Daniel 7:17
These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
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(17) Four kings.—Kingdoms are frequently represented by their heads or founders; hence kings and kingdoms are occasionally used synonymously. (Comp. Daniel 8:21.)

7:15-28 It is desirable to obtain the right and full sense of what we see and hear from God; and those that would know, must ask by faithful and fervent prayer. The angel told Daniel plainly. He especially desired to know respecting the little horn, which made war with the saints, and prevailed against them. Here is foretold the rage of papal Rome against true Christians. St. John, in his visions and prophecies, which point in the first place at Rome, has plain reference to these visions. Daniel had a joyful prospect of the prevalence of God's kingdom among men. This refers to the second coming of our blessed Lord, when the saints shall triumph in the complete fall of Satan's kingdom. The saints of the Most High shall possess the kingdom for ever. Far be it from us to infer from hence, that dominion is founded on grace. It promises that the gospel kingdom shall be set up; a kingdom of light, holiness, and love; a kingdom of grace, the privileges and comforts of which shall be the earnest and first-fruits of the kingdom of glory. But the full accomplishment will be in the everlasting happiness of the saints, the kingdom that cannot be moved. The gathering together the whole family of God will be a blessedness of Christ's coming.These great beasts, which are four, are four kings - Four kings or four dynasties. There is no reason for supposing that they refer to individual kings, but the obvious meaning is, that they refer to four dominions or empires that would succeed one another on the earth. So the whole representation leads us to suppose, and so the passage has been always interpreted. The Latin Vulgate renders it regna; the Septuagint βασιλεῖαι basileiai; Luther, Reiche; Lengerke, Konigreiche. This interpretation is confirmed, also, by Daniel 7:23, where it is expressly said that "the fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth." See also Daniel 7:24.

Which shall arise out of the earth - In Daniel 7:2 the beasts are represented as coming up from the sea - the emblem of agitated nations. Here the same idea is presented more literally - that they would seem to spring up out of the earth, thus thrown into wild commotion. These dynasties were to be upon the earth, and they were in all things to indicate their earthly origin. Perhaps, also, it is designed by these words to denote a marked contrast between these four dynasties and the one that would follow - which would be of heavenly origin. This was the general intimation which was given to the meaning of the vision, and he was satisfied at once as to the explanation, so far as the first three were concerned; but the fourth seemed to indicate more mysterious and important events, and respecting this he was induced to ask a more particular explanation.

17. kings—that is, kingdoms. Compare Da 7:23, "fourth kingdom"; Da 2:38; 8:20-22. Each of the four kings represents a dynasty. Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Antiochus, and Antichrist, though individually referred to, are representatives of characteristic tendencies. Men of the earth, of earthly principles, idolatrous, ambitious, sensual, tyrannical; who, after they have acted their parts, shall be driven off the stage into the tiring rooms of death and destruction. These great beasts, which are four, are four kings,.... Or kingdoms, as the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions; and so Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Saadiah; so the fourth beast is called the fourth kingdom, Daniel 7:23 or a succession of kings in four kingdoms or monarchies, comparable to beasts for their strength, cruelty, and tyranny: these are the words of him that stood by, of one of the angels Daniel applied to, to know the meaning of his dream; and might be better rendered, "as to these (c) great beasts, which are four"; for their quality beasts, for their quantity great, and for number four. The meaning is,

four kings shall arise out of the earth; or kingdoms; which have an earthly original and foundation; are supported by earthly and worldly means, and with earthly and worldly views; and are different from the kingdom of Christ and his saints, which is not of the world, though it may be in it: this explains what is meant by the great sea, from whence these beasts are said to come up, Daniel 7:3, nor is it any material objection that the first of these kingdoms, the Babylonian, was risen already, and almost at an end; since the denomination is taken from the larger number; three of them were to arise, and the first was of the same original with them; thus it is said, Daniel 11:2, that three kings of Persia should stand up, and yet Cyrus, who was one of them, reigned already.

(c) "Quod attinet", Michaelis.

These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
17. The four beasts represent four kings, or (Daniel 7:23) four kingdoms, the ‘king’ in each case being not an individual king, but a typical king, embodying the characteristics of the empire ruled by him. The angel does not however dwell more fully on the ‘beasts,’ or interpret their symbolism; but hastens (Daniel 7:18) to explain the nature of the kingdom which is to succeed theirs.The world-kingdom will be broken to pieces by the kingdom which the God of heaven will set up. "In the days of these kings," i.e., of the kings of the world-kingdoms last described; at the time of the kingdoms denoted by the ten toes of the feet of the image into which the fourth world-monarchy extends itself; for the stone (Daniel 2:34) rolling against the feet of the image, or rather against the toes of the feet, breaks and destroys it. This kingdom is not founded by the hands of man, but is erected by the God of heaven, and shall for ever remain immoveable, in contrast to the world-kingdoms, the one of which will be annihilated by the other. Its dominion will not be given to another people. מלכוּתהּ, his dominion, i.e., of the kingdom. This word needs not to be changed into מלכוּתהּ, which is less suitable, since the mere status absol. would not be here in place. Among the world-kingdoms the dominion goes from one people to another, from the Babylonians to the Persians, etc. On the contrary, the kingdom of God comprehends always the same people, i.e., the people of Israel, chosen by God to be His own, only not the Israel κατὰ σάρκα, but the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). But the kingdom of God will not merely exist eternally without change of its dominion, along with the world-kingdoms, which are always changing and bringing one another to dissolution, it will also break in pieces and destroy all these kingdoms (תסף, from סוּף, to bring to an end, to make an end to them), but itself shall exist for ever. This is the meaning of the stone setting itself free without the hands of man, and breaking the image in pieces.
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