1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head on his bed: then he wrote the dream and told the sum of the matters. 2 Daniel spoke and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the sky broke forth on the great sea. 3 Four great animals came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I saw until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand on two feet as a man; and a man's heart was given to it. 5 Behold, another animal, a second, like a bear; and it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth: and they said thus to it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6 After this I saw, and behold, another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the animal had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the night visions, and, behold, a fourth animal, awesome and powerful, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet: and it was diverse from all the animals that were before it; and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots: and behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. 9 I saw until thrones were placed, and one who was ancient of days sat: his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, (and) its wheels burning fire. 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousands of thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11 I saw at that time because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke; I saw even until the animal was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the animals, their dominion was taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, there came with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. 15 As for me, Daniel, my spirit was grieved in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16 I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. 17 These great animals, which are four, are four kings, who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever. 19 Then I desired to know the truth concerning the fourth animal, which was diverse from all of them, exceedingly terrible, whose teeth were of iron, and its nails of brass; which devoured, broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet; 20 and concerning the ten horns that were on its head, and the other (horn) which came up, and before which three fell, even that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spoke great things, whose look was more stout than its fellows. 21 I saw, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22 until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. 23 Thus he said, The fourth animal shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24 As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom shall ten kings arise: and another shall arise after them; and he shall be diverse from the former, and he shall put down three kings. 25 He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time. 26 But the judgment shall be set, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it to the end. 27 The kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole sky, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 28 Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts much troubled me, and my face was changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.
Section I. - Analysis of the Chapter
This chapter contains an account of a remarkable prophetic dream which Daniel had in the first year of the reign of Belshazzar, and of the interpretation of the dream. After a brief statement of the contents of the chapter, it will be proper, in order to its more clear exposition, to state the different methods which have been proposed for interpreting it, or the different views of its application which have been adopted. The chapter comprises the following main points: the vision, Daniel 7:1-14; and the explanation, Daniel 7:15-28.
I. The vision, Daniel 7:1-14. The dream occurred in the first year of the reign of Belshazzar, and was immediately written out. Daniel is represented as standing near the sea, and a violent wind rages upon the sea, tossing the waves in wild commotion. Suddenly he sees four monsters emerge from the agitated waves, each one apparently remaining for a little time, and then disappearing. The first, in its general form, resembled a lion, but had wings like an eagle. On this he attentively gazed, until the wings were plucked away, and the beast was made to stand upright as a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.
Nothing is said as to what became of the beast after this. Then there appeared a second beast, resembling a bear, raising itself up on one side, and having three ribs in its mouth, and a command was given to it to arise and devour much flesh. Nothing is said further of what became of this beast. Then there arose another beast like a leopard, with four wings, and four heads, and to this beast was given wide dominion. Nothing is said as to what became of this animal. Then there arose a fourth beast more remarkable still. Its form is not mentioned, but it was fierce and strong. It had great iron teeth. It trampled down everything before it, and devoured and brake in pieces. This beast had at first ten horns, but soon there sprang up in the midst of them another - a smaller horn at first, but as this increased three of the ten horns were plucked up by the roots - apparently either by this, or in order to give place to it. What was more remarkable still, in this smaller horn there appeared the eyes of a man - emblematic of intelligence and vigilance; and a mouth speaking great things - indicative of pride and arrogance. Daniel looked on this singular vision until a throne was set up or established, and then the Ancient of days did sit - until the old forms of dominations ceased, and the reign of God was introduced and established. He contemplated it until, on account of the great words which the "horn spake," the beast was slain, and his body was destroyed, and given to the burning flame. In the meantime the dominion was taken away from the other beasts; though their existence was prolonged for a little time. Then appeared in vision one in the form of man, who came to the Ancient of days, and there was given to him universal dominion over all people a kingdom that should never be destroyed.
