Seventy Weeks

SEVENTY WEEKS [Heb. šāḇu ʿîm šiḇ ʿîm (“seventy weeks of years,” Dnl. 9:24)]; AV, NEB, SEVENTY WEEKS.
In Dnl. 9:24 the expression literally reads “weeks seventy” (NIV “seventy ‘sevens’ ”). The “weeks” are commonly thought to be weeks of years (i.e., consisting of seven years each) by analogy with the “seventy years” mentioned in 9:2, and by contrast with the three weeks of days (šelōšâ šāḇuʿîm yāmîm) mentioned in 10:2. But since the word for “weeks” in 9:24 is not followed by “of years,” we cannot be certain that the expression means an exact period of seven years. It is probably best to think of Daniel’s seventy weeks as meaning periods of unspecified duration.
It should be noted that the vision of the seventy weeks came to Daniel in answer to his prayer of confession and his request for the return of God’s favor to Jerusalem (9:3–19). The purpose of the visionis to reveal to Daniel what God has in store for His people in the future.
The common dispensational view of Dnl. 9:24–27 (summarized in The New Scofield Bible [1967], p. 913) is that the passage concerns only the Jews. The beginning of the seventy weeks, thought of as being weeks of years, is set at 445 B.C. During the time of the first sixty-nine weeks (seven plus sixty-two, as in v 25, AV, NIV), “the Messiah, the Prince” (so AV) shall come (i.e., Jesus Christ) and Jerusalem and the temple shall again be rebuilt. After the first sixty-nine weeks Christ shall be put to death (“shall Messiah be cut off,” v 26, AV) and Jerusalem and the temple shall be destroyed by “the people of the prince that shall come” (AV). This last-named event occurred in A.D. 70. Both of the events mentioned in v 26 are said to precede the seventieth week. Since what is said to happen during the seventieth week (v 27) has not yet occurred, the entire period of church history fills the interim between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth week. The seventieth week will begin with the rapture of the Church; the one who “shall confirm the covenant with many for one week” (AV) is the antichrist, who will break his covenant with the Jews in the middle of the week and thus usher in the “great tribulation.”
The dispensational interpretation of this passage involves several exegetical problems. (1) When Gabriel says to Daniel, “Seventy weeks are decreed …” (v 24), there is no indication that a gap of more than 1900 years must intervene between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth week; the obvious meaning is that the seventy weeks will be consecutive. (2) All the blessings promised in v 24 (which are the goal of the seventy weeks) have been fulfilled in Christ, and none needs to wait for a future fulfillment. (3) What is predicted in v 27 does not follow upon what is predicted in v 26, as dispensationalists contend, but repeats what was said in v 26, locating the death of the Messiah in the seventieth week; the poetic structure of the passage is marked by “repetition with elaboration” (see J. B. Payne, JETS, 21 [1978], 109). (4) The view that the one who “shall confirm the covenant with many” (v 27) is the antichrist is an assumption without a clear textual basis.
The traditional messianic interpretation of this passage holds that, though this prediction refers primarily to Israel, it ultimately concerns all who will benefit from the work of the Messiah—in other words, the entire Church. Christ at His first coming carried out the six great transactions mentioned in v 24. After the sixty-nine “weeks” have passed (see AV, NIV), Jerusalem and the temple having been rebuilt by that time, Christ, the Anointed One, will be put to death (“cut off,” v 26), and Jerusalem and the temple will once again be destroyed (these words refer to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman emperor Titus in A.D. 70). Repeating what was said in v 26, v 27 describes in further detail what will happen during the seventieth week (which follows immediately after the sixty-ninth). “He [i.e., Christ] will confirm a covenant with many” (NIV) in or during one week (since no preposition precedes the expression “one week” in the Hebrew [šāḇû (a)ʿ ʾeḥāḏ], this expression can be understood as simply an accusative of time, indicating when v 27 will happen; see GKC, § 118i; note the parallels in Gen. 14:4; 27:45; Jgs. 14:12; Ps. 5:3 [MT 4]). During this seventieth week, therefore, by His sacrificial obedience Christ will confirm (cf. Rom. 15:8) the covenant of grace that had previously been made with the people of God. In the middle (NIV; cf. AV, NEB) of the seventieth week Christ will die on the cross, thus causing sacrifice and offering to cease by making them unnecessary (see, e.g., He. 7:27; 9:26–28; 10:8f.; and note the rending of the curtain of the temple immediately after Jesus’ death [Mt. 27:51]).