The Seventy-Sevens Of Daniel's Prophecy

by Joseph Hunting

There are some respects in which the Bible resembles a giant mosaic in which the prophecies that have had their fulfilment fit perfectly into their pattern. One such prophecy concerns a given date in history, namely the date of the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem (after the Babylonian captivity), to the entry of the Messiah into Jerusalem on the 10th day of Nisan 32 A.D.

Daniel's Vision

"Seventy sevens are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy place.

"Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command (in Nehemiah 2) to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven sevens and sixty-two sevens; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.

"And after the sixty-two sevens the Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined" (Daniel 9:24-26).

The Prophetic K ey

The key to unlock this prophecy is the meaning of the expression 'seventy sevens'. Most Bible scholars agree that the time element has to do with years, hence the period of time involved in this prophecy would extend through seventy sevens of years, amounting to a total of 490 years.

Thus 490 years were determined upon Daniel's people, the Jewish people, and upon the Holy City Jerusalem, to (1) finish the transgression, (2) make an end of sins, (3) make reconciliation for iniquity, (4) bring in everlasting righteousness, (5) seal up vision and prophecy, (6) anoint the Most Holy place. The strange paradox confronts us that whereas 490 years have long since slipped into oblivion since Daniel received the vision, yet none of the six promises numbered above and contained in the prophecy have had their fulfilment.

The second important key to the prophecy is to know when the period of 490 years began. The Bible itself supplies the answer. The decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes in the month Nisan in the 20th year of his reign (Nehemiah 2:1-8).

The angel in Daniel's vision told him: "Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince there shall be seven sevens and sixty-two sevens . . . " In other words, the period of time from the issuing of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem unto the coming of the Messiah was to cover the first two sections of the seventy sevens, namely, seven sevens and sixty-two sevens combined, or 483 of the total 490 years embracing the entire prophecy.

This period of 483 years coincides with a most important event in Israel's history relating to the Messiah. If we take as our starting point the date of the giving of Artaxerxes' command, to which event of singular importance in the history of Jerusalem and the life of the Messiah will the 483 years -- lunar years of 360 days each -- bring us?

A Day of Great Significance

There is one day that is recorded in the New Testament that has great significance. It is the day of the Messiah's triumphant entry into Jerusalem as the long-promised King Messiah of Israel. On that day a multitude of people hailed Him with shouts, saying: "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" (Luke 19:38). And when the Pharisees urged Him to rebuke them He answered: "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out." How important that occasion must have been for Him to speak that way!

As Matthew records it: "And a very great multitude spread their garments on the road, and others cut branches from the trees . . . and the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: 'Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!'" (21:8,9).

Moreover, this remarkable occasion was the fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey" (9:9).

How significant was this occasion in the light of Daniel's prophecy! The Messiah knew the importance of this day, for He wept over Jerusalem and said: "If you had only known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes" (Luke 19:42).

"Even Today"

Apart from the importance attached to this day because of the fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy, and the fact that the Messiah wept over Jerusalem and drew special attention to "in this your day" , there is further significance concerning this one day in the history of Jerusalem.

Calculating from the first day in the month Nisan, on which day it is believed Artaxerxes gave his command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, we find that the sixty-nine sevens, or more specifically, the 483 years of 360 days each terminated on the very day of His entry into Jerusalem on that triumphal occasion.

This fact has been established by Sir Robert Anderson K.C.B., LL.D., who has shown that the first day of Nisan in the 20th year of Artaxerxes' reign would correspond with the 14th day of March 445 B.C. The day of the Messiah's entry into Jerusalem in fulfilment of Zechariah's prophecy was the 10th day of Nisan, or the 6th of April 32 A.D. The period embraced was 173,880 days which, when divided by 360 (days of the lunar year), gives exactly 483 years, thus fulfilling to the very day Daniel's prophecy.

The Seventieth seven

But what of the seventieth seven, or the final seven years that terminate with the six-fold promise of cleansing from sin and the restoration of Jerusalem? It would appear from the Bible that certain years were not reckoned by God in His prophetic program for Israel when the people were out of fellowship with Him because of sin and rebellion.

For instance, in 1 Kings 6:1 it is stated that 480 years elapsed from the Exodus to the 4th year of Solomon's reign, yet, in actual fact, the total period amounted to 573 years as follows:

40 wilderness years - Acts 13:18

450 years under Judges - Acts 13:20

40 years under Saul - Acts 13:21

40 years under David - 1 Kings 2:11

3 full years under Solomon - 1 Kings 6:1

totalling 573 years which is 93 years more than the period stated in 1 Kings 6:1. However, Israel was punished 5 times for sin between the Exodus and Solomon's reign as follows:

8 years under the king of Mesopotamia - Judges 3:8

18 years under the king of Moab - Judges 3:14

20 years under the king of Canaan - Judges 4:2-3

7 years under the Midianites - Judges 6:1

40 years under the Philistines - Judges 13:1

totalling 93 years which are not reckoned in the period stated in 1 Kings 6:1.

Israel's tragic rejection of the Messiah almost immediately following the hosannas on the 10th day of Nisan is the reason for the interruption between the termination of the 69th seven and the commencement of the 70th seven -- in this case a period of almost 2000 years.

There are yet seven years to run their course before Daniel's vision concerning his people and the Holy City is fulfilled. He also foretold that the last seven years of the total 490 will commence with a covenant that will be made with Israel and a prince from the territory once in the Roman empire. This prince will confirm the covenant made "with the many for one seven" (Daniel 9:26,27). Thus this prophecy awaits fulfilment, for not until 1948 has there been a democratic government elected by "the many" in Israel.

After 3 ½ years the prince (identified elsewhere in Scripture as the Antichrist or the Beast) causes the sacrifice and the daily offerings to cease in the future temple yet to be built in Jerusalem. This event will signal the time referred to in Scripture as "the time of Jacob's trouble" or "the great tribulation."

The following quotations from both Old and New Testaments vividly describe this period. "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And if those days had not been shortened, no flesh would be saved . . . " (Matthew 24:21,22). "And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book" (Daniel 12:1).

In spite of the unparalleled death and destruction during this period, the last 3 ½ years of Daniel's vision end on a note of triumph, ending transgression, sins and iniquity, and in their place everlasting righteousness and the anointing of the most holy place in Jerusalem.

To Daniel was given one of the most important revelations concerning the time for the Messiah's first appearance. He also went on to say that in the latter days "none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand" (12:10). Down the ages there have been those who have diligently sought the Lord with all their heart. He has never failed to honour His promise that they shall surely find Him.