Monday, February 02, 2009

Re: Daniel's 70 weeks: interpretation of the Hebrew word for `Weeks'


Thank you for your message. As per my stated policy about

[Above (click to enlarge): The victory spoils from the sack of Jerusalem in AD 70, Arch of Titus, Rome: Wikipedia. Most Christian commentators have interpreted (as I do):

"The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary" (Dn 9:26)

as a prediction by Daniel in 539/538 BC of this destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by a Roman army led by Titus Vespasian in AD 70. And therefore Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks was completely fulfilled by AD 70.]

when I receive a private message on a topic covered by one of my blogs, I will respond to your message via my CED blog, after removing your personal identifying information. Your words are bold to distinguish them from my response. Also, since you have used red to emphasis some of your words below, I will use green to emphasise some of mine.

----- Original Message ---- -
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2009 12:53 AM
Subject: Daniel's 70 weeks

>I've looked at your blog every now and then over the years. Recently I was sent a version of Daniel's 70 weeks (Dan 9:24-27) by a friend that I had never heard before.

You don't mention it, but I assume you are aware of my 2008 blog post, "Re: I am requesting your help involving Daniel 9:24-27," which in turn refers to my 2005 post, "Daniel's 70 `weeks': Proof that Naturalism is false and Christianity is true!."

I haven't mentioned it before, but since October 2008 I have been working steadily on a book on Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks. The first part of the book, is an exegesis of every Hebrew word in Dan 9:24-27. Currently I am almost at the end of verse 27, but I am going to go back to verse 24 again to re-check my exegesis in the light of the "Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon" (1996), which I have only had since December.

As this post shows, it is essential to first find out what the words of this prophecy actually say , before attempting to interpret and apply the prophecy to historical persons, events and times.

>I have never really been drawn to this particular prophecy as all of the interpretations never felt quite right, so I ignored it.

Presumably that includes my interpretation? You don't say what interpretations of Daniel's seventy weeks you have considered and what your criteria for an interpretation being "quite right" is. Although from what you say below about a "very timely prophecy," I assume you think that the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy should be in the near future?

>Until now. Anyway, now the light bulb is on. If it's not too much trouble could I get you to take a quick look at it. I would like your opinion
>I believe they are a Messianic Church out of OK

Thanks for the link. I read the interpretation there, but there is too much to respond to. So I will only respond to that part of it mentioned in your words about it below.

>Of most interest to me is the interpretation of the Hebraic word for "Weeks" or Shavuot.

According to my four Hebrew lexicons, the website is simply wrong in its central claim that "the Hebrew word Shabuwa" means "a period of Seven and also Feast of Weeks":

The word weeks was translated from the Hebrew word Shabuwa meaning a period of Seven and also Feast of Weeks, one of the seven Feasts of the Lord:
SHABUWA (shaw-boo'-ah); Noun Masculine, Strong #: 7620: seven, period of seven (days or years), heptad, week; Feast of Weeks (Shavuot)
In the original Hebrew, Shabuwa is in plural form; meaning FeastS of Weeks rather than only one Feast of Weeks. This verse reads: "Seventy Shabuwas or Shavuots are determined." (Daniel's Timeline Report, 19 November 2007).

The fundamental error above is the ignoring (or not even realising) that Strong's Concordance does not give the meaning of every Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek word, but only of every root word:

"... in Strong's Concordance ... Not every distinct word is assigned a number, but only the root words. " ("Strong's Concordance," Wikipedia, 3 January 2009).

The concordance itself, at least in its modern version I have, must share most of the blame for not making it very clear that it's claim to "index... every word" (e.g. on its rear cover) only applies to every English word in the KJV Bible (or other English translation), not every Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek word underlying those English words.

Thus my Strong's concordance book has the following listing under "week," all of which have the same number 7620 ("w" is "weeks" abbreviated below and some ending words are truncated):

"WEEKS thou shalt observe the feast of w Ex 34:22 ... then she shall be unclean two w Lev 12:5 ... the LORD, after your w be ou Num 28:28 ... Seven w shalt thou number unto Deut 16:9 ... seven w from such time as thou Deut 16:9 ... Of w unto the Lord thy God with a Deut 16:10 ... bread, and in the feast of w Deut 16:16 ... bread, and in the feast of w 2Chr 8:13 ... us the appointed w of the harvest Jer 5:24 ... Seventy w are determined upon thy Dan 9:24 ... the Prince shall be seven w Dan 9:25 ... and threescore and two w Dan 9:25 ... two w shall Messiah be cut off, Dan 9:26 ... Daniel was mourning three full w Dan 10:2 ... till three whole w were fulfilled Dan 10:3 ..." (Strong, J., 1996, "New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance: King James Version," [1890], Thomas Nelson: Nashville TN, Reprinted, 2007, p.1440)

And in the "Hebrew and Aramaic Dictionary" section at the back it has the following explanation of Strong's number 7620:

"7620. ... shabuwa`, shaw-boo-ah; or ... shabua`, shaw-boo-ah; also (fem.) ... shebu`ah, sheb-oo-aw ; prop. pass. part. of 7650 as a denom. of 7851; lit. sevened, i.e. a week (spec. of years):- seven, week." (Strong, 1996, Ibid, "Hebrew and Aramaic Dictionary," p.136).

