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A lot of theologians take Daniel's seventy weeks and interpret the seventy weeks to be 490 years, a year for each day. From a hermeneutic standpoint, I seek to know if this type of calculation is good hermeneutics. The only other place in scripture where I can find days equaling years is in Ezekiel 4:6, which explicitly calls out the day=year concept.

Below are some references to that refer to the seventy weeks as 490 years. (I'm not interested in the eschatology views of these articles, but rather the general consensus that the seventy weeks = 490 years)

Edit: By asking if this is "good hermeneutics", I'm asking if rendering seventy weeks to mean 490 years is what the author meant (or in this case, what Gabriel meant). I'm also curious if there is anywhere else in the Bible where this type of day->year conversion occurs.

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Man, two great answers. Was a tough choice. –  contactmatt Mar 19 '13 at 3:38

5 Answers 5

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The Hebrew word for week is literally a time period of seven (Strong's #7620).

  • In Deuteronomy 16:9 it is certainly used to refer to a time period of seven days.
  • In Genesis 29:18-30 it is clearly used to refer to a time period of seven years!

Thus, Upon seeing this word one must ask, "a time period of seven whats?" We are dependent upon textual and historical context to discern which time period of seven is referred to. Prophetically, any time period of seven is a possibility. This is source of ambiguity and much diversity in regards to interpreting the prophecy in Daniel.

YHWH delivered a calendar to the Hebrews that contains several distinct time periods of seven. These are marked by notable days that are "shadows of things to come" (Colossians 2:16-17).

  • Seven days Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11)
  • Seven times seven weeks *Pentecost* (Deuteronomy 16:9)
  • Seven months--containing all the yearly Holy Days of YHWH (Leviticus 23)
  • Seven years--Sabbatical (Leviticus 25:1-7, Deuteronomy 31:10)
  • Seven times seven years Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-17)

Daniel's time period of seven may logically employ one of these or some other time period of seven.

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Leonard J Greenspoon, in 'Between Alexandria and Antioch: Jews and Judaism in the Hellenistic Period', published in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, page 322, describes the book of Daniel as a novel. As long as we see the book in this light, we can read into Daniel 9:24 whatever we believe the author intended, although we should be cautious of treating the passage as a prophecy of future events.

Rendering seventy weeks to mean 490 years appears to be what the author meant, since he was writing around 167 BCE, just after the Maccabaean revolt, and the period of seventy weeks of years appears to refer to the period from the destruction of Solomon's Temple in 588 BCE up to his own time and beyond. In historical terms, this was really only a period of 323 years, but the author was uncertain of many historical facts surrounding the Babylonian Exile (for example, Daniel 5:31 tells us Darius, not Cyrus, conquered Babylon).

The second century CE, rabbinic work Seder Olam Rabbah also interpreted the prophecy of seventy weeks in Daniel 9:24–27 as referring to a period of 490 years, with a "week" being interpreted as a period of seven years, which would pass between the destruction of the First and the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Wikipedia explains this is used to date the destruction of the First Temple to 423 BCE, but this is about 165 years after the current scholarly dating of the event. This is in the nature of hermeneutics, but certainly not "good hermeneutics."

Walvoord's Major Bible Prophecies concludes that the supposed prophecy can be validated if the 490 period begins in 445 BCE, when Artaxerxes provided some minor assistance to the Jews, and ends in 33 CE with the crucifixion. This is poor hermeneutics because the events of 445 were not particularly auspicious, and we can not even be sure that the crucifixion took place in 33 CE, even if that is the year preferred by many.

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An edit above asked''"Edit: By asking if this is "good hermeneutics", I'm asking if rendering seventy weeks to mean 490 years is what the author meant (or in this case, what Gabriel meant). I'm also curious if there is anywhere else in the Bible where this type of day → year conversion occurs.

Yes, there is another place where the day-year conversion occurs.

It may be found in Ezekiel.

Ezek 4:4-6 (KJV)>

4 Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. 5 For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. 6 And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.

Also, There are two very interesting online articles which make food for thought on both the currently accepted length of Yashua's earthly ministry and a day-year interpretation as contained in Daniel 9.

