In Daniel 8 the prophet was shown a vision of a ram that represented the Medo-Persian Empire, followed by a goat that represented the Greek Empire, first under Alexander the Great (a "notable horn") and then as the divided Hellenistic kingdoms ("four notable horns"). Finally a little horn that became huge, representing first pagan and then papal Rome, attacked the "daily sacrifices" and the "sanctuary." This vision parallels and covers the same span of history as the visions of chapter 2 (the multi-metal image), chapter 7 (the four beasts and the little horn) and chapter 11 (the Kings of the North and South), with each separate vision providing a slightly different perspective and additional details.

After presenting the span of history, verse 13 asks a crucial question: “How long will the vision be?” Verse 14 gives what at first appears to be a cryptic answer: “For 2,300 days, then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” At this time the sanctuary in Jerusalem was in ruins, and Daniel and many of the Jewish people were in captivity in Babylon, hoping that God would make it possible for them to return and rebuild the temple and Jerusalem. It was obvious from the sweeping context of the vision, with the rise and fall of three empires, a major attack on the daily sacrifices and the cleansing of a sanctuary that had not even been built yet, that 2,300 days (just over 6 years) was not nearly enough time for all of that to happen. The vision began in Daniel’s day with “the kings of Media and Persia” but was to extend “to the time of the end” (Daniel 8:20, 17). No doubt Daniel understood the day-for-a-year principle, and the thought that the temple would not be “cleansed” or restored for 2,300 years was so overwhelming that “I, Daniel, fainted and was sick for days… I was astonished by the vision” (Daniel 8:27).

The angel Gabriel had been sent to Daniel to interpret the vision to him— “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision” (Daniel 8:16). Gabriel had carefully explained the identity of the ram and the goat, and had elaborated on the destructive activity of the great horn. But he did not explain the meaning of the statement, “For two thousand three hundred days [literally evenings and mornings]; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” He had only said, “The vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true” (v. 26). But this was the crucial point that Daniel felt that he needed to understand, and it caused him great distress— “I was astonished by the vision, but no one understood it” (v. 27).

Chapter 9 is a continuation of Daniel 8. As Daniel later reviewed the prophecies of Jeremiah concerning the restoration of the temple and Jerusalem he learned that “the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolation of Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:2). There was a huge discrepancy between the 70 years of Jeremiah and the 2,300 years that his vision had indicated, and Daniel likely feared that the continuing unfaithfulness of his people had caused God to prolong the time. Daniel humbled himself and appealed to God’s great mercy—“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes, and I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession” (v. 3).

In answer to his prayers God sent “the man [angel] Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning” (Daniel 9:21). His stated purpose was to help Daniel to “understand the vision” (v. 23), in other words, to complete the explanation of the vision that he had begun in chapter 8. Two important points should be kept in mind: 1) Gabriel’s purpose in returning was to finish the explanation of the vision in chapter 8 (and the portion that Daniel had not understood was the 2,300 days and the cleansing of the sanctuary), and 2) Daniel’s main concern had to do with his people, the Jews, and his city, Jerusalem.

In Gabriel’s interpretation of the vision of chapter 8 he had used two different Hebrew words for vision, and these help us understand what he was explaining in chapter 9. The first word, chazon, was used to talk about the vision as a whole—“How long will the vision [chazon] be concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” (Daniel 8:13).

The second word for vision, mareh, was used to talk about the aspect of the vision which had to do with the two thousand three hundred days—“And the vision [mareh] of the evenings and mornings which was told is true” (v. 26).

It was the mareh (the meaning of the 2,300 days) that Daniel had not understood, so God sent Gabriel to him again— “Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision [chazon] at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. And he informed me and talked with me and said, ‘O Daniel I have now come forth to give you skill to understand…therefore consider the matter and understand the vision [mareh]” (Daniel 9:21-23). Notice that Daniel referred to a vision in which Gabriel had appeared “at the beginning,” in other words, the vision of Daniel 8. Notice also that when Gabriel said that he wanted to help Daniel “understand the vision,” he had not used the word for the whole vision (chazon) but instead he had used the word mareh that referred to the part of the vision concerning “the evenings and mornings” (the 2,300 days).

From this it is obvious that it was the 2,300 days that Gabriel specifically wanted to explain. But strangely, rather than talking about the 2,300 days, he explained that there would be “seventy weeks [which] are determined (literally ‘cut off’)[1] for your people [the Jews]” (v. 24). This addressed Daniel’s main concern (for his people and his city), but since Gabriel’s purpose was to explain the meaning of the 2,300 days, the obvious implication is that the seventy weeks (490 days) that were cut off for the Jews were cut off from the 2,300 days. This means that the starting point of the seventy weeks would also be the beginning of the 2,300 days.[2]

The 2300 days are prophetic days[3] in which each prophetic day represents one year, so when the angel mentioned 70 weeks he was actually referring to 490 years which were “determined” for the Jews.[4] The 490 years were to begin with “the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem” which was given by Artaxerxes in 457 BC (Daniel 9:25, Ezra 7:6-8, 12-26, 6:14).[5] The longer period of 2,300 years would also start in 457 BC. Some simple arithmetic shows that the 2,300 years ended in AD 1844. At that time the cleansing of the sanctuary, (which is the same as the "investigative judgment") would begin.

