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DECEMBER 1, 1946
"Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy."—Dan. 9:24, Am.Stan.Ver.
1 JEHOVAH has put in his own power the times and seasons connected with his work. Once fixed by him, no creature in heaven or on earth can change them or prevent their being marked by the events that he assigns to these times and seasons. Till he is pleased to reveal the times and seasons for such events, the rule applies: "It is not for you to know times and dates which the Father has fixed by his own authority." (Acts 1:7, An American Translation) Among the times and seasons that he fixed and foretold, together with the epoch-making events that should mark them, were the "seventy weeks" mentioned in the prophetic book of Daniel. Particular interest attaches to the seventieth and last week thereof, because many think that this particular week is yet to be fulfilled. According to their view, the rapid current of world affairs today indicates that its fulfillment is near with events that will startle the world. Whether we agree with the futurity of the seventieth week or not, the events of the total period of "seventy weeks" are of such importance to all who hunger for a happy life under better world conditions that it is well to study the "seventy weeks" at this season of the year.
2 The poignant sufferings of the Jewish people, especially during the decade of Nazi-Fascist-religious attempts at world control, were so outrageous as to shock most humane persons. Therefore the outworking of the "seventy weeks" should command the attention of such suffering Jewish people. Why? Because the sure relief of the Jews and of all suffering humankind lies in the Messiah, and the prophecy of the "seventy weeks" has to do with the Messiah the Prince. He is the long-foretold "Seed of Abraham" in whom all the families and nations of the earth are promised to be blessed.
3 Since the "seventy weeks" had a definitely marked beginning more than two thousand years ago, enough time has certainly passed for those weeks to run their course and to have their peculiar events fulfilled. Jew and Gentile alike, we all are forced to this conclusion: Either the Messiah the Prince came within that period of weeks, or else the prophecy failed to materialize on time and God's appointed time failed. Jews must decide one way or the other, which means they must also decide whether Daniel was a true prophet of theirs or not. Furthermore, during the nineteen centuries of time since the seventy weeks or their equivalent ran out, the Jews have experienced affliction and persecution at the hands of the world such as they had never in all their previous history known. Is sacred prophecy silent as to all this unparalleled suffering of Daniel's people and the reason for it? or was this worst of Jewish sufferings foretold and the reason behind it honestly explained? The honest mind can hardly think that divine prophecy would concern itself with lesser hardships upon the Jews and would be blind and speechless as to the greatest of tribulation upon Daniel's people.
4 All Christendom should be interested, too. Why? Because at this season of each year she celebrates what she considers is the time of the Messiah's coming, and the question is asked: Is she right in thus celebrating? That is to say, Has she a Bible basis for then holding such celebration? Thus far in this twentieth century two world wars have made her celebration anthem, "Peace on earth, good will to men," sound hollow. Why? And why is a tribulation worse than any of these world wars fast approaching which will make a mockery of the religious ideas that Christendom has woven into her "Christmas" celebration? All the foregoing questions as to Jewry and Christendom are very practical and insist on bold answers. It is with hope of reaching answers that are true to the Bible and to hard facts that we can approach the inspired prophecy of the seventy weeks. The more so as we note that it is not man's prophecy although contained in the book of Daniel. It was given Daniel by the lips of a high-ranking angel, Gabriel, who tells us that he stands in the presence of Jehovah God. (Dan. 9:21; Luke 1:19)
Our examination will require going into some detail, but our interest in and search for truth will keep it from becoming wearisome.
HOW AND WHY GIVEN
5 The circumstances under which it was given will go far toward helping us to understand the prophecy, particularly as to when its fulfillment begins and ends. The circumstances were these: The time was the "first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans". (Dan. 9:1, Am.Stan.Ver.) That means that the great empire built by King Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of Babylon, had fallen, just as foretold in the handwriting on the wall of King Belshazzar's feasting room.
6 The kingdom over the wide domain of the Chaldean rulers was taken from them and distributed to the Medes and Persians as conquerors. The sixty-two-year-old Darius the Mede was the king of the Medes, and his younger nephew, Cyrus the Persian, was the king of the Persians. Both these kings came from the east against Babylon according to the appointed time of Jehovah God. (Dan. 5:24-31) The well-established date for their overthrow of Babylon in the days of King Belshazzar is 539 B.C. Let us remember, here, that the ancient pagan year did not begin on January 1, but several months ahead of that date. Hence the ancient pagan year began on one side ahead of our so-called January 1 and ended on the other side after January 1. This may account for it why some historians date Babylon's fall to Darius and Cyrus as 538 B.C. Hence the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede at the captured city of Babylon began in 539 B.C. and ran into 538 B.C. It was in this first year of Darius that the angel Gabriel gave the marvelous prophecy to Daniel.
7 Why was Daniel selected as the prophet by whom to transmit to us the prophecy? It was because he was "greatly beloved" or very precious to God. We can well conceive it to be so in the case of this prophet who was willing for King Darius to cast him into the lions' den rather than yield to a religious law of the Medes and Persians requiring that Daniel cease from worshiping Jehovah God in prayer. Daniel the Jew, while high in governmental ranks under King Darius, was nevertheless a captive, an exile far from his native capital city of Jerusalem, in Judah. But Jerusalem did not exist at that time. King Nebuchadnezzar had utterly destroyed it in 607 B.C., and this was the sixty-eighth year that Jerusalem and the land of Judah had lain in destruction, desolate without man or tamed beast. Daniel had now come into possession of the book of the prophecies of Jeremiah, and, says he: "I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years whereof the word of Jehovah came to Jeremiah the prophet, for the accomplishing of the desolations of Jerusalem, even seventy years."(Dan. 9:2, Am.Stan.Ver.) That gave Daniel hope of the restoration of the Jews from Babylon to their homeland of Judah and Jerusalem, within just two years.
