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How does one understand the 70 week prophecy in Daniel 9? When does the decree to rebuild Jerusalem take place, and how do you interpret the "seven weeks; and for threescore and two weeks" from that time until the coming of the "anointed one; a prince"? Is the anointed one/prince the Messiah? If so, does that mean the Messiah is to die (be cut off; and be no more)? And how does one interpret the 70th week in this chapter?

I know it's a lot of questions, but hopefully it can be treated like one big question hehe. If it must be broken down into several smaller questions, please let me know and I can do so.

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Just realized that no one's welcomed you here yet. So welcome to judaism.SE and thank you for this very important question. I hope you gain the insight your looking for and stick around to ask/answer more questions. –  jake Jan 13 '12 at 2:29
    
Thanks jake :) Happy to be here –  Shredder Jan 13 '12 at 18:30
    
It would good if no one removed their answers once posted. All views, whether right or wrong, will be beneficial for everyone, and I think that's important :) Thx! Also I think it would help with reiterations of answers. –  Shredder Jan 13 '12 at 18:52
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3 Answers

I suggest you read the end of this article by R' Yisroel Blumenthal. The content is intended to be anti-missionary, but nonetheless gives the interpretation of Jewish commentators. (Note that rarely is there actual consensus among Jewish commentators to the Bible, especially with interpretations of vague visions such as this one, but in this case the one that is offered is, I think, a common one, and one that has not been proven wrong by the Messiah not arriving at a predicted year.)

Instead of posting the entire thing here, I will respond to your specific questions in light of the interpretation presented there:

  • All "weeks" are periods of seven years. The seventy weeks are divided into the first seven and then the following sixty-two weeks. (Numbers are rounded by week.) Thus, the sixty-two weeks in 9:25 is actually part of the seventy mentioned immediately before it. The first seven "weeks" are from the "going out of the word" of Jeremiah, when he prophecied about the rebuilding of Jerusalem until the reign of Cyrus, when said prophecy was able to be realized. The remaining sixty-two week period is from that point until the second Temple was destroyed, during which the city of Jerusalem was rebuilt (although not to the point of its former glory).
  • The "anointed one" in 9:25 is different from the one in 9:26. The former refers to Cyrus and the latter to the last kohen gadol (high priest) to serve in the second Temple.
  • The last week referred to in 9:27 is the last week of the sixty-two week period mentioned above. The verse describes the events of those seven years.
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Note that the word for "week" in Hebrew is not as arbitrary as it is in English. The word shavua relates to a set of seven and is commonly used to refer to a week, but is not limited to such. –  YDK Jan 13 '12 at 0:25
    
That can't be right. A prophecy to rebuild the temple is different that an actual decree to rebuild Jerusalem. –  Shredder Jan 13 '12 at 0:57
    
@Shredder, Where do you see "decree"? Are you referring to "מֹצָא דָבָר"? If so, it translates something like "going out of the word", which could refer to prophecy just as much (and in my mind more so) than a decree. –  jake Jan 13 '12 at 1:44
    
Well, I was referring to this. But then being unsure of its originality/accuracy, I asked this question. Either way, that prophecy is for the rebuilding of the Temple and not the entire city of Jerusalem. –  Shredder Jan 13 '12 at 1:50
    
(A) I'm afraid that the translation in your link is biased. This is what I meant when I wrote that translation is a form of interpretation. "Davar" usually means "spoken word" or "thing". The Hebrew word for "command" is more likely "tzivui". (B) I apologize for the confusion. IIRC, Jeremiah's prophecy does indeed refer to the rebuilding of Jerusalem (as it mentions in the article). I will fix that. Either way, often "rebuilding Jerusalem" is a phrase used to mean reconstructing the Temple. –  jake Jan 13 '12 at 2:11
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In HeiKhalot Rabbati, R. Ishmael says that the 70 weeks refers to 700 years.

[137] Said Rabbi Ishmael: And even as Daniel explained I found written [Daniel 9.24] “Seventy weeks are decreed upon Thy people and upon Thy holy city to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins and to make reconciliation for iniquity and to bring in everlasting righteousness and to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Holy of Holies.” And these seventy weeks be a sign for seven hundred years, and when these do come to their end they shall end at even{ing}, and straightway shall come the light, for it is said [Zachariah 14.7] “And it shall come to pass that at evening time there shall be light.”

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A few notes about the Book of Daniel.

  1. In the Jewish tradition, the book of Daniel is in the category known as "writings" and not in the section of "prophets". There are many possible reasons for this, but one of them is that the prophecy of Daniel is not always meant to be understood by every generation.

  2. There is a statement in Jewish thought that when it comes to prophecy of the end times only the generation in which the events happen will know what they truly mean.

  3. It is warned that one should never try to calculate the end times. It's been done many times before, and so far everyone has been proven wrong. Each generation has the potential to be the generation of the Moshiach. Therefore the book of Daniel is a great book for each generation and person to speculate about. Nobody will know what the true meaning of Daniel is until the events pass and become clear to all.

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While it's true that no one can know for sure what the prophecies of Daniel refer to until they are realized, that should not deter anyone from studying and striving to understand all of the Tanach. –  jake Jan 13 '12 at 16:57
    
Jewish categorization of God's word has no importance, neither does Jewish thoughts on God's word. Jews are men, and God's word is to be taken for what it is, not what men think it is. I believe the book of Daniel has many amazing prophecies, including what happened to King Neb. and also the hand writing on the wall. You can't deny that those are amazing prophecies, not simple words and writings. Also, I believe all of God's words are meant for the understanding of any given generation. –  Shredder Jan 13 '12 at 18:27
    
By King Neb. I mean the one where he is driven to the wilderness. These are prophecies that were fulfilled within the book itself. –  Shredder Jan 13 '12 at 18:40
    
@Shredder what makes you think that anything in the book of Daniel is 'God's word'? –  avi Jan 14 '12 at 15:48
    
@Jake Yes, I said as much in the third bullet point. –  avi Jan 14 '12 at 15:48
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