Historical recognition
Two key texts
Ezekiel, A Contemporary of Daniel uses the Day/Year Principle
Daniel Nine Gives us the Precedent for using the Day/year Principle
Jewish Understanding
Jesus use of the Day/Year Principle
The ten days in Revelation 2:10
The Day/Year Principle is Impicit in Daniel Eight

The true picture of our Saviour’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary comes together like a puzzle. It has many pieces. When one views the whole picture all the pieces fit perfectly, but when the doctrine is under attack people will take one piece here and one piece there and try to change their shape and thus attempt to demolish the whole picture. One of those pieces is the day/year understanding.

In modern times there has been considerable attack on the day/year concept. Of course, to disprove the Adventist sanctuary doctrine they have to get rid of the time frame, as it is a very important link to the understanding of the sanctuary judgment prophecies. However, in casting doubt on the day/year principle, they are not only attempting to wipe out the sanctuary judgment, they are also destroying the whole historical protestant movement. They are removing from the people's minds one of the main keys to understanding the truths of the whole end time prophecies, and leaving them with nothing but a sea of speculation to swim in.

Historical Recognition

The day/year principle is an old principle already recognized by the Jews, even before the time of Christ.
However it was Abbot Joachim, of Floris, who in 1190, applied the day/year principle to the 1260 days.
His “disciple”, the scientist, physician, Villanova, agreed with Joachim and applied the year-day principle to the 2300 days as well. (Froom 1:751-752)

Francois du Jon (c.1545-1602), Huguenot leader, lawyer, theologian, preacher, gives his reason for the year-day principle:

"Daies is commonly taken as yeares, that God in this sort might shew the time to be short, and that the space of time is definitely set downe by Him in His counsaile. The daies must be reckoned for so many yeares, after the example of the Prophets Ezechiel and Daniel." (Francois du Ion, The Apocalyps, 1596 p. 124, cited by Froom 2:624.)

Georg Nigrinus (1530-1602), Evangelical theologian and teacher, and prolific exegete, chiefly on prophecy. In an argument dealing with the Jesuit arguments over the three and a half year (1260 days) Nigrinus cited Tertullians recognition of the fact that pagan Rome in his day was holding back the coming of Antichrist, Nigrinus discusses Antichrist’s allotted time period, and cites the verdict of the Bible:

"This Jesuit further contends that the papacy cannot be antichrist because the papacy has lasted for centuries, but that the antichrist is supposed to reign only 3 ˝ years….But no one doubts today that Daniel spoke of year-days, not literal days….The prophetic time-periods of forty-two months, 1260 days, 1,2,˝ times are prophetic, and according to Ezekiel 4, a day must be taken for a year. (Nigrinus, "Antichrists Grundtliche Offenbarung" fils 28v,29r cited in Froom 2:328)

John Napier (1550-1617), distinguished Scottish mathematician, celebrated inventor of logarithms, introducer of the present use of the decimal point, inventor of a mechanical device for the performance of multiplication, division, and extraction of square and cube roots, says this about the year-day principle: "In propheticall dates of daies, weekes, monethes, and yeares, everie common propheticall day is taken for a yeare." (Froom 2:457.)

Puritan John Cotton (1584-1652) of Massachusetts was the first Puritan expositor of the New World. Froom, speaking about Cotton, says, "Prophetic interpretation thus starts in America with the clear recognition of the year-day principle. This should ever be remembered." (Froom 3:38.)

Aaron Burr (1716-1757) Presbyterian Minister in Connecticut, wrote:

These several Numbers (1260 days, forty-two months, or three and a half times) in prophetic Stile, taking a Day for a Year, make the same period 1260 Years. So long the persecuting power of the Beast will continue; and while it does, the church will be in a wilderness state, and the faithful Ministers of Christ will prophesy in sackcloth. (Aaron Burr, The Watchman's Answer to the Question, What of the Night p.21, cited in Froom 3:199)

The Protestant Reformers were well established on the day/year principle.
However, the counter-reformation set out to destroy it. Most prominent in this was Robert Bellarmine, Jesuit, cardinal and theologian who, as an outstanding controversialist opposing the Protestant doctrines of the Reformation, was regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as one of its most powerful defenders. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1560....He was a lecturer at the new Jesuit College in Rome. Bellarmine's assault on the Protestant interpretations of prophecy was centered upon the year-day principle which stood at the base of the historic interpretation of prophecy and had risen to general notice and wide acceptance among both Catholics and Protestants. He went out of his way to do this. Many of the arguments we now hear against the day/year principle have their roots in his arguments.

Two Key Texts

What reasons do we have for believing the prophetic “days” are actually literal “years”.

