5 - 70 Weeks = 490 Years?

The prophetic Book of Daniel contains some of the most precise prophecies written in the Old Testament. Because this book contains such specific predictions, a controversy has swirled around it since the first centuries of Christianity.

The critics maintain that this book had to be written long after the prophet Daniel lived (ca. Sixth Century B.C.), most likely during the Maccabean period (ca. Second Century B.C.).  Their reasoning for this conclusion lies in the fact that the events that Daniel foretold did come true in the interim time between his death and the arrival of the Jesus Christ. Liberal scholars and theologians late date his book because they cannot accept the fact that God would give such accurate prophecies to human beings. This attitude of course denies that God is omniscient. God, through the prophet Isaiah, differed with their conclusion saying: "Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure."1

In recent years, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has caused the dating issue of the Book of Daniel to be revisited. Among the many scrolls found was Daniel's book. Since it is determined that the Dead Sea Scrolls were written between the Third Century B.C. and the First Century A.D. this has led some scholars to assign an earlier date to the Book of Daniel.2

However, from my perspective, one overriding factor supports the accuracy and authorship of the Book of Daniel. Jesus Christ spoke of Daniel when He described to His disciples the signs of His second coming on the Mount of Olives. He said, "When you therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place...".3 With this statement, Jesus declared that the Book of Daniel was authentic prophetic writing.

Nevertheless, even those who refuse to accept this premise and continue to maintain that this book was written around 165 B.C. cannot sidestep the accuracy of the prophecy I will be discussing in this chapter. A prophecy that was written well before the birth of Jesus yet had its fulfillment in His lifetime.

The importance of the prophecy that I am going to be covering here cannot be overstated. It was one of the leading factors that caused the late Orthodox Jewish Talmudic scholar, Rachmiel Frydland, to accept Jesus as the Messiah.4 Rabbi Leopold Cohn had read this prophecy and also came to the realization that only Jesus Christ could fulfill it. He became a believer in Jesus as the Messiah and started the organization called the "American Board of Missions to the Jews".5 That other Jews like them have also come to the same conclusion based primarily on this prophetic scripture passage illustrates an important truth. The Jews in Jesus' day had the same opportunity as modern Jews to accept that Jesus was the fulfillment of this prophecy. As will be shown, this is exactly what Jesus told the religious leaders of His day.


In the year 1895, Sir Robert Anderson wrote a book called "The Coming Prince" in which he wrote about the prophecies in the Book of Daniel. He is generally credited with bringing the interpretation of the prophecy found in chapter 9 of Daniel to the modern era. There have been many other biblical scholars since who have agreed with his interpretation.


King Nebuchadnezzar had taken the prophet Daniel as a captive along with the rest of the Jews back to the land of Babylon. While he was there he continued to serve God faithfully even at the risk to his own life.

Daniel not only had a heart toward God but he also was concerned about his people and desperately wanted to know what God's plan was for their future. He had been reading the Old Testament Book of Jeremiah when he came across a passage that caught his attention: "In the first year of his reign [i.e., King Darius - 538/537 B.C.] I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem."6 The scripture passage Daniel had read is found in the Book of Jeremiah: "Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Because you have not heard My words, Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the LORD, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations...And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years...For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place."7

The reason God gives for this punishment is because the Jews had transgressed against His laws. One of the many laws that they had broken helped determine the length of time of their punishment, in this case 70 years.

When God gave His laws to the Jews He told them that they could plant and harvest the land of Israel for six consecutive years. However, on the seventh year they had to give the land a rest and thus they could not plant anything in the ground. God said that He would provide a bountiful harvest in the sixth year that would carry them through the seventh or Sabbath year.8

But the Jews did not obey this law of God's as He makes clear: "And those that had escaped from the sword carried he [i.e., Nebuchadnezzar] away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: To fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill threescore and ten years."9

Therefore, God based the length of the punishment for the Jews upon how many Sabbath years they had ignored. The resulting punishment of seventy "Sabbath" years means that for 490 years the Jews did not give the land a rest. To make up for each of those seventh or Sabbath years they had not observed God added one year of captivity to their sentence.

