Daniel 7:1
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head on his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
VII.

(1) The date of this and of the following chapter comes in chronological order after the fourth chapter. As St. Jerome has observed, “In superioribus ordo sequitur historiœ quid sub Nebuchadonosor et Balthasar, et Dario sive Cyro mirabilium signorum acciderit. In kis vero narrantur somnia quœ singulis sint visa ternporibus: quorum solus propheta conscius est, et nullam habent apud barbaras nationes signi vel revelationis magnitudinem, sed tantum scribuntur, ut apud posteros eorum quœ visa sunt memoria perseveret.”

Visions.—From this, and from the phrase “sum of the matters,” it appears that Daniel had other visions at this time. By “sum” is meant the principal parts of the vision.

Daniel 7:1. In the first year of Belshazzar, &c. — The prophet, having related some remarkable passages concerning himself and his brethren in captivity, and having given proof of his supernatural illumination in interpreting other men’s dreams, proceeds to give an account of his own visions; and thereupon goes back to the first year of Belshazzar’s reign, which was seventeen years before the history contained in the last chapter. This vision concerns the same events with those referred to in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, chap. 2., with some enlargements and additions, and different images.7:1-8 This vision contains the same prophetic representations with Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The great sea agitated by the winds, represented the earth and the dwellers on it troubled by ambitious princes and conquerors. The four beasts signified the same four empires, as the four parts of Nebuchadnezzar's image. Mighty conquerors are but instruments of God's vengeance on a guilty world. The savage beast represents the hateful features of their characters. But the dominion given to each has a limit; their wrath shall be made to praise the Lord, and the remainder of it he will restrain.In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon - On the character and reign of Belshazzar, see Introduction to Daniel 5 Section II. He was the last of the kings of Babylon, and this fact may cast some light on the disclosures made in the dream.

Daniel had a dream - Margin, as in Hebrew, saw. He saw a series of events in vision when he was asleep. The dream refers to that representation, and was of such a nature that it was proper to speak of it as if he saw it. Compare the notes at Daniel 2:1.

And visions of his head upon his bed - See the notes at Daniel 4:5.

Then he wrote the dream - He made a record of it at the time. He did not commit it to tradition, or wait for its fulfillment before it was recorded, but long before the events referred to occurred he committed the prediction to writing, that when the prophecy was fulfilled they might be compared with it. It was customary among the prophets to record their predictions, whether communicated in a dream, in a vision, or by words to them, that there might be no doubt when the event occurred that there had been an inspired prediction of it, and that there might be an opportunity of a careful comparison of the prediction with the event. Often the prophets were commanded to record their predictions. See Isaiah 8:1, Isaiah 8:16; Isaiah 30:8; Habakkuk 2:2. Compare Revelation 1:19; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 21:5. In many instances, as in the case before us, the record was made hundreds of years before the event occurred, and as there is all the evidence that there could be in a case that the record has not been altered to adapt it to the event, the highest proof is thus furnished of the inspiration of the prophets. The meaning here is, that Daniel wrote out the dream as soon as it occurred.

And told the sum of the matters - Chaldee, "And spake the head of the words." That is, he spake or told them by writing. He made a communication of them in this manner to the world. It is not implied that he made any oral communication of them to anyone, but that he communicated them - to wit, in the way specified. The word "sum" here - ראשׁ rē'sh - means "head"; and would properly denote such a record as would be a heading up, or a summary - as stating in a brief way the contents of a book, or the chief points of a thing without going into detail. The meaning here seems to be that he did not go into detail - as by writing names, and dates, and places; or, perhaps, that he did not enter into a minute description of all that he saw in regard to the beasts that came up from the sea, but that he recorded what might be considered as peculiar, and as having special significancy.

The Codex Chisianus renders this, ἔγραψεν ἐις κεφάλαια λόγων egrapsen eis kephalaia logōn - "He wrote in heads of words," that is, he reduced it to a summary description. It is well remarked by Lengerke, on this place, that the prophets, when they described what was to occur to tyrants in future times, conveyed their oracles in a comparatively dark and obscure manner, yet so as to be clear when the events should occur. The reason of this is obvious. If the meaning of many of the predictions had been understood by those to whom they referred, that fact would have been a motive to them to induce them to defeat them; and as the fulfillment depended on their voluntary agency, the prophecy would have been void. It was necessary, therefore, in general, to avoid direct predictions, and the mention of names, dates, and places, and to make use of symbols whose meaning would be obscure at the time when the prediction was made, but which would be plain when the event should occur. A comparison of Daniel 7:4, Daniel 7:9, Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:14, will show that only a sumptuary of what was to occur was recorded.

Matters - Margin, as in Chaldee, words. The term words, however; is often used to denote things.

CHAPTER 7

Da 7:1-28. Vision of the Four Beasts.

