SEVEN TIMES SEVEN (to the fourth power)! Part II
Let’s continue on our fascinating voyage to discover the seven times over prophetic pearl found in the most unlikely part of God’s treasure map—the Old Testament book of Leviticus. The map will be easier to understand if you’ve read last week’s article, Seven Times Seven, Part I. In order to reach our destination, we need to travel along the path of a premise: The seven times over model depicted in Leviticus prophetically encompasses a chronological period of time, in parallel fashion to the seven sets of seven announced by the angel Gabriel to Daniel, found in Daniel Chapter 9 … as presented in the Eye of Prophecy article two weeks ago entitled, An Incredible Prophecy.
In Leviticus Chapter 26, we find that the fourth and final phase of God’s seven times over punishment would result in Israel’s scattering or exiled expulsion, “among the nations …. Your land will become desolate, and your cities will lie in ruins” (Verse 33). That is exactly what happened when Babylon attacked and destroyed the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, including Jerusalem and surrounding towns. In 586 BC, mighty Babylon soundly defeated Israel, but according to Jeremiah’s prophecy the Jews would once again return to Israel. That also happened—with Bible scholars pretty much in full agreement that the completion of the 2nd Temple in 516 BC marked the end of the 70-year Babylonian captivity.
What Were the General & Specific Reasons for the Seven Times Punishment?
To answer that question we need to closely examine Israel’s offenses (sins) before and after the Babylonian captivity. From last week’s article, we learned that the general on-going wrongdoings of Israel entailed national (meaning the majority of the Hebrews including their religious and political leaders) disobedience of and hostility toward God. Four times this is identified by such phrases as, “And if, in spite of all this, you still disobey me.” And “…you still refuse to listen and still remain hostile toward me…” (Leviticus 26:18 & 27).
But then the Lord gets more specific by explaining that the ongoing discipline also stems from Israel’s failure to keep another vital commandment: Not to plant crops every seventh year so the land could rest; that would, in turn, guarantee bountiful harvests. After the people would be completely defeated and evicted from the land by their conquerors, the passage emphasizes through repetition, “Then at last the land will enjoy its neglected Sabbath years as it lies desolate while you are in exile in the land of your enemies. Then the land will finally rest and enjoy the Sabbaths it missed. As long as the land lies in ruins, it will enjoy the rest you never allowed it to take every seventh year while you lived in it” (Leviticus 26:34-35).
In light of the clear reasons given for the seven times over discipline announced in Leviticus 26 (the continuous, unrelenting disobedience and refusal to listen to “all these commands,” meaning the entire scope of the Mosaic Law), why did God then identify and pinpoint neglect of the seven-year Sabbath rest as the tripping or trigger point for the final phase of God’s punishment, i.e. exile to Babylon?
I believe the answer is two-fold: (1) with precious few exceptions, in Israel’s history we find the people frequently rebelling against the Lord; then denying that the consequences of their defiance was directly connected to God’s discipline. We see this throughout the period of the judges, the kings, and through all the prophets that God continually sent to Israel to warn them. In fact, many of these prophets were ridiculed, tormented, and even killed by the priests and kings of Israel. This cycle of disobedience and denial grew progressively worse after King Solomon’s reign.
The last book written by the last prophet of the Old Testament contains a nutshell summary regarding Israel’s denial of their true spiritual and national condition. The Book of Malachi is followed by four hundred years of silence, in which there were no kings, no prophets, and no communication from God to the people. The prophet Malachi presents a series of replies from Israel’s leaders in which they rationalized and refuted the reality of their sins … by answering God’s questions with questions of their own. And it’s all too evident that the people’s questions were nothing more than cynical, even sarcastic attempts to justify their behavior and, perhaps, escape any further discipline from God. For example, the book opens with God announcing to Israel: “I have always loved you,” says the Lord. But you (the people) retort, “Really? How have you loved us?” (Malachi 1:2).