The standard texts used are

Numbers 14:34 And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years….after the number of the days in which you searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year. and Ezekiel 4:6 "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."


The context of this text deals with the Israelites on the borders of Canaan. Spies were sent out into the land where they explored Canaan for 40 days. When they returned, the faithless report of the majority declared it was impossible to take the land. The people believed the report.

The Lord sends them back into the wilderness for 40 years. Each day for a year.

Now we may ask--why this emphases on A DAY FOR A YEAR?

The following is a somewhat literal translation--note the repetition:

"According to the number of the days which you spied out the land, forty days, day for the year, day for the year, you shall bear your evil forty years." God is directing attention to the day/year principle.

Here a literal day in the past represented a literal year in the future. However in apocalyptic prophecy, a "symbolic" day, stands for a literal year. Yet the principle of a "day for a year" is clearly spelled out here in Numbers.

EZEKIEL, A Contemporary of Daniel, Demonstrates the day/Year Principle

Here is a somewhat literal translation of Ezekiel 4:6, note the similarities to Numbers 14:34

The number of the days you lie on your side, and you shall bear their evil, I have given you the years of their evil according to a number of days, three hundred and ninety days, and you shall bear the evil of the house of Israel..and you shall bear the evil of the house of Judah forty days, day for the year, day for the year, I have given you. Read it over again, and see that the message or symbolic prophecy is in days, while the actual fulfilment was in years.

Ezekiel is commanded by the LORD, to act out a prophecy, which is recorded in chapter four. He acted it out for literal days, but these days stood for years.

Let's look at the setting. Ezekiel was among the captives (Ez. 1:1) for Nebuchadnezzar had already subdued Jerusalem and deported many to Babylon in 598 BC. Yet Jerusalem still stood and in both Jerusalem and Babylon the Jews were discontent, they wanted liberation. Somehow, they had the notion that, just because they were God's chosen and they worshiped in their temple, that God would deliver them even if they were into pagan practices. (Jeremiah 7) In Jerusalem Jeremiah is pleading with Israel to submit to Babylon, while most of the other "prophets" are prophecing a speedy deliverance.
It's in this context that God tells Ezekiel to show the people in a very graphic and peculiar manner that indeed, Jerusalem would be besieged and taken by Babylon--and it would be because of their sins.

Now the forty day/years on Judah and the 390 or 190 day/years (depending on what text is used) for Israel have been given various interpretations.

The days, as stated in verse six, stand for years according to the symbolism with which Ezekiel was probably acquainted, (as in the Numbers 14:34)

Ezekiel sets up a model display of Jerusalem surronded by battering rams and under siege. This apparently remained for all to see as a visual aid, while Ezekiel next acted the part of the people who would bear the punishment for their guilt.

Israel was already suffering the punishment and Judah was to suffer similarly.

The traditional interpretation, following Ussher's chronology, shows the fulfilment as follows:

The 390 years

976 BC Solomon’s reign ends. Rehoboam becomes king,but there is a revolt
Jeroboam takes ten tribes and forms the northern kingdom, Israel is divided into two kingdoms.
586 BC Nebuchadnezzar demolishes Jerusalem and the temple.

Isreal's guilt from 976 BC ^_______390 years_______ 586 BC

The 40 years

Manesseh’s evil reign brought pronouncements that Judah would be destroyed. This fate was slightly delayed due to his grandson, good king Josiah’s commitment to God. But the evil influence of Manesseh's reign was never purged from the hearts of many of the people. And the sentence could thus, not be revoked. Already in Josiah's reign, Jeremiah began to prophecy and pronounce judgment upon Judah and predicting the doom of Jerusalem. Thus many have begun the 40 years with the beginning of Jeremiah's prophetic career.

627 BC Jeremiah is called to prophecy (This is still in the time of King Josiah)
586 BC Nebuchadnezzar demolishes Jerusalem and the temple

Judah's guilt 627BC ________40 years________ 587 BC

This interpretation seems to be the most logical. It identifies the years as Israel's guilt leading up to the destruction.

Others see the prophecy predicting the length of punishment and that restoration would come eventually and it would be simultaneous for Judah and Israel, thus the time of punishment would end concurrently.

If we take the 190 day (translation) of the day/years, how does this represent the period of the punishment of the northern kingdom?

When did the punishment for the Northern Kingdom begin?
We know that about 734 BC Tiglath-pileser subdued a coalition against Assyria, of which the Northern Kingdom was a part. About 733 BC Tiglath-pileser struck Israel again, this time with full force. All Israelite lands in Galilee and Transjordan were overrun, portions of the population were deported and numerous cities destroyed.
Israel paid tribute for a few years and then rebelled again. In 724 Shalmaneser attacked Israel again and occupied all the land of the northern kingdom, save Samaria, which continued to hold out for over two years. In 721 BC the city of Samaria fell to Sargon II and the northern kingdom of Israel came to a political end.