As can be seen above, even though it lists under 7620 those verses containing "Feast of the Weeks" (Ex 34:22; Deut 16:16; 2Chr 8:13), my version of Strong's Concordance does not even say that 7620 means "Feast of Weeks (Shavuot)" and nor does the Strong's Concordance module in e-Sword:

"H7620 .. shabuwa` shabua` shebu`ah .. Properly passive participle of H7650 as a denominative of H7651; literally sevened, that is, a week (specifically of years): - seven, week."

Also, I have my Hebrew Bible open in front of me and the word in Dan 9:24 which is translated `weeks' by most English Bibles is (from right to left) shabu`im. And shabu`im is, according to my Davidson's "Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon," the "noun masc pl" of "shabu`a," which in turn means "seven":

"Shabu`a ... seven ... shabu`im .. noun masc., pl. of shabu`a ..." (Davidson, 1966, "The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon," pp.698-699).

Davidson's lexicon also states that shabu`im means, "a week of years" in "Da. 9:24":

"... shabu`im ... a week of years, comp. Da. 9.24." (Davidson, 1966, Ibid., p.698).

and his lexicon also has "the feast of weeks" as being two different Heb. words, hag shabu`ot:

"... shabu`oth ... I. a week, seven days; hag shabu`oth the feast of weeks ..." (Davidson, 1966, Ibid., p.698).

The "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament" (TWOT) also says that "the Feast of Weeks" is the two different words, hag shabu`ot, and the latter is the same word as the above website's "shavuot" but transliterated slightly differently:

"... the Feast of Weeks (hag shabu`ot), i.e. the Feast of Seven-Periods. American Jewry often still call this feast `Shavuos,' but today's Israeli pronunciation is `Shavuot'." (Harris, et al., 1992, "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament," p.2:899).

The TWOT also states that in Dan 9:24-27, "shabu'a ... denotes a period of seven years in each of its appearances in these four verses" :

"While in Deut 16:9 ... shabu'a represents a period of seven days, in Dan 9:24,25,26,27 it denotes a period of seven years in each of its appearances in these four verses." (Harris, et al., 1992, Ibid., p.2:899).

Brown-Driver-Brigg's "Hebrew-English Lexicon" gives for shabu`a, "n[oun] m[asculine] Dn 9:27 period of seven (days or years), heptad," which is the last week (singular) in v.27 of the seventy weeks (plural) in v.24, the plural being shabu`im Dn 9:24 .. heptad or seven of years":

"Shabu`a n.m. Dn 9:27 period of seven (days, years), heptad, week ... shabu`im Dn 9:24 .. heptad or seven of years ... Dn 9:24,25,26,27 ..." (Brown, et al., 1996, "Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon," pp.988-989).

Brown-Driver-Briggs also gives hag shabu`ot as "feast of weeks":

"... hag shabu`oth Ex 34:22 (J) feast of weeks (ending seven weeks of harvest), Dt 16:10,16 2 Ch 8:13 ..." (Brown, et al., 1996, "Ibid.," p.989).

Tregelles' "Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures" also distinguishes between "hag shabu`oth the feast of (seven) weeks" and "shabu`im .. a hebdomad of years, Dan. 9:24":

"Shabu`a m. Dan. 9:27 .. pl. shabu`im m. .. (1) ... hag shabu`oth the feast of (seven) weeks ... (2) a hebdomad of years, Dan. 9:24, seqq. ..." (Tregelles, 1949, "Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures," p.800).

So that Messianic Jewish website's interpretation fails at the most basic level, that of the actual Hebrew word(s) translated "week(s)" in Dn 9:24-27, namely, shabu`a (singular) and shabu`im (plural). These, in their unusual masculine gender form mean "`weeks' of years" or "heptads of years":

"The prophecy of the Seventy Weeks ... Here we simply point out that the term `weeks' (rendered in NIV as `sevens') is sabu'im, from sabua`, which always takes a feminine plural, sebu'ot, when it means a seven of days, namely, a `week.' The masculine plural here probably indicates that the word is meant as a heptad ... of years." (Archer, G.L., 1985, "Daniel," in Gaebelein, F.E., ed., "The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Daniel and the Minor Prophets," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, Vol. 7, p.26. Emphasis original).

