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Daniel 9:24-26 (YLT):

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'Seventy weeks [sevens] are determined for thy people, and for thy holy city, to shut up the transgression, and to seal up sins, and to cover iniquity, and to bring in righteousness age-during [ancient justice], and to seal up vision and prophet, and to anoint the holy of holies.

And thou dost know, and dost consider wisely, from the going forth of the word to restore and to build Jerusalem till Messiah the Leader [anointed prince] is seven weeks [sevens], and sixty and two weeks [sevens]: the broad place hath been built again, and the rampart, even in the distress of the times.

And after the sixty and two weeks [sevens], cut off is Messiah [anointed], and the city and the holy place are not his [and he has not], the Leader who hath come doth destroy the people; and its end is with a flood, and till the end is war, determined are desolations.

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According to this answer to another question the 'weeks' would be more accurate if they were translated as 'sevens'.

2Chronicles 36:20-21 seems to imply these sevens refer to land sabbath cycles:

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And he removeth those left of the sword unto Babylon, and they are to him and to his sons for servants, till the reigning of the kingdom of Persia,

to fulfil the word of Jehovah in the mouth of Jeremiah, till the land hath enjoyed its sabbaths; all the days of the desolation it kept sabbath -- to the fulness of seventy years.

This squares with what is recorded in Leviticus 26:27-35:

Leviticus 26:27-35

'And if for this ye hearken not to Me, and have walked with Me in opposition,

then I have walked with you in the fury of opposition, and have chastised you, even I, seven times for your sins.

'And ye have eaten the flesh of your sons; even flesh of your daughters ye do eat.

And I have destroyed your high places, and cut down your images, and have put your carcases on the carcases of your idols, and My soul hath loathed you;

and I have made your cities a waste, and have made desolate your sanctuaries, and I smell not at your sweet fragrances;

and I have made desolate the land, and your enemies, who are dwelling in it, have been astonished at it.

And you I scatter among nations, and have drawn out after you a sword, and your land hath been a desolation, and your cities are a waste.

'Then doth the land enjoy its sabbaths -- all the days of the desolation, and ye in the land of your enemies -- then doth the land rest, and hath enjoyed its sabbaths;

all the days of the desolation it resteth that which it hath not rested in your sabbaths in your dwelling on it.

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This is also the same subject matter that Daniel was reading about at the beginning of Daniel 9:

Daniel 9:1-2

In the first year of Darius, son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, who hath been made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans,

in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, have understood by books the number of the years, (in that a word of Jehovah hath been unto Jeremiah the prophet,) concerning the fulfilling of the wastes of Jerusalem -- seventy years;

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The context implies these sevens refer to land sabbath cycles of 7 years, but is there anything more explicit in the text of Daniel 9:24-26 that explains which units of seven these 'sevens' refer to? Is it days? Weeks? Months? Years?

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שָׁבֻעִ֨ים / Week / Seven

The "sevens" in Hebrew, while not specifying only the word "weeks" in English, should in most cases be properly translated as "weeks", for that is the most common usage given to it. According to BlueLetterBible, in the KJV/Authorized Version it is translated 19 times as "week" and only once as "seven". Looking at the list of verses where it occurs, it will become clear that these translations are appropriate, with many being clearly placed within a calendar year, such as the feast of weeks.

But the connection between "week" and "seven" is strong, and important to the passage in Daniel 9.

"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined." (Daniel 9:24-26)

Seventy weeks are prophesied, extending from "the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem" up to the Messiah. But one week is set apart from the seventy--the last one. In the middle of that last week, the Messiah was to be "cut off" (killed).

As this is a prophecy, it must follow the prophetic time formula of one day equals a year. This formula was given by the prophet Ezekiel who lived as a contemporary of Daniel, and they were both taken to Babylon together. It is almost certain that they would have been friends, as both received communications from God. Ezekiel's time formula is found in chapter 4:

"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. 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." (Ezekiel 4:5-6)

In Numbers 14:34, the same day-for-year principle is established. This is not surprising to a student of Hebrew, because the word "yowm" (יוֹם) in Hebrew can mean day, time, or year.