II. The interpretation of the vision Daniel 7:15-28. Daniel was greatly troubled at the vision which he had seen, and he approached one who stood near, and asked him the meaning of it, Daniel 7:15-16. The explanation with which he was favored was, in general, the following: That those four beasts which he had seen represented four kings or kingdoms which would exist on the earth, and that the great design of the vision was to state the fact that the saints of tho Most High would ultimately possess the kingdom, and would reign forever, Daniel 7:17-18. The grand purpose of the vision was to represent the succession of dynasties, and the particular character of each one, until the government over the world should pass into the hands of the people of God, or until the actual rule on the earth should be in the hands of the righteous. The ultimate object, the thing to which all revolutions tended, and which was designed to be indicated in the vision, was the final reign of the saints on the earth. There was to be a time when the kingdom under the whole heaven was to be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; or, in other words, there would be a state of things on the earth, when "all dominions," or all "rulers" (margin, Daniel 7:27), would obey him. This general announcement in reference to the ultimate thing contemplated, and to the three first kingdoms, represented by the three first beasts, was satisfactory to Daniel, but he was still perplexed in regard to the particular thing designed to be represented by the fourth beast, so remarkable in its structure, so unlike all the others, and undergoing so surprising a transformation, Daniel 7:19-22. The sum of what was stated to him, in regard to the events represented by the fourth beast, is as follows:
(1) That this was designed to represent a fourth kingdom or dynasty which would arise upon the earth, in many respects, different from the three which would precede it. It was to be a kingdom which would be distinguished for oppressive conquests. It would subdue the whole earth, and it would crush, and prostrate, and trample down those whom it invaded. The description would characterize a dominion that would be stern, and mighty, and cruel, and successful; that would keep the nations which it subdued under its control by the terror of arms rather than by the administration of just laws; Daniel 7:23.
(2) The ten horns that Daniel saw spring out of its head denoted ten kings that would arise, or a succession of rulers that would sway the authority of the kingdom, Daniel 7:24.
(3) The other horn that sprang up among the ten, and after them, denoted another dynasty that would arise, and this would have peculiar characteristics. It would so far have connection with the former that it would spring out of them. But in most important respects it would differ from them. Its characteristics may be summed up as follows:
(a) It would spring from their midst, or be somehow attached, or connected with them - as the horn sprang from the head of the beast - and this would properly denote that the new power somehow sprang from the dynasty denoted by the fourth beast - as the horn sprang from the head of that beast;
(b) though springing from that, it would be "diverse" from it, having a character to be determined, not from the mere fact of its origin, but from something else.
(c) It would "subdue three of these kings;" that is, it would evercome and prostrate a certain portion of the power and authority denoted by the ten horns perhaps meaning that it would usurp something like one-third of the power of the kingdom denoted by the fourth beast.
(d) It would be characterized by arrogance and haughtiness - so much so that the fair construction of its claims would be that of "speaking against the Most High."
(e) It would "wear out the saints of the Most High" - evidently referring to persecution.
(f) It would claim legislative authority so as to "change times and laws" - clearly referring to some claim set up over established laws, or to unusual authority, Daniel 7:24-25.
(4) Into the hand of this new power, all these things would be given for "a time, and times, and half a time:" implying that it would not be permanent, but would come to an end, Daniel 7:25.
(5) After that there would be a judgment - a judicial determination in regard to this new power, and the dominion would be taken away, to be utterly destroyed, Daniel 7:26.
(6) There would come a period when the whole dominion of the earth would pass into the hands of the saints; or, in other words, there would be a universal reign of the principles of truth and righteousness, Daniel 7:27.
In the conclusion of the chapter Daniel 7:28, Daniel says that these communications deeply affected his heart. He had been permitted to look far into futurity, and to contemplate vast changes in the progress of human affairs, and even to look forward to a period when all the nations would be brought under the dominion of the law of God, and the friends of the Most High would be put in possession of all power. Such events were fitted to fill the mind with solemn thought, and it is not wonderful that he contemplated them with deep emotion.
Section II. - Various Methods of Interpreting This Chapter
It is hardly necessary to say that there have been very different methods of interpreting this chapter, and that the views of its proper interpretation are by no means agreed on by expositors. It may be useful to refer to some of those methods before we advance to its exposition, that they may be before the mind in its consideration. We shall be the better able to ascertain what is the true interpretation by inquiring which of them, if any, accords with the fair exposition of the language employed by the sacred writer. The opinions entertained may be reduced to the following classes:
I. Hardt supposes that the four beasts here denote four particular kings - Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach, Belshazzar, and Cyrus.
