DANIEL - Chapter 7 Commentary

The exact calendar time of Belshazzar for this chapter is not known. Nabonidus (556-539 B.C.) and his son Belshazzar (553-539 B.C.) ruled as co-kings or co-regents. The vision to be exposed in chapter 7 is dated during the year 553 B.C. or 552 B.C. which would be the approximate first year of his co-reigning with Nabonidus. The timing on this chapter needs to be studied. By perusing the book of Daniel in chapters 5-7, instead of skimming, it might leave the reader with a question. How can chapter 7 be talking about the first year of Belshazzar when Belshazzar was killed in Dan. 5:30? (The kingships can be reviewed in the Chapter 5 Commentary.) The date of this chapter would have to be just before or approximately the same time as chapter 5. Chapter 6 is about Darius who was the king after Belshazzar. The common spelling of Belshazzar has been used in these Commentaries. However, the chapter 5 spelling of him Belsheazar (Bel is he that treasures up riches) while the chapter 7 spelling is Beleshezar (Bel is on fire by the enemy). Bel was the god of the Chaldeans. So notice the use of the names (remember, Daniel is writing in Aramaic at this time in the book) follows that Belshazzar first prospered then he was to be consumed. This chapter wraps up Daniel writing in Aramaic. In Chapter 8 he starts writing in Hebrew again. This dream must have taken place approximately 14 years earlier than his lion's den experience. Adam Clarke in his commentary on the OT says "...the reason why the fifth chapter was put in an improper place was, that all the historic parts might be together, and the prophetic be by themselves; and, accordingly, the former end with the preceding chapter, and the latter with this. The division therefore is not chronological but merely artificial."

This chapter is really in two parts. In the first part, vs 1-14, Daniel describes his dream and visions. The second part, vs 15-28, gives the interpretation of the dream and visions. There is a great deal of similarity and similar interpretations between the four beasts who arise out of the stormy seas of human upheaval of this chapter 7 and the great image of Nebuchadnezzar revealed in chapter 2. The "Dreams and VisionsCorrelation" link from the Daniel Table of Contents takes the reader to a table that summarizes the visions. There is another vision in chapter 8 which will be studied next week.

This lesson brings out the study of the Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Greek empires and some relationships to each other. The flow charts on the Egypt/Syria Leadership (linked from the Daniel Table of Contents) will give a better foundation of the complexity of leadership. When Alexander the Great died a very untimely early death (323 B.C. at 32 years old) the Greek kingdom was divided between his four generals: Ptolemy, who was given Egypt, Antigonus, who as given Asia, Cassander, who was given Macedonia, and Lysimachus, who was given Thrace (see verse 7:6 for additional details). The Daniel text gives an excellent summary of the Greek empire history. Seleucus, Ptolemy's first general, was given Palestine and Syria. This gives a start on understanding the Egypt/Syria Leadership flow diagram. As time goes on, we will discuss this leadership further.

This verse describes an experience that Daniel had. He had "dream and visions" in the first year of Belshazzar as king (see paragraph 7 above for a summary of Belshazzar's kingship). He had the dreams or visions in bed; he got up and wrote them down. In Hebrew the word "had" a dream can also mean see or saw (i.e. a vision). In Bible studies, there have always been discussions on dreams and visions and their differences. In the margin of old translations the word saw is used. Sometimes a vision is described as something one sees, not necessarily while asleep as one would be in a dream. The words of the verse seem to imply he had a dream and visions. He apparently wrote them down as history. I do not believe it was specifically to remember. Sometimes the tradition committment results in the "happening" (in prophecy) THEN writing it down. However, prophets tended to write them down so they could compare the dreams and visions with actual events. Sometimes God actually tells His prophets to write the information down (See Isa. 8:1, 16; 30:8; Hab. 2:2; Rev. 1:19; 14:13; 21:5.)
He wrote the "sum". That means he wrote a summary of his dreams and visions. Normally that means he will communicate in writing. There is nothing here that implies an oral communication. The word "sum" or "summary" usually means head as in a heading of a writing. It was purposely written as a summary. If the person to whom the prophecy reflected (such as Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar) knew the details, they could change their direction or activities, thereby changing the future from its natural movement. That would force the prophecy to become untrue. Therefore, all prophecy must come about by the voluntary actions or submissions of the persons to whom it reflected. Otherwise, there is no point to predicting.