With this understanding, Daniel then spoke one of the most heartfelt prayers of repentance and supplication in the entire Bible.10  While he was praying the angel Gabriel appeared to him and gave to him a prophetic message that would declare the future of the Jewish people:

"Seventy weeks are determined upon your people and upon

your holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an

end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to

bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision

and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore

and understand, that from the going forth of the

commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the

Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore

and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall,

even in troublous times. And after threescore and two

weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself: and the

people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city

and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a

flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are

determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many

for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause

the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the

overspreading of abominations he shall make it

desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined

shall be poured upon the desolate."

- Daniel 9:24-27

The word "weeks" in this passage is translated from the Hebrew word "shabuwa" which literally means "sevens". Therefore, this prophecy gives a time frame for the Jewish nation that would span "seventy sevens". The question is, What time period does these "sevens" encompass? Since the context of this prophecy was the seventy Sabbath years of punishment given to the Jews these "sevens" are actually years.11 Thus, "seventy sevens of years" or 490 years are determined for the time frame of this prophecy.

This scripture passage concerns only the Jewish people since the people of Daniel were Jews. The holy city can only refer to Jerusalem since this is the only city in the world that is holy to Jews. At the end of this 490-year period God would put an end to the transgressions and sins of the Jewish people. Then He would bring in everlasting righteousness and anoint the most holy [i.e., the Jewish Temple].

According to this prophecy, the 490-year period would commence with the issuing of a commandment or decree to rebuild Jerusalem and restore its streets and walls that the Babylonian invasion had destroyed. There are two major decrees given in the Old Testament that concern the restoration of Jerusalem. The first is found in the Book of Ezra where King Cyrus of Persia proclaimed that the house [i.e., Temple] of God was to be rebuilt in Jerusalem.12  This decree was issued in the year 539 B.C. However, it cannot be the commandment referred to in this prophecy of Daniel's because it does not speak to the rebuilding of the streets and walls of Jerusalem.

The second decree is found in the Book of Nehemiah. King Artaxerxes issued it in the Jewish month of Nisan in the twentieth year of his reign13 (many biblical passages give the specific numerical day when it lists a Jewish month. In this case, no specific day is mentioned so by default the first day of Nisan is probably what is meant here). This decree specifically mentions that Nehemiah was to receive "timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me."14 Unlike the Ezra decree, this one fulfills precisely the prophecy of Daniel to "restore and to build Jerusalem...the street shall be built again, and the wall". This decree then starts the "seventy weeks" prophecy on March 5, 444 B.C.15

Thus, from the date that the decree was issued, Daniel states that it will be 69 "sevens of years" or 483 years until the time the Messiah comes to His Jewish people.

The Bible gives the length of a year as consisting of 360 days.16  This biblical year was based upon the lunar phases which comprised 30-day time periods. In modern times, our calendar is based upon the solar year which lasts 365 days with an extra "leap" day being added every fourth year. This of course keeps the days of each year occurring at the same time during the seasons. The Jews adjusted their lunar-year calendar by adding an extra month every few years by which to keep their seasons consistent.

To calculate the "69 weeks" until the Messiah came, you multiply the 483 years by 360 days. The result is that the Messiah would appear 173,880 days from March 5, 444 B.C. By converting these days, using the precise length of our solar year, the day the Messiah would appear is the 10th of Nisan or March 30, 33 A.D. That the Messiah would appear on the 10th of Nisan has a tremendous significance that I will disclose shortly. This means that according to Daniel's prophecy, any person not proclaimed the Messiah on March 30, 33 A.D. could not in fact be the Messiah.

