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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Daniel's Prophecy of the 70 Weeks # 3

Furthermore, the whole context of the prophecy demands that the "Seventy Weeks" be understood in terms of years. For if we make them "sevens" of days, the entire period would extend for merely 490 days or a little over one year. Considering now that within this brief space of time the city is to be rebuilt and once more destroyed (to say nothing of the tremendous events of verse 24), it becomes clear that such an interpretation is altogether improbable and untenable. Finally, there is a remarkable and convincing argument based on the usage of the Hebrew word, curiously overlooked by many of the commentators. Outside of the prophecy of the "Seventy Weeks," the Hebrew word "shabua" is found only in one other passage of the book (10:2-3), where the prophet states that he mourned and fasted "three full weeks." Now, here it is perfectly obvious that the context demands "weeks" of days, for Daniel would hardly have fasted twenty-one years! And significantly, the Hebrew here reads literally "three sevens of days." Now, if in the ninth chapter, the writer intended us to understand that the "Seventy Sevens" are composed of days, why did he not use the same form of expression adopted in chapter ten? The quite obvious answer is that Daniel used the Hebrew "shabua" alone when referring to the well known "week" of years, a customary usage which every Jew would understand; but in chapter ten, when he speaks of the "three weeks' of fasting, he definitely specifies them as "weeks of days" in order to distinguish them from the "weeks" of years in chapter nine. And if the "weeks" of chapter nine were composed of days, there would have been no possible reason for changing the Hebrew form in chapter ten.

Therefore, by every fair and sensible rule of interpretation, the "Seventy Sevens" must be understood as years, not days which we must surreptitiously change into years to make the prophecy come out right.

2. If These "Weeks" are Composed of Years, What is the Length of the Year?

It is quite well known that the various calendars of the nations have used years of different lengths, correcting the error by the addition of days from time to time. Even our own year of 365 days is not exact, the shortage being a little less than one day in four years. If, therefore, the time of the Seventy Weeks is to be calculated exactly, we must know the length of the year involved. And unless this information is supplied by the inspired Word, the case is hopeless. But there is conclusive evidence to show that the prophetic year of Scripture is composed of 360 days, or twelve months of 30 days.

The first argument is historical. According to the Genesis record, the Flood began on the seventeenth day of the second month, and came to an end on the seventeenth day of the seventh month. Now, this is a period of exactly five months, and fortunately the length of the same period is given in terms of days - "an hundred and fifty days" (7:24; 8:3). Thus the earliest known month used in Biblical history as evidently thirty days in length, and twelve such months would give us a 360 day year.

The second argument is prophetical and is absolutely conclusive because it is based on a measure included within the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks under discussion. Daniel 9:27 mentions a period of Jewish persecution at the hands of the Coming Prince who will make a covenant with that people. Since this persecution begins in the "midst" of the Seventieth Week and continues to the "end" of the Week, the period is obviously three and one-half years. Daniel 7:24-25 speaks of the same Roman Prince and the same persecution, fixing the duration as "a time and times and the dividing of time" - in the Aramaic, three and a half times. Revelation 13:4-7 speaks of the same great political Ruler and his persecution of the Jewish "saints" lasting "forty and two months." Revelation 12:13-14 refers to the same persecution, stating the duration in the exact terms of Daniel 7:25 as "a time and times and half a time"; and this period is further defined in Revelation 12:6 as "a thousand two hundred and three score days." Thus we have the same period of time variously stated as 3 1/2 years, 42 months, or 1260 days. Therefore, it is clear that the length of the year in the Seventy Weeks prophecy is fixed by Scripture itself as exactly 360 days.

3. When Did the Whole Period of the Seventy Weeks Begin?

Having found that the Seventy Weeks are "weeks" of years, and that these years are each 360 days in length, our next problem is to find the historical date when the whole period began. And here we are not left in any doubt, for the twenty-fifth verse of the prophecy names a definite historical event: "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." If now we can locate this "commandment," or decree, and fix its date accurately, we shall have the terminus from which the prophecy takes its start.

This "commandment," by a large number of interpreters, has been identified with the decrees issued by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, recorded in the Book of Ezra. But these decrees without any exception have to do with the rebuilding of the Temple, not the city. Let the student read carefully Ezra 1:1-2; 4:1-5; 11-24; 6: 1-5; 7:11, 20, 27, and notice that in every case the decree concerns the "house of the Lord." But there is no authorization for the rebuilding of the city. And it is an interesting fact that the rebuilding of the Temple was stopped for a time because of accusations from Jewish enemies that the Jews were attempting without authority also to rebuild the city (Ezra 4:1-24). The very evident motive on the part of some interpreters to find the decree in Ezra was to get the prophecy of the Weeks started early enough to make the first 69 Weeks end near the birth of Christ. Otherwise it is very doubtful whether anyone would ever have turned to the decrees in Ezra. The early date is not only unnecessary but plunges the entire chronology into endless confusion and disagreement.

There is only one decree in Old Testament history which, apart from all expedients of interpretation, can by any possibility be identified as the "commandment" referred to in Daniel's prophecy. That decree is found in the Book of Nehemiah. Let the student read carefully 1:1-4 and 2:1-8, noting several facts: First, that it was a report of the ruined condition of the "wall" and "gates" of the city that aroused the deep concern of Nehemiah, Jewish "cupbearer" to King Artaxerxes. Second, that after earnest prayer he dared to petition the King "that thou wouldst send me unto Judah, unto the city of my fathers' sepulchres, that I may build it" (2:5). Third, that his bold request by the grace of God succeeded, as he tells us: "And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me" (2:8). But most important of all, we should notice how carefully Nehemiah, writing by divine inspiration, records the exact date of this decree: "in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king" (2:1).

~Alva J. McClain~

(continued with # 4)

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