Counting the days as years, we look for a 490-year period, during the last seven years of which the Messiah would be cut off. Intriguingly, Jesus reiterated this 490-year prophecy in referring to how long the Jews should be forgiven.

"Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." (Matthew 18:22)

Seventy times seven is, of course, 490.

The starting point for this period is given: "from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks," sixty-nine weeks, or four hundred and eighty-three years. (See Daniel 9:25.) The commandment to restore and build Jerusalem, decreed by Artaxerxes Longimanus (see Ezra 6:14; 7:1, 9), went into effect in the autumn of 457 B.C. From this time, four hundred and eighty-three years extend to the autumn of A.D. 27. The prophecy says that the time would reach to the Messiah, the Anointed One. At his baptism in A.D. 27, Jesus received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, and soon afterward began His ministry. As the "Anointed One," he then proclaimed. "The time is fulfilled."

"Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." (Mark 1:14-15)

At the start of his public ministry, the 483 weeks/years had completed. Only one week of the prophecy remained. Half-way through this "week" (three and a half years), Jesus was to be crucified. For three and a half years more, the probation of the Jewish nation would be extended. This period ended in A.D. 34 with the stoning of Stephen. From that point forward, the gospel was to go out to every nation.

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As you have already noted, Daniel 9:2 and 2 Chronicles 36:20-22 share the same Sabbatical context, so the question, “do the 'sevens' in Daniel 9:24-26 refer to years in a land sabbath cycle?” seems very likely. Conversely, it would seem unlikely that two counts of seven be occurring over the same period on different years, both significant, but with no connection to each other.

Yes, there is something explicit in the text of Daniel 9:24-26 that confirm these 'sevens' as one and the same count. However, we need to compare dates and that cannot be done now in detail, so I will summarize. The text refers to an actual date in time when an emperor would issue a decree.

“from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be ...” (Dan 9:25 ESV)

If this announcement occurred on the first year of a Sabbatic cycle, (ie. the year following a Sabbath year) then Daniel’s ‘weeks’ and Moses ‘land sabbaths’ may be said to have happened simultaneously.

The fulfillment of the above prophecy is recorded by Ezra in the 7th year of the Persian Emperor, Artaxerxes Longimanus (Ezra 7:9) and the date was 1st Nisan (26th March) BC 457. Now, this date is interesting for two reasons. It was announced on the very first day of the New Year. Modern Jewish calendars call the New Year ‘Rosh Hashanah’ and start their years in Tishri (September), but it was not always so. Moses explicitly said New Year was Nisan! (Exodus 12:2,17)

The next interesting point is that the previous Sabbath year was BC 458. (to be exact, nisan 458 to nisan 457) Sabbatical years in ancient time have been tabled by Dr. Benedict Zuckermann, who based his findings on Josephus and Maccabean records.

Unfortunately, there have been chronological disagreements about biblical dates, but the ones mentioned here are preferred by the majority of scholars. If we can accept them, then our conclusion concerning this topic must be, yes, the 'sevens' in Daniel 9:24-26 refer to the years in Moses’ land sabbath cycle.

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  • By 'which units of seven', I mean is there a way from the text to tell if it refers to seven days, or seven months, or seven years - not which interval on the timeline it refers to. – colboynik Oct 23 '18 at 2:50
  • Also, the 'going out of the word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem' refers to Jeremiah's 'word' Daniel was reading about at the beginning of Daniel 9. See this answer to another question. – colboynik Oct 23 '18 at 2:54
  • In answer to your first comment, I don't think there is an explicit way in the text to differentiate between days, years etc. The word is 'Shabua' which simply means a 'seven' or 'heptad'. We only have the context to determine the unit of time meant. – Christian Gedge Oct 24 '18 at 7:19

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