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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 7

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-28

Daniel 7:1 . In the first year of Belshazzar. The book of Daniel is divided into two parts; the first six chapters being historic, and the latter prophetic. This dream of Daniel’s has a connection with that which regarded Nebuchadnezzar, in Daniel 2:15; Daniel 2:26. Both those princes were proud and wicked men; yet God had mercy on them and on their people, and was graciously pleased to give them admonition by special revelations of future times. Daniel dreamed of the four beasts, but the interpretation was in vision when awake, and by this vision he was honoured as the peculiar friend of God. Daniel relates his dream in the third person, as St. John did when speaking of himself, as that disciple whom Jesus loved. This is frequently the case with inspired men: it costs a modest man much to speak of himself.

Daniel 7:2 . The four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea; indicating that empires rose by war, commotion, and tumult. By the great sea, the Mediterranean is understood, and it is called the Mediterranean because it lies between the two continents of Europe and Africa.

Daniel 7:4 . The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. The pagan mythology often attributes wings to beasts, with a view to express a swifter motion than the animal is naturally capable of. Some versions read lioness, which is said to be fiercer than the lion: this beast refers to the Babylonian empire. Nebuchadnezzar is said to be a lion gone up from the thicket. Jeremiah 4:7. He flew as an eagle, and spread his wings over Moab. Jeremiah 48:40. His wings of empire were plucked when Cyrus conquered his provinces in the reign of Belshazzar; and God gave Nebuchadnezzar, this terrible lion, a man’s heart after his restoration from melancholy, when he acknowledged and praised the Most High.

Daniel 7:5 . A second, like to a bear, was next seen by Daniel. Here the Persian empire is prefigured. It was strong, rude, and voracious, as the bear. It raised up itself on one side, or it raised itself to dominion. It pushed its depredations towards the west, the north, and the south. Cyrus, in the career of his northern conquests, took Crœsus king of Lidya, and his unexampled treasures of wealth. This country was called Lidya from Lud, son of Shem. Sardis was the capital, ruined by Tamerlane, and is situate fifty six miles east of Smyrna. The Lidyan kingdom flourished two hundred and thirty years. This kingdom, with Phœnicia and Egypt, are thought to be the three ribs in the bear’s mouth. This beast was bidden to devour much flesh. Now, though Cyrus was celebrated for his humanity, because he treated the nations with indulgence that they might join him in arms; yet the conquest of Babylon was attended with prodigious slaughter; and a more cruel race of men never reigned than the Persian kings who succeeded Cyrus.

Daniel 7:6 . I beheld, and lo, another, like a leopard. Here Alexander and the Macedonian empire are adumbrated. The Synopsis of the critics gives us here a variety of remarks. This empire, or Alexander himself, is compared to a leopard, because of his inconstancy. He was sometimes merciful, and sometimes cruel; sometimes temperate, and sometimes drunken; sometimes abstemious, and sometimes amorous. The strength, the craft, and the velocity of the animal are farther arguments of the propriety of this representation; and the leopard being spotted, might illustrate the various customs of the nations he conquered. This beast had four wings, which denote the rapidity of Alexander’s conquests. They extended from Germany to India in a few years; and Boiste adds, to a part of Spain. It had four heads; and it is very remarkable, that on his sudden death the empire was divided among his four generals. Ptolemy received Egypt; Seleucus, Syria; Antigonus, Asia minor; and Philip occupied Greece; of which Cassander had Macedonia. There were some other smaller shares of the empire, but these were the four great heads and divisions.

Daniel 7:7 . After this I saw a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly. This very strikingly applies in all its characters to the great Roman empire; and all attempts to apply it to the Turkish dominions, not only make a chasm in history, but they are ill supported by argument. Daniel was very much troubled in body and mind by this vision, and very solicitous to know the import of this fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others: Daniel 7:15-19. It changed its form of government seven times, beginning with kings, and ending with imperial power, anarchy, and destruction. Hence this empire is not compared to any one beast by name, because it was compounded in its government and characters, and because its head branched forth into ten horns or kingdoms, among which the little horn of Antichrist arose to oppress the church.

Daniel 7:9 . I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit. Theodotian reads, “I beheld till thrones were placed or erected, and the Ancient of days did sit.” Many versions read the same, and it best agrees with Revelation 20:4. I saw thrones, and they sat upon them. The text is quoted both ways by the fathers.

The Ancient of days. This may apply to God the Father; but the word Father implies Son and Spirit, existing before all time; yet the Father is here named because it would be less eligible for the Son to be judge in his own cause against antichrist. The supreme Ruler is compared to an earthly judge advanced in age. But is it not an infinite derogation to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be likened to angels or men? Must not then the vehicles of vision, which the infinitely condescending God assumed for the sake of conversing with man, be intimations and shadows of the incarnate Messiah? If not, do not all such representations deceive us; for the infinite perfections of God cannot be represented by any creature. His garment and his hair were perfectly white, which is figurative of the spotless sanctity of the Judge. The flames of fire which issue from his presence, mark his indignation against the bloody beasts, and the cruel antichrist; while the fiery wheels of his chariot equally indicate the universal extent of his providence.

