The Sixty-Nine Shemitah Years of Daniel's Seventy Weeks Prophecy
“But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it, you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates” (Exodus 20:10).
In addition to a weekly day of rest for the people and work animals, God also required a year of rest for the land of Israel every seven years. This is called the Sabbath year or Shemitah (Shmita) year and is described in Leviticus 25.
“Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; but in the seventh year, there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the Lord. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land—all its produce shall be for food” (Leviticus 25:2-7)
Every seventh year, the people of Israel were instructed to grant a release for the debtor (forgive debts owned by fellow Israelites) according to Deuteronomy 15:1-3. Also, Hebrew slaves were to be set free for nothing (Exodus 21:2). The reason for this release of debt and servitude is given in Deuteronomy 15:4, “there may be no poor among you; for the Lord will greatly bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance.” However, this remedy was conditional, “only if you carefully obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe with care all these commandments which I command you today” (Deuteronomy 15:5). The reward for this obedience would be a blessing from God, as described in Deuteronomy 15:6. However, if the people did not obey God’s commandments (including observing the Sabbath year), God would scatter them among the nations and their land would become desolate. “Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall rest—for the time it did not rest on your sabbaths when you dwelt in it” (Leviticus 26:34-35). Even if the people did not obey this commandment, God would make sure the land had its rest by whatever means He deemed necessary.
To show how important the Shemitah year and the number 7 were, God went even further by multiplying the Sabbath year (and potential blessings) and creating the Jubilee. “‘And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement, you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family” (Leviticus 25:8-10).
The word ‘jubilee’ (yo-w-bel), interestingly enough, means a ram’s horn, like a shofar, in the Bible. The year of the Jubilee involved a release from indebtedness and bondage. All slaves were set free, and prisoners and captives were released. All property was returned to its original owner. Like the Sabbath year, all labor was to cease, only for one year. The land would provide for the people’s needs because letting the land rest would result in bountiful crops during the years immediately before the 7th and 49th years.
Also, the residue of crops and the wild grapes that weren’t cultivated would provide food for the people and animals.
The civil new year of the Jewish calendar begins in the fall when the year count changes. The first day of the new year is Tishri 1, which is also the Feast of Trumpets. Ten days later on Tishri 10, the Day of Atonement begins and lasts for one day (Leviticus 23:26-32). Every seventh year on the Day of Atonement the Sabbath of the seventh year begins and lasts for one year. After seven Shemitah cycles of 49 years, the ram’s horns would sound, signaling the Jubilee to occur one year later.
Throughout the years, I have been asked repeatedly what I thought about the Shemitah years (cycles) and the Jubilee and how they relate to the end times; in particular, how they relate to the prophecy of Daniel’s 70th Week/Sevens (Daniel 9:24-27). My usual reply is that since there have never been any biblical or secular sources that confirm that Israel ever obeyed any of these commandments on a national level, there is no real prophetic significance regarding them or trying to date them. To have a final future Shemitah year or Jubilee, there has to be a first one. However, as I have studied Daniel’s prophecy further and the book of Leviticus, I believe there is a connection between the Shemitah years and Daniel’s weeks (sevens) of years.
Regarding the 69 weeks (“seven weeks and sixty-two weeks”) in Daniel 9:25-26, Bible scholars and students alike have been trying to understand the time span of this prophecy for centuries now. I believe the first step to deciphering the 69 weeks is to replace the word ‘weeks’ with ‘sevens’ as the proper translation. ‘Sevens’ is referring to the seventh year/s of the Shemitah cycles. The next step is to realize that Daniel was not counting years or days, or even cycles, but only the Shemitah/s themselves. Shemitah cycles are counted, but only if they are located after the starting date and before the end date of Daniel’s prophecy. However, as we will discover, Daniel was only counting 69 Sabbath years and not 69 Sabbath cycles.
There are two main theories regarding the length of the Jubilee cycle. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jubilee_(biblical). The first theory is that the Jubilee consists of seven Sabbath years which equals 49 years and then the following year would be the 50th year, otherwise known as the Jubilee. After the 50th year, the next 50-year cycle would start over again with year 1 of the new Shemitah cycle.
