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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 7

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-28



Daniel 7:1-28

In the preceding chapter were named, in order, all the prophetic sections in this book, and it was shown that the seven later sections were but developments of the first. In that first section (Daniel 2:31-45), we found foreshown the rise, in succession, of five empires – four human, one divine – all visible, all universal, and the last everlasting. We found the four human empires to be the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian, and Roman, and the divine empire to be the everlasting kingdom set up by our Lord while on earth.

Attention has already been called to the contention of the radical critics that, in the mind of the author, the kingdom of the Medes was conceived of as distinct from, and prior to, the kingdom of the Persians, and therefore from the author’s viewpoint, the four human empires, in succession, were the Babylonian, the Median, the Persian, the Grecian; or as others of them contended, the four empires were Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Grecian.

It has already been shown that the first of these contentions is every way untenable, being flatly contradicted by the whole tenor of the book, and that the latter is expressly contradicted by the declaration that the Babylonian is the first of series (Daniel 2:38).

That the mind may be fortified against the assertion that the author regarded the Medes and Persians as distinct, constituting two of the four kingdoms, an assertion in order to make the Grecian the last, and then by dating the book after Antiochus Epiphanes, destroys its predictive character, the argument is here restated:

1. The book declares that the empire succeeding the Babylonian was that of the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5:28), and not the Medes alone.

2. Their laws are the laws of one government (Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12; Daniel 6:15).

3. The dual nature of the constituent parts of the one government is set forth in all the symbols, namely (1) the chest and arms of silver (Daniel 2:32); (2) the lop-sided bear, one side higher than the other (Daniel 7:5) ; (3) the two-horned ram, one horn higher than the other (Daniel 8:3). To clinch matters this one ram represents a single government whose horns are expressly interpreted to be the kings of Media and Persia (Daniel 8:20).

4. The he-goat is the Grecian, or third empire (Daniel 8:21).

5. Antiochus Epiphanes is the little horn of the Grecian Empire (Daniel 8:9-12; Daniel 8:23-25), who is the first anti-christ.

6. But after this cometh a fourth beast, or government, with ten horns, and later a little horn, which is the second antichrist (Daniel 7:7-8, and Revelation 13:1-8). The ruler of this changed beast-government is the pope (Revelation 13:11).

All these critics make Antiochus the little horn of this Greek Government in Daniel 8, but cannot dispose of another little horn on the fourth beast.

It is impossible to make the fourth beast (Daniel 7) with its ten horns and later a little horn plucking up three of the ten horns, the same as the he-goat (Daniel 8), with first one horn, then four, then a little horn. Only one blinded by a presupposition would attempt it.

We have found a little stone of Daniel 2 to be the kingdom of God, with these characteristics:

1. It is a visible kingdom, like the others.

2. It is to be set up by the God of heaven, not man.

3. It is to be set up in the days of the fourth human empire.

4. It is to be progressive, growing larger and larger. It will not be like a tadpole, big at the head and tapering into a small tail, but like a river, small at its fountain but a sea at the last.

5. It will overturn all human governments.

6. It will be universal – fill the whole earth.

We have seen that Daniel’s kingdom of God and the time of its appearing furnished the title of the new government to John the Baptist, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul, and prepared men to look for it just when it came, and the king’s title, "Son of man" (Daniel 7:13) was adopted by our Lord.

Both of the next two prophetic sections (Daniel 4:20-33; Daniel 5:25-28) have been considered in the discussion of the historical sections and are but elaborations of the first world empire of Daniel 2, merely showing what befell the first and last of its kings and marking the transition to the second world empire. We need to note here but a few things additional concerning them. The prophecy in Daniel 4:14-17, and as interpreted in Daniel 4:24-26, is very remarkable. None but God could have foreshown the coming of such a disease upon the king of Babylon, and his restoration to both mind and kingdom after seven years. The fulfilment came in twelve months after his recovery.

The prophecy of the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5:25-28) was fulfilled that very night.

So we pass on to the fourth prophecy (Daniel 7). The date of the prophecy is clear, the first year of Belshazzar. The correspondence of this prophecy with the first in chapter 2 is very remarkable, while additional details are very striking. The prophet beholds a sea, the Mediterranean, which symbolizes the nations here as in Psalms 65:7 and in the Revelation of John. The four winds which break out on this sea signify the angelic ministration in the development of nations. No nation arises by chance.

This brings us to the consideration of Daniel’s doctrine of the angels as related to the nations. The Septuagint version renders Deuteronomy 32:8 thus: "He set the nations according to the angels of God." We will see later in the book that while Michael, the archangel, is the angel of the elect nation, other angels seem to have charge of other nations. We see in Revelation 13:1 how Satan stood at the sea and called up the beast nation of that chapter, corresponding to the fourth beast of this chapter. And as Satan is the usurping prince of this world, we may understand how his angels may be charged with the development and guidance of evil nations, always, however, subject to the limitations of God’s paramount and supreme government. This will enable us to understand a later passage (Daniel 10:13), wherein the Angel or Prince of Persia hindered the favorable purposes of the Son of God toward the Jews and how Michael, the angel of the elect nation, came to aid their cause. The ministry of angels, both good and bad, and their special interest in national movements appear abundantly in the Old Testament books which precede Daniel and reappear in New Testament books. We see how one tempted David to number Israel and another is permitted to deceive Ahab. In the Psalms it is said, "He maketh his angels winds."

