The Prophecy - Daniel 9:24-27 - Daniel's 70 Weeks
Old Testament Prophecy
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.
25) So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
26) Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.
27) And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.
It is this Royal Decree that begins the countdown of the 490 years (seventy weeks). In order for the 490 prophecy to be determined correctly, the correct starting point is necessary.
Here are the four different royal decree's that are usually considered when trying to determine the correct starting point for Daniel's 70 weeks (490 years) prophecy.
The first two decrees pertain to the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem and the third relates to finances for animal sacrifices at the temple. These three say nothing about the rebuilding of the city itself. Since an unwalled city was no threat to a military power, a religious temple could be rebuilt without jeopardizing the military authority of those granting permission to rebuild it. No one of these three decrees, then, was the decree that formed the beginning of the 70 sevens.(1)
The decree issued in 538 B.C. did not authorize the rebuilding of Jerusalem. In order to make this approach work as the starting point of the prophecy the numbers must be taken symbolically instead of literally.(2)
Some scholars see two "messiah's" in the prophecy and make Cyrus the Great the first "anointed one." They point out that at the time of Jerusalem's complete desolation (587 B.C.), God assured Jeremiah that the city would be rebuilt (Jer. 29:10). From this authoritative word until Cyrus in 583 B.C. was indeed 49 years or 7 "weeks." But to make this interpretation work, they must rearrange the Hebrew word order and translate Daniel 9:25-26 as follows:
Know therefore and understand: From the time that the word went out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (God's word expressed in Jeremiah 29:10 in 587 B.C.) until the time of anointed prince, there shall be 7 weeks; and for 62 weeks it shall be built with stress and moat, but in troubled times. And after the 62 weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off, and shall have nothing.
Most of these scholars view the second "anointed one" as Onias, the legitimate high priest who was murdered in 171 B.C. without a successor. But the second cluster of 62 weeks from 538 B.C. to 171 B.C. is 367 years, not the 434 years Daniel predicted. The translation given by these scholars is possible only if one alters the word order. One should explore all the possibilities of coming up with a workable interpretation of a text as it stands before altering or modifying it.(2)
Sometimes the decree in 458 B.C. is given consideration by Bible scholars as the "official" starting point of the 70 weeks prophecy using God's prophetic clock to begin.
Some support the 458 B.C. date because going forward in time 483 years (there is still the last week or seven more years to go at a later date to equal the entire 490 years of the prophecy) using today's Gregorian calendar of 365 days per year brings you out around the year AD 26. If Jesus was born around 4 B.C. then that would put Him around 30 years old, the common age for a priest to begin their duties. This would also allow for the Messiah to be "cut off" around A.D.30.(2)
Ezra may have viewed this decree (458 B.C.) as authorizing the rebuilding of the city and its walls, because in his prayer of confession recorded in Ezra 9:6-15 he thanked God for giving them the favor of "the kings of Persia, to revive us, to repair the house of our God, to rebuild its ruins, and to give us a wall in Judah and Jerusalem" (verse9).(2) It is possible that the wall mentioned here is also referring to a wall of God's protection and grace.
The historian Josephus makes mention of Nehemiah's last action in rebuilding the city occurring in the 15th year of the Persian ruler Darius Nothus (423-404 B.C.). His 15th year was the 49th year from the 458 B.C. decree. It is possible that some rebuilding continued until 49 years after the 444 B.C. date.(2)
What's so great about using the 444 B.C. Date is the fact that it uses a prophetic year (360 days) instead of the Gregorian Calendar year (365 days). There are solid biblical reasons for looking at this prophecy from a prophetic year perspective as opposed to any other type of year. 483 prophetic years is equal to 173,880 days (360 days X 483 years = 173,880 days). Going forward in time (the year 0 is skipped) from March 4, 444 B.C. (Neh. 2:1-8) 483 prophetic years would bring you out around March 30, A.D.33. which could easily be the date of the Jesus Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem found in Matthew 21. This would then be followed by His crucifixion on April 3rd A.D. 33.(3)
Jeremiah 29:10 cannot be the starting point of this prophecy because from 587 B.C. (when prophecy was given) to A.D. 70 (when Jerusalem was destroyed) is 658 years not 490.(2)
The same king issued both the 458 and the 444 decrees. An understanding of Persian Law is helpful to understand what may have been the need for two separate decrees. In the original decree (Ezra 7:18 - the 458 decree) we find "You and your brother Jews may then do whatever seems best with the rest of the silver and gold, in accordance with the will of your God" (After the rebuilding of the Temple).
We learn from the Book of Esther that the Persian King made a decree that he later wanted to modify. Persian law would not allow this so a new decree was needed to be issued. It may very well be that the 458 decree had good intentions (rebuilding the temple and allowing the Jews to return to an area of their own sovereignty) and the 444 decree further clarified those intentions (rebuilding Jerusalem and the wall that would help to protect the city which would protect the temple itself). This may also allow both the 458 and the 444 dates to be accurate using both solar and prophetic year calendars.
Regardless of which of the two possible royal decrees you choose for a starting point of the prophecy, (458B.C. or 444 B.C.) both bring you to the days when Jesus walked the earth as Messiah and then was "cut off" or crucified.
Even though the 70 week prophecy in Daniel says that the Messiah will be "cut off" it doesn't say exactly how far past the 69th week this will occur.(2) This Messianic prophecy points to the coming of the Messiah before the temple was destroyed which occurred in A.D. 70. That may be why the Talmud teaches "All deadlines for the coming of Moshiach have come and gone- the thing depends solely on our returning to G-d" (Sanhedrin 97b).
In calculating years from B.C. to A.D., one must always be omitted. (From B.C.1 to A.D.1 is one year not two years). B.C. 1 is calculated as B.C. 0 by astronomers. Therefore what is commonly referred to as 445 B.C. is referred to as 444 B.C. by astronomers.(4)
When calculating dates with the Julian/Gregorian Calendar it is generally believed that there is no year zero. Time goes directly from -1 B.C. to 1 A.D.
While we can come close to having the exact dates, because two different calendars are involved some dates are estimated. For example Nehemiah 2:1-8 puts the king issuing the decree in the month of Nissan (Jewish Calendar) and since it came during his 20th year of reign it is unclear if this is 445 or 444 B.C. Kings were given credit as having served 1 year when Nissan 1 came around on the Jewish calendar regardless of the actual start date.
Both the 458 B.C. date and the 444 B.C. date have their advocates among bible scholars.(2)
Jeremiah 29:10 cannot be the starting point of this prophecy because from 587 B.C. (when prophecy was given) to A.D. 70 (when Jerusalem was destroyed) is 658 years not 490.(2)The Encyclopedia Britannica sets the date at March 4, 444 B.C.(6).
Here are links that have been created to help move around inside of the Daniel 9:24-27 prophecy.
Other links of interest include:
1). Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 1:1362
2). RBC Ministries, The Daniel Papers, Daniel's Prophecy of 70 Weeks.
3). The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell. p.201.
4). The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson p.128.
5). Friends of Israel; Israel my Glory, Sept./Oct 2007 p.12 (Harold L. Willmington).
Also contributing Prophecy of Seventy Weeks by Alva McClain.