The assignment of a starting date to Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (see the previous sections) now allows us to calculate the future course of the prophecy precisely as Gabriel described it in Dan. 9:24-27. Using the combination of prophetic and historical information, we can say with certainty that the starting point for Daniel’s prophecy began on the first day of Nisan, which correlates to what would have been according to the Gregorian calendar, March 14, 445 BC. This date thus becomes the primary point of reference for the entire prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.
Also apparent in the description of the events within the prophecy is the fact that the Seventy Weeks period would be further divided into three distinct parts first consisting of a 7-week period, followed by a much longer 62-week interval, and finally ending in a short segment of 1 week. In Daniel 9:25 we are further told that the length of time from the starting date (March 14, 445 BC) until the time that Messiah would come or be revealed would be exactly 69 weeks (7 weeks plus 62 weeks—or “seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks” in the King James wording of the prophecy).
This is an outstanding prediction! What this means is that Daniel recorded from Gabriel’s words the exact date that the Messiah would make his appearance to the nation of Israel. As incredible as it may sound, anyone willing to read and believe these words and then watch for the unfolding of future events in order to pinpoint the starting date of the prophecy would also know precisely when the Messiah would come. In fact, anyone living after Nehemiah’s time should have known from his words and Daniel’s prophecy the exact date that Christ would be revealed to the nation. Thus, the Old Testament predicted not only the coming of the Savior and many of the major events surrounding his life, but it also predicted the very day He would arrive. No other book has contained within it the power of God through prophecy like that of the Bible. The fact that the timing of the Messiah’s coming was foretold is also the reason why Jesus rebuked the Jews during His final days for not knowing the time of their visitation:
“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,
Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,
And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”
Knowing therefore that the interval between the king’s decree in Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah would be exactly 69 weeks, we can then calculate the total length of time that would elapse until His arrival. This calculation works out to be precisely 173,880 days. This result comes simply from multiplying 69 by 7 years (because this segment of the prophecy is really 69 sets of 7 years), and then multiplying that product by 360 days/year (which is the length of the traditional Jewish year).
69 x 7 years x 360 days/year = 173,880 days
The use of 360 days per year instead of 365 is based upon the Old Testament Jewish calendar, which contained at its foundation 12 months of 30 days in each year. To correct for the almost 5 days-per-year error from a true solar year, a leap month was added at the end of every six years. This additional month served to keep the correlation between the months and seasons reasonably accurate. Everything in Israel’s national life as well as in the practice of Judaism revolved around an accurate keeping of their calendar. The Jewish year governed when the Sabbaths and High Holy Days would occur, when feasts, celebrations and sacrifices would occur, and even when the planting and harvesting of crops would be done. The Jewish calendar as it related to Temple worship was precisely prescribed in the writings of Moses. The calendar even governed the course of many prophecies, especially Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.
Note: Some false interpretations of Daniel’s prophecy incorrectly try to calculate when the Messiah would appear by using a 365-day year instead of the Jewish 360-day year. If this is done, the prophecy no longer makes sense and the end of the 69 week segment doesn’t correlate to any major event in Israel’s history. This type of error was made by the founder of the Seventh Day Adventists cult during the middle of the Nineteenth Century. William Miller wrongly predicted in 1818 that Jesus would return in March of 1844, based upon an incorrect application of Daniel 8:14 and transcribing each day in the prophecy to be a year. He also tried to interpret Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks by assigning an incorrect start date—the permission to rebuild the Temple in 457 BC as described in Ezra 7:1-27. He then added 483 years (of 365 days/year) onto this date and obtained the year 27 AD. The claim he made was that this date correlated with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist; however, the exact date for Christ’s baptism is unknown, so the claim cannot be verified. Many incorrect interpretations of Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks as found on the Internet make use of William Miller’s mistaken calculations, and they not only confuse the true meaning of the prophecy, but they misinterpret its ending as well, thus also causing major aspects of end times prophecy to make no sense. As we shall see, only by using the proper length of the Jewish year as 360 days does the prophecy lead to the actual date for the coming of the Messiah, and the entire prophecy suddenly makes perfect sense.
