Partner with as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Daniel 7

Verses 1-28

Daniel 7. The Vision of the Four Beasts.— From this point onwards the Book becomes purely apocalyptic. The vision of the four beasts is parallel to the vision of the image in Daniel 2. The beasts rise out of the sea. The first is a lion with eagle’ s wings, the second a bear, the third a leopard, the fourth a nameless and terrible creature with ten horns. Among the ten horns of the fourth beast there arises another “ little horn” with the eyes of a man, which destroys three of the other horns. At this point the scene changes. A “ great assize” is being held by “ the ancient of days.” The fourth beast is slain. The other three are dispossessed. A human figure appears and receives an everlasting kingdom. The rest of the chapter ( Daniel 7:17-28) gives a partial interpretation of the vision. The four beasts are four kings (or kingdoms) which succeed one another and are followed by the kingdom of the saints. The fourth beast, in which the interest of the chapter mainly centres, is described as a conquering kingdom; the ten horns are ten kings; the “ little horn” is an eleventh king which overthrows three of the other ten, and persecutes the saints for three and a half years (a time, times, and half a time). But the little horn is doomed to destruction, and its overthrow will be followed by the reign of the saints in an everlasting kingdom.

The interpretation of the vision has afforded opportunity for infinite conjecture and given rise to endless ingenious theories. We may dismiss at once all interpretations which regard the fulfilment of the vision as still in the future. “ The four kingdoms” and “ the ten horns” obviously refer to facts which were within the writer’ s ken. The best and most generally accepted explanation to-day is the following.

The four beasts represent the same four kingdoms as the different parts of the colossal image in Daniel 2. The lion is the golden kingdom, i.e. the Babylonian Empire. The bear is the silver kingdom, i.e. the Median Empire, which the Book of Daniel wrongly interposes between the Babylonian and the Persian. The leopard is the bronze kingdom, i.e. the Persian. The fearsome, nameless beast is the iron kingdom, i.e. the Greek Empire. An alternative explanation which is found current in early Jewish and Christian literature regards the fourth kingdom as the Roman and omits the second, i.e. the hypothetical Median Empire, in the above arrangement, but this suggestion fails to commend itself to the majority of modern scholars.

The ten horns represent the kings of the Greek Empire. The best arrangement is as follows: (1) Alexander the Great; (2) Seleucus I, 312– 280 B.C.; (3) Antiochus I, 279– 261 B.C.; (4) Antiochus II, 261– 246 B.C.; (5) Seleucus II, 246– 226 B.C.; (6) Seleucus III, 226– 223 B.C.; (7) Antiochus III, 222– 187 B.C.; (8) Seleucus IV, 186– 176 B.C.; (9) Heliodorus; (10) Ptolemy VII, 170– 146 B.C. Some scholars omit Alexander the Great and add Demetrius Soter.

The little horn is Antiochus Epiphanes, the arch-persecutor of the Jews, against whom the Maccabeans revolted. The three horns which were “ plucked up” were probably Seleucus IV, Heliodorus the usurper, and Demetrius I, all of whom seem to have been overthrown by Antiochus Epiphanes, though the evidence is not conclusive in the case of Demetrius.

Daniel 7:1 . Belshazzar: Daniel 5:1 *.

Daniel 7:2 . the great sea: usually supposed to be the Mediterranean, but probably here used of a mythical sea.

Daniel 7:4 . The first beast: the Babylonian Empire, described as a lion with eagle’ s (or vulture’ s) wings, thus combining the characteristics of the noblest of quadrupeds and one of the most majestic of birds.— the wings were plucked: probably an allusion to the madness which came upon Nebuchadnezzar (see Daniel 4) and gave him “ a beast’ s heart” ( Daniel 4:16). His recovery is alluded to in the following phrase, “ a man’ s heart was given to it.”

