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A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of "The 70 Weeks Of Daniel"

Kuruvilla Thomas
Bangalore
Published on 23 September 2017




70 weeks of Daniel 9:24-27 Timeline
Fig. 1


Introduction

This study treats Daniel 9:24-27 as a "Functional Chiasmus" in order to arrive at a coherent reconfiguration of the text. Text that is structured as a functional chiasmus must be rearranged based on certain principles to be correctly interpreted. A functional chiasmus is a novel concept; see definition in [1]. If you wish to skip the technicalities of a chiastic parse, you may read starting from Section 4 of the Discussion section, which has the reconfigured text.

The "70 Weeks of Daniel", which is the foundation of many eschatological positions, is one of the most difficult and most diversely interpreted passages of the Bible. We believe that, because of its prophetic nature, the passage has been scrambled by divine purpose to obfuscate its meaning. Also, because of a lack of proper context, some critical words in the passage have been misleadingly translated. This study will retranslate the text, chiastically unscramble it in a logically defensible manner, and comment on the rearranged text. A chiastic reading will also explain the reason for the two contiguous time periods in the passage - seven "sevens", sixty-two "sevens".


Note:
We will use the term "Judahite" to refer to the Israelites - primarily those of the tribe of Judah and their descendants - that remained after the Assyrian exile of the Northern Tribes; we will try to avoid the term "Jew" to avoid the confusion it introduces.

Summary of conclusions

The 70 weeks or 490 years (1 "week" is 7 years) are not contiguous years but the sum of sections of time "cut out" from an overarching time period extending from circa 444BC to the Messiah's anointing in 2017AD. The sections of time in chronological sequence are:


Discussion

1. Retranslation of Daniel 9:24-27

We will use the NIV version of Daniel 9:24-27 for this study. We have retranslated some of the phrases and divided the verses into several units to facilitate a chiastic reconstruction.

We color-code the chiastic units of the text below for easy visual identification using yellow for the central pivot phrase, red for the 7 year Period, blue for the 434 year Period, green for the 49 year Period and black for text outside the chiasmus.



24a Seventy 'sevens' (490 years) are decreed for your people and your holy city:

24b to finish the rebellion[a], (and) to put an end to sin-offerings[b],
24c to atone for wickedness, (and) to bring in everlasting righteousness,
24d to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most consecrated one.[c]

25a Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the anointed one, the ruler, comes, there will be:

25b seven 'sevens'(49 years),

25c sixty-two 'sevens'(434 years)[d]. It(Jerusalem) will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
26a After the sixty-two 'sevens,'(434 years) the Anointed One will be put to death but not for himself[e].


26b The people of the ruler who will come will raid[f] the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
27a He (the ruler) will confirm a covenant with the Great one[g] for one 'seven.'(7 years)
27b In the middle of the 'seven' he (the ruler) will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the borders[h] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate[i].



Footnotes on the retranslation:
We have chosen alternative translations to some phrases in the NIV version as below:
a. "the rebellion" instead of "transgression" in verse 24b.
b. "sin-offerings" instead of "sin" in verse 24b.
c. "consecrated one" instead of "holy place" in verse 24d.
d. "sixty-two 'sevens'" instead of "and sixty-two 'sevens'" in verse 25c (the "and" may be omitted in some contexts).
e. "but not for himself" instead of "and will have nothing" in verse 26a (from the KJV).
f. "raid" instead of "destroy" in verse 26b.
g. "the Great one" instead of "many" in verse 27a.
h. "borders" instead of "temple" (or "wing" in other translations) in verse 27b.
i. "the desolate" instead of "him" in verse 27b.


2. Parsing the chiasmus

The guiding principle behind the parsing of this particular chiasm is that each pair of objectives in verse 24 (24b, 24c, 24d) correspond to one of the Periods of the seventy weeks (seven, sixty-two and one week), and verse 25a is the pivot point.


We arrive at the chiastic structure below by applying this principle:

24a Seventy 'sevens' are are decreed for your people and your holy city.
(Verse 24a is outside the chiasmus but retained here because it is the start of the prophecy.)

A1   24b to finish the rebellion, (and) to put an end to sin-offerings,
  B1   24c to atone for wickedness, (and) to bring in everlasting righteousness,
    C1   24d to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most consecrated one.
      X   25a From the time the word goes out to restore...Jerusalem...till the anointed one comes...
    C2   25b seven 'sevens'(49 years),
  B2   25c-26a sixty-two 'sevens'(434 years)...Jerusalem rebuilt...Anointed One put to death
A2   26b-27b The people of the ruler will raid the city...one 'seven'(7 years)...desolation...