What the reader should note particularly is that governments neither rise nor fall of themselves alone. The first beast or government to arise from the wind-whipped or angel-disturbed sea is thus described: "The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings; I beheld till the kings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it" (Daniel 7:4). This winged lion is like the golden head of the image in Daniel 2, a symbol of the Babylonian government, or first world empire. But a great change has come since the days of Nebuchadnezzar. The lion has lost his wings. He is now but a tame beast with the timid heart of a man. Aggressiveness and conquest have ceased. The histories and monumental inscriptions show the ever-increasing power of Persia and the decadence of Babylon.

The second beast is thus described: "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" (Daniel 7:5).

This, like the silver chest and arms of the image in Daniel 2, symbolizes Medo-Persia, one side higher than the other. But there is a distinct advance in the thought. The three ribs represent the great governments this bear devoured, which were Assyria, Babylon, and Egypt. They were the great governments which historically touched Israel.

The third beast is thus described: "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." This leopard, like the brazen body and thighs of the image in Daniel 2, evidently refers to the Grecian kingdom, whose four wings refer to the rapidity of its progress, and whose four heads refer to its divisions in four parts, as we shall particularly consider in the next prophetic section.

Evidently the interest of this vision centers in the fourth beast or government, and in the crowning of the king of the fifth empire. In the first vision (Daniel 2) we found the fourth government one of iron, but a division later into ten parts, or toes, and a decadence indicated by the commingled clay. Here there is a great advance in the thought: 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. 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 a man, and a mouth speaking great things. It is terrible and powerful. The iron appears in its teeth. The divisions are no longer toes, but ten horns. The entirely new idea is a little horn which plucks up three of the ten horns. The little horn has the eyes of a man and speaks great things.

This is not only the Rome of the Caesars, in whose days the kingdom of God was set up, but it is Rome after its destruction as a political power and its division into the ten European governments that constituted its element before its disintegration. It is not only that, but it is a Rome diverse. This diversity appears in its latest transformation when the little horn coming up that plucks up three of the ten horns or kingdoms and having the eyes of a man, speaks great swelling things. The nature of the diversity better appears in the Revelation of John, where the same beast is under consideration: And I stood upon the sand of the sea and I saw a beast coming up out of the sea having ten horns and seven heads and on his horns ten diadems and on his heads names of blasphemy, and the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard and his feet were as the feet of a bear and his mouth as the mouth of a lion, and the dragon gave him his power and his throne and his great authority, and I saw one of his heads as though it had been smitten unto death, but his death stroke was healed and the whole earth wondered after the beast and they worshipped the dragon [Satan] because he gave his authority unto the beast, and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to war with him? And there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies and there was given to him authority to continue forty-two months and he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God to blaspheme his name and his tabernacle, even them that were in the heavens, and it was given unto him to make war with the saints and to overcome them and there was given unto him authority over every people, tribe, tongue, and nation and all that were upon the earth shall worship him, everyone whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of the Lamb that hath been slain. Every man that hath ears to hear let him hear.

And then he goes on to say to say, "I saw another beast with two horns like a ram, but speaking like a dragon," and he takes charge of this other beast. It is perfectly evident that the diversity which is here spoken of is the change in the nature of the government. We have first the Rome of the Caesars, not diverse in political nature from the three preceding world empires – then the downfall of this mere political government, then a religio-political Roman Empire, a union of church and state, with the church on top, then in the lamb who speaks like a dragon, the papacy which rules this diverse government. Kings of political governments came to put their necks under the heel of the pope that sat at the head of this holy Roman Empire, for example, Henry of Germany. It was to this former custom Bismarck referred when he said that his king of Germany would never come to Canossa.

In the book of Revelation, which is largely an elaboration of Daniel, we find that this remarkable development of the fourth beast is still at Rome. It still has somewhat universal dominion over men, but it is a religio-political government. It claims to get the two swords, secular and spiritual, and the two keys, the key of this world and the key to the world to come. No wonder that beast was dreadful and powerful, and particularly diverse. We see him come in the Caesars, whose legions conquered the world, trampled under foot everything that opposed it, and with its iron teeth crushed the bones of its enemies. Then in the book of Revelation we see political Rome cast into the sea like a burning volcano, then rise up a new Rome with the death stroke of the beast healed, with a new head, a head that looks like a lamb but speaks like a dragon. There is the little horn of this Rome.

