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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 7

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-28

The Vision of the Four Beasts

In the first year of Belshazzar Daniel sees in a dream four beasts rising out of the sea (Daniel 7:1-3). The first is like a lion, with eagle’s wings (Daniel 7:4), the second like a bear (Daniel 7:5), the third like a leopard (Daniel 7:6), while the fourth is a unique and ferocious monster with ten horns (Daniel 7:7), Among the horns of the fourth beast there comes up a little horn with human eyes, which displaces three of the other ten, and carries itself proudly (Daniel 7:8). God then appears sitting on His throne of judgment (Daniel 7:9-10). The fourth beast is slain (Daniel 7:11). A human figure appears in the heavens, and receives an everlasting kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14).

At Daniel’s request an angel explains the vision (Daniel 7:15-16). The four beasts represent four kings (or kingdoms: see on Daniel 7:17) which are to appear in succession, and are to be followed by the kingdom of the people of God (Daniel 7:18). Daniel’s interest centres specially in the fourth beast and the conclusion of the vision (Daniel 7:19-22), The fourth beast is explained as a conquering kingdom (Daniel 7:23), the ten horns are ten of its kings, and the little horn is an eleventh king who shall put down three of the former ten (Daniel 7:24), and shall blasphemously persecute the saints for ’a time, times, and half a time’ (Daniel 7:25). In the day of God’s judgment the little horn will lose his dominion (Daniel 7:26) and the everlasting kingdom of the saints will follow (Daniel 7:27).

Interpretation The four kingdoms in this chapter are presumably the same as those in c.. 2. The reasons for regarding the fourth as the Greek (rather than the Roman) empire are given in Intro. See also on Daniel 2.

Teaching. This chapter contains a prophecy of the Messianic kingdom of God. It is expected to appear after the overthrow of Antiochus Epiphanes, and to be in the hands of the Jewish people.

1. Belshazzar king of Babylon] For the historical difficulty see on Daniel 5:1. Belshazzar is clearly regarded as actual king, since the years of his reign are reckoned by both here and in Daniel 8:1.

2. Strove] RV ’brake forth.’ The great sea] the Mediterranean.

3. The imagery recalls the figures, so often found on Babylonian bas-reliefs, of winged lions and other monsters. The sea symbolises the confused welter of nations before the Babylonian empire arose.

4. The first] beast is either the Babylonian empire, or more probably Nebuchadnezzar himself (see on Daniel 2:38), the changing of the beast from the brute to the human condition referring possibly to Nebuchadnezzar’s improvement under God’s discipline (Daniel 4). The feet] RV ’two feet.’

5. The second beast may be either the alleged Median empire of Darius (the three ribs in its mouth being perhaps three nations conquered by it before the taking of Babylon), or Belshazzar (the picture of the bear describing his sluggish and sensual nature): see on Daniel 2:39,

6. The third beast is either the Persian empire founded by Cyrus, as distinguished from the Median rule attributed in this book to Darius, or the Medo-Persian empire regarded as one. The four heads are perhaps the four Persian kings who are mentioned in OT.—Cyrus, Darius (Hystaspes), Xerxes (Ahasuerus), and Artaxerxes,

7. A fourth beast] the conquering Greek empire of Alexander the Great, Ten horns] see on Daniel 7:24.

8. Another little horn] Antiochus Epiphanes, The description of this horn is continued in Daniel 7:24-25, Three of the first horns] see on Daniel 7:24.

9, 10. The judgment scene is presented in the form of a material spectacle, which is first found in Daniel, though it is common in other apocalyptic books and in the NT. Cast down] RV ’placed.’ His wheels] RV ’the wheels thereof’ (of the throne). Ancient of days] An expression for God peculiar to Daniel. The book of Enoch has, ’The Head of Days.’

12. The rest of the beasts] the former kingdoms, survived as nations, but without power.

13. One like the Son of man] RV ’one like unto a son of man’—a human figure as opposed to the four brute figures, and coming from heaven as opposed to their coming from the sea. This figure denotes, not the Messiah as an individual, but the kingdom of God as the successor of the kingdoms of this world.

14. People] RV ’peoples.’

17. Four kings] This statement must be taken loosely. The fourth beast is not strictly a king, but a kingdom with various kings (Daniel 7:23-24).

18. Take] RV ’receive.’

19-22. A recapitulation of Daniel 7:9-14.

23. The fourth kingdom] RV ’a fourth kingdom,’ the Greek empire of Alexander the Great.

24. The ten horns] are to be sought among Alexander and his successors. The following table of the Greek kings of Syria and Egypt may be useful here:

Seleucus I (Nicator)312-280Ptolemy I (Soter)305-285
Antiochus I (Soter)280-261
Ptolemy II (Philadelphus)285-247
Antiochus II (Theos)261-246
Seleucus II (Callinicus)246-226
Ptolemy III (Euergetes)247-222
Seleucus III (Ceraunus)226-223
Ptolemy IV (Philopator)222-205
Antiochus III (the Great)223-187
Ptolemy V (Epiphanes)205-181
Seleucus IV (Philopator)187-176
Ptolemy VI (Philometor)181-146
Antiochus IV (Epiphanes)176-164

Antiochus Epiphanes was the son of Antiochus the Great, and the younger brother of Seleucus IV, whom he succeeded on the throne. Seleucus Iv was murdered by a usurper named Heliodorus; but Antiochus speedily drove out the latter. The real heir to the throne was Demetrius, the son of Seleucus IV, but he only obtained the kingdom after the death of Antiochus. Another rival of Antiochus is said to have been Ptolemy VI, of Egypt, whose mother, Cleopatra, was a daughter of Antiochus the Great. These relationships are shown in the accompanying table:

Click image for full-size version

The ten horns are variously reckoned as including or excluding Alexander the Great, and as comprising only Syrian, or both Syrian and Egyptian kings. Including Alexander, the first seven may be Alexander the Great, Seleucus I, Antiochus I, Antiochus II, Seleucus 11, Seleucus III, Antiochus III, and the last three Seleucus IV (whose murder may have been instigated by Antiochus Epiphanes), Heliodorus, and Demetrius. If Alexander be omitted, the first seven will include Seleucus IV; while the last three may be Heliodorus, Demetrius, and Ptolemy VI. The number ten may be a round one, and the exact interpretation of the ten horns is of less consequence than the recognition of the little horn as Antiochus Epiphanes.

25. The v. exactly describes the conduct of Antiochus (1 Maccabees 1:41-50). Laws] RV ’the law.’ A time, times, and the dividing of (RV ’half a’) time] Three years and a half appears all through the book of Daniel as the period appointed for the tyranny of Antiochus. It is to be regarded as a round period (the half of seven years), denoting a short and incomplete interval of time.

27. Of the kingdom] RV’ of the kingdoms.’ People of the saints] Here and in Daniel 7:18 these are spoken of as the rulers of the future kingdom of God. The ’on of man’ is not a personal king, but a symbolic figure for God’s kingdom in its superiority to the other kingdoms symbolised by the four beasts.

28. Hitherto] RV ’here.’ The table on next Page sums up the general interpretation of Daniel 2, 7 adopted in the notes.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Daniel 7". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/daniel-7.html. 1909.
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