Old Testament prophecy about the timing of Jesus’ birth

Today’s topic is Old Testament prophecy about Jesus’ birth. No, not the exact day. And, by the way, Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th. Rather, the prophecy about when Jesus would be born was more like a formula, which was derived from a prophecy referred to as the seventy sevens. But it wasn’t your average math formula. It’s about prayer, the seventy years, and the seventy sevens.

Old Testament prophecy about the timing of Jesus' birth is article #5 in the series: Advent. Click button to view titles for entire series
Old Testament prophecy about the timing of Jesus' birth

So, what’s the deal with this prophecy on Jesus’ birth?

And if the people, including the Jewish leaders, had this formula, why didn’t everyone know ahead of time? Why were the people so anxiously waiting for so long, when it seems like they should have known long before?

For instance, John the Baptist announced that Jesus was about to come on the scene when He was about 30 years old. Angels told the Shepherds right after Jesus was born. The Magi even came to visit Him as a newborn baby. And let’s not forget, Mary and Joseph both knew before Jesus was born.

What’s going on here? What’s the secret of this prophecy, given to Daniel, long before Jesus was born?

Old Testament prophecy about the timing of Jesus’ birth

Let’s read the prophecy. Even a casual reading makes it clear that this is no simple math problem.

The Seventy “Sevens”

Da 9:20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill— 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision:

Da 9:24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.

Da 9:25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.’”

Not super obvious, is it? Let’s take it apart a bit to see what’s happening.

Who was Daniel?

Daniel was the fourth of the “Major Prophets”. For those that don’t know about Daniel, here’s a brief excerpt from All the Men of the Bible.

Daniel comes before us as an interpreter of dreams and of signs, a conspicuous seer, an official of kings. He lived a long and active life in the courts and councils of some of the greatest monarchs the world has known, like Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus and Darius. Close intimacy with heaven made Daniel the courtier, statesman, man of business and prophet he was. Bishop Ken reminds us that “Daniel was one that kept his station in the greatest of revolutions, reconciling politics and religion, business and devotion, magnanimity with humility, authority with affability, conversation with retirement, Heaven and the Court, the favour of God and of the King.”  [1]Herbert Lockyer, D.D., D.Litt.; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A Division of HarperCollins Publishers

As I said, it’s very brief. Since this isn’t a look at Daniel, the person, I leave it to you to find more about him if you’d like to. Suffice it to say, Daniel was very close to God and lived an incredible life because of that. For me personally, the book of Daniel is right up there as one of my favorites.

What was Daniel praying about?

Since the seventy sevens start off with “Da 9:20 While I was speaking and praying“, we really need to find out what Daniel was praying about. If we don’t bother to do that, then we’re missing out on context that’s likely very important. And in this case, it is. So let’s look at the passage before The Seventy “Sevens”.

The passage isn’t exactly short. But, like I said, it’s important. As with the previous segments in this series, part of what we look at is why Advent is important. Knowing the prophecies is important. But I feel like knowing the “why” behind all the things God does for us is important as well. Otherwise, it’s just a bunch of “head” knowledge that does nothing for our hearts. Does nothing to help us know God and love God.

As we go through this, remember it’s Old Testament times. Under the Old Covenant, things often tended to be more immediate – both punishments and rewards. Under the New Covenant of our time, there may be some immediacy to what happens, but the most important results are long-term. As in the next life. And they’re results that last for eternity.

So let’s go through the passage the NIV titles Daniel’s Prayer to see what it means for us today.

Daniel’s Prayer

Da 9:1 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

Regardless of whether it’s Old or New Covenant times, it’s very important that we both read Scripture and try to understand it. Part of that understanding is praying. Even someone like Daniel prays to God about what he reads in Scripture.

We’re about to find out that, in this case, even Daniel didn’t get the correct message on what he read. But first:

Da 9:4 I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed:

Prayer isn’t always just about asking God to do things for us. Confession is a huge part as well. There isn’t one of us that hasn’t messed up a whole bunch of stuff. Admitting that to God is an important part of prayer. What follows is what Daniel confessed. Also note what else is included.

“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

Daniel starts off by praising God. “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands.

Only then does Daniel begin the confession part of the prayer. Before we get to that though, here’s a quick look at what “prayer” means. I include this because I don’t know that everyone has the concept of what prayer is meant to be from the Bible.

Prayer, the act of petitioning, praising, giving thanks, or confessing to God; it is expressed by several different words in both the OT and the NT. Prayer can be individual or corporate, audible or silent. It is conditioned by the biblical understanding of God as a personal being who hears the prayers of his people (1 Kings 9:3; Pss. 34:15; 65:2; Matt. 7:11; 1 John 5:15).  [2]Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 816). San Francisco: Harper & Row.

petitioning, praising, giving thanks, or confessing to God Petitioning – asking for things. Praise. Giving thanks. And Confession. Further, it can be for the individual praying or for a number of people (corporate). Keep all these in mind as we examine Daniel’s prayer.