8 However, Daniel knew, according to God's word by Moses at Leviticus 26:31-46 and by Solomon at 1 Kings 8:46-54, that the Jews had to show themselves to be in a proper heart-condition before God in order to receive such a merciful deliverance by Him. They should show faith in him as their Deliverer who keeps his word and should humble themselves before him with repentance over the sins which brought upon them such grievous exile and slavery. They should turn away from religion to the clean-hearted worship of him as the true and living God. Regardless of what other Jews did at that time, Daniel started to follow out the course written for their guidance in the Holy Scriptures. He reports on himself, saying: "And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. And I prayed unto Jehovah my God, and made confession"; and then he tells us what he prayed to God. He called attention to the fact that the temple built by Solomon was a desolate ruin, and that Jerusalem, the "city which is called by thy name", and also the land of Judah over which it once ruled, lay all in desolation, to the astonishment of all nations. So he prayed for mercy, believing that the desolateness without man or beast would cease two years thence, or in 537 B.C.—Dan. 9:3-19, Am.Stan.Ver.
9 Doubtless, Daniel felt more confident of such relief at that time because Darius' nephew was on hand, namely, Cyrus, and concerning him the prophecy at Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1-3 said: "That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure, even saying of Jerusalem, She shall be built; and of the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. Thus saith Jehovah to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, and I will loose the loins of kings; to open the doors before him, and the gates shall not be shut: I will go before thee, and make the rough places smooth; I will break in pieces the doors of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron; and I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that it is I, Jehovah, who call thee by thy name, even the God of Israel." (Am.Stan.Ver.) So, doubtless, Daniel linked Cyrus with the prophecy at Jeremiah 25:11,12 and 29:10 concerning a divine visitation friendly to Jehovah's people after seventy years of desolation. Daniel did not then know that inside of
two years Cyrus would be sole ruler of Babylon, and of Medo-Persia.
10 Just how long Daniel continued in his prayers and supplications for Zion, the holy mountain of his God, we are not told. But about the time ordinarily that the evening sacrifice used to be offered at the temple on Zion the angelic person Gabriel, being dispatched speedily by Jehovah God, appeared to Daniel to answer his prayers. To quote Rotherham's emphasized translation from the Hebrew, Gabriel said to Daniel: "Mark then the word, and have understanding in the revelation: Seventy weeks have been divided concerning thy people and concerning thy holy city—to put an end to the transgression, and fill up the measure of sin, and put a propitiatory-covering over iniquity, and bring in the righteousness of ages, and affix a seal to vision and prophecy, and anoint the holy of holies." (Dan. 9:23,24, Roth.) According to this summing up of the results of the course of the seventy weeks, the results must be good. So this increases our interest in knowing the full significance of those good results.
11 In this connection the angel Gabriel does not mention days. Hence the weeks are not to be viewed as weeks of days, totaling 490 days or about a year and a third. The weeks are made up of seven years each, and for this reason the very modern translators render it: "Seventy weeks of years are destined for your people," etc. (An American Trans.) "Seventy weeks of years are fixed for your people and for your sacred city," etc. (Moffatt) Those translations agree with the facts. Hence the seventy weeks multiply up to 490 years, beginning at a certain time-point next to be announced.
12 Please note that these seventy weeks apply to Daniel's people and the holy city that is to be rebuilt during these weeks. Consequently this prophecy does not apply to the Gentiles who become Christians or spiritual Israelites, but applies to the natural Jews like Daniel. It applies to the second Jerusalem, or the city then rebuilt, and not to the third Jerusalem erected years after A.D. 70 and which is standing today under British mandate. According to the most literal meaning of Gabriel's word, those seventy weeks that are determined, destined, or fixed, upon the Jews and their sacred city, "have been divided." And as Gabriel's further words show, they were divided up into three periods, (1) seven weeks, (2) sixty-two weeks, and (3) one week; that is to say, (a) 49 years, (b) 434 years, and (c) 7 years; totaling 490 years. How these three periods are each to be marked Gabriel proceeds to say, and we leave it for the next succeeding article to describe in detail.
THE SEVENTIETH WEEK
1 IN DIVIDING up the seventy weeks of years the angel Gabriel said to Daniel: "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times." —Dan. 9:25.
2 The translation of this verse by the Jewish scholar, Isaac Leeser (1853), reads as if the city would be under construction throughout the sixty-two weeks, saying: "Know therefore and comprehend, that from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed the prince will be seven weeks: and during sixty and two weeks will it be again built with streets and ditches (around it), even in the pressure of the times." This also reads as if it would be only seven weeks from the starting point up till the Messiah the Prince appeared. But this Leeser translation does not agree with the facts, neither with a much earlier translation by Jews, namely, the Greek Septuagint translation from the Hebrew, made from and after 280 B.C. This reads: "Therefore thou art to know and understand, that from the going forth of a word for returning an answer and for building Jerusalem until an Anointed ruler are seven weeks, and sixty two weeks. They shall indeed return and a street shall be built and a wall, and these times shall be emptied out." (C. Thomson) And with this agree the majority of reliable modern translators, without religious bias.
3 Note that the starting point of the seventy weeks is the going forth of the word or commandment "to restore and to build Jerusalem". When did such a word go forth? Not two years after this vision; that is to say, not in 537 B.C., for the decree of Cyrus which went forth in that year was specifically for the building of the temple on its old site. According to the much-revered priestly scribe Ezra himself, King Cyrus said in his decree: "All the kingdoms of the earth hath Jehovah, the God of heaven, given me; and he hath charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah"; and in the rest of the decree he twice more stresses the rebuilding of the