Daniel 7 - Outline of Daniel (Book Notes menu page)
II. Daniel's Visions concerning the Times of the Gentiles (ch. 7-12)
A. Four great beasts (7:1-28)
1. In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon
Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed:
then he wrote the dream, [and] told the sum of the matters.
In the first year of Belshazzar...- (About 13 years prior to the fall of Babylon, in Daniel ch.5.)
By the time of Belshazzar's reign, Daniel no longer held a prominent position in government. While not fully retired from civil service (Dan 8:27), he had more time to write and to meditate on the things he had learned over the years. Most likely, it was during this time that he wrote the chronicles of his life and times under gentile dominion (in ch. 1 - 6). As he approached the end of his days, Daniel had many unanswered questions concerning the things revealed about the future, through the Hebrew Scriptures and through Nebuchadnezzar's dream (ch. 2).
     In the following chapters, Daniel records a series of visions which he received, in which the LORD reveals further details concerning the course of the Times of the Gentiles, especially as it affects Daniel's people, the Jews. Although history and prophecy are intertwined throughout the book, the emphasis of the first six chapters is historical, while the emphasis of the second half is prophetic, as viewed from Daniel's point in history.
Daniel had a dream and visions...- Note that "visions" is plural.
There are three visions in this chapter alone, each introduced by "I saw in the night visions..."
  • The vision of three (out of four) beasts, v.2-6
  • The vision of the fourth beast, v.7-12
  • The vision of the Son of Man, whose dominion is everlasting, v.13-28
    During this third vision, Daniel received an explanation of the elements of all three visions, and of how they fit together.
2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night,
and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.
the great sea...-
  • Throughout the OT, the Mediterranean Sea is referred to as 'the great sea.'
    While it is true that the empires, which the visions foresee, have their roots in this region, the phrase used here is unique. Wherever the Mediterranean is in view, the Hebrew phrase is always 'gadowl yam' {'gadowl' means 'large'; 'yam' means 'sea'}. But here, the phrase is 'rab yam' {'rab' means 'many'}.
       The first and last occurrences of 'rab' (in the OT) provide hints at its implications (see: 'great' or manifold wickedness in Gen 6:5; 'many' people in Mal 2:6,8).
  • The 'great sea' {ie., the sea of many, the sea of multitudes}, in prophetic passages,
    refers to the mass of humanity, specifically, the flood of gentile population. eg., Mat 13:47; Rev 13:1; 17:1,15
the four winds... strove {lit., burst forth}...- A storm rages with force upon the sea of humanity,
coming from all directions at once, like a terrible cyclone. The peoples of the world are tossed and unsettled, like wind driven waves (cp. Isa 57:20,21).
     The phrase 'to the four winds' is used, in other passages, to depict the four points of the compass, often in the context of widespread scattering and division of people and nations (ie., 'to the north, south, east and west,' eg., Dan 8:8; 11:4; Zech 2:6).
     However, here, the energy acting upon the sea of humanity is directed 'from' the four winds. Though the sources of unrest and division are not identified, four categories of troubling influences can be discerned from Scripture and through observation of human history:
  1. man's conflicting social, political and religious ideologies (Mat 24:6-7a; Jam 4:1,2).
  2. earth's environmental variations and convulsions,
    such as earthquakes, floods, famines, etc. (Mat 24:7b).
  3. spiritual conflict in unseen realms (Mat 24:9-12,24; Rev 12:7-9,12).
  4. Divine judgment upon sinful men and nations (Mat 24:29-31; Jer 49:36).
Though these winds have long influenced the course of history, they have been restrained. Their full force will be released in the judgments of the Great Tribulation, near the end of the Times of the Gentiles (Rev 7:1-3).
3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
4 The first [was] like a lion, and had eagle's wings:
I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked,
and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man,
and a man's heart was given to it.
four great {HB=rabrab, chief (of many)} beasts came up from the sea...-
The four beasts correspond with the four diverse metals of the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Dan 2:37-45). They represent the succeeding empires of gentile world dominion, and also the kings of those empires (v.17). (The visions, in v.1-14, will be explained to Daniel, in v.15-28. The comments below reflect that explanation.)
the first was like a lion... (v.4) -
This is Babylon, the Head of Gold, like a lion in its supremacy and power.