Admittedly, the vision of Daniel 8 with the 2,300 days is one of the most challenging in scripture to understand. What follows is another approach that may clarify some points. The time period designated by 2,300 “evenings and mornings” (Hebrew ereb boqer) in Daniel 8:14, 26 is at first frustrating because no beginning point is given. A careful study of chapter 8 and 9 together shows that chapter 9 (the prophecy of 70 weeks) is an explanation of chapter 8 that includes the beginning point for both prophecies. It is perhaps somewhat clearer if the two prophecies are studied starting with chapter 9 first and then applying it to chapter 8.

  1. The “seventy weeks [which] are determined for your [Daniel's] people [the Jews]” extend “from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince [Jesus]” (Daniel 9:24).

  2. The “command to restore and build Jerusalem” could be the decree of Cyrus, Darius or Artaxerxes (Ezra 6:14). Cyrus reigned after defeating Babylon from 536-529. Darius reigned from 521-486. Artaxerxes reigned from 465-423.

  3. “Until Messiah” could refer to Jesus’ birth (4 or 3 BC), His baptism (27 AD) or His crucifixion (31 AD).

  4. Seventy literal weeks (490 days) obviously do not extend from the 5th or 6th century BC until the time of Christ, but 490 years is the appropriate time frame.

  5. The 490 years specified could only fit with the decree of Artaxerxes, because the decree “in the first year of Cyrus (536 BC)” plus 490 years extends to 46 BC, and the decree in “the second year of the reign of Darius (Ezra 4:24)” plus 490 years extends to 30 BC, both of these dates being significantly before the Messiah.

  6. The prophecy of Daniel 9 actually specifies that from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah will be “seven weeks and sixty two weeks” (a total of 69 weeks or 483 days/years).

  7. Artaxerxes' decree “went forth” in the seventh year of his reign, 457 BC (Ezra 7:6-9, 11-25).

  8. 457 BC plus 483 years extends to 27 AD, the year of Christ’s baptism.

  9. That these are the right dates is confirmed by the following 2 points:

    1. The 483 years would extend until “the Messiah,” which means the anointed one. Jesus was anointed to his ministry at his baptism.

    2. In the midst of the next week (the 70th week) the Messiah was to be “cut off but not for Himself” (Daniel 9:26), a phrase that refers to His death on the cross for sinful humanity. This event would “bring an end to sacrifice and offering”, in other words, it would end the sacrificial system. This also took place with the sacrifice of Jesus, as evidenced by the torn curtain in the temple (Matthew 15:38). Jesus was indeed crucified “in the middle of the (70th) week” in 31 AD, 3 ½ years after His baptism in 27 AD.

  10. The time prophecy of 70 weeks/490 years was not an isolated prophecy, but is directly related to another prophecy:

    1. According to Daniel 9:24, the 70 weeks were determined, literally “cut off.” So the 490 years were cut off from another longer period of time.

    2. The explanation by Gabriel concerning the 70 weeks was given so that he could “understand the vision” (Daniel 9:22,23), in other words, as an explanation of a previous vision. The question is, what period is the 70 weeks cut off of, and what vision was Gabriel explaining with the 70 weeks?

  11. The same angel, Gabriel, had appeared in the vision of chapter 8, and had been given the command, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision” (Daniel 8:16). But he had not succeeded in his mission—at the end of the vision Daniel admitted, “I was astonished by the vision, but no one could understand it” (Daniel 8:27).

  12. Gabriel had successfully explained most of the vision of chapter 8 concerning Persia, Greece, the little horn and the desolation of God’s people and the place of His sanctuary. The only part of the vision that wasn’t explained was the part about the “evenings and mornings,” in other words, the 2,300 days (Daniel 8:26).

  13. The obvious conclusion is that the 70 weeks prophecy was an explanation of the 2300 days. It would be logical to use one time prophecy to explain or clarify another.

  14. The mystery of the 2,300 days was its starting point. A starting point was given in the 70 weeks prophecy (the decree to rebuild Jerusalem). This would also explain what the 70 weeks were cut off from—they were the part of the 2,300 days that applied to the Jews.

  15. The 70 weeks prophecy remarkably confirmed that the “days” in these prophecies refer to years. This is also confirmed by the fact that the 2,300 days were to extend from the time of the Persian Empire until “the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17, 19-26).

  16. With a starting date of 457 BC, the 2,300 years extend to AD 1844.[6]

  17. A careful comparison of the visions of Daniel chapters 8 and 7 shows that they are covering the same empires and the same events. The little horn of chapter 8 is the same as the little horn of chapter 7.