Then a few verses later: “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: …’You have shown contempt for my name!’” Then the Lord says, “But you (meaning the priests/people) ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’” Then the Lord answers: “You have shown contempt by offering defiled sacrifices on my alter.” Then the people ask, “How have we defiled the sacrifices?” (Malachi 1:6-7). On and on it goes, as the people refuse to acknowledge their transgressions against God and against each other, and even dare to challenge God’s analysis of their spiritually bankrupt condition.
(2) Since the people—from the time Moses and then Joshua died, to the Babylonian captivity and beyond— rationalized, repudiated, or at the very least minimized their rebellion through hardness of heart and spiritual blindness, God identified a specific offense that no one in Israel could possibly explain away… the obvious failure to keep the seven-year Sabbath in which the land would lie fallow. And in doing so, the prophecy includes the very essence of time itself, i.e. the progressive seven times over duration of Israel’s punishment. In fact, the core of the 70-year Babylonian captivity prophecy is based on the Leviticus passage, as remarkably summarized after the captivity ended. Let’s read the explanation:
“Likewise, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful. They followed all the pagan practices of the surrounding nations, desecrating the Temple of the Lord that had been consecrated in Jerusalem. The Lord, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them … But the people mocked these messengers of God … They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done. So the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them … God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar … Then his army burned the Temple of God … The few who survived were taken as exiles to Babylon” (II Chronicles 36: 14-20).
Then the author of II Chronicles indisputably connects the Babylonian exile prophecy to the Leviticus Chapter 26 seven times over prophecy by the following conclusion: “So the message of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said” (Verse 21). Obviously, Jeremiah’s prophecy was linked to the prophetic warnings that Moses had given to the people, even before they entered the Promised Land … long before Jeremiah was born.
Question: Why Didn’t the Seven Times Over Prophecy End in 516 BC?
It’s all too evident that the prophetic clock of Leviticus Chapter 26 begin to tick when Israel entered the Promised Land. The entire book of Deuteronomy is a condensed summary of God’s instructions to Israel just before Joshua led them to several victories over the Canaanites. They were given the choice between life and death, blessing and curses (Deuteronomy 30:19). God even told Moses that the prophecy would, in fact, come to pass; because it (unfortunately) was a foregone conclusion that the Israelites would rebel and turn from God (see Deut. 31 & 32). And that’s exactly what they did, not long after Joshua died.
It’s important to understand that the ultimate seven times over discipline is chronologically consecutive and even more so that it is uninterrupted or continuous in its prophetic unfolding. This is clarified by the passage itself. The Lord repeats a total of four times: IF Israel continues to disobey him, then he will prolong the corrective discipline and each time the punishment will be harsher, culminating in exile to foreign nations. Thus, the seven times over is not a symbolic expression of the severity of the discipline; rather, it is (as we have seen and will see) a measure of the lapse of time that all this will take place.
So, then, in examining Israel’s history from the Promised Land advent to the Babylonian captivity, do we find an unbroken, continuous, linear time-lapse (chain of events) in which Israel never repented or never turned back to the Lord? No, we don’t. This is crystal clear during the times of the Judges and Kings of Israel. There were several periods of time lasting at least two generations (80 years or more), such as the consecutive reign of King David and King Solomon or the subsequent reign of a few “good” kings like Josiah. There were cycles of disobedience, deliverance, and restoration; but, on the whole, the Jews became progressively “hostile” toward the Lord, their God. Thus, the seven times over cycle was not continuous during this period of Israel’s history, which is why the Babylonian exile (as devastating as it was) would last for only 70 years—a relatively mild punishment considering the hundreds of year that Israel was mostly, but not entirely, unfaithful to God and his commands.
You might ask: “Relatively mild compared to what?” Good question. Answer: Compared to what happened AFTER their return to the Holy Land from the 70-year captivity.
