When Napoleon Bonaparte was born in France in 1769, the world did not care nor was the world looking for his birth. But in 1793, the world began to notice him after he defeated the British army at the city of Toulon, France. The victories in his famous career are now recorded in the pages of history books. The births of other men such as Greece’s famous philosopher Socrates, Egypt’s priest Mantheo, India’s religious leader Gandhi, and China’s Shi Huangdi (221-204 B.C.) of the Oin dynasty, who built the Great Wall of China were not expected. But there is one birth and one death that should have been expected because it had been predicted for about 500 years. The prophecy was not a general one. It did not predict that Messiah would just die sometime. It predicted His death within one month. The prophecy did not apply to someone who would die in some country, or to just anyone who would die in Jerusalem. It applied to only one person – a Jew who would die before the date of April 1, A.D. 33. The prophecy is found in Daniel 9:24-26a.
Daniel’s Prophecy of 70 Weeks. The early church father Jerome reports in his commentary on the book of Daniel that Eusebius, Hippolytus, Apollinarius and Tertullian believed that Daniel 9:24-26 was a prophecy about the coming Messiah. The prophecy refers to seventy weeks. After the sixty-ninth week the prince or Messiah would die. It is important to note that the term “weeks” refers to a period of seven years, as will be explained later. Additionally, Jerome states that there were Jews who agreed that the end date of the prophecy of sixty-nine “weeks” occurred near the time of Jesus.
Julius Africanus, another early church father, reported that Phlegon had stated, “And the calculation makes out that the period of seventy weeks, as noted in Daniel, is completed at this time.” In Julius Africanus’ The Extant Fragments of the Five Books of the Chronography of Julius Africanus, we discover that he attempted a calculation of Daniel’s sixty-ninth weeks and concluded that the prophecy pointed to Jesus Christ. We will discover that this prophecy of Daniel is like a pointer that specifies a date after which the promised Messiah would die. In fact, the prophecy predicts that the Messiah would die after sixty-ninth “weeks.” No one today and no one at the time the prophecy could have qualified to be the Messiah. Here is the first part of this incredible prophecy.
“Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place.”
(NASB) Dan. 9:24
Seventy Weeks. The expression “seventy weeks” refers to “seventy weeks of years” or “seventy periods of seven years.” There is wide agreement among many scholars that this is the correct interpretation of the phrase “seventy weeks.” This interpretation is supported by Daniel 9:2, where we are told that Daniel was reading the scroll of Jeremiah and discovered that the time was approaching for the Jewish captives to return to Palestine. We discovered in our study of Daniel 1 that Nebuchadnezzar had taken a group of Jewish captives from Palestine to Babylon in 605 B.C. Daniel 9:1-2 reveals that almost 70 years had elapsed since then, and it was about time for them to return to Palestine. God had allowed them to be deported because of the sins of their kings. The length of the deportation was determined by the number of sabbatical years that they had failed to observe (2 Chronicles 36:21; Jer. 34:12-22). God had commanded them to allow the land to be dormant every seventh year (Lev. 25:4-5, 27-46). But they had failed to observe the command for seventy sabbath years over a period of 490 years. Note that a Sabbath occurs only on the seventh day of each week. Consequently, God allowed their captivity to last for 70 years. Daniel would have understood the reference to “seventy weeks” in the prophecy to be 490 years.
Genesis 29:20-30 makes it clear that it was customary among the ancient Jewish people to refer to a “week” as another way to refer to seven years. Genesis 29:20 tells us that Jacob served Laban for seven years in order to marry Rachel. Unfortunately, Laban was dishonest and refused to give Rachel to Jacob on his wedding night, even though she was the one for whom he had labored. Instead Laban gave Jacob his oldest daughter Leah. Jacob did not discover the problem until the morning. If we look at verse 30, we discover that Laban offers Rachel, his younger daughter, to Jacob if he will serve another “week.” Then at the end of the verse we are told that this “week” is “seven years.” This example demonstrates that the term “week” did mean “seven years” in the proper context.
We agree with many early church fathers, Jewish rabbis and modern writers, that the expression “seventy weeks” refers to “seventy periods of seven years” or “490 years.”
Daniel 9:24 provides a summary of the Prophecy Of seventy weeks or 490 Years. First, we are told that transgression and sin would be eliminated and atonement would be made for iniquity. This refers to the Messiah’s death on the cross (Isaiah 53). Then we are told that everlasting righteousness would occur, vision and prophecy would end and the Holy of Holies would once again exist (“anointed”). That refers to the Messiah’s earthly, millennial. We will explore this more in our next study.
Sixth-Nine Week Prophecy. The prophecy of 70 weeks contains three prophecies. The first prophecy is the focus of this study. It is a prophecy that refers to a period of 69 weeks. The last two will be explored in the next study.
“So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing . . .” (NASB) Dan. 9:24-26a
Here we are told that the prophecy of 69 weeks (7 weeks plus 62 weeks) starts on the date a decree is issued to restore and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and ends when Messiah the Prince is cut-off and has nothing, that is, dies.
In order to understand this prophecy, we will perform three calculations in reverse order starting with the end date and concluding with the start date. That is, we will determine the end date or the fulfillment date of the prophecy. Next, we will determine the length of time predicted by the prophecy between the start and end dates. Then we will determine the start date of the prophecy.
End Date of The Prophecy. Now we ask, “When did Jesus Christ die?” We will start by determining when He was born, then how long He lived, and finally when he died. It has been commonly believed and taught that Jesus was born in 6 B.C. or 4 B.C. But recent facts indicate that He most likely was born in 2 B.C. We derive this conclusion from historical data, the gospels, and from the statements recorded by the early church fathers who agree that Jesus was born about 2 B.C.
Birth of Christ. Those who believe that Jesus was born in 6-4 B.C. do so because they believe that Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. Herod the Great was the king who was alive at the time that Jesus was born. He was the one who killed the children under 2 years of age in Matthew 2. Jack Finegan has recently published a monumental book that strongly indicates Herod the Great did not die in 4 B.C. but around 1 B.C.
Historical data reveals that Herod died just after a full lunar eclipse. A lunar eclipse occurred on January 10, 1 B.C. It was total and lasted longer than the lunar eclipse in March 13, 4 B.C. Josephus and astronomy support this claim. He also suggests that the governor Quirinius of Luke 2:2 reigned in 3-2 B.C.