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The Vision of the Four Beasts
v. 1. In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, who was coregent with his father Nabonidus and the grandson and adopted son of Nebuchadnezzar, according to the most reliable secular accounts, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head, distinct images of his mind, quite distinct from confused pictures, upon his bed, that is, during the night; then, immediately or soon after it transpired, he wrote the dream and told the sum of the matters, setting forth the main facts in due order and omitting matters of secondary importance, such as details pertaining to the appearance of the beasts.
v. 2. Daniel spake and said, in introducing his narration of the strange experience which befell him, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven, from the four main points of the compass, strove upon the great sea, storming along against one another upon the face of the ocean.
v. 3. And four great beasts, monstrous beings, came up from the sea, world-powers rising out of the agitation of the political sea of the heathen world, diverse one from another, one after the other issuing from the great deep.
v. 4. The first was like a lion and had eagle's wings, emblem of kingly power and authority; I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, taking from the beast the ability to fly. And it was lifted up from the earth, to which it was confined after having been deprived of its unrestrained motion, and made stand upon the feet as a man, standing upon its hind feet in an upright position, and a man's heart was given to it, so that it partook of the mind and the feelings of a human being.
v. 5. And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, appearing later in point of time, and it raised up itself on one side, so that it leaned over sideways, as it lifted the shoulder on that side to move forward; and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it, a part of a prey which had been seized by it, of animals which it had overcome; and they said thus unto it. Arise, devour much flesh, being given to conquest and plunder.
v. 6. After this I beheld, and, lo, another, a third animal coming on the scene somewhat later in history, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl, enabling it to move with great rapidity; the beast had also four heads, indicating that its authority would be divided among four sovereigns; and dominion was given to it, great authority and power in the world.
v. 7. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, coming on the scene as the last world-power, dreadful and terrible, of awe-inspiring fierceness, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth, symbolizing the lust of conquest and destruction; it devoured and brake in pieces, greedily feeding on whatever it could get into its power, and stamped the residue, whatever it could not devour, with the feet of it, bent upon annihilating all that stood in its way. And it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, so that the entire animal kingdom could furnish no beast to which it was similar; and it had ten horns, giving further impression of power and ferocity.
v. 8. I considered the horns, observing them very closely, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, springing up as the eleventh and, at first, insignificant in size, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots, to make room for the newcomer; and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, symbols of understanding, although not possessing the characteristics of divinity, and a mouth speaking great things, full of proud and blasphemous boasting.
v. 9. I beheld, still engaged in close observation, till the thrones were cast down, by a great act of judgment, and the Ancient of Days, symbol of the eternal and majestic God, did sit, whose garment was white as snow and the hair of His head like the pure wool, both symbols of unsullied purity and holiness; His throne was like the fiery flame, flashing as though composed of a fiery mass, and His wheels as burning fire, symbolical of the fiery zeal with which the Lord punishes the transgressors, but also purifies His people and prepares them for the future glorification.
v. 10. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him, to devour the sinful and hostile forces of the world and to purify the children of the Kingdom. Thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him, an uncounted number of holy angels ready to do His bidding. The Judgment was set, everything was made ready for the trial, and the books were opened, namely, the books of record, in which the deeds of men were entered, to serve as the basis of the sentence to be pronounced upon men by the heavenly Judge.
v. 11. I beheld them because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake, for it was due to the boasting of the ruler represented by the last horn that the judgment and destruction came upon the world; I beheld even till the beast was slain, namely, the fourth, the fierce and destructive beast, and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame, whose devouring fiery streams issued from the throne of the eternal Judge.
v. 12. As concerning the rest of the beasts, the three which were first described, they had their dominion taken away, their power was also taken away in the general judgment; yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time, rather, "for the duration of their life was fixed," as to the season and time; God had determined beforehand how long their power should last.
v. 13. I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, riding upon them as on a celestial chariot, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. It is on the basis of this passage, which describes the formal inauguration of the Messiah as King of His eternal kingdom, that Jesus applied the name "Son of Man" to Himself so frequently in the gospels.
v. 14. And there was given Him dominion and glory and a kingdom, divine authority over the domain of the earth, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. The description clearly shows that the Son of Man is a person distinct from the Father, and that the fact of His eternal dominion and power is a direct argument for His deity. Cf Revelation 11:15; Revelation 19:16.
