Seventy-Sevens Divided

The angel divided the period of “seventy weeks” into three divisions - the initial period of “seven weeks,” the second of “sixty-two weeks,” and the final segment of “one week.” The latter is subdivided further into two “half weeks.” And at the start of the prophecy, the angel listed six redemptive goals that must be achieved by the end of all seventy “weeks.”

The angel Gabriel began his explanation by declaring that the “seventy weeks are divided” for Jerusalem and for its people:

  • (Daniel 9:24) - “Weeks, seventy have been divided upon your people and upon your holy city to put an end to the transgression, to seal up sin, to cover iniquity and to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the holy of holies.”


Elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, the term “sevens” or shabua refers either to seven-day weeks or to time periods divided into seven segments. Here, the text reads literally, “seventy-sevens” - (Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:9).

The prophetic period of “seventy-sevens” is based on the earlier prophecy in Jeremiah concerning the seventy years of Judah’s captivity. The book of Chronicles interprets the period as the fulfillment of a warning to Israel found in Leviticus. And in Daniel, the period of “seventy weeks” represents seven weeks of years or a total of 490 years.

  • (Leviticus 26:33-35) - “And you will I scatter among the nations, and I will draw out the sword after you. And your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste. THEN SHALL THE LAND ENJOY ITS SABBATHS, as long as it lies desolate, and you are in your enemies’ land; even then will the land rest and enjoy its Sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall have rest, even the rest which it had not in your Sabbaths when you dwelt upon it” - (See 2 Chronicles 36:19-21, Jeremiah 25:10-13, Daniel 9:1-2).

In the clause “seventy-sevens are divided,” the term rendered “divided” represents a Hebrew verb found only here in the Bible which has the basic sense of “cut, divide, partition” (hathak – Strong’s - #H2852).

And that is exactly what the angel proceeded to do, dividing the total number into three subdivisions of “seven,” “sixty-two,” and “one.” As he explained, the period of “seventy sevens” or 490 years was needed to complete the promised restoration. The mere trickle of Jews that began returning to Jerusalem after the decree by Cyrus was only the beginning of a much longer process.

The start of the “seventy weeks” coincided with the prophetic word “to restore and to build Jerusalem.” The nation's restoration was in view, not its punishment. This distinguishes the period of “seventy-sevens” from the original pronouncement of captivity in Babylon for seventy years.

Israel remained “desolate” for seventy years, but Jerusalem would be restored by the end of the “seventy-sevens” or 490-year period. The two periods are related. They have the same starting point and begin to unfold concurrently, but their end goals differ. One period is to punish Jerusalem, and the other is to restore it.


The “seventy-sevens” are “divided.” Six redemptive goals must be achieved by the end of the period. To describe them, the angel uses six infinitive clauses in the Hebrew text to present a single pair of predictions, and each pair consists of three parts, as follows:

  • TO PUT AN END TO THE TRANSGRESSIONto seal up sin, and to cover iniquity.
  • TO BRING IN EVERLASTING RIGHTEOUSNESSto seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the holy of holies.

The first half deals with sin, and the second with restoration. In the first section, the second and third parts correspond to the second and third parts of the second half; that is, to “seal up sin” corresponds to “seal up vision and prophecy, and to “cover iniquity” parallels the “anointing of the holy of holies.”

All six goals are redemptive. Again, the purpose is restoration, not destruction. The first and last goals are the more important ones - “to finish the transgression,” and “to anoint the holy of holies.” This is indicated by their position as the first and last parts of the series.

In the Hebrew text, “the transgression” is singular and definite - it is “the” transgression, something that is specific and known. The Hebrew noun pesha or “transgression” occurs in Daniel only here and in the vision of the goat with a “little horn”:

  • (Daniel 8:12-13) - “Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who spoke, How long shall be the vision concerning the continual burnt-offering, and THE TRANSGRESSION THAT DESOLATES, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?”

In chapter 8, this “transgression cast truth to the ground” and profaned the sanctuary. This occurred on the orders of the “little horn,” the “king of fierce countenance” who “destroyed the holy people” - (Daniel 8:9, 8:23-25).

The clause “to finish” the transgression represents the Hebrew verb kala - (Strong’s - #H3607). The term more correctly means to “restrict, restrain, confine.” In other words, “to shut up the transgression” and restrain it from causing more destruction.

And “to seal up sin” is to remove it from view, to conceal it, an idea that dovetails with “restraining” the transgression. Sin is to be removed from the sight of God and set aside.

To cover iniquity” alludes to the collective sin of Israel that necessitated the Captivity. “Cover” translates the Hebrew kâphar - (Strong’s - #H3722), meaning, to “cover over, to overlay,” as was done when bitumen or pitch was applied to the outer surface of Noah’s Ark - (Genesis 6:14).

In the Levitical system, to “cover over” sin was to atone for it, and this was done with animal sacrifices that expiated the stain and guilt of sin.

In his prayer in the first half of the chapter, Daniel acknowledged that the captivity came upon Israel so “we might turn from our iniquities,” and he supplicated God to turn His anger away from Jerusalem. The nation had endured punishment “for our sins and for the iniquities of our fathers.”

To bring in everlasting righteousness” describes an act of redemption. In chapter 8, the profanation of the sanctuary was to continue until it was “justified.” This translates the Hebrew verb tsadaq - (Strong’s - #H6664), which is related to the noun used here for “righteousness.” It refers to the restoration of the sanctuary to a state of holiness.

To seal up vision and prophecy.” This clause employs the same verb used in the clause, “seal up sin” (hatham). The same word was used when Daniel was told to “shut up the words and seal the book, even to later days.” That is, to close or “seal” something until the designated time - (Daniel 12:4).


The clause, “to anoint the holy of holies,” represents the Hebrew phrase qodesh qadashim, a combination of the singular and plural forms of qodesh or “holy,” the same noun rendered “holy place” or “holy of holies” in Daniel 8:13.

Elsewhere, the term “holy of holies” is applied to the altar of burnt offerings (Exodus 29:37), the altar of incense (Exodus 30:10), the Tabernacle (Numbers 4:4), the show-bread (Leviticus 24:9), the flesh of sin offerings (Leviticus 6:17-25, 7:1-6), things devoted to Yahweh (Leviticus 27:28), and the inner sanctum of the Temple (Exodus 26:33-34, 1 Kings 7:50, 8:6, 1 Chronicles 6:49, 2 Chronicles 5:7, Ezekiel 45:3).

Consistently, the term “holy of holies” is applied to objects, NOT persons. And here, it refers either to the inner sanctum of the Temple or to the altar of burnt offerings that was defiled by the “little horn.” In context, “to anoint the holy of holies” means to consecrate or re-consecrate either the sanctuary or the altar.

We must remember that the “seventy-sevens” are “divided upon your people and upon your holy city,” that is, the city of Jerusalem. The goal is to restore it and to rededicate the “Holy Place” by the end of the “seventy weeks,” presumably, the period of 490 years.



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