Daniel 9:24–27 (ESV)
“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
The text doesn’t actually say “weeks.” It says “sevens” (shev-a-eem). There is wide agreement that each week represents seven years. Seventy sevens is 490 years. This is broken into sixty-two weeks (434 years), seven weeks (49 years), and one week (7 years).
However, there is great disagreement about when this played out (or will play out), but the events that occurred in the half-millennium after Daniel wrote this passage do fit this prophesy quite well. Terrible things were done. Desolations [were] decreed. The temple was desecrated horribly. This nightmare continued until the decreed end [was] poured out on the desolator.
But the details of the punishment on God’s people aren’t as important as its structure. God’s justice and His unique sense of timing are on display. Some of this isn’t easy to accept.
For starters, the punishment spans many generations. People suffer for the sins of their ancestors. This troubles many folks. It doesn’t seem fair.
However, we’re well accustomed to this in the natural world. We constantly hear in the news that the costs of what we do with the environment or the national debt will be borne by our grandchildren. The advances made in technology, energy, medicine, etc. will affect them too. For better or for worse, what we do impacts the future and the people who will live in it.
Yet, we know that God created this world of cause-and-effect where our actions affect future generations.
If we’re okay with that, why can’t God’s direct actions work the same way?
But there’s also good news.
The punishment is temporary. Justice and righteousness will win in the end. God still loves His people. The remnant will remain. God will be glorified. The Messiah will come.
The news from the natural world holds out no such hope.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.