What evidence exists not only for the year-day principle but for our use of it in the prophecies, particularly in Daniel? Is the year-day principle valid? What justification do we have for applying it where we do, such as to the “two thousand and three hundred days” of Daniel 8:14?
This paper answers these questions, and more
Old Testament Prose
To begin, the Old Testament has long recognized a relationship between “days” and “years,” a relationship that helps establish a foundation for the year-day principle itself. In various places, though the text is translated “year,” or “years,” or “yearly”– because that’s obviously what it means–the Hebrew word translated is, literally, “days.”
The Passover, for example, was to be kept (literally) “from days to days,” though it is translated as “from year to year” (Exodus 13:10) because that is clearly what “from days to days” in this text means.
A “yearly” sacrifice in 1 Sa 20:6 is, in the Hebrew, the “sacrifice of the days.”
Hannah took the garments she had made for Samuel to him from “year to year” (literally, “from days to days,” 1 Sam 2:19). She took them at the same time her husband Elkanah went to Shiloh to offer his “sacrifice of the days,” which is translated as his “yearly sacrifice” (1 Sam 1:21).
Judges 11:40 tells about the service of mourning, which was held for Jepthah’s daughter “from days to days,” (translated “yearly”).
Scripture says that David and his men dwelt in the land of the Philistines “days and four months” (1 Sam 27:7). A period of “a year and four months” is the obvious meaning, which is why the KJV translates it as “a full year and four months.”
1 Kings 1:1 states that “King David was old and advanced in years” (literally, “in the days”).
As far back as Genesis 5, a year-day relationship appears: “X lived so many years and begat Y. And X lived so many years after he begat Y and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of X were so many years, and he died.”
An important relationship between “days” and “years” and prophecy is found in the following verse–the first “time” prophecy in the Bible. The Lord says: “My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years” (Gen 6:3). Hence, already in Genesis 6 we find a prophecy in which “days” and “years” are directly linked.
In Leviticus 25:1-7, the sabbatical year, was established for the Israelite agricultural economy. The Israelite farmer was to sow his fields, prune his vineyards, and gather the harvest into his barns and storehouses for six years. But in the seventh year he was to let the land lie fallow and to leave the vineyards and orchards unpruned. What grew of itself could be eaten as food by anyone, the alien, the poor, the slave, as well as by the owner; it was, however, not to be harvested and stored.
The sabbatical year was marked off as the last, or the seventh year, in a period of seven years. “When you come into the land which I give you, the land shall keep a sabbath to the Lord” (vs. 2). The “Sabbath” referred to here was not the weekly seventh-day Sabbath, but the “Sabbath” of every seventh year. What we see here is the idea of a day, in this case the seventh day, used in parallel to the seventh “year.”
When the command is repeated again in verse 4, it is stated in a slightly different manner: the seventh year was to be “a sabbath. . . for the land, a sabbath to the Lord.” The comment was also added that it was to be a “sabbath of solemn rest.” When this latter phrase is repeated in verse 5, the word for “year” occurs in the same position as the word for “sabbath.” Thus the two statements read that the seventh year:
“shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land” (vs. 4)
“shall be a year of solemn rest for the land” (vs. 5)
The grammatical parallelism reemphasizes the identification of that year as a sabbath for the land to Yahweh. Thus there is a direct relationship between the Sabbath “day” and the “year” since the same terminology was applied to both, and the latter sabbatical year was patterned after the former sabbatical day.
Old Testament Poetry
The poetic literature of the OT provide us with instances (like those in the historical prose narratives cited above) in which the two time units of “days” and “years” are used side by side in a particularly close relationship.
Are thy days as the days of man,
or thy years as man’s years? (Job 10:5)
The wicked man writhes in pain all his days,
through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless. (Job 15:20)
I said, “Let days speak,
and many years teach wisdom.” (Job 32:7)
If they harken and serve him,
they complete their days in prosperity,
and their years in pleasantness. (Job 36:11)
“Days” and “years” and placed in a parallel relationship to each other, showing how they used to mean basically the same thing. This is known as “parallelism,” and it is common in Hebrew poetry.
