Jeremiah was a priest in Jerusalem when God called him to be a prophet in the 13th year of King Josiah’s reign. He held this God-appointed office during the reigns of Judah’s last five kings, from 626 BC to 580 BC. Jeremiah’s message to the unreceptive Jews was about the coming destruction of Judah and Jerusalem for their sinful rebellion against the Lord. In 605 BC, Jeremiah prophesied about a 70-year desolation and captivity that God would bring about through His chosen vessel, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
These 70 years of captivity in Babylon were a judgment and punishment from God because the Jews failed to obey His word and will. The main reason for this judgment is given in Jeremiah 25:6-7, “Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings and dwell in the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers forever and ever. Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them; do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands, and I will not harm you. Yet you have not listened to Me, says the Lord, that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.”
Most Bible teachers think that the 70-year judgment started in 586 BC and ended when the second temple was rebuilt and completed in 516 BC. Others suggest the starting point was 605 BC when the first group of Jews (including Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) was deported to Babylon, and the end was 535 BC when reconstruction of the temple began in Jerusalem.
Judah’s 70-year captivity was brought about because of the Jew’s apostasy and not obeying the commandments of God. One of these commandments the Jews ignored was keeping the Sabbath of the seventh year as described in Leviticus 25. Evidently, for 490 years, they had failed to keep every seventh year as a sabbath. The length of the Babylonian captivity was determined to be for 70 years because the Jews refused to observe 70 Shemitah years. “And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate, she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years” (2 Chronicles 36:20-21).
In 539 BC, Daniel the prophet was still in Babylon and was reading the prophecy of Jeremiah regarding the 70-year captivity. Realizing the 70 years were nearing completion, Daniel began to pray, asking God’s forgiveness for the sins of his people and pleading for the restoration of Jerusalem and Israel’s imminent return to their land. It was a genuinely righteous prayer and is found in Daniel 9:1-19.
By praying fervently to God and asking for forgiveness of Israel’s corporate sins, Daniel was attempting to bring about the promise of restoration found in Leviticus 26:40-42: “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt— then I will remember My covenant with Jacob and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land.”
Before Daniel could finish his prayer, the Angel Gabriel appeared and gave him the prophecy of the seventy ‘sevens’ outlined in Daniel 9:24-27.
“Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.
Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.
And after the sixty-two weeks, the Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and until the end of the war, desolations are determined. Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week, but in the middle of the week, he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.”
Regarding the Shemitah years for Israel and the prophecy of Daniel 9:25-26, in my last article, The Sixty Nine Shemitah Years of Daniel's Seventy Weeks Prophecy, I showed how you get 69 ‘sevens’ from the starting date of 444 BC (Artaxerxes issue to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem) to the end date of AD 33 (the crucifixion of Jesus) without using the 360-day calendar. The 360-day calendar (12 months of 30 days per month) was the “go-to” theory made famous by Sir Robert Anderson. In his book, The Coming Prince, he introduced a ‘prophetic’ biblical calendar that was possible to get 483 years (69 seven-year periods) from the starting date of Daniel’s prophecy, 445 BC, to the end date of AD 32 (Anderson’s dates). The prophetic 360-day calendar had 5 to 6 days less than a solar calendar, so over an extended amount of time would have more years. For this timeline, the prophetic calendar has seven more years than a solar (Julian) or Jewish calendar, which only has 476 years (68 seven-year periods).
Anderson’s dates for the 69 sevens are reasonably accurate (within one year of most modern scholars), and his theory of the prophetic 360-day calendar has kept Daniel’s prophecy in the proper timeline. While others have looked elsewhere (different decrees from different Persian emperors) to get the desired result of 69 weeks or 483 years, Anderson kept to his guns and stuck with his timeline. This was only possible through the use of his ‘prophetic’ calendar. Since then, most scholars and students of the Bible have just accepted it as a proven fact (including myself). However, I was always a little skeptical about his theory of a 360-day calendar as the Bible doesn’t mention it.
The insurmountable problem with the 360-day calendar is that the Jews never used it. Neither did any other kingdom/nation unless they used a 360-day calendar with an intercalary 13th month added every six years to align it with the solar calendar (of 365/355 days per year). I believe this 360-day calendar with an extra 13th intercalary month added was the one Noah used during the great flood described in Genesis 7 and 8.
Another argument scholars use in favor of the 360-day calendar is the verses in Revelation that refer to 1260 days (Rev. 11:3;12:6) or 42 months (Rev. 11:2; 13:5), mainly in association with the last 3.5 years of the Great Tribulation. Since there are 30 days in a month and 12 months in a year with this calendar, there would be 1260 total days in a 3.5-year or 42-month period. But did you know that the Jewish calendar usually has 1260 days from Nisan 10 or 12 to the Feast of Trumpets in a 3.5-year (42 months) period? Nisan 10 was the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey as the king of Israel but was rejected by the Jews. It was also the day the children of Israel first entered the promised land. Daniel 7:25;12:7 and Revelation 12:14 refer to 3.5 years as “time, times, and half a time.” Most Bible scholars believe the Abomination of Desolation will occur around Passover, Nisan 14, and 1260 days later on the Feast of Trumpets, Tishri 1, Jesus will return to the earth (Second Coming).
The Jews have always used a lunar calendar with an intercalary month (30 days) added every 3-4 years, which periodically brings it back into alignment or near alignment with the solar calendar. The Jewish and Julian/Gregorian calendars would have shown 476 years to have elapsed in the 444 BC-AD 33 timeline.
