The First Sixty-nine Weeks and the Coming of the Messianic Prince
In approaching the first sixty-nine weeks of the prophecy, it should be remembered that this period of sixty-nine weeks begins with the "going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem" and that it ends with the manifestation of the Messiah as the "Prince" of Israel. Our purpose will be to ascertain the nature and length of the "weeks," discover in history the events which mark their beginning and end, and then see whether the prediction fits the history from a chronological standpoint; for the one point in the prophecy upon which all interpreters agree is that the first sixty-nine weeks have been fulfilled and are past. About four questions will cover the field of investigation.
1. What is the Measure of Time Indicated by the "Weeks" of this Prophecy?
What kind of "weeks" are they? To the casual English reader, the word "week" means but one thing, that is, a period of seven days. And many interpreters have accepted this rather superficial view of the matter. Taking the "Seventy Weeks" as "weeks" of days, they have then proceeded to translate the days into years. If we ask by what right they take such liberties with the inspired Word of God, they answer that "in prophecy a day stands for a year." This is the so-called "Year Day" theory of prophetic interpretation employed by certain Protestant writers and also by Seventh Day Adventism and Russellism. To me it has always seemed an arbitrary method, although claiming the support of some great names. I cannot discover any sound Biblical authority for putting "years" where the sacred text reads "days." The folly of this system appears most clearly in attempts to handle the 1260 days of Revelation 12:6, which constitute simply one-half of the Seventieth Week of Daniel's prophecy. Here the "Year-Day" theorists are compelled either to abandon their scheme or else make one-half of the last week of Daniel equal to over twice as many years as are found in the other sixty-nine and one-half weeks. The precise figures, according to this theory, would be as follows: 69 1/2 weeks equal 486 1/2 years; but the last 1/2 week equals 1260 years! If such a violent and inconsistent device is the only way, as some have claimed, to make the prophecy "come out right," then we had better cease all attempts to interpret prophecy. It is this sort of thing that makes the skeptics smile and brings the whole study of prophecy into disrepute.
Turning now to the simple facts concerning these "weeks" in Daniel, we shall find no necessity for tempering with the exact language of the text. The Hebrew word is "shabua," which means literally a "seven," and it would be well to read the passage thus, dropping for a moment the word "week" which to the English ear always means a week of days. Thus the twenty-fourth verse of Daniel's ninth chapter simply asserts that 'seventy sevens are determined", and what these "sevens" are must be determined from the context and from other Scriptures. The evidence is quite clear and sufficient, as follows:
Most important is the fact in their divinely inspired calendar, the Jews had a "seven" of years as well as a "seven" of days. And this Biblical "week" of years was just as familiar to the Jew as the "week" of days. It was, in certain respects, even more important. Six years the Jew was free to till and sow his land, but the seventh year was to be a solemn "Sabbath of rest unto the land" (Lev. 25: 3-4). Upon a multiple of this important week of years - "seven Sabbaths of years" - there was based the great jubilee of social and economic adjustment every fiftieth year, when debts were wiped out, estates returned to the original holders, and slaves went free (Lev. 25:8-9). Nothing could be so important to the Jew as this week of years.
Now there are several reasons for believing that the "Seventy Sevens" of Daniel's prophecy refer to this well known "seven" of years. In the first place, the prophet Daniel had been thinking not only in terms of years rather than days, but also in a definite multiple of "sevens" (10 x 7) of years (Daniel 9:1-2). Second, Daniel also knew that the very length of the Babylonian captivity had been based on Jewish violations of the divine law of the Sabbatic year. Since according to 2 Chronicles 36:21 the Jews had been removed from off the land in order that it might rest for seventy years, it should be evident that the Sabbatic year had been violated for 490 years, or exactly seventy "sevens" of years. How appropriate, therefore, that now at the end of the judgment for these violations the angel should be sent to reveal the start of a new era of God's dealing with the Jew which would extend for the same number of years covered by his violations of the Sabbatic year, namely, a cycle of 490 years, or "Seventy Sevens" of years (Daniel 9:24).
~Alva J. McClain~
(continued with # 3)