These small group studies of Daniel contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Daniel 9:20-27 Bible Study Commentary – 70 Weeks of Daniel
I. Gabriel brings an answer to Daniel (20-23)
II. The seventy weeks prophecy (24-27)
I. Gabriel brings an answer to Daniel (20-23)
• What does this passage teach you about prayer?
• Why was Gabriel sent to Daniel? What does this teach us about God?
• What can you learn from this passage about our Father’s heart toward us?
• Why did Daniel describe Gabriel as a “man”?
• What can we learn about the timeline of requests and answers?
• Does God always answer prayers this fast? Why does He sometimes have us wait?
• How does God view Daniel (23)?
• How does this passage encourage you in your prayer life?
• Do you have any testimonies to share about answered prayer in your life?
1 John 5:14-15 – And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.
John 15:7 – If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Hebrews 11:6 – And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. While I was speaking and praying – Daniel gave us an excellent example of someone devoted to prayer. This verse implies that Daniel prayed out loud. Praying aloud can be a way to focus better on the words we say. While it is not a rule to pray out loud (God hears even the silent prayers in our hearts), it can help us concentrate as we verbalize our thoughts.
Reflect – What are the benefits of praying aloud rather than silently?
2. While I was speaking, the man Gabriel came to me in swift flight –
Here is one of the fastest answers to prayer recorded in Scripture. Daniel had not even finished his prayer before an answer was hand-delivered to him.
Gabriel is one of the archangels. He often acts as a messenger and brings news or a vision from God to His people. It was Gabriel who told Mary she was going to give birth to Jesus (Luke 1:11-38). Likely Daniel describes him as a “man” because in this case he appeared in the form of a man. Angels can appear in their supernatural form (which generally causes fear to those who see them) or as normal people. The fact that he is not actually a man is made clear since he came in “swift flight,” and men can’t fly!
3. I have now come out to give you insight and understanding – The heart of God is clearly seen in these words of Gabriel. He wanted Daniel to understand His plans. The heart of our Father toward us is soft and kind. Like a good father seeks to educate and teach his child, so God desires to instruct us. Parents do want their children to grow up ignorant. Neither does God want us to be (Amos 3:7).
Application – Since our Father wants us to know Him and His plan, He has made knowing those things possible. Our job is to treasure His words. We should hunger for that wisdom.
Proverbs 2:1-6 – My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom.
As you hunger for wisdom, you will spend more time studying His Word. And as you study, you will also ask Him to give you insight.
Part of the reason Gabriel was sent is to correct Daniel’s misunderstanding of what would happen. Daniel had just studied Jeremiah’s seventy-year prophecy. It seems that he believed that Israel’s troubles were almost at an end. They would return to the land and then the Messiah would come and establish His kingdom. In essence, Gabriel tells him, “a lot more things have to take place and it is going to take a lot of time.”
4. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out – Here, we get a glimpse into the mechanics of prayer. God immediately heard Daniel’s prayer, reminding us that He is omnipresent. It doesn’t take a long time for our prayers to reach God. He knows your requests before you even organize your thoughts.
Matthew 6:8 – Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Right away, God sets His plan for answering Daniel’s prayer in motion. Gabriel says that “a word went out.” Presumably, this “word” was from God Himself. Daniel prayed, and God gave a command, ordering Gabriel to deliver His answer to Daniel.
The Lord is the King of Kings. He is on His throne. And He is aware of everything happening in the world and of every single prayer. And sometimes, He personally issues a direct command to the angels in response to our prayers.
It is encouraging to see how God answers prayer. A host of angels are serving Him around the clock, awaiting instructions from their general. At a word, the High King sends them off on various missions of mercy on behalf of His people.
God does not always send an answer so quickly. Sometimes He deems it necessary for us to wait for His response.
Reflect – Why does He sometimes have us wait?
Application – Picturing God as the general in command of a host of heavenly beings can help encourage you when you pray. Do not doubt God’s ability to answer your prayer, no matter how big. He has all of the resources in the universe at His disposal. Nothing is too difficult for Him. Believe that He is listening. Believe that He has the power to answer. Believe that He will answer according to what is good for you.