We believe we are on the right track with this parse based on the 'elegance' of the parse and 'semantic correctness' of the resulting text: the match between events and the objectives of each Period are appropriate; and the centre or pivot point of the chiasmus, 'X', works well as an introductory overarching sentence. We contend that this is not an arbitrary rearrangement of words, which would amount to a rewriting of scripture, but a logical, principled process that results in a coherent text.


Notes on the parsing:
Immediately after the "seven sevens" text, the verse continues on to the "sixty-two sevens" text. This is the cause of a lot of confusion when the passage is read non-chiastically, resulting in a number of interpretations that treat the two 'sevens' as one contiguous time-span of sixty-nine 'sevens'.
We surmise that 26b belongs with 27 to make up the one "seven" because they appear to describe similar events, and because otherwise, the pronoun "he" in verse 27 would not have an antecedent.


3. Building the reconfigured text

We now reconstruct the phrases in the right order based on the chiastic structure we arrived at previously and based on the ordering rules of a functional chiasmus [1].

We lead with central pivot point 'X' because it appears to be an introductory phrase. The corresponding subunits (For ex., subunit A1 corresponds to A2) are placed contiguously to form units (For ex., A1,A2 is a unit) so that we get a list of such units.


The sequence selected for rearrangement is:

24a  X  [A1,A2]  [B1,B2]  [C1,C2]       (1)
(Verse 24a is outside the chiasmus but retained here because it is the start of the prophecy.)

Translating this sequence into verse numbers, we get:

24a  25a  [24b, 26b-27b]  [24c, 25c-26a]  [24d, 25b]       (2)

We arrive at the reconfigured passage in the next section by rearranging the verses so they are in sequence (2).


4. Daniel 9:24-27 Reconfigured


24a Seventy 'sevens' (490 years) are decreed for your people and your holy city:
25a Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the anointed one, the ruler, comes, there will be:

24b to finish the rebellion, (and) to put an end to sin-offerings,
26b The people of the ruler who will come will raid the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
27a He (the ruler) will confirm a covenant with the Great one for one 'seven.' (7 years)
27b In the middle of the 'seven' he (the ruler) will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the borders he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate.


24c to atone for wickedness, (and) to bring in everlasting righteousness,
25c sixty-two 'sevens'(434 years). It(Jerusalem) will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
26a After the sixty-two 'sevens,'(434 years) the Anointed One will be put to death but not for himself.


24d to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most consecrated one.
25b seven 'sevens'(49 years),




5. A Commentary on the Reconfigured Text.

The passage has been split into 4 sections as above for analysis: The introductory statement and the 3 Periods of 7 years, 434 years and 49 years.


5.1 Introductory overarching statements (24a, 25a)


"24a Seventy 'sevens' (490 years) are decreed"

We take the position that the 490 years (1 "week" is 7 years) are not contiguous years but the sum of sections of time carved out out of a much longer period of 2460 years (444BC-2017AD ) (the word "decreed" here is a figurative translation of a Hebrew word that literally means "cut off", which bolsters our stance that there are gaps between the Periods because the three Periods are cut out of a larger span). These 70 "weeks" are required to accomplish all the six objectives listed in verse 24.



"for your people and your holy city:"

This prophecy is primarily pertinent to both the people of Daniel (mainly the Israelite tribe of Judah) and to the holy city (Jerusalem). However, the 2 'objectives' of the Period of the First Coming of Christ and the 2 'objectives' of the 49 year Period of the coming Messiah apply to all mankind.



"25a Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the anointed one, the ruler, comes, there will be: "

The events that mark the beginning and end of the overarching time-span, out of which 70 weeks are "cut out", are specified here:

This opening statement introduces a list of three Periods of 7, 62 and 1 "weeks". For each Period, the list specifies 2 objectives, the length of the Period in "weeks" and, except for the last Period, a short description of the Period.




5.2 One 'seven'. The First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–73AD) (24b, 26b-27b)

We propose that this one 'seven', the most detailed of the passage, is a summary of the First Jewish-Roman war (66–73 AD) [2]. To establish this, we must reasonably match events mentioned in the passage to historical events during the war. Before we get into a commentary on the passage, we have below: a short history of the war as relevant to this passage; and a discussion of the possible meaning of the word 'covenant' as it appears in the text.


