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Notes on Daniel: Interpreting the 70 Sevens

By Jay Rogers
Published April 27, 2008

Does any of the vision of Daniel 9 extend past the 70 sevens?

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Daniel 9:24).

Seventy weeks — or literally seventy sevens is simply a big round number. It is seven times the 70 years that the Jews spent in captivity in Babylon. It is not necessary to find a historical event to match anything that happened beyond the 487th year when Jesus was crucified. In fact, the prophecy of Daniel does not describe in detail any specific event at the end of the seventieth week, but focuses rather on the “middle of the week” (Daniel 9:27).

Then does the vision of Daniel 9 include the events leading up to AD 70 and the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem?

Daniel 9:27 does refer to this catastrophic event in the history of the Jews.

9:27: “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

In the midst of the week, or, in the middle of the week — Christ preached for three-and a-half years and then by His sacrifice on the cross He abolished all the sacrifices of the law.

In the 1800s, dispensationalists, such as C.I. Scofield, invented the idea of the 70th week of Daniel extending until our day. It was necessary to their system, since Daniel gives a 490 year period extending from the time of Nehemiah until the coming of Christ. Yet dispensationalists wanted in effect to have their cake and eat it too. Their system interprets much of Daniel, Matthew 24 and Revelation as yet to take place. So it was necessary for them to see a “gap” in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week — a gap of over 1800 years, which is soon to become a 2000 year gap.

The overspreading of abominations — This most likely refers to the “abomination of desolation” (Matthew 24:15) or the bringing of ensigns and standards of the pagan Romans in to the Temple. Titus, the Roman destructor of Herod’s Temple, profaned the sanctuary in AD 70. This could also refer to the profanation of the Temple by Jews who rejected the Messiah.

Antiochus Epiphanes of the Assyrians first profaned the Temple in BC 167. Daniel 11:31 certainly applies to Antiochus, “And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.” The disciples understood what Jesus was referring to when he spoke of “the abomination of desolation” due to the prior fulfillment of the Daniel 11:31 prophecy by Antiochus.

I agree with John Calvin when he writes, “… nothing can be clearer, or more perspicuous, or even more familiar, than this prophecy” i.e., that it refers to Antiochus. This cannot refer to the desecration of the Temple in AD 70.

However, it is Daniel 9:27, “for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate,” that is quoted by Jesus in Matthew 24:15, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place.” This is made clear by the fact that Daniel gives 70 weeks — a 490 year time period — in order for the sacrificial mission of the Messiah to be fulfilled.

Daniel 9:27 does not indicate that this “abomination of desolation” must occur in the middle of the seventieth week. The “middle of the week” only points to the time when Christ would cause the sacrifices to cease. The Temple sacrifices were made ineffectual or “desolate” by Christ’s death on the cross in AD 30. However, the sacrifices did not literally cease until the Romans destroyed the Temple 40 years later in AD 70 — “even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

Interpreting this passage as referring to the destruction of the Temple is supposedly a problem for preterism. The razing of the Temple did not come at the end of the 70th week in the Fall of AD 33, but in the Fall of AD 70. That gives an extra 37 years that does not fit the 490 year scenario by any traditional method of calculating the years.

Some preterists have sought to be more consistent than the dispensationalists with a complete 70th week without any gaps. Therefore, some have taught that Stephen’s sermon to the Jews in Acts 7 occurred exactly three-and-a-half years after the death of Christ. Thus AD 33 represented the end of the second half of the 70th week. I personally find this view to be a strained conjecture. Stephen’s sermon is irrelevant to Daniel’s prophecy.

Daniel’s only purpose was to point to the year when the Messiah would be cut off — “in the middle of the [70th] week” or by AD 30 — at which time the Temple sacrifices would become ineffectual. According to the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Jews of the first century should have simply accepted the “once and for all” sacrifice of the Messiah. As more Jews were converted over time, the sacrifices in the Temple would have gradually ceased. However, the rejection of the Messiah by the majority of Jews after AD 30 was the cause of Jerusalem’s utter destruction 40 years later.

Even until the consummation — This refers to the actual cessation of the sacrifices caused by the destruction of the Temple. Jesus in fact, made the sacrifices in the Temple ineffectual in AD 30. However, the continuing sacrifices coupled with the unbelief of the Jews became a source of abomination.

That determined shall be poured upon the desolate — This refers to the imprecatory declaration of Jesus in Matthew 24:34 that “this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” The Temple would be destroyed before “this generation” should pass away. A period of 40 years, or a biblical generation, was determined until the wrath of God was to be poured out upon the Temple at Jerusalem causing the sacrifices to become “desolate” in reality.

Since Jesus gave a specific 40 year prediction concerning the destruction of the Temple — the Mount Olivet Discourse in AD 30 to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 — it is not necessary to search for a solution to the supposed problem of a “missing three-an-a-half years.”


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Your comments are welcome!

Stephen’s message may not have been significant, but when he was stoned, Jesus’ command to take the Gospel “To the Jew first” was complete. Then the Gospel started to “the uttermost parts of the world.” Thanks for your Website. Good work.

Posted by Walter C. Martin Jr. on 03/28/2009 11:38 AM #

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