"The Babushka Doll Principle" by Tricia Tillin

Principles of Biblical Prophecy

babushka dolls

I would like to offer an understanding of the way biblical prophecy works which is on the Babushka Doll principle. Let me explain. A set of Babushka dolls looks complete in itself, but contains a set of perfectly-formed but different items all contained in one. Between each doll is a gap, a gap in time in this metaphor.

Anyone looking at the largest doll would imagine it is complete, not knowing there are several other dolls inside. So it is with the fulfillment of prophecy. Some bible prophecy has only ONE meaning, but often TWO or more, complete in themselves and for different times and peoples.

Additionally there are applications and fulfillments from the broadest scope of world history viewpoint down to a single event. At the outset, the core of this "doll" is the initial utterance by the prophet that carries a literal meaning. He may or may not be aware that there is a significance in his words beyond his present day. However, there are often hidden layers of meaning, for instance:

  • A broader application to the history of a nation or a people as a whole.
  • A Messianic fulfillment, taking us beyond the prophet's present day and into the future.
  • A spiritual understanding that establishes a pattern or type.
  • A global and universal truth relating to mankind's history and God's dealings with mankind.

Why is this important?

Without understanding this multi-layered approach to bible prophecy, we miss the overall meaning! We grasp one or two points that God is making in his word, but miss equally important concepts that can only be understood when we step back and look at the big picture.

In this particular instance, I want to re-examine the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks in Daniel and other related prophecies according to the Babushka-Doll Principle. This prophecy has become central to much of our understanding of the endtimes. Therefore we do well to consider it again lest we have missed something relating to our our future!

The Babushka Dolls seen as Birthpangs

As you know, this website is called birthpangs. The title is taken from Jesus' teaching about the signs of his return. He likened the early warning signs to "sorrows" which is the Greek word for labour pains, or birthpangs. You may know that these pains can start in a fairly insignificant way and with large gaps of time between, but become stronger and more frequent. (1)

The set of babushka dolls follows this pattern. The smallest doll is likened to the early birthpangs, and each doll or "contraction" gets larger, with less of a gap in between, leading up to the final "push" that achieves the birth (or whatever the prophecy intended, in this instance.)

Quick Proof of the Babushka Principle

Many prophecies have equally valid meanings (complete in themselves) for differing times and varying groups of people. For example, I doubt that Isaiah realised when he prophesied about the coming SON that it would literally be fulfilled in the virgin birth of the Messiah.

Isa 7:14-17
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. The LORD will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father's house -- days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah."

Indeed, the literal fulfillment is mentioned in the following chapter:

Isa 8:3-4
Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the LORD said to me, "Call his name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz; for before the child shall have knowledge to cry 'My father' and 'My mother,' the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be taken away before the king of Assyria."

One commentary states: "The New Testament application of such prophecies is not a strained 'accommodation;' rather the temporary fulfillment is an adaptation of the far-reaching prophecy to the present passing event, which foreshadows typically the great central end of prophecy, Jesus Christ (Rev 19:10)." [Jamieson Fausset Brown Commentary By: Robert Jamieson, A.R. Fausset, David Brown]

And another looks at the multiple fulfillment of prophecies like this:

Several questions are raised when there appears to be more than one possible fulfillment for a prophecy. Does a primary fulfillment in one passage rule out a secondary application to another passage? Not necessarily. Did the author intend both fulfillments with one as an analogy or illustration for the other? Did the author intend a dual fulfillment for two different audiences at two different times? Joel 2:30, speaking about signs on the earth, was applied by the apostle Peter to the tongues of fire at PENTECOST (Acts 2:3-4,18-19). But Jesus seemed to apply this prophecy to His SECOND COMING (Mark 13:24; Luke 11:25). (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

Elijah was John The Baptist!

Another example is the prophecy in Malachi about the coming of Elijah before the "great and dreadful day of the LORD". (Mal 4:5) This was so revered by the Jews of Jesus' day that they rejected Jesus as Messiah because of it. Yet Jesus said that, for those who could receive it, John the Baptiser WAS the Elijah of that prophecy. Jesus Himself does affirm the multiple fulfillments of prophecy! (Matt 17:11-13)

Not only does prophecy repeat itself in a pattern, but events cycle through time according to the perfect order laid down by God. Some of these cycles can plainly be seen in scripture - the number 40 is very often associated with trial and testing (the wilderness years, the temptation of Jesus and so on) - there is also an enormous amount to be learned by studying events that happen in a three-day (or year) period and are finalised "on the third day". The most notable example is the death and resurrection of Jesus, but there are many others in scripture if you care to search.

One notable example is the repeating pattern (especially seen in the Daniel prophecy) of the seventy weeks of years, or 490 years for Israel. One researcher has explained the repeating pattern as follows:

Matt 1:17 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: (see chart here) We know from Daniel's prophecy that the time-period from the captivity to the coming of Christ was 490 years (seventy sevens of weeks). I don't believe Matthew intended for us to work out the actual lifetimes of each person listed, but just to note that there was a period of "fourteen generations" in each time-period.There are in fact FOUR cycles of 490 years here! Matthew writes -

  • So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations. (2) From the call of Abraham to the Exodus is 430 years (Exod 12:40) and 40 years in the wilderness, plus 20 years to the division of the Promised Land = 490 years. (1) Then 450 years from the Judges to Samuel (Acts 13:20-22) plus 40 years from Saul to David = 490 years (2).
  • from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations 80 years for the reigns of David and Solomon plus 410 years takes us to 586 BC when the last king was removed and the temple was destroyed = 490 years (3).
  • and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ, fourteen generations. The years of captivity were "outside of time" because Israel did not exist as a nation. Therefore the next 490 years is Gabriel's prophecy of restoration found in Daniel 9. "From the command to return and rebuild until Messiah the Prince, and the fulfillment." are seventy sevens = 490 years (4) [this leaves aside the question of the final seven years, but it is not the subject of this particular exercise.]