5.2.1 A Brief History of The First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 AD) condensed from [2].

In order to quell a revolt by the Judahites in 66 AD, the Roman governor, Gessius Florus, plundered the Jewish Temple, launched a raid on the city, and arrested and crucified numerous Judahite leaders. The city was eventually retaken by the Judahite rebels, who established the "Judean Free Government" in Jerusalem.

The Roman General Vespasian and his son Titus began the campaign to crush the revolt by attacking the Judahite centres surrounding Jerusalem in 67AD. A large number of Judahites in these towns fled Roman punishment to take refuge in the fortified city of Jerusalem. Judea's Christians fled to Pella before the Roman attack, so escaping the carnage that befell the rest of the population [4].

With Vespasian called away to Rome to be appointed emperor in 69, Titus moved to besiege the centre of rebel resistance in Jerusalem in early 70AD with 4 legions. Unable to breach the city's defences, the Roman armies established a permanent camp just outside the city, digging a trench around the circumference of its walls and building a wall as high as the city walls themselves around Jerusalem. Anyone caught in the trench while attempting to flee the city, would be captured, crucified, and placed in lines on top of the dirt wall facing into Jerusalem. During some infighting inside the city walls, a stockpiled supply of dry food was intentionally burned by the Zealots to induce the defenders to fight against the siege instead of negotiating peace; as a result, many city dwellers and soldiers died of starvation during the siege.

By the summer of 70, the Romans had breached the walls of Jerusalem, ransacking and burning nearly the entire city. The Second Temple (the renovated Herod's Temple), one of the last fortified bastions of the rebellion, was destroyed on Tisha B'Av (29 or 30 July 70). According to Josephus, in a city of 1.1 million, 1 million Judahites were killed and 100,000 taken captive; it was almost the entire population of the Judahites in the area.

During the spring of 71, Titus returned to Rome and a new governor was assigned the "mopping-up" operations in Judea. He used Legion X Fretensis to besiege and capture the few remaining fortresses that still resisted. In the autumn of 73, the Romans moved against the last Judean stronghold, Masada. The governor used Legion X, auxiliary troops, and thousands of Judahite prisoners, for a total of 10,000 soldiers. When the Romans finally broke through the walls of this citadel, they discovered that 960 of the 967 defenders had committed suicide.



5.2.2 The meaning of the word "covenant".

We take a rather startling position on the meaning of the word "covenant" as used in verse 27, but hope to show here that this is a valid position using the passage itself and using some historical evidence.

We contend that the "covenant" is an agreement between God and Titus, to completely eliminate the Judahite people and destroy the city of Jerusalem within 7 years. During those 7 years, all divine protection for the Israelites would be suspended. Protection would be reinstated at the end of that time for the sake of "elect" - those who believed in Jesus and fled, as he instructed them in the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24:22) [7].


Consider the evidence:



5.2.3 Commentary on the verses related to the one "seven"

"24b to finish the rebellion, (and) to put an end to sin-offerings,
26b The people of the ruler who will come will raid the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
27a He (the ruler) will confirm a covenant with the Great one for one 'seven.' (7 years)
27b In the middle of the 'seven' he (the ruler) will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the borders he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate."

Note the structure of this passage. Verse 26b is a summary of the entire war with a focus on the beginning and end, and verse 27b is a summary of the destruction of Jerusalem in the middle of the war. Verses 26b, 27a and 27b can be seen as forming a regular chiasmus with 27a as the pivot; since this is a regular chiasmus, no reconfiguration is required.


"24b to finish the rebellion,"

The First Jewish-Roman war began as a Roman effort to quell a Jewish revolt. Those who ignored Jesus' instruction to flee and instead stayed to fight in support of the rebellion were killed.



" (and) to put an end to sin-offerings,"

As we see in vs. 27b, with the destruction of the temple in the middle of the war in 70AD, sacrifices and offerings were ended. This was significant as it marked the complete end of the Old Covenant; under the New Covenant, Christ's death on the cross was a "sin-offering" for all mankind (Hebrews 9).



"26b The people of the ruler who will come will raid the city and the sanctuary."

