The Seventy Week Prophecy
The section which follows is a chapter from Fred P Miller’s book, Revelation: a Panorama of the Gospel Age
9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;
There are good reasons to conclude that this Darius is the same person under whom the Temple was rebuilt and rededicated from 519 to 515 B.C. (Unknown to Daniel, the restart of the building under Joshuah and Zerubbabel was only a matter of months away.)
The questionable conclusion that Cyaxares, the King in whose behalf Cyrus was supposed to be acting, is the true “Darius the Mede” is gendered by a faulty interpretation of Dan. 5:31. That is, that Dan. 5:31 gives Darius as the immediate successor of Belshazzar. (See below under “Other Evidence.)
Identification of the Darius mentioned here with Cyaxares II, a Median king, is based on conjecture. Only an assumption, with no historical evidence, links the name “Darius” with Cyaxares. In fact the very existence of Cyaxares II is in question! * Cyaxares II, who is conjectured to have commissioned Cyrus and therefore is thought to have succeeded Belshazzar by proxy, may have never existed.
He was placed in the Median dynastic record with only questionable evidence to support his existence because some Bible commentators thought he is needed between Belshazzar and Cyrus to make Dan. 5:31 understandable.
There is no historical evidence at all to support the idea that Cyrus was anything but sole king or that he shared the sovereignty with anyone. Herodotus gives a lengthy and detailed account of Cyrus’ overthrow of the Median king, Astyages, the supposed father of, the probably nonexistent, Cyaxares II. He details Cyrus’ birth by Astyages’ daughter. (Herodotus. I:92) (For parentage See Also)
He says plainly that Cyrus dethroned Astyages (I:73) and details the armed overthrow which was long before the fall of Babylon. He states plainly that Astyages had no son. (I:109) He says Astyages was kept after his defeat, until his death, in the court of Cyrus. (I:130) Herodotus gives the detailed history of all Median Kings from the first king Deioces, who begat Phraortes, who begat Cyaxares who begat Astyages, whose throne Cyrus took in a decisive battle.
Cyrus is said to have ruled as a Median king for 29 years, (I:215) however he only survived the fall of Babylon by 5 years. There is only poor evidence that any ruler ruled between the deposed Astyages and Cyrus. The insertion of Cyaxares II is not based on history but partly on a need to harmonize Dan. 5:31 which appears to say that Darius succeeded Belshazzar, while other scriptures and historical evidence make Cyrus the successor.
Bel and the Dragon This apocraphal book was written (probably in Greek, during the inter-testament period and is a part of the Greek Septuagint translation and the Theodotian version added to the Book of Daniel. It makes a historical testimony to the succession of Cyrus. The first verse is:“When King Astyages was laid with his fathers, Cyrus the Persian received his kingdom.”There is no mention of a pseudo Cyaxeres II between Cyrus and Astyages. Thus this book assumes that Cyrus succeeded Astyages which is correct. There is no Hebrew or Aramaic text of this apocraphal book added to the Old Testament canon.
One answer, but not the best, as to why Cyrus, Cambyses, and Pseudo-Smerdis who ruled between Belshazzar and Darius Hystaspis are left out in Dan. 5:31 is simple. Darius Hystaspis** is the actual historical dynastic successor. The reason that Cyrus and others up to Darius Hystaspis are omitted is because Cyrus established no dynasty. He had no hereditary successor.
A confusing period began posthaste after the demise of Belshazzar with the death of Cyrus following shortly, (within 5 years) and that was followed almost immediately by the death of his inept son, Cambyses, which was followed by the misrule of the usurper, the false Smerdis, who was overthrown by Darius.
In this light Dan. 5:31 makes sense, that is, that Belshazzar was followed by Darius as the first ruler who actually restored dynastic stability to the world order. The dynasty of Darius lasted until it was replaced by Alexander of Macedon.
Objection is also made that Darius, under whom the Temple was completed and dedicated, is called son of Hystaspis by Herodotus while here in Dan 9:1 he is called son of Ahasuerus. But Ahasuerus is a hereditary name, much like Pharaoh, and Hystaspis could easily have carried the title Ahasuerus by which his grandson (the great Xerxes son of Darius Hystaspis) was called. (See Esther 1:1) Even critics of this view agree that Darius Hystaspis was of royal lineage
The name, Darius the Mede, could easily have been ascribed by Daniel to Darius Hystaspis who was related to the Median royal family. In the same way Cyrus was born to a Median princess and raised in Media until he was about 12, yet he is called Cyrus the Persian. Beside “The Persian” Herodotus also calls Cyrus “King of the Medes.” (I:205)
Dan. 11:1-5 seems to say that there would be four kings from Darius the Mede to Alexander. Alexander must be the one meant in verse 4. It is difficult to harmonize this passage but it more readily fits the period from Darius Hystaspis to Alexander than from the supposed Cyaxares to Darius Hystaspis. The latter is the assumption of some earlier commentators.
