What’s up with all of these three and a half years of this and forty-two months of that? Again, the literalist sees these as a linear timetable. The idealist sees them as figurative. I’ve already mentioned the relationship between three and a half years being reflective of Jesus’ and Elijah’s ministries, while the three and a half days relate to the duration of Jesus’ burial. But what if there’s more to this than meets the eye? [While there is sound reasoning to point to Jesus’ walk on earth lasting only a little over a year, we’ll continue using the more widely accepted period of 3.5 years for His ministry.]
We’ve seen these numbers before in Daniel 7 and 12. While many see these chapters as eschatological or End Times visions, they primarily applied to the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.). In his first vision, Daniel saw four beasts arise from the sea (interpreted by most to be Babylon, the Persians/Medes, Greece, and finally, the Seleucids), with the fourth beast being different from the others in that it had ten horns after which a smaller horn (Antiochus IV Epiphanes) emerged. In these verses we find the following:
25 He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. [Dan 7:25]
This is the first occurrence of this time sequence in the Bible.
Later, in Daniel 12, we find more information about the reign of terror of Antiochus IV. In this chapter, we find the following “timetables:”
11 And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is he who waits and arrives at the 1,335 days. [Dan 12:11-12]
At the time of Antiochus IV, divisions between Hellenistic and Traditionalist Jews brewed to the point of civil war. Antiochus intervened on the side of Hellenists, invaded Israel, decreed the Jewish practices illegal, and killed the high priest Onias III in 170 B.C. In 167 B.C., three and a half years into a seven-year period, he defiled the temple by setting up an image of Zeus and having pigs sacrificed to Zeus on the altar. This led to the Maccabean Revolt. After three and a half years (163 B.C.), the Maccabeans won.
Unlike the Dispensational or Futurist viewpoint, most scholars tie this to Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy, with these seven years being the final week, and the cessation of the daily offering and sacrifices (because of the defilement) being halfway through those seven years as foretold in Daniel 9:27. The Futurist perspective sees this as an End Times prophecy.
One of the many things I’ve learned in this study is that everything about the Bible has its controversies. In this case, it’s the calendar. Today’s Jewish calendar, which is also the Hellenistic calendar of the Second Temple Period, is similar to our current secular calendar in that it is a lunar calendar comprised of months of 29, 30, or 31 days, with various days thrown in for correction. In Daniel’s day and for those of the Essene and Zadokite Jewish sects at Qumran that was considered apostate. Okay, I’ve heard of the Essenes and Qumran, but the Zado-who sect?
Zadok was a descendant of Aaron through his son Eleazar and was the High Priest during the reigns of David and Solomon. Indeed, he was instrumental in bringing Solomon to the throne and officiated at his coronation. In Ezekiel 44:15 we read:
“But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge of my sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from me, shall come near to me to minister to me. And they shall stand before me to offer me the fat and the blood, declares the Lord GOD.
The Zadokites did not go astray, and their reward for staying true, they believed, was to remain in the high priesthood, including for that final, purified temple of God at the end of time.
By the time of Christ, however, they had become a small sect isolated from Jerusalem as founders of the Qumran community, where many Essenes joined them. Why? The Hasmoneans had ousted them 150 years earlier prior to the Maccabean Revolt, its victory being celebrated ever since as Hanukkah. The Zadokites preserved the idea of a Davidic Messiah, while the Hasmoneans rejected it. Since Jesus presented Himself as the Davidic Messiah, the Hasmonean leaders rejected Him. Had the Zadokites been in power, it’s speculated that they might not have rejected Jesus as their Messiah. (Think about that for a moment. Had they accepted Him, would He have died for our sins? God’s hand in history is amazing.)
So, how does this play into the various spans of time? In two ways, actually. First, both the Zadokites and Essenes used a solar calendar of 12 months of 30 days each, not a lunar calendar. While the Essene, or Enochian, calendar differed slightly, the Zadokites acknowledged the equinoxes and solstices as special days that were not included in the calendar but separated the four seasons. The result was a 360+4-day year, and a calendar with 12 30-day months. This sabbatical calendar assured that Passover and the other feasts and festivals occurred at the same time each year.
As we look at the above numbers, we can quickly see that they work with a lunar calendar using 30-day months—1,260 and 1,290 are equally divisible by 30. The 1,290-day span adds a month to the 1,260, while the 1,335 number adds another month and a half to the 1,290 number. From this, we see that Daniel used the Zadokite calendar in which the four days were not counted, and his numbers are consistent with history. That the Zadokite calendar was possibly based on the most ancient calendars is suggested by the flood account in which the flood lasted five months, counted as 150 days.