Here are more examples of parallelisms between “days” and “years” in OT poetry:
Remember the days of old,
consider the years of many generations;
ask your father, and he will show you;
your elders, and they will tell you. (Deut 32:7)
I consider the days of old,
I remember the years long ago. (Ps 77:5)
For all our days pass away under thy wrath,
our years come to an end like a sigh. (Ps 90:9)
Though in and themselves, these examples (and there are many more) don’t prove the year-day principle itself, they do prove that the Bible reveals a close and particular relationship between “days” and “years,” and this provides a background for the more specific application of this principle to end-time prophetic periods.
In Numbers 14:34, the “days” used to measure off “years” are derived from events of the immediate historical past: the 40 days that the Israelite spies spent in their exploration of Canaan. The people in the camp accepted the bad report given by the majority of the spies. As a consequence, God sentenced them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, a direct parallel to the 40 days. “According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall bear your iniquity, forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.”
Thus the fate of the generation that was to wander in the wilderness was foretold here in the form of a prophetic judgment, a prophetic judgment calibrated in terms of the year-day principle.
In Ezekiel 4:6, the year-day principle is seen explicitly in a prophetic scenario. The application of the principle is clearly expressed by the Lord. “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.”
The following examples (by no means exhaustive) show that the Hebrew Bible, in various contexts, including the prophetic, reveals the year-day relationship.
Yet, even with the existence of close relationship between “days” and “years,” or in some specific cases, the year-day principle itself, what reasons do we have for applying this principle in some of the prophecies that we do?
“Time of the End”
We now jump to the book of Daniel, to some of the chapters themselves where we as Adventist (along with others) have employed the year-day principle.
What justification do we have for using it here?
To begin, we go the vision of Daniel 8. In his opening statement of explanation of the vision in that chapter, Gabriel told the prophet that the vision he had just been shown was for the “time of the end” (vs. 17). The explanation itself then began with the first element, the Persian ram (vs. 20), and continued to its last element, the time factor of “the evening-mornings” (vs. 26)–a clear reference to the 2300 evenings and mornings of Daniel 8:14. The obvious inference of Gabriel’s explanation is that the time element presented in this vision, the 2300 evening and mornings, leads to the “time of the end.”
Meanwhile, in Daniel 11 and 12, the final activities of the king of the north are described as occurring in the “time of the end” (11:40), when Michael stands up and delivers His living saints and resurrects His dead ones (12:1-2), an unmistakable reference to the establishment of the final kingdom of God, which occurs at the “time of the end” too.Within that same “time of the end,” the prophecies of Daniel were to be unsealed, studied, and understood (12:4, 9).In a similar context, the prophecy of Daniel 7 extends down the end of human history, to the time of the end when God establishes His final kingdom: “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and dominions shall serve and obey him” (Daniel 7:28).
In short, because these prophecies in Daniel 7 and 8, as well as 10-12, lead up to the “time of the end,” which immediately precedes God setting up His eternal kingdom, the time periods mentioned in prophecies should extend through history to that “time of the end” as well. Also, because these prophecies themselves began with events rooted in antiquity–“In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon” (Daniel 7:1); “In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar” (Daniel 8:1)–the sweep of history described in these prophetic texts, which extend from the sixth century B.C. to our time and beyond, must cover many centuries.
Now, the question is, How can the time prophecies presented in these visions, prophecies which if taken literally cover short spans of time–such as 3 ½ year (Daniel 7:25) to about 6 ½ years (Daniel 8:14)– possibly extend over the long time periods depicted in the prophecies themselves? The answer, of course, is that they can’t: literal time doesn’t even begin to cover the events depicted in the chapters
In contrast, application of the year-day principle takes these prophetic time periods–which otherwise would end with events concluded even prior to Christ–and places them much further down the historical continuum, even to “the time of the end” as the prophecies themselves demand.In other words, without the year-day principle, these texts don’t make sense. An event fulfilled prior to Christ cannot be in “time of the end.” The problem, however, is easily solved when the year-day principle is applied. Thus, we are given internal evidence within the prophecies themselves that prophetic time, not literal time, is what the texts demand.
Weeks of Daniel 9
This idea, of internal evidence within the prophecy itself for the day-year principle, appears powerfully in the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27.
For starters, all commentators on Daniel agree that the events prophesied in Daniel 9:24-27 could not have been completed within a literal 70 weeks, or one year and five months. If not taken literally, how then should it be taken?
Crucial in understanding these few verses is the Hebrew word translated in these verses as “weeks,” šābû’a.Two approaches have been used for understanding what’s intended with it.
