gentiles” “will tread the holy city underfoot” in Revelation 11:2.

So we see that the two halves of this final week are seen in six other prophecies about the end times. And this makes a grand total of eight prophecies that mention a future fulfillment of the last “week” of Daniel’s prophecy of the “seventy weeks.”

In conclusion, an understanding of three facts are fundamental to an understanding of end time prophecy. These three facts are:

That the “seventy weeks are determined for” the Jews and Jerusalem, not for the rest of the world. That their seventieth week remains to be fulfilled in the end times.

And that it is divided into two halves by a signal event at its middle.

An additional note about the history of Christian understanding of this peophecy:

Some imagine that this understanding of a gap between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week is a relatively new concept, first developed by the dispensational teachers of the nineteenth century. But this is an error. The oldest Christian commentary on Bible prophecy of any significant length that has survived to the present day is the last twelve chapters of the famous work by Irenaeus titled “Against Heresies,” which is believed to have been written between the years 186 and 188 A.D. In this work Irenaeus spoke of the reign of an evil ruler whom he taught would come in the end times, calling him “Antichrist,” and saying:

And then he points out the time that his tyranny shall last, during which the saints shall be put to flight, they who offer a pure sacrifice unto God: ‘And in the midst of the week,’ he says, ‘the sacrifice and the libation shall be taken away, and the abomination of desolation [shall be brought] into the temple: even unto the consummation of the time shall the desolation be complete.’Now three years and six months constitute the half-week.” (Against Heresies, by Irenaeus, book V, chapter XXV, section 4)

So there can be no rational debate that Irenaeus taught that the last of the seventy weeks revealed to Daniel would be fulfilled in his own future, not in his past.

Something on the order of twenty or so years after Irenaeus penned these words, a teacher named Hippolytus wrote the very oldest Christian commentary on scripture that has survived to the present day. His work was a commentary on Daniel which is thought to have been written sometime between the years 202 and 211. Hippolytus very clearly taught a gap in the prophecy of the seventy weeks, saying:

For after sixty-two weeks was fulfilled and after Christ has come and the Gospel has been preached in every place, times having been spun out, the end remains one week away, in which Elijah and Enoch shall be present and in its half the abomination of desolation, the Antichrist, shall appear who threatens desolation of the world. After he comes, sacrifice and drink offering, which now in every way is offered by the nations to God, shall be taken away.” (Commentary on Daniel, by Hippolytus, book 4, 35.3, as rendered in the forthcoming translation by T. C. Schmidt.)

Later in this same work, Hippolytus said:

Just as also he spoke to Daniel, “And he shall establish a covenant with many for one week and it will be that in the half of the week he shall take away my sacrifice and drink offering,” so that the one week may be shown as divided into two, after the two witnesses will have preached for three and a half years, the Antichrist will wage war against the saints the remainder of the week and will desolate all the world so that what was spoken may be fulfilled, “And they will give the abomination of desolation one thousand two hundred ninety days. Blessed is he who endures to Christ and reaches the one thousand three hundred thirty-five days!” (Commentary on Daniel, by Hippolytus, book 4, 50.2, as above.)

Again, Clement of Alexandria whose work is believed to have “been given to the world in 194 A.D.,” wrote, “That the temple accordingly was built in seven weeks, is evident; for it is written in Esdras. And thus Christ became King of the Jews, reigning in Jerusalem in the fulfilment of the seven weeks. And in the sixty and two weeks the whole of Judæa was quiet, and without wars. And Christ our Lord, ‘the Holy of Holies,’ having come and fulfilled the vision and the prophecy, was anointed in His flesh by the Holy Spirit of His Father. In those ‘sixty and two weeks,’ as the prophet said, and ‘in the one week,’ was He Lord. The half of the week Nero held sway, and in the holy city Jerusalem placed the abomination; and in the half of the week he was taken away, and Otho, and Galba, and Vitellius. And Vespasian rose to the supreme power, and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the holy place. And that such are the facts of the case, is clear to him that is able to understand, as the prophet said.” (“The Stromata,” by Clement of Alexandria, book 1, chapter 21.)

Here we see that Clement, though he did not see the gap in the seventy weeks extending into his own future, as did both Irenaeus, who wrote before him, and Hippolytus, who wrote after him, he also saw a short gap in the same prophecy, with the seventieth week in the time of Nero and Vespasian, nearly forty years after the end of the sixty-ninth week.

Since these are the only three surviving documents from that period that spoke of the subject, we see that this gap in the seventy weeks revealed to Daniel was not only indicated in the very text of the scriptures themselves, it was also taught by every Christian writer who commented on this prophecy during the first two centuries of the church. The early dating of these writers is significant because these were the only such writers who lived early enough to have personally known the dates involved. And all of them who wrote this early realized that the seventieth week was not fulfilled immediately after the sixty-ninth week.

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