Thus, with regard to the timings within this prophecy, if we move 173,880 days forward in time from March 14, 445 BC we should be able to identify the very day that the Messiah would appear. The first step in this calculation is to convert the number of days over to our modern calendar’s point of reference, so we can easily add on the required time and obtain the final date. The equivalent number of solar years this represents in the Gregorian calendar is easily determined by dividing the total number of days by 365 days/year. Therefore, according to this calculation, exactly 476 years and 140 days were predicted to elapse between the going forth of the command to rebuild Jerusalem and the coming of Israel’s Messiah. This is the complete calculation:
(173,880 days)/(365 days/year) = 476.383 years = 476 years and 140 days
What then is the prophesied date for the Messiah’s appearance according to Daniel? Using this calculated chronology, we can determine that the Savior would present himself to the nation of Israel on April 6, 32 AD. This date is determined by taking into account that our current calendar is based upon a 365-day year with a leap year occurring once every four years when an extra day is added. Alva McClain, in his short but excellent book entitled “Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks” (p.25, 1969, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Mich.), explained the calculation of the date similar to this:
First he determined, as we did and based upon Daniel’s guidelines, the actual number of days prophesied to occur between the command to restore Jerusalem until the very day that Messiah would come:
(69 x 7 years) x (360 days/year) = 173,880 days (or 476 years, 140 days in the Gregorian calendar)
He then looked forward in time to find the date that corresponded to 173,880 days into the future:
From 445 BC to 32 AD = 476 years
Note: this sum does not equal 477, because the year 1 BC is followed immediately by 1 AD, as there is no year zero; therefore, the equation to determine the total number of years between 445 BC and 32 AD is: (445 + 32) – 1 = 476.
Then, we must convert the Gregorian calendar years back into days so we can also take into account leap year addition of days. The following calculation sums up the total number of days in 476 years plus the number of added days for leap years, and finally adds in the number of days between the start date of March 14 to the end date of April 6:
476 years x 365 days/year = 173,740 days
Add for leap years: = 116 days1
March 14 to Apr 6: = 24 days (inclusive)
Total number of days: = 173,880 days
1Note that the total number of days added for leap years is 3 days less than what might be expected just by dividing the number of years by 4. This is because most years that are divisible by 4 are leap years, but not all of them. It turns out that the actual solar year is slightly less than 365.25 days. Due to this fact, every 400 years our calendar would become off by about +3 days if an additional correction was not done. To solve this problem, the rules for the Gregorian calendar do not include adding a day for leap years falling on century years unless the century year is divisible by 4. From 445 BC to 32 AD there is only one century year that adds a leap day (400 BC), because the years 300 BC, 200 BC, 100 BC are not divisible by 4. However, even though there is no year zero, the calendar must add a leap day at this point (at 1 AD) to keep the dates on the calendar properly correlated to the solar year. Therefore, the calculation above adds 116 leap days, not the 119 days as would be expected if 476 was merely divided by 4.
Thus, the date of Messiah’s coming calculates out to be precisely April 6, 32 AD, which is based upon the total number of days in the first 69 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks. This is a fascinating date, because it just so happens to correspond to the Sunday before the Jewish Passover of that year. According to the accounts in all four Gospels, it was just at the time of the Lord’s final entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before the Passover, that Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey and presented himself to be the Son of God and the King of Israel. It was also on this Sunday before the Passover of each year, according to the Law of Moses, that a lamb without blemish was to be chosen as the Passover Sacrifice. On that particular Sunday of April 6, 32 AD, while the Jews were choosing their lambs for Passover, Jesus became God’s choice for the supreme Sacrificial Lamb that would take away the sins of the entire world.
Zechariah predicted this event when he made an extraordinary prophecy about the first coming of Christ:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
When the Lord entered Jerusalem on that Sunday, He rode into the city past crowds of people who welcomed His coming in a highly public event. In so doing, Jesus also presented himself just as Zechariah predicted—in the traditional way that a king would be presented to the nation for the first time. The Apostle Matthew described what happened next:
“And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”
That event happened on a day we now refer to as Palm Sunday. When the crowds cried out “hosanna” it meant something quite different than a term of praise as we may interpret this word today. According to Strong’s concordance, the word is a transliteration of the Hebrew word hosiahna, which means “Oh, save now!” or “Please save”. Ironically, Jesus was certainly entering the city to save them on that day, but not in the way that they may have thought. Although the people did not know it at the time, He was going to become the Lamb of God and not the conquering king they were looking for. Nevertheless, Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks predicted this event to the very day! Do you still think the Bible is just a collection of fairy tales?
Some Biblical historians have often wondered what year Christ was crucified. Estimates have generally ranged from about 29 AD to 32 AD, with even secular historians agreeing that this had to be the approximate time period in which Jesus ministered and died. Daniel’s prophecy, however, pinpoints it exactly to the spring of 32 AD. No other person in history could fulfill the exact parameters of this prophecy other than Jesus of Nazareth. There can be no doubt—the New Testament describes his coming in exactly the same time frame as Daniel’s prophecy demands. Jesus Christ is truly the Messiah as predicted by Daniel!
