The Seventy Weeks
Daniel’s confession was an appeal to the divine court to bring an end to Judah’s captivity. Thus, while he was praying, Gabriel was sent to answer his prayer and to give the prophet insight into the answer to his prayer.
Daniel 9:20-22 says,
20 Now 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 in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, 21 while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. 22 And he gave me instruction and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.”
Gabriel came to give the prophet “insight and understanding” in regard to the topic at hand—the restoration of Judah and Jerusalem. Daniel’s confession of sin and the sin of his people is also one of the main features of his prayer. So, as we will see, Gabriel addresses these concerns.
We should also take note that this revelation came “about the time of the evening offering.” I have seen over the years that the date or time of a revelation always has something to do with its fulfillment. There were two daily offerings, or sacrifices, in the temple, the first at the third hour and the second at the ninth hour of the day (Lev. 6:20). Since Daniel was quite weary, it is likely that he had been in prayer for six hours since the time of the morning sacrifice.
The word “offering” (minchah) literally means a donation, gift, or tribute. The word is often used of a gift to a king, or tribute being paid to him. In this case, the daily “gifts” were tokens of tribute to show that the nation was subservient to the heavenly King.
The two sacrifices also foreshadow the two comings of Christ. In Christ’s first coming, He became the gift (offering) to God through His sacrifice on the cross. The second presents the Body of Christ as a gift to the King. For this reason both of the daily offerings included grain and lambs, but for different prophetic reasons.
The Hour of Prayer
The evening offering was called “the ninth hour, the hour of prayer” in Acts 3:1. In that prophetic story, Peter, along with John, raised up a man lame from birth. This miracle then became their proof text that the dead are indeed to be raised. When the Sadducees heard what was being taught, they were enraged, because they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. So we read in Acts 4:1, 2,
1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard, and the Sadducees, came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
The evening sacrifice, then, provides a prophetic clue as to its meaning and application through the miracle itself. Here it is tied to the second coming of Christ—more specifically, the resurrection of the dead, both as a doctrine and as a matter of timing (i.e., the evening offering). Furthermore, the disciples were released (Acts 4:23), even as the second goat (Lev. 16:21) and the second dove (Lev. 14:7) were to be released alive. They were acting out the prophetic role of the second work of Christ in this case, and for this reason, the event occurred at the time of the evening offering.
In Daniel’s case we find Gabriel meeting him at the time of the evening offering, the ninth hour of the day, which was the hour of prayer. Since the answer to prayer seemed to focus primarily on the seventy weeks (of years) leading to Christ’s first work on the cross, it is surprising that Gabriel did not arrive at the time of the morning sacrifice.
Yet if the prophet had begun his prayer at the time of the morning sacrifice and concluded it at the time of the evening offering, then we can see that his prayer coincided precisely with the time of Christ’s passion. He was sentenced at the time of the morning sacrifice and died at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer, when the evening sacrifice was made. Even Daniel’s “extreme weariness” foreshadows Christ’s weariness and distress on the cross.
Daniel 9:23 continues,
23 At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain under-standing of the vision.
Again, if Daniel’s prayer began at the time of the morning sacrifice, then this was also the time when the favorable decree was issued in the divine court. However, we are not told why it took six hours for Gabriel to arrive with the answer. He mentioned no spiritual opposition such as what occurred in the next encounter in Dan. 10:12, 13. It appears that the ninth hour was simply the appointed time for the revelation to be given. Yet the interplay between the two daily offerings prophesied of things to come.
The Biblical Calendar
In Dan. 9:24 Gabriel begins to give Daniel insight and under-standing, saying,
24 Seventy weeks [shavuah, “sevens”] have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.
The biblical calendar was based on “sevens.” They had a week of seven days, but they also had a greater “week” of seven years, as seen in Gen. 29:27, 28, where Laban told Jacob,
27 Complete the week [shavuah] of this one, and we will give you the other also for the service which you shall serve with me for another seven years. 28 And Jacob did so and completed her week [shavuah], and he gave him his daughter Rachel as his wife.