Reflecting on the meanings of the previous verse, his "speaking" may not necessarily mean he is speaking orally. He could be "speaking" to society or to history. There really is no person or persons defined to whom he is speaking.

The great sea was rushed onto, agitated by, or stirred by the four winds. In ancient times, The "great sea" most of the time refered to the Mediterranean Sea. There were a few times when the Arabian Sea might have been referenced.. This distinguished the Mediterranean from other bodies of water such as the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Some believe the symbolism of the sea is really the "sea of mankind", especially gentiles. The great sea normally in prophecy the earth and the dwellers on it troubled by ambitious princes and conquerors. The winds came from all four directions meaning the four directions on earth (north, south, east, and west) which infers from all directions at the same time causing great ripples, waves, and confusion. If the sea refers to mankind, especially gentiles, this would mean a great confusion between nations on earth. A heaving ocean or an ocean tossed with storms would be greatly understood by all in the area and in history. It is a natural symbol to denote a nation, or nations, agitated with internal conflicts, or nations in the midst of revolutions. These symbols are used in other areas of the Bible (Jer. 46:7-8; 47:2; Isa. 8:7-8; 17:12; 59:19; Dan. 11:40; Rev. 13:1). Although it is said this dream was 48-50 years after Nebuchadnezzar's dream, there are some similarities that will be examined in this study.

The four great beasts came up from the sea one at a time. This is similar to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 2.. He dreamed of an image that had four different characteristics body sections representing the next four great empires (Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman). These great beasts represent the same rulers of the four world empires previously described in Nebbie's dream. Diverse from one another says the laws and customs are different. Each executes administration differently.

In much prophecy in Daniel and in other books, especially Revelation, the visions are symbols that are LIKE the symbol example (LIKE a lion). That is an important point to make. It allows the prophet to see and use the information from God without actually confronting (like confronting a lion). But primarily, the description was typical of the old method of teaching. Teaching is best accomplished by talking in the language that the students understand. Beasts could be understood and the listener could be pulled into the description.

The first beast was LIKE a lion. The lion represents Babylon (as the head of Nebbie's image were Babylon were Nebuchadnezzar). The lion had PLUCKED eagles wings. The eagle is a bird of prey. The symbol of the lion is right for a king. It is a show of power and strength. The wings (we don't know how many) are very unusual on the lion. They must symbolize at characteristic connected to the lion but not natually found in the lion. The lion is not known for speed; the eagle is indicative of speed. There are some who feel the two wings could refer to Nabonidus and Belshazzar. What appeared to be a divine kingdom turns out to be only too human. A bird who has had its wings plucked cannot fly. Therefore, the plucking of the eagle's wings indicates a weakening of the lion, which is Babylon. (Jer. 4:7, 13)
The lion was made to stand up as a man. That is not a natural position for the lion; but, this is the character of the symbol. It is symbolizing something that stands on two feet. Since the lion is not in its normal position of power, the lion is actually symbolizing a weakening of power by standing on two feet. The plucking of the feathers from the wings eliminates the advantage of the eagle and makes the eagle almost useless.

The second beast is LIKE a bear and represents Medo-Persia empire. This symbol was the same representation as Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter 2 where the arms and silver breast was also the Medo-Persian empire. The bear is also known for its strength and fierceness in battle. Rising up on one side seems to mean the bear has a foreleg bent and he is raising himself up with the other foreleg. That the beast rises on one side reflects the superiority of Persian influence in the Medo-Persian Empire. The bear was quiet and at rest. Now it is rising. The three ribs that have been dispatched are in the mouth of the beast probably represent the conquered kingdoms of Egypt, Syria, and Babylon. Someone, apparently with some authority, is saying to continue devouring and conquering. (Isa. 13:17-18)

A creature LIKE a leopard was next. The leopard possessed four wings and four heads. In verse 4, the number of wings is not known; but the type of bird is identified, an eagle; in this verse, the number of wings is known and the type is like a fowl. A fowl, normally chicken, does not fly. Therefore, the wings do not represent a flying beast or empire. This unusual but swift beast represents the conquering strength of the Greek Empire of Alexander the great. The belly and thighs of bronze of Nebuchadnezzar's image in chapter 2 represented the same empire and king. The leopard is not afraid to attack a lion.

