Svetasv logo


Home Contact




An Exegesis Of "The 70 Weeks Of Daniel" Based On A Novel Chiastic Reconfiguration Of The Text

Kuruvilla Thomas K.
Bangalore (22/2/2017)


Abstract

This study treats Daniel 9:24-27 as a "Functional Chiasmus" in order to arrive at a coherent reconfiguration of the text. Text that is arranged in the form of a functional chiasmus must be rearranged based on certain logical principles to be correctly interpreted. A functional chiasmus is a new concept; see definition here [1] or follow along below to see a good example of one.

This study also contains an exegesis of the rearranged text. If you wish to skip the technicalities of a chiastic parse, you may read starting from Part 4 of the Discussion section, which has the reconfigured text.


Notes:
We will use the term "Judahite" to refer to the Israelites living in and around Jerusalem in the 1st century who primarily were of the tribe of Judah; We will try to avoid the term "Jew" to avoid the confusion it introduces.


Summary of conclusions

The 70 weeks or 490 years are not contiguous years but the sum of sections of time "cut out" from an overarching time period extending from circa 444BC to the advent of Christ's reign(circa 2000AD). The sections of time in chronological sequence are:


70 weeks of Daniel 9:24-27 Timeline
Fig. 1


Introduction

The "70 Weeks of Daniel" is one of the most studied and yet most diversely misinterpreted portions of the Bible; it is also the foundation of many eschatalogical positions. The main reasons for the confusion are that: because of its prophetic nature, the text was scrambled (by divine purpose, we believe) to obfuscate its meaning and that some critical words have been misleadingly translated because of a lack of proper context. This study will re-translate the text, unscramble it in a logically defensible manner and then do an exegesis of the rearranged text


Discussion

1. Re-translation of Daniel 9:24-27

This is the NIV version of Daniel 9:24-27 with minor re-translations of some phrases and divisions of verses into several units:


24a Seventy 'sevens' (490 years) are decreed for your people and your holy city:
24b to finish transgression, to put an end to sin,
24c to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness,
24d to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most consecrated one.[a]

25a Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the anointed one, the ruler, comes, there will be:
25b seven 'sevens'(49 years),
25c and sixty-two 'sevens'(434 years). It(Jerusalem) will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.

26a After the sixty-two 'sevens,'(434 years) the Anointed One will be put to death but not for himself[b].
26b The people of the ruler who will come will raid[c] the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.

27a He (the ruler) will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.'(7 years)
27b In the middle of the 'seven' he (the ruler) will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the borders[d] he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate[e].



Footnotes on the re-translation:
We have chosen the alternative translations as below to some phrases in the NIV version:
a. "consecrated one" instead of "holy place" in verse 24d.
b. "but not for himself" instead of "and will have nothing" in verse 26a.
c. "raid" instead of "destroy" in verse 26b.
d. "borders" instead of "temple" in the NIV version or "wing" as in some other translations in verse 27b.
e. "desolate" instead of "him" in verse 27b.



2. Parsing the chiasmus

The guiding principle behind the parsing of this particular chiasm is that each pair of objectives in verse 24 (24b, 24c, 24d) correspond to one of the periods of the seventy weeks (seven, sixty-two, and one week) and verse 25a is the pivot point.


We arrive at the chiastic structure below by applying this principle:

24a Seventy 'sevens' (490 years) are decreed...holy city.
(Verse 24a is outside the chiasmus but retained here for completeness.)

A1   24b to finish transgression, to put an end to sin,
  B1   24c to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness,
    C1   24d to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most consecrated one.
      X   25a Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out...anointed one...
    C2   25b seven 'sevens'(49 years),
  B2   25c-26a sixty-two 'sevens'(434 years)...rebuilt...Anointed One will be put to death
A2   26b-27b The people of the ruler...one 'seven'(7 years)...desolation...

We believe we are on the right track with this parse based on the 'elegance' of the parse and 'semantic correctness' of the resulting text: the match between events and the objectives of each period are appropriate; and the centre or pivot point of the chiasmus,'X', works well as an introductory overarching sentence. We contend that this is not an arbitrary rearrangement of words which would amount to a rewriting of scripture but a logical, principled process that results in a coherent text.