It is plain here that a “week” was seven years, not just seven days. So also is Dan. 9:24 to be understood. The time involved was not 490 days but 490 years. This time was built not only on the number seven but also on seven sevens, or 49 years, which is the length of a Jubilee cycle. Lev. 25:8 says,
8 You are also to count off seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven Sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years.
They were then to blow the Jubilee trumpet ten days into the 50th year on the Day of Atonement, signaling the start of the Jubilee year. The 50th year was the Year of Jubilee, but it was also the first year of the next Jubilee cycle. Therefore, when we calculate multiple Jubilee cycles, we must reckon each Jubilee cycle to be 49 years. For this reason, Daniel’s seventy weeks of years is a period of ten Jubilees (10 x 49 = 490 years). Each Jubilee year would be the 50th (or 1st) year, ending with the 491st year, which was the Year of Jubilee.
The prophets understood that the biblical calendar established the timing of God for prophetic events in the history of the Kingdom. The basic units given in the law are 7, 14, 49, 70, etc., all of which were multiples of seven. The greater the multiple, the longer the prophetic time cycle.
The judgments of God were also structured around these numbers. Those sold into slavery as a judgment for sin or debt were to be released during the seventh year (Exodus 21:2). In some cases, a man might be impoverished and could sell himself as a slave for a “week” of years. A “week” in this case, included his Sabbath rest, so in reality, his labor contract was for just six years. This is seen in the case of Jacob, who worked for Laban a total of 20 years. In Gen. 31:41 Jacob tells Laban,
41 These twenty years I have been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you changed my wages ten times.
At the end of the third week (7 + 7 + 6 years), Jacob was given a one-year Sabbath rest, and it was during this time that he decided not to renew his contract with Laban. Though he worked 20 years for Laban, the contract was actually reckoned as 21 years, including his one-year “holiday” or “vacation.”
That is why the number 21 means “the time of Jacob’s distress,” as prophesied in Jer. 30:7. This number appears again in Dan. 10:2, 3, and 13, as we will see.
The Temple of Solomon
We should also mention that from Israel’s exodus from Egypt until the temple of Solomon was completed and dedicated was a period of 490 years. So Daniel’s seventy weeks was not without precedent. We read in 1 Kings 6:1,
1 Now it came about in the four hundred and eightieth year after the sons of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord.
The account in 2 Chron. 3:2 is more precise, telling us that the work began on the second day of the second month. It took seven years to complete the temple itself, as 1 Kings 6:37, 38 says,
37 In the fourth year [of Solomon’s reign] the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid, in the month of Ziv. 38 And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished throughout all its parts and according to all its plans. So he was seven years in building it.
To be precise, it took 7½ years to build the temple, because the work began in the second month but was completed in the eighth month 7½ years later. The temple, then, could not have been dedicated that year, because the feast of Tabernacles was already past. 1 Kings 6:2 says specifically that the temple was dedicated “at the feast, in the month Ethanim, which is the seventh month.”
So we know from this that the dedication was postponed for at least a year. But 1 Kings 7 says that after completing the temple itself, they constructed the furniture and vessels of the temple, the brazen altar, and the laver. We are not told precisely how long this took. 1 Kings 7:51 simply says, “Thus all the work that King Solomon performed in the house of the Lord was finished.”
The Ark was then placed in the temple, the glory filled the temple (1 Kings 8:10, 11), and Solomon dedicated the temple as “a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). What year was the temple dedicated? Most likely it happened 490 years after Israel left Egypt. The very earliest time would be the year 488 at the feast of Tabernacles, which was eleven months after the temple itself was completed. But knowing the precise timing of God’s plan, I do not see how the temple could have been dedicated at any other time than 490 years after Israel came out of Egypt. In fact, I believe that this is why (in 1 Kings 6:1) God saw fit to link the building of the temple with the year that Israel came out of Egypt.
So the temple itself was completed after 487½ years from Israel’s exodus from Egypt. It seems important to relate this to the middle of Daniel’s seventieth week. That very correlation also strongly suggests that the temple was finally dedicated at the end of seventy weeks from the exodus.