One of the most important and debated prophecy passages in all of the Bible is found in Daniel 9:24-27. Many scholars throughout the ages have pondered the meaning of Daniel’s seventy sevens (weeks) prophecy regarding Judah’s restoration after the Babylonian exile and subsequent desolations. The issues most debated are usually date-related: which decree was issued to restore and build Jerusalem (and by whom), the starting date, the end date for the 69 sevens, the end date for the 70 sevens (still future), the gap period between the 69th and 70th sevens, and which calendar is used to determine these dates.
Daniel’s 70 sevens (or 490 years) prophecy has always been a mystery to me. To quote Winston Churchill (regarding Russia): “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.” Ever since Sir Robert Anderson wrote The Coming Prince and developed the ‘prophetic’ year of 360 days for determining the duration between the events mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy, I always wondered why this ‘calendar’ would be used. He says that if tradition may be trusted, Abraham preserved in his family the year of 360 days, which he had known in his Chaldean home. Anderson also mentions the month dates of the flood in Noah’s day (150 days in 5 months), which appear to show that there were 30 days in a month and therefore 12 months in a year in the antediluvian age.
Sir Robert also quotes Sir Isaac Newton, “All nations before the just length of the solar year was known, reckoned months by the course of the moon, and years by the return of winter and summer, spring and autumn, and in making calendars for their festivals, they reckoned thirty days to a lunar month, and 12 lunar months to a year, taking the nearest round number, whence came the division of the ecliptic into 360 degrees.”
The only problem I have with this theory of interpreting Daniel’s prophecy using a 360-day ‘prophetic’ calendar is that the Hebrews never used a 360-day calendar of any kind, especially one that didn’t have an intercalary month added periodically. They used (and still do for their religious activities) a lunar calendar (353/354 days) with an extra month added every two to three years to keep it in alignment with the solar calendar (365/366 days).
So, if Anderson was right about the 360-day ‘prophetic’ calendar, how did it really come into existence? I don’t believe God was using the 360-day calendar in Daniel’s prophecy (or Jeremiah’s) because of some long-ago calendar in Noah’s time which may or may not have been used in the antediluvian age. I believe there was more likely an intercalary month that was added every 6 months during this time. In this article, I will attempt to solve this riddle, un-wrap the mystery, and open up the enigma.
JEREMIAH’S PROPHECY OF SEVENTY YEARS (TEN SEVENS) DESOLATIONS
“The word that came to Jeremiah concerning the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim [605 BC], the son of Josiah, king of Judah (which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon), which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying:
“…. Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, says the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
“Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, says the Lord; and I will make it a perpetual desolation. So I will bring on that land all My words which I have pronounced against it, all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah has prophesied concerning all the nations. For many nations and great kings shall be served by them also; and I will repay them according to their deeds and according to the works of their own hands” (Jeremiah 25:1, 8-14).
“For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place” (Jeremiah 29:10).
Jeremiah prophesied a judgment and punishment against Judah and the surrounding nations that would last for 70 years. Although Judah’s sins were many, including idol-worship, the prevalent sin and reason for the 70 years of desolation is given in 2 Chronicles, chapter 36: “And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and 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 her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years” (2 Chronicles 36:20-21).
The author of 2 Chronicles is referring to the Sabbath of the 7th year which the Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai: “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard” (Leviticus 25:2-4).
Just as God commanded His people to observe the 7th day of rest (Sabbath) for the people and work animals, so He commanded a year of rest for the land. This was to be a blessing for the children of Israel, as God would provide for them by sending a bumper crop the year before the Shemitah (Sabbath) year to compensate for the lack of crops on the Shemitah year and the following year. The people, work animals, and land would all get a year’s rest every 7 years.
There is no record that the Israelites ever observed the Shemitah year (much less the Jubilee year). That is why I don’t put much stock in trying to predict Shemitah cycles or Jubilees and/or their significance to the nation of Israel (much less to any other nation). One thing is certain, however; God made sure the land got its rest. He did this by expelling the children of Israel from the land.