The final part of this prophecy addressed in this section concerns the prophetic phrase that states the "Messiah [shall] be cut off, but not for Himself". This of course pertains to the earlier prophecy of Isaiah in which he said: "for He [i.e., the Messiah] was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of My people was He stricken".17 Therefore, after the Messiah appeared He would be killed according to this prophecy of Daniel's and the prophecy of Isaiah.

The New Testament illustrates how perfectly Jesus Christ fulfilled this prophecy.

Fulfillment by Jesus Christ:

The biblical writer Luke gives timing of the beginning of Jesus' ministry on earth in his Gospel:

"and Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor

with God and man. Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of

Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea,

and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip

tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and

Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene...Now when all the

people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being

baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the

Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon

Him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, You are

My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased. And Jesus

Himself began to be about thirty years of age..."18

Biblical scholars recognize the Gospel writer Luke as a historian of the first degree. His book illustrates thoroughly the attention he gives to historical detail. In this passage, he makes it clear that Jesus was baptized and began His ministry in the 15th year of the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius Caesar. Since historians state that the Roman emperor Augustus died on August 19, 14 A.D., this means that Tiberius became sole emperor that same year. Thus, Jesus began His ministry in 29 A.D., which was the 15th year of Tiberius' reign.

Most biblical scholars have concluded that Jesus' earthly ministry lasted three and one-half years. They base this belief on the listing of the various Jewish feasts in the Gospels that occurred during His ministry. Since His ministry started in the latter half of 29 A.D., He would have finished it in the spring of 33 A.D.

The final feast mentioned in the Gospels is the feast of Passover, which begins on the 14th of the Jewish month Nisan. According to our modern Gregorian calendar, this converts to Friday, April 3, 33 A.D.  It was during this final feast that the Romans crucified Jesus.

At the risk of offending centuries of Christian tradition, I will point out that the 10th of Nisan, 33 A.D. actually occurred on a Monday. This would have been the exact date of Jesus' "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem when the multitudes of Jewish people proclaimed Him the Messiah. The tradition that refers to this day as "Palm Sunday" has its basis in a certain reading of a passage in the Gospel of John:

"Then Jesus six days before the Passover came to Bethany,

where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom He raised

from the dead...On the next day much people that were

come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming

to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth

to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of

Israel that comes in the name of the Lord. And Jesus, when

He had found a young donkey, sat thereon; as it is written,

Fear not, daughter of Zion: behold, your King cometh,

sitting on a donkey's colt."19

The dilemma here is based on how you count the days before the Passover feast mentioned by John. If the Passover was on Friday, then counting backwards five days from that day takes you to Monday, which actually started Sunday evening according to the way the Jews count their days (Genesis 1:5 - "And the evening and the morning were the first day").

So according to this prophecy of Daniel, the Messiah would appear on the 10th of Nisan, 33 A.D. or using our calendar, March 30, 33 A.D.  Jesus fulfilled it to the exact day. The fact that Jesus was sitting on a donkey, just as the prophet Zechariah had foretold about the Messiah with the people proclaiming Him "King" or "Messiah", confirms that He alone fulfilled this prophecy. JESUS CHRIST IS THE MESSIAH.

It is significant that several times during Jesus' ministry the people wanted to publicly proclaim Him the Messiah. Each of these times Jesus refused to allow them to perform this coronation.20 However, on the 10th of Nisan, 33 A.D. Jesus not only welcomed the praises and proclamations of the people declaring Him the Messiah, He stated that it had to happen on this very day.

The religious leaders approached Jesus during this public homage to Him. They were angry that He was accepting this Messianic declaration of the people and said to Him, "Master, rebuke thy disciples."  Jesus responded to them and said, "I tell you that, if these [people] should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out."21 Jesus was saying that it was so important that He be proclaimed Messiah on this very day that if the people wouldn't do it the rocks on the ground would. That is because God's prophecies and His will always come to pass and He will use whatever means available to accomplish them. The psalmist also refers to this specific day when he wrote: "This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I beseech You, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech You, send now prosperity. Blessed be He that comes in the name of the LORD: we have blessed You out of the house of the LORD."22

Thus, in order to fulfill this prophecy of Daniel, Jesus was going to be proclaimed the Messiah on this specific day one way or another.