We now come to what this chapter has to say about the fifth world empire. In the first prophetic section we saw the kingdom of God coming in the days of the Roman kings. Now a new thing about that kingdom of God is introduced, an entirely new thought: And I beheld till thrones were placed and one that was the Ancient of Days did sit. His raiment was white as snow; the hair of his head like pure wool, and his throne was like the fiery flame and wheels thereof burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth before him. Thousands of thousands ministered unto him and ten thousand times ten thousands stood before him.

When we read that and read the vision of glory in Isaiah 6 and in Ezekiel 1 and in Revelation 4, we can’t mistake the import. It is the throne of grace. But I particularly call attention to this: I saw in the night visions and lo, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto the Son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of Days and they brought him near before him and there was given unto him dominion and glory and a kingdom that all the peoples, nations, and languages under heaven should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

When Daniel saw these things it greatly troubled him. His very soul trembled at that diverse beast with the ten horns and the little horn plucking up three horns and its awful power, while he was thrilled at the exaltation of the king of the fifth empire. And this section goes on to show how his mind puts questions. What is the meaning of this fourth beast and the meaning of that little horn, and what is the meaning of one like the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days? I said that the first prophetic section showed the kingdom of heaven as it was set up. How the gospel of it commenced: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." The King came and was acknowledged at his baptism, and he was manifested on Palm Sunday that preceded his crucifixion. But this chapter shows his exaltation and enthronement. When he left the earth after his crucifixion the last sight they had of him, he was going up in the clouds. This chapter takes that thought up: "I saw one like the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of Days." Peter saw him going up, Daniel sees him after he gets there, and as he goes up, we find the fulfilment of the Psalm: Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and let the King of Glory come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of hosts, mighty to save. Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing? . . . Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion. – Psalms 2:1; Psalms 2:6.

The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

Now it is this prophecy of Daniel which first of all shows the exaltation and enthronement and mediatorial rule of the Messiah. The Messiah’s work here on earth was preparatory to his heavenly rule. His work here on earth was expiatory, but when he rose from the dead he went up to take his seat at the right hand of the majesty on high and there he sits as King, reigns as King and judges the nations until the time of his second advent. So what the theologians call the session of Jesus Christ, the sitting of Jesus Christ at the right hand of the Father on high, is all the time a session of judgments, of rulings, of governments over the affairs of this world, reigning as head over all things to his people, and causing all things to work together for their good and bringing to pass the overturning of every obstacle that opposes the dissemination of his truth and bringing the whole earth in subjection to him. That is the clear teaching of this passage.

Here it is important for the reader to see Nebuchadnezzar in the day of his greatest glory looking around upon the brazen walls of Babylon, its terraced gardens in the skies, its marvelous buildings and temples of its gods, and he feeling that all the nations of the earth were subject to him and saying, "This is that great Babylon which I have built." Take a look at the glory of that empire. Then we see Alexander coming, conquering the world and weeping that there are no more worlds to conquer, and there we have a high conception of world power. We see Rome attaining the universal supremacy under the Caesars, and that glory is great. Then the succeeding Rome of the papacy has a peculiar glory, but the glory of the King of the fifth empire as here described infinitely surpasses all. It prepares us to understand how comforting was the vision of this throne in glory (Rev. 4), after considering the confused condition of the churches on earth (Rev. 2-3). The church view on earth was depressing; the glory view in heaven was cheering. The earth view of typical Israel was depressing to Isaiah and Ezekiel; their heavenly view of the throne above was cheering (Isa. 6; Ezek. 1).

To Daniel the vision of succeeding world empires, all op-pressing the saints, whether merely political, or religio-political, was very depressing, but the vision of the session of Messiah at the right hand of God as everlasting priest, and King of kings, was cheering in its assurance that the saints would yet possess the earth. A long time off, indeed, but coming. Many centuries of intervening trials, indeed, yet temporary.


1. What is the meaning of the sea, and the winds in Daniel 7?

2. Show the correspondence of the four beasts of this vision with four sections of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image in Daniel 2, and then how the added details and changes of the first three here.

3. Particularly, what is the addition to the fourth world empire in the vision, and wherein the diversity, and what the meaning of this transformation of the fourth government?

4. What supernatural ministry, good and bad, has to do with the rise of nations?

5. Show from the corresponding part of Revelation what supernatural force causes the rise of this fourth world empire and was the mighty factor in its change into a diverse world empire.

6. According to Revelation 13, what and who was the head of this diverse world empire?

7. What special advance in thought of the fifth world empire in this vision?

8. When did this enthronement of the king of the fifth empire occur and what Old Testament prophecies did it fulfil?

9. Show how a vision of this throne of grace cheered Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, in their days of typical Israel, and how a similar vision cheered John on Patmos, in the days of the antitypical Israel.

10. This session of the Messiah at the right hand of God as everlasting priest and king, is for what and for how long, and to be followed by what?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Daniel 7". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/daniel-7.html.
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