"[Dan 9:24]... Seventy sevens ... The word sevens here occurs in the m[asculine].pl[ural]., whereas it generally has a f[eminine].pl[ural]. ... The reason for this m[asculine]. form ... is not clear unless it was for the deliberate purpose of calling attention to the fact that the word sevens is employed in an unusual sense. " (Young, E.J., 1949, "A Commentary on Daniel," Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, British edition, 1972, Reprinted, 1978, p.195. Emphasis original).

They do not mean "the Feast of Weeks" which is two different words, hag shabu`oth."

>From my knowledge, it has always been translated as a seven day period of time and not as " The Feast of Weeks". That change makes this a very different and very timely prophecy.

See above. I assume you mean "seven year period of time" That "the Hebraic word for `Weeks'" in Dan 9:24-27, shabu`im (plural) and shabu`a (singular), "has always" (or at least mostly) "been translated as a seven" year "period of time" is because that is what they mean!

Preferring an interpretation merely because it is "timely," i.e. applies to the near future, may make it seem more interesting to this current generation, but it is an irrelevant criteria for discovering to what period the prophecy actually applies to.

>Thank you very much

You're welcome. I hope this has been of some help.

Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).
My other blogs: TheShroudofTurin & Jesus is Jehovah!

"Shabu`a n.m. Dn 9:27 period of seven (days, years), heptad, week (on format. v. Lag. BN 67);-abs. sh' Dn 9:27; cstr. shebu`a Gn 29:27-28; du. shebu`im Lev 12:5 pl. shab` (o) th Ex 34:22 + 4t. Dt. + (in term. techn.) 2 Ch 8:13; late shabu`im Dn 9:24 + 4 t. Dn; cstr. sheb`ith Je 5:24 (Ez 45:21 read shibe`ath with Vrss and all mod., v. sheba`); sf. shabu`othokem Nu 28:26; - 1. period of seven days (fr. a given time), week: Dt 16:9 Lv 12:5 (P) ; of marriage feast Gn 29:27-28 (E; cf. Ju 14:12 Tob 11:19); yamim shabu`im Dn 10:2-3 three weeks, days (three weeks long); qatsir huqoth Je 5:24 weeks of statutes (i.e. weeks appointed by) for harvest; term. techn. hag shabu`oth Ex 34:22 (J) feast of weeks (ending seven weeks of harvest), Dt 16:10,16 2 Ch 8:13, so sh' alone Nu 28:26 (P). 2. heptad or seven of years, late, Dn 9:24,25,26,27. - shebu`oth shebu`o Ez 21:28 v. [shaba`]" (Brown, F., Driver, S.R. & Briggs, C.A., 1996, "Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon," Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody MA, pp.988-989. My transliteration).

"Shabu`a ... sheba` § 35. rem. 7) fem. shibe`ath masc. (constr. shibe`ath).-I. num. card. seven; seba` shanim seven years, and with the constr. shib`eath yamim seven days; less frequently preceded by the noun, as shibe`ah 'elim seven rams; also as an ordinal when preceded by a noun in the construct state, as sheba` shenath seventh year; shibe`ah shibe`ah by sevens; `ese'rah sheba` fem. & `ashar shibe`ah masc. seventeen. - II. (sheba`) adv. seven times, Ps. 119.164; Pr 24.16. Du. shibe`athaim sevenfold. Pl. shibe`im (§ 35. rem. 16) seventy. For another sheba` (& shib`ah) see below. ... shabu`im, shabu`oth with suff. shabu`othokem (§ 32 rem. 1). - I. a week, seven days; hag shabu`oth the feast of weeks, pentecost, -II. a week of years, comp. Da. 9.24, seq. shebi`i masc. shibi`ith fem. adj. ordin. from shaba`, seventh. ... shabu`im .. noun masc., pl. of shabu`a (§ 32 rem. 1). shaba`" (Davidson, B., 1966, "The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon," Samuel Bagster & Sons: London, pp.698-699. My transliteration).