5. You are greatly loved – It is a beautiful reminder of God’s love. He greatly loved Daniel. And He greatly loved us as well (John 3:16).
Reflect – How have you experienced God’s great love for you?
6. Therefore consider the word and the vision – God sent this message to Daniel. At the same time, Daniel had a role to play. His job was to consider the words and the vision carefully. He should pay careful attention and meditate upon the meaning. It was important for Daniel to use his mind and energy in this process and not be a passive spectator.
II. The seventy weeks prophecy (24-27)
Who and what is this prophecy about?
Why is the word “decreed” important and what does it mean?
What do you think the “weeks” represent? Why?
What six things would be accomplished during this timeframe?
What do you think each of these six things refers to? 1. Finish the transgression 2. Put an end to sin 3. Atone for iniquity 4. Bring in everlasting righteousness 5. Seal both vision and prophet 6. Anoint a most holy place
When would the “clock” of these seventy weeks start? When did this happen historically?
What are some of the events that will happen on this prophetic calendar?
Have any of these things been fulfilled yet?
Are any of these things still yet future?
Who is the “he” in verse 27?
What does this prophecy show us about God?
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. The seventy-weeks prophecy – This is one of the most detailed and significant prophesies concerning God’s plan for history in the Bible. It is essential to understand the context of this prophecy. It is given in response to Daniel’s prayer of confession and plea for mercy on behalf of Israel. Daniel had read the prophecy of Jeremiah regarding the restoration of the Jews to Jerusalem. And he was concerned about their apathy, their sin, and their future.
In this prophecy, God told him about what would happen in Israel’s future. Note that Gabriel said that seventy weeks were decreed for “your people.” Thus, we have a clear indicator that this vision is primarily about God’s plan for the Jews. Therefore the “holy city” (Jerusalem) is the focal point for these events.
The literal word in Hebrew, “shavat,” translated as “week,” means “sevens.” It could be used for a day or a year. A literal reading of the text would be, “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city.”
Almost all Bible scholars agree that the “weeks” are seven-year periods. The total time of this prophecy would then cover seventy times seven years, which equals 490 years. The timeline is split into three sections. The first section is seven sevens, which is 49 years. The second section is sixty-two sevens, which is 434 years. And the last section is one seven, which is 7 years.
It is also important to note that each of these years is only 360 days. The prophetic year in the Bible was 360 days, which is also the number of days used by many ancient calendars. John also counts a three-and-a-half year period as being 1260 days (indicating a 360-day year) in Revelation 11:3 and 12:6.
When accounting for the different number of days used in the prophetic year, we arrive at an approximately 476-year period (for the first 69 weeks).
These three periods of time would cover much of God’s future plans for the nation of Israel.
2. The purpose of the seventy weeks – Gabriel lists six things that would be accomplished during this timeline.
• Finish the transgression – This is likely a reference to Israel’s apostasy. The worst transgression anyone can commit is to reject God’s Son. And this is what the nation of Israel did corporately. In fact, the nation of Israel as a group still rejects Jesus as the Messiah. From Romans 11, we know that one day they will repent.
• Put an end to sin – It may be a reference to the final eradication of sin. Or it might refer to Israel’s repentance and turning to accept Jesus as their Messiah, thus ending their national sin of rejecting the Messiah. Or it may be a reference to Christ’s work on the cross, where He took the payment for sin and conquered it. In every interpretation, the main point is that dealing with sin is integral to God’s plan.
• Atone for iniquity – A reference to Christ’s work on the cross.
• Bring in everlasting righteousness – A reference to Him setting up His eternal kingdom. It likely refers to the millennium, which will be established at the end of the final seven-year period.
• Seal both vision and prophet – It might mean to fulfill all of the prophecies made here. Since it will be completed and have already happened, the vision and the prophet will no longer be needed.