Dan. 1:21 does not mean Daniel died in the first year of Cyrus but simply that he continued in Nebuchadnezzar’s dynastic government through the whole of the Babylonian period. He was still alive in the first year of Darius Hystaspis, when the Temple foundations still lay unbuilt upon.
The best answer lies in other evidence: In the Masoretic and Septuagint texts Dan. 5:31 is the first verse of chapter six. A reading of the text shows that this is the natural and correct division. Verse 31 therefore is not a completion of verse 30 which tells that Belshazzar died that night.
Verse 30 completes one narrative and verse 31 starts another. Darius is introduced as the leading character of the next narrative which is properly separated from the last and it is not meant that he “took the kingdom” the same night Belshazzar died.
“Took” the kingdom: The word “qibel” does not mean conquer or grab but should be translated “received.” It would ordinarily be used of one to whom the kingdom had been passed down. The original text does not intend the meaning that Darius “conquered” Babylon from Belshazzar.
That erroneous meaning is derived from misplacing verse 31, moving it from the beginning of chapter six to the place it now occupies in the English text.
120 Provinces into which Darius divided his kingdom refer more easily to Darius Hystaspis than to someone in Media who preceded Belshazzar or to the divisions in a single province made by Gobrius, a petty official appointed by Cyrus, as others propose. Any historically literate person recognizes that the 120 provinces speak of the Medo-Persian Empire after it was thus divided by Darius Hystaspis.
The Prayer: Internal evidence also points to Darius Hystaspis. The intensity of the prayer following indicates that he appeared after Cyrus, not before the expiration of the seventy years. Daniel would not have prayed so earnestly for God to do His part if the seventy years had not yet expired.
Other internal evidence makes it certain that he is the Darius who ascended the throne after Cyrus died; if so, with the interval of Cambyses and the usurper, false Smerdis, (see Herodotus Book 3:66-79) it would be almost twelve years after Daniel supposed the desolations of Jerusalem should have been accomplished that he prayed this prayer.
9:2 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.By books: Jeremiah 25:11, “This whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”
Daniel was taken captive in 606 B.C. and the decree by Cyrus, ending the captivity and sending the return under Zerubbabel, was in 536 accomplishing exactly 70 years.
This decree is found in both the last chapter of II Chronicles and the first chapter of Ezra. The frustration indicated in Daniel’s prayer is brought on because that date was, to him, in the past by up to twelve years and Jerusalem was still desolate.
Seventy Years: By Daniel’s reckoning it would be more like 85 years since the desolation began, thus his concern for God to do what he had promised and the search for cause in the sins of his people and himself. See note on verse 17 below.
9:3 And I set my face toward the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
9:4 And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
9:5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from your precepts and from your judgments:
9:6 Neither have we listened to your servants the prophets, which spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
9:7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to you, but to us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries where you have driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against you.
9:8 O Lord, to us belongs confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.
9:9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against him;
9:10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
9:11 Yes, all Israel have transgressed your law, even by departing, that they might not obey your voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.
9:12 And he has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven has not been done as has been done upon Jerusalem.
9:13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand your truth.
9:14 Therefore has the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he does: for we obeyed not his voice.
9:15 And now, O Lord our God, who has brought your people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and has gotten you renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
9:16 O Lord, according to all your righteousness, I beseech you, let your anger and your fury be turned away from your city Jerusalem, your holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people are become a reproach to all that are about us.
9:17 Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of your servant, and his supplications, and cause your face to shine upon your sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake.
9:18 O my God, incline your ear, and hear; open your eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by your name: for we do not present our supplications before you for our righteousness, but for your great mercies.
9:19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for your own sake, O my God: for your city and your people are called by your name.
This prayer: This is probably the most insistent and pleading prayer in the whole Bible outside of Gethsemane.
To the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, verse 7: There are those who insist on a Median Empire between the Babylonians and Persians. We have explained that the reason for this confusion is caused by trying to harmonize Daniel 5:30, 31 which seems to make an intermediate person, either Gobrius or Cyaxares II rather than Cyrus, the successor to Belshazzar.
Please note there would have been no men living in Judah nor would there have been “inhabitants of Jerusalem” if this prayer is dated at 538 B.C. which is two years before the decree of Cyrus.
