By Kenneth L. Gentry Jr
If you study Daniel’s prophecy of Seventy Weeks, you need to consider
not only the prophecy’s structure (covenantal redemption) and
chronological value (weeks of years), as per our previous posts, but
also the starting point for the beginning of the weeks.
When do the Seventy Weeks begin? This will determine when they end. They begin at a certain “command,” according to Daniel 9:25.
The “command” in Daniel 9:25 and reads: “Know therefore and
understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and
build Jerusalem.” Initially, it would seem to refer to Cyrus’ decree to
rebuild the temple in 538 BC. This command appears in 2 Chronicles
36:22–23 and in Ezra 1:1–4; 5:13, 17, 6:3. This is a vitally important
decree impacting Israel’s history as she returns from the Babylonian
But this prophecy does not seem to start with Cyrus’ decree, as
famous and as significant as it is. After all, Daniel specifically
speaks of the command to “restore and build Jerusalem.” This is an important qualification to which we must give attention. 
Though Israel attempts half-hearted efforts to rebuild Jerusalem
after Cyrus’ decree, for a long time Jerusalem remains a sparsely
populated, unwalled village. But Daniel speaks of the command to
“restore” (shub, return) Jerusalem (Dan 9:25). This requires that it be returned to its original integrity and grandeur “as at the first” (Jer 33:7). It was not until the middle of the fifth century BC that this is undertaken seriously. 
References decades after Cyrus’s decree, make abundantly clear that
little was done toward rebuilding Jerusalem. Nehemiah laments that
Jerusalem’s walls are “broken down” (Neh. 1:3; 2:3-5, 17; 7:4).
Zechariah speaks of Jerusalem as “destroyed” in his day (Zech. 14:11),
even mentioning its soon-coming rebuilding (Zech. 1:16). The enemies of
the Jews warn Artaxerxes that the Jews will become a problem if they
rebuild the city (Ezra 4:12-23). This explains why Ezra mentions
Jerusalem’s utter affliction “even to this day” (Ezra 9:7-9, 15).
Consequently, the decree of Ezra in 457 B.C. during the seventh year
of Artaxerxes I (454-424 BC), seems the best possibility. The process of
diligent rebuilding climaxes in Jerusalem’s restoration. This process
probably begins either in seed during the spiritual revival under Ezra
(Ezra 7) or in actuality under the administration of Nehemiah (Neh. 2:1,
17-18; 6:15-16; 12:43). Several political commands prepare for the
restoring of Jerusalem, as well as one divine command: “So the elders of
the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai
the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished
it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to
the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia” (Ezra
Now then, what are the three periods into which the Seventy Weeks are divided?
The first period of seven weeks must indicate something, for it is
set off from the two other periods. Were it not significant Daniel could
speak of the sixty-nine weeks, rather than the “seven weeks and
sixty-two weeks” (Da 9:25). This seven weeks (or forty-nine years)
apparently witnesses the successful conclusion of the rebuilding of
The second period of sixty-two weeks extends from the conclusion of
Jerusalem’s rebuilding to the introduction of Israel’s Messiah at his
baptism when he begins his public ministry (Da 9:25), sometime around AD
26. This interpretation is quite widely agreed upon by conservative
scholars, being virtually “universal among Christian exegetes” —
excluding dispensationalists. I will deal with the evidence for this
terminus more fully in a later post.
The third period of one week is the subject of intense controversy
between dispensationalism and other conservative scholarship. I
will deal with this key issue in a later post. So please do not
“rapture” out of this study and allow there to be “gap” in your
eschatological knowledge, otherwise you will feel like one of the “lost
 Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, 2:884ff.
 Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, 2:884–911. J. B. Payne, Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, 388ff. Charles Boutflower, In and Around the Book of Daniel, 195ff.
 Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, 2:894ff
 James Montgomery, Daniel, 332.