The exodus theme in Daniel 9
In an article on “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and the New Exodus”, Peter J. Gentry, Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, presents a preterist interpretation of Daniel’s 70 weeks prophecy.  He discusses the background of Daniel’s prayer of confession, which he relates to Solomon’s dedication of the temple. [1 Kings 8:33-34, 46-51] He notes that the exile is due to the violation of the covenant which brought on the curse. [Deut. 28:15-68]
The return from exile, Gentry suggests, was to involve not merely the physical return to the land, but a “return from covenant violation to a right relationship to God so that the covenant relationship is renewed and restored (see Isa 42:18-43:21 and 43:22-44:23 respectively).” He described this as “getting Babylon out of the people,” requiring a spiritual return from exile, or another exodus. He wrote:
The physical return from exile gets the people out of Babylon, but the problem of getting Babylon out of the people must be dealt with by a second stage. The second stage is the spiritual return from exile: it deals with the problem of sin and brings about forgiveness and reconciliation in a renewed covenant between Yahweh and His people.
Gentry denies there are any gaps in the 70 weeks, and interprets them in terms of sabbatical periods of seven years, citing Jeremiah’s prophecy of seventy years as lasting “until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths.” [2 Chronicles 36:20-22; Leviticus 26:34-35] He selects 457 BC, the date of Artaxerxes’s Commission to Ezra [Ezra 7:11-26] as the beginning point, a date which is popular among expositors, but it implies a gap between the expiry of Jeremiah’s 70 years and the beginning of the 70 weeks, which tends to weaken the connections of Jeremiah’s prophecy and Daniel’s prophecy to the sabbatical periods of Leviticus 25-26.
Gentry finds the first 69 weeks were fulfilled in 27 A.D. He wrote:
Sixty-nine sabbaticals or weeks of years bring the time to 27 A.D. when the “word to restore Jerusalem” is understood to refer to the decree of Artaxerxes in 457 B.C. The calculation of sabbatical years in Israel for antiquity is based upon evidence from Maccabees, Josephus, inscriptions, the Talmud, and Maimonides. The standard treatment derives from Benedict Zuckermann in 1866. More recently Ben Zion Wacholder has analysed the data differently and provided a table of sabbatical years from 519 B.C. to 441 A.D. Here I follow the standard view of Zuckermann according to the critique of Ben Zion Wacholder by Bob Pickle, although the difference between the chronologies reconstructed by these two scholars is only one year. Thus, the seventieth sabbatical is from 27-34 A.D. following Zuckermann or 28-35 A.D. following Ben Zion Wacholder.
Gentry says the crucifixion occurred in 31 A.D. which he says was halfway through the 70th week. On the statement in Daniel 9:27, that the Messiah would “confirm a covenant with many for one week,” Gentry wrote:
In Dan 9:27a the statement “he will uphold a covenant with the many” refers to the work of the Anointed King in effecting the new covenant described by the prophets at different times and in a variety of ways. It is important to note that there are different perspectives in the prophets on the new covenant. Their contributions are not monolithic, but view the gem of God’s future covenant renewal from many different facets. Usually the expression is kārat berît—to cut a covenant—to indicate a covenant that did not exist previously and is being initiated now between partners for the first time. Excellent examples are Isa 55:3, Jer 31:31, and Ezek 34:25 and 37:26. Yet Ezek 16:60, 62 employs heqîm berît for the new covenant. We should not assume here, against the linguistic use in general, that the expression is now equivalent to kārat berît, but rather looks at the making of the new covenant from a different point of view. Verse 60 speaks of Israel breaking the covenant of Sinai and of God subsequently establishing an everlasting covenant with them. Ezekiel’s language indicates that there is a link between the Sinai covenant and the new. He employs the expression “confirm or uphold a covenant” to show that the new covenant establishes effectively what God intended in the Sinai covenant. The point is supported by the fact that the new covenant is called here an everlasting covenant whereas the term “everlasting” is never used of the Sinai covenant. Something similar is probably the thrust of Dan 9:27a. The expression “uphold a covenant” is chosen and used here because the context entails the return from exile and the “renewing” of the covenant relationship between Yahweh and Israel.
Gentry commented as follows on the anointing of the holy place mentioned in Daniel 9:24:
Only in Dan 9:24 do we have the “Holy of Holies” being anointed. This phrase could be construed as “the most holy place” or “the most holy person.” The latter meaning would be most unusual. Thus we have a verb that is normally used of a person and an object normally used of the temple. It may suggest that both future king and temple are one and the same. It finds fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth as both Messiah and true Temple. Some interpreters have opted for a proposal that views nāgîd in v. 26b as referring to an evil prince, perhaps even the Antichrist, and different from v. 25 where the nāgîd refers to the Messiah. This is bolstered by interpreting v. 27a as referring to this evil ruler making a false covenant which disrupts sacrifice in a way similar to the abomination causing desolation in 8:12-14, 11:31, and 12:11. A supporting connection may even be drawn between the fact that several texts in Daniel appear to speak of a three and one-half year period (7:25, 12:7, 11, 12; cf. 8:14, 26). All of these texts are fraught with interpretive problems and associated with them is the identification of the four kingdoms portrayed symbolically in the dream of chapter 2 and the vision of chapter 7 followed by the expansions on these themes in chapters 8 and 10-12.