The second theory is that after the 7th Sabbath year (49th), the Jubilee (50th) year begins, but it is also considered to be the 1st year of the new Shemitah cycle. Normally the people are allowed to sow and reap in the 1st year, however, in this cycle, it is not permitted for it is also the Jubilee (50th) year. There are to be no planting or gathering crops during both the Shemitah years and the Jubilee years.
So, within seven Shemitah cycles, there are only 49 years counted. The 50th year is the number 1 year on the next Shemitah cycle of 49 years. This is because the same provisions for the 7th year apply to the 49th year. “And if you say, What shall we eat in the seventh year, since we shall not sow nor gather in our produce? Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years. And you shall sow in the eighth year, and eat produce until the ninth year; until its produce comes in, you shall eat of the old harvest” (Leviticus 25:20-22).
In regards to Leviticus 25:20-22, you can also substitute the 6th year with the 48th year, the 7th year with the 49thth year, the 8th year with the 50th year (which is also the 1st year of the new cycle), and the 9th year with the 2nd year (of the new cycle). Just as God would bless the 6th year, so would He bless the 48th year; enough to last for three years. The three years would be the 49th, 50th (also known as the 1st year of the new Shemitah cycle), and the 2nd year of the new Shemitah cycle.
The resumption of sowing and reaping would begin again in the 2nd year of the new Shemitah cycle. This would only allow for 5 years of reaping and sowing for the first cycle instead of the usual 6 years, but God never commanded that there had to be 6 years of sowing and reaping. As long as the people obeyed God’s Sabbath years, He would provide bountiful crops for all to enjoy.
The second theory is the one I agree with as it follows the pattern of the seven-day calendar and the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost. “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath (Sunday), from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath (Sunday); then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord” (Leviticus 23:15-16). See charts below.
SEVEN DAY CALENDAR
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
2 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
3 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
4 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
5 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
6 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
7 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
FEAST OF WEEKS
First Sabbath after Passover
Start – Saturday
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday (7)
2 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday (14)
3 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday (21)
4 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday (28)
5 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday (35)
6 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday (42)
7 Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday (49)
1 (50) Sunday (50th day of Pentecost)
One of the most important factors in understanding the 69 sevens of Daniel’s prophecy is determining when the first Shemitah year began. Did it start in 1406 BC when the children of Israel first entered the Promised Land or did it start seven years later when there was relative peace for a period? The answer is found in a little-known passage in Leviticus 19. “ When you come into the land and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years it shall be as
uncircumcised to you. It shall not be eaten. But in the fourth year, all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the Lord. And in the fifth year, you may eat its fruit, that it may yield to you its increase: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:23-25).
I believe the first year of the first Shemitah cycle began in the fifth year of Israel’s entrance to the land of Canaan, in 1402-1401 BC. Therefore the first Shemitah year would have been seven years later in 1396-1395 BC. The seventh Shemitah (49th) year would have been in 1354-1353 BC. The first Jubilee would have been in 1353-1352 BC. The first year of the next Shemitah cycle is also 1353-1352 BC. The following table represents the first two Jubilee cycles.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 1402-1401 1401-1400 1400-1399 1399-1398 1398-1397 1397-1396 1396-1395
2 1395-1394 1394-1393 1393-1392 1392-1391 1391-1390 1390-1389 1389-1388
3 1388-1387 1387-1386 1386-1385 1385-1384 1384-1383 1383-1382 1382-1381
4 1381-1380 1380-1379 1379-1378 1378-1377 1377-1376 1376-1375 1375-1374
5 1374-1373 1373-1372 1372-1371 1371-1370 1370-1369 1369-1368 1368-1367
6 1367-1366 1366-1365 1365-1364 1364-1363 1363-1362 1362-1361 1361-1360
7 1360-1359 1359-1358 1358-1357 1357-1356 1356-1355 1355-1354 1354-1353
1st Jubilee year (50th)
1 1353-1352 1352-1351 1351-1350 1350-1349 1349-1348 1348-1347 1347-1346
2 1346-1345 1345-1344 1344-1343 1343-1342 1342-1341 1341-1340 1340-1339
3 1339-1338 1338-1337 1337-1336 1336-1335 1335-1334 1334-1333 1333-1332
4 1332-1331 1331-1330 1330-1329 1329-1328 1328-1327 1327-1326 1326-1325
5 1325-1324 1324-1323 1323-1322 1322-1321 1321-1320 1320-1319 1319-1318
6 1318-1317 1317-1316 1316-1315 1315-1314 1314-1313 1313-1312 1312-1311
7 1311-1310 1310-1309 1309-1308 1308-1307 1307-1306 1306-1305 1305-1304
2nd Jubilee year (50th)
The 2nd Jubilee year is 1304-1303 BC. The 3rd Jubilee is 1255-1254 BC, etc. The 19th Jubilee is 471-470 BC. The next years we need to determine are the start and finish of Daniel’s prophecy of Daniel 9:25-26, “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 Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself.”