  18. In chapter 7 the little horn would rise up after the demise of the Roman Empire (the end of the 5th century AD) and would exercise oppressive authority for “a time, times and half a time.” A comparison with Revelation 12:6, 13-17 shows that time, times and half a time is the same as 1,260 days. Again, the time frame shows that these are years rather than literal days. Starting in the early 6th century AD, the 1260 years would extend until the end of the 18th century.

  19. After the 1,260 years the judgment would begin—“the court shall be seated (Daniel 7:25,26, 8-11, 21,22).

  20. The link between the end of the 2,300 years in chapter 8 which initiated the cleansing of the sanctuary and the end of the 1,260 years of Daniel 7 followed by the judgment are obvious—these are the same event. Thus the cleansing of the sanctuary that begins in 1844 is the judgment that takes place in Heaven.

  21. This is the judgment that is announced in Revelation 14:6, “The hour of His judgment has come.”

  22. Obviously this is an invisible judgment, not the time when individuals will stand before the throne, because the angel announces to people living on earth that the hour of judgment has already come (the Greek word is hilthen, it came).

  23. The obvious question over 170 years later is, what is taking so long? Does God need so much time to make up His mind? But, as we saw in chapter 14,

    1. The judgment is not for God’s sake, but for the sake of the rest of the universe who will have to live for eternity with the results.

    2. There is a lot involved in the judgment, including the vindication of God Himself.

    3. One of the most important and time-consuming aspects is the preparation of the witnesses (the parallel is the book of Job where Job was a witness for God against accusations and claims by Satan).

  24. Why is this important?

    1. Satan’s attacks are increasingly vicious and seemingly successful as we approach the end of time because “the devil has come down to you having great wrath because he knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12:12). The knowledge that we are in the very last phase of history helps God’s people have the courage to hold on.

    2. The knowledge that prophecies given over 2000 years ago show that the judgment is proceeding right now is a powerful incentive for people who have been spiritually indifferent to wake up and make a decision concerning God’s invitation.

Continue to next section: APPENDIX 6

[1] “This verb appears only in the passive stem (Niphal), and only in Daniel 9:24, the famous "seventy weeks" passage. In rabbinic Hebrew the root µtk basically means "cut," hence the translation "decreed" in most versions." (See Marcus Jastrow, Dictionary of the Targtimin, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, I, Pardes, 1950, p. 513.).

[2] The prophecy of seventy weeks was no doubt given to reassure Daniel that his people, the Jews, would not have to wait for the completion of the 2,300 years to return from Babylon.

[3] The day-for-a-year principle is obvious from the prophecies of Daniel. For example, the seventy weeks (490 days) of Daniel 9 was to start with “the command to restore and build Jerusalem” (which was in 457 BC) and would extend “until Messiah the Prince” (Jesus) (Daniel 9:25). The prophecy of 2,300 days in chapter 8 began with “the kings of Media and Persia” (the Persian kings reigned in the 6th and 5th centuries BC) and would extend “to the time of the end” (Daniel 8:20,17). The prophecy of “time, times and half a time” (1,260 days) in chapter 7 began at the time of the breakup of the pagan Roman Empire and extended “until the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” (Daniel 7:22). All these prophecies started in ancient times and continued the number of years the prophecy specified in days. Other scriptural support for this principle is found in Numbers 14:34, Ezekiel 4:5,6, Job 10:5, Psalm 77:5.

[4] For more information about the 70 weeks prophecy see Appendix 4 The Secret Rapture.

[5] There were three decrees concerning the Jews returning from their captivity in Babylon. The first was by Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4) given in 536 BC, which only concerned building the temple. The 69 weeks (483 years) of the prophecy which were to extend “until Messiah the Prince” would only reach to 53 BC starting from 536 BC, long before “the Messiah,” Jesus. Darius issued the second decree in 520 BC (Ezra 4:24, 6:1-12) so the 69 weeks would only extend to 37 BC, also before the Messiah. Moreover, the decree of Darius only provided for building the temple. The third decree was given by Artaxerxes. The text of the decree is in Ezra 7:12-26 and it allowed the Jews to do “whatever seems good to you and your brethren to do…whatever is commanded by the God of heaven” (Ezra 7:18,23) which could include restoring Jerusalem and the wall, as specified in the prophecy. The “going forth of the command” occurred when Ezra left Babylon with the decree and went to Jerusalem “in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes” (Ezra 7:7). This has been archaeologically proven to be 457 BC (See Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, [Grand Rapids, MI Zondervan Publishing, 1973, p. 579). Sixty-nine weeks, starting from 457 BC, extends to 27 AD, the year Jesus was “anointed” at His baptism (Messiah means anointed).

[6] When calculating keep in mind that historians never count a year “0”; 1BC goes directly to 1 AD.