Dispensationalists and others who insist that the 70 weeks can only mean 490 years look for the start of the first seven weeks in the century following the time that the prophecy was given. The decree of Cyrus in about 538 BC, allowing Jews to return to their land to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, and Daniel’s prophecy are dated about the same time, “in the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus.” [Daniel 9:1]
Some have argued that Darius and Cyrus were in fact the same person. The 70 weeks outlined in Daniel 9:24-27 are to be reckoned “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem.” The context of the prophecy itself suggests this commandment was the decree of Cyrus.
The argument that some decree other than the one by Cyrus began the 70 weeks is required by a simplistic interpretation, that claims the “weeks” in all three sections of the prophecy consist of seven literal years.
But most dispensationalists have abandoned the claim that they are literal years, and say instead that they are “360 day” years, in support of which, the most flimsy of arguments are advanced, which collapse under close scrutiny.
The numbers in Daniel and Revelation, that are invoked to support the 360 day year theory, signify years that are not natural, but symbolic. I suggest that this is the significance of the prophetic months of exactly 30 days, implied in the 1,290 days, and the 1,335 days of Daniel 12:11-12, and the 1,260 days of Revelation 11:3 and 12:6. Natural months are a little less than 30 days. The discrepancy between 1,260 days and the number of days in three and a half natural years is about 20 days.
Proposing a lengthy interval between the giving of the prophecy, and the start of the 70 weeks, violates the precedent, established in many other prophecies in the Bible, where the fulfillment followed soon after the revelation was given, rather than after a lengthy interval. Examples of this are listed in the following table.
|Prophecy||The time span to fulfillment|
|Destruction of Sodom [Genesis 18:17-33]||Immediate [Genesis 19:13]|
|The dream of pharaoh, interpreted by Joseph as meaning 7 years of plenty followed by 7 years of famine [Genesis 41:28-32]||Immediate [Genesis 41:41, 54]|
|Plagues in Egypt [Exodus 9:14-18]||Immediate|
|40 years wandering in the wilderness [Numbers 14:34]||Immediate|
|Plague upon Israel after David numbered the people [1 Chronicles 21:12-13]||Immediate [1 Chronicles 21:14-17]|
|70 years of exile [Jeremiah 25:11]||Immediate [2 Chronicles 36:21, 22]|
|The 7 times that came on Nebuchadnezzar||Immediate – “at the end of 12 months” [Daniel 4:29, 33]|
|The writing on the wall at Belshazzar’s feast, interpreted by Daniel [Daniel 5:17-28]||Immediate – “in that night” [Daniel 5:30]|
|Prophecy of Zacharias about the gospel [Luke 1:67-79]||Immediate|
|World wide dearth [Acts 11:28]||Immediate – it was fulfilled “in the days of Claudius Caesar. ” [Acts 11:28]|
|The rise of apostasy in the church [Acts 20:30]||Immediate [1 John 2:18]|
In view of all these cases and examples, where the fulfillment of a prophecy occurred immediately, or in a timely fashion at least, the idea that some decree other than the very famous decree of Cyrus should be sought for the start date of the 70 weeks prophecy seems misguided. The notion is also unnecessary, when leap years are taken as units for the first section of seven sevens. There are 7 leap years of 13 months in 19 years, and 49 leap years spans 133 years. This is the first section of the prophecy. The second section, 62 x 7 or 434 years, plus 133 years, is 567 years, the time span between the decree of Cyrus to the ministry of Jesus, in 28 AD. The 70 weeks are continuous with the 70 years of exile. They are also continuous in the final week, which is the week in which Jesus fulfills his covenant with the church.