DESOLATIONS OF JUDAH AND JERUSALEM
The 70 years of desolations Jeremiah spoke about started in the year 605 BC. King Jehoiakim was in the fourth year of his reign in Judah. Nebuchadnezzar II became king of Babylon in the same year, after the death of his father, Nabopolassar, on August 16, 605 BC. Soon after Nebuchadnezzar became king, he defeated the Egyptian army at Carchemish and Hamath, thereby securing control of all Syria. He then came against Judah and Jerusalem, and the king of Judah and his nobles surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar. At this point, Judah essentially became a vassal state of Babylon (until they later rebelled). Nebuchadnezzar took some trophies from the temple and also took some youth from the royal family, including Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
The southern kingdom of Judah was invaded by the Babylonians three times. The first time was in 605 BC (2 Kings 24:1-2). The second time was in 597 BC (2 Kings 24:10-16). The 3rd time was in 588 BC and lasted until 586 BC (2 Kings 25:1-21) when Nebuchadnezzar’s army destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, and the Jews were killed or carried away into captivity by the Babylonians.
According to my research, Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion of Judah occurred on September 23, 605 BC or Tishri 20 (5th day of the Feast of Tabernacles), AM 3157 on the Jewish calendar. This is the starting date for the 70 years of desolation that Jeremiah prophesied about. As I mentioned before, these 70 years were judgment for not obeying the Shemitah years of rest for the land of Judah (and Israel). The Shemitah years occurred (or was supposed to) every 7 years, so that means the Israelites did not obey this commandment from God for 490 years, going all the way back to the time of the judges (specifically Eli and Samuel).
Just as God had foretold through his prophets, Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians. This historical event occurred under the leadership of Darius the Mede on October 12, 539 BC.
Cyrus II (Cyrus the Great) of Persia began his official reign on March 24, 538 BC. Cyrus’s reign was much different than that of the Assyrians and Babylonians who had gone before him. He committed himself to restoring people to their native lands and appointing governors to represent his rule. His policy resulted in the proclamation that the Jews could return to Judah and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. This fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah, who named Cyrus as the one who would carry out God’s purpose for Israel; and Jeremiah, who prophesied a return to Judah after 70 years of desolation (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Isaiah 44:28, 45:1-13; Jeremiah 25:11-12; and Ezra 1:1-4).
Cyrus appointed Shesbazzar to be his official representative as governor to lead the Jews back to Judah in 537 BC. He took the sacred vessels with him that Nebuchadnezzar had taken 68 years before. More than 42,000 Jewish exiles returned with Shesbazzar to Judah and began the process of rebuilding their homes.
I believe the end date for the 70 years of desolations for Judah and Jerusalem occurred in 536 BC when the returning Jews gathered together in Jerusalem and gave thanks to God for their return to the Promised Land. “And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God” (Ezra 3:1-2).
The people offered burnt offerings on the 1st day of the 7th month of Tishri (Feast of Trumpets) in 536 BC, on the first new moon of fall in their homeland of Judah. “They also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the number required by ordinance for each day. Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the Lord that were consecrated, and those of everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, although the foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid” (Ezra 3:4-6).
JEREMIAH’S PROPHETIC CALENDAR
From 605 BC to 536 BC is 69 years on the Julian/Gregorian/Jewish calendar. But God did not use any of these calendars. He used a new calendar called the “prophetic calendar,” which He used to calculate the duration of Jeremiah’s prophecy of 70 ‘years.’ It is prophetic because it is used by God to determine the duration of two prophecies, Jeremiah’s 70 years of desolation and Daniel’s 70 sevens. There are more actual ‘years’ in a prophetic calendar than in a strictly solar calendar, but less days, so it appears that God was actually lessening the time of the 70 years desolation. For example, there are 25,200 days in 70 years of a 360-day calendar, while there are 25,567 days in 70 years of a 365.2425-day calendar. IOW, 70 years of a 360-day prophetic calendar is approximately equal to 69 years of a solar (and Jewish) calendar.
