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Jeremiah ostensibly predicted that Israel would be destroyed and be in captivity to Babylon for 70 years:

[Jer 25:11 NLT] 11 This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.

[Jer 29:10 NLT] 10 This is what the LORD says: "You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.

The angel Gabriel interprets Daniel's vision of "seventy weeks" (commonly taken as seventy years) as referring to the captivity followed by the salvation of Israel from Babylon via the Messiah:

[Dan 9:24 KJV] 24 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.

In Isaiah's prophecies it appears that Cyrus is identified as the Messiah who delivers the remnant and builds a new Jerusalem:

[Isa 45:1, 13 KJV] 1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; ... 13 I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts.

So did Cyrus fulfill the prediction of the 70 weeks?

Note: What I'm investigating is Paul's use of the Babylonian captivity and whether he saw the verses he cites as being the original meaning or if he is appealing to the whole of the exile as metaphor/type of the then present "Babylon", Israel.

This paper argues that Paul's use of Isaiah has its precedent in Jesus citing Isaiah 61:1-2 and Luke 24:25-27, 44-45 and Paul "runs with it", treating Isaiah as a prophecy of his own current day. What I am inclined to proffer is that Isaiah, in its current form, is not about the 6th century BC exile to Babylon and nor is Daniel but rather about the 1st century AD.

But I'm not sure. It seems less contrived to suggest that both Isaiah and Daniel, writing in the context of a Babylonian exile of Israel and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in his own time. However, there are clues that they were actually predicting Israel's demise hundreds of years later, in the first century AD.

So which it?:

  • the prophets did indeed all speak of the Messiah and the days of the Messiah, or,
  • the prophets spoke of their own day and it was "re-heated" by Jesus and Paul to refer to the Messiah and his day and accomplishments

Possibly relevant:

[Act 3:24 KJV] 24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.

  • Also, the title asks about Daniel 9, but the body asks about all the prophets. Which angle do you want to take? – Jack Jan 12 at 19:07
  • When you say Isaiah and Daniel are talking about the first century AD, do you mean the entirety of both books? I can agree with that. There are parts of Isaiah and parts of Daniel other than chapter 9 that definitely cover Jesus Christ's day (Paul said as much), but Daniel 9 is very specific about when the 70 sevens starts. We could say Daniel 9 is about the first century in the sense that Daniel 9 leads up to the first century, but no part of what Daniel 9 references on the timeline crosses 1 AD. – Jack Jan 12 at 20:13
  • So is your argument that Daniel 9 never mentions the Messiah? Or that it never mentions Jesus? Or that the Messiah of Daniel 9:26 is Cyrus?: [Dan 9:26 KJV] 26 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. – Ruminator Jan 12 at 20:15
  • Well, Daniel has a lot of narrative, such as Daniel and the lion's den, etc., but yes, I'm saying that in their present form (I shall not opine here about "redactions") both books seem to me to NOT be about their then current exile but rather about the destruction of Israel in 70ad. At least, Paul and possibly Jesus et al took it that way, I think. But again, I'm not sure. I have a few theories but proving any view on this subject is fraught with hazards. – Ruminator Jan 12 at 20:28
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    @Ruminator: They are about the roughly 70 x 7 = 490 years from 423 BC, when Darius II took over the throne of the Empire (Daniel 9:1-2; 11:1-4), to AD 70, when Jerusalem and its Temple were sacked by the Romans. We see that the Book of Daniel, in its fifth and sixth chapters, conflates Cyrus with Darius. – Lucian Jan 15 at 14:04
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Prophecy of 70 Years

There are at least two, arguably three 70 year prophecies in the Bible: one of Isaiah and one (or two) predicted by Jeremiah.

70 Years of Isaiah

Isa 23:15, 17, predicts that the city of Tyre would be destroyed and forgotten for 70 years after which, it would return to its previous “promiscuous” way. The history of ancient tyre is not known well enough to know when this was fulfilled. However, Nebuchadnezzar began a 13 year siege of Tyre in about 575 BC which ended in about 562 BC but Tyre resumed its sovereignty soon after Cyrus became sole ruler of Persia (about 537 BC). It was again captured and destroyed by Alexander in 332 BC. In 315 BC the city was again placed under siege by the Macedonian general Antigonus and captured the following year. In 126 BC Tyre gained its independence from the Seleucid Empire but became a Roman province in 64 BC.