As Jesus approached the city of Jerusalem on the donkey, He stopped and wept saying:

"Saying, If you had known, even you, at least in this your

day, the things which belong unto your peace! But now

they are hid from your eyes. For the days shall come upon

you, that your enemies shall cast a trench about you, and

encircle you, and keep you in on every side, And shall lay

you even with the ground, and your children within you;

and they shall not leave in you one stone upon another;

because you knew not the time of your visitation."23

This saying of Jesus is of the utmost importance because it shows that according to Jesus, the Jews should have known that this was the exact day that the Messiah would visit His people. How could they have known? By correctly interpreting Daniel's prophecy, along with those prophecies of Isaiah and Zechariah, that foretold not only that the Messiah would be a humble, suffering servant but also the precise day of His arrival. However, the Jewish leaders did not want a suffering Messiah so they only focused on the kingly Messiah prophecies.

I believe this is an important biblical principle that Jesus has put forth to God's people. We are to study the Bible to ascertain the plans of God for mankind and the timing of those plans. Jesus rebuked the Jews for not knowing when the Messiah would first appear because they didn't properly study the Old Testament. As Christians we should not miss the timing (although not the specific day) of Jesus' second coming because He has revealed to us through the prophetic passages of the Bible when that event would occur. The apostle Paul wrote: "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night...But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief."24 This principle is the crux of this book I have written so that Jesus will not rebuke His followers for not knowing the times of His second visitation.

Finally, we come to the death of Messiah to which Daniel's prophecy speaks. It states that after the Messiah comes, He will be "cut off" or killed. As both Daniel and Isaiah state, the reason for His death will be for the sins of mankind.

Jesus was crucified on Friday the 14th of Nisan, 33 A.D. He died at 3pm25 that day. The New Testament makes it clear that the next day was a Saturday or the Sabbath as the Jews called it: "And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathaea, an honorable counselor, which also waited for the kingdom of God, came, and went in boldly unto Pilate, and desired to take the body of Jesus."26

These two dates, the 10th and 14th of Nisan, have tremendous significance concerning the proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah and in the date of His death.

In the Law that God gave to the Jewish people He ordained them to keep a feast called the Passover. It had its origins in the Jewish nation's escape from the bondage of Egyptian slavery. God culminated the deliverance of the Jews on the night that He killed all the firstborn male children of the Egyptians. His purpose in this was to show the rebellious Egyptians that He was God and to cause them to free the Jews. On that night, God commanded the Jews living in Egypt to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and spread its blood on the doorposts of their homes. When the Angel of Death came to kill all the firstborn male children in Egypt, he would pass over any homes that had the lamb's blood on it. Indeed, the Jewish homes that had this blood-covering had their firstborn males spared from death.27

God ordained that the Jews keep the feast of Passover as a remembrance of the night of their deliverance:

"And the LORD spoke unto Moses and Aaron in the land of

Egypt, saying, This month [i.e., Nisan] shall be unto you

The beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the

Year to you. Speak you unto all the congregation of Israel,

 saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to

them every man a lamb, according to the house of their

fathers, a lamb for an house...Your lamb shall be without

blemish, a male of the first year: you shall take it out from

the sheep, or from the goats: And you shall keep it up until

the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole

assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the

evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on

the two side posts and on the upper door post of the

houses, wherein they shall eat it...For I will pass through

the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn

in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all

the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.

And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses

where you are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over

you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you,

when I smite the land of Egypt. And this day shall be unto

you for a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to the

LORD throughout your generations; you shall keep it a

feast by an ordinance for ever."28

The Jews were to examine their flocks and choose one unblemished lamb on the 10th day of Nisan and kill it on the 14th day of Nisan. The fact that this lamb was to be unblemished meant that it was to have no imperfections.

