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What are the 69 Weeks in Daniel 9:25?

and Please Explain the Ships of Kittim in Daniel 11:30

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Question #1:  I have a question about Daniel 9:25. I have read that the decree of Cyrus mentioned there took place in 536 B.C. If that is the case, the 69 “weeks of years” would seem to fall well short of the time of Christ.

Response#1:  Here is how I translate Daniel 9:25 in Coming Tribulation part 3B: Antichrist and his Kingdom (explanatory notes included):

So know and understand that from the issuing of a decree to desist [from rebuilding Jerusalem] (in ca. 485 B.C.: Ezra 4:6-23), and for the rebuilding of Jerusalem (decreed forty-two years later in ca. 443 B.C.: cf. Ezra 7:11-28; Neh. chap.1-6; taking a further seven years to fulfill) until Messiah the prince there will be seven weeks (i.e., between the decree and the rebuilding) and sixty-two weeks (i.e., between the rebuilding and the birth of Christ in ca. 2 B.C.). [Jerusalem] will be repopulated and rebuilt with streets (i.e., residential reconstruction) and fortifications (i.e., military reconstruction) [and will remain so] even during difficult times (e.g., the occupation of Antiochus Epiphanes).
Daniel 9:25

You can see immediately that the "universal interpretation" to which you refer that takes the terminus a quo from Cyrus' decree in 536 is, in my view, dead wrong. It is wrong because of a false assumption, to wit that the dual verbal phrases at beginning of Daniel 9:25 are referring to the same event (i.e., rebuilding). In fact, they do not. Gabriel's explanation to Daniel quoted here makes a point of dividing the 7 and the 62 weeks and that this is a significant point. Add to this that Cyrus' decree does not really refer to (or result in) a complete rebuilding of Jerusalem per se, especially not along the lines envisioned in this prophecy, but is instead focused on the temple (Ezra 1:2), and, in any event, it is not until much later (i.e., circa 443) that the city is significantly re-inhabited and the wall rebuilt (cf. "repopulated and rebuilt with streets and fortifications"). After all, Ezra 4:6-23 tells us in no uncertain terms that the rebuilding of the city had been forcibly stopped before completion.

Daniel contains some of the most difficult Hebrew to interpret anywhere in the Old Testament. His language is highly syncopated, and easily misconstrued whenever one makes the mistake of taking something for granted (especially dangerous is reliance on English translations). The critical words that concern us here are min motsah` dabhar lehashibh velibhnoth (which I have translated “from the issuing of a decree to desist, and for the rebuilding”). This is a typically Daniel-like compressed expression of the type found throughout the book. Were one to "fill it out" to avoid confusion (although it is not necessary to glean the proper meaning once one "gets" that the two infinitives refer to separate events), one could re-supply another dabhar after the connecting ve (“from the issuing of a decree to desist, and [THE separate DECREE] for the rebuilding”). As I say, this is not at all necessary and the interpretation does not in any way hang on doing so. The language can be taken either way, but the traditional way does not make any sense, whereas the solution suggested above is the only way I know of to explain how this phrase could reflect and mirror the split between 7 and 62, namely, the first infinitive responds to the 7, while the second responds to the 62: that is, there is a split between "desist" and "build" just as there is a split between 7 and 62. The whole point of the 7/62 is to set up the time lag between the breaking off of building in ca. 485 and its resumption 42 years later in 443 (i.e., 6 “sevens” of years). Can it really be a coincidence that the period between these "cease" and "rebuild" decrees is exactly 42 years, a precise "seven" short of the seven weeks of years (with a perfect time of "seven" necessary to complete the rebuilding after the decree for it)?

So while the verb shubh can mean "restore" as it is traditionally translated here, another possibility is the meaning, "refrain from" (when used as here in the hiphil: BDB 999a). In my view this is the correct way to translate shubh here (i.e., "refrain from [further building]"). This prophecy is given to Daniel for comfort through understanding - not only his own, but future generations of believers. Since the original decree of Cyrus was only perhaps days away at the time this prophecy was originally given (compare Daniel 9:1 with Ezra 1:1), the comfort for those to come would be in knowing that in spite of a future order to desist (Ezra 4:6ff.), Jerusalem would indeed eventually be rebuilt after the hiatus (the whole reason for 7 and 62 and the clear split between the two).