Gentry says that in the 70th week, Jesus dies, and the literal temple gets condemned, because of the actions of the Jews, and rude behavior of the high priest towards Jesus, although Gentry puts the destruction of the temple outside the 70th week. He wrote:
The Gospels present Jesus as both genuine Messiah and true Temple. The paralytic lowered through the roof by four friends, for example, was not only healed, but forgiven his sins. This angered the leaders because Jesus was claiming to do something that could only happen at the Temple; thus he was claiming to be the true Temple (John 2:18-22). So when the Jewish people rejected Jesus as Anointed One / Messiah and the High Priest blasphemed Jesus, the true Temple, the Herodian temple supported by the Jewish people had to fall and the city had to be destroyed.According to v. 26b this destruction is something that would happen after the sixty-ninth sabbatical. In v. 27b, there is nothing stated that actually requires the desolation of Jerusalem to happen precisely in the seventieth week, although this event is associated with the events happening at that time. Thus, the fall of Jerusalem some time later does fit suitably because it is the final working out of the Jewish response to Jesus in the seventieth week. This situation is similar to God telling Adam that in the day he ate of the forbidden fruit, he would die. In one sense this did happen on the very day, but took time to be worked out. Just so, when the Jewish people rejected the Messiah and the High Priest blasphemed Jesus, the true Temple, the Herodian temple had to fall and the city had to be destroyed. The coming destruction, symbolized by the curtain protecting the Holy of Holies torn in two at the crucifixion, finally came to pass in A.D. 70, i.e., within the time of that generation which committed this sacrilege.
The reference to “the time of that generation” is typical of the preterist approach. But, I wonder, why are so many Christians blind to the fact that Jesus himself is part of “that generation”? If Jesus indeed remains alive, as the New Testament affirms, his generation has not passed away.
Gentry’s view of the last half of the 70th week is obscure. It seems to have passed without notice. Certainly, if it passed in 34 A.D., no mention of that date appears in the New Testament. In his conclusion, Gentry wrote:
In the climactic seventieth week, Israel’s King arrives and dies vicariously for his people. Strangely, desecration of the temple similar to that by Antiochus Epiphanes in the Greek Empire is perpetrated by the Jewish people themselves resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem. These events are fufilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He is the coming king. His crucifixion is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices and the basis of the New Covenant with the many. His death is “not for himself,” but rather vicarious. The rejection of Jesus as Messiah and desecration of him as the true Temple at his trial by the High Priest result in judgment upon the Herodian Temple carried out eventually in A.D. 70. The notion of a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week is contrary to a vision of chronological sequence. The prophecy is remarkable both for its precision and imprecision as it fits the events concerning Jesus of Nazareth.
Gentry’s thesis suffers because ignoring the last half of the 70th week is anti-climactic. His interpretation is chained to a literal view of all three sections of the 70 weeks. In my opinion they are “chains of darkness.”
The first section of seven weeks may be something other than sabbatical cycles of seven years; I suggest they are seven weeks of leap years having 13 months, a period that spans 133 years. This way, the 70 weeks may begin with the decree of Cyrus. The 70 years of exile that Jeremiah foretold, and the 70 weeks of Daniel’s prophecy would be continuous. A gap between the end of the 70 years and the start of the 70 weeks implies a lapse in the curse. The role of Cyrus as the one whose decree began the 70 weeks is suggested by Isaiah’s prophecy, that seems to apply to Daniel 9:24: “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” [Isaiah 44:28]
Basically I agree that the weeks in the second section of 62 weeks probably correspond to sabbatical cycles. I find Gentry’s take on the last half of the 70th week uninspiring. In the 70th week, Christ “confirms the covenant with many.” Gentry rightly suggests that this applies to the new covenant. But Christ has been confirming his new covenant throughout the whole age of the church. The last half of the 70th week, therefore, is on-going. It did not expire without notice in 34 A.D., as preterists suggest.
Gentry is right, I think, in rejecting the dispensationalist idea of a gap between the 69th and 70th week. Both preterism, and dispensationalism, are chained to the same literalist dogma, that all sections of the 70 weeks have the same units, and they are nothing else than weeks of literal years.
Gentry’s thesis seems flawed because he puts the destruction of the temple, which was to occur “in the midst of the week,” outside the scope of the 70 weeks, and because in his opinion, Christ’s work of confirming the covenant is limited to three and a half literal years. These positions are discredited by Daniel 9:27, “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” When the destruction of the temple is put in the midst of the week, rather than outside the scope of the 70 weeks, it becomes evident that the remaining half-week spans the whole age of the church.
In the last half of the 70th week, “the mountain of the Lord’s house” was raised up, above the hills, as Isaiah had foretold. [Isaiah 2:1-3] This must have been when Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection. This is seen in Acts 2:32-36, Galatians 4:26, and Hebrews 12:22-23. Jerusalem has been raised up to heaven; it is the “bride of the Lamb” in Revelation 21. Jesus has occupied the throne of David in heaven, an eternal throne. Thus the things described in Daniel 9:24, which relate to the gospel, are accomplished as Jesus continues to build his church. The desolations referred to in Daniel 9:27 apply to the church, as well as the promise of its anointing mentioned in that verse: “that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” Preterism, and dispensationalism, are flawed interpretations that contribute to the desolation!
1. Peter J. Gentry. Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and the New Exodus. SBJT, 14.1 (2010): 26-44.