Israel’s Missing Week

Why This Group in Tribulation – The following text from Daniel is often used to explain Israel’s role in the last days, specifically the seven years of tribulation.

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people [Israel] and your holy city [Jerusalem] to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out.” (Daniel 9:24-27)

This text from Daniel is rather cryptic, with at least four puzzling questions that need to be answered to gain a better understanding of what Daniel is prophesying:

The Sevens – What are the series of “sevens?” The most basic and straight-forward understanding of the word “sevens” means a period of seven. Assuming, as many do, that the word “sevens” means a period of seven years,(1) the date of the coming (first advent) of the Anointed One has been calculated to an exact date as portrayed in Figure 14.3. In this calculation, only Jesus of Nazareth could possibly fill the bill.

The Decree – When was the “issuing of the decree” that starts the countdown of the sevens? The decree is generally considered to be the one issued by Artaxerxes on March 5, 444 BC.(2)

The Anointed One – Who is the Anointed One? There really is only one legitimate answer – the Messiah.

The Ruler – Who is the “ruler who will come?” As it relates to the Israel’s missing week, this is generally understood to be the end-time anti-Christ. For various other interpretations see Chapter 1, Taming the Terminology, under the section entitled Abomination of Desolations.

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(3), (4), (5)

Israel’s Missing Week – Because of this, many believe that the “seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two sevens” have already taken place, leaving one more seven to make up the total of “seventy sevens.” Israel’s missing seven years are thus taken to correspond to the seven-year tribulation at the end of the age. This final seven would be necessary to fulfill God’s promise and program with respect to Israel, because they still have some work to do that has been “decreed” but not completed. Below are four other approaches to Daniel’s “riddle”

Historical View – The first approach regards the entire passage in historical terms, referring to events from the beginning of the exile to the middle of the 2nd century BC. This interpretation is a non-messianic one. Chronologically, it can be represented as follows, and all seventy sevens have already taken place with no further prophetic relevance:

Seven sevens (weeks): 49 years = 587 to 538 BC (Exile).
Sixty-two sevens (weeks): 434 years = 588 to 171 BC (Persian/Greek period).
One seven (week): 7 years = 171 to 165 BC (Antiochus IV).

From a theological perspective, the vision represents an understanding of past history and a conviction that God is in control of history, despite apparent disasters and chaos.

Literal Messianic View – A second approach is to see the passage as messianic in significance, and to calculate the weeks of years literally in relation to messianic events. Chronologically, it can be represented as follows:

Seven sevens (weeks): 49 years = 444 to 395 BC. (rebuilding and restoration of Jerusalem).
Sixty-two sevens (weeks): 434 years = 396 BC to 38 AD (culminate in the arrival of the Messiah in Jerusalem and his death a week later).
Gap of 2000+ years: 38 AD to Rapture (Church age).
One seven (week): 7 years = Rapture to Parousia (still lies in the future from our contemporary perspective).

The year of Christ’s crucifixion has been variously estimated in the 30’s AD (e.g., 33 AD versus 38 AD) and can at least partially be explained by dating “errors” caused when converting from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar.

Symbolic Messianic View – The third interpretation is also messianic. It differs from the second in that it takes the weeks as symbolic periods of time, rather than precise periods of seven years each. Though the details of this type of interpretation differ enormously, a typical approach might be as follows in broad outline.

Seven sevens (weeks): Corresponds to the period from Cyrus to the coming of the Messiah (Christ)
Sixty-two sevens (weeks): Corresponds to the time since that advent of the Messiah (the present age)
One seven (week): The final week, or period, lies still in the future.(6)

Prophecy Fulfilled View – This approach sees the entire reference of weeks as the time to reach the birth of Christ, His subsequent crucifixion (the cutting off “the Anointed One”), and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. At that time sacrifices under the old covenant ceased. This same dating, without reference to Jesus, has been the usual Jewish understanding since the time of Josephus. The Jewish focus, of course, is on the destruction of the temple.(7)

Combination View – Of course it is entirely possible that this passage in Daniel has elements from all four interpretations. It is not unusual for Bible prophecy to refer to more than one event. Nevertheless, there will continue to be differences of opinion in the future about the significance of the seventy weeks until the days of future are past. In the meantime, it is fruitless to endlessly argue or become too dogmatic over the correct interpretation of the timing of events and minute calculations of dates. The greatest significance of the text lays in the fact that human history, past, present and future, lies ultimately within the control of God, who is infinite,(8) and who always fulfills His unconditional promises.

Up Next – The Great Multitude.

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References

  1. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1930). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  2. Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1362). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1362). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  4. Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1363). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  5. Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1367). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  6. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1930). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  7. Batson, J. W. (2003). Seventy Weeks. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 1469). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  8. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (p. 1931). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

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