...and had eagle's wings...-
The swift advance of Babylon's armies enabled their conquest of the world.
Here, as in prophetic passages written prior to Daniel's time, a lion and eagle are used figuratively of the nation that would conquer Israel (Deu 28:49-51; Jer 4:7,13; Hab 1:6-8).
Also, an eagle sometimes symbolizes pride and self-exaltation (eg., Jer 49:16).
I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked... and a man's heart was given to it.-
As Daniel had observed with his own eyes, Nebuchadnezzar's pride was taken away from him, through his seven years of humiliation, in living as a beast. Afterwards, the king was lifted up and restored to his place among men, and he was given a new heart with a proper appreciation of his position as a man, in relationship to the God of heaven (Dan 4:28-37).
5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear,
and it raised up itself on one side,
and [it had] three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it:
and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
another beast, a second, like to a bear...
This is the Medo-Persian empire, the upper torso and arms of silver on the image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream (ch.2).
In comparison to the swift advance of Babylon, the Medo-Persian armies lumbered like a bear, with large, slow-moving forces, that were relentlessly powerful and brutal in conquest.
...it raised up itself on one side...- The Medes conquered Babylon,
but with the added strength from the Persian side, this empire went on to conquer Egypt and Lydia (the western region of modern Turkey).
...it had three ribs... between the teeth of it...- Namely: Babylon, Egypt and Lydia
(the three major kingdoms devoured by the Medo-Persian empire).
6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard,
which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl;
the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
another, like a leopard...- This is the Graeco-Macedonian empire of Alexander the Great,
corresponding to the lower torso and thighs of brass on the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (ch.2).
Like a leopard, Alexander's forces moved suddenly to pounce upon their prey.
The four wings (twice as many as the first beast) symbolize their unprecedented speed of movement.
...the beast also had four heads...-
Upon the death of Alexander, his kingdom was divided between four of his generals:
  • Cassander in the region of Macedonia (Thrace);
  • Lysimachus in Asia Minor;
  • Seleucis in Syria;
  • Ptolemy in Egypt.
Daniel would receive further details regarding the divisions of the Greek empire, through the prophetic foreview presented in the visions of Daniel ch. 8 and 11 (eg., Dan 8:21,22).
However, the Bible records very little of the history of Grecian dominance, because that empire rose and fell during the 'silent' period between the Old and New Testaments.
7 After this I saw in the night visions,
and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly;
and it had great iron teeth:
it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it:
and it [was] diverse from all the beasts that [were] before it;
and it had ten horns.
after this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast...-
The fourth beast is so terrible and diverse from those that preceded it, that although it was mentioned in the previous vision (v.2,3) it was not described with the first three beasts. Rather, Daniel is given a new vision which focuses specifically on this fourth beast. The descriptions of the previous three beasts were limited to just one verse each. The description of the fourth beast and its destruction occupies the remainder of the chapter (including this vision and another to follow). Thus, in these visions, God is directing our attention toward the end of the Times of the Gentiles.
...strong exceedingly; and it had great {HB=rabrab} iron teeth...-
...and stamped the residue with its feet...-
These characteristics identify the fourth beast with the strong legs and feet of iron, of the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Dan 2:40-42). This is the Roman empire, in its various forms, from the time it rose to prominence, until the end of gentile world dominion. This empire is "dreadful and terrible"..."forasmuch as iron breaketh and subdueth all..."
     Contrary to the thought that mankind is building a better world, the great power of the final form of gentile dominion will not be constructive, but destructive in the extreme. In addition to its brutal conquest of nations, the Roman empire committed the following atrocities, not long after its rise:
  • The crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
  • The destruction of Jerusalem and the second Temple, in 70 AD.
  • The persecution of countless Jews and Bible believing Christians since that time.
If those things occurred when the empire was young, how terrible will the days be, when the end comes? (see Mat 24:22)
...it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it...-
The other empires were each likened to familiar animals. There is no adequate comparison for the fourth beast. In Rev 13:1,2, this empire is viewed as a composite of characteristics from the previous kingdoms, with additional new features.
     [The graphic below shows the composite prophetic picture from Daniel and Revelation. See the Book Notes at Revelation ch. 13 for further discussion.]