Da 9:7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 O LORD, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

So, this is a corporate prayer/ It includes Daniel and all of God’s chosen people. It even includes their leaders, all the way up to the Kings. It praises God. And then by comparison, Daniels confesses just how far the people have strayed. That straying runs from sinning to rebellion and refusing to obey God.

I wonder, do we pray like that?

“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

Daniel then proceeds to admit that everything that’s happening to the people is in fact fulfillment of what God said would happen if His people continued to turn away from Him. They were told the price for turning away from God. But they did it anyway. End even now, though they know why things are happening, and how to end them, the people refuse to return to God.

And at the end of this paragraph, Daniel praises God and admits the people’s wrong response in the same thought. 14 The LORD did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the LORD our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

Do we all pray like that?

Da 9:15 “Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

Here’s a reminder of the past. A time when the people turned away from God turned back to Him and cried out, and God rescued them.

Again, the close of this paragraph says something amazing. Something that we should do today in the U.S., but we either refuse to admit, or maybe actually don’t realize. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. This is happening now. If I wasn’t Christian, and was thinking about becoming one, the words and actions of so many in the religious right in politics would totally discourage me from becoming one. What happened to love for God and each other? What happened to forgiveness? What happened to grace? They’re pretty much gone.

Da 9:17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

Much more honesty from Daniel. Honesty to a point that I really wonder – are we even capable of this today? And even if we use the words, are we capable of actually meaning them in our hearts?

Here’s another thing about that prayer. Daniel’s belief about the timing of when God would rescue His people was incorrect. His understanding of the seventy years from Jeremiah was not meant the way Daniel thought. Given Daniel’s heart for God, he got a correction. But one more time – I wonder – even though we have the Holy Spirit today, and even though we aren’t prophets like Daniel, just how little of what the Holy Spirit tries to tell us do we even try to listen to, let alone actually hear?

Now, I know this is about Advent. But this is also turning into a look at prayer and reading the Bible.

The seventy years of Jeremiah and Daniel

We read above that Daniel expected seventy years of desolation for Jerusalem. Here’s where that came from.

Seventy Years of Captivity

Jer 25:1 The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. 2 So Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people of Judah and to all those living in Jerusalem: 3 For twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day—the word of the LORD has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.

Jer 25:4 And though the LORD has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. 5 They said, “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the LORD gave to you and your fathers for ever and ever. 6 Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not provoke me to anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.”

Jer 25:7 “But you did not listen to me,” declares the LORD, “and you have provoked me with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves.”

Jer 25:8 Therefore the LORD Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, 9 I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the LORD, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

Jer 25:12 “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the LORD, “and will make it desolate forever. 13 I will bring upon that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. 14 They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”

Notice, there’s a whole lot of the people not listening to God in there. But the seventy years comes towards the end: Jer 25:12 “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt”.

Reading that, the seventy years Daniel came up with certainly is reasonable. However, sometimes God isn’t necessarily straightforward in the prophecies He gives us. We’ve seen many instances of that just in this short series. So when Daniel prayed, God made His plans more clear. Although, having said that, not crystal clear.

Back to the Seventy Sevens from Daniel

The Seventy “Sevens”

Da 9:20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the LORD my God for his holy hill—

We just finished looking at Daniel’s prayer, praising God, confessing the sins of all the people of Israel, and asking God to remember His people and asking for forgiveness.

21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice.

Gabriel is most like not a man, but the Archangel referenced in other places in the Bible.

21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the message and understand the vision:

Here, we have an event that we’d all probably like to experience. Maybe. Kind of. It would probably scare the heck out of us. But at the same time, don’t we wish we’d get such an immediate and clear answer to our prayers?

But then, we aren’t prophets. So no need for the vast majority of us to worry about being scared.

Insight and Understanding From Gabriel

Here’s what Gabriel said to Daniel.

Da 9:24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.

There’s some clarity here, by way of a correction. Instead of seventy years, it’s seventy sevens. But how could this happen? Did Jeremiah get it wrong? Did Daniel get it wrong? Or was it something else entirely? Let’s see.

The Decree of the Seventy-Sevens—9:24a

Gabriel’s prophecy to Daniel began with the words: “Seventy sevens have been decreed for your people and your holy city …”

Many English versions have translated the phrase to read seventy “weeks.” But this translation is not totally accurate and has caused some confusion about the meaning of the passage. Most Jews know the Hebrew for “weeks” because of the observance of the Feast of Weeks, and that Hebrew word is shavuot. However, the word that appears here in the Hebrew text is shavuim, which means “sevens.” This word refers to a “seven” of anything with the context determining the content of the “seven.” It is similar to the English word “dozen,” which means twelve of anything based upon context.

