As I say, this in an important scripture. That is because it gives us one of the key pieces to the jig saw puzzle of prophetic chronology. It opens up some of the secrets of other passages.
First, let us reset the ground rules for Bible interpretation. We must agree to interpret the Bible as literally as possible. Sometimes we can’t do that, but we must purpose to look in that direction first. This is without a doubt the primary reason that there are errors made when interpreting prophesy. Second, we are reminded by that word “determined” that the things of prophecy are guaranteed. The Lord is not making educated guesses about future events. He is not suggesting that “if” certain criteria are reached “then” certain other things will transpire. He is actually setting in order the way that things will transpire, and thus they are certain. Third, as far as nations go, Israel comes first. Especially is this true in this prophesy. Unless there is a statement that such-and-such is a prophesy about Egypt, then its not about Egypt. The things of this chapter are not about the United States, except incidentally.
If we can get these thing straight then we can move on.
Second, the purpose of these things is to make an end of sins – something related to the first. And the only way that an end can be brought to sin is through the new birth. The Lord will take away their stony heart and give to them a heart of flesh. As a general rule, the average Israelite is still in his sins; circumcised in flesh, but not in heart.
Third, the Lord will make reconciliation for sin. The word “reconciliation” is “kaphar” (kaw-far’), and it is most often translated “atonement.” There never has been real atonement in this world until Christ died on the cross. The individual sinner can never be reconciled to God, until sin has been atoned. The reconciliation of verse 24 is through the death of Christ. But there is also a day coming when Israel, as a nation, shall be reconciled. There will be a nation born in a day (Isaiah 66:8) and it will not be the United States of America. They will look on Him whom they pierced, and they shall mourn – Zechariah 12:10.
The fourth purpose of the events prophesied here will be to bring in Everlasting Righteousness. Some people think that this is talking about the coming of the Saviour. But it seems to me that this is referring to the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.
The fifth purpose is to seal up the vision and prophecy for a future unveiling. There is a sense in which this sealed vision is still sealed. Israel as a nation still hasn’t figured out that their Messiah has arrived. But it is also true that it was sealed for about five hundred years until the time of the Incarnation of the Lord. A few in Israel began to understand at that time. And then shortly after that the gospel began to be presented to the Gentile world. From the time of Messiah’s “cutting off” more and more could see it, bringing us up to this day. I am not saying that the people of this generation are particularly smart. But Lord has revealed more to us, and we are closer to conclusion of these things than ever before. So these things are more clear to us than to most preachers even a hundred years ago.
The last purpose is to anoint the Most Holy. There are a number of ways to interpret this: This might be a re-anointing of the Messiah, but Hebrew grammar suggests that this is not the case. The “Most Holy” is neuter – not masculine. This may be the anointing of a new Holy of Holies. This may be an anointing much like the Tabernacle or the Temple of Solomon. This seems to point to the upcoming days of the Millennium.
Generally speaking none of these six things have been completely fulfilled, but there is a sense in which some aspects of these are being fulfilled in today’s saints of God. There is a sense in which time marches on and the first points of this prophesy have been reached.
The definition of the Greek word translated “week” refers to the time from Sabbath to Sabbath. In Jesus’ day many of Israel read this scripture from the Greek Septuagint version, and that was the word that they found. But this wasn’t originally written in Greek – this is the Hebrew section of the Book of Daniel. Sadly, the Hebrew, where we expect even more detail, fails us. The word here simply means “seven” – Seven of anything (at least in the area of time.) So literally, verse 24 says “Seven sevens are determined by God.” Perhaps you can hear it in my amateurish Hebrew – “shib’iym shabuwa.” They are two closely related words. But are these sevens hours, days, months, moons, seconds or years?
Usually, “a week” refers to a set of seven days. But not always: remember the trick that Laban played on Jacob? Genesis 29:16-30 shows us that the definition of a “week” can be 7 years. Jacob was promised Rachel if he would serve her father for a week – but it was a week of years. The trick was not the length of that service, but that he wasn’t given Rachel after all. It appears that Jacob felt that after seven years he would be able marry the girl of his dreams.
Beyond this, if we tried to force this prophecy into a series of 7 day periods, it doesn’t make any sense. “If the literal sense makes sense, look for no other sense.” But in this case it the literal doesn’t make sense at all; we’ve got to look elsewhere. Stepping back, what is this length time? 70 x 7 = 490 somethings. I believe that by using real history, we can see that it is talking about weeks of years. It is talking about 490 years.
All right, here is the groundwork with which to begin. But that brings us to two questions:
Thankfully, this little math problem is a bit more complicated than what we need to tackle this afternoon, because Gabriel divides these seventy weeks into seven, sixty-two and then one final week. And the part with which I am most concerned are the weeks leading up to the cutting off of the Messiah. “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: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off….”
What number does a “score” represent? When we aren’t talking about some sport, then a score is 20. A score in basketball may be 1, 2 or 3. A score in football may be 1, 3, or 6. But when not talking about sports a score is 20. So 3 score is 60. Verse 25 speaks about 7 weeks and then 3 score and 2 weeks for a total of 69. If a week is 7 years, then the prophesy says that in 483 (69×7) years after the edict to restore and to build Jerusalem, the Messiah would be cut off.
Okay, let’s apply 483 to the four dates that secular history supplies us in regard to Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra 1 talks about the edict issued in the first year of Cyrus – 536 B.C. 536 minus 483 would make Messiah’s death 53 B.C. Darius reaffirmed Cyrus’s edict in 519 B.C. 519 minus 483 would make Messiah’s cutting off in 36 B.C. In Ezra 7 Artaxerxes granted Ezra permission to return to Jerusalem – that was in 457 B.C. 457 minus 483 would give us 26 A.D. And Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem in 445 B.C. with permission to rebuild the walls of the city. 445 minus 483 would put the death of Christ at 38 A.D.
Certainly these last two dates, 26 and 38 A.D., put us in the approximate period when Jesus was crucified. Some people get very worried about the word “approximate,” and they would diligently try to be more precise, but I’m not particularly concerned about it. By faith I am absolutely sure that Gabriel’s declaration has been accurately fulfilled. But I’m not going to loose any sleep trying to make my mathematics more precise. These years are approximate, because we have to remember that Daniel and the Jews were using a lunar calendar with only 360 days in it. But we are using a calendar which has 365 days, or perhaps we should say 365.25 days. This difference skews up the numbers just a little bit. And then some people actually argue about the precise year in which Jesus died.
Suffice it to say that what Daniel is told proves beyond a doubt that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah of Israel. It was prophesied that He would be “cut off” 483 years after the declaration to rebuild Jerusalem, whenever that was given. Certainly, whatever we are told about that Messiah by way of prophesy is very, very important. Then adding what the New Testament says into this mix, we come back to the gospel of Christ – the message of salvation. The Bible can be fully trusted, the Bible should be trusted, the Bible MUST be trusted. But more importantly than this – Christ Jesus must be trusted.