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Topic: Theology Proper

Daniel's 173,880 Days

by Darrel Cline

To follow up on the article "The Biblical Apologetic", (313) here is the biblical presentation of the prophecy of 173,880 days from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the identification of Messiah.

In Daniel 9:25 we are told that there will be "seven weeks and sixty-two weeks" from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince. The key question is: how long is a "week"?

In Daniel 9:27 we are told that a coming prince will make a covenant for "one week", but that he will put a stop to the sacrifice in the middle of that week. This will result in the "abomination" that makes desolate. This verse tells us that the "one week" is divided into two parts by an event called the "abomination". This means that we now have an event that is in the middle of a "week".

In Daniel 12:6 Daniel asks about the length of time involved in these prophecies. He is given three answers. The first is in 12:7 and it is given in terms of "a time, times, and half a time". The second answer is given in 12:11 where Daniel is told "from the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1290 days". Then, in 12:12 he is told "How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1335 days!". The point here is that these three lengths of time are related to each other. The "times, time, and half a time" is a period somewhat shorter than the 1290 days, but included within it, and the 1290 days is somewhat shorter than the 1335 days, but included within it. The question is still: How long is a "week"? But now we have a part of an answer because the abomination of desolation was to occur in the "midst" of one week (9:27). Since that abomination is the marker for the beginning of the 1290 days (12:11), and "all these events will be completed in a "time, times, and half a time" (12:7), there is at least a rough equivalent between "half a week", "time, times, and half a time", and 1290 days. If you are confused at this point, hang in here with me.

In Revelation 12:6, a "woman" flees into a place that God has prepared for her so that she might be nourished for 1260 days. In Revelation 12:14, this same woman is persecuted by a dragon and she flees to a wilderness to be nourished for a "time, times, and half a time".

With Daniel's reference to a "half-week" being tied to a period known as "time, times, and half a time" and Revelation's telling us that a "time, times, and half a time" is 1260 days, we have a definite length of time for a week. If half a week is 1260 days, a whole week is 2520 days.

Now let's return to Daniel 9:25 where we were told that there would be "seven weeks and sixty-two weeks" between the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and Messiah. Daniel had a reason for dividing the period into one period of seven and another of sixty-two, but the entire period is sixty-nine "weeks" long. So how long is sixty-nine weeks? Answer: 69 * 2520 = 173,880 days.

That brings us to the question of the post-Daniel date of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem that was to be the beginning of the march of these days. That decree is given to us in Nehemiah 2:5. Nehemiah wrote his book sometime in the second quarter of the fifth century B.C. (445-425 B.C.). This was somewhere around 100 years after Daniel's prophecy was given in the first year of Darius the Mede (538 B.C.). See Daniel 9:1. Nehemiah tells us specifically when the decree was given: "the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes..." (Nehemiah 2:1). The month Nisan corresponds to an overlap of our months March and April. According to Collier's Encyclopedia, Xerxes was assassinated in 465 B.C. and there was a struggle of several months before Artaxerxes took the throne. That would make the twentieth year of Artaxerxes an overlap of 445 B.C. and 444 B.C. So, the Nisan of which Nehemiah wrote was in 444 B.C. and the first of that month was the 5th of March by our calendar. So, with this information, we have a beginning point for the march of days in the prophecy of 173,880 days.

We know that Jesus was acclaimed "Messiah" on the day of the Triumphal Entry (the original Palm Sunday) as recorded in the Gospels. Though there has been enough confusion about the date of Christ's entrance into Jerusalem and His subsequent death to fill several books, it is now fairly assured that Jesus' Palm Sunday occurred on March 30 in 33 A.D. [There is an extremely well-developed argument for this date in a series of articles in Bibleotheca Sacra by Dr. Harold Hoehner of Dallas Theological Seminary for your further reading as your interest requires. The material is also contained in a book by Dr. Hoehner entitled Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ, published by Zondervan in 1977]. So, all we have to do to see if Jesus' identification as Messiah fulfills the prophecy is the math. Since our calendars operate on solar years of 365.24219879 days, and since from March 5, 444 B.C. to March 5, 33 A.D. is 476 solar years, all we have to do is multiply 476 * 365.24219879 to get 173,855 days. Then all we have to do is add the 25 days from March 5, 33 A.D. to March 30, A.D. (173,855 + 25 = 173,880).

The only fly in this ointment is the question of how 444 B.C. to 33 A.D. equals 476 solar years rather than 477. Again, Collier's Encyclopedia comes to our aid because in its article on Calendars, it tells us that Christ was reckoned by Dionysius (the originator of our calendar) to have been born in the winter of the year 1 A.D., which began on January 1. That means there was no year "0". From Jan. 1, 1 A.D. backwards to Jan. 1, 444 B.C. was 444 years, and from Jan. 1, 1 A.D. to Jan. 1, 33 A.D. was 32 years (Jan. 1 means you have just begun to count the year, so Jan. 1, 33 is a full 32 years and 1 day). Thus, 444 + 32 is 476. We are actually working from March instead of January, but the math is the same. Then, from March 5 to March 30 is an additional 25 days.

This is a legitimate mathematical and date-specific reality that the scoffers and apostates hate, but it does show that the prophecy that was given in 538 B.C., begun in 444 B.C. and fulfilled precisely in 33 A.D. is accurate to the day. Now, there is always room for some skepticism, but the question concerns the direction of our skepticism. Should we be skeptical about possible variations of human dating methods, or should we be skeptical about the legitimacy of the prophecy? Since the date of Artaxerxes' decree to rebuild Jerusalem is a fairly solid date, it makes sense to simply count from that date forward 173,880 days. That will bring us to March 30, 33 A.D. Since those who argue for a 32 A.D. date for Christ's crucifixion do so on dubious bases, toward whom should we be most skeptical? It would be remarkable to most men that the prophecy came anywhere close, so it is not a surprise that an exact fulfillment is more than remarkable to most folks. However, given the fact that 173,880 days is pretty specific, and given that the date for Christ's entrance into Jerusalem has credible foundations for occurring in 33 A.D., ought we be at least open-minded? Isaiah's "apologetic" for the identity of the true God was that He could give specific prophecy of long duration that would be precisely fulfilled--proving that He is God because He is omniscient and capable of giving accurate prediction of future events. Because this information has been widely disseminated--so much so that it even showed up in the Easter 1998 comic strips--it leaves the scoffers and rebels without excuse. They may twist and turn trying to unravel this truth, but the final fact is that God has given Himself a solid witness that no one can legitimately reject.

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This is article #314.
If you wish, you may contact Darrel as darrelcline at this site.