Written by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum
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Messiah would be present 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem.
Messiah would be legally executed.
Messiah’s death would result in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple
Messiah’s birth and death, therefore, must both have happened prior to 70 C.E.
The Start of the Seventy Sevens – 9:25a
Daniel was clearly told when the Seventy Sevens would begin their countdown. Gabriel said, “know and discern, that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem…” Thus the Seventy Sevens would begin with a decree involving the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. Not everything in Persian chronology is as clear as we would like to have it, and there are still some gaps in our knowledge of history. But from what biblical and historical records we do have, there are four possible answers to the question of which decree the passage refers to.
One is the Decree of Cyrus, issued somewhere between 538-536 B.C.E., which concerned the rebuilding of the Temple (II Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4; 6:1-5) and of the city of Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:28; 45:13). Another option is the Decree of Darius Hystaspes (Ezra 6:6-12), issued in the year 521 B.C.E., which was a reaffirmation of the Decree of Cyrus. A third possibility is the Decree of Artaxerxes to Ezra (Ezra 7:11-26), issued in 458 B.C., which contained permission to proceed with the Temple service. The last option is the Decree of Artaxerxes to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:1-8), issued in the year 444 B.C.E. This decree specifically concerned the rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem. Of these four possibilities, only the first and fourth decrees have any real validity in fulfilling the wording that Gabriel gave to Daniel. It is not necessary for our purposes here to deal with the various arguments of either option, but one thing is certain: by the year 444 B.C.E., the countdown of the Seventy Sevens had begun. (For those who are interested, the author’s opinion can be found in Appendix 5.)
The First Sixty-Nine Sevens – 9:25b
The Seventy Sevens are divided into three separate units: Seven Sevens, Sixty-two Sevens and One Seven. During the first time period of Seven Sevens, or 49 years, Jerusalem would be “built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.” The second block of time, Sixty-two Sevens, or a total of 434 years, immediately followed the first for a total of Sixty-nine Sevens, or 483 years. There is no implication of a gap of time between the first and second subdivision of the Seventy Sevens.
It is at this point that we are told that the ending point of the Sixty-nine Sevens is to be “until Messiah the Prince.” As clearly as Daniel could have stated it, he taught that 483 years after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem had been issued, Messiah would be here on earth.
The obvious conclusion is this: If Messiah was not on earth 483 years after a decree was issued to rebuild Jerusalem, then Daniel was a false prophet and his book has no business being in the Hebrew Scriptures; but if Daniel was correct and his prophecy was fulfilled, then who was the Messiah of whom he spoke?
The Events Between the Sixty-Ninth and the Seventieth Seven – 9:26
Whereas the second subdivision of the Seventy Sevens was immediately to follow the first, the third subdivision was not immediately to follow the second. Daniel pointed out in verse 26 that three things would occur after this second subdivision ends and before the third one begins.
Stepping back in time and looking ahead from Daniel’s perspective in verse 26, we see first, that “the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing.” The Hebrew word translated “cut off” is the common word used in the Mosaic Law and simply means “to be killed.” The implication of the term is that the Messiah would not only be killed, but also that He would die a penal death by execution. The Hebrew expression translated “and have nothing” has two possible meanings. It may mean “nothingness,” emphasizing Messiah’s state at death. It can also be translated “but not for himself,” and the meaning would then be that “He died for others rather than for Himself – a substitutionary death.” The latter meaning would be much more consistent with what the Prophets had to say about the reason for Messiah’s death (e.g. Isaiah 53:1-12). The first three purposes of the Seventy Sevens – to finish the transgression; to make an end of sin; to make atonement for iniquity - have all to be accomplished by some means of atonement. The Law of Moses decreed that atonement is made by blood (Leviticus 17:11). It appears that Messiah’s death, “not for himself” but for others, would be the means by which Israel’s transgression, sin and iniquity would be atoned for. The point of this phrase is that between the end of the second subdivision, the Sixty-ninth Seven, and before the start of the Seventieth Seven, Messiah would be killed and would die a penal, substitutionary death.
Second, during this interim period it would also happen that “the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood…” The city and the Temple which were to be rebuilt because of the decrees by which the Seventy Sevens began, would now be destroyed; some time after the Messiah was cut off, Jerusalem and the Temple which were to be rebuilt because of the decree by which the Seventy Sevens began, would now be destroyed; some time after the Messiah was cut off, Jerusalem and the Temple would suffer another destruction. Our knowledge of history during this period is extremely clear: the people responsible for this deed were the Romans; Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in the year 70 C.E. Based upon this verse, it is also clear that the Messiah should have both come and died prior to the year 70 C.E. If such an event did not take place, then Daniel was a false prophet. If such an even did occur, then the question must be answered, Who was the Messiah who was killed before 70 C.E.?
The third thing to take note of would be, “even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.” For the remainder of the interval between the Sixty-ninth Seven and the Seventieth Seven, the Land would be characterized by war, and its resulting condition would be desolation. All this would set the stage for the final, or Seventieth, Seven.