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What are the Seventy Sevens?

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill-while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and said to me, "Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision:
"Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city 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 on him."  Daniel 9:20-27

This passage speaks of a time that has been declared against “your people and your holy city.” Daniel's people are the Jews, the nation of Israel, and Daniel 9:24 speaks of a period of time that God has given “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.” Basically, get your act together, Israel/Jews/Jerusalem, or it’s all coming down!

God declares that “seventy sevens” will fulfill all these things. Some translations refer to a ‘seven” as a “week” so seventy ‘sevens’ means 70 weeks, 70x7.  Some say this could be 70 sevens of years, or 490 years.  Daniel is told that the Anointed One will be cut off after “seven sevens and sixty-two sevens” (7+62=69 total), beginning with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. In other words, some believe this means 69 x 7 of years (483 years) after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, the Anointed One will be cut off.  They want to find some correlation between the rebuilding of the temple by Ezra and Nehemiah and the coming of Christ.

Here are the questions that come up.

How do weeks become years?  The word used is shabuwa.  It can mean a period of seven days (week) or a period of seven years.

Which ruler and which decree is Daniel talking about?  Good question.  There were five decrees set up by the various rulers.  The decree to preserve the Jews happened during Esther who was queen during Ahasuerus also called Xerxes, but we’re not sure which king he was. 
·         The rebuilding of the Jewish community in Jerusalem had begun under Cyrus the Great (550-530), who had permitted Jews held captive in Babylon, to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of Solomon. Consequently, a number of Jews returned to Jerusalem in 538 B.C., and the foundation of this "Second Temple" was laid the following year.
·         Darius continued the process with Ezra, but he reigned 521-486.  Jesus died approximately 30 AD.  You need a ruler around 460 BC.  That is Artaxerxes.
·         Artaxerxes protected Ezra (4:6), a Jewish priest-scribe, by means of a letter of decree, to take charge of the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of the Jewish nation. A copy of this decree may be found in Ezra 7:13-28.
·         Ezra thereby left Babylon in the first month of the seventh year (around 457 BC) of Artaxerxes' reign, at the head of a company of Jews that included priests and Levites. They arrived in Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month of the seventh year (Hebrew Calendar).
·         In Artaxerxes' 20th year (444 B.C.), Nehemiah, the king's cupbearer, related to him the plight of the Jewish people and that the city of Jerusalem was undefended. The king sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem with letters of safe passage to the governors and to Asaph, keeper of the royal forests, to make beams for the citadel by the Temple and to rebuild the city walls.

Which ruler and which decree begins the rebuilding and restoring of the temple?  Does building mean Ezra spiritually?  Does building mean Nehemiah physically?  It's hard to say.

Who is the Anointed One?  “Anointed One” is the Hebrew word mashiyach which means the Messiah, the King of Israel.  Jesus.

Who is the People of the Ruler?  The Hebrew word here is nagiyd and it means an earthly ruler who comes to destroy the city and temple.

You can make the coming of Jesus Christ work mathematically if you see the ‘weeks’ as ‘years’ and start the countdown around the rebuilding of the temple (pick a ruler and a decree).

With 483 years having passed from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the cutting off of the Messiah, or his death, this leaves one seven-year period to be fulfilled in terms of Daniel 9:24.

This final seven-year period SOME SAY is known as a future tribulation period—a time when God finishes judging the earth for its sins.

More questions come up:
·        Why are the 69 “weeks” consecutive but the last one is not?  How can we float it two thousand plus years into the future to make it a future tribulation?
·        Why is it called Seven 7’s and Sixty-two 7’s?  Why not call it Sixty-Nine 7’s?  Is there meaning there?
·        Does the “middle of the seven” mean three and a half years?
·      What is a “7”?  Is it literally 7 years or does it figuratively mean a PERFECT amount of time (2,000 years)?
·      Is it our future or Daniel's future?

To figure out the mystery we must read it in context.  All of these “sevens” point to a time when the Abomination that causes desolation will occur.

“His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.  Daniel 11:31

"So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understandMatthew 24:15

For Daniel the numbers add up to mean when the Temple was desecrated by the erection of a Zeus statue in its sacred precincts by Antiochus IV Epiphanes around 170 BC.  It stopped sacrifices from happening.

For Jesus that same desolation will occur to mean the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem.

Playing the numbers game is tricky.  Daniel clearly wanted to indicate a passage of time that will take his people to the desecration of the temple by Greek invaders.  Jesus co-opped this reference to highlight another destruction of the temple.  To make this a future reference to future tribulation in numbers of ‘seven’ is dangerous.

The last period of time or ‘week’ must relate to the desecration of the temple in 170 BC or 70 AD.