Incredibly, Daniel also predicts Christ’s subsequent death. In Daniel 9:26, Gabriel tells Daniel that after the 62 weeks have elapsed Messiah will be “cut off”. Why does he now say after 62 weeks and not 69? What the angel was really saying is that after the 62-week segment this event will happen. Since the 62 week segment actually follows the initial 7 week segment, we can conclude from this prophecy that after Messiah appears (i.e., after the 69 week period has been fulfilled) he will subsequently be killed.
Note: the initial 7 week period most likely represented the time it took for the Temple and Jerusalem to be rebuilt after Nehemiah received the commandment from Artaxerxes to return. The 62 week period then followed the 7 weeks and leads us to the Messiah.
Daniel also records an important adjunct to this event. Gabriel told him that the Messiah would be “cut off, but not for himself” (i.e., not for his own benefit). When Jesus was delivered into the hands of his enemies to be crucified he died not for himself, but He gave his life for the sins of the world. Isaiah’s great prophetic description of Christ says:
“He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed”
Isaiah even went on to use the very same language as Daniel did when he predicted that Christ would be cut off:
“For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of My people was He stricken”
Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks thus predicts not only the very day that Jesus revealed himself to Israel on Palm Sunday, but also the fact of his subsequent crucifixion and death for us. If we were to consider no other passage in the entire Bible, this one prophecy would be enough to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the Savior. No other person in history could satisfy these prophetic details like that of Jesus Christ. Even Bible critics and non-believing historians will acknowledge that the book of Daniel existed well before the time of Christ; yet, how do they explain the accuracy of his words which predicted the very date that the Messiah would appear? Only the power of God through prophecy could make this happen.
In addition, Daniel’s prophecy of the Seventy Weeks goes on to predict another major event that occurred almost 40 years after Jesus was crucified. In verse 26, Gabriel tells Daniel: “…the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.” This is an abrupt reversal at this point in the prophecy, because only two verses earlier Daniel wrote that Jerusalem would be rebuilt after its destruction by Babylon. Now he says that after Messiah comes and is “cut off” the city would once again suffer another devastation and be destroyed.
As is also described in the section on The Scattering of Israel, history tells us that in 67 AD Titus, the son of the Roman Emperor, led an army into Palestine to put down a Jewish rebellion, which began in 66 AD. The Romans attacked throughout the region and ultimately placed a siege on the city of Jerusalem using 3 legions of troops, which led to its destruction and the deaths of over one million Jews (according to the historian Josephus). The buildings of the Temple were ransacked of all their gold and silver, flammable items torched and burned, and all the stones toppled, just as Jesus had predicted in the last week of his life:
“And Jesus went out from the temple, and was going on his way; and his disciples came to him to show him the buildings of the temple.
But he answered and said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”
Matthew 24:1-2 (ASV)
It was in the year 32 AD that Jesus made this sad prediction, but it wasn’t until the year 70 AD that the prophecies made by both Jesus and Daniel describing Jerusalem’s destruction were ultimately fulfilled. Therefore, regardless of who the prophesied Messiah would turn out to be, he had to make his appearance before 70 AD in order to fulfill the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in Daniel. Again, the life of Christ corresponds to the only person in history to perfectly fit within this chronology. In addition, the Gospels were all written and distributed among the Christians long before Jerusalem was destroyed. Nevertheless, Jesus predicted the city and the Temple’s destruction decades before it occurred. How do people explain this except that the power of God made it possible?
As you might expect, the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks was critically important for the people of Israel to understand. When Jesus wept before the city of Jerusalem and proclaimed judgment upon the nation because his people did not know the day of their visitation, he knew that the only way they could have known the date of his coming was through Daniel’s prophecy. Daniel predicted that he would come on April 6, 32 AD and Zechariah said that he would be riding on a donkey, yet the people still didn’t understand as He road into Jerusalem. The Lord came to his own people and they didn’t recognize him or the dramatic fulfillment of prophecy taking place that day. Although they appeared to receive Jesus when he rode into Jerusalem, Israel ultimately rejected their Savior and as a consequence suffered the ultimate judgment of having Jerusalem and the Temple destroyed and the survivors scattered into all nations. And in that state of judgment is where they remained for over 1,900 years. Rejecting the Savior has enormous consequences, not only in this life, but also in the life to come.
Next: Daniel’s Seventieth Week