The most probable symbology of the wings reflects the speed or rapidness of the Grecian conquest. In actuality, the conquest by Alexander himself lasted only about 13 years. The four heads are prophetic of the division of Alexander's empire among his four generals at the time of his death. After years of controversy between the generals, the empire was divided as follows: Ptolemy took over Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia; Seleucus I headed Syria, Babylonia and the East as far as India; Lysimachus took over the leadership of Thrace and Bithynia in Asia Minor; Cassander had Macedonia and Greece. The Egypt/Syria Leadership flow diagrams will give a much more detailed look at the leadership.

The final and most terrible of the beasts is not compared to any animal in the biological kingdom. Nothing can compare to the terrible Romans. It is most likely the expression of the Roman Empire. The great iron teeth suggest an immediate correlation between this beast and the iron legs of Nebuchadnezzar's image in chapter 2. The ten horns of the beast also correspond to the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar's image and point to the final expression of the Roman Empire. Some say the 10 toes represent the 10 Caesar emperors after Julius Caesar. Remember, Julius Caesar was never declared an emperor. He was a great statesman, conqueror, and dictator. He died 44 B.C. There are disagreements with some scholars on the representatives of the 10. The most common and more accepted were the 10 emperors following Caesar: Caesar Augustus (27 B.C.-14 A.D.), Tiberius (14 A.D.-37 A.D.), Caligula (37A.D.-41 A.D.), Claudius (41 A.D.-54 A.D.), Nero (54A.D.-68A.D.), Galba (68 A.D.-69 A.D.), Otho (Jan.-Apr. 69 A.D.), Vitellius (69A.D.), Vespasian (69 A.D.-79 A.D.), and Titus (79 A.D.-81 A.D.).

The little horn that springs up, taking the place of three horns, is to be understood as the "man of sin", the "king", the "beast", or the Antichrist. This horn, which is a symbol of strength and sovereignty ( a typical power symbol of the testaments), is said to have eyes and mouth, which signify the horn as intelligent and human. Some say this horn is Domitian, the brother of Titus and son of Vespasian. Domitian was cruel; he had no respect for anyone; he did not get along with the Roman Senate.

The phrases "man of sin" and "son of perdition" used by Paul in 2 Thess. Refer to a personification of evil and sin in one who will resist the power and Person of Christ. He is to be identified with the first beast of Rev. 13, the little horn of Daniel, and the "abomination" from Matthew. Some say the "three of the first horns" might be Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. They were voted emperors by their armies. The three ruled and were killed in the same year, 69 A.D.

2 Thess. 2:3-8; Dan. 11:36-45; Rev. 13:4-10; Matt. 24:15
These atrocities are brought to their culmination at the judgment seat of God. The description is the same given by John from Patmos in Revelation. The "Ancient of Days" is the eternal God. The white garment indicates His purity and holiness, the hair like wool His eternal nature. The throne itself was aflame with judgment and justice. Books that apparently contained the accounts of the deeds of men were opened by the thousands of attendants. The thousands upon thousands can only refer to the hosts of heaven, i.e. angels. The last beast was destroyed and consigned to the burning flame. (Rev. 1:13-17)
This next vision was as encouraging as the first vision was terrifying. The description is that of the inauguration of the Son of Man, the glorified Lord, before the Ancient of Days.

Note: With the exception of Ezekiel and Daniel, the term Son of man appears in the Old Testament as a synonym for "man", "humankind". The most distinctive Old Testament use of "Son of man" is in Daniel 7:13. In one of his night visions, the prophet saw "one like a son of man" come on the clouds of heaven to appear before the throne of God. He was given dominion over all peoples and an everlasting kingdom. Scholars are divided over whether the Son of man of Daniel's vision should be seen as an angel, as the Messiah, or as all of Israel. (The latter conclusion is drawn from e fact that in Dan 7:27 the "saints of the most High" were granted dominion over an everlasting kingdom). Later, Jewish interpretation of Daniel 7:13, however, is at one in seeing the reference as messianic. In these verses, "the Ancient of Days" is surely a divine designation. The Messiah is here called the Son of man; he was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was found in fashion as a man, but he is the Son of God. The title "Son of Man" was a favorite title of Christ for Himself in Matthew. Rather than being "like a lion", like a bear", "like a leopard", or incomparably horrible, the divine King will at the same time be a human King. His deity is indicated by His coming " on the clouds of heaven" as spoken in Matthew, Mar, and Revelation, by the worship that He receives, and by the eternity of His kingdom.

