Daniel chapter nine finds Daniel examining the prophet Jeremiah’s declarations of a seventy-year exile (Jer. 25:14, 29:10), and responding humbly to the Lord in prayer, as the time of the exile was drawing to a close. The personal humility that Daniel demonstrates in his prayer is exemplary. Ezekiel describes him as one of three most righteous men in Scripture (Ezek. 14:14, 20). God holds Daniel in such high regard that before Daniel even concludes his prayer, the angel Gabriel is sent to provide an answer to his prayer. Gabriel speaks to Daniel regarding the timeline of future events:
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 (9:24).
The seventy weeks is literally seventy sevens (heptamades in Greek, shabeyim in Hebrew), and refers to seventy Sabbaths of years (Lev. 25:8), or four hundred and ninety years. There are two elements of purpose, with six specific results:
Dealing with sin
- to finish the transgression
- to make an end of sin
- to make atonement for iniquity (Christ at the cross)
Dealing with righteousness
- to bring in everlasting righteousness (Jer. 23:5-6; 31)
- to seal up vision and prophecy – to seal in the sense of royal authentication, fulfilling God’s plan
- to anoint the most holy – either referring to the temple or the Messiah
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 (9:25).
The first 7 weeks (49 years) probably references the remaining years of Old Testament prophetic ministry after the decree of King Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 2:1-6 (the only decree pertaining to the actual city),_while the following 62 covers the intertestamental period (434), which includes the 400 years of silence (Amos 8:11).
This adds up to a total of 483 years of 360-day years (according to the Jewish lunar calendar). According to the sun calendar, years are made up of 365 days. The lunar calendar would add a 13th month to make up the difference when enough days had accumulated, but this addition is not characteristic of Biblical prophecy (see Rev. 11:2,3; 12:6; 13:5), so five days per year must be subtracted to fit into the lunar calendar. 5 days x 483 years = 2415 extra days, or roughly 6 2/3 years.
Here is the formula: 445 BC + 483 years = 38 AD – 6 years (for the lunar calendar adjustment) = 32 AD, which would complete the 7 and 62 weeks of years.
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 (9:26).
Christ was crucified around 33 AD (fulfilling the first part of this prophecy), and Rome destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD (fulfilling the second). Thus the first 483 years of the 490-year schedule is completed.
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 (9:27).
The people who destroyed Jerusalem were Rome, and therefore the prince would be a Roman prince, presiding over the ten-kingdom confederacy of Rome. He will make a 7-year covenant, which he will break in the middle of its term, bringing about extreme destruction and ultimately being destroyed himself. This describes the activity of antichrist during the tribulation period immediately prior to the second coming of Messiah. The final seven-year period of this prophecy commences with the prince’s covenant, so the timeline has paused for some time, awaiting his arrival on the scene. The purpose for this gap is later explained in Romans 9-11. Imagine Daniel’s amazement. He had sought the Lord for an end to the exile, and God provided him with the timeline to the ultimate restoration of Jerusalem.
Adapted from A Concise Bible Survey: Tracing the Promises of God