Daniel, Chapter 7
7:1 This vision recorded by Daniel was revealed to him in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign, 553 B.C., when Belshazzar was made co-regent with Nabonidus. This dream took place 14 years after Daniel’s experience in the lions’ den (Daniel 6). When this dream came Daniel was probably about 68 years of age. At this time he had been in captivity for 52 years. “Daniel saw a dream and visions”: The revelation came through a dream and appeared to come in various stages or visions. Five times in the chapter Daniel says, “he looked” and once “I kept looking” (7:11). Daniel like other prophets recorded what was revealed to him (2 Peter 1:20-21).
7:2 “The four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea”: In figurative language the “wind” is often used to depict the action of God. “As the wind is invisible but it clearly affects things, so it is of God who is invisible but affects things in the universe”(McGuiggan p. 107). The “sea” is a common figure for the nations in their restless state (Isaiah 17:12-13). Thus this tells us that God is at work among the restless nations raising up out of them kingdoms that will suit His purpose.
7:3-4 The four great beasts are nations that arise. We will be told in verse 17 that they come from the earth, that is they are human in origin. “Different from one another”: Each nation has its own character. “Their diversity is mentioned, in order to call attention to the importance of the symbolism by which each individual kingdom is represented” (Young p. 143). Pagan nations are often referred to as “beasts” in the Old Testament (Isaiah 27:1; 51:9). The first beast is the Babylonian Empire; the symbol of the winged lion is especially appropriate, for the peoples of that day were familiar with such figures as the winged lions that guarded the gates of royal places among the Babylonians. By this time Babylon is like a plucked bird, no longer as a conqueror can it fly over the earth. The empire was given the heart of a man that is humanized; this probably refers to the humbling of Nebuchadnezzar.
7:5-6 The bear is the Medo-Persian empire; the three ribs are simply part of the picture of voracity and greed. “Arise and devour much”: It has not stopped eating but is pictured as going for more; in fact, this beast will devour the first empire (Daniel 5:30-31). The leopard stands for the Grecian empire. On its back it has four wings, for this empire was extremely swift, between 334-331 B.C., it had wrested world-domination from the Medo-Persians. It has four-heads because following the death of Alexander the Great, the kingdom was divided up into four sections which were ruled by his chief generals. These four minor kingdoms continued as prominent factors in world politics until the next empire appeared on the scene and gathered the parts in a whole. “And dominion was given to it”: This reminds us that all of Alexander’s conquests were providentially given him by God.
7:7 The final beast is the Roman empire. In Daniel chapter 2 God has already mentioned the “iron” element of this empire (2:40). “And it had ten horns”: These horns appear to be specific rulers. The Premillennialists hold that the beast is the Roman empire of the first century but the ten horns are a ten-nation revival that will happen in our time. Many feel that the ten Roman rulers are Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian and Titus, that is the first ten recognized emperors of Rome.
7:8 Many feel that the “little horn” is the emperor Domitian: 1. He was little in the sense that he had spent a poverty stricken and rather degraded youth before being declared emperor at his brother’s (Titus) death. The first three horns pulled up by the roots, might be the three barracks emperors, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, who were not of the Julian line of succession to the throne but declared emperor by their troops. In one year these three ruled and were either successively slain or committed suicide. “A mouth uttering great boasts”: Suetonius the Roman historian claims that Domitian, “From his youth he was far from being of an affable disposition, but was on the contrary presumptuous and unbridled both in act and word” (Lives of the Twelve Caesars, pp. 354-355). We will learn more about this little horn in 7:20-26.
7:9 This is God’s judgment upon the fourth beast. Nothing is said concerning who sat on the other thrones, some think the angels that serve God in judgment, or others think the saints, yet this a court scene. “Ancient of Days”: The One who has lived ever since anyone can remember, and longer than anyone can remember. This expression speaks of God’s eternal nature(Isaiah 57:15; Micah 5:2). The white garments speak of God’s purity and holiness and the white hair of His wisdom. “His throne was ablaze with flames”: The fire represents the power to destroy and also His majesty and splendor. “Its wheels were a burning fire”: The wheels under His throne stand for the omnipresence of God (Ezekiel 1:15-21). 7:10 The thousands upon thousands attending Him and standing before Him are angelic beings. Christians, instead of feeling alone on the earth, need to realize that there are multitudes of angels ready and prepared to execute His will (Hebrews 1:14). “The books were opened”: The books reveal that God records the detailed actions of His enemies; nothing escapes the eye of God. “Millions of innocent victims have suffered excruciating tortures at the hands of beastly men. Most of these atrocities will never be known to the world, but the Eternal One knows every name and every detail” (Butler p. 264). 7:11 Evil men may boast for a while but judgment does arrive. 7:12 It appears that the lives of the first three empires were preserved in the final empire, that is, Roman absorbed all the previous empires. The essence of the first three beasts was prolonged in the ferocity and inhumaneness of the fourth beast.
