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Pondering Daniel 12:11

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Sep 9, 2015

Daniel 12:11
“From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.

What understanding are we meant to take from these numbers 1290 and 1335? They weren’t explained to Daniel, but were passed on as something important, and were clearly meant to be understood at a later date, as we approach the time of the end. The time periods represented are at least roughly equivalent to a time period of 3 1/2 years mentioned in several other places – sometimes expressed as “a time, times and half a time” (Daniel 7:25, 12:7, Revelation 12:14), sometimes as 42 months (Revelation 11:2), sometimes as 1260 days (Revelation 11:3, 12:6), and referring in all of these cases to the second half of the 7-year tribulation period that will immediately precede our Lord’s return.

Let’s lay aside the numbers from Daniel 12:11 for a moment, and look first at the other ways that the period of 3 1/2 years is described. This will give us some perspective to help us better understand Daniel 12:11. Despite the variety of ways that it’s expressed, a little bit of math shows us that these other cases are all referring to the same length of time. Taking a month to be 30 days, we get 1260/30 = 42 months. And similarly if a year is taken to be 12 months, we get 42/12 = 3.5 years.

But these numbers 30 and 12 are just the nominal, generic lengths of months and years. On the Hebrew calendar, the actual length of a month alternates between 30 and 29 days, and the length of a year alternates between 12 and 13 months, with any 3 1/2 year period having at least one 13th month, and sometimes two.

If what we were being given in these verses was a count of the exact number of actual days in 3 1/2 years, it would have to be something larger than 1260. The exact number would depend on the year, but we could expect to see 43 or 44 for the number of months, and 1269-1271 or 1298-1300 for the number of days.

So what we’re being given in these verses is really nothing more precise than simply 3 1/2 years. It’s sometimes expressed in terms of months or days – but when it says 42 months, all it’s really saying, since 42/12 = 3.5, is just 3 1/2 years. And when it says 1260 days, all it’s really saying, since 1260/30/12 = 42/12 = 3.5, is just 3 1/2 years.

When the time period is expressed in terms of a “number of days,” it’s actually not the exact number of days. And this is fine. I normally wouldn’t expect to need anything more explicit than just 3 1/2 years, or this ballpark figure for a number of days that can represent 3 1/2 years in a simple way.

But suppose a case comes up in which the Lord’s messenger would like us to have something a little bit more explicit. I believe this is what we’re seeing in the numbers of Daniel 12:11 –

Daniel 12:11
“From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days.

The context makes it clear that this is exactly the same event referred to in Daniel 9 as the “middle of the seven,” and with the time period from here to the end sometimes being referred to as 42 months or 1260 days:

Daniel 9:24-27
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. 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. 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. 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.”

Revelation 11:1-3
I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshipers there. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”

So why does Daniel 12:11 refer to the time period as 1290 days rather than 1260?

My take on it is that it really is exactly the same time period – but the numbering system has been adjusted in order to give us a little bit more information. Notice that if we divide these numbers by 30 just as we did for 1260, we still get very tidy numbers. It’s still holding to the simplifying approximation of 30 days for every month – with 1290/30 = 43 months, and 1335/30 = 44.5 months. But two things are different –

  • It’s now counting the actual number of months, acknowledging the 13th months whenever they are present.
  • It’s now also paying attention to half months.

The significance of half months is that the timing of events on the Hebrew calendar is based on the cycles of the moon – with some events at the new moon, and some at the full moon. There’s a half month difference between the new moon and the full moon – so the numbers of Daniel 12:11 are able to give us some deeper insight into the exact placement on the calendar of the events that it refers to.

There are three major Hebrew calendar events which happen at the new moon or full moon. At the new moon is Rosh Hashanah, the Hebrew New Year. At the full moon is Sukkot in the fall, and Passover in the spring. And these numbers of Daniel 12:11 suggest that perhaps the beginning and ending points of the time spans are tied to these new moon and full moon oriented calendar events.

For a 3 1/2 year time span to be marked by these events, we have the following possibilities. There are four possible fall-to-spring or spring-to-fall spans, and for each of the four possible spans we have three possible counts for the number of days. Shown first is the count resulting from ignoring the 13th months, as is most often done in prophetic passages. Then the actual number of 13th months in a 3 1/2 year period is either 1 or 2, so next are shown both of these possibilities:

3 1/2 year time span 13th months Total months Count of days
Rosh Hashanah to Passover 0 42.5 42.5 x 30 = 1275
Rosh Hashanah to Passover 1 43.5 43.5 x 30 = 1305
Rosh Hashanah to Passover 2 44.5 44.5 x 30 =  1335 
Sukkot to Passover 0 42 42 x 30 =  1260 
Sukkot to Passover 1 43 43 x 30 =  1290 
Sukkot to Passover 2 44 44 x 30 = 1320
Passover to Rosh Hashanah 0 41.5 41.5 x 30 = 1245
Passover to Rosh Hashanah 1 42.5 42.5 x 30 = 1275
Passover to Rosh Hashanah 2 43.5 43.5 x 30 = 1305
Passover to Sukkot 0 42 42 x 30 =  1260 
Passover to Sukkot 1 43 43 x 30 =  1290 
Passover to Sukkot 2 44 44 x 30 = 1320

Now looking to see what numbers we come up with, we find both of the cases which appear in Daniel 12:11. I’ve highlighted these in green to make them easier to spot. And then the 1260’s from Revelation are highlighted in yellow.