According to our calculations and many reputable scholars, the starting point for Daniel’s prophecy of 69 sevens (7 + 62) is the year 444 BC when King Artaxerxes I Longimanus of Persia issued the decree for the Jews to rebuild the streets and walls of Jerusalem. See Thomas Ice’s article regarding this issue.
Of course, the end date (year) is AD 33 when Jesus, the Messiah, was crucified (cut-off). The question that stumps most scholars is: “If there are 476 solar years between 444 BC and AD 33, why did Daniel mention 69 Shemitah cycles (which would be 483 years) and not 68 Shemitah cycles (which would be 476 years)? And no, the 360-day calendar doesn’t have anything to do with it, as I have thought in the past as well as many scholars, such as Sir Robert Anderson. The answer is: Daniel didn’t say 69 seven-year cycles. He said 69 sevens, as in the actual Sabbath years themselves.
The other part of the answer is found in the positioning of the start (444 BC) and end (AD 33) of the 69-week (sevens) prophecy as shown in the charts. Both years are Shemitah years. 444 BC is a Shemitah year even though we don’t count the six years preceding it because it is the start of the prophecy. The Shemitah years are continuous all the way back to the first one, 1396-1395 BC (after the children of Israel entered the promised land). As I said before, God would make sure the land had its Sabbath year of rest regardless if the people were in the land or not. So far the land of Israel has enjoyed approximately 488 sevens (years of rest) thus far.
Since 444 BC is within the 49 years after the 19th Jubilee (471-470 BC), we need to see where it is located. Below is the chart for the years 471-470 BC to 423-422 BC.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 471-470 470-469 469-468 468-467 467-466 466-465 465-464 2 464-463 463-462 462-461 461-460 460-459 459-458 458-457 3 457-456 456-455 455-454 454-453 453-452 452-451 451-450 4 450-449 449-448 448-447 447-446 446-445 445-444 444-443 5 443-442 442-441 441-440 440-439 439-438 438-437 437-436 6 436-435 435-434 434-433 433-432 432-431 431-430 430-429 7 429-428 428-427 427-426 426-425 425-424 424-423 423-422 This chart shows that the year 444-443 BC is a Shemitah year or a ‘seven’ as are the years 437-436, 430-429, and 423-422. There are 4 sevens in this time span between 444-443 and 423-422. 422 -421 BC is the 20th Jubilee. From 422-421 to 374-373 BC there are 7 sevens (Shemitah years). From 373-372 (21st Jubilee) BC to 325-324 BC there are 7 sevens. From 324-323 BC (22nd Jubilee) to 276-275 BC there are 7 sevens. From 275-274 BC (23rd Jubilee) to 227-226 BC there are 7 sevens. From 226-225 BC (24th Jubilee) to 178-177 BC there are 7 sevens. From 177-176 BC (25th Jubilee) to 129-128 BC there are 7 sevens. From 128-127 BC (26th Jubilee) to 80-79 BC there 7 sevens. From 79-78 BC (27th Jubilee) to 31-30 BC there are 7 sevens. From 30-29 BC (28th Jubilee) to AD 19-20 (29th Jubilee) there are 7 sevens. From the 20th Jubilee to the 29th Jubilee there are 9 sevens or 63 sevens. There are 4 sevens in the previous chart. That makes a total of 67 sevens (Shemitah years) so far. Our last chart will contain the end year, AD 33, of Daniel’s 69 sevens prophecy. It starts with the 29th Jubilee of AD 20-21, which is also the first year of the new Shemitah cycle. