By Steve Wohlberg
[Oct. 2011] The “2520” is being discussed in my home church. After reading arguments on both sides of the controversy, here are my (present) views. Note: This paper was not written for the general public, but only for those already familiar with the topic.
First, those who support the 2520 conclude:
1. It is a divine prophecy embedded in Leviticus 26
2. Leviticus 26:18 says that if Israel disobeyed God, He would punish her “seven times” for her sins. Those “seven times” should be interpreted as “seven years,” or 2520 days (based on a 360-day Hebrew calendar year), and then, based on the day-for-a-year principle, viewed as 2520 prophetic years.
3. The 2520 began in 677 BC (William Miller’s view, when King Manasseh of Judah was taken to Babylon), and ended in 1844.
4. The 2520 “prophecy” is a “second witness” to the 2300-year prophecy because both end in 1844. This “second witness” is necessary to maintain the integrity of the 2300-year prophecy because “out of the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Cor. 13:1).
5. Adventists have lost sight of the 2520 and should start teaching it again.
Some of the main arguments used to support the above conclusions are:
1. Ellen White wrote that God led William Miller in his studies in the early 1800s.
2. William Miller believed in the 2520 prophecy based on his study of Leviticus 26.
3. Ellen White wrote that God led in the publication of the 1843 and 1850 Millerite charts, and both charts contained the 2520 prophecy (based on Miller’s views).
4. Ellen White also stated that those charts fulfilled Habakkuk 2:1-4.
After reading arguments on both sides of this controversy, here is my (present) position:
1. I have read Leviticus 26 many times in the last month or so and my honest evaluation is that the chapter itself does not easily support the teaching that “seven times” represent “seven years,” or 2520 days, or 2520 years. Four times (verses 18,21,24,28) God says that He will punish Israel “seven times” for her sins if she disobeys Him. The wording implies that these will be four separate, sequential “seven times,” each falling with increasing severity if the preceding punishment fails to produce repentance. Additionally, the original Hebrew word translated “seven times” (sheba) is an adverb (indicating intensity), not a noun (indicating duration). Thus the proper translation of the word “sheba” in Leviticus 26 should be “sevenfold,” not “seven times” representing “seven years.”
2. Numbers 14:34 is the first time the day-for-a-year principle is mentioned in the Bible. But in Leviticus 26, it isn’t mentioned, or even hinted at.
3. The book of Judges reveals that many of the curses listed in Leviticus 26 had already started falling on Israel long before 677 BC.
4. The 70-week/2300-day prophecy begins with a clear and easily recognizable “command to restore and to build Jerusalem” (Dan. 9:25). Leviticus 26 contains no such clear starting point for a supposed 2520 prophecy.
5. Leviticus 26 is also filled with conditional “if…then” statements (see verses 3,4,23,24,27,28,40,42). “If” Israel obeys, blessings come. “If” not, curses will follow. Thus free will is involved. This strongly suggests that God’s “I will punish you seven times” warning cannot be a day-for-a-year prophetic timeline with clear starting and ending dates. By contrast, the 70-week/2300-day timeline is unconditional, with easily identifiable starting and ending points.
6. In Babylon, Daniel realized that Israel’s prophesied 70-year captivity was soon to end (Dan. 9:2). His prayer (verses 3-19) recognized that the curses recorded “in the law of Moses” (verse 13) had overtaken Israel, yet he hoped they would end soon and that Israel would be restored (verse 17). Such hope would be impossible if Daniel thought the Lev. 26 curses would continue for 2520 years! During the rule of Persia, the curses were reversed, Israel returned home, and once again God placed His “tabernacle” (see Lev. 26:11) among them. Now blessings had come.
7. When the next prophecy “chart” was published in 1863 (the year the SDA church was organized), the 2520 was left out. From 1863 until today the Adventist Church has never officially recognized the 2520 as a real prophecy at all.
8. One reason for this is because James White rejected the 2520. In a January 26, 1864 Review article he stated that the “2520” theory was unbiblical. Uriah Smith, in the Appendix of his book, Daniel and the Revelation, pps 784-785, agreed with James. Both believed the adverb “sheba” meant intensity, not duration, that the 2520-prophecy lacked biblical support, and that Adventists shouldn’t preach it.
