Daniel’s Great Seventy-Weeks Prophecy: An Exegetical Insight -- By: John C. Whitcomb

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 02:2 (Fall 1981)
Article: Daniel’s Great Seventy-Weeks Prophecy: An Exegetical Insight
Author: John C. Whitcomb

Daniel’s Great Seventy-Weeks Prophecy:
An Exegetical Insight

John C. Whitcomb

It has often been said, and I believe with truth, that those who shun the study of biblical languages will find themselves at the mercy of the translators. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of the Hebrew OT, as may be seen by the discussions that have been provoked by recent translations of the OT.

One purpose of this study is to encourage an interest in the study of Hebrew exegesis for the purpose of determining the exact meaning of the OT text. Another purpose is to show how the study of one Hebrew word can help to unlock the mysteries of one of the most fascinating prophecies of the entire OT: the Seventy-Weeks Prophecy of Daniel.

The first great problem that confronts us as we seek the interpretation of this prophecy, is the meaning of the Hebrew word שָׁבוּעַ, which is translated in our English versions by the word “week.” We must now examine the entire prophecy as found in Dan 9:24–27, and as translated in the New American Standard Bible, calling special attention to the word “week,” which appears six times within the four verses:

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering;

and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.

Our problem is to determine how long a period of time is intended by this word: whether a week of days, as the most common usage of the word would suggest, or whether, perhaps, it is intended to be a week of years, as the immediate context would seem to demand. The problem is intensified by the fact that nowhere else in the OT, when the word is used by itself, does it me...

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