Before getting into the meaning of these numbers, I want to look at the second way in which the story of the Zadokites vs. Hasmoneans comes into play. Daniel 8 continues the prophecy regarding Antiochus IV Epiphanes. In Daniel 8:14 we find reference to “2,300 evenings and mornings” (not days) that are to take place between “the transgression that makes desolate” and the restoration of the sanctuary.
Dr. Gabriele Boccaccini is a professor of Second Temple Judaism and Early Rabbinic Literature at the University of Michigan. His paper, “The Solar Calendars of Daniel and Enoch,” adds credence to the generally accepted belief that this prophecy was fulfilled by the events surrounding Antiochus IV. It was Antiochus IV whom Daniel prophetically blamed for changing “the times and the law” in v7:25. In other words, he changed the “times” from the longstanding solar calendar to the Hellenistic lunar calendar, as well as outlawed Jewish circumcision and other practices. According to Dr. Boccaccini’s work, the 2,300 evenings and mornings (1,150 days) precisely fits the time between the defiling of the temple, which ended the daily sacrifices, and the 25th day of the month of Kislev when the Maccabeans stopped fighting and the eight-day restoration of the temple began. This day marks the first day of the miracle of lights or Hanukkah.[Collins, J. and Flint, P., editors, The Book of Daniel Composition and Reception, Vol 2, Brill Publishing, pgs. 311-328.]
Going further with this, Dr. Boccaccini goes to the end of the 1,260 days (and the death of Antiochus) and adds 30 days. That takes the calendar through the month of Passover. Adding another 45 days takes us to the Feast of Shavu’ot, the celebration of the harvest. How does that apply to Revelation? He postulates that at the end of the 1,260 days, believers will celebrate the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, reflective of the Passover supper, and at Shavu’ot, the final harvest of souls, along with judgment before the Great White Throne, will take place. Perhaps.
With the events of Antiochus IV foreshadowing the End Times, in Revelation 11:2 we see the holy city being trampled for “forty-two months” (three and a half years). Is John seeing this in perspective of the lunar calendar of his and our day? Since it’s in the future, that is likely. So, why, in Revelation 11:3, are His witnesses given 1,260 days to prophesy? The 1,260 days is repeated in Revelation 12:6. Is he referencing Daniel by doing so, as he did by adding a N to the word Magedon (Har Magedon) to point to Zechariah? (see post #11). He does this again by referencing Daniel 7:25 in Revelation 12:14:
14 But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time. [Rev 12:14]
From this, we see that John was familiar with the Zadokite solar calendar, as well as the lunar calendar of his day and ours.
For the idealist, this three-and-a-half-year period is symbolic of nothing more than an incomplete timespan, as opposed to seven years marking a complete one. Curiously, while the idealists look at the period as an undefined, incomplete period, they don’t quite know what to do with the mention of 1,260 days. Dr. Beale, in his lengthy discussion of the forty-two months, says only this of the reference to days:
“Twelve-hundred sixty days” has the same interpretative nuance, though the reason the period is named in terms of days is not clear.[Beale, G.K. The New International Greek Testament Commentary, the Book of Revelation, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, Grand Rapids, MI, 1999, pg. 468.]
Not clear? It’s my understanding that pretty much everywhere else in the Bible where a prophecy is given in terms of days, it means just that, a day or a portion thereof. Here, however, I think it’s clear John was pointing us to Daniel.
If we look at the events surrounding Antiochus IV and those of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. as foreshadows of the time preceding Christ’s return, both occurred in fulfillment of specific timespan prophecies in Daniel. When God foretold Abraham that his descendants would be in Egypt for 400 years, they were there for 400 years. God’s timing is precise. For that reason, I always had trouble with the Futurist’s perspective that Daniel’s Seventy Weeks prophecy consisted of 69 “weeks” (483 years) followed by some nebulous future final week (7 years). God doesn’t give us indeterminant timelines.
Should we not expect the precision with John’s prophecy in Revelation? When Revelation 20:3 talks of Satan being released for a little while, it’s likely to be for this 42-month period.
Our challenge is in recognizing when that three-and-a-half-year period begins. Perhaps it already has. Maybe not. If two individual witnesses show up on the streets of Jerusalem, then we’ll know there’s little time left before our Lord returns. Yet, that’s also a big giveaway that will let multitudes know that time is short, the ultimate spoiler alert, and the Bible says that His return will be like a “thief in the night” and the times will be like those of Noah, when no one expected what was coming except God’s chosen, His people. So, no, I don’t expect to see two men on the streets of Jerusalem.
Are there clues as to when He’ll return? Stay tuned.
Next week, we’ll move into Rev 13 and the beasts. Who, or what, are they?
BTW, Rev 12 is an interesting interlude within the book. We’ll take a look at it later. When combined with other information about Christ’s birth, it actually helps us pinpoint the date . . . and it’s not Christmas. Stay tuned for that as well.