This chapter treats of the same subject as the second chapter. But there the four kingdoms, and Messiah's final kingdom, were regarded according to their external political aspect, but here according to the mind of God concerning them, and their moral features. The outward political history had been shown in its general features to the world ruler, whose position fitted him for receiving such a revelation. But God's prophet here receives disclosures as to the characters of the powers of the world, in a religious point of view, suited to his position and receptivity. Hence in the second chapter the images are taken from the inanimate sphere; in the seventh chapter they are taken from the animate. Nebuchadnezzar saw superficially the world power as a splendid human figure, and the kingdom of God as a mere stone at the first. Daniel sees the world kingdoms in their inner essence as of an animal nature lower than human, being estranged from God; and that only in the kingdom of God ("the Son of man," the representative man) is the true dignity of man realized. So, as contrasted with Nebuchadnezzar's vision, the kingdom of God appears to Daniel, from the very first, superior to the world kingdom. For though in physical force the beasts excel man, man has essentially spiritual powers. Nebuchadnezzar's colossal image represents mankind in its own strength, but only the outward man. Daniel sees man spiritually degraded to the beast level, led by blind impulses, through his alienation from God. It is only from above that the perfect Son of man comes, and in His kingdom man attains his true destiny. Compare Ps 8:1-9 with Ge 1:26-28. Humanity is impossible without divinity: it sinks to bestiality (Ps 32:9; 49:20; 73:22). Obstinate heathen nations are compared to "bulls" (Ps 68:30); Egypt to the dragon in the Nile (Isa 27:1; 51:9; Eze 29:3). The animal with all its sagacity looks always to the ground, without consciousness of relation to God. What elevates man is communion with God, in willing subjection to Him. The moment he tries to exalt himself to independence of God, as did Nebuchadnezzar (Da 4:30), he sinks to the beast's level. Daniel's acquaintance with the animal colossal figures in Babylon and Nineveh was a psychological preparation for his animal visions. Ho 13:7, 8 would occur to him while viewing those ensigns of the world power. Compare Jer 2:15; 4:7; 5:6.

1. Belshazzar—Good Hebrew manuscripts have "Belshazzar"; meaning "Bel is to be burnt with hostile fire" (Jer 50:2; 51:44). In the history he is called by his ordinary name; in the prophecy, which gives his true destiny, he is called a corresponding name, by the change of a letter.

visions of his head—not confused "dreams," but distinct images seen while his mind was collected.

sum—a "summary." In predictions, generally, details are not given so fully as to leave no scope for free agency, faith, and patient waiting for God manifesting His will in the event. He "wrote" it for the Church in all ages; he "told" it for the comfort of his captive fellow countrymen.Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, Daniel 7:1-8, and of God’s kingdom, Daniel 7:9-14. The interpretation thereof, Daniel 7:15-28.

This prophecy is written in Chaldee, to be a monument and document to him of the reverence his father and grandfather showed towards God, who had done such mighty works for them, and against them, to humble their pride, and make them know that the high God ruled, and they reigned at his mercy. Howbeit Belshazzar made no use of it, but lifted himself up in profaneness and pride till the wrath of God plucked him down.

In the first year of Belshazzar: now Daniel begins to declare the visions God showed him at sundry times, therefore he goes back to the first year of Belshazzar. It is observed by the curious, that the word Belshazzar is here changed by the prophet, one letter transposed, which alters the signification greatly; for his name is ruvaln Daniel 5:1, which signifies

treasures searched out and possessed; but the word in the text is this, ruavln which means,

Bel is consumed with the fire of an enemy, as was prophesied by Jeremiah, Daniel 1:2 Jeremiah 51:44. See Jeremiah 51:25,58. The Jews used to change the names of idols and idolaters, and it turned to a reproach to them, as Grotius proves well out of Moses de Kotzi.

He wrote the dream: these visions of Daniel were sent, and recorded by him in writing, for the benefit of the church, to rectify their mistake; for they thought all things would succeed prosperously after they returned out of their captivity: yet they should find a world of troubles in many generations following, seeing that of the four great monarchies, which he calls beasts, there was but one passed, and they should find three more yet to come. This Daniel dreamed, saw, wrote, and told the sum of it.