Although harsh, God’s punishment of Israel was not merely vindictive; rather it (like all of God’s discipline) was administered for Israel’s own good. It included just the right amount of time, not too long and not too short; that would give Israel’s populace a golden opportunity to fully acknowledge why they were punished in this way, and what was necessary for them to return to the Lord. Furthermore, to make sure nothing like this ever happened again … which they clearly knew the potential from warnings going all the way back to Moses. The prophet Ezekiel dealt with this issue of the exiles not amending their hearts and mind back to God before, during, and after the Babylonian exile.
The Seven Times Seven Punishment Continues
So, did the Babylonian exile bring a conclusion to the seven times over prophecy of Leviticus? Sadly, the answer is, NO. Instead, it set into motion the ultimate severity of the prophecy. What transpired after the return of the Jews was even more tragic. Despite a relatively brief (part of a generation) resurgence of Israel’s devotion to God, as found in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, Israel never fully returned to the Lord. As indicated, the book of Malachi vividly illustrates Israel’s unyielding stubbornness.
Even though the Jews returned to Israel and rebuilt the second temple, they never again became a completely sovereign nation. They never again experienced the full blessings of the Lord. There were no more kings, and the Shekinah glory of God never returned to the temple. There were no prophets for the last 400 years before the birth of John the Baptist, and then the birth of Messiah. Israel had been, to some degree or another, under the domination of the Persians, Greeks, Syrians, and finally the Romans before and after the utter destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.
The first set of seven times over judgments (up to the time of the Babylonian captivity), is best illustrated by the formula: 7 + 7 + 7 + 7. When the people confessed their sins and returned to God, the cycle of discipline ended. In other words the punishments were not continuous; however, each one lasted for a certain period of time, culminating with a specified period of 70 years for the Babylonian captivity.
Because the people didn’t (by any stretch of the imagination) continually seek the Lord when they journeyed back to Israel, the seven times over paradigm began again. This time it would be continuous, leading all the way to and through the greatest horror of all … the Holocaust of the 20th century. There would be no stoppage of the increments of punishment until all four phases had run their course. In fact, the seven times syndrome contained a mathematically measured built-in period of time, with a beginning and an end.
During this seemingly unending period of time, the fourth phase of discipline would reach its zenith. Remember God’s words: “…then I will give full vent to my hostility. I myself will punish you seven times over for your sins … Yes, I myself will devastate your land … I will scatter you among the nations….” (Leviticus 26: 27-33).
Tragically, Israel did not learn from its Babylonian captivity lesson. From the time Nehemiah returned to Babylon in 433 BC, 12 years after arriving in Jerusalem with another group of exiles to rebuild the walls; to his second trip to Israel a few years later, the people’s promise to serve the Lord had evaporated like an early morning fog. They had fallen into all kinds of detestable practices. Listed to Nehemiah’s words: “So I confronted the nobles of Judah. ‘Why are you profaning the Sabbath in this evil way?’ I asked. ‘Wasn’t it just this sort of thing that your ancestors did that caused our God to bring all this trouble upon us and our city? Now you are bringing even more wrath upon Israel by permitting the Sabbath to be desecrated in this way!’” (Nehemiah 13: 17-18).
And, so the seven times over sequence had begun again. This time the prophetic march of time relentlessly continued unabated and uninterrupted. If, however, the seven times over to the 4th power represents a measurable period of time, then it must come to an end. That’s what occurred to me that night in October, 2006: Although I didn’t know where it would lead me (what year in history), I realized that God was telling Moses and the people that the seven times seven model necessitated and would, in fact, unfold according to an exact prophetic timeline. Moreover, the formula was built into the prophecy: 7 x 7 x 7 x 7. When this prophetic paradigm reached its measurable deadline, Israel’s punishment would also reach its predetermined limit; and they would no longer be under Gentile domination!
A Phenomenal Finding (Let’s do the Math)
Calculations: 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 equals 2,401 (years). Remember the premise: This prophecy is a specific time-lapse utilization of sevens that can be measured in years, in a very similar manner to the Daniel Chapter 9 prophecy. We must now convert the 2,401 years to Jewish years.