...and it had ten horns...-
The ten horns correspond to the ten toes of the image in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (ch.2)
8 I considered the horns,
and, behold, there came up among them another little horn,
before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots:
and, behold, in this horn [were] eyes like the eyes of man,
and a mouth speaking great things.
...the horns... there came up among them another little horn...-
The little horn is the Antichrist.
...before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots...-
The words 'before' {Aramaic=qodam} and 'first' {Aramaic=qadmay} are from the same root. They can relate to position ('in front of') or time ('prior to,' 'former'). Since 'the first horns' are 'first' relative to time, it appears that the three kings are displaced as the little horn rises, 'just prior to' his taking the position of prominence.
...in this horn... the eyes of a man... a mouth speaking...-
The little horn is an individual man. (Kingdoms do not have eyes or mouths.)
The vision will be explained later in the chapter. (see v.16-27; Rev 13:1; 17:3,7-13)
9. I beheld till the thrones were cast down {ie., placed, or, set in place; cp. Rev 4:4},
and the Ancient of days did sit
{ie., took His seat, Rev 4:2,3},
whose garment [was] white as snow,
and the hair of his head like the pure wool:
his throne [was like] the fiery flame,
[and] his
{ie., the thrones'} wheels [as] burning fire. {cp. Rev 4:5, 'fire' speaks of judgment}
10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him:
thousand thousands ministered unto him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him:
the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
{cp. Rev 5:11-14}
the Ancient of days...- This is the great "I Am," the ever living God. cp. Isa 9:6; Mic 5:2
...whose garment was white...- The glory of His righteousness. Psa 104:2; Mark 9:3; Php 3:9
...the hair of his head like pure wool...- The wisdom of His eternal agelessness. Rev 1:14
Who is "the Ancient of Days" according to the references above?
...the books were opened.-
This event should not be confused with the Great White Throne judgment (Rev 20:11-15), which is the final judgment of the unsaved dead.
This judgment (described in v.9,10) will occur at the close of the Times of the Gentiles, and will determine who, among the living, will enter Christ's Millennial Kingdom (Rev 20:4).
11 I beheld then because of the voice
of the great
{HB=rabrab} words which the horn spake:
I beheld [even] till the beast was slain,
and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.
12 As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away:
yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.
I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake...-
Daniel, observing the preparations for judgment by the One who is "True and Righteous altogether" (v.9,10; Psa 19:9; Rev 16:7), is startled by the incongruous profusion of blasphemy uttered by the Antichrist (cp. Rev 13:5,6).
I beheld till the beast was slain...- When the righteous judgment is executed,
the blasphemer will be forever silenced (Rev 19:20).
...the rest of the beasts... their lives were prolonged...-
The judgment executed upon the Antichrist and his kingdom will not automatically apply to other rulers and governments. All will be judged. Those, who are counted worthy, will enter into Christ's Millennial Kingdom, as His subjects, stripped of their political power.
...for a season {ie., a set period} and a time {ie., a brief period}.-
ie., for the prescribed 1000 year Kingdom, and the brief period of rebellion which will follow (Rev 20:4-9).
13 I saw in the night visions,
Again, a new vision is given, introducing One who is unlike any previously seen.
and, behold, [one] like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven,
{See the way Jesus applied this verse in Mark 14:61,62}
and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom,
{Luk 1:32}
that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him:
{Psa 2:7-9}
his dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed.
...one like the Son of man... came to the Ancient of days...-
The Son of man is the Lord Jesus Christ. But we have already identified Him with the Ancient of days (in the notes above at v.9,10). Does He approach Himself?
     This is the same event as described in Rev 5:5-7. The Lamb is first seen "in the midst of the throne... having the seven Spirits of God," because He is God. Yet, He is also the "Lamb as it had been slain."
     As God, He became man "for the suffering of death" (Php 2:6-8; Heb 2:9). This Son of man, and He alone, is worthy to receive "the book" which is His title to dominion over the earth (Rev 5:8-10).
     As the God-man, He will be exalted to the glory which is rightfully His. cp. Php 2:9-11; Isa 45:23; Joh 17:4,5
his dominion is an everlasting dominion...-
The Son of man, who receives everlasting dominion, is the 'smiting stone' cut out of the mountain, in Nebuchadnezzar's vision (Dan 2:34-35,44-45). When He comes, He will destroy the final form of gentile world dominion, and establish His Kingdom throughout the earth (Rev 19:11-21). His dominion on the earth will last a thousand years (Rev 20:4), but His Kingdom continues beyond the Millennial Kingdom into eternity, in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev 21:1-f).
