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Lesson 9: Day-Year Principle *

Introduction: Do you hate to wait? My wife is a teacher, and I decided to go with her to a national teachers' convention last week. We arrived at the airport very early in the morning, and I was shocked to see the airport jammed with travelers - and on Sunday even. As I was heading towards the "self-service" check-in machines that I always use, an airline employee told us to go stand in this huge line. We did what we were told. As I surveyed the line, I had some doubts about making it on time to our plane. I decided to depend on my own judgment instead of the direction of the airline employee. I left my wife in line, and in less than five minutes had both of our boarding passes issued by a self-service check-in machine. We were soon on our way. Poor Daniel, in his case we have decided that what is stated in days, really means years! Are we like the airline employee, needlessly creating delay? Let's jump in and look at this issue again this week!

  1. Exile

    1. Read Daniel 9:1-3. When was Daniel praying? (The first year of King Darius. The Bible Knowledge Commentary identifies this as 539 B.C. - 66 years after Daniel had been exiled.)

    2. What is Daniel praying about? (Read Jeremiah 29:10. Daniel is praying about Jeremiah's prophecy that the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews would last for only 70 years. Since Daniel is 66 years into his exile, we can understand why he is praying about this topic.)

      1. How do you think Daniel understood this 70 years? Were they literal years? (If Daniel thought they were something other than literal years, he would not have been praying so diligently about their fulfillment. He would have figured it was some time in the distant future - far beyond his lifetime.)

  2. Day-Year Consistency

    1. Read Daniel 9:24. We decided when we studied this text two weeks ago (Lesson 7) that seventy "sevens" (weeks)did not mean literal weeks. Why is that?

      1. How can you be so inconsistent? When Daniel writes in Daniel 9:2 about seventy years, you think this is literal time. When a few verses later he writes in Daniel 9:24 about seventy weeks, you suddenly think he is talking about symbolic time?

      2. Isn't consistency a virtue? Aren't we required to use a little common sense in studying the Bible?

    2. Let's look at each of these texts to see if we have any reason for appearing to be so inconsistent.

  3. Jeremiah 29

    1. Read Jeremiah 29:1-3. Who is the audience to which Jeremiah writes? (All of the Jewish captives. The leaders and the regular people.)

      1. What was the state of mind of the recipients of the letter? (On one hand they were probably glad to be alive since they were "the surviving." On the other hand, it is pretty lousy to be a captive and know that life, as you knew it, would never be the same again.)

    2. Read Jeremiah 29:4. Whose idea was it to make them captives in a foreign land? (It was God's idea - their God!)

      1. How does that knowledge make them feel?

    3. Read Jeremiah 29:5-6. How long does this suggest they will they be in exile? Will this be a temporary matter?

    4. Read Jeremiah 29:7. What kind of citizens should they be while in captivity? (They should be good citizens, and they should pray for their captors.)

      1. Why? (Because their welfare turns on the welfare of Babylon.)

    5. Read Jeremiah 29:8-9. What messages are the false prophets giving? (The text here does not say, but the implication is that they are saying that the people will soon return to their land. Captivity will be short.)

    6. What is the overall conclusion to be reached from the instructions contained in Jeremiah's letter on behalf of the "Lord Almighty, the God of Israel?" (They are in for a long stay. They might as well get comfortable, get on with their lives, and make the best of things. They will have grandchildren born in this new land.)

      1. Have you ever seen people who could not get over some problem or tragedy and pick up with their lives? (God tells His people this is their new reality and they should just carry on with their lives.)

    7. Read Jeremiah 29:10-11. What does God promise? (That in 70 years He will bring them back home. God promises them hope and a future.)

    8. Read Jeremiah 29:12-14. What are the people expected to do? (As the 70-year time period approaches, they should pray that God will bring them home.)

      1. This is a mystery that we need to explore. Years ago a lady in my class asked me, "If God knows the future, if He knows what He will do, and He does what is best for us, why do we need to pray for Him to do stuff?"

      2. Here, God promises them that in 70 years He will bring them home, so why do they need to be praying that He will do what He already promised? (They are in exile because God reacted to their sins. God wants a partnership with His people. What we do makes a difference to God. He tells us that He listens, so our prayers must have some practical effect. If they do not change God, at least they change us.)

    9. Look again at Jeremiah 29:10. Is there any reason to believe that these are literal, as opposed to symbolic years? (Nothing in this situation appears to be symbolic. God says that He will "come to you" and "fulfill My gracious promise to bring you back to this place." Obviously, not everyone is going to survive 70 years, but God sounds like He is speaking personally to the people. It makes sense to understand these as literal years. Another "clue" is that God instructs ( Jeremiah 29:6) for them to marry and have children so their children can have children. This number of generations is consistent with a literal 70 year period.)

  4. Daniel 9

    1. Read Daniel 9:20-23. Daniel, as instructed by God in Jeremiah 29:12-14, is praying that God will listen and bring them back out of captivity. What does Gabriel say he has come to give Daniel? (Insight and understanding.)

      1. Insight and understanding about what? (On a very basic level, it would be about the topic of going home. But, more specifically, it is about(Daniel 9:23)"understand[ing] the vision.")

        1. What vision is this? (Read Daniel 8:26-27. The vision which has shaken up Daniel, the vision he does not understand, is the vision "of the evenings and mornings." It is the vision which he was last writing about.)

    2. Quickly review Daniel 8:1-14. Does any of this seem literal to you? (No. This is all symbolic. The ram, the goat, the horns are all obviously symbolic. At the end of this text we read that there are 2,300 evenings, and then something will happen to the sanctuary. The context of this time period is entirely symbolic, not literal.)

    3. Are you with me so far? Daniel has read the literal prophecy of Jeremiah 29, he is praying as instructed, Gabriel comes and makes reference to the symbolic vision, which obviously seems to refer back to the 2,300 day vision of Daniel 8. Let's go forward to Daniel 9 and pick up the rest of Gabriel's explanation. Read Daniel 9:23-27.

      1. Part of the context is literal. (The promise to return in 70 years.) Part of the context is symbolic. (The 2,300 "morning and evenings" prophecy.) Using the common sense contextual approach we have learned so far, should the 70 "sevens" (70 weeks) be considered literal or symbolic time? (The vision to be understood from Daniel 8 is symbolic. 70 weeks is literally a little over a year. Gabriel's message, if literal time is meant, tells us that the temple will be rebuilt in less than two years after the order to rebuild, the Messiah will come in that same two year period and be killed. During that same two years the temple will be destroyed and the end will come. It is a pretty action-packed two years! Literal time just does not make any sense. As we discussed in Lesson 7 of this series ("70 Weeks"), if we use symbolic time (a day = a year) then the time period works out perfectly for the coming of Jesus.)

    4. One last "loose end." Where do you get the idea that a prophetic day equals a year? Why not equal a month? A decade? Or some indeterminate time? (Easton's Bible Dictionary refers to the fact that Daniel 9:24 is "usually interpreted on the 'year-day' theory." We read about this day = year concept in Ezekiel 4:4-6 and Numbers 14:34.)

    5. Friend, when you study the Bible and you read about time periods, do you think that you are equipped to determine whether literal or symbolic time is meant?

  5. Next week: Rome and Antiochus.

* Copr. 2006, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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