Due to the above passages in Ezra, I believe the end date for the 70 years of desolation for the Jews, as prophesied by Jeremiah, occurred on Friday, September 21, 536 BC (Julian calendar) or Tishri 1 (Feast of Trumpets), AM 3226 on the Jewish calendar. The total duration for the desolations of Judah was for 25,200 days (70 years x 360 days), from Friday, September 23, 605 BC to Friday, September 21, 536 BC. From the 5th day of Tabernacles in 605 BC to the day of the Feast of Trumpets in 536 BC.
You might ask, “Why didn’t God just tell Jeremiah the desolations would last for 69 (regular) years on the Julian/solar calendar (of 365/366 days) instead of 70 (shortened) years on the prophetic calendar of 360 days per year? Come on; you know the answer! The number 7 is God’s perfect number and represents perfection and completeness. The number 10 represents ordinal perfection. 70 (7 X 10) is the biblical number that signifies perfect spiritual order carried out with all spiritual power and meaning. See: https://www.raptureready.com/2018/11/09/seven-gods-perfect-numbers-part-3-randy-nettles/.
The complete number, 2520 (3 x 7 x 10 x 12), is seen in this prophecy as well. The 70 ‘years’ consist of 25,000 (2520 x 10) days. God’s complete judgment against Judah for not obeying His word, in regards to keeping the Shemitah years, was now complete. As it is written, so shall it be!
The reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem began about 6 months later. However, they stopped construction when opposition arose from surrounding nations. The work on the temple remained dormant for well over a decade until the prophets Haggai and Zechariah urged the Jews to complete the project in 516 BC.
DANIEL’S PROPHECY OF 490 YEARS (SEVENTY SEVENS)
The second part of the history of Israel’s desolations (and future restoration) began three years prior to the children of Israel’s return to the Promised Land. In 539 BC, Daniel the prophet was in Babylon and was reading the words of Jeremiah regarding the 70 years of judgment against Judah. “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:2).
Daniel realized that the 70-year exile of Judah was nearing its completion. He began to pray and beg God’s forgiveness for the sins of His people and plead for the restoration of Jerusalem.
In the midst of Daniel’s prayer, the angel Gabriel appeared and gave him a vision. 70 ‘sevens’ (weeks) have been decreed for the people of Judah and the holy city Jerusalem. Sevens or weeks refer to 7 years, so 70 sevens would amount to 490 ‘years.’ From the decree to restore and build Jerusalem (“the streets shall be built again, and the wall; even in troublesome times”) until Messiah the Prince comes, there would be 69 sevens (or 483 years); after which the Messiah would be killed.
“And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate” (Daniel 9:26-27).
There are two theories on why God decreed these 70 sevens/weeks (490 years) for the nation of Israel. I am now of the opinion that theory 2 is the correct one. Regardless of your opinion, they both amount to the same amount of time.
- God multiplied Israel’s judgment for not obeying His word (idol-worship, ten commandments, etc.) and not observing the Shemitah years while in the land according to Leviticus 26:18, whereas God promised His people that if they did not obey Him, He would punish them 7 more times for their sins. So instead of just 70 years of judgment, there would be 490 years of judgment for Israel.
- The 490 years of Daniel’s 70 sevens were not a judgment. They were a period of time set by God to complete the six objectives the angel Gabriel listed in Daniel 9:24 for the Jewish people and the city of Jerusalem: “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy” (Daniel 9:24).
I believe Jeremiah’s prophecy of the 10 sevens or 70 years of 360 days per year is the model or harbinger of Daniel’s prophecy for the duration of the 70 sevens. The 360-day prophetic calendar should be called Jeremiah’s prophetic calendar.