The first approach is to translate the word as “weeks” and to derive the prophecy’s time periods from the “days” that compose these weeks. The calculation is done on the basis of the year-day principle. Each day of these “weeks” is viewed as a prophetic day standing for a historical year; therefore 70 weeks, composed of 7 days each week, depicts a 490-year period.
The second approach is to translate this word as “sevens, besevened, heptads, hebdomads” or the like. From this purely numerical translation it is held that šābû’a carries with it directly implied “years,” that is, it is taken to mean 70 “sevens (of years),” which is literal, not symbolic time. Hence, we get 490 years here as well, but without need of the year-day principle.
Justification for this latter translation as “sevens (of years)” is, however, exceedingly suspect. It is true that the Hebrew word for “week,” šābû’a, was derived from the word for “seven,” šeba. However, it was derived as a very specialized term to be applied only to the unit of time consisting of seven days, that is, the “week.” Everywhere else where that term is used in Scripture—even spelled (and vocalized) as it is in Daniel 9:24-27–it clearly means “weeks” not “sevens, besevened, heptads, or hebdomads.”
That exact word, šābû’a, occurs 13 times in the OT outside of Danie1 9. All versions of the Bible translate these instances as “weeks.” If it is “weeks” everywhere else in the OT, then, on the linguistic evidence, it should be rendered “weeks” in Danie1 9 as well.
Seven of these occurrences outside of Daniel 9 are connected with the “Feast of Weeks” or “Pentecost.” Clearly, this is the “Feast of Weeks,” not the “Feast of Sevens.”
The same point can be made from Daniel 10:2-3, where the word occurs twice as a reference to a period of three “weeks,” during which Daniel mourned and fasted for the fate of his people. The word is modified in this passage by the qualifying word “days.” Because of this some have argued that the expression should be rendered as “weeks of days,” implying then that the prophecy of Daniel 9:24 should be understood to mean “weeks (of years).”
But the argument misunderstands the Hebrew idiom present in this expression. When a time unit such as a week, month, or year is followed by the word for “days” in the plural, the idiom is to be understood to signify “full” or “complete” units. Thus the expression, “a full month” or “a whole month,” reads literally in the Hebrew, “month days,” or “month of days.” See Genesis 29:14; Numbers 11:20-21; Judges 19:2 (in this latter instance the word for “days” precedes the term for “month”). The expression, “full years,” reads literally, “years days.” See Genesis 41:1; Leviticus 25:29; 2 Samuel 13:23; 14:28.
Thus the Hebrew expression in Daniel 10:2-3, namely, “three weeks days,” means, according to this idiom, “three full weeks,” or “three whole weeks.” Linguistically this idiom prevents the conclusion from being drawn that “weeks of days” in contrast to “weeks (of years)” is implied in this passage.
It is quite arbitrary, therefore, to translate šābû’a as “seven” or “sevens” in Daniel 9:24-27 and to translate it as “weeks” three verses later in Daniel 10:2, 3, as the New International Version does. Usages elsewhere in Daniel, elsewhere in the OT, in extrabiblical Hebrew, and in other Semitic languages all indicate that this word should be translated as “weeks.” No support can be obtained from any of these sources for translating this word any other way than as “weeks.”
Therefore, in order for the time period depicted in the 70-week prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 to make sense, and to cover the events depicted in the verses (from the going forth of the “commandment to restore and build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the prince” v. 25), the year-day principle must be applied.
Regardless of the precise chronological starting point chosen for them, the 70 weeks of Daniel 9 should start sometime in the Persian period, since, according to Ezra and Nehemiah, it was under one or another of the Persian kings that reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem began. The decree was to be the starting point for the time period indicated by the prophecy. The Messiah prince was to appear 69 prophetic weeks thereafter. This prophetic figure has been correctly identified historically with Jesus Christ. He was cut off, as the prophecy foretold. Soldiers of Rome crucified Him.
Thus the two historical events that delimit the prophetic period of 69 weeks occurred in the Persian and Roman periods respectively, regardless of the precise dates chosen for them. This means that those 69 weeks spanned part of the history of the Persian Empire, ran contemporaneously with the history of the Hellenistic kingdoms of Syria and Egypt, and extended at least as far into the Roman period of history as the time of Christ’s crucifixion.