Daniel 7:10 . A fiery stream issued before him. This illustrates the terrors of his vengeance. Thousand thousands ministered unto him. This is a certain number for an uncertain. These are the apostles, saints and angels, no doubt, who sit on heavenly thrones to judge the world, and to direct the storms of vengeance on the guilty nations; and on antichrist in particular, as in the note on Isaiah 11:0. But the text may justly be applied to the general judgment of the world at the last day, as well as to partial judgments of particular nations. This seems fully implied in the opening of the books. God has long opened the book of the gospel, the mystery of his holy will, and he will shortly open the book of conscience, and the books of life and death, which figure fully assures us that nothing can be hid from his eyes. And the books were opened.

He saw the judge with fiery looks,

And bolts of vengeance hurled;

And all the wide-extended books,

Indictments of a world.

Daniel 7:13 . One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven. Dr. Lightfoot, on John 5:27, has the following note. “And there was given unto him dominion and glory, to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. This illustrious person, says rabbi Solomon, is the king, the Messiah. He is followed by rabbi Saadias, זה משׂיה צדקינו zoh Messiah, zidkenoo; this is Messiah our righteousness.” These two quotations, making all due concessions to the circumscribed knowledge of the rabbins respecting the Messiah, are strong refutations of the socinian reading and glosses of Dr. Blaney on Jeremiah 23:6. Our Saviour applies this text to himself in Matthew 24:30. Of the three names given to man in the Hebrew scriptures, Adam, Ish, and Enosh, the last is proper here, to designate the Redeemer, as clothed with our infirmities. But when he appeared as Lord of the fiery elements, the form of the fourth is said to be like the Son of God: Daniel 3:25.

Daniel 7:19-20 . Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast and of the ten horns. The Roman empire was divided into about ten kingdoms, which are reckoned by bishop Lloyd in the following manner.

(1) The Huns formed their kingdom about the year of Christ 356.

(2) The Ostrogoths in 377.

(3) The Wisigoths in 378.

(4) The Franks in 407.

(5) the Vandals in 407.

(6) The Sueves and Alans in 407.

(7) The Burgundians in 407.

(8) The Herules and Rugians in 476.

(9) The Saxons in 476.

(10) The Longobards in Hungary in 526.

But Daniel wished to know the meaning of the other little horn which came up, and before whom three kings fell. Protestant critics apply this to the pope or bishop of Rome, who subdued the dukes in the neighbourhood of Rome; the state of Ravenna, governed by an exarchate or viceroy to the emperor of Constantinople; and the kingdom of the Lombards. This is the horn which spake great swelling words, and made war with the saints. And as Antiochus Epiphanes oppressed the Jews for three years and a half, so this Man of sin, or wicked one, was to oppress the church for twelve hundred and sixty years, which reckoning a day for a year, as the scriptures often do, is expressed by the time, one year; times, two years; and the half time, six months. Thus Antiochus is a figure of this Antichrist, as may be seen at large in the works of Mr. Mede, Dr. More, and bishop Newton.

Daniel 7:21 . The same horn (the little horn) made war with the saints. This is the horn of civil power which sprung up among the ten kingdoms, contemptible in its growth, but not inferior in cruelty to the other succession of beasts. The application of this horn to the tyranny of Rome has been uniform since the days of Peter Valdo, the great reformer in the south of France, towards the close of the eleventh century. Millions of christians, it is horrifying to assert, have perished beneath that horn of power. The council of Trent has decreed, “that without subjection to the church of the Romans, no human creature can be saved.” See more on chap. 8.

In Spain, the fifth council of Toledo, canon 3., speaks thus. “We the holy council promulge this sentence, pleasing to God, that whoever hereafter shall succeed to the throne, shall not ascend till he has sworn not to permit any man to live in his kingdom, who is not a catholic. And if after taking the reins of government he shall violate his oath, let him become anathema maranatha in the sight of God, and be fuel for eternal fire.” See Matthew Sutcliffe, Dean of Exeter’s challenge, 4to. anno 1602 and 1606.

How then can protestants admit Rome into their bosom till those decrees are disavowed? Is our life safe in their hands?


As Isaiah was comforted by a vision of God on the death of the good king Uzziah, so Daniel was comforted by a sight of the throne and kingdom of the Messiah, above all thrones, when the wicked Belshazzar assumed the reins of government. Hence in all the vicissitudes of nations we should stay on God’s eternal throne.

By the four beasts, we learn that the kingdoms of the world are cruel, yea more ingeniously cruel one to another than wild beasts. The nations must therefore be converted, or they cannot see the kingdom of God.

By the Ancient of days sitting on his throne of justice, we learn that judgments shall in due time overtake every wicked man, every nation, and the whole world. Then the judges themselves shall be judged, and their kingdoms shall become regenerate, and be absorbed in the unshaken kingdom of the Messiah, the ancient of days. Let us be comforted by the thought that the kingdom, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the Most High. All wealth and power shall be in their hands. They have been judged at human tribunals; now the nations shall be judged by them. Then shall the glorious age of righteousness and truth cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. May the Lord hasten it in his time.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Daniel 7". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/daniel-7.html. 1835.
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