The Interpretation of the Vision
v. 15. I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, for the body contains the spirit as the scabbard contains the sword, and the visions of my head troubled me, he felt apprehensive concerning them.
v. 16. I came near unto one of them that stood by, one of those engaged in the service of God, and asked him the truth of all this, the true explanation of the judgment scene which was here enacted. So he told me and made me know the interpretation of the things, so that Daniel understood the vision in all its parts.
v. 17. These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, the heads of mighty empires, each one the founder of a dynasty, which shall arise out of the earth, from the surface of the earth, of the earth, earthy.
v. 18. But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, receiving it as a gift from above, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever. The true members of the covenant nation, the believers of the New Testament, the congregation of the Lord, gathered from the elect of all nations, are, by virtue of their faith in the Messiah, possessors of the kingdom of God, they enjoy all the blessings of the Lord in this relationship to the Messiah and to their heavenly Father here in time and hereafter in eternity.
v. 19. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, that is, Daniel was anxious to know, he desired to be informed, about this beast also, which was diverse from all the others, so utterly different from them, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron and his nails of brass, the feature of the brazen claws being added in this description; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;
v. 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, in boastful blasphemy, whose look was more stout than his fellows, that is, his appearance was such as to inspire terror.
v. 21. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them, this being apart of its campaign of destruction, it involved a temporary defeat of the forces of the Lord,
v. 22. until the Ancient of Days came, the true and only God coming to judgment upon His enemies, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, for the Lord took their part and effected their deliverance from the oppression of the beast; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom, the Church holding the blessings of the Lord even here in time, in spite of all hostility of Satan and his evil forces, and entering into undisturbed possession of them in the Kingdom of Glory.
v. 23. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, following the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, and the Greek empire, respectively, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces, the general effect of its rule being decidedly destructive.
v. 24. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise, that is, the Roman Empire, upon its disintegration, would be resolved into a number of smaller states, all of which would, however, carryon the traditions of the mother state and still be one in spirit with her; and another shall rise after them, a ruler wielding a great deal of power, and he shall be diverse from the first, differing from his predecessors, and he shall subdue three kings, causing them completely to lose their identity.
v. 25. And he shall speak great words against the Most High, in blasphemies of an unusually vicious character, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High and think to change times and laws, setting aside human and divine laws at will; and they shall be given into his hand, for him practically to work his will as he chose, until a time and times and the dividing of time, the entire length of time, divided into three distinct periods, being figured in terms of God's time.
v. 26. But the judgment shall sit, the sentence will be carried out, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end, so that its final destruction is not to be expected before the end of the world.
v. 27. And the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, throughout the world, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, so that the Church of the Lord would finally be victorious, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him. Cf Ephesians 1:21-22; Colossians 1:16.
v. 28. Hitherto is the end of the matter, this is the gist of the vision. As for me, Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, namely, after he awoke from his dream, and my countenance changed in me, his face showed the effect of his worry over the matter; but I kept the matter in my heart, he did not make it known, did not discuss it with others.
The interpretation of this vision may briefly be given as follows. The lion with the eagle's wings was the Babylonian Empire, whose victorious progress was halted about the time that Nebuchadnezzar was stricken with the peculiar madness, which caused him to seek the fellowship of beasts, which, however, later received at least some understanding of the true God. The bear which raised himself up on one side is the Medo-Persian Empire, whose warlike nature is testified to in secular accounts. The leopard upon whose back wings appeared is the Grecian Empire, which, under Alexander the Great, spread over the world with great rapidity. The fourth beast is the Roman Empire with its insatiable fierceness and love of conquest, whose spiritual descendant and successor is the kingdom of Antichrist, of the Pope at Rome, just as delineated in the Book of Revelation. The ancient empire indeed came to an end, but it was revived in the empire of Charles the Great, and the political power of the Pope is felt in practically every nation of the earth today. Practically every feature of the description fits the rule of the Roman Antichrist from the very start. The kingdom of the Pope grew up like a horn, exerting its political power very gradually, but none the less surely. From small beginnings it developed until it reached a station in which it practically controlled the fate of nations. The Popes have, in many cases, made use of the highest wisdom, together with an almost diabolical cunning, to further their cause. By dint of their cunning they made their authority felt in the counsels of nations; they have impressed people with their power far above the real status of affairs. The kingdom of the Pope is unlike every other kingdom, since he exerts political power under the guise of spreading the kingdom of God. Time and again the Pope of Rome has spoken blasphemous words against the one true God. History records numerous instances of persecutions carried on by Popes and their millions, as during the terrible inquisitions. Popes have altered the Word of God to suit their own convenience and to serve their selfish interests. In spite of the reverses which the kingdom of Antichrist has suffered in the past, as when Emperor Otto I deposed Pope John XII, when the councils of the fifteenth century tried to effect at least an outward reformation, and, above all, when Martin Luther carried the fight into the enemy's ranks, the kingdom of Antichrist will remain till the end of time. Cf 2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 17. The prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled and is being fulfilled in a most remarkable manner, a fact which tends to strengthen our faith in every word of the Bible.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Daniel 7". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13