7:13-14 In contrast to the four empires that will come and go, God is going to set up a kingdom that will not pass away, this is the same kingdom mentioned in Daniel 2:44. From chapter two it is clear that this kingdom is set up before the Roman empire falls(2:44 “In the days of those kings”). “With the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming”: This appears to be when Jesus ascended to heaven following His resurrection (Acts 1:9-11). The New Testament makes it clear that the church that Jesus talked about establishing (Matthew 16:18-19) is the kingdom that Daniel speaks of being established during the days of the Roman empire (Hebrews 12:28; Revelation 1:5-6). This is reinforced by the statement, “That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him”, this is identical with the New Testament teaching that the church a relationship for all people(Acts 2:38-39; Mark 16:16).
7:15-16 As Daniel receives all this information he is confused and perplexed, so he approaches one of the angels and asks for the interpretation of these visions.
7:17-18 In capsulized form here is the interpretation. The four beasts are four successive kings, which represent distinct kingdoms (7:23). But a universal kingdom will be given to God’s people in spite of these empires and this kingdom would never end. The Jewish people need to be prepared to watch three more world empires arise after Babylon, and then, and only then, would God set up a universal kingdom for the saints. Ungodly kingdoms would arise and rule but God’s people would be forgotten. Note, the inference is that God would not restore Israel again to a world empire; another kingdom would be set up for God’s people.
7:19-20 Daniel now wants more information about the dreadful fourth empire and the little horn who persecutes God’s people in7:21. 7:21 “That horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them”: Nero was the first to set himself against the Christians (only as a personal expedient). Tertullian in his famous “Apology” said: “Consult your annals, and there you will find Nero, the first emperor who dyed his sword in Christian blood”. In the same place he goes on to speak of Domitian as a “limb of the bloody Nero”. Eusebius has this to say of Domitian: “He finally shows himself the successor of Nero’s campaign of hostility to God. He was the second to promote persecution against us, though his father, Vespasian, has planned no evil against us”(Ecclesiastical History, Book 3, paragraph 17).
7:22 The ultimate outcome is stated. The little horn prevails only until God comes in judgment. The judgment here appears to be the judgment upon this fourth empire. 7:23 The fourth beast is clearly a fourth kingdom, and the ten horns are clearly 10 kings that arise out of this kingdom (7:24). 7:24 “He will subdue three kings”: How he does this is not stated. Butler notes that Domitian did execute three conspirators who tried to cease his throne and did quell three uprisings. McGuiggan feels that the uprooting of three kings is not literal, but rather is given to establish Domitian as number eight, which some feel infers a new beginning in active power.
7:25 “He will speak out against the Most High”: Domitian did make claims of being God. Barclay notes, “With the coming of Domitian (A.D. 81-96) there came a complete change. Domitian was a devil. He was the worse of all things, a cold-blooded persecutor. With the exception of the mad Caligula, he was the first Emperor to take his divinity seriously, and to demand Caesar worship. He enacted that he himself was a god” (Revelation, volume 2, pp. 23-24). “He will intend to make alterations in times and in law”: Butler notes, “He demanded that anyone addressing him say, ‘Lord and God’. He renamed September and October, the months of his accession and birth. Finally he paid no attention to the policies of the Senate at all, but insisted on the finality of his own decisions. “And wear down the saints”: No one ever said that persecution is easy to endure. Under Domitian Christianity entered a struggle of life or death with the imperial power. Yet this effort to wear out God’s people will fail, “And they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time”: Many view this expression as meaning three and a half, that is, half of the perfect number seven. This is a time that only God knows, but it is not a complete or full period of time, rather, it is a limited period of time.
7:26-27 Domitian was actually assassinated by one of his wife’s servants. Following his death, the Roman Senate thronged to denounce Domitian. Sending for ladders, they had his images and the votive shields engraved with his likeness brought smashing down; and ended by decreeing that all inscriptions referring to him must be effaced and all records of his reign obliterated. “And all the dominions will serve and obey Him”: This does not mean a forced obedience, rather compare this with Daniel 7:14, that all these people and dominions might serve Him. Following the death of Domitian Christianity had an immense freedom to spread rapidly throughout the Roman empire; the gospel was to be preached to all nations (Matthew 28:19). This verse is teaching the same truths as those found in Isaiah 2:2-4, that the kingdom that God establishes will be for everyone who desires to come and learn of Him.
7:28 The writer claims to be Daniel and he is shocked by what has been revealed to them and at this time he does not share it with anyone else.
Premillennialists interpret the “little horn” to be a single personal anti-Christ yet to come even in our lifetime. They interpret the 10 horns as 10 nations of a reborn Roman empire, yet Daniel makes it very clear that the 10 horns are 10 kings, not 10 individual kingdoms (7:24), and all these kings arise from a kingdom that follows the Grecian kingdom. The little horn is clearly a king of the Roman empire that existed in the first century, who persecuted Christians, a kingdom that was in existence when God set up the Church.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017