Daniel’s 70 Weeks – Introduction

01Jun11

Matthew 24:15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),

As has previously been discussed the passage in question, listed above, almost always directs the reader to Daniel chapter 9 and the 70 Weeks prophecy. This difficult passage is laden with pitfalls and difficulties, yet has become the linchpin of Dispensational theology and a passage the Dispensationalist must have in order to make the system work.

Our walk through the Daniel passage will bring us up against many facets of the Dispensational ideology including the gap theory, the Antichrist, the rapture and the seven year tribulation. The four verses in question are the cornerstone on which the entire Dispensational eschatological system rests and where, I believe, ultimately fails.

Daniel 9:24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolate.”

But some words of warning first before treading on such difficult ground. First it should be noted that many Old testament Hebrew scholars consider these four verses some of the most difficult prophetic passages in the entire Old Testament, not only for the macabre and odd imagery, but because of the actual text itself being intensely difficult to interpret and unique in it’s language usage. Some of the greatest minds have struggled to make sense of it.

  • “On no other book…has so much worthless been written in the shape of exegesis” Charles Wright
  • “A Dismal Swamp of Old Testament criticism,” JA Montgomery
  • “This passage is one of the most difficult in all the Old Testament, and the interpretations…are almost legion” E.J. Young
  • “The last four verses present the most difficult text in the book…” Joyce G. Baldwin
  • “It is admitted that these four verses are the most difficult to interpret in Daniel” Gleason Archer

But despite the obvious difficulty with the passage the Dispensationalist has attached himself to this passage at truly must live and die by the interpretation of these four verses. A leading reformed theologian in the area of eschatology put it this way…

But it is not only the opponent to Dispensationalism that argues the necessity of these verses to the Dispensational system, leading Dispensationalist themselves argue the case as well.”

  • All prophecy stopped at the end of the 69th week” CI Scofield
  • “[the] interpretation of Daniel 9 is of major importance to pretribulationism” Walvoord
  • “no other utterance is more crucial” McClain
  • “[Daniel 9 is] the indispensable chronological key to all New Testament prophecy” Pentecost
  • No other portion of Old Testament prophecy is more important to the Dispensational understanding of the future than Daniel’s 70 week prophecy…Ryrie
  • the ENTIRE SYSTEM rests on this passage…” Ryrie

So despite the grave warnings of the intense difficulty found in this passage, the Dispensationalist not only continues to trumpet the exposition of the passage, but finds himself resting on it’s peculiar understanding of the passage for the validity of his system. This dangerous ploy has left many in the pews scratching their heads as things simply don’t make sense. This may also explain why many of the best and brightest of Dispensational thought are rejecting many of the notions determined by the unique interpretation of this passage.

CONTEXT

Before going further in expositing this passage, which for our case will only be for the purpose of exposing the frailty of the Dispensational system and relation to the Matthew 24 passage. many other great work’s have been done on this passage and I would recommend seeking some out for a deeper walk through these verses. I would recommended Gary DeMar’s Last Days Madness as a simple starting point.

But as we have continued to since this discussion started, we must first consider the context of these four verses.

Daniel 9:1-3 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans- [2] in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. [3] Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

  • Daniel was reading Jeremiah and realized the end of the 70 years was approaching – and he took God at His word and believed that the Jews would soon be released and allowed to return home to Judea. This concept will become even more important as we continue!
  • Daniel prays for the people a prayer of repentance realizing the necessity of a Holy people returning to the city
  • Gabriel then comes and gives Daniel this prophecy
  • The 70 weeks are patterned after the 70 years of captivity Daniel was reading about in Jeremiah. Weeks represent years and leave us with a prophecy encompassing 490 years

I want to finish this post referencing the first of the above contextual issue. I stated that this would become crucial in interpreting the passage. God’s words are very important to Him. It is why when asked by Moses as to whom should Moses say sent him, the Lord responds with, “Tell them I AM sent you.” This is extremely important. God’s word does not change. It is not alterable. When He says 70 years that is what He means.

This is also why the words of a false prophet condemn him to death. When one speaks as a prophet he is speaking for God in His stead. When the prophecy is revealed to be inaccurate it reflects on the perfect and holy nature of God and he will not stand for it. To speak for God is a dangerous and awesome responsibility. One should cringe when they turn on Christian television and hear today’s televangelist spout the phrase , “Thus saith the Lord!” To speak in accurately for God is to bring His name into disrepute and worthy of the condemnation and punishment one receives now or in the afterlife!

Bringing this concept back to the question at hand. It is important to understand that when God told Israel they would be in captivity for 70 years it is exactly what he meant and exactly what happened. His word was riding on it!

Imagine Daniel in Babylon and the 70th year comes and goes. Then the 71st and 72nd. Then years 74, 75 and 76 pass by and still the Israelites are in captivity. What would Daniel be thinking? So imagine Daniel asking God about this time difference and the continuing captivity despite His promise of only 70 years of captivity?

Would it be acceptable for God to respond like the Dispensationalist stating, “Well, I just put a “gap” between year 69 and year 70, but when you are released from your captivity that will be the 70th year?” Obviously that would be ridiculous! But that is what the Dispensationalist wants us to be with week 69 and week 70 in the above passage, making a mockery of the words of God and on the veracity of His statements.

Next time we will begin looking at the timing issues of the passage in question and deal more extensively with the “gap theory” and it’s implications. We will also discuss the different theories of timing for the beginning and eventual ending of the 70 weeks – 490 years.

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