The Seventy Weeks of Daniel 9:24-27
Prof. David J. Engelsma
I. The Premillennial
A. What they teach (generally)
1. They claim that in the near future Jesus will
return to set up an earthly kingdom in Palestine for a thousand years.
2. They teach that the literal nation of Israel
will then accept Him and be His special people as they were in the Old
3. They derive their name, premillennialists, from
their doctrine of a literal millennium, before which the Lord returns
(pre means "before;" millennium means "1,000 years" and
is taken from Revelation 20).
B. They hold that the 70 weeks of Daniel 9, the whole
prophecy, is exclusively for national Israel, the Jews
1. Nothing here for the church at all.
2. They appeal to the fact that it is "my people
Israel" and literal Jerusalem that Daniel has been praying for.
3. They point to verse 24, where "thy people" is
literal Judah and "thy holy city" is Jerusalem.
C. They explain the 70 weeks as a definite period of
1. Not literal, for a literal interpretation would
take the period as 490 days—a little more than a year.
2. A week, in the prophecy, is a week of years,
3. 70 weeks, therefore, is 70 periods of 7 years,
or 490 years.
D. Their breakdown of the 70 weeks, taken as 490
1. The starting–point, according to the text, is
the "going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem" (v.
a. Premillennialists differ as to when this is.
b. Some say that it is Cyrus’ decree that Judah
could return to Canaan; others refer to Darius’ permission to build
the temple (cf. Ezra 6); others refer to Artaxerxes’ letter of
c. It is important to them to establish the
starting–point exactly, so that their definite period of 490 years
2. There are 69 weeks from that date to Messiah
Prince (v. 25): "seven weeks and threescore and two weeks" = 69
a. On the basis of 1 week = 7 years, a period of
1) At this point, premillennialism has a
problem and its attempt to solve the problem has resulted in many
huge books of dates and numbers.
2) The problem is that it is difficult to get
483 years between a command to rebuild Jerusalem and "Messiah."
a) Cyrus decreed Israel’s return in 537
B.C.—this is the best date for the going forth of a command to
build Jerusalem, but it leaves too many years intervening before
Messiah, and is therefore unacceptable to the premill.
b) So, many date the period from 445 B.C.,
the date of the letter of Artaxerxes of Nehemiah 2; they then
carry the 69 week-period (483 years, on their view) to some late
(arbitrary) date in the life of Christ.
b. This 69-week (or 483-year) period is divided
into two parts, 7 weeks and 62 weeks (v. 25).
1) The 7 weeks, or 49 years, is the time of the
actual rebuilding of Jerusalem, ending, roughly, at the time of
the conclusion of the Old Testament Bible.
2) The 62 weeks, or 434 years, is the long
period between the Testaments, up to some point in Christ’s life.
(Some say His baptism; others, His triumphal entry.)
3. It is their view of the 70th week,
however, that is the most important aspect of the premill
interpretation of the passage and that lies at the very heart of the
premill doctrine of the last days.
a. The last week, a definite period of 7 years,
is still future.
1) It does not follow the 69 weeks.
2) Between the 69th week and the 70th week lies
the nearly 2,000 years of our present age.
3) In the future (from our standpoint), the
70th week of verse 27 will occur.
a) At the end of the present age, the church
will be raptured out of this world into the air and Antichrist
will arise. (The "he" of verse 27 is supposed to refer to the
Antichrist of the future.)
b) For 3½ years, or ½ of the 70th week, he
will make a covenant with Israel, restored to the "Holy Land" of
c) Suddenly, "in the midst of the week" (v.
27) he will begin persecuting Israel.
d) For 3½ years, national Israel is
persecuted—this is supposed to be "the great tribulation" of the
e) At the end of the 70th week, Jesus will
return to destroy Antichrist, save Israel, and set up the
millennial kingdom for 1,000 years, during which He reigns with
national Israel from Palestine.
b. The importance of this interpretation of the
seventy weeks and especially, of the 70th week for premillennialism
is evident: this gives them the huge gap (or parenthesis) between
the first advent of Christ and the supposed period in the future
when Christ shall deal again with national Israel, the gap during
which Christ gathers a church.
II. The Correct, Scriptural
A. In opposition to the premill view, there are two
basic objections as a whole
1. First, they can give no proof that the weeks are
definite periods of 7 years each.
a. Often, the premill is quite dogmatic about
this, but wrongly.
b. The fact is that nowhere in Scripture does the
term week mean "7 years."
