Thursday, April 9, 2009

Daniel’s Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9)

I have several concerns about Sir Robert Anderson's interpretation of Daniel's 70 weeks. First, it seems to me that since a decree to re-build Jerusalem was issued by Cyrus in the same year (or year after) Daniel made his prediction, the most natural beginning point to Daniel's prophecy is Cyrus' decree in 538 and not Artaxerxes decree almost 100 years later, in 445.

Second, Anderson arrives at the number of days between 445 BC and 32 AD by multiplying 476 years by 365 days per year (making appropriate adjustments for leap years). But in order to make the 69 weeks of Daniel come out right he multiplies by 360 days in a Jewish year.

The problem is that Jews periodically added days to their calendar to keep it on track, and while Anderson does make adjustments for leap years in a 365 day calendar, he does not make the necessary adjustments in a 360 day calendar.

Third, it is questionable that Daniel had a 360 day Jewish calendar in mind anyway since elsewhere he was using a Babylonian system of dating, and not a Jewish one (cf. Dan. 1:1 with Jer. 25:1).

Fourth, Anderson's theory not only assumes, but requires that Jesus death be dated to 32 AD. Anderson may be right, but his opinion it is contrary to that of most scholars who date Jesus' death closer to 29/30. The two years difference could be explained in terms of round numbers if Anderson's calculations dealt with years, but since he calculates days, a possible 730 day (two years) discrepancy would destroy his entire theory.

Finally, since the first 69 weeks are consecutive, it seems quite arbitrary to separate the last week by 2000 years. In all honesty, the only reason we do it is to account for the last week which otherwise doesn't fit.

A better solution, I believe, has been advanced by David Lurie (JETS, Sept. 1990) who builds on a study done by E.J. Young which concluded that sabu im can be any integer multiple of seven years ( and Babylonians in Daniel's day were familiar with the concept of integers).

In a nutshell, Laurie's view is 1) that the seventy weeks covers the history of Jerusalem (Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, Dan. 9:24).

2) That the three "groups" (7, 62, and 1) of years are integer multiples of seven (as shown by E.J. Young).

3). That for the prophecy to be true requires only that the number of years from the command to rebuild Jerusalem to the birth of the Messiah be 69 integer multiples of seven, and that the final week, up to the "war of desolation's" (Dan. 9:26), culminating in the desolation or destruction of Jerusalem and its temple (Dan. 9:26-27), also be an integer multiple of seven. Laurie shows that Daniel's prophecy was fulfilled literally.

lthough there have been no views advanced to date that are without problems, and Laurie's view is no exception, Laurie's view does seem to have several advantages:

1) It interprets Daniel 9 literally and avoids Young's symbolic interpretation

2) Lurie's calculations bring us right to the birth of the Messiah and make the abomination of desolation the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by Titus exactly as interpreted by Luke.

3) Laurie's interpretation eliminates the need to postulate a future seven year tribulation period to account for the last week which is otherwise missing.

 Unfortunately, when you really get down to the details, Laurie's theory does not account for all the data in the passage, and in fact, Laurie doesn't even try to provide a thorough exegesis. A better solution, therefore, has been advanced by Peter Gentry in his article, "Daniel's Seventy Weeks and the New Exodus" (Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. 14:1 (Spring 2010). In a nutshell, here is Gentry's proposal:

(9:25) Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and build Jerusalem
o   457 BC the re-issuing of Cyrus’ original decree after the work had been stopped due to opposition by Samaritans
until the Anointed One, the ruler comes
o   Jesus
there will be seven sevens
     o   i.e. Sabbath rests: Second Chronicles 36:20-22
o   457-407—when the city was being rebuilt 

and sixty two sevens
o   7+62 =69 = 483 years. 457 BC minus 483 years = 27 AD.
It will be rebuilt with streets and trench, but in times of trouble
o   Jerusalem being rebuilt from roughly 457 to 407 during the trouble with Samaritans.
(9:26)  After the sixty two sevens, the Anointed One will be cut off
o   i.e. Jesus will be executed during that last 70th “week,” between AD 27 and AD 34.
and will have nothing
o   Can also be translated, “but not for himself,” i.e. he will die for others, not himself
The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
o   Destroy could be translated, “ruin or spoil” and refers to the people of the ruler who will come i.e., the people of Jesus (the Jews).  In other words this is referring to the destruction and desecration caused by the three warring factions of Jews (Jesus’ people) inside of Jerusalem just prior to its ultimate destruction by the Romans (below)
The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolation s have been decreed.
o   The Jewish War and ultimate desolation by the Romans
(9:27) He
o   i.e the Anointed One, the ruler = Jesus
will confirm a covenant with many for one seven. In the middle of the seven
o   The 70th “seven” is from AD 27-34, the middle is about 30 AD when Jesus confirms the New Covenant with his disciples
he will put an end to sacrifice and offering
o   In the sense that Jesus is the final sacrifice [Just as the signing of unconditional surrender by the Japanese emperor put an end to the war even though various groups of Japanese soldiers continued fighting for some time]
And on a wing of the temple
o   Could be translated “upon a wing of abominations”  i.e. in connection with “the abominations which resulted from the struggle between John, /Simon, and Eleazar (‘people of the coming ruler) for control of Jerusalem”
he will set up an abomination that cause desolation,
o   OR “The ‘one causing desolation’ (Titus) comes ‘on the wing of, (‘i.e., in connection with or closely following upon) those who are spoiling and desecrating Jerusalem, bringing the ultimate abomination that causes desolation, i.e. the destruction of the temple.
 until the end that is decreed and is poured out on him.

 Gentry, of course, argues his case much more persuasively than my summary might suggest. Although some of his arguments seem like a bit of a stretch, his is one of the best solutions I've seen so far.