If we designate Titus as the ruler mentioned in this passage, then the Roman governor, Gessius Florus, and his force would qualify as "the people of the ruler who will come", and this passage may refer to his attack on Jerusalem at the beginning of the war in 66AD. The Roman governor plundered the Jewish Temple, launched a raid on the city, and arrested and crucified numerous Judahite leaders. This prompted a wider, large-scale rebellion that demanded the attention of the Roman General Vespasian. His son Titus arrived in 67AD, and the covenant period began that year.



"The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed."

The "flood" seems to refer to the large Roman army sent to finish off the Judahite resistance. We know that war did go on to the end of the 7 year Period, and, as we have seen in a previous section, the desolation of the Judahites was divinely ordained.



"27a He (the ruler) will confirm a covenant with the Great one for one 'seven.' (7 years)"

As we discuss in a previous section, the covenant between God and Titus is that God will suspend His protection of the Judahites for 7 years (Michael, their protector, will stand aside, Daniel 12:1), during which, Titus will have free rein on the utter destruction of the Judahites.

Although this sentence appears in the middle of the section about the war, because of the chiastic structure of the section (26b, 27a, 27b), we can treat this line, the pivot, as an opening sentence. That is, this agreement or covenant was made before the war and not in the middle of it.



"27b In the middle of the 'seven' he (the ruler) will put an end to sacrifice and offering."

The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and, with it, the sacrifices and offerings were ended in the middle of the war, around July of 70AD. (Most interpretations of this passage treat the ending of sacrifice and offering as a breaking of the covenant, but, based on our position on the covenant, the destruction of the Temple was in keeping with it.)

Since the midpoint of the covenant period of 7 years was around the middle of 70AD, we can set the start of the covenant at the beginning of 67AD, which was just before Titus started his campaign against the Judahites, and set end of the covenant at around 73 AD at the time of the siege of Masada at the end of the war.



"And at the borders he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate."

Titus set up the "abomination that causes desolation", which is the Roman army (see Luke 21:20 [8]), "at the border" of Jerusalem for a siege of the city that lasted five months. This ultimately resulted in the death of nearly the entire Judahite population within the city through battle, execution or famine, and the destruction of the city - complete and utter "desolation" as divinely decreed (Luke 19:41-44). Jesus refers to this passage (among others, see Dan. 11:31, 12:11), when he warns his followers to flee and to not enter the city when they saw the "abomination" (Roman army) prepare for a siege of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15,16 [7], Luke 21:20-21 [8]).

The Judahites of the time were given every reason to believe in Jesus and escape this massacre: they were the first people Jesus and his followers preached to; and they witnessed first-hand a large number of miracles (Luke 19:44). But, not only did some of these non-believers (primarily Pharisees and their ilk) kill Jesus, they persecuted and killed his prophets, teachers and followers. For this, Jesus condemned them to pay for all the righteous blood that has been shed from the time of Abel (Matt. 23:33-38, Luke 21:22).




5.3 Sixty-two 'sevens'(434 years). Preparation for the First Coming of Jesus (444BC-10BC)(24c, 25c, 26a).

"24c to atone for wickedness, (and) to bring in everlasting righteousness,
25c sixty-two 'sevens'(434 years). It(Jerusalem) will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
26a After the sixty-two 'sevens,'(434 years) the Anointed One will be put to death but not for himself. "




"24c to atone for wickedness, (and) to bring in everlasting righteousness,"

We believe that this Period was one of preparation of the Judahites and Jerusalem for the coming of Jesus, who arrived shortly after the Period around 4BC. Christ achieved both the objectives of this Period: through his ministry, he taught the Gospel of the New Covenant - the everlasting truth from God (Rev. 14:6, Matt. 24:35) that enables righteous living; through his crucifixion, he atoned for the wickedness of mankind. Although these two objectives were not achieved during the Period, they were "brought in" through the Period.



"25c sixty-two 'sevens'(434 years). It(Jerusalem) will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble."

The text, "It (Jerusalem) will be rebuilt...", anchors the start of this Period to the beginning of the overarching time-span when the order to rebuild Jerusalem went out, around 444BC. The rebuilding was undertaken in spite of some opposition (Neh. 4 & 6, Daniel 11). The word "streets"(or "plaza" in some translations) seems to represent the interior of the city, and "trench" (or "wall" in the KJV) seems to refer to the exterior, the walls or fortification - so Jerusalem is rebuilt inside and out. This Period ends 434 years later around 10BC, but no terminating event is specified.

