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We’ll wrap up this series on Daniel with one final interpretation of the 70-weeks prophecy, a secular one. If this interpretation is accurate, the 7 years of tribulation, the Rapture, and all the rest are built on nothing.

(For the first Christian interpretation of Daniel 9 go here, and for the first post in this series, go here.)

Remember the timeframe of the composition of the book. It’s the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt, when things were looking bleak for the Jews. Jeremiah had said that 70 years in Babylon would erase the sins of the Jews, and God would bring them home and prosper them. But now it’s the 160s BCE, and Antiochus Epiphanes has massacred tens of thousands and polluted the Temple. What’s the deal? Wasn’t the suffering supposed to end?

That’s why Gabriel visits Daniel (in chapter 9) to say that it wasn’t 70 years, as Jeremiah thought, but 70 weeks of years. And—whaddya know?—from the standpoint of the audience, that long period was just about to end. Telling the readers that they are living in the end times and that they don’t have long to wait is typical of apocalyptic literature like Daniel.

What follows is the interpretation of Chris Sandoval (“The Failure of Daniel’s Prophecies”). I’ll step through Daniel 9:25–7 and give this skeptical interpretation.

From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the leader, comes, there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.

The 7 weeks and 62 weeks aren’t back to back. Let’s return to the 7 weeks and focus first on the 62 weeks. It starts when Jeremiah’s 70 years starts, in 605 BCE. That prophecy is the “word” that explains the exile and promises the rebuilding of Jerusalem. It ends 62 weeks later in 171 BCE (605 – 62×7 = 171) with the death of the Anointed One, high priest Onias III.

Jerusalem shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.

The 7 weeks extend from 587 BCE when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar until 538 when Babylon itself was conquered and exiles returned to Judah (587 – 7×7 = 538). This isn’t part of the big timeline, nor does it need to be. Since we’ve gone from Jeremiah’s 70 years to Daniel’s 70 sevens of years, the number 7 (the number of completion) is obviously important. Chopping out a block of 7 sevens serves several purposes: (1) it leaves a remaining timespan of 62 weeks that nicely fits between important dates, (2) that 49-year time period was roughly the time during which Jerusalem lay in ruins, and (3) it’s numerically pleasing (with all those sevens).

After the sixty-two weeks, the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing.

The 62 weeks is pulled out as a separate unit and makes sense as our primary block of time. Onias, the Anointed One, was put to death in 171, at the end of the 62 weeks.

The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.

Antiochus Epiphanes is “the ruler.” He was the Seleucid king who corrupted (the word for “destroy” can also mean “corrupt” or “pervert”) the city and Temple. He had tens of thousands of Jews massacred. This was the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt.

He will confirm a covenant with many for one week.

This was also a period of civil war between traditional and Hellenized Jews. Antiochus killed high priest Onias, well-loved by the traditionalists, and made alliances with the Hellenized Jews. From the standpoint of the traditional Jews, the ones behind the rebellion and the writing of Daniel, those Hellenized Jews were collaborators or even traitors.

This begins the final week of years, 171–164 BCE.

In the middle of the week he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.

Halfway through this “week,” Antiochus prevented Jewish sacrifices and created the “abomination that causes desolation,” the sacrifice of pigs to Zeus in the Jewish temple. (That’s discussed in detail in the first post in this series.)

Of course, this whole thing would’ve been a lot easier if the author had dropped the pretense and given names to things, but where would the fun be in that?

Like it or not, this interpretation is both more plausible and is far more honest to the text than the Christian interpretations.

Since the Bible and the church
are obviously mistaken in telling us where we came from,
how can we trust them to tell us where we are going?
— Anonymous

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 4/2/14.)

Appendix: Here’s the timeline that shows the important dates (all BCE) and the blocks of time.

Daniel Prophecy 70 Weeks skeptical

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CROSS EXAMINED In his first career, Bob Seidensticker designed digital hardware and was a contributor to 14 software patents. Since then, he has explored the debate between Christianity and atheism for...