Daniel 9:24 Seventy weeks 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. NASB
Seventy weeks. This term literally means seventy sevens, which equals 490. It has the potential to mean either 490 days or 490 years. Here it is clear that the Lord intends it to mean years; for this number, in years, is the exact duration that Israel had been rebellious by violating the Sabbath—and so God is using the same number of years for determining Israel’s future (most of which is now in the past). Let me explain this further…
The Sabbath year was every seven years; and so we are saying that Israel was disobedient not only for that Sabbath year (the seventh year), but also for all the years in between (Lev. 26:34-35, 43), which would equal 490 years (70 X 7=490). We don’t know exactly when those years of disobedience took place. From the time they entered the land (about 1400 B. C.), to their deportation to Babylon (605 B. C., when their years of captivity began) equals 800 years. So apparently they were disobedient for 490 of those years, and obedient for the rest of the years—about 310 years. If you have read the Biblical history of Israel you will know that they were very back and forth in their obedience—usually according to who was the judge or the king at the time. So we could say that there were “gaps” in their disobedience (note the diagram below).
Thomas Ice, in his commentary on the Seventy Weeks of Daniel, points out why our understanding of these gaps is important. He states, “… Many of the critics of the literal interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 insist that it is unreasonable to have gaps in that 490-year period… [He says] Of course, it is not [unreasonable] since there were many gaps in the 490-year period related to the Babylonian Captivity.”
Ice sites Gary DeMar as one of these critics:
Preterist Gary DeMar is one of the most outspoken critics of a yet future 70th week of Daniel. DeMar argues that there are never any gaps in any time periods in Scripture that he examines. He declares, “If we can find no gaps in the sequence of years in these examples, then how can a single exception be made with the ‘seventy weeks’ in Daniel 9:24-27?” Interestingly, DeMar does not examine the 490-year period that took place during the 800 years of Israel’s occupation of the land…
Now, as we know by Daniel’s prayer, this period of captivity and punishment of Israel, equaling seventy years (for the seventy years of Sabbaths violated) was almost over, and Daniel was anticipating its end. But here in this prophesy God seems to be saying that He will now deal with them for the entire period of their disobedience—490 years. And it was apparently not just for the sake of the land, but for them as a people and for their city.
When I say “deal with them” I don’t think God’s intention is to punish them for all the years that they were disobedient (490 years)—merely to bring hardship on them. I think God uses their 490 years of disobedience not as a measure of punishment that He will place on them, but as a measure of correction and preparation—the time He has determined that will be needed to bring them as a nation to repentance and salvation.
In the next post we will look at the phrase, “have been decreed for.”
Copyright © 2014 by Stephen Nielsen