Before the end shall come, the Father will openly give to his incarnate Son, our Mediator and Judge, the inheritance of the nations as his willing subjects.

The vision depicts the kingdom era or the Millennium as in Revelation. The entire vision is explained to Daniel so that he can know the course of world history, culminating in the ultimate triumph of God's kingdom on earth. The concluding vision focuses on the glorious return of the Son of Man.

Matt. 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 16:27-28; 19:28; 24:30; 25:31; 26:64
Mark 13:26
Rev. 1:7, 12-15; 13:1-18; 14:12-13; 17:8-11; 19:20-21; 20:11-15; 21:1-6
Ps. 2:6-9
Daniel is speaking; he says he is toubled in spirit, or in heart.The word kara for grieved, troubled, or distressed means to be pierced as to pierce the heart. It is probably because he did not have a full understanding of his visions. But he was also fearful because of the terrible nature of the visions. It certainly indicated something very serious. The words "head" and "mind" mean the center of intellect.

Daniel can close to one of "them" and asked for an interpretation of the dream and visions. From Dan. 7:10 it was found there were hundreds of thousands of the heavenly hosts. This was an angel. This is very similar to the John of Revelation. He asks angels for interpretations and understandings also. It is desirable to obtain the right and full sense of what we see and hear from God; and those that would know, must ask by faithful and fervent prayer. The angel told Daniel plainly the interpretation.

Daniel wanted to know everything. What were the beasts? Why were there four? Why is the fourth so different and vicious? He especially desired to know respecting the little horn, which made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.

The angel told Daniel the four beasts represented four kings or leaders or dynasties or empires. Although it does not have to refer to a specific king, it would most assuredly refer to the leaders of the empires. In Dan. 7:2 the beasts come out of the sea of discourse and chaos and agitated nations. In this verse the beasts come from the earth. There is no conflict here because the rising out of the earth gives a more foundational and specific (less symbols) idea from where the turmoil is going to come. The dynasties come from the earth and the downfall will from the earth.

The saints are the earthly followers of God. The Bible tells of a New Heaven and a New Earth (Rev. 21:1). The angel is saying that ultimately the saints will be the leaders and owners of the kingdoms forever. It is not meant to necessarily mean the kingdom mentioned in Daniel will be an earthly kingdom with which we are familiar. But, God will ultimately prevail and the saints will be His and live with Him forever.

Daniel does not say anything about the first three beasts. He only seems to be interested in the fourth, very horrible, very different beast ("whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet"). Although the "nails of brass" was not mentioned originally (Dan. 7:7), it is fitting because it meets the characteristics of the horror of the beast.It appears the angel is saying he will not find out about the fourth beast until the end times when the saints will take over.

Now the interest moves to the horns. The horn is always a symbol of power in the Bible. Therefore, the ten horns are symbols of ten powerful kings or empires. Even the one single horn is a symbol of a single strong power. The single horn called "the little horn". The little horn overcomes three of the ten powers to take leadership. The little horn spoke things to be heard and to which people listened. His voice and eyes were very persuasive. He boasted or told of great things that were greater than all the other powers. The horns are used extensively in Revelation to designate powers and the false prophet.

Now the show of power of the "little horn" shows itself. This horn makes war with the saints. Most scholars refer to the war as persecution; not necessarily all out war. It might refer to open hostilities that are carried on in the usual manner of war; or to persecution, or to any invasion of the rights and privileges of others. The horn prevailed against the saints. This is again a reference in the Rev. 13:5-7. The "beast" (Antichrist) in Revelation prevails against the saints when given the power from the dragon (Satan). There are those who say the horn could be the Antiochus Epiphanes and the saints to be the Jews. Some believe the saints could be both the Jews and the gentiles that become believers and followers of Christ. There are other evidences in Daniel and Revelation that Antiochus did not fulfill. As the study progresses and we attack Revelation we will narrow the person down to whom I believe is the Antichrist.