Finally, if one accepts this interpretation which has the virtue of 1) the Hebrew responsion with the 7/62 and 2) the precise dating between 485 and 443  (= the 49 years when seven perfect years of reconstruction time are added), then the further chronology also falls nicely into place. For without any strange lunar mechanics of the sort often employed to make these number seem meaningful, the time between the order to desist of Ezra 4:6ff (ca. 485) and the birth of Christ (ca. 2 B.C.), is then, indeed, precisely 483 years. For a discussion of the dating of the birth of Christ, please see the link: The Birth of Christ (in part 5 of Satan's Rebellion: Judgment, Restoration and Replacement).

One further brief aside: Isaiah 45:13 does not actually contain the name “Cyrus”, though one finds that mistaken interpretation in e.g. the NIV. And while Isaiah 44:27 does have Cyrus in the first half of the verse, the subject “He” of the second half of the refers to the Lord, not to Cyrus: “He (i.e., the Messiah of whom Cyrus is a type) will say of [millennial] Jerusalem, 'Let it be rebuilt'” (cf. Zech.6:12-13).

In our Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #2:  Greetings, cross referenced the above on 3 different versions of bibles to find that "the ships of Kittim shall come against him: therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant" etc.

I realize that you are aware of this, and your cross references of Kittim, and Numbers 24:24 stress your point, but I guess my question is in your opinion how could Dan 11:30 convey “against”, when it seems in all reality they are “with”. How could this have been overlooked or mistaken by writers of the Bible who are under the influence of the Holy Spirit when writing & supposed professionals interpreting these words. In a sense this is the question I hear in my own mind from skeptics call them what you will, that would raise doubts and concerns: is the Holy Bible truly the word of God?

Response#2:  

Thanks for your question and for your careful reading of this study, part 3B of Coming Tribulation: “Antichrist”. Let me say right from the start that I appreciate the supportive way in which you ask this question. You have a right, even a duty, to ask such things, and I want you to know that I am not at all uncomfortable in giving you what I hope will be a helpful reply.

As you clearly see from your comments, the interpretation of Daniel 11:30 advanced here has not been produced in a vacuum, but is consistent with the other information the Bible provides about this future campaign of antichrist. So that it is well to notice from the start that if Daniel 11:30 was teaching that this naval force will be opposed to antichrist instead of operating in support of him as I contend, it would be strangely contrary to the other scriptural information about this event (and that is more so the case when one studies through both of the two campaigns of antichrist in the Middle East as well as the events that precede the opening of the Great Tribulation proper).

This brings us back to the verse itself and its proper translation. As I remark in footnote #42: "The Hebrew of the book of Daniel is particularly and peculiarly abbreviated and succinct, often to the point of what would be obscurity without a prior detailed and specific understanding of interpretation at hand (and nowhere is this more evident than in chapter eleven)". That is to say, all translation involves interpretation, and in the case of poetic and prophetic scriptures, that is even more true. One needs only to read how the Vulgate and the Septuagint translate this verse to see what I mean. They are famous translations, but are quite confused as to the meaning as is evident from their tortured renderings. For neither seems to understand exactly what Daniel is saying and offer up rather perplexed and perplexing translations as a result. I think if you will check further into the three versions you are using, you will find inconsistencies between each other within Daniel and in chapter eleven in particular.

The fact that versions agree on various points of translation, moreover, does not make them correct, and often the degree of confidence the translators have in their rendition of these verses is not great. This can be seen by consulting almost any philological commentary on Daniel. The point is, if one is translating the Bible for a deadline (and even the KJV translators were working on deadline), there comes a point when one has to offer up something for every passage, even if one is not entirely sure what is meant, or is not entirely sure of the interpretation that one's translation will necessarily advance.