A year and a half (the approximate equivalent of 70 literal weeks) could overlap just two of these kingdoms: either the Persian and Greek, or the Greek and Roman. Either of these transitions could be covered chronologically only during the year in which the latter finally overcame the former. But, and this is a crucial point, such a limited period of literal time could not reach as far as either the beginning or the end of the events described in the prophecy. A literal 69 weeks couldn’t go from anywhere in the Persian period to anywhere near the dates of Jesus Christ.
The “weeks” in this prophetic time period must, therefore, be symbolic in nature and not literal. The fact that the year-day principle is needed in order for the prophecy to reach the time period of Jesus only affirms the validity of the principle. Without it, the prophecy could not have reached the time that Jesus lived. The life and ministry of Jesus is, therefore, proof of the year-day principle, at least in the 70 week prophecy of Daniel 9.
Year-Day Principle in Daniel 8
Not only does the time prophecy for Daniel 9 have internal evidence for the year-day principle, but Daniel 8 does as well. Of course, once one establishes the relationship between the two time prophecies, the evidence for the year-day principle in chapter 8 becomes even greater (after all, why would the 70 weeks of Daniel 9 require the year-day principle while the 2300 days, which is directly tied to it, doesn’t?). Yet, even without that connection, Daniel 8, in and of itself, provides powerful evidence for the need of the year-day principle.
In the vision of Daniel 8:1-12, the prophet sees a ram, followed by a goat, followed by a little horn power that is involved in a spiritual and religious attack against “the host of heaven” (v.10), against “the prince of the host” (v. 11), against the “daily” (v.12) and against “the truth” (12).At that point, the following question is asked in verse 13: “Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?”
A few points need to be made as we look at this verse. The word “concerning,” placed in italics, does not appear in the original Hebrew, nor does Hebrew grammar allow for it. It is not a vision “of” or a vision “concerning” just these specific things that follow, that is, the activities of the little horn alone. Instead, the text reads like this, “how long the vision (hāzôn), the daily, and the transgression of desolation giving the sanctuary and the host a trampling.”
The crucial question here is whether the vision (hāzôn) in question is the whole vision that the prophet has seen up to that point (vss. 3-12), or it is only the portion of the vision dealing with the little horn (vss. 9-12).
The evidence is in favor of the former, that the question concerns everything from the start of the vision (hāzôn) in the beginning of the chapter.
First, if one applies the word “vision” (hāzôn) in Daniel 8:13 only to the activities of the little horn described beginning with verse 9, then one really has two visions: one vision about the ram, the goat, and the four horns, and another vision about the little horn. Since no demarcators to support such a division appear in the middle of this vision’s description, and since the vision is described in continuous fashion from verses 3 to 12, there are no grounds in the text for making such an arbitrary division.
Second, the use of the word “vision” (hāzôn) elsewhere in Daniel 8 supports the idea that this occurrence in verse 13 refers to the whole vision of verses 3-12. This word occurs three times in the introduction of this vision in verses 1-2. ” In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision (hāzôn) appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first. And I saw in a vision (hāzôn); and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision (hāzôn) and I was by the river of Ulai.”It is obvious in all three instances that it refers to the whole vision that was seen thereafter. This word occurs next in the question in verse 13; and in conjunction with the three opening occurrences, its location there forms an bracket around the body of the vision proper. The prophet then reacted to the scenes that had passed before him by stating, “When I, Daniel, had seen the vision (hāzôn) I sought to understand it” (vs. 15). The whole vision appears to be in view here because, in response to Daniel’s search for understanding, Gabriel’s explanation began with the Persian ram (vs. 20). In his further references to understanding the vision (vs. 17) and sealing it up (vs. 26) Gabriel also appears to refer to the whole vision of verses 3-12.
Third, the word “vision” or hāzôn occurs seven times in Daniel 8: three times before the question of verse 13 (vss. 1-2) and three times after it (vss. 15, 17, 26). In all six occurrences the reference seems most likely to be to the whole vision of verses 3-12. Since that is the case with all the other occurrences of this word in this narrative, that is the way it should also be interpreted in the question of verse 13.
Finally, this point is further emphasized by the use of the definite article (“the”) with hāzôn in the question (the vision). The article is also prefixed to the last three occurrences of the word in this chapter, in verses 15, 17, and 26, and it has been pointed with prepositions in verse 2. It is “the” (whole) vision in view here, not just part.
For the reasons reviewed above, it’s clear that the word “vision” in the question of Daniel 8:13 refers to all of the preceding vision described in verses 3-12. Thus the question asked here in verse 13 deals with everything that the prophet had seen up to that point: the ram (Media-Persia), the goat (Greece), as well as the activity of the little horn power..
