Home > Daniel's 70 Weeks > A. A. Bevan on the 70 weeks

A. A. Bevan on the 70 weeks

October 22, 2011

Anthony Ashley Bevan (1859-1933) was the last person appointed to Lord Almoner’s Professorship of Arabic at the University of Cambridge. He was the author of a critical commentary on Daniel, which he  assumed was composed in the Maccabean period. On the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel 9 Bevan wrote: [1]

The 70 weeks obviously stand in connection with the 70 years of v. 2. Elsewhere in the Bible the word “week” always means a week of days (Dan. x. 2), but that this cannot be the case here is evident, and the idea of weeks of years therefore naturally presents itself. The institution of the sabbatical year proves that the notion of a week of years was quite familiar to the ancient Jews the word Sabbath being applied indifferently to the 7th day and to the 7th year (Lev. xxv. 2, 4). It has often been noticed that, according to the author of the book of Chronicles, the 70 years of captivity foretold by Jeremiah corresponded to 70 sabbatical years (II Chron. xxxvi. 21 as compared with Lev. xxvi. 34, 35). Moreover if we believe the book of Daniel to have been composed in the Maccabean period, there is yet another reason for the connection between the 70 years and the 70 weeks of years. For, as I have before pointed out, the 2nd verse of this chapter states that the author understood by reading the Scriptures the number of the years fixed for the desolation of Jerusalem according to the prophecy of Jeremiah, i.e. he discovered in the Scriptures something which enabled him rightly to understand Jeremiah’s prediction. But to what passage of Scripture does he here refer? Some light is thrown on the question by vv. 11 and 13, where the punishment that has come upon Israel is said to be “written in the law of Moses”. All commentators are agreed that Lev. xxvi. 14 ff. is at least one of the passages which the author had in mind. But no one, so far as I am aware, has noticed that the special allusion is to Lev. xxvi. 18, 21, 24, 28, where it is emphatically declared that the Israelites are to be punished seven times for their sins. The 70 weeks become intelligible if we suppose that the author of Daniel combined Jer. xxv. 11; xxix. 10 with Lev. xxvi. 18 ff. The motive is obvious. Since he firmly believed in the infallibility of Jeremiah’s prediction, and was at the same time painfully conscious that the prediction, in its literal sense, had received but a very partial fulfilment, it became necessary to seek for some new interpretation. This was supplied by the passage in Leviticus. The 70 years of Jeremiah were to be repeated 7 times, and at the end of the 490th year the long promised deliverance might be confidently expected. In the exegesis of the later Jews such deductions, formed by artificially combining different passages of Scripture, were extremely common.

Most critical scholars dismiss the idea that the ministry of Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies such as the 70 weeks prophecy; they look instead for a fulfillment in the Maccabean period.

Bevan was correct in pointing out that a connection must exist between the 70 weeks and Leviticus 26, which mentions four periods of seven times, which correspond to the curse which Daniel said had been poured out upon Israel. [Daniel 9:11]

The exile in Babylon was evidently the first of the four periods of seven times specified in Leviticus 26, which would be the duration of the desolations of Jerusalem.

Bevan’s idea that in the 70 weeks prophecy, “Daniel combined Jer. xxv. 11; xxix. 10 with Lev. xxvi. 18 ff” is an important key to understanding the 70 weeks. However, professor Bevan’s comments missed its true significance. The connection between these prophecies is realized completely only if the 70 years of exile is identified with the first of the four periods of seven times, and the three sections of the 70 weeks correspond to the remaining three of the four periods of seven times in Leviticus 26. This implies that the units for “times” in Leviticus 26 can vary. It probably never occurred to Bevan, that the “sevens” in Daniel’s prophecy could be anything other than literal years.

The units of the “seven times” in Leviticus 26 are unspecified. If the first period of seven times corresponds to the 70 years of Jeremiah, the units for a “time” are ten years in that particular case.

The first section of the 70 weeks, which is seven weeks, are seven times, where a “time” is a “week” or seven. In the 70 weeks, the units for each of the three sections must be associated with distinct units, that are specific for each section, or else, why have three sections? Why not say, sixty and nine weeks, instead of specifying seven weeks, and sixty and two weeks, as the period from the commandment to build Jerusalem to the arrival of the Messiah? In each section of the 70 weeks, the units must be determined separately.

I suggest the units in the first section of seven weeks are leap years. The seven sevens are 49 leap years, with an extra month. The months in the Babylonian and Hebrew calendars are lunar months, and years may be 12 or 13 months. Years of 13 months are called leap years. A week of seven leap years spans 19 years. In that case, the first section of seven sevens works out to 133 years. Similarly, the second section of 62 weeks also corresponds to seven “times,” where a “time” is 62 years. Daniel 5:31 states that this was the age of Darius, when he took the Babylonian kingdom. Belshazzar was slain, “And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.” Some scholars have proposed that Darius was actually the same person as Cyrus.

The first two sections of the seventy weeks together are 133 + 434 = 567 years, which corresponds to the time span from the decree of Cyrus in 538 B.C. to  28 A.D., which was the first year of the ministry of Jesus. In the seventieth week Jesus confirms the covenant by fulfilling all the promises about himself, and by establishing the new covenant which was foretold by the prophets.

The identification of the three sections of the seventy weeks with the last three of the four periods of seven times in Leviticus 26 precludes gaps between the sections, as any gap would imply a lapse in the curse, a temporary restoration of blessings to Israel, and a temporary reconciliation to God, which of course has not happened. The seventieth week also remains to be fulfilled, as Jesus continues to confirm his covenant. The final half of the seventieth week is the “time, times and a half” of Daniel 7:25, 12:7, and Revelation 12:14. Since this last half-week applies to the building of the heavenly Jerusalem, the units that apply to it are no longer earth-bound and literal, but symbolic. The relationship between the four periods of seven times in Leviticus 26 and the seventy weeks is illustrated in the graphic below.

Timeline 3

The seventy weeks correspond to three of the four periods of seven times in Lev. 26


1. A. A. Bevan. A short commentary on the Book of Daniel. Cambridge: University Press, 1892. pp. 145-146.

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