     The thousand year Kingdom will be the final test of mankind. Even when governed by the King of Righteousness, and while "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord" (Isa 11:1-9; Mic 4:2), unregenerate men will still rebel against Him (Rev 20:7-10). But He will quench that final rebellion, to reign among His people forever.
15. I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of [my] body,
and the visions of my head troubled me.
16 I came near unto one of them that stood by,
and asked him the truth of all this.
So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.
I Daniel was grieved {ie., distressed}... the visions... troubled {ie., frightened, alarmed} me.-
We have the advantage of hindsight, having already understood the interpretation of several aspects of these visions, through a comparison of Scripture with Scripture. But are we troubled by the things that we understand are coming? The sweetness, of understanding the Scriptures, should be accompanied by the bitterness of grief for the things that are about to befall the inhabitants of the earth (Rev 10:9,10). The things revealed are in no way trivial, but rather foretell intense human travail.
I came near unto one... that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this...-
Daniel, while transported into heaven (in his vision), approaches a resident of heaven, perhaps an angel, to enquire about the meaning of these visions.
so he told me...-
17 These great beasts, which are four,
[are] four kings, [which] shall arise out of the earth.
18 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom,
and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.
Here, in two brief verses, is a summary of all that has been revealed to Daniel.
The kingdom, which had been taken away from Israel and given to four successive gentile empires, would be restored to God's people eventually, and eternally. The visions focus on the time of that restoration.
...four kings...- The human heads of the four beastlike kingdoms are themselves beasts.
They are 'great {HB=rabrab} beasts' due to their domineering character.
  • Nebuchadnezzar, representing Babylon, was himself the "head of gold" (Dan 2:38).
    He was brought to repentance through his humiliation, by which he saw himself as a beast (Dan 4:16,37).
  • The Antichrist, the central figure in the final empire, is the ultimate beast (Rev 13:1,8).
...shall arise out of the earth...-
These kings and their kingdoms are sourced in the earth, the realm of fallen men. They will be displaced by the Kingdom which the God of heaven will establish to rule over all the earth (Dan 2:35,44-45).
the saints of the most High shall take {ie., receive} the kingdom...-
'Saints' means 'holy ones' or 'separated ones.'
The people of God will live in peace and prosperity as full citizens of the Millennial Kingdom, when Christ returns to reign on earth (Rev 20:4).
     But prior to that time, during 'the Time of Jacob's Trouble' under the reign of the Antichrist in the Tribulation period, the 'saints' will suffer terribly (v.21,22,25,27). These suffering saints, are identified as Daniel's people (ethnic Jews) in Dan 12:1.
     In the NT, Jews and Gentiles, who receive salvation from sin through faith in Christ, are also called 'saints' (eg., Rom 1:7,16-17; 1Cor 1:2). However, the saints which Daniel mentions are distinct from the saints of the Church age, because:
  1. in the OT, the Church was a mystery, as yet unrevealed (Eph 3:8-10).
  2. the saints, which Daniel has in view, are contemporaries of the Antichrist,
    during the Tribulation period, after the Church has been taken to heaven via the Rapture (1The 4:15-17). This is clearly shown in the book of Revelation, where the church on earth is addressed in Rev ch.1-3, but after the call to "Come up hither" (Rev 4:1), the church is no longer seen on earth, and is not mentioned again (in Rev ch.6-18, which describe the Tribulation period), until the church saints return with Christ from heaven, when He returns to earth in power and great glory (Rev ch.19).
During the Church age, most Israelites remain blind to God's provision of salvation through faith in Christ (Rom 10:1-10; 11:7). But this blindness is temporary. The Lord will use the Time of Jacob's Trouble to open their eyes to recognize and receive their Messiah (Jer 30:7; Rom 11:25-27; Zech 12:10; 13:1). Then, righteousness will be imputed to them by faith, like that of Abraham (Rom 4:1-3,23-25).