In the early part of this chapter (Dan. 9:4-20), Daniel prayed for the restoration of the city of Jerusalem, which had been made desolate because of the Judahites wickedness; this section of the prophecy appears to be partly in answer to Daniel's request. During this Period (c. 444-10BC), a series of Gentile rulers took control of Jerusalem; the temple and city were both built up and defiled in this time of trouble (see Daniel 11 [9]). This cycle ended when Herod, an adherent of Judaism, having captured the city around 37 BC, started rebuilding the temple c. 20BC (see John 2:20) and completed major works on the magnificent temple complex around 10 years later (finishing works apparently continued indefinitely).

Considering that this Period started with the order to rebuild Jerusalem, and, considering the primacy of the temple to Jerusalem, we can probably treat this completion of the temple reconstruction, around 10BC, as the terminating event of the Period.

The people and the city had been made ready for the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus, who was born shortly afterwards, around 4BC.



"26a After the sixty-two 'sevens,'(434 years) the Anointed One will be put to death but not for himself."

Some time "after the sixty-two sevens", the Anointed One, Jesus Christ, after teaching the Gospel from c. 27AD for around three years, was put to death c. 30AD to atone for the sins of man. This event lies outside the Period but is presumably mentioned here because this is the time at which the objectives of the Period were accomplished.

Although the events of this Period were primarily relevant to the Judahites and Jerusalem, the objectives of this Period, as achieved through Christ, are for all mankind.



5.4 Seven 'sevens'(49 years). Preparation for the Messiah's anointing. (c.1968AD-2017AD)(24d, 25b)

24d to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most consecrated one.
"25b seven 'sevens'(49 years)"




"24d To seal up vision and prophesy"

God will put his stamp or seal on prophecies; that is, He will begin to gradually reveal the meaning of all Biblical prophecies, showing them to be true (in this context, "seal up" effectively means "unseal"). In particular, the revelation of the prophecies that correspond to the seals on the scroll in Rev 5:5 will release the 4 horsemen and the tribulations.



"to anoint the most consecrated one."

We take this to be the anointing of the ruler who is mentioned at the end of the overarching statement (vs. 25a), thereby anchoring this Period to the end of the overarching timespan. The Messiah, the "Lion of the tribe of Judah", is found worthy to open the scroll (Rev. 5:5), and this may represent a figurative anointing.



"25b seven 'sevens'(49 years)"

From our parse of Daniel 8 [6], it appears that this Period begins at the birth of the Messiah, a human representative Christ, around 1968AD and ends in 2017AD (see our parse of Revelation 12 [10]). These 49 years appear to primarily be a time of preparation of the Messiah; the anointing of the Messiah and sealing up of prophecy begin at the end of this Period. After the anointing, Christ's reign will begin after a short period of tribulation.

The objectives of this Period will affect all mankind, but note that there is no accompanying text that specifies how the Judahites or Jerusalem will be affected during the Period, presumably because, at this time, there is no temple in Jerusalem, and the people of the tribe of Judah [5], who are now Christian, are scattered. However, this Period is about one particular Judahite, the coming Messiah, who will, like Jesus, be of the royal line of David as prophesied in many Biblical passages (Isa. 9:6-7, Jer. 33, Psa. 132 ...).





Conclusion

With this chiastic reconstruction of the text, we have shown that it contains three interwoven prophetic passages, allowing for a far more coherent interpretation of this otherwise confusing passage. Because of its basic, "ideal" functional-chiastic structure, this passage can be seen as a key to deciphering other passages in the Bible that are structured as more complex functional chiasmi.

The common theme that connects the first and last Periods seems to be one of preparation for the Messiah (the Period of the First Jewish-Roman war is common to all chiastic reconstructions); the 62-week Period is a time of preparation for the first coming of Jesus, and the 7-week Period is a time of preparation of the Messiah some time before the start of Christ's Millennial Reign.


There are several implications of this interpretation that are relevant today: .

References

[1] A Definition of Functional Chiasmus
[2] First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE) - by Wikipedia.
[3] Titus - by Wikipedia
[4] Flight to Pella - by Wikipedia
[5] Jewish Christian - by Wikipedia
[6] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Daniel 8
[7] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of "The Olivet Discourse" in Matthew 24
[8] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of "The Olivet Discourse" in Luke 21
[9] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Daniel 10-12. Part 1: Daniel 11
[10] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Revelation 12










Related pages

Daniel 9
Mark 13
Luke 21
Luke 17:22-37
Functional Chiasmus