Commentators knowing this work very hard at explaining differently what appears obvious, that is, that Daniel was praying for a city then inhabited but in very poor condition with a desolate sanctuary. This description would only be possible after the return from exile and preclude the need for another Darius to be invented.
Your sanctuary that is desolate, verse 17: The foundation of the second Temple was laid some two years after the initial return (see Ezra 3:8,ff), however the building was kept from being built and dedicated until some 21 years later in the sixth year of Darius.
It was not to be actually completed until the days of Ezra. He was sent to Jerusalem in 456 B.C. (some 80 years after the decree of Cyrus) and, with Nehemiah, accomplished the completion of the Temple and walls of the city.
Jerusalem and the Temple were in a very sad state, therefore, all the days of Daniel and beyond. Daniel was a youth of perhaps fourteen to sixteen in 606; He would have been about 86 at the time of the return in 536 and approximately 98 at the time of this vision if our identification of Darius is correct.
9:20 And while I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God;
9:21 Yea, while I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.
9:22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give you skill and understanding.
9:23 At the beginning of your supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to show you; for you are greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.
The vision come from the angel and does not originate with Daniel.9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and upon your 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.
Seventy weeks: 70 times 7 or 490 years.
This prophecy is a key to other time prophecies. A day equals a year in prophetic language. Thus this prophecy is to be accomplished in 490 years. Daniel’s prayer concerning the 70 years is answered; however the angel gave him details of the city beyond his request.
The things to be accomplished: The first three items, i.e., to end sin, to finish transgression, and make reconciliation for iniquity, must point to the cross. The next two point to the completion of the things to be revealed: that is, bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, i.e., the events that complete revelation in the New Testament; and finally the anointing points to the Messiah. These generally longed-for events, including the coming of the Messiah, are to be within the 490 years. More specific breakdown of the 490 years follows.
9:25 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.
The commandment to restore Jerusalem: Which commandment? The commandment to Cyrus was in 536 B.C. Ezra was sent in 456 B.C. Usher places the decree to send Nehemiah at 448 B.C.
The sixty nine weeks:
This is one of the most incredible, yet clear, time prophecies in the Bible. 7 times 7 plus 62 times 7 equals 69 times 7, or 483 years.
There is one more week to complete the seventy described in the verses immediately below. The whole period of 490 years is thus divided: (7 X 7) + (62 X 7) + (1 X 7) = 490.
The 69 weeks bring you to the advent of the Messiah. It is not proper to separate the last week from the prophecy to a future date just as the first seven weeks are not to indicate a period unconnected with the 490 years. The violence this does to the prophecy is explained below.
This 69 week statement says that from the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem to the appearance of the Messiah will be 483 years. We choose the date from the decree to Ezra contemporary with Nehemiah the builder because this accomplished the spiritual return with the cleansing of the priesthood and because of the incredible fulfillment. From 456 B.C.
(the decree to Ezra) the 483 years will extend to 27 A.D. (456 + 27 = 483) Jesus was born 4 B.C. He would have been 1 in 3 B.C., 2 in 2 B.C., 3 in 1 B.C. and 27 years later in 27 A.D. he would have been 30 years old.
This is the exact year of his baptism when he was anointed, that is, when he became the Messiah. He did not become the Messiah when he was born.
He has always been the Son of God but he became the Messiah when he was anointed. This incredible prophecy numbers the exact time period from the most important commandment to restore Jerusalem to Jesus’ anointing by the Holy Spirit when he was baptized.
One day equals one year:
It is from this prophecy that the day-year principle is derived. One day in prophetic language is equal to one year in the fulfillment.
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah record the long period of difficulties met in accomplishing the completion of the city. The 7 weeks or 49 years refer to this period beginning with 456 B.C. then the 62 weeks follow, or 434 years of waiting until the appearance of Messiah.
It is the accuracy of this time prophecy which has caused Talmudic Jews to place Daniel in the writings rather than the prophets in the Jewish division of the Old Testament.
9:26 And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and to the end of the war desolations are determined.
After: the 483 years of waiting–how long after is specified below. The important prediction is that Messiah will not be cut off for himself but will die for others. Quite a prophetic statement, isn’t it?
After – destroy the city: Here the future destruction of Jerusalem, after the Messiah has been cut off, is foretold, but not how long after. It extends beyond the period, and the exact time of the destruction of the city (end of the war, desolations, etc.) is not given in the prophecy.
We know the people of the prince (the Romans) did come and destroy the city and temple in 70 A.D. after the 483 years. The concept is that as a result of the cutting off of the Messiah the people of the prince will come to destroy the temple that has now been abandoned by God.
