The Seventy “Weeks” of Daniel against the Background of Ancient Near Eastern Literature -- By: Thomas Edward McComiskey

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 47:1 (Spring 1985)
Article: The Seventy “Weeks” of Daniel against the Background of Ancient Near Eastern Literature
Author: Thomas Edward McComiskey


The Seventy “Weeks” of Daniel
against the Background of Ancient Near Eastern Literature*

Thomas Edward McComiskey

The prophecy of the seventy “sevens” in Dan 9:24–27 has been the subject of scholarly interest and debate for centuries. To this day a multiplicity of problems besets the interpreter of this passage. Are the sevens contiguous? Are they all the same length of time? Who are the anointed princes? What are the termini of the various numerical elements? The interpreter who holds a messianic view of the passage has the additional problem of determining how the structure fits the chronology of Jesus’ earthly life: a chronology which is in itself somewhat inexact.

Since the days of the early Christian exegetes a myriad of solutions has been given to the questions that arise from a study of this passage.1 J. A. Montgomery sums up the history of the interpretation of the passage in these words:

The history of the exegesis of the 70 Weeks is the Dismal Swamp of O.T. criticism…. [T]he trackless wilderness of assumptions and theories in the efforts to obtain an exact chronology fitting into the history of Salvation, after these 2,000 years of infinitely varied interpretations, would seem to preclude any use of the 70 Weeks for the determination of a definite prophetic chronology.2

Perhaps another discussion of the perplexing problems of this passage seems redundant. However, the vast spectrum

* The author is indebted to Mr. Roger Handyside, a graduate student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, for his assistance in researching much of the material on which this article is based.

of views that persists, even after centuries of study, and the great importance of this passage in the structure of the book of Daniel, warrant its continued examination and refinement.

This discussion will suggest that the clausal structure of the Massoretic tradition provides the foundation of a view that answers to the exegetical demands of the text, is consonant with important motifs in the Bible and in ancient Near Eastern literature, and is not beset by the problems of chronology inherent in the traditional messianic view.

I. The Clausal Arrangement of the Massoretic Tradition

The Massoretic tradition places the accent ʾatnaḥ between the words šābuʿîm šibʿāh and wĕšābuʿîm ...

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