shabua`. A period of seven, a week, the Feast of Weeks. This term occurs twenty times in the or, always indicating a period of seven. Indeed, the word obviously comes to us from sheba' (q.v.) and could literally be translated always as `seven-period.' In Deut 16:9, shabu'a represents a period of seven days (literally `seven seven-periods you-shall-number-to-you'). The context in verses 9, 10, and 16 demands the time to be in terms of `days.' No serious expositor has ever argued for `years' here. It might be noted that in Deut 16:9 in the spelling of the plural, the central vowel letter-the waw-is omitted (shabu`ot), as it is also at times in the singular (e.g. Gen 29:27, shebua`) where in an unpointed text it would then be spelled identically to seven, sheba', in the feminine. While in Deut 16:9, discussed above, shabu'a represents a period of seven days, in Dan 9:24,25,26,27 it denotes a period of seven years in each of its appearances in these four verses. ... shabua` is also used as a technical term in Deut 16:10,16 where it denotes the Feast of Weeks (hag shabu`ot), i.e. the Feast of Seven-Periods. American Jewry often still call this feast `Shavuos,' but today's Israeli pronunciation is `Shavuot'. It was so named because it was to be celebrated `on the morrow after' the seventh sabbath after the day of firstfruits (Lev 23:15-16)! Hence it was the feast of the day following the seven seven-periods, or the feast of Hamishim Yom, fifty days-'Pentecost' from the Greek. This feast marked the early wheat harvest at about the sixth of Sivan, at the end of our own month of May. Christians remember Pentecost as the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out in fullness (Acts 2). As Christ was the `firstfruits' (I Cor 15:20,23), many also see in this later Feast of Weeks, shabua`, a picture of the coming resurrection of all the redeemed." (Harris, R.L., Archer, G.L. & Waltke, B.K., eds, 1980, "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament," Moody Press: Chicago IL, Twelfth Printing, 1992, Vol. II, p.899. My transliteration).

"Shabu`a m. Dan. 9:27 (shebu`a ze'th Gen. 29:27, should be rendered the week of this woman); const. shebu`a Gen. 29:27, 28; dual shebu`aim Levit. 12:5; pl. shabu`im m. (Dan. 9:25; 10:2, 3), and shabu`oth const. shebu`oth with suff. shabu`othokem Nu. 28:26, a hebdomad, ebdomas septenary number (denom. from shba` seven, compare `asor a decade). (1) of days, a week, Gen. 29:27, 28. Dan. 10: 2, shelshah yamim shabu`im "through three weeks" (where yamim is not a genit., see yamim No. 2, b, page CCCXLII, A). hag shabu`oth the feast of (seven) weeks, pentecost, so called from the seven weeks which were counted from the passover to this festival, Deu. 16:9. Fully, Tob. 2:1, agia epta ebdomador. But, Eze. 45:21, hag shebu`oth yamim the feast of hebdomads of days is the passover, which was celebrated through the whole of seven days. (2) a hebdomad of years, Dan. 9:24, seqq. Compare Hebdomas annorum, Gell. N. A. iii. 10." (Tregelles, S.P., transl. , 1949, "Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures," Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, Eighth printing, 1967, p.800. My transliteration).


Pastor John M. said...

Have you considered the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament? Most of the issue that has been brought up would be cleared up or clarified in the Greek, which is a far superior language to the Hebrew.

Most of the writers of the New Testament used the Septuagint as the source for their quotes, not the Hebrew.

Stephen E. Jones said...

Pastor John M.

>Have you considered the Septuagint Greek version of the Old Testament? Most of the issue that has been brought up would be cleared up or clarified in the Greek, which is a far superior language to the Hebrew.

Thanks for your comment. Here is Dn 9:24-27 LXX (Brenton trans):

Dan 9:24-27 LXX 24Seventy weeks have been determined upon thy people, and upon the holy city, for sin to be ended, and to seal up transgressions, and to blot out the iniquities, and to make atonement for iniquities, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal the vision and the prophet, and to anoint the Most Holy. 25And thou shalt know and understand, that from the going forth of the command for the answer and for the building of Jerusalem until Christ the prince there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks; and then the time shall return, and the street shall be built, and the wall, and the times shall be exhausted. 26And after the sixty-two weeks, the anointed one shall be destroyed, and there is no judgment in him: and he shall destroy the city and the sanctuary with the prince that is coming: they shall be cut off with a flood, and to the end of the war which is rapidly completed he shall appoint the city to desolations. 27And one week shall establish the covenant with many: and in the midst of the week my sacrifice and drink-offering shall be taken away: and on the temple shall be the abomination of desolations; and at the end of time an end shall be put to the desolation.

As can be seen, it's not markedly different from English translations of the Hebrew. But where there are differences, other things bring equal, the Hebrew must prevail, because the LXX is a translation of the Hebrew.

However, I find it significant that the LXX translators interpreted the Hebrew that "the anointed one" [Heb. Messiah = Gk Christos] would "be destroyed" but he would, even though destroyed, himself "destroy the city and the sanctuary with the prince that is coming."

I myself agree with commentators like the late E.J. Young that Messiah the Prince" (Dn 9:25 KJV) is different from "the prince that shall come" (Dn 9:26 KJV), the former being Jesus and the latter being Titus, who was used by the risen Jesus to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple in AD70.

Stephen E. Jones