This shows us some useful things. First, it illustrates the previously mentioned correlation between 1260 days and 1290 days. Though the numbers are different, they can both relate to the same events, with the only difference being whether the 13th months have been included in the count. The two spans that 1260 and 1290 could refer to are Sukkot to Passover, or Passover to Sukkot. And looking at the context of these events in Scripture, seeing that 1260 and 1290 days are described as the time from the middle of the 7-year period to the end, it becomes clear that Passover to Sukkot is the one which fits this description. With the number of months at 43, the one extra month says that this 3 1/2 year span will include one 13th month.

Second, it shows only one possible correlation for the count of 1335, counting from Rosh Hashanah to Passover. Thus rather than seeing these as two time spans which run in parallel from the same starting point, as some scholars have done in trying to interpret these numbers, we find the most straightforward interpretation to be simply that one refers to the second half of the tribulation, while the other – the count of 1335 – refers to the first half. With the number of months at 44.5, the half month accounts for beginning at a new moon and ending at a full moon, and the two extra months say that this 3 1/2 year span will include two 13th months.

Now is this reasonable, for the 1335 days to end in the middle of the 7-year period? It says “Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days“. What would be the special blessing of reaching the middle of the tribulation, when the most difficult things are to begin?

I can’t say for sure, but it may be referring to those who are waiting on the Lord at the middle of the tribulation, and as a result are carried away to that place in the desert where they’re taken care of and protected from the harsh events of the second half. We see this expressed in several passages:

Revelation 12:4-9
The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

Revelation 12:13-17
When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Matthew 24:15-21
“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.

That would truly be a blessing, to skip over those terrible times, and just return 3 1/2 years later with the Messiah when He returns to reign on earth. For those people, the mid-point of the seven years essentially is the end. For those who aren’t shielded like this from the second half, the end comes 3 1/2 years later at the Messiah’s return. So perhaps this helps to explain why the two time spans of Daniel 12:11 both sound a bit like countdowns to the end, even though the interpretation we’re finding here suggests that by our earthly timetables we’ll see them as two separate time spans, one following the other.

But can this interpretation actually fit on the calendar? An important detail to understand about the ‘sevens’ in the prophecy given by Gabriel to Daniel in Daniel 9, is that each ‘seven’ is a simply a seven-year Sabbath cycle, ending in a Sabbatical year. This was the case for the 7 sevens and the 62 sevens (see Rediscovering an Ancient Chronology), and it makes the best sense to understand the one remaining seven in the same way. So for the interpretation we’ve found here to genuinely hold together, we would need to find a 7-year period – a Sabbath cycle, ending in a Sabbatical year – for which there are two 13th months in the first half, and one 13th month in the latter half.

Let’s take a look and see if this can work. We know that the present year, 2014/2015, is a Sabbatical year. From this, let’s look ahead several Sabbatical cycles and see if this interpretation fits any of them. What we’re looking for is a Sabbatical cycle with 44 months in the first half, and 43 months in the second half:

Year (fall-to-fall) months in current year months in 3 1/2 years
2015/2016 12
2016/2017 13
2017/2018 12
2018/2019 12 1st half – 43
2019/2020 13
2020/2021 12
2021/2022 13 2nd half – 44
2022/2023 12
2023/2024 12
2024/2025 13
2025/2026 12 1st half – 43
2026/2027 12
2027/2028 13
2028/2029 12 2nd half – 43
2029/2030 12
2030/2031 13
2031/2032 12
2032/2033 13  1st half – 44 
2033/2034 12
2034/2035 12
2035/2036 13  2nd half – 43 
2036/2037 12
2037/2038 12
2038/2039 13
2039/2040 12 1st half – 43
2040/2041 13
2041/2042 12
2042/2043 12 2nd half – 43
2043/2044 13
2044/2045 12
2045/2046 12
2046/2047 13  1st half – 44 
2047/2048 12
2048/2049 12
2049/2050 13  2nd half – 43 

Yes – it does fit. It could fit in the 2029/2036 Sabbatical cycle. That could be when the tribulation will happen. Or it could be in the 2043/2050 Sabbatical cycle.

But at this point in our navigation of these end times, perhaps the more important piece of information we can take from this, rather than when the tribulation will be, is when it won’t be. Perhaps this is the piece that Daniel’s messenger had in mind for us to figure out and understand. These things seem to be saying that the final seven years – the tribulation – is not likely to begin this year, or 7 years from now in the year 2022/2023. They’re saying that it’s actually not likely to begin any sooner than the year 2029/2030.

Now, there are significant things happening in our world right now – and accompanied by more than one kind of heavenly sign, telling us to look up and take notice. Because of the things I’ve seen, I personally believe that some very important fulfillments of prophecy probably are almost upon us. But as we process these things it’s easy to get carried away and assume – maybe even hope – that the absolute end is almost upon us – asking the Lord to please just come and take us home; feeling like coping with this world is just getting way too hard; preferring to just throw in the towel and be done. But my sense as I think on these things, is that the Lord still has important work for each of us to be doing – helping to get every piece in place – paving the way for as many as possible to come to faith in Him while there’s still time.

Because of all that we see happening in our world right now, there are people who fully expect Jesus to return this September. And there are people who expect at least that the tribulation will begin this September, with maybe all the believers being Raptured, and the Lord coming back in just 7 years.

Now, I won’t say that it couldn’t happen this way. I don’t think I can say just on the basis of this interpretation of Daniel 12:11, that I’ve proven anything about how things will all play out. But it’s a piece of evidence to be considered, opening one more door of possibility, providing a path forward for those who perhaps will end up disappointed and disillusioned, if they’ve been counting on a scenario which ends up not panning out.

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