2. Secondly, the passage does not indicate in any
way that the 70th week is separated from the preceding 69 by a huge
span of time.
a. If you think of it, this is a very bold bit of
eisegesis (reading into a passage something that is not by any
stretch of the imagination there).
b. To be sure, the 70th week follows the 69th
week, but at once.
B. Positively, what the 70 weeks are
1. Gabriel tells Daniel of one period of 70 weeks.
a. Literally, it is 70 "sevens" (the Hebrew word
b. 70 is a symbolical number.
1) The premill will object to our taking the
number symbolically; he will insist that it be taken literally.
a) Our reply to the premill is: "Do that.
Take it literally. Then you have a period of 490 days." But the
premill does not want to take it literally, for he wants to make
it 490 years.
b) In addition, we point out that prophecy of
the 70 weeks is given to Daniel as a vision (v. 23: "consider
the vision"). A vision is characterised by symbolism.
2) Seven is the number of the covenant of God
with His people; 10 is the number of fullness. 70, therefore,
symbolizes the fulfilment of the covenant of Jehovah, the covenant
with Abraham and his seed.
c. The 70 weeks are the period of time from the
command to rebuild Jerusalem to Jesus Christ, as the period of the
fulfilment of the covenant. In this period, the covenant (7) will be
1) Understanding the 70 weeks is not a matter
of computing dates and figures.
2) We are basically uninterested in juggling
dates and figuring calendar years.
3) That it happens to be about 575 years is
2. This one period of 70 weeks ends in an event in
which, according to verse 24, six things are realized, the finishing
of transgression, etc.
a. All of these occur during the first advent of
Christ Jesus (from His incarnation through His resurrection and
b. The 70-week period terminates in the first
advent of Christ, so that the whole period is from our standpoint
past, not at all future.
3. The breakdown of the 70 weeks in detail:
a. The period begins with the going forth of a
command to build Jerusalem (v. 25).
1) This is the decree of Cyrus that Judah may
return to Canaan in 537 B.C.
2) See Isaiah 44:28 and Isaiah 45:13.
3) This was a crucial juncture in Israel’s
history and a wonderful manifestation of God’s faithfulness.
a) Israel is desolate, doomed.
b) God then, amazingly, orders Cyrus to give
Israel deliverance, life from the dead.
b. 69 weeks takes us to Christ Jesus, "Messiah
Prince" (v. 25).
1) This period is divided into two parts: 7
weeks and 62 weeks.
2) The 7 weeks are the period of the troublous
building of Jerusalem.
a) Under Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah.
b) This takes us to about the time of the end
of the Old Testament canon.
3) The 62 weeks are the period between the
4) The 69 weeks takes us up to "Messiah
a) The premills argue over which event in the
life of Christ is meant.
b) It is natural to understand verse 25 to
refer to the coming of Messiah, that is, His birth.
(1) When Jesus was born, "Messiah Prince"
(2) "Where is he that is born King of the
Jews?" the wise men asked, at the occasion of Jesus’ birth.
c) The 69 weeks, therefore, extend from
Cyrus’ decree to the birth of Jesus.
c. Then, the 70th week follows, the "one week" of
1) It is the period of the life and work of
Jesus Christ that belongs to His first advent, inclusive of the
resurrection, ascension, and perhaps, the outpouring of the
2) The period of Jesus’ ministry was the 70th
week, the period of the fulfilment of the covenant (7x10).
4. Objections against this interpretation of the
70th week by the premill.
a. Basically, there are two objections; both
concern verses 26-27.
b. First, the premill points out that Messiah is
cut off after the 69th week (v. 26) and before the 70th week (v.
27): the same thing, he says, is true of the destruction of the city
by the people of the prince.
1) The latter, all agree, refers to the
destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans under the general, Titus,
in A.D. 70.
2) The premill argues that both the death of
Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem occur before the 70th week,
not in it, according to the passage.
c. In close connection with this first objection,
the premill maintains that verse 27 ("he shall confirm the
covenant") refers to the Antichrist and to a covenant which he will
make with Israel at the end of the world, when the 70th week will
d. Our answer to these objections:
1) It is true that the death of Messiah comes
after the 69th week (v. 26); it is not the case however, that the
text says that it occurred before the 70th week.
2) The one who confirms the covenant in verse
27 is not Antichrist, but Christ: He does this, not in the future,
but in the past (from our present standpoint).