The multi-layered seventy year prophetic cycle (3)

One important repeating time-cycle is 70 (years, time-periods or eras). As we are considering the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks of Years in Daniel, let us consider the THREE sets of seventies within that timescale (they overlap):

(1) 605-536 BC = the Captivity to the Release (Decree of Cyrus), 70 years [Israel without their liberty]
(2) 586-516 BC = the Destruction of the Temple to its rebuilding, 70 years [Israel without worship]
(3) 516-446 BC = the Temple Rebuilt to the Rebuilding of the Walls, 70 years [Israel without a city] (4)

Let's look briefly at notable seventies in scripture:

  • the pronouncement over Tyre, that it would be abandoned and unprofitable for 70 years. (Ezek 26: 14-16)
  • the nations subjected to the Babylonian Empire for 70 years. (Jeremiah 25:9-12 and Jeremiah 29:10)
  • the land enjoys its sabbaths for 70 years while the disobedient Jews are in exile (2 Chronicles 36:20-23)
  • the prophecy by Gabriel to Daniel about the fate of Israel is 70 "weeks of years" (Daniel 9:26)
  • the destruction of Jerusalem until the Temple was rebuilt was 70 years. (Jer. 52;12-14; Ezra 6:15)

Other Important "seventies" in history

  • The time between the birth of Jesus the Messiah and the destruction of Jerusalem was 70 years (5)
  • The time between the first Zionist Conference and the Six Day War of 1967 was 70 years
  • the time between the UN decree about the land of Israel in 1947 and the year 2017 is 70 years - and that is the subject of this article, amongst other things.

Seventy-Year periods recurring throughout bible history

I have prepared three charts showing how the babushka principle of the SEVENTY years works throughout history. I have chosen three 160-year time-periods of bible history that show four overlapping "seventies" but I'm sure there are many more that could demonstrate this principle. Click on each graphic to see the charts, which are:

(1) From the captivity in 606 BC to the rebuilding of the Temple
(2) From the cleansing of the temple in BC 164 to the death of Herod
(3) From the first Jewish emigration in 1877 to the Second Coming (?)


The importance of the repeating three-and-a-half year cycle

As we saw earlier, certain biblical numbers contain within themselves prophetic meaning and becomes "types" throughout history. The three-and-a-half time period is a vital one to understand. This is (not by coincidence) the time stated in prophecy to be the time allotted to Antichrist in his last ditch stand to rule the world.

This period of time is associated in the bible with God's judgement. For instance:

  • When Elijah prayed for a drought, it did not rain for three years and six months. - James 5:17
  • The destruction prophesied in Daniel will not be over until "a time, times, and half a time". - Dan 7:25
  • The two witnesses of Revelation will prophesy for 1,260 days. - Rev 11:2-3
  • The two witnesses will lie dead in the streets for three and a half days - Rev 11:9-10
  • The Dragon is given authority to continue for forty-two months. - Rev 13:4-6
  • Gentiles will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months - Rev 11:2
  • The woman flees into the wilderness to be protected for 1260 days. - Rev 12:6

In addition -

  • The rebellion of the Jews against Rome (AD66) to the destruction of the city (AD70) was three and a half years.
  • The flight of some Jews to Masada until their defeat by Rome was another three and a half years. This makes the entire rebellion seven years with the sacking of Jerusalem in the middle of the "week". (See this additional page)
  • Likewise the revolt of Bar Kochba in 132AD was not crushed until the summer of 135AD, three and a half years later.
  • In the French Revolution the resolution to forbid all religion and close all churches in November 1793 was rescinded three and a half years later. Religious freedom came back in 1797. At that same time, in the summer of 1797, Napoleon wrote, "Our religious revolution is a failure. " Three and a half years after the official laws were passed against all religion, early in 1797, the revolutionary laws were abolished. [Duray, Victor; A Short History of France; E.P. Dutton, London, 1918, pg. 364.]
  • In World War 2, the "final solution" conference of January 1942 to Hitler's suicide in April 1945 was three and a half years.

Especially, in the prophecy of the seventy-weeks in Daniel chapter nine we are told that the assault on the Temple and City happens "in the middle of the week", that is, halfway through the final seven years (the last "week" of years). This literally happened with Antiochus. It also happened when the Romans attacked Jerusalem in the 1st century AD. (See this additional page)

Yet, not only did Jesus speak of a future fulfillment of that same prophecy, but the New Testament hints strongly at an even more future fulfillment, which leaves commentators with a quandry. Where is the missing "week" [or "half-week" according to your interpretation of Daniel] ? The problem has for many years been resolved by artificially holding over that part of the prophecy until the future. This is despite two obvious historical fulfillments in the shape of AD 168 (Antiochus Epiphanes) and AD70 (Romans).

All of this can be avoided by the Babushka Doll Principle. That is because each successive historical "doll" is complete in and of itself.

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© 2013 Tricia Tillin-Booth. All rights reserved. Birthpangs Website:  This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information.   One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.