“Time Of Messiah Foretold”
“Jewish Prophet Surprises the Experts”
“Future of Jerusalem Has Implications for Whole World”
“No Permanent Peace for at Least Seven More Years”
These headlines deserve front-page space on every newspaper of the world. They are rooted in an often overlooked prophecy made by the Jewish prophet Daniel.
Daniel is amazingly credible. Other predictions in the book that bears his name were so accurately and specifically fulfilled that skeptics have argued that Daniel could only have been a forgery written “after the fact.” The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948, however, surprised the skeptics by showing that Daniel was written before the second century BC.
Why Daniel has been overlooked
Many have overlooked Daniel’s prophecy in 9:24-27 because older English translations refer to this prediction as the “Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.” More recent translations accurately show that Daniel was predicting a time period of “seventy sevens.”
What is the background of this prophecy?
[70 x 7s of history.] While being held as a political prisoner in Babylon, Daniel learned why his nation had been defeated in the military invasions of 605 and 586 BC. By studying the prophet Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2; Jeremiah 25:11), Daniel discovered that his people had fallen under a 70-year corrective exile. While other prophets pointed to a lack of justice and mercy in the land, the public record of 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 implies that Israel was paying for 70 years of environmental abuse. It appears that for 490 years the land managers of Israel had failed to give their fields a required “seventh-year Sabbath rest” (Leviticus 25:3-5; 26:33-35). Now God was using those lost 70 years to bring them to their spiritual senses.
[70 x 7s of future.] As Daniel looked back over 490 years of neglect, he learned that his generation was at a pivotal point in history. An angelic messenger revealed to him that another period of “seventy sevens” must pass before Jerusalem and the nations would find the security and peace they were looking for (Daniel 9:24-27; Isaiah 2:1-4; Genesis 12:1-3).
The prediction was Messianic in scope
Some Jewish writers insist that the messiah foreseen in Daniel’s vision was the Persian King Cyrus, who conquered Babylon and then gave the Jewish people permission to return to their homeland. They point to the prophet Isaiah who quotes God as referring to Cyrus as “My anointed servant” (literally “my messiah”) in Isaiah 45:1.
Cyrus was God’s chosen servant to return Israel to her land. But Cyrus doesn’t fit the rest of the picture (see Daniel 9:24). Daniel’s messiah was to come 69 sevens after the “edict of return.” He was to be “cut off” as if in defeat. All of this was part of a plan that was connected in some mysterious way to a messianic age (v.24).
The prediction says when Messiah would come
The starting point of Daniel’s prediction is “the going forth of the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem.” The Bible mentions three edicts of two Persian kings who gave the Jewish people a right of return to their homeland. In 539 BC and 458 BC decrees were made that permitted the rebuilding of the temple. The third edict by Artaxerxes in 445 BC clearly allowed restoration of both the temple and city of Jerusalem.
To see the significance of the prophecy, we don’t need to choose between these three edicts. If we begin in 538 BC and follow Daniel’s prediction of 69 sevens (483 years), we come to about 55 BC. If we begin at 458 BC we come to AD 25. And if we begin at 445 BC and move forward 483 years we come to about AD 38. (See Discovery Series The Daniel Papers for a more detailed calculation.)
What is so compelling to me is that no matter how roughly we calculate Daniel’s numbers, we come to the conclusion that the Messiah Daniel predicted needed to arrive on the scene in the Middle East sometime between the dates of 55 BC and AD 38.
The prediction says Messiah would be “cut off”
Even though Jesus of Nazareth lived within this predicted time period, many Jewish people insist that he could not have been the true messiah because he did not bring in the expected Kingdom of God. Yet Daniel, along with other Jewish prophets (see also Isaiah 53), indicates that the Messiah of Israel would be “cut off” (i.e., killed) in apparent
defeat before reigning as King of Kings.
The prediction shows an interval before the last “seven”
The prophecy shows that the “anointed one” would be “cut off” after the 69th “seven,” but not in the 70th “seven” (Daniel 9:26-27). This suggests a period of undefined length that will separate the completion of the 69th “seven” from the resumption of the 70th “week.” This idea of an interval is reinforced by the fact that the New Covenant prophecy of Revelation describes three and a half years of last days events (Revelation 11:3; 12:6) that correspond with the last three and a half years of Daniel’s 70th “seven.”
The prediction allows for the “interval” in which we are living
According to the New Covenant, this temporary suspension of God’s program with Israel is being used to call out an international body of believers in God’s Messiah. The final 7 years will follow the church age. During the last 7 years, catastrophic “acts of God” will bring a surviving remnant of the world to its knees (Revelation 4-19).
Who within Daniel’s time frame could qualify as the “cut off” Messiah? If Jesus is the one Daniel foresaw, who can afford to ignore Him? If He died not for Himself but for us, how can we survive in this life and the next unless we entrust ourselves to Him? And how can we be ready for His promised return if we don’t hear Him say, “Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). —Mart De Haan