II. Ephraem, who is followed by Eichhorn, supposes that the first beast referred to the Babylonian-Chaldean kingdom; the second, the Medish empire under Cyaxares II, the three "ribs" of which denote the Medish, Persian, and Chaldean portions of that empire; the third, the Persian empire, the four heads and wings of which denote the spread of the Persian empire toward the four regions under heaven, or to all parts of the world; the fourth, to the Grecian empire under Alexander and his successors, the ten horns of which denote ten eminent kings among the successors of Alexander, and the "little horn," that sprang up among them, Antiochus Epiphanes. The succeeding state of things, according to Ephraem and Eichhorn, refers to the kingdom of the Messiah.
III. Grotius, representing another class of interpreters, whom Hetzel follows, supposes that the succession of the kingdoms here referred to is the Babylonian-Chaldean; the Persian; the kingdom of Alexander, and his successors. The fifth is the Roman empire.
IV. The most common interpretation which has prevailed in the church is what supposes that the first beast denotes the Chaldean kingdom; the second, the Medo-Persian; the third, the Greek empire under Alexander and his successors; the fourth, the Roman empire. The dominion of the saints is the reign of the Messiah and his laws. But this opinion, particularly as far as pertains to the fourth and fifth of these kingdoms, has had a great variety of modifications, especially in reference to the signification of the ten horns, and the little horn that sprang up among them. Some who, under the fifth kingdom, suppose that the reign of Christ is referred to, regard the fourth kingdom as relating to Rome under the Caesars, and that the ten horns refer to a succession of ten regents, and the little horn to Julius Caesar. Others, who refer the last empire to the personal reign of Christ on the earth, and the kingdom which he would set up, suppose that the ten horns refer to ten kings or dynasties that sprang out of the Roman power - either a succession of the emperors, or those who came in after the invasion of the northern hordes, or certain kingdoms of Europe which succeeded the Roman power after it fell; and by the little horn, they suppose that either the Turkish power with its various branches is designated, or Mahomet, or the Papacy, or Anti-christ.
V. The Jews, in general, suppose that the fifth kingdom refers to the reign of the Messiah; but still there has been great diversity of views among them in regard to the application of particular parts of the prophecy. Many of the older interpreters among them supposed that the ten horns denoted ten Roman Caesars, and that the last horn referred to Titus Vespasian. Most of the later Jewish interpreters refer this to their fabulous Gog and Magog.
VI. Another interpretation which has had its advocates is what supposes that the first kingdom was the Chaldean; the second, the Persian; the third, that of Alexander; the fourth, that of his successors; and the fifth, that of the Asmonean princes who rose up to deliver the Jewish nation from the despotism of the Syrian kings.
VII. As a specimen of one mode of interpretation which has prevailed to some extent in the church, the opinion of Cocceius may be referred to. He supposes that the first beast, with the eagle's wings, denoted the reign of the Christian emperors in Rome, and the spread of Christianity under them into remote regions of the East and West; the second, with the three ribs in his mouth, the Arian Goths, Vandals, and Lombards; the third, with the four heads and four wings, the Mahometan kingdom with the four Caliphates; the fourth, the kingdom of Charlemagne, and the ten horns in this kingdom, the Carlovingians, Saxons, Salle, Swedish, Hollandish, English, etc., princes and dynasties or people; and the little horn, the Papacy as the actual Anti-christ.