The 190 day/years for Israel would run from 728 BC to 538 BC. The beginning date is definitely in the “turmoil” of last days for the northern kingdom, and we may only be lacking the exact event which marks it’s beginning.

When did the punishment for the Northern kingdom take place?

Assyrian subjection 728 BC ^___________190 years____________^ 538 BC Cyrus' decree

For those who accept the years as 390 day/years, more modern chronologies fit the time frame as well; marking the time from Israel's separation from Judah (931 B.C. is commonly assigned to the division of the northern from the southern kingdom), We know that soon after Israel separated, Jeroboam, fearing that his subjects would revolt and go back to the house of David if they continued going up to Jerusalem for worship, had two golden calves made. He told his subjects that it was too much for them to go up to Jerusalem for worship (1Ki 12:26-28). If separation took place in 931 B.C., this new worship program was introduced a couple years later.

Thus for about 390 years Israel was "in exile" from the center of Godly worship.

Israel separates 928 B.C. ^__________390 years____________ 538 B.C. Cyrus' decree .

When did the punishment for the Southern kingdom begin?
598 the city of Jerusalem surrendered to Babylon, many (including Daniel) were deported to Babylon.
586 B.C. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian armies.

Jerusalem's destruction 586 B.C. ^______40 years (actually 47)____________^ 538 B.C. Cyrus' decree

In 538 BC Cyrus issued a decree ordering the restoration of the Jewish community and temple in Palestine, and ending the “punishment“ on Judah and Israel.

The forty day/years for Judah do not fit exactly
The 390 day/years for Israel are so close they may fit exactly.

Daniel Nine Gives us the Precedent, or Key, in the Book of Daniel
to Apply the Day/Year Principle to Long-Term Prophecies.

Daniel 9 takes place about 538 B.C.; Jerusalem has been destroyed by Babylon, and Babylon itself is conquered by the Medes and Perians. Daniel has just been pleading with God for the restoration of Jerusalem and the temple and he is told that indeed it would be restored. He is told that Israel will be granted another 70 weeks, (490 day/years) to prepare for the Messiah.

The 70 weeks (seventy units of seven days) of Daniel 9 are interpreted as 490 years. For some strange reason most Christians have no problem seeing and using the day/year principle in this passage and converting the 490 days into years. The verse speak of 70 weeks which compute to 490 days, not 490 years.
Yet when we come to the 2300 evening and mornings in Daniel chapter eight, as well as the 1260 day/years of Daniel 7 most refuse to see and use the day/year principle for these time periods.

They will take the 70th week with its seven days, and interpret that as seven years, yet refuse to apply the day/year principle elsewhere.

The prophecy states that from the going forth of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah there would be 69 weeks, which translates to 483 days.

The degree restoring Israel to nationhood was given in 457 B.C. Christ Our Messiah was baptized (anointed) 483 years later, in 27 A.D., "cut off" or crucified in the midst of the final week in 31 A.D. when He caused the sacrifices and oblations to cease forever, with His own once and for all sacrifice. Another three and a half years the gospel was presented exclusively to the Jewish nation, until in 34 A.D. Stephen presented the covenant sermon to the leaders of Israel, and was stoned. This marked the end of the week in which the covenant was confirmed with the nation of Israel, their house was left to them desolate, as the gospel went to the Gentiles.

The prophecies of Daniel 8 and 11, reach from the prophets time, to a time when "sacrifices" are no longer part of the "daily". They reach far into beyond Daniel's time to the "time of the end".

Jewish Understanding

Let's look at those seventy ‘sevens' of Daniel 9 again.

One of our opposition wrote:
"Neither days or years are mentioned in this text. Since neither days or years are mentioned how can this be an example of the year-day relationship. . .The word is simply ‘shabua' which means ‘a seven'. It may mean a ‘seven' of days or a ‘seven' of years."

They are correct in saying the word is (#7620 "Shaboa") which means "a seven". However, everytime the word "weeks" is used in the Old Testament, the word "Shaboa" or "a seven" is the word used in the original. The word MEANS a week, or SEVEN DAYS.

"Thou shalt observe the Feast of WEEKS (a seven). Ex. 34:22
"Daniel was mourning three full WEEKS (three full sevens) Daniel 10:2

The word means WEEKS. Look up the word usually translated as "seven" in the Old Testament and you find #7651 "sheba", a word based on the same root, yes, but still a different form of the word.