• Anoint a most holy place – It may refer to the new temple established in the millennium.
Some of these events are easy to understand. Atoning for iniquity clearly references Jesus’ work on the cross. Some of the others summarize things which will happen before Jesus’ second coming when He sets up His millennial kingdom.
While most of the other visions in Daniel highlight political events and wars, this one shows the spiritual activities which are going on behind the scenes.
Application – God has a purpose for everything He does. His actions are not random. Seeing God’s purpose in history reminds us that He also has a purpose for us. Whatever He allows in your life is intended for a specific reason (Romans 8:28). This passage could encourage the nation of Israel and help them remember that even in hard times God loved them and had a plan for them. The same is true for us.
3. The starting point of the “clock” –
The event which started the clock for these 490 prophetic years is the decree to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem.”
There are several different decrees which were made by Persian kings in regards to Jerusalem. The most famous one was made by Cyrus
2 Chronicles 36:23 – Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’”
However, this decree was that they should go and “build him a house.” The order gave the Jews the right to rebuild the temple.
That occurred at about 539 BC. But it wasn’t a decree to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem.” So we have to keep looking for the starting point.
Another decree was by King Darius to Ezra (Ezra 6:1-12). This law was a re-issuing of Cyrus’ decree permitting them to rebuild the temple, which hadn’t been completed yet. It occurred in roughly 519 BC.
In Nehemiah 2:1-8, King Artaxerxes issues a decree allowing the Jews to rebuild their city, walls, and gates. The dates of this event are clearly recorded (Nehemiah 2:1). We know this happened on March 5th of 444 BC (using the first day of the month for when decrees were counted).
Daniel 9:25 NASB – So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.
After sixty-nine weeks, Messiah the Prince would be “cut off” (9:26).
Going forward sixty-nine 360-day periods takes us to March 30th, 33 AD. Scholars have slight disagreements on when Jesus died. But almost all agree it was between AD 30 and AD 36. The most common accepted date is April 3, AD 33. That would put Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem on March 30th, AD 33. The text says, “after the sixty-two weeks an anointed one will be cut off.” Amazingly, the numbers line up to the day!
This passage has been instrumental in many Jews coming to Christ as they realized that the Messiah had to historically come at the time when Jesus did!
God is indeed sovereign over history. His plans cannot be thwarted.
Isaiah 14:26-27 – This is the purpose that is purposed
concerning the whole earth,
and this is the hand that is stretched out
over all the nations.
For the Lord of hosts has purposed,
and who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
and who will turn it back?
Jesus criticized the Jews because they should have recognized it was the time of the Messiah, but many did not.
Luke 19:41-44 – And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
Some did know and recognized it was the time of the Messiah. Simeon seems to be one. But most did not.
Application – God’s plans cannot be thwarted. His timing is precise. We can confidently rely on His Word. He has fulfilled it before and He will do so again. If the first 483 years happened as He said (and they did), then the last seven will too! Our faith is reasonable and our hope is sure!
4. The “gap” – The text itself shows there is a gap between the sixty-ninth week and the seventieth week. Take note of the word “after.”
Daniel 9:26 – 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.
Two events are described in verse 26, the cutting off of the anointed one and the destruction of the city and its sanctuary. These events do not take place in either the sixty-ninth or seventieth weeks. Rather, they occur after the sixty-ninth week, but not in the seventieth week.
There is a clear gap with at least these two events happening in between.
When were the city of Jerusalem and its temple destroyed?
That happened in AD 70 when Rome, under the reign of Titus, destroyed Jerusalem and desecrated the temple. The Jews were once again dispersed throughout the world. So these two events (the crucifixion of Jesus and the destruction of the temple) are separated by 37 years. Therefore there is at least a thirty-seven-year gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks.
But when you look at the events described in verse 27, they haven’t happened yet. It stands to reason that the gap is still ongoing. The final seven-year period (described in Revelation as well) has not started yet. We live in the gap. The church age is in the gap.