It is also possible to interpret this 70 year period as “the span of a king”, an allusion to the kingdom of Babylon. If this is true then the 70 years is symbolic, in round numbers, for the duration of the 68 years of the Babylonian empire, after which, the city of Tyre recovered.

70 Years of Jeremiah

There are two prophecies of Jeremiah which are possibly the same prophecy. Both Jer 25:11, 12 and Jer 29:10 predict that Judah would serve the king of Babylon for 70 years, during which the land would become waste. This was fulfilled beginning in 605 BC when Nebuchadnezzar took about 10,000 people captive in the first Judean campaign. Two more campaigns followed in 597 BC, and the final in 586 BC. In Oct 539 BC Cyrus defeated the Babylonian kingdom. His first regnal year began in Sep 538 BC and he issued the decree recorded in Ezra 1 in 537 BC. It was also during this first regnal year that Daniel 9 is recorded and refers directly to the prophecies of Jeremiah and the 70 years. The decree went into effect when the Jews organised themselves and departed Babylon probably in 536 BC, 70 years (by inclusive reckoning) after the first captivity of Judah. 2 Chron 36:21 also quotes Jeremiah’s 70 years and says that “the land enjoyed its Sabbath rests all the time of its desolation.” This suggest that the 70 years was to make up for previous years when the 7th year of Sabbath rest was not observed making a total of about 490 previous years – about the total time of the Jewish monarchy from David to Zedekiah.

Daniel 9:2 also refers to Jeremiah’s 70 years of captivity. In Dan 9:2, Daniel says that the 70 years would be the duration of the city’s “desolation”, a reference to the fact that Jews had been held captive by Babylon for almost 70 years. The subsequent prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 is couched in terms that are seven times greater than the 70 years of Jeremiah.

70 Years of Zechariah

Zechariah 1:12 & 7:5 appears to allude to another 70 years during which the temple remained unbuilt. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple in 586 BC, and later, Zerubbabel and Haggai supervised the completion and rededication in 515 BC, about 70 years later.

70 Weeks of Daniel

Daniel 9:24-27 is a complex prophecy that I will not discuss here other than the main time element of 70 weeks consisting 7 weeks plus 62 weeks plus 1 week. In fact, it is a dual prophecy about the coming of Messiah (with time elements) and about the destruction of Jerusalem. The text simply states, "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city … So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks … "

The book of Ezra contains several decrees issued by Persian rulers that could possibly be the decree referenced by Daniel. However, Ezra 1:1-4 and Ezra 6:6-12 only contain decrees for rebuilding the temple. Ezra 7:12-26 contains the decree that was to enable the Jews to restore and rebuild the Jerusalem and establish their own government. The date is given as the 7th year of Artaxerxes. This can be dated reasonably well by the methods of Sir Isaac Newton ("Observations on the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St John") using the following references:

  1. Olympiad Dates: These lists from ancient Greece and Rome traced reigning kings via the 4 yearly cycles of “Olympiads”. Several such lists are available from Xenophon, Thucydides, Plutarch and Julius Afrikanus.
  2. Ptolemy’s Canon: The great Greek astronomer, mathematician, geographer and astrologer, Claudius Ptolemy (100 – 170 AD) created a very famous and accurate list of kings and their reigns beginning with Nabonassar (747 BC, Babylon) up to Aelius Antonius (160 AD, Rome).
  3. Elephantine Papyrus: The Island of elephantine in Aswan, Egypt, had a significant Jewish settlement and these people have left a huge trove of documents most of which have been double or triple dated with Babylonia, Persian and other kings in both the Babylonian/Persian lunar calendar and the Egyptian Solar calendar.
  4. Babylonian Cuneiform Tablets: These large group of documents provide lists of kings who ruled in the area from 626 BC to 75 AD.
  5. General archaeology: Numerous letters, coins, inscriptions and other varied documents all confirm the chronological data above.
  6. Astronomical records: There are numerous records of calculable astronomical events such as eclipses in the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar and other kings that fix their chronologies.