It is obvious here that Daniel had been thinking in terms of years—specifically the 70 years of captivity. He had assumed that both the captivity would end after 70 years and that the kingdom would be established after those 70 years. But here Gabriel was using a play upon words in the Hebrew text, pointing out that, insofar as Messiah’s Kingdom was concerned, it was not 70 “years,” but 70 “sevens” of years, or a total of 490 years (70 × 7).
This period of 490 years had been “decreed” for the Jewish people and for the holy city of Jerusalem. The Hebrew word translated “decreed” literally means “to cut off” or “to determine.”

In chapters 2, 7 and 8, God revealed to Daniel the course of future world history in which Gentiles would have a dominant role over the Jewish people. This lengthy period began with the Babylonian Empire and was to continue until the establishment of Messiah’s Kingdom. For that reason, it is often referred to as the Times of the Gentiles. Now the prophet was told that a total of 490 years was to be “cut out” of the Times of the Gentiles. This 490-year period had been “determined” or “decreed” for the accomplishment of the final restoration of Israel and the establishment of Messiah’s Kingdom. [3] Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1998). Messianic Christology: a study of Old Testament prophecy concerning the first coming of the Messiah (pp. 94–95). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

If you’d like to know more about the person who wrote the excerpt above, please see About Dr. Fruchtenbaum – Ariel Ministries.

So we have an explanation of the discrepancy. And we have God correcting the situation by way of Gabriel and Daniel. However, there’s more.

2Da 9:24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.

Apparently, there’s more transgression coming. God’s people, after all these warnings, still aren’t ready to turn back to Him.

While we’re here, let’s be honest about something else. Just by the nature of what we just read about Times of the Gentiles, we Christians are no better. So we shouldn’t think that all of this prophecy doesn’t apply to us in any manner. The sad reality is that it does. Jesus said so Himself, as in the passage below.

The Shepherd and His Flock

Jn 10:1 “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.

Jn 10:7 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Jn 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Jn 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Here’s what we need to know about that passage to realize Jesus was talking about non-Jewish people.

First of all, in the context of this part of John’s gospel, Jesus was speaking to the Jewish leaders. Jesus accused the Pharisees of spiritual blindness just before the passage above.

So, in light of that knowledge, we can make a conclusion about what Jesus said in verse 16: I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

Those other sheep in another pen are us. Non-Jewish people who become followers of Jesus. Christians. And ultimately, there will be one flock. All who believe in Jesus, whether they began as Jews or something else.

Now, with all that in mind, let’s get to the final detailed explanation from Gabriel.

Da 9:25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ “

Da 9:25 “Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.’”

What’s the deal with all these sevens?

Actually, seven was an important number for God’s people ever since the very beginning. Remember the seven “days” of creation. Also remember, oddly enough, or is it appropriately enough(?), we still don’t get that one right! The seven days were actually seven creation days and not seven literal 24-hour days. Please see Is evolution a concept from Satan? for more on that.

In any case, here’s an explanation of why sevens are important to the Jewish people in the Old Testament.

The number seven has been stamped on Israel from the beginning. They had a Sabbath of days (Ex. 23:12), setting apart the seventh day for honoring God. They also had a sabbath of years (Lev. 25:1–7); they were to let the land lie fallow on the seventh year and give it rest. Because they broke this law, the Israelites went into captivity, one year for each sabbatical year they failed to obey God (2 Chron. 36:21; Lev. 26:33–34).

Just think about that! All the way from Exodus and Leviticus to Jeremiah and Daniel God’s chosen people have broken this law. Of course, God has a purpose for this sabbath to let the land rest. And his purpose was thwarted. For a time. The land is about to rest. But only because God’s people are about to be taken away from that land.

They also had a “sabbath of sabbaths,” with every fiftieth year set apart as the Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:8–17).

As far as I can tell, the Year of the Jubilee was never done either. Yet another law broken,

But now Daniel was to be introduced to a new series of Sabbaths—seventy “weeks” (seven-year periods), making a total of 490 years of prophetic time for the Jews. (The word “weeks” in v. 24 is actually “sevens”—seventy sevens are determined, making 490 years.)

Please note that this 490–year period of time has to do with Jerusalem and the Jews: “your people … your holy city …” (v. 24, NKJV). And God has specific purposes to fulfill in this period: the removing of sin and the bringing in of righteousness. The result will be the anointing of the most holy place in the temple, that is, the return of Jesus Christ to the earth to reign in glory from His temple in Jerusalem.  [4]Wiersbe, W. W. (1993). Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Da 9:20–27). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

So that’s a brief history of the sevens. And why they’re important.

