The Goal Of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks -- By: J. Barton Payne

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 21:2 (Jun 1978)
Article: The Goal Of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks
Author: J. Barton Payne

The Goal Of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks

J. Barton Payne*

Interpreters should hesitate before entering afresh into the exegesis of Daniel’s seventy weeks, a passage that has been characterized as “the Dismal Swamp of Old Testament criticism.”1 Yet one particular avenue of approach appears to have been insufficiently explored—namely, the nature of the goal of this 490-year period, as it is stated in the six infinitival phrases of purpose in Dan 9:24, and the relationship of this sixfold goal to the events that are predicted for accomplishing it, as these are elaborated in the three verses that follow (9:25–27). Not that commentators have been unaware of the significance of 9:24 for the total interpretation of the passage; E. J. Young, for example, has written:

The six items presented… settle the terminus ad quem of the prophecy. The termination of the 70 sevens coincides with… the first advent of our Lord.2

And Robert D. Culver has written:

The terminus ad quem of the full 70 weeks is… not to be found in any event near the earthly lifetime of our Lord … The scope of verse 24’s prophecy requires that the last week terminate no earlier than the coming of Christ at the second advent.3

Despite their conflicting conclusions, both writers then lay down important principles for relating the prophecy’s goal to the time period that is involved. Culver stresses the unity of God’s design for the period in question: “Seventy weeks—it (singular) is decreed” to achieve the goal;4 and Young stresses the necessary inclusion of the sixfold purpose within the stated years: “These things are to be accomplished before the expiry of the 70 sevens, although the blessings brought about may continue for long after.”5 But though rightly stressing the two principles thus stated, neither of the above-quoted writers proceeds actually to correlate the purposes given in v 24 with the specific~ations that come next. Young, it is true, cites many passages elsewhere in Scripture and makes one allusion to the preceding context of Dan 9:5–11, but he makes none whatsoever to vv 25–27 which follow. The present study seeks, there-

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