In that sense it was already desolate when Titus destroyed it in 70 A.D. Titus did not make it desolate; Jesus made it desolate.
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.
He shall confirm:
“He,” the Messiah will confirm the covenant. Not the prince who destroys the city. This latter is the violent method of interpretation offered by premillenial scholars. With their interpretation the prophecy ceases to be a 490 year prophecy, as the seventieth week is yet to come.
Incredibly they see the last seven years of the history of the world and Antichrist. But this is a 70 week prophecy, The last week refers to the seven years following 27 A.D., or it is not a 70 week prophecy.
Jesus confirmed the covenant: We would hope to find a fulfillment of the confirmation of the covenant that would extend not only to Pentecost but to the conversion of the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house.
It does not go so far; but 33 A.D. does encompass the conversion of the apostle Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, and last apostle chosen to be in the foundation of the church; thus in prospect the confirmation of the covenant is complete.
The seventieth week:
Messiah came to bring and confirm a New Covenant. That confirmation would be accomplished in the seven years following Jesus’ baptism in 27 A.D. The rest of 27 then 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, would make 30 A.D., the midst of the week.
It is the year Messiah was cut off, but not for himself, as in verse 26, which is consequently when Jesus made the sacrifice and the oblation non effective. He caused it to cease in effectiveness.
Once Jesus died on the cross you can offer lambs by the millions and they have no validity — they are desolate. Jesus made the Temple worship desolate at the cross and it would remain desolate until that which was already determined was poured out later by the Romans on that which had already been made desolate by Jesus before they got there.
What remarkable coincidence in this wonderful 70 week prophecy. No human could have devised this before the events transpired. It is a faith-building prophecy.
Besides the marvelous coincidence of the prophetic words in this chapter, one can note the following conclusions as well:
1. The premillenial interpretation is forced and does violence to the natural divisions in the prophecy. As in Daniel 2 the feet must be cut off the image and placed 1500 years away from the ankles, or the toes must be pictured as more than twice as long as the statue; (see diagram below) so here too, the final week must be separated from the rest of the fulfilled prophecy waiting, yet unfulfilled, how many more years beyond the now 1,900 plus already passed?
It is hardly a 70 week prophecy is it? Such a system of interpretation has to be wrong.
2. The validity of one day equals one year in prophetic symbolism is established.***
3. The 1260 days, 42 months, 3 1/2 years, time, times and half a time of Daniel and Revelation all refer not to a literal 3 and 1/2 years but to 1,260 years. Other time prophecies in Revelation are to be understood the same way. That is, one day in prophecy equals one year in the fulfillment.
* Cyaxares II may be the product of Xenophon’s imagination (c. 350 B.C.). He is known to have fictionalized his exploits among the Persians. Cyaxares II appears in no other ancient histories except those after Xenophon. All who believe that Cyaxares II is the Darius of Dan. 5:31 quote Xenophon and reject Herodotus (c. 475 B.C.).
** For a more thorough discussion of all theories of who this Darius might be, see Barnes Notes on Daniel, introduction to chapter VI. Barnes comes to a different conclusion using extensive but conjectural evidence.
*** The so called, 2300 day prophecy of Daniel 8 is excluded from this method as the word “day” is not used in the Hebrew text. The period is 2300 mornings and evenings, not days.
The KJV use of “day” caused many to predict future events erroneously, particularly the Millerites of the late 1800s out of whom the Seventh Day Adventist group arose due to the false use of the 2300 “day” prophecy. For more on the 2300 Day Prophecy, see the chapter by that name in this book.
Premillenial Interpretations do Violence to the Prophecy
The following diagram illustrates the way that some interpreters force the scripture into their interpretation instead of diagramming the scripture and fitting the interpretation to the scripture.
Such a forced interpretation as that illustrated below could not be done by our Omniscient God, He would not create a freak to represent what is real. Imagine a god who said that “History will look like a statue” and then to match the interpretation you have to draw toes as long as the rest of the statue.
Such a statue has to lie on his side because he can not stand on such deformed feet. Since premillenial scholars know that the division of the Roman Empire into 10 kingdoms took place about 500 years after the advent of Jesus of Nazareth and they err in not believing “the little stone” has hit the image in the feet as yet, then they are forced to draw toes that are 1500 years long.
The diagram is not actually proportionate however since an honest picture of the toes make them 1 and 1/3 times longer that the complete standing image. The rest of the statue is proportionate to the time periods that each symbolic portion predicted. Surely God did not predict history represented by a freak statue.