In this article, we will just concentrate on the first 69 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy. Daniel and other Jewish leaders believed that the Messiah would come after the 70 years were fulfilled, but Gabriel informed him otherwise. Gabriel told Daniel that the Messiah would come but only after hundreds of years, and then he would be killed after 69 sevens had elapsed. I can only imagine Daniel’s shock after receiving this news from the heavenly messenger.
According to our calculations (and others), the starting point for Daniel’s prophecy of 70 sevens is the year 444 BC when King Artaxerxes I Longimanus of Persia issued the decree for the Jews to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. See Thomas Ice’s article regarding this issue: https://www.raptureready.com/2011/02/09/the-seventy-weeks-of-daniel-part-v-by-thomas-ice/ .
There were 3 decrees given by kings of Persia regarding rebuilding the temple and the city of Jerusalem: 537 BC by Cyrus (Ezra 1:2-4 & 6:3-5); 458 BC by Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:11-26); and 444 BC by Artaxerxes (at the time of Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem). These are the only 3 decrees given by kings of Persia regarding rebuilding the Jewish temple or walls of Jerusalem. The 444 BC decree is the only one that was for the purpose of rebuilding the walls and streets of Jerusalem.
DANIEL’S PROPHECY OF SEVENTY SEVENS AS CALCULATED BY JEREMIAH’S CALENDAR
We know that Jesus Christ was crucified in AD 33, and that is the endpoint of the 69 sevens of Daniel’s prophecy. From 444 BC to AD 33 is 476 solar years (as there is no year 0) when using the solar calendar of 365/366 days per year. All other calendars, including the Jewish calendar, with their intercalary months added periodically, eventually coincide with our modern-day Gregorian calendar of 365.2425 days per year.
Regarding the duration of the 69 sevens in Daniel’s prophecy, it should be for 483 years, as 69 sevens (69 X 7) = 483 years; but as you can see, 444 BC + AD 33 = 476 years. So how do you explain this seeming discrepancy? The same way you do with Jeremiah’s prophecy of 70 years, by using the Jeremiah prophetic calendar of 360 days. If these starting and end dates for Daniel’s prophecy are correct (and they are), then the only explanation is that God is using the 360-day prophetic calendar, as He did with Jeremiah’s prophecy. That is why the 360-day calendar is called the ‘prophetic’ calendar.
If the Gregorian or Hebrew calendar was used for Daniel’s prophecy, there would be 176,412 days within 69 sevens or 483 years. If you deduct these days from the end date of April 2 (Nisan 14), AD 33, you would get a starting date of April 6 (Nisan 18), 451 BC. There was no decree given by any Persian king in 451 BC. So, we know that none of these calendars that use a 365/366 days per year were used.
The only one that works is Jeremiah’s prophetic calendar of 360 days per year. In this case, there would be 173,880 days within 69 sevens or 483 years. If you deduct 173,880 days from April 2, AD 33, you arrive at Thursday, March 12, 444 BC. From Thursday, March 12, 444 BC to Thursday, April 2, AD 33 is the timeline for Daniel’s 69 sevens prophecy. There are 2520 days in a 7-year (360 days) period, so 173,880 total days divided by 2520 days = 69 ‘years.’
Likewise, the last 7 years of Daniel’s 70th seven/week (the Tribulation) will be for 2520 days. 176,400 total days (360 days X 490 years = 176,400 days) divided by 2520 days = 70 ‘years.’ Daniel’s 70th seven prophecy will be the last prophecy to be fulfilled before the 2nd Advent of Jesus Christ to the earth occurs. All vision and prophecy will be sealed up and no longer needed in Jesus’ kingdom on earth as foretold by Daniel the prophet many moons ago. Jesus will no longer need prophets to speak for Him, as He will talk to us in person, face to face.
Amen; even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Randy Nettles firstname.lastname@example.org