     Due to the witness of 144,000 Jewish witnesses, the company of saints will continue to grow during the Tribulation, while the Church is in heaven. The 'Tribulation saints' will include the believing Jewish Remnant, and also a great multitude of believing gentiles (Rev 7:1-10). They will become saints (ie., be made holy) through faith in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:13,14; cp. Joh 1:29).
19 Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast,
which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful,
whose teeth [were of] iron, and his nails [of] brass;
[which] devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;
20 And of the ten horns that [were] in his head,
and [of] the other which came up, and before whom three fell;
even [of] that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things,
whose look [was] more stout
{Heb=rab} than his fellows. {Rev 13:4-6}
21 I beheld, and the same horn
{ie., the little horn} made war with the saints,
and prevailed against them;
{Rev 13:7}
22 Until the Ancient of days came,
and judgment
{ie., governing authority} was given to the saints of the most High;
and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
...then I would know the truth...-
Notice how Daniel carefully sought to understand the Word from God, by asking for spiritual insight about each specific point, until the meaning was clear. 2Tim 2:15; Mat 7:7,8
23 Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth,
which shall be diverse from all kingdoms,
and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.
24 And the ten horns out of this kingdom [are] ten kings [that] shall arise:
and another shall rise after them;
and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
25 And he shall speak [great] words against the most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws:
and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.
26 But the judgment shall sit,
and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy [it] unto the end.
27 And the kingdom and dominion,
and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven,
shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High,
whose kingdom [is] an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
28 Hitherto [is] the end of the matter.
As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me,
and my countenance changed in me:
but I kept the matter in my heart.
...ten horns that shall arise... and another shall arise after them...-
The ten kings will come to power late in the fourth empire. The Antichrist arises after the ten are in place, but they will submit to his dominion and cooperate with him. This is the closing chapter of the fourth kingdom (Rev 13:1; 17:3,7-14; cp. Dan 2:41-45).
     Neither the angel (who addressed Daniel's questions) nor the book of Revelation provide details concerning the three kings which the Antichrist 'plucks up by the roots' (v.8,20,24). When the time comes, it will be clear, as one of several identifying features of the Antichrist.
...and shall wear out {ie., wear away, harass continually} the saints of the most High...-
Life will be extremely difficult for those who refuse to identify themselves with the Antichrist. The persecution of believers during the Tribulation will be severe, as the Antichrist will be permitted to 'make war against the saints and prevail against them' (v.21; Rev 13:15-17). Although this time of trouble will seem interminable (cp. Rev 6:9-11), it will be of limited duration (Mat 24:13,21-22).
he shall... think to change times {ie., seasons} and laws...-
These are aspects of the Antichrist's attempts to overturn God's Word.
  • God will allow him to rule for a set season:
    "a time and times and the dividing of time" (three and a half years, corresponding to the last half of the seven year Tribulation period, cp. Rev 11:2,3; 12:6; 13:5). But he will seek to alter that limitation. God has also ordained that Christ will reign on earth for a thousand years, but the Antichrist will seek to prevent His return.
  • God's law is unchangeable, but the Antichrist will redefine good as evil and evil as good.
    The Antichrist will interrupt and corrupt Temple worship, cast truth to the ground, and exalt himself and his own will (eg., Dan 11:36; 2The 2:4).
but the judgment shall sit...- This is the judgment described in v.9-12.
the kingdom and dominion... shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High...-
When 'the Ancient of days comes' (v.21,22), ie., when Christ returns in judgment, the saints (from the Tribulation period) will 'possess {ie., hold, occupy} the kingdom' (v.18,22) which is 'given' to them. Yet, the kingdom is 'theirs' only because they belong to "the most High whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom." Being identified with the One who has the right to reign forever, His people will rule and reign with Christ in His Millennial Kingdom (v.13-14,18; Rev 20:4).
As for me Daniel, my cogitations {thoughts} much troubled me... I kept the matter in my heart.-
Having received the visions and their interpretation, Daniel was deeply troubled by the many questions which arose because of these revelations concerning the future. Although he kept a written record of what he had seen and heard, he did not share it with anyone, while he awaited further understanding.
...my countenance changed in me...-
The prophetic revelation of events leading to the second coming of Christ had a profound effect upon Daniel's person.
What effect does this knowledge have upon you and me? 2Pet 3:11-15; 1The 1:5-10

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