They are:

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Thank you Jack and Tau. I will now attempt to qualify my position and will start by acknowledging the definition of the word chronology as a listing of events that occur in order with respect to time. An event may be recorded first followed by the time-period or vice versa. Both methods of recording the chronology is employed in the text. I do not think any will disagree that this prophecy is a chronology of the seventy weeks timeline given to Daniel’s people to executive six assignments listed in Daniel 9:24. According to the biblical text the chronology given is as follows:

  1. From the time that a commandment goes forth to the Jewish people unto the Messiah, the Prince (or the final event is interpreted as the anointing of the Prince) is seven weeks (Daniel 9:25). In other words, from the first day of the first week a commandment goes out to the people and on the last day of the seventh week the Prince that is prophesized to come (Daniel 9:26) is anointed. In the case of Israel’s Messiah or anointed one, the Prince or God’s son and chosen servant is anointed with the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 42:1; 61:1) at his baptism (Matthew 3:16 – 17). This text says nothing about the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem which shows a different meaning to the Jews.
  2. And for sixty-two weeks the street and wall of the holy city is rebuilt in troublesome times (Daniel 9:25). Note the word and between the seven weeks and sixty-two weeks does not exclusively mean “to add to” but the word can also mean then, also, furthermore, etc.
  3. After the sixty-two weeks time-period the Messiah is cut-off and the people of the Prince destroys the sanctuary and the city (Daniel 9:26).
  4. A covenant is ratified or confirmed for many in the last week (Daniel9:27) by: the Messiah being cut off from the first day of the seventieth week which is after the sixty-two weeks time-period (Daniel 9:26) and in the middle of that week he causes the need for sacrifice and oblation to cease (Daniel 9:27; Hebrews 10:18). Then by the last day of the seventieth week the purpose of the timeline must be fulfilled with the execution of all six assignments mentioned in Daniel 9:24, otherwise the prophecy will be meaningless.

One can see above that all of the foretold events take place on specific days not years. Other scripture also confirm that the timeline should be constructed on the basis of days rather than years. For example God prophesized about the Branch that was to rebuild his temple and bear the glory (Zechariah 6:12 – 13) that the iniquity of the land will be removed in one day (Zechariah. 3:8 – 9). In another place God indicates that in the same day he cleanses the house of Israel from all their iniquities, the wastes shall be rebuilt and he will cause them to dwell in the cities (Eze. 36:33). This day is the resurrection day of Christ because if he did not rise from the dead we will all be still in sin (1 Corinthains 15:17). Now in order to understand prophecy in general the similitudes (signs, shadows, analogies, etc.) used in the text must be understood because God used these in the ministry of his prophets (Hosea 12:10). Obviously this prophecy is not about the construction of the earthly city of Jerusalem but rather Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22) the holy city of God for which Christ first appeared to the Jews (Acts 3:26).

So to answer your original question Tau, for this prophecy it is not good hermeneutics to assume the rendering of the seventy weeks as 490 years. I have plotted these weeks on Hebrew calendars (354 days/year) and verified their accuracy and precision according to the three characteristic time-periods specified in the prophetic text which reveals the calendars of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is in accordance with the testimony of the apostle Paul that it all occurred on days foretold in the scriptures (1 Corinthains 15:1 – 4).

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Welcome to the site. I edited your post to spell out the books of the Bible and make it easier to read. The formatting script here is nice once you get the hang of it. –  Frank Luke Dec 17 '14 at 15:40

The citation in Ezekiel 4:6 is exactly identical with a similar case of judgment in Numbers 14:34, where the Israelites were confined to the wilderness for 40 years so that each year corresponded with each day that the spies were in the land. In both Ezekiel 4:6 and Numbers 14:34, the expansion of "days into years" stemmed from the iniquity of the Israelites according to the context. In Daniel 9:24 the context specifically concerns "iniquity." That is, in the context the expansion of "days into years" was due to the transgression, sin, [and] "atonement for iniquity" of the Jewish people that had gone into exile (Daniel 9:24).

For example, in Genesis 4:24 we such a principle of "compound interest" at work for the vengeance of iniquity. A similar result is found in Matthew 18:22, but in the reverse.

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This is a good argument. As years of judgment from days of iniquity was a history, prophetic symbolism can logically draw from it making a 'day' to symbolize a 'year' as a form of punishment. Good one. –  Mike Jul 14 '13 at 3:51

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