Thus, Cyrus began his reign in October 539 BC (when Babylon finally fell), and that his first regnal year began in September 538 BC. Artaxerxes ("Longimanus") ascended the Persian throne in about Jan 464 BC, but the first regnal year of his reign began about Sep 464 BC. Therefore, the fifth month in his seventh year would be about July/August 457 BC. Using these same sources, Sir Isaac Newton correctly observed in his “Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel” (page 131): “Now the years of this Artaxerxes began about two or three months after the summer solstice, and his seventh year fell in with the third year of the eighteenth Olympiad; and the latter part thereof, wherein Ezra went up to Jerusalem, was in the Julian Period 4257” [= 457BC].

From Daniel's prophecy, 7 weeks (of years) plus 62 weeks (of years) after 457 BC gives 27 AD. The Gospel of Luke records that the beginning of Jesus ministry was marked by His baptism, which, according to Luke 3:1 occurred in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. Since Tiberius ascended the imperial throne on 19 August 14 AD, his “fifteenth year” would be the twelve months beginning 1 Ethanim (September/October) 27 AD by the non-accession reckoning of the Jews making Jesus’ Baptism occurred about October/November, 27 AD; a good agreement with Daniel.

[NOTE: There is further evidence of this date. Luke also records that Jesus was baptised when He was “about 30 years old” (Luke 3:23). While the exact date of Jesus’ birth is unknown, there is a narrow range from which to choose. It was after the Caesar Augustus’ census of 8 BC which took several years to complete. And, it was before Herod’s death in April 4 BC. Since shepherds were in the fields, Jesus must have been born before Nov 5 BC and probably about Aug - Oct 5 BC. In Oct 27 AD, He would have been 31 years old, or “about 30 years old”.]

Lastly, and only very briefly, it is during the last week of the 70 weeks (of years) that Messiah would be "cut off" in the midst of the week. But I will not go into this here. The prophecy also contains material about the "abomination of desolation", namely the destruction of Jerusalem - see below.

Jesus' Ministry

Jesus refers to Isa 61:1-3 as the keynote of His ministry in His first sermon (Luke 4:18, 19). Later, Jesus also quotes Daniel in Matt 24:15, 16, Mark 13:14, Luke 21:20-22. Unfortunately, this was fulfilled in 70 AD by General Titus under orders from his father, Emperor Vespasian.

  • I've been a student of scripture for many years. Until very recently I avoided both Revelation and Daniel because there didn't seem to be a "You are here" sign as there is in a mall. I think I get Revelation (at least it doesn't scare me). But my "nature" is such that details quickly overwhelm me. What you write appears convincing and I will ponder it. Thanks so much for taking the time to explain all of that history to me. I'm going to attempt an answer and I hope you'll have some feedback for me when I do as this is all still a bit above my pay grade. Again, thanks. – Ruminator Jan 12 at 23:23
  • One question, though about the last week. What is the span of the 70 sevens? IE: Start date and end date. And what specifically do you see Titus fulfilling? Thanks. – Ruminator Jan 12 at 23:31
  • That is highly contentious and depends upon whether you believe the 70 weeks are continuous (as I do) or that the final week is broken off and placed into the future (as per dispensationalism). If the 70 weeks are continuous, then Messiah was crucified in the middle of the final week (about April 31 AD) and Jewish probation ended in about 34 AD. – Mac's Musings Jan 12 at 23:40
  • The probation of the Jews ended with the following events: • Acts 7:51, 57, 58: Stephen stoned, Jews reject Jesus as Messiah • Acts 8:1: Church scattered from Jerusalem • Acts 8:26, 27: First missionary to gentiles, Philip & the Ethiopian • Acts 9:11, 12, 15: Paul the apostle to gentiles appointed • Acts 10:11, 12: Peter’s vision to go to the gentiles • Acts 11:17, 18, 26: Gentiles become Christians and called such • Acts 11:19-21: Church headquarters moved to Antioch – Mac's Musings Jan 12 at 23:41
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    About Titus: Daniel's prophecy contains two sets of predictions. v24 - 70 weeks are determined for on your people [2 word phrases]; & your holy city [3 word phrase] to: finish transgression, seal sin, expiate wickedness [2 word phrases] introduce everlasting righteousness, seal vision & prophet, anoint holy sanctuary [3 word phrases]. Thus, we have a prophecy about Messiah and the people and a second about the city. Vespasian began the siege of Jerusalem in 66 AD and Titus completed it in 70 AD. – Mac's Musings Jan 13 at 0:06
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I asked for clarification of your question, but in the mean time...

