posted on Nov, 26 2017 @ 02:03 PM
The “seventy” puzzle really begins with the prophecies of Jeremiah, who warned the people that God would send the Babylonians against them;
“… these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed I shall punish the king of Babylon…”-
Jeremiah ch25 vv11-14.
After the first group had been taken into exile, Jeremiah sent them a further promise;
“For thus says the Lord; When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you and I will fulfil to you my promise and bring you back in
this place.”- Jeremiah ch2 v10
Clearly, this term is meant to apply to the period between the fall of Jerusalem and the fall of Babylon.
However, history records the first event in 587 B.C., and the second in 539 B.C.
Nobody could complain here that God was slow to keep his promise.
But this teaches an important lesson about the interpretation of prophecy.
Unless we choose to believe that Jeremiah got it wrong, we have to accept that the reference to “seventy years” was NOT meant as a literal time
The real meaning is to be found in the symbolism of the numbers.
“7” is the number that belongs to God, because of the seven days in the Creation story.
“10” is the number which represents “completeness”.
Therefore the period of “seventy years”, which multiplies the two numbers together, holds the symbolic meaning “the completeness of the time
that belongs to God”.
The next phase comes in Daniel ch9. Daniel reads these prophecies in Jeremiah, and perceives that seventy years are to pass “before the end of the
desolations of Jerusalem”.
There follows the long prayer, and then the interpretation supplied by Gabriel, which explains the prophecy in terms of “seventy weeks of
The “weeks” have been broken up into three distinct periods.
But the way that Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled shows the risk in trying to match them with exactly calculated intervals of time.
We need first to look to the symbolism of the numbers.
They are dominated by the “7”, the number of God.
The closing period is one “7”- because even a ruler who sets himself against God rules only for the term that God allows him.
The opening period is “7” multiplied by “7”, so it belongs to God in a more particular way.
The overall period of “seventy weeks” would have the same meaning as the “seventy years”.
Finally, the intervening period, the “sixty-two weeks”, is simply what remains from the seventy once the other two periods have been deducted.
A number of events are distributed through these weeks.
At the beginning of the seventy weeks, an order to restore and build Jerusalem.
At the end of the seven weeks, an “anointed one”, a prince.
For the whole of the sixty-two weeks, Jerusalem stands established, but “in a troubled time”.
At the end of the sixty two weeks, an “anointed one” is cut off.
At the same time, the city and sanctuary are destroyed by the people of “the prince who is to come”.
In the last week he makes covenant with many, and in the middle of that week he ends the sacrifice and brings the “desolation”.
There’s much dispute about how to match them to the events of history.
There’s the approach which might be called “historical-critical”.
The first “anointed one” is identified with Cyrus, on the basis that he’s called “anointed” in Isaiah ch45 v1.
The “anointed one who is cut off” is identified with the High Priest Onias, who was murdered early in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. There
seems to be another reference to his death in ch11 v22, where he appears as the broken “prince of the covenant”.
The last week is identified with Antiochus Epiphanes, who set up the image of Jupiter Capitolinus in the Temple (“the abomination”) and thereby
ended the practice of sacrifice to the God of Israel (“the desolation”).
This theory is attractive to anyone who knows the history, but contains a couple of weaknesses.
Cyrus is placed after the order for the rebuilding of the city, which seems to put them in the wrong order.
One way to escape this anomaly is to make the “seventy weeks” begin with Jerusalem’s fall to the Babylonians, on the basis that God’s
command for the re-building of the city was privately issued at that time.
We should also consider the possibility that the first “anointed one” is another in the line of High Priests.
For if the High Priest Onias can be called “prince of the covenant”, then the word “prince” need not mean a secular ruler.
A good candidate would seem to be the High Priest Joshua, who helped to preside over the foundation of the Temple (Haggai ch1).
Then the “seven weeks” would represent the time of preparation for the new Temple, following on naturally from the command to rebuild.
The other weakness of this historical theory is that it does nothing to account for the destruction of the city and sanctuary even before the final
The frequent Christian interpretation is to identify Christ as the “anointed one who is cut off”, and to identify the destruction of the city and
sanctuary with what happened in A.D. 70.
The Futurist version of this approach, recognising that the final week is at least modelled upon Antiochus Epiphanes, assigns that week to an end-time
ruler who treats the Biblical God and his people in much the same way.
Of course the major weakness in that theory is the un-filled space between the end of the sixty-ninth week and the beginning of the seventieth.
I’m willing to see possible gaps at other points in Daniel, but in this case the existence of the over-arching “seventy weeks” label makes it
I also came across a Preterist interpretation.
The writer agreed with the Futurists that Christ was the second anointed one, and that the destruction of the city came with Titus.
He then identified the final week with the life and work of Jesus, including his crucifixion.
The major weakness of this theory was that the death of Christ was happening twice over, at the end of the sixty-ninth week (“anointed one cut
off”), but also in the middle of the next one ( which was how he “caused sacrifice to cease”).
Because of this duplication, one of those two deaths was occurring after the city had been destroyed.
So after mocking the Futurists for breaking up the continuity of the “seventy weeks”, the writer was mangling the order of events to make them fit
his own analysis.
Another approach is to start at the end of the seventy weeks and work backwards.
We can’t ignore the resemblance of the final week to the work of Antiochus- the resemblance is too close to allow a “benevolent”
In which case we should accept the assumption that this refers to a later king of the same kind.
Then we would now be living in the sixty-two weeks since the appearance of Christ as the first anointed one.
This would be the church as a “new Jerusalem”, established in a “troubled time”.
This theory has the advantage that the intervals are at least in the right proportion.
It does imply a further destruction of Jerusalem just before the last ruler comes to power.
But it also implies a second anointed one, who is cut off at the same time.
This looks like a weakness , because there is no New Testament warrant for such a figure.
I’m not a Catholic, so it really goes against the grain to take the obvious Catholic line and make this a “last Pope”.
So that is how I come to the conclusion that I still don’t have an acceptable answer to the puzzle of “seventy weeks”.