In reaching a correct understanding of Daniel 9:24-27, it is most helpful to understand the circumstances that occasioned the giving of this revelation by God to Daniel. No one questions that the occasion relates to Israel’s Babylonian captivity for failure to observe the sabbatical year in their calendar that was given to the nation by the Lord. But how does that relate to the 70-weeks prophecy? That is what I want to examine in this installment.
Israel’s Sabbatical Year
As part of the stipulations in the Mosaic Law Code, Israel was to let her land lay fallow every seventh year. Scripture says,
“Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. And all of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you’” (Lev. 25:2-6).
Leviticus 26 provides the sanctions that God would impose upon His nation for the years that Israel did not obey the specifications of a sabbatical year.
Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it (Lev. 26:34-35).
For the land shall be abandoned by them, and shall make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, shall be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes (Lev. 26:43).
The Lord provided a Divine commentary to the nation on how they were keeping or not keeping His Law in the historical book of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. Thus, the Lord explains why Israel was sent away to Babylon for 70 years in the following passage:
And those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. all the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete (2 Chr. 36:20-21).
What passage in Jeremiah was the statement in Chronicles referring to? The following two references provide the answer.
And this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years (Jer. 25:11).
For thus says the Lord, “When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place” (Jer. 29:10).
It is clear from the above passages that God had a specific reason behind the deportation of the Southern Kingdom (Judah) to Babylon for 70 years. This would mean that Israel violated the sabbatical year 70 times. The Jews entered the Promised Land around 1400 b.c. and were deported to Babylon around 600 b.c. This means that they were in the land about 800 years before the Babylonian deportation. Had they disobeyed the sabbatical year commandment every seventh year, it would mean that they should have been in captivity for about 114 years. Instead, they were held captive for 70 years, meaning that they were disobedient for only 490 of the 800 years in the land. This would mean that there were breaks or gaps in the accumulation of the 490 years, during the 800-year period, that resulted in Israel’s 70-year captivity. Why is this important? Because many of the critics of the literal interpretation of Daniel 9:24-27 insist that it is unreasonable to have gaps in that 490-year period. Of course, it is not since there were many gaps in the 490-year period related to the Babylonian Captivity.
Critics of a Future 70th Week
Preterist Gary DeMar is one of the most outspoken critics of a yet future 70th week of Daniel. DeMar argues that there are never any gaps in any time periods in Scripture that he examines. He declares, “If we can find no gaps in the sequence of years in these examples, then how can a single exception be made with the ‘seventy weeks’ in Daniel 9:24-27?” Interestingly, DeMar does not examine the 490-year period that took place during the 800 years of Israel’s occupation of the land as mentioned above. As I have noted, there are all kinds of gaps within this sequence. There were roughly 310 years of gaps interspersed throughout the 800-year period. This makes it directly related to the 70-weeks prophecy given to Daniel. DeMar acknowledges that Daniel’s 70-weeks are related to the violation of the sabbatical year laws of Leviticus 25 and 26, and connected to 2 Chronicles 36 and Jeremiah 25. But he fails to observe the fact that the 490 years of Daniel 9:24-27 are derived from the 490 years of Israel’s violation of the sabbatical years prescribed by God in His covenant with the nation.
Dr. Harold Hoehner answers critics like DeMar when he notes that “The seventy-year captivity was due to the Jews having violated seventy sabbatical years over a 490-year period and Daniel now saw seventy units of sevens decreed for another 490 years into Israel’s future.” Hoehner has diagramed this relationship as noted in the “Units of Seventy” chart below.
We also know that Daniel himself was familiar with the reason why God had sent His people into the Babylonian captivity from the first part of Daniel 9.
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes (Dan. 9:1-3).
Dr. Leon Wood explains this matter as follows:
since Daniel was here thinking in terms of the seventy-year captivity, he, as a Hebrew, could have easily moved from the idea of one week of years to seventy weeks of years. This follows because, according to 2 Chronicles 36:21, the people had been punished by this Exile so that their land might enjoy the sabbath rests which had not been observed in their prior history (cf. Lev. 26:33-35, Jer. 34:12-22). Knowing this, Daniel would have recognized that the seventy years of the Exile represented seventy sevens of years in which these violations had transpired; and he would have understood Gabriel to be saying, simply, that another period, similar in length to that which had made the Exile necessary, was coming in the experienced of the people.
Even though DeMar recognizes the cause for Daniel’s prayer and the subsequent revelation of the angel Gabriel to Daniel of the 70-weeks prophecy, he fails to recognize that the 70-year captivity was based upon a 490-year period that contained multiple gaps of time. DeMar argues that a gap of time between the 69thand 70th week of Daniel is not justified because there are not other examples of this in Scripture. This appears to justify such a gap if an example of other gaps could be found. We have not only found an example, but it is an example directly related to the 70-weeks prophecy of Daniel. Thus, using DeMar’s standard, he should recognize that a gap in Daniel 9:24-27 is justifiable. I will show other reasons for a future 70th week in forthcoming installments in this series, but thought it important to make this point at this time in the development of the series.
Gary DeMar goes on to insist that it is impossible to have any kind of gap or chronological postponement of time between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel.
As has already been noted, the text says nothing about “a period between the sixty-ninth and seventieth-weeks.” There can be no “period between” any time period, whether seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, or years unless a period of time is expressly given. It is impossible to insert time between the end of one year and the beginning of another. January 1st follows December 31st at the stroke of midnight. There is no “period between” the conclusion of one year and the beginning of the next year. Culver, therefore, begs the question. He first must prove that a period of time should be placed between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks before he can maintain that there is a “period between” the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks. The “simple language of the text” makes no mention of a gap.
I believe that there is clear evidence why the 70th week of Daniel is yet future and, thus, the necessity of a gap of time between the 69th and 70th week. Just as Gary DeMar and others who do not think that Daniel 9:24-27 can be taken literally are mistaken, I will demonstrate in future articles in this series why this is the correct way to handle this passage. Daniel 9:24-27 allows for a gap of time between the 69th and 70th week because the advancing of God’s program relating to His people Israel was put on hold and will be postponed until a future time. Apparently critics like DeMar are not able to see the time gaps of the past, like the one I demonstrated in this article, so it is not surprising that they do not understand how there is one in God’s future plan for His people Israel. In the next article, I will resume an exposition and analysis of the Daniel 9:24-27 text.