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Seventy Weeks

SEVENTY WEEKS (שִׁבְעִים, H8684; seventy sevens). The term occurs in Daniel 9:24. The passage under consideration is Daniel 9:24-27. This passage speaks of seventy weeks decreed on God’s people and the Holy City for the accomplishment of the following:

(1) to finish transgression (פֶּ֜שַׁע)

(2) to make an end of sins (חַטָּאוֹת)

(3) to make reconciliation (כָּפַר, H4105) for iniquity (עָוֹ֔ן)

(4) to bring in everlasting righteousness (צֶ֣דֶק)

(5) to seal up the vision (חָזֹ֣ון) and the prophecy (נָבִ֔יא)

(6) to anoint (מָשַׁח, H5417) the most Holy One (קֹ֥דֶשׁ) (Dan 9:24).

The seventy weeks begin with the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem and ends with the time of the anointed one, the Prince (Dan 9:25).

The seventy weeks are subdivided into seven weeks and sixty-two weeks and one week. When these weeks have been accomplished, the anointed one is to be cut off, a period marked by desolation and war. The city and sanctuary are destroyed (9:26).

The anointed one makes a firm covenant with many for one week in the midst of which he is cut off and sacrifice and oblation then cease. A full end is made (9:27).

There are three basic interpretations of this passage. All three agree that each week represents seven years so that in round figures the seventy weeks equal four hundred and ninety years.

The traditional view.

This view has been held with slight variation, by most Biblical scholars until recent years. The view is that the end of the seventy weeks represents the time of the accomplished work of Christ on the cross. The four hundred and ninety years are the period of time from the edict to rebuild Jerusalem until the death of Christ on the cross.

The question of when that edict was given is greatly disputed. It is most often identified with the time of Artaxerxes’ decree to send Ezra back to Jerusalem (c. 458 b.c.). This would put the seventieth week approximately in the time of Christ’s earthly ministry. Usually the seventieth week is considered to have begun with Christ’s baptism, and the “cutting off” is identified with His death about three and one-half years later. Others date the seventy weeks from the time of Cyrus’ decree (538 b.c.).

The critical view.

This view holds that the prophecy was written in the 2nd cent. b.c. In this view the writer of Daniel is not predicting but telling what has happened. The seventy weeks began in 538 b.c. with Cyrus’ decree and ended in 172 b.c. with the deposition of the high priest Onias III in 175 and his assassination in 172 b.c. The three and one-half years are the period from deposition to death. In this interpretation 9:26, 27 describes the attack on the city by Antiochus Epiphanes. While this view does not contain a full four hundred and ninety years, the problem is answered by appeal to the fact that we know little of how the years were actually reckoned in that period.

The dispensational view.

This view basically considers the seventy weeks to have begun with Artaxerxes’ decree and the sixty-ninth week to have ended with Christ’s death. But the great “parenthesis” or unreckoned period from Christ’s death until the coming of Christ for his saints, i.e. the rapture, is the period of the Gentiles. Finally, the seventieth week is that period of the Antichrist in Jerusalem until Christ comes again to deliver His Church, a period covering seven years.

This writer holds the traditional view and notes the obvious fulfillment of the goals listed in v. 24 by Jesus Christ. Note the great theological words contained in that one passage.


E. Pusey, Daniel the Prophet (1885), 184-229, 328, 329; A. Gaebelein, The Prophet Daniel (1911), 130-150; S. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (1956), 184-229, 328, 329; E. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (1958), 396.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

See Daniel; Book of Jubilees.