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon,.... Daniel having finished the historical part of his book, and committed to writing what was necessary concerning himself and his three companions, and concerning Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the Mede, proceeds to the prophetic part, and goes back to the first year of Belshazzar's reign, seventeen years before his death, and the fall of the Babylonish monarchy last mentioned; for so long Belshazzar reigned, according to Josephus (u); and with which agrees the canon of Ptolemy, who ascribes so many years to the reign of Nabonadius, the same, with Belshazzar: he began to reign, according to Bishop Usher (w), Dean Prideaux (x), and Mr, Whiston (y), in the year of the world 3449 A.M., and 555 B.C.; and in the first year of his reign Daniel had the dream of the four monarchies, as follows:

Daniel had a dream: as Nebuchadnezzar before had, concerning the same things, the four monarchies of the world, and the kingdom of Christ, only represented in a different manner: or, "saw a dream" (z); in his dream he had a vision, and objects were presented to his fancy as if he really saw them, as follows:

and visions of his head came upon his bed; as he lay upon his bed, and deep sleep was fallen on him, things in a visionary way were exhibited to him very wonderful and surprising, and which made strong impressions upon him:

then he wrote the dream: awaking out of his sleep, and perfectly remembering the dream he had dreamed, and recollecting the several things he had seen in it; that they might not be lost, but transmitted to posterity for their use and benefit, he immediately committed them to writing:

and told the sum of the matters; the whole of what he had dreamt and seen; or however the sum and substance of it, the more principal parts of it, the most interesting things in it, and of the greatest importance: when it was daylight, and he rose from his bed, and went out of his chamber, he called his friends together, and told them by word of mouth what he had seen in his dream the night past; or read what he had written of it, which was as follows:

(u) Antiqu. Jud. l. 10. c. 11. sect. 4. (w) Annales Vet. Test. A. M. 3449. (x) Connexion, &c. part. 1. p. 114. (y) Chronological Tables, cent. 10. (z) "somnium vidit". V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, &c.

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: {a} then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.

(a) Whereas the people of Israel looked for a continual peace, after the seventy years which Jeremiah had declared, he shows that this rest will not be a deliverance from all troubles, but a beginning. And therefore he encourages them to look for a continual affliction until the Messiah is uttered and revealed, by whom they would have a spiritual deliverance, and all the promises would be fulfilled. And they would have a certain experience of this in the destruction of the Babylonian kingdom.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. In the first year of Belshazzar] The visions (c. 7–12) are not a continuation of the narratives (c. 1–6), but form a series by themselves: the author accordingly no longer adheres to the chronological order which he has hitherto followed, but goes back to a date anterior to that of ch. 5 (see Daniel 5:30). In view of what was said at the beginning of ch. 5 it is, of course, impossible to estimate the ‘first year’ of Belshazzar in years b.c.

had] lit. saw.

visions of his head upon his bed] The same phrase in Daniel 2:28.

then he wrote the dream] With reference to the sequel (Daniel 7:2 ff.), in which Daniel speaks in the first person, and which in these words is represented as having been committed to writing by Daniel himself. The first person (with the exception of Daniel 10:1) continues from Daniel 7:2 to the end of the book.

