Daniel 7:2
Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.
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(2) The great sea.—In general (e.g., Joshua 15:47), these words imply the Mediterranean. Such cannot be the meaning here, so that according to Daniel 7:17 we are justified in explaining the “sea” to mean the nations of the world, which are compared to the sea (Isaiah 27:1; Psalm 46:3). The raging of the winds from the four quarters of the sky points to the various political and social agitations which disturb the world’s history, and lead to the changes and revolutions which mark its progress as it tends towards the end.

Daniel 7:2-3. Behold, the four winds strove upon the great sea — This denotes those commotions in the world, and that troublesome state of affairs, out of which empires and kingdoms commonly take their rise. And four great beasts came up from the sea — Signifying the four great monarchies, or kingdoms, that should successively arise in the world, and have their origin from wars and commotions, which generally end in setting up the conqueror to be a great monarch over those whom he hath subdued: compare Revelation 13:1. The reason why these monarchies, which were represented to Nebuchadnezzar in the form of a great image, formed of gold and silver, brass and iron, are here exhibited by fierce and savage beasts, has been observed in the note on Daniel 2:31.

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.Daniel spake and said - That is, he spake and said in the manner intimated in the previous verse. It was by a record made at the time, and thus he might be said to speak to his own generation and to all future times.

I saw in my vision by night - I beheld in the vision; that is, he saw represented to him the scene which he proceeds to describe. He seemed to see the sea in a tempest, and these monsters come up from it, and the strange succession of events which followed.

And behold, the four winds of the heaven - The winds that blow under the heaven, or that seem to come from the heaven - or the air. Compare Jeremiah 49:36. The number of the winds is here referred to as four as they are now, as blowing mainly from the four quarters of the earth. Nothing is more common now than to designate them in this manner - as the east, the south, the west, the north wind. So the Latins - Eurus, Auster, Zephyrus, Boreas.

Strove - מגיחן megı̂ychân. Burst, or rushed forth; seemed to conflict together. The winds burst, rushed from all quarters, and seemed to meet on the sea, throwing it into wild commotion. The Hebrew word (גיח gı̂yach) means to break or burst forth, as a fountain or stream of waters, Job 40:23; an infant breaking forth from the womb, Job 38:8; a warrior rushing forth to battle, Ezekiel 32:2. Hence, the Chaldean to break forth; to rush forth as the winds. The symbol here would naturally denote some wild commotion among the nations, as if the winds of heaven should rush together in confusion.

Upon the great sea - This expression would properly apply to any great sea or ocean, but it is probable that the one that would occur to Daniel would be the Mediterranean Sea, as that was best known to him and his contemporaries. A heaving ocean - or an ocean tossed with storms - would be a natural emblem to denote a nation, or nations, agitated with internal conflicts, or nations in the midst of revolutions. Among the sacred poets and the prophets, hosts of armies invading a land are compared to overflowing waters, and mighty changes among the nations to the heaving billows of the ocean in a storm. Compare Jeremiah 46:7-8; Jeremiah 47:2; Isaiah 8:7-8; Isaiah 17:12; Isaiah 59:19; Daniel 11:40; Revelation 13:1. The classic reader will be reminded in the description here of the words of Virgil, AEn. I. 82, following:

"Ac venti, velut agmine facto

Qua data porta ruunt, et terras turbine perflant.

Incubuere mari, totumque a sedibus imis

Una Eurusque, Notusque ruunt, creberquc procellis.

Africus, et vastos volvunt ad littora fluctus."

Compare also Ovid, Trist. I. 2, 25, following. It was from this agitated sea that the beasts that Daniel saw, representing successive kingdoms, seemed to rise; and the fair interpretation of this part of the symbol is, that there was, or would be, as it appeared in vision to Daniel, commotions among the nations resembling the sea driven by storms, and that from these commotions there would arise successive kingdoms having the characteristics specified by the appearance of the four beasts. We naturally look, in the fulfillment of this, to some state of things in which the nations were agitated and convulsed; in which they struggled against each other, as the winds strove upon the sea; a state of things which preceded the rise of these four successive kingdoms. Without now pretending to determine whether that was the time denoted by this, it is certain that all that is here said would find a counterpart in the period which immediately preceded the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, or the kingdom which he founded and adorned. His rapid and extensive conquests; the agitation of the nations in self-defense, and their wars against one another, would be well denoted by the agitation of the ocean as seen in vision by Daniel. It is true that there have been many other periods of the world to which the image would be applicable, but no one can doubt that it was applicable to this period, and that would be all that would be necessary if the design was to represent a series of kingdoms commencing with that of Nebuchadnezzar.