Let’s keep going.

What were the 490 years? The Seventy “seven year” periods?

Here’s a brief excerpt on the 490 years:

Now for the outline of the 490 years. Verse 25 tells us that the event that will trigger the 490 years is a decree (see Neh. 2:5) permitting the Jews to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. (It is interesting that the event that will trigger the last seven years of this period will be the covenant of the Antichrist to protect the Jews. We find a decree at the beginning and at the end of the 490 years.) History tells us there were four different decrees relating to Jerusalem: Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes all made decrees concerning the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 1, 6, and 7); and Artaxerxes decreed that Nehemiah could return to rebuild the walls (Neh. 2). This was in 445 B.C., and it is the decree Dan. 9:25 is talking about; it took place nearly 100 years after Daniel received the message from God.

But Gabriel broke down the 490 years into distinct parts. As noted above, the last seven years are what we generally call the End Times. The seven years of tribulation in Revelation.

Here’s some info on the first 483 years.

Gabriel said that there would be a total of sixty-nine weeks, seven and sixty-two, between the giving of the decree and the arrival of Messiah, the Prince, in Jerusalem (× = 483 years). Keep in mind that “prophetic years” in the Bible are not 365 days, but 360 days long. It has been calculated by scholars that there were 483 prophetic years between the decree in 445 B.C. and the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (cf. The Coming Prince by Sir Robert Anderson, Kregel, 1967). [5]Wiersbe, W. W. (1993). Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Da 9:20–27). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

So – where are we?

We’re in kind of a weird place right now. If you followed carefully, you realize we don’t actually have the day, or even the year, for the birth of Jesus! What we do have is the year of His death.

What’s going on? Why no exact prophecy on when Messiah is going to be born? I read a couple people who had some interesting ideas on this lack of specificity.

It shows up in Isaiah, where there the prophecies for the suffering servant and the glorious/conquering King can be considered to be two different people. Indeed, the Jewish people seemed to want the conquering King. Further, the “evil” they wanted to be conquered was Rome, not Satan.

And now, we see we have a prophecy about the coming of a Messiah, but the only date we can come up with is when He’s going to die. That also makes it somewhat easy for someone to say Jesus wasn’t the Messiah if they were looking for someone else to do something else. Or, in the case of the Jewish leaders, someone who wouldn’t threaten the status quo that kept them in power.

However, there’s another party at play here. Satan. We all know, from the Bible itself, that Satan knows Scripture. So, if Scripture was very exact and very clear about when Messiah was going to be born, Satan would find out as well.

Sure, there was New Testament prophecy about the birth of Jesus. But that wasn’t written until after His death. All of a sudden there’s a mad scramble, as evidenced by Herod’s actions, to prevent Jesus from growing up beyond a couple years old. And, of course, with God’s oversite, it failed.

And even then, Satan couldn’t be sure that Jesus was both the suffering servant, which is what he was in His first coming, and the conquering King at the same time. Yes, Jesus will return as the conquering King when He returns to earth. But let’s not forget, even in His first coming, Jesus conquered sin and death. Jesus proved that everything else was possible for God. And that Satan had no chance.

Also, don’t forget that Revelation wasn’t written until after Jesus’ death either. Things that we know now about The End are also known by Satan. But they weren’t two thousand years ago!

Conclusion – Old Testament prophecy about the timing of Jesus’ birth

Ultimately, the year of Jesus’ birth can only be obtained by backing into it. Knowing the year He died and His age at death is the only way to know the year of His birth from Old Testament prophecy.

Before the time the angels and John the Baptist announced the first coming of Jesus, no one knew that’s when He was going to be born. So the period of the first Advent, the first coming of Jesus, came to an abrupt and sudden end. Only a handful of people, like Mary and Joseph for example, knew before Jesus was born. And it wasn’t until John the Baptist announced it that Jesus began His ministry. Very sudden.

And so it is with the second Advent. The period of waiting we’re now in. Waiting for the second coming of Jesus. It will also come suddenly. But at a time known only to the Father.

However, before we look at the second coming, we have two more installments here. The next will be Old Testament Prophecy that Jesus came to save the lost. Hope to see you there.


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Footnotes

Footnotes
1 Herbert Lockyer, D.D., D.Litt.; Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, Michigan; A Division of HarperCollins Publishers
2 Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 816). San Francisco: Harper & Row.
3 Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1998). Messianic Christology: a study of Old Testament prophecy concerning the first coming of the Messiah (pp. 94–95). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.
4, 5 Wiersbe, W. W. (1993). Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Da 9:20–27). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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