Gleanings from Daniel 
The 7th chapter of Daniel represents a transition. Where as the 6th chapter was the last narrative portion of Daniel’s book, the 7th chapter is the first official prophetic portion. From this chapter onwards, Daniel is given revelation that tells of Israel’s future and the future of all the gentile nations and the eventual coming of the Messiah’s Kingdom.
Daniel 7 is also the last chapter in Aramaic. Meaning this is the final chapter intended for a secular nation. The pagans have had revealed to them how God will direct human affairs and governments. It is a message of hope for God’s people, Israel, who are at the time of this prophecy, in captivity.
The prophecy outlines four important themes:
- First, it is a message of deliverance of God’s oppressed through out human history.
- Next, it reveals the direction of God’s purposes.
- It reveals how those gentile powers will end.
- And then how God’s eternal kingdom will be established.
With the vision of these four spectacular beasts, chapter 7 is the bookend chapter of these Aramaic sections. Chapter 2 began with a vision of a statue with four metallic parts. This chapter pictures those same kingdoms, but as bizarre beasts. In chapter 2, the dream was by a heathen monarch, but here in chapter 7, it was a revelation given directly to God’s prophet. The dream presented the history of these earthly kingdoms in the outward aspects of majestic splendor, how men see themselves, but the vision pictured their inward spiritual aspects of how God sees them, as raving, wild beasts. The vision also provides more historical background than what the dream did.
By the time we come to chapter 7, Daniel’s character has been established as a man of God. If the LORD has demonstrated His power in the life of Daniel, He then is a God Who can be trusted to tell us the future. Most significantly, His promise of a coming Messiah who would come and eventually deliver God’s people from both spiritual and national bondage to heathen empires.
I. The Timing of the Vision [7:1]
Daniel says this vision came during the first year of Belshazzar. According to historical records, Bel. was made co-regent by Nabonidus three years after his reign started in 556 B.C. Thus, this vision came in the year of 553 B.C. This was about 14 years before the fall of Babylon to the Medo-Persians. Knowing this vision was from God, Daniel wrote it down later.
II. Details of the Vision [7:2-14]
Daniel’s vision begins with him explaining how the winds of heaven stirred up the sea. The concept of “sea” is often pictured in Scripture as sinful humanity. For example Isaiah 57:20 and later in the book of Revelation in chapters 13, 17. In Daniel 7:17, the beasts are interpreted as those that come out of the earth, in other words the mass of humanity.
Next, the four winds stir up the sea. “Winds” in Scripture can often be seen as God’s judgment like in Psalms 18:10, 42 and Ezekiel 1:4. The word is also synonymous with God’s Spirit. The idea here in Daniel’s prophecy would be those God directed forces, or the moving of God’s Spirit, which move upon the nations of men. The picture here is of God providentially working among the gentiles to do His purposes.
When the winds stir up the sea, they stir up four great beasts. It is agreed among the commentators of Daniel (even some of the liberal ones) that these beasts represent the four kingdoms seen in the dream of the great statue as outlined in chapter 2: Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greece, and Rome.
The beasts are diverse from one another. Each one different from the other.
1) A lion with wings – This pictures the nation of Babylon. Interestingly, winged lions are prominent in Babylonian artwork. The Ishtar Gate, that was one of the main gates of Babylon during the reign of Neb., features a winged lion. The vision shows the wings being plucked off the lion and it being humiliated. Knowing that the Babylonian empire is embodied with the person of Neb., this may be a reference to his humiliation recorded in Daniel 4.
2) A bear with 3 ribs – The next beast that comes after the winged lion is a bear pictured with three ribs in its mouth. The text says it was raised up on one side, as if it were lopsided with his legs being bigger and longer on one side over the other. The bear has three ribs in its mouth. This is undoubtedly the Medo-Persian empire that replaced the Babylonian empire. It was lopsided, because, even though there were two groups, the Medes and the Persians, the Persians became the greater of the two groups and dominated the empire. The three ribs represent the three major nations the Medes and Persians conquered: Lydia, 546 B.C., Babylon, 539 B.C., and Egypt, 525 B.C. After they conquered those nations they controlled a vast amount of territory.
3) A four headed, four winged leopard – This beast speaks of the Greek empire. The four wings represent swiftness, and it describes perfectly the actions of Alexander the Great. He took the throne of the Greek empire in 334 B.C. and within 10 years had conquered the known world. After his death, he was replaced by four of his major generals who broke his kingdom into four sections (four heads): Antipater, Lysimachus, Seleucus, and Ptolemy.
4) An Indescribable Beast – The last beast defies any zoological classification. It had 10 horns on its head and one horn had a mouth and eyes and blasphemed God. This beast is described as terrible and horrifying and tramples to pieces all the earth. The only kingdom it could possibly represent would be the Romans.
The Throne – While Daniel is contemplating these things, he sees a vision of the Ancient of Days. This figure is seen as a judge and it is clear that He is the eternal God Himself who alone has the authority to exercise judgment. Thrones are set up, which may have reference to the saints mentioned in Revelation 20:4. God’s throne is pictured as a flaming chariot – similar to what Ezekiel saw in the first chapter of his prophecy. What would be God’s war machine preparing to exercise judgment.
He convenes a court and opens the books of judgment. Yet, while God is preparing a court, a little horn, associated with the fourth beast, blasphemes God. But he is judged as the final beast is slain and burned with fire.
The Final Kingdom – Then Daniel sees one final vision. One like the Son of Man coming in the clouds. It is a Messianic vision. He comes before the Ancient of Days and is given authority to rule a kingdom.
Four characteristics mark this kingdom:
- Sovereignly Administered. Given directly by God and no other rivals and no kingdoms will follow it.
- Universal in scope. It entails all nations and all people.
- Eternal. Its dominion will never end.
- Supernatural. No human army or kingdoms can destroy it.
Labels: Gleanings from Daniel