First Sixty-Nine Weeks

The first sixty-nine “weeks” lay the groundwork for the tumultuous events of the final or “seventieth week” – Daniel 9:25

Schedule - Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash
Next, the angel described the first sixty-nine “
weeks” of the prophecy, but only briefly. As he declared at the start, “seventy weeks are divided upon your people and upon your holy city.” After presenting the redemption that would be realized by the end of the prophecy, he described its three subdivisions of “seven weeks,” “sixty-two weeks,” and “one week,” presumably, consecutive periods of 49, 434, and 7 years [Photo by Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash].

The threefold division corresponds to the three divisions of time allotted to the “little horn” - “Time” (“seven weeks”), “times” (“sixty-two weeks”), and “part of a time” (“one week”). This is one of several verbal and conceptual links between the “seventy weeks” prophecy and the vision of the “fourth beast” with the “little horn - (Daniel 7:25).
  • (Daniel 9:25) - “Know, then, and understand; from the going forth of the word to return and to build Jerusalem until an anointed one, the leader, will be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks the broad place and the ditch will again be built, even in troublesome times.”
At the end of the first subdivision (“seven weeks”), an “anointed one, a leader” appears. Precisely who, and what this figure is, remains unclear at this point in the prophecy. No further information about his identity or activities is provided.

The start of the “seventy weeks” is the “word to return and to build Jerusalem,” a reference to the prophecy of Jeremiah that Daniel was contemplating at the start of chapter 9 – (Jeremiah 25:1-14, Daniel 9:1-2).

The “anointed one” appears only after the first “seven weeks,” presumably, at the end of the first 49 years. The syntax of the Hebrew clause makes this clear. It reads - “From the going forth of word to return…until an anointed one, a leader – seven weeks.”

The Hebrew preposition rendered “from” is prefixed to the term translated “going forth”; likewise, the preposition for “until” is prefixed to the noun “anointed.” Neither preposition can be applied to any other part of the sentence, except to the word to which it is prefixed.

In the Hebrew clause, there is no “the” or definite article with the noun rendered “anointed one.” In Daniel’s time, “messiah” was not used in an absolute sense for the future king who would sit on the throne of David.  Both kings and high priests were labeled “anointed ones.” Without further evidence from the passage, it is precarious to assume this refers to THE Messiah - (Leviticus 4:3-5, 6:22, 1 Samuel 12:3, Psalm 18:50).

The Hebrew term rendered “leader,” or nagid, is generic and refers to one who leads, a “ruler, captain, leader.” Most often in the Hebrew Bible, it is applied to military and civil leaders - (1 Samuel 9:16, 1 Chronicles 9:20, Nehemiah 11:11, Jeremiah 20:1).

Whoever this figure is, he cannot be identical with the “anointed one” who appears in the final or “seventieth week” of the prophecy. The two figures are separated by several centuries, assuming each “week” represents a period of seven years. Whether he can be identified from history depends on the “start date” that the interpreter selects for the “seventy weeks.”
If the seventy “weeks” began hundreds of years before his birth, then this “anointed one” cannot be Jesus. Whoever he is, according to Daniel, he appears at the end of the first segment of “seven sevens,” regardless of how long that period is.

The second subdivision consists of “sixty-two weeks,” presumably, a total of 434 years (7 x 62). During this period, Jerusalem was “built again, with street and moat, even in troublesome times.” The rebuilding process began with the arrival of the first exiles around 538 B.C., but this was a gradual process that continued sporadically for decades, and it took several centuries before the city began to resemble its former state - (Ezra 4:1-5).

The “broad place” refers to a central square or plaza typical of ancient near eastern cities, not to a specific street name. Typically, the place where the marketplace was located. Most likely, it refers to the wide space located before the gate of the temple - (Ezra 10:9, Nehemiah 8:16).

The word rendered “ditch” occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible. Some English versions render it as “moat.” However, Jerusalem did not have any moats. The noun is derived from a verbal root with the sense of “cut, sharpen, mutilate” (haruts), and abstractly, “to decide, determine, judge.” The verbal form is the same word that is rendered “determined” in verses 26-27.

The word translated “ditch” does NOT mean “wall”; it is not a reference to the city walls. Possibly, it refers to defensive trenches that were dug below the walls of the city. More likely in this context, it refers to the narrower streets of the city. Thus, “broad place” and “ditch” provide a contrast between the wide and narrow spaces of the city. Used together, they picture a rebuilt and economically functioning city.

Troublesome” translates a noun with a literal sense of “pressure, distress, constraint” - (tsoq - Proverbs 1:27, Isaiah 30:6, Isaiah 8:22). In the context of Daniel, it may refer to the “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” Regardless, the books of Ezra and Nehemiah attest to the struggles Judea experienced while rebuilding the city over many years – (Daniel 12:1-4).

Again, the passage provides minimal information about the first sixty-nine “weeks” of the prophetic period. The focus provided by the angel is on the final or “seventieth week.” The events of the first two subdivisions are preparatory for the pivotal events of the final “week.” Additionally, the first sixty-nine “weeks” provide chronological and historical contexts for the “seventieth week.”

A relevant question is whether the first two subdivisions run consecutively or concurrently - Do both begin with the “word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem,” or does the second subdivision commence when the first one ends? At this point, this remains unclear.

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