the sum of words (or things)] contained in the revelation, i.e. its essential import.Verses 1-28. - THE VISION OF THE FOUR BEASTS. This chapter begins the second section of the book. All before this has been narrative; visions are introduced into the narrative, but they were not given to Daniel himself, but to others; his role was the secondary one of interpreter. These visions and the events connected with them are related more as incidents in the biography of Daniel, than as revelations of the future. With this chapter begins a series of revelations to Daniel personally. This chapter is the last chapter of the Aramaic portion of Daniel. Though thus linguistically joined to what has preceded, logically it is related to what follows. Verse 1. - In the first year of Belshazzar King of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. The language of the Septuagint is suggestive of the actual state of matters, "While Baltasar was reigning - acting as king - for the first year, Daniel saw a vision beside (παρὰ) his head upon his bed. Then Daniel wrote the vision which he had seen in heads (chapters, κεφάλαια) of narration (λόγων)." While these words do not necessarily imply that Belshazzar was not king, but only acting as king, they yet may mean this. We know now that for five years during the nominal reign of his father Nabunahid, Belshazzar really reigned. Theodotion does not absolutely agree with the Massoretic reading here, "In the first year of Belshazzar King of the Chaldeans, Daniel saw a dream (ἐνύπνιον) and the visions of his head upon his bed, and he wrote the dream." The omission of the final clause will be observed. The Peshitta is closer to the Massoretic; it differs, in fact, only by the insertion of malcootha, "the reign of," before "Belshazzar." This is, in all probability, the original heading of the tract in which Daniel first published his prophecy. What were the circumstances, so far as we can attain a knowledge of them, when thus the future was revealed to Daniel? The Scythian forces under Astyages had conquered all the countries intermediate between the steppes whence they had come and Babylonia. Above all, they had overthrown the Median Empire, that was closely associated with that of Babylon. They had pressed in upon Babylonia, and were besieging its cities when Cyrus, the King of Ansan, rebelled against Astyages. We may imagine that, from the extent of their empire, the Manda would have to be somewhat scattered. Cyrus then might easily gain advantage over the small division of Manda that held the canton of Ansan. As usually, the attacks of Elam and Media on Babylonia and Assyria had been made across the canton of Ansan; the rebellion of Ansan would thus separate the Manda in Elam and Media from those in Babylonia - the latter being the main portion. Cyrus succeeded in rousing the Medes, Elamites, and Persians against this invading horde, and wrested the power from them. Nabunahid, in a pious inscription, regards Cyrus as the instrument in the hand of Marduk to overthrow these oppressive Manda. Shortly after this uprising of Cyrus, Nabunahid is to appearance stricken with illness, and for several years takes no part in the business of the empire. In the seventh year of Nabunahid, we learn from the annals that the king was in Tema, and did not come to Babylon, but that the king's son conducted the affairs of the monarchy. It was probably, then, in this year, when Cyrus had defeated the Scythians, and had driven them out of Elam, Media, and Babylonia, that Daniel had the vision recounted in this chapter. Keen political insight might easily foresee the events in the comparatively immediate future. The rise of a vigorous new power like that of Persia meant menace to the neighbeuring powers. Babylonia, filled with treachery and discontent, was in no condition to resist. The fall of Babylon seemed imminent - its place was to be taken by Persia. But Babylon had succeeded Assyria, and before Assyria had been the empires of Egypt and the Hittites. He remembered the dream of his old master Nebuchadnezzar. Now a dream is vouchsafed to himself, which repeats the vision of Nebuchadnezzar with some differences. He is reminded that the changes that come over the affairs of men are not unending. The rise and fall of empires is not the confused whirl of uncontrolled atoms, but all tending towards an end - the establishment of the kingdom of God upon the earth. To the question of the king, whether he was able to show the dream with its interpretation, Daniel replies by directing him from man, who is unable to accomplish such a thing, to the living God in heaven, who alone reveals secrets. The expression, whose name was Belteshazzar (Daniel 2:26), intimates in this connection that he who was known among the Jews by the name Daniel was known to the Chaldean king only under the name given to him by the conqueror - that Nebuchadnezzar knew of no Daniel, but only of Belteshazzar. The question, "art thou able?" i.e., has thou ability? does not express the king's ignorance of the person of Daniel, but only his amazement at his ability to make known the dream, in the sense, "art thou really able?" This amazement Daniel acknowledges as justified, for he replies that no wise man was able to do this thing. In the enumeration of the several classes of magicians the word חכּימין is the general designation of them all. "But there is a God in heaven." Daniel "declares in the presence of the heathen the existence of God, before he speaks to him of His works." Klief. But when he testifies of a God in heaven as One who is able to reveal hidden things, he denies this ability eo ipso to all the so-called gods of the heathen. Thereby he not only assigns the reason of the inability of the heathen wise men, who knew not the living God in heaven, to show the divine mysteries, but he refers also all the revelations which the heathen at any time receive to the one true God. The וin והודע introduces the development of the general thought. That there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, Daniel declares to the king by this, that he explains his dream as an inspiration of this God, and shows to him its particular circumstances. God made known to him in a dream "what would happen in the end of the days." אחרית יומיּא equals הימים אחרית designates here not the future generally (Hv.), and still less "that which comes after the days, a time which follows after another time, comprehended under the הימים" (Klief.), but the concluding future or the Messianic period of the world's time; see Genesis 49:1.

From דּנה אחרי in Daniel 2:29 that general interpretation of the expression is not proved. The expression יומיּא בּאחרית of Daniel 2:28 is not explained by the דּנה אחרי להוא דּי מה of Daniel 2:29, but this אחרי relates to Nebuchadnezzar's thoughts of a future in the history of the world, to which God, the revealer of secrets, unites His Messianic revelations; moreover, every Messianic future event is also an דּנה אחרי (cf. Daniel 2:45), without, however, every דּנה אחרי being also Messianic, though it may become so when at the same time it is a constituent part of the future experience and the history of Israel, the people of the Messianic promise (Kran.). "The visions of thy head" (cf. Daniel 4:2 [5], Daniel 4:7 [10], Daniel 4:10 [13], Daniel 7:1) are not dream-visions because they formed themselves in the head or brains (v. Leng., Maur., Hitz.), which would thus be only phantoms or fancies. The words are not a poetic expression for dreams hovering about the head (Hv.); nor yet can we say, with Klief., that "the visions of thy head upon thy bed, the vision which thou sawest as thy head lay on thy pillow," mean only dream-visions. Against the former interpretation this may be stated, that dreams from God do not hover about the head; and against the latter, that the mention of the head would in that case be superfluous. The expression, peculiar to Daniel, designates much rather the divinely ordered visions as such, "as were perfectly consistent with a thoughtfulness of the head actively engaged" (Kran.). The singular הוּא דּנה goes back to חלמך (thy dream) as a fundamental idea, and is governed by ראשׁך וחזוי in the sense: "thy dream with the visions of thy head;" cf. Winer, 49, 6. The plur. חזוי is used, because the revelation comprehends a series of visions of future events.

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