Daniel 7:5 . another beast: the hypothetical Median Empire which our Book inserts between the Babylonian and Persian rule. It is compared to a bear, to indicate its inferiority to the lion-like Babylonian Empire.— it was raised up on one side: as Driver suggests, the phrase is probably intended to refer to the aggressiveness of the bear. “ It is pictured as raising one of its shoulders so as to be able to use the paw on that side.”— three ribs: an allusion to the prey which it had seized, probably a reference to three countries which had been subdued.

Daniel 7:6 . The third beast, a leopard, represents the Persian Empire.— four wings may refer either to the agility of the Persian Empire and the swiftness with which it swooped down upon its victims, or the extent of the empire, which reached to the four quarters of the earth.— four heads: the four Persian kings, Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes.

Daniel 7:7 . the fourth beast: the Greek Empire. The Book of Daniel is always specially severe on the Greek Empire.— the horns: ten kings; see introduction to the chapter.

Daniel 7:8 . another horn: Antiochus Epiphanes.— three . . . horns: see introduction to the chapter.— eyes of a man: implying keen insight and power of observation.— mouth, etc.: Antiochus is reputed to have been notorious for his boastful utterances.

Daniel 7:9-14 . The scene changes, and we have now a picture of a “ great assize” in heaven, executing judgment upon the kings and empires referred to in the previous verses.

Daniel 7:9 . thrones were placed: for the angels who assisted the Judge.— ancient of days: the same expression is found elsewhere with the meaning of “ an old man.” We must not read into the words the conception of eternity. What Daniel sees in the vision is not the Eternal God, but God in the form of an aged and venerable man.— white . . . wool: these metaphors are intended to portray the purity of God.— wheels: the throne is depicted as a chariot of fire. There is a very similar description of the throne of God in the Book of Enoch. “ From underneath the throne came streams of flaming fire . . . the flaming fire was round about him and a great fire stood before him.”

Daniel 7:11 . the beast was slain: i.e. the fourth beast, Antiochus Epiphanes.— to be burned with fire: i.e. in the place where the dead are finally punished.

Daniel 7:12 . the rest of the beasts: the Babylonian, Median, and Persian Empires.

Daniel 7:13 . like unto a son of man: the AV was wrong in translating “ like the Son of man,” and thus suggesting that the passage referred to the “ Son of man” of the Gospels. The phrase simply denotes a figure in human form. There is no reference to the Messiah. In the interpretation of the vision in Daniel 7:18, this phrase has no place at all. The kingdom that is here given unto “ one like unto a son of man” is in Daniel 7:18 given to “ the saints of the Most High.” There must be, therefore, some equation between the two expressions. The explanation is probably as follows: The four kingdoms which have been destroyed are represented in the form of beasts because of their rapacity and cruelty. The ideal kingdom which is to be established is represented under the figure of a human being, “ a son of man,” to denote that it would be free from all the brutal qualities and characteristics which had marked previous empires. As Driver says, “ Humanity is contrasted with animality; and the human form, as opposed to the bestial, teaches that the last kingdom will be, not like the Gentile kingdoms, a supremacy of brute force, but a supremacy ostensibly humane and spiritual” (CB, p. 104). The new kingdom is described as coming “ with the clouds of heaven,” to distinguish it from the other kingdoms which “ came up from the sea.” They are from below, it is from above.

Daniel 7:15 . in the midst of my body: lit. the sheath ( mg.) . The body is here regarded as the sheath or receptacle of the soul.

Daniel 7:19-22 recapitulates the description of the characteristics of the fourth beast ( Daniel 7:9-12, Daniel 7:18).

Daniel 7:21 . made war with the saints: an allusion to the attack of Antiochus Epiphanes upon the Jewish people.

Daniel 7:25 . change the times and the law: Antiochus attempted to abolish the feasts of the Jews and the ordinances of the Law.— a time and times and half a time: a time is a year, and the whole phrase, therefore, denotes 3½ years, the period during which the persecution under Antiochus lasted, from 168– 165 B.C.

Daniel 7:26 . the judgement: i.e. the court of judgement.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Daniel 7". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.