The "Ancient of Days" is meant to be old (been around a long time) and with wisdom. This certainly fills the normally accepted God as the "Ancient of Days". After the war of the horn that prevails on the saints, God will overcome some time afterwards. It is not known exactly when God will prevail; but He will. Then God will judge the saints to make decisions on the responsibilities of each. This is truly the "turn over" of the earth to the saints. So this refers to the Second Coming of Jesus, when the saints shall triumph in the complete fall of Satan's kingdom. The final form of the Roman world power (remember, some believe the "fourth" may be the revival of the Roman empire) will be a confederation of 10 nations who will arise simultaneously in the tribulation days.

The assault is waged against the Most High God, even to the changing of times and laws. Further, the saints (God believing Jews before Christ and believers after Christ) of God become the objects of intense persecution and oppression, to that they are "worn out". The Antichrist will march to power by subduing three of the 10 nations, will blaspheme God, will try in some way to change times and laws in order to promote his anti-Christian program, and will persecute God's saints for the last 3-1/2 years of the Tribulation.

The saints of the Most High shall possess the kingdom forever. It promises that the kingdom shall be set up; a kingdom of light, holiness, and love; a kingdom of grace, the privileges and comforts of which shall be the earnest and first-fruits of the kingdom of glory. But the full accomplishment will be in the everlasting happiness of the saints the kingdom that cannot be moved.

The expositors of the Scriptures are by no means agreed, to what all this refers. Has the discussion of Daniel's already accomplished? Does it extend into the future? It is important to determine, if possible, what is its true meaning. This is the discussion on the fourth beast. It is generally accepted by conservatives and evangelicals that the reference here is to the antichrist and the Great Tribuation. The antichrist will have a great war with Christ who will, of course, subdue the antichrist. This section starts with the explanation of the taking over of the fourth beast. This now refers to the Second Coming of Jesus, when the saints shall triumph in the complete fall of Satan's kingdom. The final form of the Roman world power (remember, some believe the "fourth" may be the revival of the Roman empire) will be a confederation of 10 nations who will arise simultaneously in the tribulation days.

The assault is waged against the Most High God, even to the changing of times and laws. Further, the saints (God believing Jews before Christ and believers after Christ) of God become the objects of intense persecution and oppression, to that they are "worn out". The Antichrist will march to power by subduing three of the 10 nations, will blaspheme God, will try in some way to change times and laws in order to promote his anti-Christian program, and will persecute God's saints for the last 3-1/2 years of the Tribulation (7 years of the Tribulation with last 3-1/2 years called the Great Tribulation). Remember the "time and times and 1/2 time" means time (one year) plus times (two years) plus 1/2 time [or "dividing of time"] (1/2 year). This defines the Great Tribulation.

The saints of the Most High shall possess the kingdom forever. It promises that the kingdom shall be set up; a kingdom of light, holiness, and love; a kingdom of grace, the privileges and comforts of which shall be the earnest and first-fruits of the kingdom of glory. But the full accomplishment will be in the everlasting happiness of the saints the kingdom that cannot be moved.

This verse is the finale of the end of time as we know it. When Christ comes to make judgment on all including Satan, the antichrist, and false prophet (defined better in Revelation). There hurt to all will cease. They will be removed from the effects on all of God's people and will destroy his kingdom. This is, of course, for what all Christians are waiting.

Now the saints of the Most High shall have the kingdom. Whoever they may have been among men, now these are His people, and they are the Church, that no lapse of time shall injure, and no power be able to destroy; but shall last as long as time shall endure.

This ends the dream and visions in description and interpretation. As for Daniel, he says this is his understanding. He has greatly disturbed him. He says his attitudes are now changed. Remember, as a prophet, one does not necessarily know all about his prophecies. He does not necessarily know when or by whom some of the actions will be taken. He only passes on what he believes God has told to him. So much of prophecy is a message to us to let us know what is coming to give us opportunities to change and follow. As stated earlier, there is no direct discussion that Daniel has with anyone in this chapter (except with the angel. Therefore, Daniel says that he will ponder all these things in his heart and not let the information out until God lets him know when.

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