Calculating Daniel’s Seventy Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27) and the Length of the Tribulation Period

Sam A. Smith

An Overview of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks (Daniel 9:24-27)

The prophecy of the seventy weeks (Dan. 9:24-27) is perhaps the most important prophecy of all in understanding tribulation chronology. This prophecy was given for the purpose of conveying specific chronological information concerning God’s future plans for the Jewish nation, which was then in Babylonian captivity. The prophecy was conveyed to Daniel by the angel Gabriel (9:21) in response to Daniel’s prayer for understanding concerning the future of the Jewish people. While this prophecy might seem cryptic at first look, we must bear in mind that Gabriel was communicating details of events, some of which would not be fulfilled for hundreds of years and others which would not be fulfilled for thousands of years. It will help if we identify the various elements of the prophecy before trying to decipher the chronology.

The phrase “your people” refers to Israel, and “the holy city” is Jerusalem. The statement, “to put an end to wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy,” refers to the historical progression of events leading up to the promised kingdom. The “Anointed One” refers to Messiah the Prince, who will come to rule (cf. Isa. 9:6-7). The Anointed One being “cut off” is a reference to Messiah’s death. The destruction of the city and the sanctuary is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, after Christ’s death. The “ruler who will come” is the Prince to come (the Antichrist) who will come to power during the tribulation (cf. Matt. 24:15-22; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; Rev. 13:1-9). The “covenant” is a treaty made between Israel and the Prince to come (the Antichrist). The last, or seventieth seven (v.27) represents the length of the tribulation period. “Desolations” refers to some of the destructive events that will take place during the tribulation period. The “abomination on a wing of the temple” or as alternately rendered, “one who will come on the wings of abomination” refers to the Prince to come seating himself in the temple and claiming to be God (cf. Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; Rev. 13:1-9), and possibly to the setting up of an image in the temple (Rev. 13:14-15). “The end that is decreed” is a reference to the destruction of the Prince to come and the second coming of Christ, who will crush the Antichrist’s kingdom and establish God’s kingdom on earth (cf. Dan. 2:44-45; 7:1-27; Rev. 19:19-20).

Having identified the key elements of the prophecy, we are now able to tackle the chronology. The “sevens,” or “weeks” (vv.24,25,27) are references to units of seven “years,” in which one seven equals approximately seven years (or 2520 days, cf. Rev. 12:6). This is apparent because Gabriel said there would be 69 units of seven (7 sevens + 62 sevens) from the time of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah is “cut off” (i.e., put to death). This is the amount of time from the decree of Artaxerxes on Nisan 1, 444B.C. to Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the temple on Nisan 9 (March 29 in the Julian calendar), A.D. 33, just five days before his crucifixion.

Calculation of the first 69 “weeks” of the prophecy

One possible calculation of the 70 weeks prophecy is as follows:

The starting date (Nisan 1, 444 B.C.) is derived from information in Nehemiah 2:1, and assumes that the decree was issued on the first day of the month, since no other day is specified.

Because there is a gap of unspecified duration between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week, these must be treated separately. The purpose of the calculation below is to determine the terminal date of the sixty-ninth week.

  1. According to Revelation 12:6 (cf. 12:14 and Daniel 7:25), the last half of the 70th week (the tribulation period) is 1260 days; since half of the 70th week is 1260 days, one week equals 2520 days (2 x 1260 days). [As a practical consideration it would have been nearly impossible to calculate the prophecy in Daniel 9: 24-27 using a calendar with a variable number of days per year, as is the case with the Hebrew calendar, and virtually all of the Ancient Near Eastern calendars of Daniel’s day. (The Hebrew calendar year varied from a low of 353 days to a high of 385 days.) Perhaps this is why the book of Revelation uses an “ideal” calendar having 360 days per year.]
  2. Although the first 69 weeks of the prophecy (7 weeks + 62 weeks) equals 173,880 days, when converted to an integer number of solar years we find that there were 476 solar years.  [Note that we must use integer math since the answer cannot be expected to be more precise than the least significant piece of data, which was given in whole years (i.e., 69 x 7). Thus, the integer result of 69 weeks x (2520 days/”week”) / (365.24219 days/solar year) = 476 solar years.]
  3. 476 solar years is 173,855 days (476 solar years x 365.24219 days/solar year).
  4. To determine the terminal date of the 69th week we must add 173,855 days to the start date Nisan 1, 444B.C. The Julian date (JD) of Nisan 1, 444B.C. is JD 1,559,344; advancing 173,855 days from that date (JD 1,559,344 + 173,855 days) results in JD 1,733,199, which was Nisan 9 (March 29, in the Gregorian Calendar), A.D. 33, which is the date of the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday) five days before his crucifixion on Nisan 14 (April 3), A.D. 33.

Other Evidence Confirming the Length of the
Tribulation Period

It is possible to confirm the length of the tribulation from the book of Daniel. Daniel 7:25 refers to the fact that the saints living in the tribulation period will be given over to the Antichrist for persecution and martyrdom, cf. Rev. 13:5-7, for a period designated as “a time, times, and half a time”; this expression is equivalent to three and a half (“a time” = 1, “times” {Heb. dual} = 2, and “half a time” = ½), the unit of time is not specified; that this represents approximately 3.5 years seems to be confirmed in Daniel 12:11, where Daniel is told that the number of days from the abomination that causes desolation (at the midpoint, cf. Dan. 9:27) is to be 1290 days, which is approximately 3.5 years. The difference in the 1290 days given in Daniel 12:11 and the 1260 days given in Revelation 12:6 may be due to the fact that one figure extends to the second coming, while the other extends to some unspecified event thirty days later, possibly the conclusion of the judgment described in Matthew 25:31-46, or the resurrection described in Daniel 12:13 and Revelation 20:4. [The 1335 day figure given in Daniel 12:12 apparently extends from the midpoint to the beginning of the millennium; thus, there is to be a seventy-five day interlude between the conclusion of the tribulation and the beginning of the millennium (1335 days – 1260 days = 75 days)].

Another confirmation of the length of the period comes from Revelation 13:5-7. Here the authority of the Antichrist to overcome the saints and to compel the inhabitants of the earth to worship him is said to extend for forty-two months (v.5). It is clear from a comparison of Daniel 9:27, Matthew 24:15-22, and Revelation 13:5 that this persecution begins at the midpoint of the tribulation. This would mean that the second half of the tribulation is approximately forty-two months, or three and a half years, which comports with Daniel 7:25. Thus, with this information we are able to confirm that the length of the tribulation period is seven years; and as we have seen, the chronological information from Daniel, Matthew 24:4-22, and Revelation is consistent.

 

Adapted from: What the Bible Says About the Future, 2nd Edition,
by Sam A. Smith.

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