The Seventy Sevens Of Daniel 9“:” A Timetable For The Future? -- By: Richard S. Hess

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 21:3 (NA 2011)
Article: The Seventy Sevens Of Daniel 9“:” A Timetable For The Future?
Author: Richard S. Hess


The Seventy Sevens Of Daniel 9“:” A Timetable For The Future?

Richard S. Hess

Denver Seminary

Questions of the Messiah’s return remain among the most perplexing and divisive in the interpretation of OT texts. These questions look to the future, at the end of the age. Because so many of the chapters in Daniel are concerned with the future, Daniel is a natural scroll in which to look for clues. There is very little in the Bible to provide any clue as to specific dates prophesied as yet to come. For this reason, numerical figures such as the seventy sevens of Dan 9:24–27 become keys to unlocking various schemes for the future.

Key Words: Daniel 9, seventy weeks, biblical epochs

The purpose of this study will be to examine the meaning and interpretation of Dan 9:24–27 and to understand the background and significance of the unusual expression “seventy sevens.” We will begin by reviewing the context and the text of Dan 9. We will then consider something of its early interpretation. We will also look at some of the interpretations that have been applied to this text by dispensationalists, by modern critical scholars, and by other scholars.1 Having taken these various approaches into account, we will then look at a different possibility for the origin and significance of this term. Finally, we will reach a conclusion that will seek to take into account the ancient context of this text as well as its implications for the first readers and for all later readers of Daniel.

The Context And Text Of Daniel 9:24–27

Daniel 9 forms a penitential prayer of the type that is found in other Jewish scrolls written after the fall of Jerusalem, such as Ezra 9 and Neh 9. All of these rehearse the history of Israel as one of sin and describe the just judgments of God culminating in the destruction of the city and temple and

in the deportation of the people. In Ezra and Nehemiah, they are followed by a new commitment of the people and a renewed sense of dedication to God with a specific act and promise. In the case of Daniel, who seems to be alone, the prayer has as its response God’s act of sending a messenger or angel in the form of Gabriel. Gabriel announces the message of vv. 24–27, which takes the form of a declaratio...

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