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The 70 Weeks (Daniel 9:24-27)

I was planning to do a comparison of the ESV Study Bible and the NLT Study Bible on Daniel 9:24-27, commonly known as the vision of 70 weeks. But the amount of notes in each study Bible is quite significant and would be far too much to reproduce here. I will just simply point out that both study Bibles present the various views of the 70 weeks and have articles dedicated to the topic. I thought I would do a simple walk through of the text, laying aside preconceived notions and trying to take the text at face value.

Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city. (9:24) Since the angel is talking to Daniel, “your people” would refer to the Jews and “your holy city” would refer to Jerusalem.

To finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy. (9:24) (Some translations add “place” or “one” but we are left to determine what the “most holy” refers to). This sounds the like the most holy one because it describes the end of sin, finishing transgression, and atoning for iniquity. Taking the text simply, it sounds like the work the Messiah would accomplish. Therefore, I think “to anoint the most holy” is referring to anointing of Christ, perhaps at his baptism where the Father identifies him as the beloved son.

So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. (9:25)

Much of the debate centers around trying to come with the dates for this part of the prophecy and working out the “sevens.” So let us set that aside for now. The significant amount of time is from the decree to restore Jerusalem until the Messiah comes. Jerusalem will be rebuilt during that time. Nehemiah completed the walls to the city of Jerusalem around 444 BC. However, during the time from the decree to rebuild until the coming of the Messiah, there would be times of trouble and difficulty.

Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. (9:26)

Then Christ will be killed. The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and sanctuary. The city and sanctuary would be Jerusalem and its temple that was rebuilt in verse 25. After Christ dies, Jerusalem and its temple will be destroyed. The Romans accomplished this in 70 AD. A reading of Josephus reveals the horrific nature of the desolation of Jerusalem. If you have not read his account of the horror that the Romans inflicted upon Judea and Jerusalem, I strongly encourage you to read his book, Wars.

(9:27) And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week… Most commentators take the “he” to be the Antichrist. But no Antichrist has been introduced to our vision. The last subject that the “he” must refer back to is the Messiah in verse 26. We should not insert a person or figure here that has not been introduced in this vision. The Messiah came and establish a new covenant during the short time that he was on the earth. The new covenant by which we all have forgiveness of sins was a strong, firm covenant that would not be annulled or broken.

…but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; Again, the “he” would refer to the Messiah. How can we say that the Messiah would put a stop to the sacrifices and offerings? Jesus predicted that he would come in judgment against Jerusalem. I think this is the thrust of Matthew 23 and 24. In describing the destruction of Jerusalem in the context of Luke 21:20 (“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near”), Jesus said, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (21:27). Jesus also told Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin the same thing- “Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64). Jesus is calling himself the Son of Man, predicting judgment against the Jewish nation.

and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. Who is the one who makes desolate? Again, I do not think that we should be adding people or figures to the vision. Back in verse 26 we read that the people of the prince would destroy city and sanctuary. These are nearly universally identified as the Romans in verse 26. The Romans are the ones who make desolate. They will make a complete destruction of nation. But then, the final words show that the Romans would also be made desolate.

I am just trying to take the passage in a very simple way. If I knew nothing about premillennial doctrine or the Antichrist, as Daniel and the Jewish audience would not have known, then this is the natural interpretation:

The city and temple would be rebuilt between the decree to rebuild and the cutting off of the Messiah. The Messiah will come and take away our sins, but he will be cut off. A world power (later revealed to be Rome) will destroy Jerusalem and its temple. The Messiah will make a covenant before he is cut off. Sacrifices and offerings will come to an end as the desolation of the city and temple are completed. But the maker of desolation (Rome) will also be made desolate.

I know I am in a small, rare minority seeing the text this way. But it makes far more sense to me and seems to be the simplest interpretation of the vision.