Jesus fulfilled the purpose of this feast on those exact days. During His "triumphal entry" on the 10th of Nisan, 33 A.D., the people chose Jesus as their Messiah. It is significant that after Jesus came to Jerusalem He went to the Jewish Temple. There He was questioned and examined by the religious leaders to see if they could find any fault or blemish in Him.29 No fault was found in Him and so, like the unblemished lamb, Jesus was sacrificed on the 14th day of Nisan fulfilling the true role of the Passover lamb.

John the Baptist recognized this sacrificial role of Jesus: "John saw Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world."30

The apostle Paul also saw this biblical truth fulfilled in Jesus when he declared, "For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us."31

It was during the Passover meal on Thursday night the 13th of Nisan, 33 A.D. when Jesus instituted a new memorial in which His shed blood would replace the Passover lamb's blood as atonement for the sins of mankind:

"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it,

and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take,

eat; this is My body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks,

and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; For this is

My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for

the remission of sins."32

When Christians receive communion they are taking part in the Passover meal by eating the bread and drinking the wine that memorializes Jesus Christ as the true Passover Lamb of God who takes away their sins.


After reading through this prophecy of Daniel, I hope you understand why this is such an important Messianic prophecy. It answers the final question of our original six as to when would the Messiah come. This means that no one else can be the Messiah except Jesus Christ because He is the only one who came on the dates specified as necessary by God.

I would like to point out that the last part of this "seventy weeks" prophecy pertains to a yet future time of fulfillment that I will be discussing in the second part of this book.

Before we look at the timing of the second coming of Jesus Christ there is one more chapter in which I would like to cover two more vital aspects to the first coming of the Messiah. 


1   Isaiah 46:9-10

2   "Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls", Dr. Randall Price, p. 80-81; 157-163;

    (Harvest House Publishers, 1996)    

3   Matthew 24:15

4   "What the Rabbis Know About the Messiah", Rachmiel Frydland, p. 73-77;

     (Messianic Publishing Company, 1991, 1993)

5   "The Handwriting on the Wall", David Jeremiah, ch. 15, p. 185;

    (Word Publishing, 1992). See also Jews for Jesus website.

6   Daniel 9:2

7   Jeremiah 25:8-9, 11; 29:10

8   Leviticus 25:1-22

9   II Chronicles 36:20-21

10  Daniel 9:3-20

11  Even the Jewish Publication Society (a non-Christian organization) has in

     their Hebrew-English Tanakh (i.e., Old Testament in the Christian Bible)

     a footnote to Daniel 9:24 which states that the word sevens here

     means sevens "of years". [JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh; p.1828,

     footnote "a" (The Jewish Publication Society, 2000)]

12  Ezra 1:1-2

13  Nehemiah 2:1-8

14  Nehemiah 2:8

15  Sir Robert Anderson states that the year was actually 445 B.C. but

     other scholars have concluded that the 20th year Artaxerxes reign took

     place in 444 BC.

16  Both the first and last books of the Bible, Genesis and Revelation (when

     compared with Daniel 7:24-25), give the specific number of days which

     when calculated define the biblical year as consisting of 360 days. See

    Genesis 7:11, 24; 8:3-4 and Revelation 13:4-7; 12:13-14

17  Isaiah 53:8b

18  Luke 2:52-3:1; 3:21-23a

19  John 12:1, 12-15

20  Matthew16:13-20; John 6:14-15; etc

21  Luke 19:39-40

22  Psalm 118:24-26

23  Luke 19:41-44

24  I Thessalonians 5:1-2, 4

25  The Gospel of Matthew states that "about the ninth hour...Jesus yielded up

     His spirit". The daylight hours were counted from 6am and therefore Jesus

     died at 3pm. (Matthew 27:45-50)

26  Mark 15:42-43

27  Exodus 12:1-39

28  Exodus 12:1-3, 5-7, 12-14

29  Matthew 21:1-24:1

30  John 1:29

31  I Corinthians 5:7

32  Matthew 26:26-28

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