The answer to this paradox of 69 ‘sevens’ in a 476-year timeframe is found in the wording of Daniel’s prophecy. The Hebrew word, ‘shabu,’ translates as “a unit of seven” and could refer to seven of anything. It is simply a numerical measure. Our English equivalent is ‘heptad,’ which means "a group of seven.” Daniel, as well as all Jews, would have been quite familiar with the concept of "sevens of years" from the Mosaic law stipulating that every seventh year was to be a sabbatical or rest year for the land during which time they were to plant no crops (Leviticus 25:1-6).
The NIV translation reads "Seventy sevens are decreed,” which is more literal than and therefore easier to understand than the KJV and NAS, which translate “Seventy weeks are decreed,” which naturally congers up the thought of a "week of days.”
I believe that Daniel’s use of the term ‘shabu’ or ‘sevens’ is referring to the actual Shemitah (Sabbath) year/s and not to the seven-year cycles. In my previous article and charts, I showed that the starting date 444 BC and the end date AD 33 for Daniel’s prophecy are both Shemitah years (sevens). Since 444 BC is the actual starting date, you would count it, but you wouldn’t count the six years preceding it. The Shemitah years are continuous back to the first one, 1396-1395 BC (after the children of Israel entered the promised land in 1406 BC). As I said before, God would make sure the land had its Sabbath year of rest regardless of whether the people were living in the land.
So, you would count 444 BC and every year after it, up to and including the last year of AD 33. That would amount to 476 solar years or 69 sevens (actual Shemitah years), including 444 BC and AD 33. In this article, I will refer to the Shemitah 7-year cycles as ‘weeks’ and the Shemitah seventh years as ‘sevens.’
If the Jews were using a prophetic calendar of 360 days per year, the prophecy would have been for 483 years. But of course, they weren’t and never had. Daniel 9:25-26 never mentions 483 years, only 69 (7 + 62) sevens. This portion of Daniel’s prophecy has always been for 476 years, not 483 years. The last week (Shemitah cycle) and seven (Sabbath year) of Daniel 9:24, 27 will make the duration 483 years (or 70 sevens), not 490 years. These verses never mention 490 years, only 70 sevens. It doesn't make sense when you look at it from a mathematical point of view. This is why this prophecy has been such a paradox throughout the centuries. Only through man’s misinterpretation of God’s word is “70 sevens” construed as 490 years.
Regarding the actual dates (month, day, year) for the 69 sevens prophecy, we know the end date. Jesus died at 3:00 pm Thursday, on Nisan 14 (Jewish calendar), which would have been April 2, AD 33 on the Julian calendar. Regarding the starting date, we know Nehemiah asked King Artaxerxes for permission to rebuild the gates and walls of Jerusalem in the month of Nisan during the king’s 20th year of reign (Nehemiah 2:1). We don’t know the exact day the decree was issued. Still, If it happened 476 years earlier (to the day) on the Julian calendar, the date would have been Thursday, April 2, 444 BC, or Nisan 2 on the Jewish calendar.
Daniel had prayed about Israel’s imminent return to their land; instead, God gave him the revelation of the seventy ‘sevens’ to assure Daniel that God would fulfill His covenant promises to Israel (Abrahamic and Mosaic). Gabriel went on to say that this would not be ultimately fulfilled at the end of the seventy-year captivity in Babylon but at the end of the seventy ‘sevens’ period.
The vision of Daniel’s Seventy Sevens refers to a period of seventy Shemitah years required to bring in the ultimate jubilee, the millennial kingdom of the Messiah. This final jubilee will bring a release from slavery to sin, establish everlasting righteousness, reunite families, and redeem the land.
The six objectives of Daniel 9:24 for the Jewish people and Jerusalem will only be accomplished after the 70th seven when Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom. Only then will the Jews “finish the transgression, make an end of sins, make reconciliation for iniquity, bring in everlasting righteousness, seal up vision and prophecy, and anoint the Most Holy.”
I have written several articles concerning the perfect numbers of God used throughout the Bible, which have spiritual significance in many instances, such as the numbers 7 and 10 and their multiples 49, 70, and 490. See Seven - God’s Perfect Numbers :: By Randy Nettles :: Rapture Ready for more information. We can see God’s significance of spiritual perfection and completeness for the number 7 and the importance of ordinal perfection for the number 10 in Daniel’s prophecy of 70 sevens.
Christ’s crucifixion occurred between the 29th and 30th Jubilees for Israel (the land). As I said in my last article, the sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the 2nd Temple (AD 70) occurred about the same time the 30th Jubilee should have begun. If my cycles and Shemitah/Jubilee years are correct, then the last Jubilee for the land of Israel was in 1980-1981. It was the 69th Jubilee. The 70th Jubilee for the land of Israel will be in 2029-2030.
Another interesting example of God’s perfect numbers is the total time that will have transpired for the Israelites since they entered the promised land (1406 BC) and began their first Shemitah cycle in 1402 BC until the next Jubilee (70th) begins in 2029-2030 (Tishri 10 – Day of Atonement). From 1402 BC until AD 2029 is 3430 years. 3430 years is equal to 490 ‘weeks’ and/or ‘sevens.’ Mathematically, it looks like this: 490 x 7 = 3430, or 70 x 7 x 7 = 3430, or 49 x 10 x 7 = 3430, or 7 x 7 x 10 x 7 = 3430. God likes His perfect numbers, doesn’t He?
Does this mean anything prophetically? In other words, will the 70th Jubilee be the last seven of Daniel’s prophecy? Not necessarily, but if not, it sure is quite a coincidence. The only thing we know for sure is that Daniel’s last week/seven (otherwise known as the Tribulation, Jacob’s trouble, or the day of the Lord) is nearly upon us, and it’s going to be a time of crisis like no other. “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).
However, for those in Christ, it means the closer we get to Daniel’s last seven, the closer we are to the Rapture of the Church. “For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10).
Amen; even so, come, Lord Jesus!