There is a big difference between the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in producing the scriptures and His influence over those who are translating and interpreting them. In the first case, the original autograph is perfect (the Bible is the Word of God, but only in the original language and in the original text); in secondary works, that is clearly not the case (forgive the understatement). The degree to which individual translators and interpreters have hit upon the very truth of what is in the Word of truth or failed to do so and to what extent is known to God, but must be evaluated by individual Christians under the influence of that same Holy Spirit. As fallible human beings, we interpreters and translators are subject to error, and that is why I always strive to show by exegesis, by argument, by analysis, by cross-references, and by doctrinal parallels exactly how and why I have come to the conclusions to which I come (under the Spirit's influence), and why I am always happy to answer honest inquiries like yours about any specifics which a reader may question. For you too are responsible to the Lord for what you believe. In this process, moreover, we do not start with 100% truth, fully understood, fully believed, and fully implemented; rather, that is the goal for which we are all striving (or certainly should be!). In this process we are, ideally, circling in on the complete truth at an aggressively steep angle, letting each new point of truth discovered, accepted, and put into practice inform our next step. My Roman Catholic friends often ask the question you ask in a somewhat more skeptical way, pointing out as they often do that Protestant interpreters, preachers, scholars, translators etc. outside of the RCC often do not agree, and put it out that since they do not agree about everything, they therefore cannot be right about anything (an obvious fallacy of course). Therefore it is thus better off agreeing with the RCC and accepting its rulings on all things. My response is that we who are truly seeking to learn all we can about what the Bible actually teaches may only be at an 80% level, but are striving day by day to up that percentage until we have arrived at our goal (no matter how impossibly difficult that may seem to those who lack true faith), and that by wedding ourselves to a school of interpretation that is fatally flawed, as theirs is, we will not only fail to make further progress but will be handing over what progress we have made - all because we lacked the faith that God was capable of leading us to all the truth we desired to know if we would continue to trust Him. It is to this process of spiritual growth, after all, that God indisputably calls us. This is the foundation and ultimate purpose of all true Christian ministry:

Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, until we all reach that unifying goal of believing what is right and of giving our complete allegiance to the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

To return to the precise translation of Daniel 11:30, what we have here specifically is the Hebrew preposition be- in conjunction with the third person singular masculine object marker -o (bo). This combination can indeed be translated "against him", but it can also and with equal facility be translated "with him" (as well as "within him", "in him", "on him", "by him" etc.), for be- is one of the most common prepositions in Hebrew and admits of very flexible usage. In terms of pure numbers, be- means "with" far more frequently than it means "against" (which turns out to be one of the rarer uses), and by a measure of at least 10 to 1 at that (possibly much more - it would take a few days to count and analyze all the instances). So the question becomes, why, then, have so many translated this phrase as "against him" rather than the far more (philologically) obvious "with him"? The answer is that this is an (incorrect) interpretation based upon failure to understand the details of the future event described. Many of those who have translated the phrase in this (incorrect) way have, most likely decided to follow the tradition since they had nothing better to offer personally. As a result, the standard (incorrect) interpretation of this verse goes back hundreds of years, with the same error being repeated many times over out of a failure to see the connection of this verse with Numbers 23:23-24, and with the specific career of antichrist in general (his "being stricken" in particular). These two issues really do go hand in hand here, for if one sees antichrist (or the king of the north, for there are those who do not see antichrist here at all) as being "disheartened", then it is an understandable trap to fall into to see the opposition of these ships and the fact that the campaign "didn't turn out like the first one" (i.e., was a failure) as the reason for this. The picture of his complete success in the verses that follow is, of course, completely out of keeping with such an interpretation (not to mention the other scriptural evidence, as shown in CT 3B), but, as I say, those who have translated these verses generally have had to do the best they could with the time and resources at their disposal (and always had it in the back of their minds, no doubt, as such men do with every translation they make that anyone serious about delving deeper would consult the original Hebrew).

I am very clear about my own conviction as to the reliability of this interpretation and am more than willing to discuss it further. On the other hand, I think if you could query any of the gentlemen who rendered these verses in this manner, you would no doubt find that their level of conviction as to what Daniel 11:30 is really referring to would not be terribly great.

I do hope this is of some help to you. Thank you again for your continuing interest in the Word of God and in this ministry.

In Him who is and was and ever will be, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.


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