Notes on parsing:
Treating each pair of objectives (in 24b, 24c, 24d) as one unit is not a novel concept because others have pointed out the poetic and logical parallelisms between each pair of objectives. They are examples of three types of parallelism: 24b can be considered to be an example of synonymous parallelism, 24c is antithetic parallelism and 24d is synthetic parallelism.


3. Build the reconfigured text

We now reconstruct the phrases in the right order based on the chiastic structure we arrived at previously and based on the ordering rules of a functional chiasmus [1].

We lead with central pivot point 'X' because it appears to be an introductory phrase. The corresponding subunits (For example; subunit A1 corresponds to A2) are placed contiguously to form units (For example, A1,A2 is a unit ) so that we get a list of such units.


The sequence selected for rearrangement is:

24a  X  [C2,C1]  [B2,B1]  [A2,A1]       (1)

( Note: As long as corresponding subunits are placed together as a unit (For ex. A1,A2 is a unit), the order of the units can be changed without altering its meaning in the case of this particular text. For example, you could make this more straightforward arrangement: 24a X A1,A2 B1,B2 C1,C2 and get the same meaning. You can even think of the narrative as branching off into 3 different directions at this point. This study uses the sequence (1) above only because it is arranged by increasing complexity; We can discern no particular significance to any one arrangement in this passage.)

Translating this sequence into verse numbers, we get:

24a  25a  [25b,24d]  [25c-26a,24c]  [26b-27b, 24b]       (2)

We arrive at the reconfigured passage in the next section by rearranging the verses so they are in sequence (2).


4. Daniel 9:24-27 Reconfigured


24a Seventy 'sevens' (490 years) are decreed for your people and your holy city:
25a Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the anointed one, the ruler, comes, there will be:

25b seven 'sevens'(49 years),
24d to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most consecrated one.

25c and sixty-two 'sevens'(434 years). It(Jerusalem) will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
26a After the sixty-two 'sevens,'(434 years) the Anointed One will be put to death but not for himself.
24c to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness,

26b The people of the ruler who will come will raid the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
27a He (the ruler) will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' (7 years)
27b In the middle of the 'seven' he (the ruler) will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the borders he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate.
24b to finish transgression, to put an end to sin,



Notes on the reconfiguration:
According to this parse, the time periods (sevens) appear without any accompanying text (other than the two objectives) in the first section containing 25b, at the beginning of the sections containing verse 25c and in the middle of the text in the last section containing 27a (this last section can be seen as forming a chiasmus).
Since 26b is associated with 27a and 27b here, our interpretation of verse 26b may differ from most others.




5. An exegesis of the reconfigured text.

The reconfigured text can now be easily understood using simple logic, historical data, and other passages of scripture; we need not resort to a convoluted analysis of dates or to a tortuous reading of the passage.


For the most part, we will treat the following as beyond the scope of this study:

The passage has been split into 4 sections for analysis: The introductory statement and the 3 time periods: 49 years, 434 years and 7 years in that order.


5.1 Introductory overarching statements

"24a Seventy 'sevens' (490 years) are decreed for your people and your holy city:
25a Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the anointed one, the ruler, comes, there will be:"



"24a Seventy 'sevens' (490 years) are decreed"

This study takes the position that the 490 years are not contiguous years but the sum of sections of time carved out out of a much longer period. The word "decreed" here is a translation of a Hebrew word that originally meant "cut out" - which bolsters our stance that there are gaps between the three time periods.



"24b for your people and your holy city:"

The passage under study is pertinent to both the people of God - primarily the Israelite tribe of Judah which occupied the city and surroundings at the time - and to the holy city, Jerusalem.



"25a Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the anointed one, the ruler, comes, there will be: "

The events that mark the beginning and end of the overall time span (c. 444BC-2000AD) out of which 70 weeks are "cut out" are specified here:


5.2 Seven 'sevens'(49 years)

"25b seven 'sevens'(49 years),
24d to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most consecrated one."



"25b seven 'sevens'(49 years)"

Immediately after the "seven sevens" text , the verse continues on to the "sixty two sevens" text. This is the cause of a lot of confusion when read non-chiastically resulting in a number of interpretations of this passage treating the two 'sevens' as one contiguous time span.



"24d To seal up vision and prophesy"

It is unclear that this means but this could probably be re-translated to say "To mark the end of this vision and prophesy" thereby anchoring this period to the end of the overarching period.



"to anoint the most consecrated one."