The statement of these various opinions, and methods of interpretation, I have translated from Bertholdt, Daniel, pp. 419-426. To these should be added the opinion which Bertholdt himself maintains, and which has been held by many others, and which Bertholdt has explained and defended at length, pp. 426-446. That opinion is, substantially, that the first kingdom is the Babylonian kingdom under Nebuchadnezzar, and that the wings of the first beast denote the extended spread of that empire. The second beast, with the three "ribs," or fangs, denotes the Median, Lydian, and Babylonian kingdoms, which were erected under one scepter, the Persian. The third beast, with the four wings and four heads, denotes the Grecian dynasty under Alexander, and the spread of that kingdom throughout the four parts of the world. The fourth beast denotes the kingdom of the Lagidae and Seleucidae, under which the Hebrews suffered so much. The statement respecting this kingdom Daniel 7:7, that "it was diverse from all that went before it," refers to the "plurality of the fourth kingdom." or the fact that it was an aggregate made up of many others - a kingdom in a collective sense. The "ten horns" denote ten successive princes or kings in that kingdom, and Bertholdt enumerates them in the following order:
1. Seleucus Nicator;
2. Antiochus Soter;
3. Antiochus Theos;
4. Seleucus Kallinicus;
5. Seleucus Keraunus;
6. Antiochus the Great;
7. Seleucus Philopater;
9. Ptolemy Philometer;
The eleventh - denoted by the little horn - was Antiochus Epiphanes, who brought so many calamitities upon the Hebrew people. His reign lasted, according to Bertholdt, "a time, and times, and half a time" - or three years and a half; and then the kingdom was restored to the people of God to be a permanent reign, and, ultimately, under the Messiah, to fill the world and endure to the end of time.
The interpretation thus stated, supposing that the "little horn" refers to Antiochus Epiphanes, is also maintained by Prof. Stuart. - Hints on Prophecy, 2nd ed., pp. 85-98. Compare also Commentary on Daniel, pp. 173-194, and 205-211.
Amidst such a variety of views, the only hope of arriving at any satisfactory conclusion respecting the meaning of this chapter is by a careful examination of the text, and the fair meaning of the symbols employed by Daniel.
The prophet having, in the preceding chapters of this book, related some remarkable events concerning himself and his brethren in the captivity, and given proof of his being enabled, by Divine assistance, to interpret the dreams of others, enters now into a detail of his own visions, returning to a period prior to the transactions recorded in the last chapter. The first in order of the prophet's visions is that of the four beasts, which arose out of a very tempestuous ocean, Daniel 7:1-9; and of one like the Son of man who annihilated the dominion of the fourth beast, because of the proud and blasphemous words of one of its horns, Daniel 7:9-14. An angel deciphers the hieroglyphics contained in this chapter, declaring that the Four beasts, diverse one from another, represent the Four Paramount empires of the habitable globe, which should succeed each other; and are evidently the same which were shadowed forth to Nebuchadnezzar by another set of hieroglyphics, (see the second chapter), Daniel 7:15-26. But for the consolation of the people of God, it is added that, at the time appointed in the counsel of Jehovah, "the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the saints of the Most High;" and that this kingdom shall never be destroyed or transferred to another people, as all the preceding dominations have been, but shall itself stand for ever, Daniel 7:27, Daniel 7:28. It will be proper to remark that the period of a time, times, and a half, mentioned in the twenty-fifth verse as the duration of the dominion of the little horn that made war with the saints, (generally supposed to be a symbolical representation of the papal power), had most probably its commencement in a.d. 755 or 756, when Pepin, king of France, invested the pope with temporal power. This hypothesis will bring the conclusion of the period to about the year of Christ 2000, a time fixed by Jews and Christians for some remarkable revolution; when the world, as they suppose, will be renewed, the wicked cease from troubling the Church, and the saints of the Most High have dominion over the whole habitable globe. But this is all hypothesis.
INTRODUCTION TO DANIEL 7
This chapter contains Daniel's vision of the four beasts, The time, place, manner, writing, and declaration of the vision, Daniel 7:1, the rise of the beasts, and the description of them, Daniel 7:2, the judgment of God upon them, especially the last, and the delivery of universal monarchy to his Son, Daniel 7:9, the interpretation of the vision at the request of Daniel, being greatly affected with it, Daniel 7:15, a particular inquiry of his about the fourth beast, concerning which a full account is given, Daniel 7:19, all which caused in him many thoughts of heart, and reflections of mind, Daniel 7:28.
*More commentary available by clicking individual verses.