Roman to Jewish calendar: 2,401 years x 365 Roman calendar days = 876,365 days. Dividing 876,365 by 360 Jewish calendar days = 2,434 years Jewish years. (We’re rounding this off, because we’re only interested in the year, unlike the exact day(s) of the Daniel prophecy).
Jubilee Years: Again, we need to remember that the ultimate criteria that God used to preclude or preempt any excuses or rationalization of the people was the Sabbatical rest of the land. But we also need to include all Jubilee years, which was a 50-year cycle of freedom from debt, servitude, and also resting the land from crop planting. Because of space/time restraints, I didn’t cover this, but it can be found in Leviticus Chapter 25. Because the Israelites also failed to keep the Jubilee requirements, this would be a central part of God’s formula for discipline.
So we divide 2,434 Jewish years by 50 and we get 49 (rounded off) Jubilee years over that period of time.
We add 2,434 years + 49 (Jubilee) years. The sum of these two: 2,483 (years).
The Astonishing Result: 2,483 years minus 516 BC (we must subtract BC years from the total) leads us to the year: 1967! Or 1,967 years AD plus 516 years BC is a total of 2,483 years.
What makes the year 1967 so amazing? We will cover this in more detail during next week’s article, but for now I will simply say: In 1967, one of the three monumental milestones of Jewish modern history took place. In fact, many students of Biblical prophecy (including me) identify the six-day war of June, 1967 as the turning point of Israel’s future, even surpassing her statehood of 1948. For the 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 prophecy to end in 1967 is no coincidence or a mathematical fluke.
On the contrary: It is absolutely incredible!! It is yet another remarkable Biblical prophecy that involves the divine number seven and its precise relevance in today’s world by connecting God’s ancient covenant with Israel to its modern-day rebirth and deliverance from Gentile domination.
*Note: I didn’t start with the year 1967 and work backwards. In fact, I had no idea where the calculations would take me, in terms of any specific year. I was as curious then as you probably are now while reading this article.
Now let’s read the rest of the happy-ending story: “Then I will remember my covenant with Jacob … and I will remember the land. For the land must be abandoned to enjoy its years of Sabbath rest as it lies deserted. At last the people will pay for their sins, for they have continually rejected my regulations and despised my decrees. But despite all this, I will not utterly reject or despise them while they are in exile in the land of their enemies. I will not cancel my covenant with them by wiping them out, for I am the Lord their God. For their sakes I will remember my ancient covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of all the nations, that I might be their God. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 26: 42-45, italics for emphasis).
I highlighted at last and continually to further underscore two vital component parts of this prophecy and to validate my premise that it is a measurable time-capsule prediction. At last demonstrates the sheer duration/length of what had been nearly 2,500 years of Jewish subjugation to the gentile nations. And the concept of continually shows the unremitting period of disobedience and perpetual punishment until the discipline ended in 1967.
Things to Ponder:
Although the Babylonian captivity was a planned period of discipline (70 years), the second and final dispersion of the Jews by the Romans in 70 AD is not specifically given a beginning and ending date in Scripture, not in the fashion of Jeremiah’s prophecy of the 70 years or Daniel’s prophecy of the 483 and 490 years. Rather, the Great Diaspora that began in 70 AD, the pogroms in Russia and surrounding countries, followed by the 20th century Holocaust are all part of the continuous 7 x 7 x 7 x 7 prophetic time-line.
I think the reason for such a harsh, long period of time (from the return of the exiles in 516 BC to the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967) was the severity of Israel’s ultimate disobedience. They abandoned their ultimate Sabbath Rest, and their ultimate Jubilee by rejecting their very Messiah and Redeemer who is our Sabbath Rest for all eternity. But one day all of Israel (those who acknowledge Jesus as Messiah) will be saved, both physically and spiritually!
Don’t miss next week’s article, as it will explain in more detail what the year 1967 meant to the Jews, but also to the entire world.