To determine the time for the commencement of the 2300 days given in answer to that question, therefore, one must go back to the beginning of that overall vision. That takes us back to the time of the Persian ram in verses 3-4. From these correlations it may be concluded that the 2300 days began sometime during the Persian period (539-331 B.C.), the precise year being left unspecified here. The implication of these observations has been noted by commentators on Daniel as early as 1684 and as recent as 1978, as the following quotations indicate:
The Vision of the 2300 Evenings and Mornings, dates most exactly, and precisely the Time from the very Beginning of the Persian Monarchy or the First of Cyrus to the cleansing of the Sanctuary, at the new Jerusalem, and the breaking of Antichrist without hand, or by the stone cut out of the Mountains without hand, at the Kingdom of Christ, Daniel 8, 14, 25.
Those 2300 are not the Gauge of the daily Sacrifice taken away, but of the whole Vision, from the Persian through the Grecian, to the end of the Roman, Antichristian Monarchy, and the Kingdom of Christ.
Furthermore, it should be noted carefully that the question is not merely, “How long shall the sanctuary be trodden underfoot?” but, “For how long is this vision that culminates in the terrible work of the little horn?” The vision actually begins with Medo-Persia, and thus we would expect the 2300-day period should likewise begin in the days of that empire.
The 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 can thus be cited, along with the 70 weeks of Daniel 9:24-27, as a time period that spans whole kingdoms. In order to extend that far in time, its “days” would have to be interpreted as symbolic rather than literal. In other words, the 2300 days must cover all the events depicted in the vision of Daniel 8, that is, Media-Persia, Greece, the activity of the little and the sanctuary being cleansed. A literal 2300 days doesn’t even begin to cover one of those kingdoms depicted in the prophecy, much less all the events there. On the other hand, with the day-year principle, the problem is solved. Twenty-three hundred years, not a little more than six, cover the events in question. In short, the prophecy itself demands the day-year principle.
Hence, from within Daniel 8 itself, even before it’s linked to the 70-week prophecy, which we saw demands the year-day principle (and thus would give more reason to apply that same principle to the 2300 days, of which it is a part), we have powerful internal evidence showing how the prophecy demands a prophetic, as opposed to literal, interpretation of its key time element.
Symbolic vs. Literal Events
In the historical narrative of Genesis 15 the prophecy was given to Abraham that his flesh and blood descendants were to be oppressed in a foreign land, that is, Egypt, for a literal 400 years (vs. 13). This was fulfilled in these specific and literal terms (compare Exod 12:40).
The classical prophecy of Jeremiah 25 foretold that Judah was to be conquered by a literal king Nebuchadnezzar; its inhabitants were to be exiled to his country of Babylon for a literal 70 years (vss. 8-12). These events were also fulfilled in the terms in which they were prophesied (compare 2 Kgs 25; Ezra 1). These prophecies, and others like them in the historical narratives and classical prophets of the OT, are predicted in terms of literal personages, actions, and times. And they are fulfilled in those terms.
Apocalyptic prophecy, on the other hand, generally makes greater use of symbols than is the case in classical prophecy. The prophecy of Daniel 2, for example, does not directly foretell the coming of a literal kingdom of Greece. It does so rather through the symbolic vehicle of the belly and thighs of bronze in the image. The animal symbols in the prophecies of Daniel 7 and 8 are even more striking than the metals in Daniel 2.
The time periods of Daniel are connected with these symbolic figures and their actions. Those in Daniel 12:7, 11 refer back to times or actions already described with symbols in Danie1 7:25 and 8:11-13. Thus the 3 ½ times of Daniel 7:25 belong originally, for example, to a symbolic horn, not to a person or persons described primarily as such. Thus, when time periods in apocalyptic accompany symbolic figures carrying out symbolic actions, it is natural to expect that those time periods should also be symbolic in nature. The symbols aren’t taken literally; thus, why should the time prophecies associated with them be taken literally as well?
Notice, too, interesting phenomenon: the “evening-mornings” of Daniel 8:14, as a composite unit, does not appear elsewhere in the OT as a unit by which time was commonly quantified numerically. To express “days” as “evening-mornings” is not how “days” are referred to in the Bible. Perhaps, then, it was not expressed in a literal manner because literal time was not meant.