We take this to be a reference to the anointing of the ruler mentioned at the end of the overarching statement and representing the start of Christ's reign on earth thereby anchoring this period to the end of the overarching period.


So the end of these 49 years coincides with the time the Messiah starts his reign around 2000AD at the end of the overarching period and the beginning is 49 years prior. No event has been specified to mark the start of the 49 years. It may be pertinent that the time between Jubilees is 49 years, but beyond that we avoid speculation on the length or content of the 49 years as this is a current and future period.


5.3 Sixty-two 'sevens'(434 years).

"25c and sixty-two 'sevens'(434 years). It(Jerusalem) will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.
26a After the sixty-two 'sevens,'(434 years) the Anointed One will be put to death but not for himself.
24c to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, "



"and sixty-two 'sevens'(434 years). It(Jerusalem) will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble."

The text "Jerusalem will be rebuilt" anchors the start of this period to the beginning of the overarching time span when the order to rebuild Jerusalem went out around 444BC. The rebuilding began in spite of some opposition (Nehemiah 4 and 6). This period ends 434 years later around 10 BC but the text specifies no event to mark the end of this period - so we leave it at that.



"After the sixty-two 'sevens,'(434 years) the Anointed One will be put to death but not for himself."

After this (and not "at the end of this" as many have interpreted the phrase) the Anointed One, Christ will be put to death c.30AD for the sins of others.



"to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, "


The text "to bring in everlasting righteousness" can be re-translated to "to introduce righteousness of the ages" or "to bring in Godly 'right thinking'". Christ and his death has arguably achieved the objectives of this period, but it is not clear how the other 434 years contributed. Perhaps the phrase "times of trouble" is a clue; perhaps this is a necessary period of patient, obedient suffering to atone for wickedness.



5.4 One 'seven.'

We propose that this one 'seven', the most detailed of the passage, is a summary of the First Jewish-Roman war (66–73 AD) [2]. To establish this, we must reasonably match events mentioned in the passage to historical events during the war. Before we go into a detailed study of the text, we have below: A short history of the war as relevant to this passage, and a discussion of the possible meaning of the word 'covenant' as it appears in the text.


5.4.1 A Brief History of The First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 AD) condensed from [2].

In order to quell a revolt by the Judahites in 66 AD, the Roman governor, Gessius Florus, plundered the Jewish Temple, launched a raid on the city, and arrested and crucified numerous Judahite leaders. The city was eventually retaken by the Judahite rebels who established the "Judean Free Government" in Jerusalem.

The Roman General Vespasian and his son Titus began the campaign to crush the revolt by attacking the Judahite centres surrounding Jerusalem in 67AD. A large number of Judahites in these towns fled Roman punishment to take refuge in the fortified city of Jerusalem. According to fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Epiphanius, Jerusalem's Judahite Christians fled to Pella before the beginning of the war, so escaping the carnage that befell the rest of the population.

With Vespasian called away to Rome to be appointed emperor in 69, Titus moved to besiege the centre of rebel resistance in Jerusalem in early 70AD with 4 legions. Unable to breach the city's defences, the Roman armies established a permanent camp just outside the city, digging a trench around the circumference of its walls and building a wall as high as the city walls themselves around Jerusalem. Anyone caught in the trench, attempting to flee the city would be captured, crucified, and placed in lines on top of the dirt wall facing into Jerusalem. During some infighting inside the city walls, a stockpiled supply of dry food was intentionally burned by the Zealots to induce the defenders to fight against the siege instead of negotiating peace; as a result many city dwellers and soldiers died of starvation during the siege.

By the summer of 70, the Romans had breached the walls of Jerusalem, ransacking and burning nearly the entire city. The Second Temple (the renovated Herod's Temple), one of the last fortified bastions of the rebellion, was destroyed on Tisha B'Av (29 or 30 July 70). According to Josephus, in a city of 1.1 million, 1 million Judahites were killed and 100,000 taken captive; it was almost the entire population of the Judahites in the area.

During the spring of 71, Titus returned to Rome and a new governor Lucilius Bassus was assigned the "mopping-up" operations in Judea. He used Legion X Fretensis to besiege and capture the few remaining fortresses that still resisted. In the autumn of 73, Lucius Flavius Silva replaced him, and moved against the last Judean stronghold, Masada. He used Legio X, auxiliary troops, and thousands of Judahite prisoners, for a total of 10,000 soldiers. When the Romans finally broke through the walls of this citadel in 74, they discovered that 960 of the 967 defenders had committed suicide.