Bear these points in mind when reading Daniel 9:

  1. The word translated into "weeks" (שבעים) means "sevens" in a strict sense, not "weeks". See this answer "Does 'days' in prophecy equal 'years' (Daniel 9 - Seventy Weeks)".
  2. The 70 "sevens" are split into three distinct intervals. See this answer to "What is the meaning of 'seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks' in Daniel 9:25-26"? That answer explains the splits in these intervals. You ask in the body of your question if Cyrus fulfilled the 70 "weeks". Cyrus fulfilled the first interval of 7 "sevens". If we want to try to apply Daniel 9 to Jesus Christ's day, we should be able to explain why these intervals are divided and at the same time show how they apply to Jesus Christ's day. (I do not think that can be done, but somebody might prove it wrong).
  3. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul all make references to specific places in the Old Testament that (as they say) directly apply to Jesus Christ. None of them ever refer to Daniel 9.
  4. The word "week" in Daniel 9:27 is translated from the Hebrew word (שבוע) that is translated in many other places in the Old Testament into "week" - a 168-hour, Sunday-to-Saturday kind of week. If Daniel 9 applies to Jesus Christ's day in a direct way, then a good explanation of Daniel 9 should address this 7-day week. (I do not think that can be done either, but again, somebody might prove it wrong.)

So to attempt to answer the question in the title... The 70 weeks sevens of Daniel and Jeremiah (Jeremiah never said anything about the 70 sevens) are about the Babylonian Exile of the 6th century BC. That interval had a definite starting point that occurred in the 6th century, and a definite ending point that occurred roughly a century before Jesus Christ was born.

Edit from Ruminator's comment

YLT 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 (ךבר) of Jehovah hath been unto Jeremiah the prophet,) concerning the fulfilling of the wastes of Jerusalem -- seventy years;

...

Daniel was reading the word (דבר) that God sent through Jeremiah. That was what caused him to pray for verses 3-19. When Gabriel responds Gabriel says:

YLT Daniel 9:26

...

And thou dost know, and dost consider wisely, from the going forth of the word (same Hebrew word in Daniel 9:2 - דבר) to restore and to build Jerusalem till Messiah the Leader [anointed prince] is seven weeks [sevens],

...

The word that Gabriel refers to here is the same word that Daniel was reading at the beginning of the chapter. Jeremiah said Jerusalem would be destroyed and then rebuilt after 70 years. Gabriel said there would be 7 sevens between the going forth of that word to rebuild Jerusalem (the start of the same word that was Jeremiah's 70 years) and the "Messiah leader"/"anointed prince"/"Cyrus".

...[continuing verse 26] and sixty and two weeks: the broad place hath been built again, and the rampart, even in the distress of the times.

...

After the first interval of 7 sevens, there is a second interval of 62 sevens in which Jerusalem will be rebuilt - "even in the distress of the times."

So when I say Cyrus fulfilled the first interval, I am pinpointing that reference to "Messiah leader"/"anointed prince" that ends the first interval of 7 sevens. Cyrus died partway into the second interval (it was 434 years long after all). So to say he fulfilled all of the 70 sevens is not entirely accurate. Yes he had a big hand in the 70 sevens, but he was not alive for the whole thing.