The 3 ½ ‘iddān or “times” of Daniel 7:25 are not the normal expressions of the Bible writers to denote time units. Although some commentators hold that this term is simply another word for “years,” there is no lexical evidence from either biblical or extrabiblical sources to support such a contention. The point is that a time unit was used here which was intentionally symbolic, and those symbolic units must be interpreted to determine the actual time period intended by the writer.
Indeed, even if one accepts the exceptional “evening-mornings” of Daniel 8:14 as a standard unit with which to measure time, “2300” of them still is not the normal way in which to quantify those days. One should rather have referred to the period as 6 years, 3 months, and 20 days rather than 2300 days. Again, perhaps they were not expressed in the literal way because literal time was not meant. The same is true of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9, which would make up one year and 4 ½ months on a literal basis. Why was the time unit given as 70 weeks, instead of as 4 ½ months, a literal rendition? Meanwhile, the 3 ½ times is not a normal numbering of time either, since the expression reads literally as, “a time, two times, and one-half time.”
Thus not one of the time periods in Daniel’s prophecies is expressed the way it would have been if it had been used to express literal time in the normal manner. The unusual way in which these prophetic periods are expressed, both with regard to units of time and the numerals used with them, suggests once again that symbolic rather than literal time is involved.
In contrast to statements about time in classical prophecies, apocalyptic employs symbolic numbers with symbolic time units in symbolic contexts. These factors converge to indicate that these references should be understood as standing for symbolic and not literal time.
Magnitude or Events Involved
The events described in apocalyptic prophecies are not peripheral to world political and salvation history. Daniel outlines the rise and fall of the major powers that were to rule from his day to the end of time. We have not yet entered the final kingdom of God at the end, but many centuries have already passed since Daniel’s time. Putting these kinds of events on a time scale implies, as said above, that the relatively short time frames listed in the prophecies (1 years and four months, to three and half years, to six years and three months) couldn’t possibly fit, if taken literally, the chronological scale of the events depicted. Hence, they need to be interpreted symbolically, and particularly as seen in the 70-week prophecy, the year-day principle works perfectly when applied.
In addition, there appears to be a crescendo in this outline as expressed in Daniel 7, since the fourth or Roman beast is described as more dreadful, terrible, and destructive than any of the preceding beasts. While political domination is the goal of the beast, as it is expressed in this pas- sage, the little horn that issued from it has concentrated more on religious issues, such as speaking great words against the Most High and persecuting His saints.
Of all the prophetic entities described in this chapter, the little horn stands out as the one most directly in opposition to God. That being the case, the question may be asked, Does this prophecy really mean to say that the struggle between the little horn and the Most High would be resolved in just 3 ½ literal years? Given the comprehensive scope of salvation history that this prophecy covers, such a figure seems like an inordinately short period of time in which to conclude events of this importance. In contrast, with application of the year-day principle, that question is removed, because a literal 3 ½ year period now becomes something spanning more than a millennium, a time frame that fits much better the magnitude of the events depicted in the prophecy.
Something similar can be said about the reuse of the same time period in Revelation 12 where the 3 ½ times or 1260 days (vss. 6, 14) delimit a particular period during which Christ’s church (represented by the woman) was to be persecuted by the dragon, or Satan, working through his human agencies. Does an allowance of just 3 ½ literal years do justice to these statements, which are set in the context of the great controversy climax between Christ and Satan (vss. 7-12)? The magnitude of the events involved points to the symbolic nature of the 3 ½ times in order to accommodate their accomplishment. Here, too, the year-day principle solves the problem.
As the preceding evidence shows, the year-day principle is firmly rooted in Scripture. From the linguistic links between “years” and “days” found in the OT Testament prose and poetry, to clear expressions of it some Old Testament prophecies, the year-day principle can be easily established as a biblical datum.
Meanwhile, from within the prophecies in question themselves, internal evidence points unmistakably to need of the year-day principle.
In short, not only do we have firm proof for the validity of the year-day principle, we showed too why it must be applied to the prophecies in question. Indeed, without the year-day principle, many of those prophecies don’t make sense simply because literal time doesn’t come anywhere near covering the scope of events depicted in them. In contrast, once the year-day principle is applied, that problem disappears.
This material was condensed and adapted from Selected Studies on Prophetic Interpretation, by William H. Shea. “Year-DayPrinciple”; Daniel and Revelation Committee Series, Vol. 1. General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. 1982.