5. The truth of verses 26-27:
a. The cutting off of Messiah and His having
nothing (as it is in the original Hebrew) is the crucifixion of
b. This occurred in the 70th week, which 70th
week is the "one week" of verse 27; it is exactly the death of
Messiah that makes that week the 70th week, that is, the week of the
fulfilment of God’s covenant.
c. The first part of verse 27 refers to the
1) The meaning of verse 27 will be clearer from
a more faithful translation than that given in the King James
Version: "And he shall confirm the covenant with many, one week:
and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the
oblation to cease, and upon the wing of abominations [is] the one
making desolate and unto completion and it is determined it shall
be poured out on the desolate."
2) It is Jesus the Messiah who confirms God’s
covenant, "one week."
3) It is Jesus the Messiah who puts an end to
all Old Testament sacrifices and oblations by His one sacrifice of
Himself on the cross in the midst of the 70th week (cf. Heb. 10).
4) If one asks concerning the rest of the 70th
week, it is that which belongs to the first advent of Jesus
following His death, namely, the period of His resurrection,
ascension, and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. One
could make a good case, on the basis of the passage, for the
contention that the end of the 70th week is the destruction of
Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It was then that the new covenant as the
fulfilment of the old covenant was definitively manifested.
d. Proof of this interpretation, as opposed to
that of the premill:
1) It is exegetically incorrect to make "he" in
verse 27a to refer back to "prince" in verse 26, and thus to come
to the conclusion that the reference is to Antichrist.
a) The fact is that the subject of the phrase
in verse 26 is not "the prince," but "the people of the prince,"
that is, the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
b) The one, main subject of the entire
prophecy is "Messiah Prince" and it is, therefore, to Him that
"he" refers in verse 27a.
2) Verse 27 speaks of someone confirming a
a) The premill explains this to mean that the
Antichrist will, in the future, make a covenant with the nation
b) But as the King James Version shows, verse
27 does not use the Hebrew word that means "make;" rather, it
uses a word that means "to confirm;" the reference is not at all
to the making of a new covenant but to the confirming of an
already existing covenant.
(1) Jesus, "Messiah Prince," did exactly
this by His first advent: He confirmed the covenant with many.
(2) The covenant is God’s covenant with
Abraham and Israel, the covenant Israel violated, as Daniel
bitterly lamented in his prayer, the covenant which Daniel
nevertheless besought God to keep.
(3) Jesus did confirm this covenant by His
death and in the conformation revealed it in its full reality
as including not only the elect of the Jews but also of the
6. In conclusion:
a. The 70 weeks are fulfilled in the first advent
b. The covenant of Jehovah has been confirmed—for
the many elect of all nations.
c. All of the blessings of the covenant, the
benefits mentioned in verse 24, have been obtained by Messiah and
are now freely dispensed to God’s people.
d. We and all believers live in the enjoyment of
that fulfilled covenant and its spiritual blessings, in the new
III. Another Interpretation
A. Another interpretation of the 70 weeks given by
some Reformed amillennialists is the following. The 70 weeks are the
entire period from the command to build Jerusalem to the second advent
of Christ, including the present age. From Cyrus’ decree to the first
advent is 7 weeks; from the first advent to the appearance of Antichrist
in the future is 62 weeks; the 70th week is the brief period in the
future during which Antichrist will reign and which ends with Christ’s
return. The interpretation is possible because of another possible
reading of the last part of verse 25. It is possible to translate the
last part of verse 25 as follows: "… unto the Messiah the Prince shall
be seven weeks; and threescore and two weeks the street shall be built
again" etc. According to this translation, the building of the street
and the wall, during the 62 weeks, is symbolic of the gathering of the
church in the new dispensation.
B. This interpretation is wrong for the following
1. Like the view of the premills, this
interpretation supposes that verse 27a ("he shall confirm the
covenant") refers to the Antichrist. Everything said above against the
premill explanation of verse 27 holds against this explanation.
2. It does injustice to the plain meaning of the
last part of verse 25. By the building the street and the wall of
Jerusalem in troubled times, Gabriel does not refer to the gathering
of the church but to the literal rebuilding of Jerusalem after the
return of Judah from captivity.
3. The most serious and obvious error of this
interpretation is its distortion of the statement in verse 26 that
Messiah shall be cut off and have nothing. According to this
interpretation, this has to be the destruction of the church by
Antichrist at the end of the world ("after threescore and two weeks
…"). In fact, the text is speaking of the cutting off of the Messiah
personally, that is, Jesus’ death on the cross.
4. The translation of verse 25 is correct as we
have it in the King James Version.