  • They are spelled out in the answers I reference. The second reference is a very long answer that I wrote. I can copy it here if you want me to. – Jack Jan 12 at 20:05
  • Well, most is covered but what about this: Cyrus fulfilled the first interval of 7 "sevens". I'm trying to place that assertion into context. Thanks. – Ruminator Jan 12 at 20:13
  • Also, this part I don't understand since you debunked the whole notion of a 7 day week, no?: "If Daniel 9 applies to Jesus Christ's day in a direct way, then a good explanation of Daniel 9 should address this 7-day week. (I do not think that can be done either, but again, somebody might prove it wrong.)" – Ruminator Jan 12 at 20:37
  • This is confusing, isn't it? "Weeks" in verses 24, 25, and 26 mean "sevens". Those are all the same word. "Week" in verse 27 is a different word, and it means a 7-day week. – Jack Jan 12 at 20:40
  • I may have confused you. I was mistaken about Daniel reading "seventy weeks". I would change my question but it would undermine your answer. So the 7 day thing is not an issue to me. FYI, I made the question specific to Daniel because I wanted to not deal in abstractions but I guess my question is the more whether the prophets indeed are all about the Messiah's day or the prophets (and specifically Paul) was just using them as a type. – Ruminator Jan 12 at 20:42
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As is often the case, the less I understand a subject the more ill-formed is my question about that subject and that is the case here. I have learned that the "seventy weeks" is not "seventy weeks" but rather "seventy periods of 7" but that in 9:27 the word "week" does appear. The last week however is explicitly said to be a "week". I didn't correct the question because it would have invalidated the answers.

So what I am proposing as an answer to my question is this:

  • in the case of Daniel the distinction between referring to the exile or predictive of the Messiah is moot in that Daniel's seventy week span the time period from the edict to rebuild the temple, by Cyrus. Cyrus was an anointed one but not THE anointed one:

[Isa 45:1 KJV] 1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;

[Dan 9:25 KJV] 25 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.

  • in the case of Jesus, he clearly sees the scriptures as being largely a collection of explicit assertions and types of the Messiah (himself) which is documented in the paper I cited

  • in the case of Paul though there are completely different considerations for which I will raise another similar question

I confess that I'm a babe in relation to these matters and appreciate the serious, studied and I think either correct or pretty close. I hope that if my simple summary is off that I will receive some correction rather than just a down vote (someone has been going wild with down votes of my post). Many thanks to all for all the valuable help I've received with this passage.

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    I broadly agree with your comments but would be more specific. Dan 9:1 puts the vision at the start of the reign of Cyrus about 538 BC. Cyrus did NOT issue a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem - only permission for Jews to return and rebuild the temple. The decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem was issued by Artaxerxes Longimanus about 457 BC from which the prophecy is dated. However, Artaxerxes' decree would not have been issued without the earlier decree of Cyrus, according to Ezra 6 and 7. – Mac's Musings Jan 14 at 9:44
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    Thus, Cyrus is called "anointed" or messiah (Isa 45:1-5) not because he is mentioned in Danial 9 (he is not mentioned nor referenced) but because he was the one who liberated the Jews from Babylonian captivity and laid the foundation for what would become possible as prophesied in Daniel 9. – Mac's Musings Jan 14 at 10:43
  • @Mac'sMusings It is good to know one's limits and I think that reconstructing a subject that can't be unpacked without grasping many details such as names, dates, locations, etc. really goes against the fabric of my more literary and logical brain so I'm absolutely grateful for you and others here who are more comfortable sorting through all that. I think I'm getting the general idea. There is an article about Longimanus and his part here: jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/1827-artaxerxes-i – Ruminator Jan 14 at 10:59
  • @Mac'sMusings Would you say that you are also in broad agreement with Jack's answer? I'm wondering what remains controversial between your view and his because you both have well thought out views and I'm not qualified to compare them effectively to know which excellent answer to mark as "the Answer to Life's Persistent Questions"! – Ruminator Jan 14 at 11:06
  • Artaxerxes has nothing to do with it. The word/decree (I really do not like to translate it as decree for this reason) Gabriel mentions in verse 25 is what Jeremiah wrote and what Daniel was reading at the beginning of Daniel 9. The word for decree in verse 25 is the same word translated into word in verse 2. Gabriel is referring to the word of God that came via Jeremiah. Gabriel says there are 7 sevens from the going forth of this word to an anointed. By the time we get to Cyrus we are already 7 sevens into it. – Jack Jan 14 at 14:36

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