9. In The Great Controversy, chapters 18-24, Ellen White wrote in great detail about the life of William Miller, about how he discovered the 2300-day prophecy, and about the history of the Advent Movement, and yet she never mentions the 2520 even once. If such a prophecy did exist and was significant, then why didn’t she mention it in her most important work when discussing the Millerites? Not only that, but during her entire 70-year ministry she never mentioned it anywhere.
10. I have seen no convincing proof that the 2300-year prophetic timeline must have a “second witness” to validate it, or that this witness must be the 2520. The original “out of the mouth of two or three witnesses” statement applied to civil court cases (see Duet. 17:9), not prophetic timelines. Other biblical applications don’t apply it to prophetic timelines either (see John 8:17; Matt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1). But even if the 2300-year prophecy should require a “second witness” to its validity, it seems to me that Revelation 10 and 14, plus the existence of Adventist Church itself (which grew out of 2300-day prophecy), would more than suffice. Then there are the 1260, 1290 and 1335 time periods (Daniel 12:7,11,12), which, when linked together, also point to 1844, providing even more support. The fact is that from 1863 until today, Adventist evangelists haven’t needed the 2520 to validate either the 2300-year prophecy, or the Adventist movement in general.
2520 proponents may still argue: “But Ellen White said that angels guided William Miller. Miller believed the 2520. The 2520 prophecy is on the first two charts. Ellen White endorsed both charts, plus she said the Millerite charts fulfilled the prophecy of Habakkuk 2:1-4. Therefore the 2520 must be an important prophecy from God!”
This chain of arguments sounds good, but the biggest problem I see is that its final conclusion (that the 2520 prophecy must come from God) lacks even one clear “Thus saith the Lord” to support it. Such reasoning also neglects the core issue that Lev. 26: 18,21,24,28 doesn’t really support the 2520 in the first place. “There is no prophetic period in Lev. xxvi,” wrote James White in the Review, and trying to “imagine that such a thing exists” is “beating the air.” Uriah Smith agreed. Yes, Ellen White wrote that angels guided William Miller, and that God’s hand was on the Millerite charts, but she also wrote that angels of God guided James White and had “oversight” of the Review.
I saw that the papers [R & H] would go and that it would be the means of bringing souls to a knowledge of the truth. I saw that James had not borne the burden alone, but that the angels of God had assisted and had oversight of the paper. 8 MR, 221
Additionally, concerning the Millerite charts being a fulfillment of Habakkuk 2:1-4, notice carefully what Ellen White actually wrote in The Great Controversy:
As early as 1842 the direction given in this prophecy to “write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it,” had suggested to Charles Fitch the preparation of a prophetic chart to illustrate the visions of Daniel and the Revelation. The publication of this chart was regarded as a fulfillment of the command given by Habakkuk. GC, 392
Look carefully. Habakkuk 2:2 says, “write the vision, and make it plain upon tables,” and Ellen White clarified that the main purpose of the “prophetic chart” was “to illustrate the visions of Daniel and the Revelation.” The 2300-day prophecy is part of a “vision” given by God (see Dan. 8:1,2,17) which qualifies it to be a fulfillment of Hab. 2:1-4. But there is no “vision” in Leviticus 26. All of this suggests that Ellen White’s support of William Miller, the early charts, and even the “figures” on the charts, primarily concerned the 2300-day “vision,” not the 2520. And in her explanation in The Great Controversy of these details, this is what she focused on without mentioning the 2520 even once.
The Adventist Church’s biblical mission is to proclaim Heaven’s “sure word of prophecy” (2 Pet. 1:19) and the Three Angel’s Messages to the world (Rev. 14:6-12). To do this effectively, our facts must be solid. Yes, God led the Millerites, but then in 1844 He also began giving direct guidance to Ellen White whose counsel always pointed back to the Bible; and in her 70 years of public ministry, she never specifically mentioned the 2520 even once. It’s obvious that Adventism as a whole no longer believes the 2520, and it seems to me that there are two possible reasons for this: 1) the 2520 was lost sight of due to an Adventist failure, or 2) advancing light and careful Bible study led Adventist leaders to realize that the 2520 was a really an unbiblical, unnecessary, and unfortunate distraction away from our core biblical message. Presently, I favor the latter, and hate to see people divided over this issue. One thing’s for sure: “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2) is our mandate.