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Eugene W. Prewitt

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Daniel and the Day for Year Principle

Day for Year

A Basic Unit of Typology


Basic Idea: The Historicist position that days, in Daniel and Revelation, typically represent so many years, has solid Biblical support.


Time as Symbols in Figurative Prophecy


The dreams of two inmates of the prison where Joseph was interred were God-given revelations about the near future of each of the dreamers. In both cases the time period, three days, was represented by three items.


And Joseph said unto him, This is the interpretation of it: The three branches are three days: And Joseph answered and said, This is the interpretation thereof: The three baskets are three days: Gen 40:12, 18.


Two dreams of Pharaoh, later in the same story, also use items to represent time. But in this case each item represented a year.


The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one. And the seven thin and ill favoured kine that came up after them are seven years; and the seven empty ears blasted with the east wind shall be seven years of famine. Gen 41:26-27


The punishment of the unfaithful Israelites was given in terms that used days as a basis for years. That story is the origin of the “day for a year” phrase.


After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise. Numbers 14:34


The correlation between days and years was such in the Hebrew economy that the term “week” was applied to both periods of seven days and to periods of seven years. Neither of these periods being amenable to those of heavenly bodies, both must be presumed to have divine origins. The weeks of years, though familiar to Laban and Jacob, were regiven to Israel after the Exodus.


Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also for the service which thou shalt serve with me yet seven other years. And Jacob did so, and fulfilled her week:  Gen 29:27-28.


Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. Le 25:3-4.


Fifty days, seven weeks plus one, marked off the time between the Passover and the great Pentecost. And this very same reckoning of time, seven weeks plus one, marked off the great Jubilee.


Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. Le 23:16 


And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. Le 25:8, 10.


Ezekiel, a contemporary of Daniel, also figured years by days.


Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year. Ezekiel 4:4-6.


These two stories in particular, of Ezekiel and Joseph, show how time is represented symbolically when embedded in starkly symbolic narrative.


The prophecy of Daniel 9, to be studied later in this class, also establishes a basis in the book of Daniel for letting a day represent a year. The prophecy extends from 457 BC to “Messiah the Prince” and all commentators confess these weeks to be weeks of years.


Of course, if it can be shown that the 490 years are a part of the 2300 days, the day-for-year principle in Daniel 8 is settled beyond question. This is the object of another lecture.


But we can give stronger evidence for the legitimacy of the day-for-year principle in the book of Daniel by examining the correlation between the prophecy of Daniel 7:25 and history.


The Correlation of Daniel 7:25 to the history of the Little Horn


Antiochus Epiphanies did not reign 1260 days. Nor did he reign 1150 days (2300 divided by 2 for “evenings and mornings.”) What is more than this, this period shows up again in Revelation (5 times) as a still-future prophecy more than two centuries after the death of A. Epiphanies.


We examined earlier the basis for using 538 and 1798 to mark off the existence of the “little” civil kingdom of papal Rome. This correlation is a pragmatic evidence of the legitimacy of the 1260 day prophecy.


Also the scope of the prophecy, from Daniel’s time until the saints possess an eternal kingdom, reduces centuries and world empires (as Babylon and Persia) into single verses. To give several verses (in this context) to the 1260 time period is some evidence in favor of the period being symbolic.


Summary: The historical understanding of Daniel 7 by the men used by God to lead the reformation still has strength enough centuries later to repel detractors. The prophecy works, the symbols are standard, the global nature of the context fits the period.

For the Word Doc, click here: Dan_7_-_12_-_Day_for_Year

(2) Comments

  1. Thank you for your amazing work.
    Question: Can you explain the time prophecy in Ezekiel 4 where we take this principle from. I looked on different adventist interpretations but non seem to fit with all the historical sources.

    Looking forward to your insides.
    Best regards,

    • Sara, I know I have studied it in the past. But I don’t remember what I found and do not have time at present to look at Ezekiel 4 again. So I hope you find in the pioneer writings something on the topic as that would be the best place to look (I would think.) Be faithful.

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