5.4.2 The meaning of the word "covenant".

We take a rather startling position on the meaning of the word "covenant" as used in verse 27 but hope to show here that this is a valid position using the passage itself and using some historical evidence.

We contend that the "covenant" is an agreement between God and Titus, probably through a number of intermediaries, to completely eliminate the Judahite people and destroy the city of Jerusalem within 7 years. During those 7 years, all divine protection for the Israelites would be suspended. Protection would be reinstated at the end of that time for the sake of "elect" - those who believed in Jesus and fled as he warned them in the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24:22).


Consider the evidence:

Why was God so egregiously harsh to His chosen people? We can only speculate on the possible reasons: probably as a punishment for sins (Luke 21:22) and probably to completely close the book on the Old Covenant. The Judahites of the time were given every reason to believe in Jesus and escape this massacre: they were the first people Jesus and his followers preached to and they witnessed first-hand a large number of miracles.



5.4.3 Discussion of the verses related to the one "seven"

"26b The people of the ruler who will come will raid the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
27a He (the ruler) will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' (7 years)
27b In the middle of the 'seven' he (the ruler) will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the borders he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate.
24b to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, "



"The people of the ruler who will come will raid the city and the sanctuary."

If we designate Titus as the ruler mentioned in these passages, then the Roman governor, Gessius Florus, and his force would qualify as "the people of the ruler who will come" and this first sentence could refer to his attack on Jerusalem and the temple at the beginning of the war in 66AD. Titus arrived in 67AD and the covenant period began that year.



"The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed."

This passage probably looks ahead to the end of the war. The flood here may refer to the large Roman army sent to finish off the Judahites resistance. From history we know that war did go on to the end and as we have seen in the previous section, the desolation of the Judahites was divinely ordained.



"He (the ruler) will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' (7 years)"

As we speculate in the previous section, the covenant between God amd Titus is that God will suspend His protection of the Judahites for 7 years (Michael,their protector, will stand aside) during which time Titus will have free rein on the utter destruction of the Judahites.



"In the middle of the 'seven' he (the ruler) will put an end to sacrifice and offering."

From history, we know that the Temple was destroyed and with it the sacrifices and offerings ended in the middle of the war around July of 70AD.

Most interpretations of this passage treat the ending of sacrifice and offering as a breaking of the covenant but according to our interpretation, the destruction of the Temple would be in keeping with the covenant.

Since the midpoint of the covenant was around the middle of 70AD, we can set the start of the covenant at the beginning of 67AD which was just before Titus started his campaign against the Judahites and set end of the covenant at around 73 AD at the time of the siege of Masada at the end of the war.



"And at the borders he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on the desolate."

The "abomination that causes desolation" would be the Roman army (see Luke 21:20) and "at the border" refers its 5-month siege of Jerusalem which ultimately caused the death of nearly the entire Judahite population within the city through execution or famine and the destruction of the city; complete and utter desolation as divinely decreed. Jesus refers to this passage among others when he warns his followers to flee and to not enter the city when they saw a siege being set up.(Matthew 24:15,16 and Luke 21:21)



"to finish transgression, to put an end to sin,"

The text "to finish transgression" could be re-translated to "to finish the transgression". The definite article points to one particular transgression of the Judahites - the transgression of not believing in Jesus. The text "put an end to " could be re-translated to "shut" or "seal-off". So Judahite transgressors were completely killed off, sealing off their sins as a people, but those who believed in Christ escaped.




Conclusion

The main idea this paper introduces is the chiastic reconstruction of the text. We hope that we have shown that this allows a far more coherent and straightforward interpretation of this otherwise frustrating passage. We also hope that our re-translation of some phrases in the passage and especially our take on the word 'covenant' helps to clarify the text.


For those who accept this interpretation, there are several implications that are relevant today: .

References

[1] A Definition of Functional Chiasmus by Kuruvilla Thomas K.
[2] First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE) by Wikipedia.
[3] Philostratus, The Life of Apollonius of Tyana 6.29
[4] Flight to Pella
[5] Jewish Christian by Wikipedia






Comments

No Comments yet.

Click here to send comments