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1 AD 20-21 21-22 22-23 23-24 24-25 25-26 26-27 2 AD 27-28 28-29 29-30 30-31 31-32 32-33 33-34 3 AD 34-35 35-36 36-37 37-38 38-39 39-40 40-41 4 AD 41-42 42-43 43-44 44-45 45-46 46-47 47-48 5 AD 48-49 49-50 50-51 51-52 52-53 53-54 54-55 6 AD 55-56 56-57 57-58 58-59 59-60 60-61 61-62 7 AD 62-63 63-64 64-65 65-66 66-67 67-68 68-69 This chart contains 2 more sevens and ends with the end date of AD 33, which is the year Jesus was crucified. This gives us a grand total of 69 sevens (Shemitah years) – from 444 BC to AD 33, which are the beginning and end dates (years) in Daniel’s prophecy of 69 sevens found in Daniel 9:25-26. “Seven and sixty-two sevens” is just another way of saying sixty-nine sevens. You know how God and the children of Israel love using the number seven and stressing its importance. Yes, there are 476 solar years from 444 BC to AD 33, but the total number of Sabbath years (not cycles) from these dates is 69, and that is all Daniel (through God’s messenger, Gabriel) was trying to tell us. After Jesus was rejected by the Jews and crucified, Daniel’s countdown to the 70th seven (Daniel 9:24,27) was put on hold and is still awaiting a future resumption. The Church was born after Jesus’ death and resurrection in which God took out of the Gentiles a people for His name (Acts 15:17). The Church consisted of both Jews and Gentiles. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). This “gap period” between the 69th and 70th seven, in which the Church is now the focus of God’s attention has been going on for 1989 years (approximately 284 Sabbath cycles and sevens) now. It’s interesting that the destruction of Jerusalem and the 2nd Temple occurred in AD 70 by the Romans, about the time when the 30th Jubilee should have begun. Of course, the Jews hadn’t been observing the Shemitah years much less the Jubilees for a long time (if ever). Instead of a great celebration for the 30th Jubilee, there was a great catastrophe and destruction in Jerusalem (and the temple) and Israel. By AD 135, after the Bar Kokhba revolt, the Jews were deported from the land. The province’s name was changed from Judea to Jewish-Palestine. However, during this time and ever since, God made sure the promised land rested, even if the Jews weren’t a part of it. The Sabbath of the seventh year continued on and still does even to this day. The next big Jubilee coming up for the land of Israel is the 70th Jubilee. According to my calculations, if the above scenario is true, the 70th Jubilee should occur in 2029-2030. I believe the last seven years (ending with the 70th seven) of Daniel’s prophecy (otherwise known as the Tribulation or Jacob’s Trouble) should occur around this time. If the prophetic implications of the destruction of the temple in AD 70 (during the 30th Jubilee) hold true for the building of the third temple and subsequent abomination of desolation, then it is possible it could occur during or around the 70th Jubilee. That’s 40 Jubilees (and 280 Sabbath cycles and sevens) between these two tragic events for Israel. As you know, 40 is the number for testing, and 40 x 7 represents perfect and complete testing. Regardless if this is the correct interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy of the end times (and I believe it is), we know one thing is certain, the land God gave Abraham, Isaac, and Israel will get its Sabbath rest one way or the other. Amen, even so, come Lord Jesus! Randy Nettles email@example.com