2,300 Mornings and Evenings

Daniel 8:13-14 includes an enigmatic statement about the length of the desolation of the holy place. “Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, ‘How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?’ And he said to me, ‘For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored‘” (NAS). There are at least three questions that relate to this statement.

The first question is how long of a period is meant by “2,300 evenings and mornings.” Most Bible scholars take this to be 2,300 days, which is approximately 6 years and 4 months. However, a few understand it to refer to a combined total of 2,300 evenings and mornings, i.e. 1,150 evenings and 1,150 mornings, thus 1,150 days or approximately 3 years and 2 months.

The second question relates to the general time when this period occurs. Despite the fact that the context of this vision indicates that it relates to the Persian and Greek periods (cf. verses 20-21), some interpreters suggest that the “time of the end” (v. 17, 19) would allow this to be understood as referring to the events of the 2nd advent (yet future for us). Some also, while acknowledging that it must be set in the Hellenistic period, argue that it may have a typological fulfillment in the future. However, there seems to be nothing in the prophecy that cannot be related to the Persian and Hellenistic periods, prior to the time of Christ.

The third question has to do with the start and end dates of this period. The event that marks the end of the 2,300 days is that “the sanctuary will be restored.” The most obvious fulfillment of this was the restoration of the temple of Jerusalem under the Maccabees in December of 165 BC. The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah commemorates that event. If that is the end date, what marks the beginning?

Calculating back 1,150 days brings us to about October of 168 BC. This is only about 2 months before the temple was desecrated by Antiochus IV Ephiphanes, on his return from a great humiliation in Egypt at the hands of the Romans. However, the times do not seem to match up precisely; it is off by about 2 months. Calculating back 2,300 days puts us in the late summer of 171 BC. It was around that time that the high priest Jason was deposed by Antiochus, replaced by the corrupt, politically appointed Menelaus. A number of biblical scholars suggest this may mark the start of the 2,300 days; however, we do not have a precise date for the deposing of Jason.

Timeline showing two possible interpretations of Daniel’s 2,300 days.

It seems that we do not have sufficient historical information to determine between these possibilities with certainty. Several reasonable explanations are available, but our knowledge is lacking.

It may be worth noting that during the early 1800s, this prophecy of 2,300 days was used by the Baptist lay-preacher William Miller to predict the coming judgement of God. Miller argued that the days represented years; beginning the prophecy in 457 BC with the return of Ezra to Jerusalem, he predicted that Judgment Day would occur in AD 1844. The prediction became hugely popular, but 1844 came and went without the return of Christ. The few Millerites who clung to the prophecy eventually re-interpreted it as a heavenly, investigative judgement, and they formed the Seventh Day Adventist movement. The events of 1844 became known as the Great Disappointment.

Cartoon poking fun at the Millerite movement following the Great Disappointment.

William Miller once said one needed to “bring all scriptures together on the subject you wish to know; then let every word have its proper influence, and if you can form your theory without a contradiction you cannot be in error.” That should be a cautionary tale.

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