Now the idea of using days to mean years was a common thing in Israel's time. Yet people will then tell us that "the day/year schema was not known by Ezekiel or the early church."
Why is it that almost universally this text in Daniel is translated with "weeks?" Because the primary meaning for the phrase refers to a seven day period.
In Genesis, God established the seven day week. Six days labour, creating the world, one day of Holy time.
In Exodus 20 we see it again in the commandments, six days we are to labour, the seventh is holy to the Lord. It then refers us back to creation week as the foundation for this.
The jubilee years were built from this primary understanding of seven (Lev. 25:4). Six years they were to work the land, the seventh year the land shall rest.
The Jubilee was the fiftieth year following seven weeks of years, and would occur once at least in the lifetime of every individual who lived out his natural life.

The seventy years of captivity were also tied to this reasoning. (Lev. 26:34-35.) The land was getting the rest it was deprived of while Israel dwelt there.

The point is— it all goes back to the original seven DAYS of creation. Far from disproving the day/year principle, your comments proved that indeed the day/year concept was well understood by the Jews. By using a term whose primary meaning is DAYS, but is also understood as years, God through Daniel was giving us the key to understanding to prophetic time periods.

The day/year principle was part of the Jewish economy!

Daniel 9 clearly sets the precedent for the day/year principle. Some may ask why don't you use Peter's "a day is a thousand years"? Why, because these prophetic books (Daniel and Ezekiel) confirm the day/year principle.

Jesus Uses the Day/Year Principle

Luke 13.31-33
"The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.
And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem."
Here Jesus is prophesying His death. He is warned that Herod is out to kill Him. He answers "I will continue to work today, tomorrow and the third day, then I will die in Jerusalem." In plain English, He said He would die in three days. However those three days were three years. Jesus is here prophesying with the day/year principle.

Herod could neither delay nor stop the appointed course of His life

Ten days of Persecution in Revelation

If the 10 days mentioned in Rev. 2:10 are literal days in which the church of Smyrna was to experience persecution, why was it even necessary to point out this fact prophetically? Ten literal days does not seem worth mentioning as a "time of persection". On the other hand, when this time period is interpreted according to the year/day principle, it fits very well with the Diocletian persecution from A.D. 303 to 313>

The Year-Day Principle can be seen in Daniel 8

The question asked in Daniel 8:13 "How long the vision concerning the daily and the transgression of desolation...."
refers to the entire vision (hazon). This means that the 2300 (days) or evening and mornings must start during the rule of the Persian (ram) and extend through the reign of the Grecian Empire (Goat), it extends through the four horn powers and on to the career of the little horn, until we come to the point IN THE TIME OF THE END.

A time when Christ's sanctuary truth is restored to the people in it's fulness-- complete with the judgment message of the first angel.

Since 2300 literal days fall far short of spanning the whole vision, it is abvious that the 2300 days, just like the 490 days in Daniel 9, are to be understood in a symbolic year-day principle.

If one uses the word "vision" here in Dan. 8:13 to mean only what the little horn does, then one really has two visions: one about the ram, the goat, and the four horns, and another vision about the little horn.
Yet Daniel 8 is ONE vision, not two.

The word "vision" (hazon) occurs three times in the introduction of this vision in verses 1-2, and occurs again in verse 13. It occurs three more times after verse 13.
"When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it" (v. 15) Gabriel responds by explaning the vision, starting with the ram. So we see every time the word "vision" (hazon) appears in Daniel it is refering to THE WHOLE vision.

"How long shall be the vision....
The Hebrew, according to one scholar literally reads

"Until when shall be the vision".

The vision takes us to events IN THE LAST DAYS. (see verse 19) The focus is placed upon the point of time at the END of the 2300 evening/mornings or day/years.

Note: the word "sacrifice" is not used in Daniel 8 by the writer, it was added everytime by the translators.

The attack on the day/year principle attacks far more than the sanctuary. It attacks the whole historic interpretation of prophecy. In studying the writings of reformers and writers even into the eighteenth century, we see them applying the year-day principle to the 1260 days, to the 490 days. The 1260 day-years points out the papal supremacy. We've already shown that the historical interpretation of prophecy shows the papacy as the key player against true Christianity. During the counter reformation the Jesuits were organized to defeat the historical interpretation and the protestant movement. They came up with the futuristic and preteristic interpretations, both of which by pass the papacy.

The Jesuit Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) dedicated much of his life studies to disproving the day/year principle. He went out of his way to do this. He's the one that came up with the inverse idea for Ezekiel, contending Ezekiel should have lain on his side in years. Much of the arguments now put forth against the day/year principles come either straight, or with slight variations from the Jesuit Bellarmine's works.

More studies on Daniel

Return to Homepage

by Ulrike U