During the 490 years, God primarily dealt with the world through the nation of Israel. They were in some ways the focal point of His work on earth. But during this “gap,” God is primarily dealing with the world through His church, which is mainly made up of Gentiles. Over and over again in the book of Acts, Paul said that because the Jews rejected the gospel, he went to the Gentiles.
It is as if at the end of the sixty-nine weeks, a divine whistle was blown. Because the Jews rejected the Messiah, none of the six things listed in Daniel 9:24 were fulfilled yet (that is why the anointed one had nothing). God turned His attention to the vast harvest field of the Gentiles. We are currently in the “intermission” period before He turns His focus back to the people of Israel and the final week of events is fulfilled.
That is why the age we are in now is often referred to as the “last days.” We are very nearly at the end of this calendar. We don’t know how long it will last. At any moment, God may blow the whistle again, restart the clock, and begin the final week. Once that whistle blows and the clock restarts, it will be only seven years until Jesus returns in glory, having fulfilled all six of the purposes mentioned in Daniel 9:24. Most of the events in the book of Revelation (chapters 4-19) occur within these seven years, often called the “tribulation.”
It should not surprise us that there is a gap. The timeline deals with the Messiah and Israel. And the Messiah’s career is separated into two parts, His first coming as a Lamb, and His second coming as a Lion. In between these two phases of the Messiah’s work is the gap year that we see in Daniel and are now living in.
Application – Be ready. We do not know how long it will be until the whistle blows again and the final series of events before Jesus’ second coming start happening. We should redeem the time and work as long as we can while it is still day (John 9:4).
5. The final week – There is one seven-year period left in this prophecy that hasn’t been fulfilled yet. Some argue that it is actually Jesus making a covenant. But that doesn’t make sense for several reasons. One is that it says the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the temple. It was the Romans who destroyed the temple and not the Jews.
In addition, Jesus did not make a seven-year covenant with anyone. Nor will He ever break a covenant like this “prince” does.
The text identifies the “prince” with the people who destroyed the temple. Therefore he must be of Roman ancestry and from the revived Roman empire that we have seen mentioned several times in Daniel’s vision already.
What will this person do?
He will make a seven-year covenant with “many,” likely a term that refers to the nation of Israel (Daniel 8:25, Revelation 6:1). This peace treaty or covenant will be the time marker that the final seven years have begun.
Halfway through those seven years, he will break the covenant and put an end to the sacrifices and offerings. We this same 3.5-year reference in Revelation (11:2, 13:5).
Putting an end to the sacrifices implies that there will be a future temple in Jerusalem, and indeed many are working very hard to make this happen. It is the top goal of Orthodox Jews and is supported by over one-third of Jews today. Many of the items for a restored temple have already been made and are being stored for when the temple is finished.
In addition, to stopping the sacrifices, this person will desolate the temple with many abominations.
Jesus mentions this prophecy of Daniel.
Matthew 24:15 – So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand).
Paul also mentions this character.
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 – Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
The antichrist will go into the holy temple and proclaim himself to be God.
And numerous references are made to him in Revelation. (Revelation 13:11-15).
The antichrist was foreshadowed by Antiochus Epiphanes (175 BC). But the character in Daniel 9:27 is not him. We know this because Jesus talked of him as still being in the future (Matthew 24:15-16).
6. How will it end? –
Daniel 9:27 – Until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.
Gabriel makes it clear that this usurper will be punished. He will be punished exactly as God determines at exactly the time that God determines it.
Truth does not change. And the plan of God that we see in Daniel, we also see in Revelation.
Revelation 19:20 – And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.
How does it all end?
God wins! That is the comfort for Daniel and the Jewish people. They would endure many trials and tribulations over the centuries. A target would be painted on their backs. But when all is said and done, God’s perfect plans for them (Jeremiah 29:11) would come to pass. He wins. And all of those who join His team also win.
Application – Be strengthened in your hope. God’s Word will not fail. All that we hope for in the future will one day be a reality. Stand firm and don’t compromise with the world. The things we see are temporary and don’t last. The things we don’t see are eternal.