2. the four winds—answering to the "four beasts"; their several conflicts in the four quarters or directions of the world.

strove—burst forth (from the abyss) [Maurer].

sea—The world powers rise out of the agitations of the political sea (Jer 46:7, 8; Lu 21:25; compare Re 13:1; 17:15; 21:1); the kingdom of God and the Son of man from the clouds of heaven (Da 7:13; compare Joh 8:23). Tregelles takes "the great sea" to mean, as always elsewhere in Scripture (Jos 1:4; 9:1), the Mediterranean, the center territorially of the four kingdoms of the vision, which all border on it and have Jerusalem subject to them. Babylon did not border on the Mediterranean, nor rule Jerusalem, till Nebuchadnezzar's time, when both things took place simultaneously. Persia encircled more of this sea, namely, from the Hellespont to Cyrene. Greece did not become a monarchy before Alexander's time, but then, succeeding to Persia, it became mistress of Jerusalem. It surrounded still more of the Mediterranean, adding the coasts of Greece to the part held by Persia. Rome, under Augustus, realized three things at once—it became a monarchy; it became mistress of the last of the four parts of Alexander's empire (symbolized by the four heads of the third beast), and of Jerusalem; it surrounded all the Mediterranean.

Because Daniel doth not expound what is meant by

winds, expositors think there is room left for every one’s conjecture; wherein this seems most likely, that by the four winds of the great sea is signified commotions of contrary nations and factions, striving together by wars, and producing these four beasts successively. That this is often signified by winds, see Jeremiah 49:36 51:1; in the destruction of Babylon, the first monarchy; and of Elam, i.e. the Persian monarchy.

The great sea in Scripture is the Mediterranean Sea, called now the Levant, Archipelago, Straits, &c.

1. Comparatively; for the people called lakes seas, as the sea of Galilee, Gennesareth, Cinneroth, the Dead Sea, or lake of Sodom; but the Mediterranean was

Jamma rabba, the great sea, for its length and breadth, above all the lakes put together, though it be itself but a lake in comparison of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

2. Great sea, because the great stage of action hath been on it, and adjoined to it; and all the four great monarchies have been masters of it.

3. Allegorically, for it is usual in Scripture to compare people to waters, and nations to seas, Revelation 13:1 17:15; called so from the confused noise of it, Revelation 19:6, and from the unstableness of them, always running and rolling with every wind as it blows, endangering those that ride upon the backs of its swelling waves.

Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night,.... He declared he had had a vision by night, and this was the substance of it:

and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea: the east, west, north, and south winds, broke out from each of their quarters, and rushed in upon the great sea; either the Mediterranean, so called in comparison of the sea of Sodom, and the sea of Tiberias in Judea; or upon the waters of the main ocean, and raised up its waves, and seemed as it were to be striving and fighting with them, and put them into a strange agitation; by which may be meant the whole world, and the kingdoms and nations of it, because of its largeness, inconstancy, instability, and disquietude; see Revelation 17:15, and by the "four winds" some understand the angels, either good or bad, concerned in the affairs of Providence on earth, either by divine order or permission; or rather the kings of the earth raising commotions in it, striving and fighting with one another, either to defend or enlarge their dominions; and which have been the means in Providence of the rising up of some great state or monarchy, as after appears.

Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon {b} the great sea.

(b) Which signified that there wold be horrible troubles and afflictions in the world in all corners of the world, and at various times.

2. Daniel answered and said, I saw] properly, I was seeing (or beholding), as Daniel 4:10; Daniel 4:13 : so Daniel 7:4; Daniel 7:6-7; Daniel 7:9; Daniel 7:11 (twice), 13, 21. LXX. and Theod. rightly render by ἐθεώρουν.

the four winds of the heaven] The same expression, Daniel 8:8, Daniel 11:4; Zechariah 2:6; Zechariah 6:5; 2Es 13:5.

strove upon] were breaking forth (see Jdg 20:33 Heb.) on to, creating a great disturbance of the waters. A.V. strove is to be explained from the sense which the word has in the Targums. The root means to break or burst forth, of water (as Job 38:8); but in the Targums it is common, in the conjug. here used, in the sense of to wage war, lit. to cause war to break forth, as Deuteronomy 20:4, and even with ‘war’ omitted, Joshua 23:3 al.; hence strove. However, the prep. which here follows does not mean upon, but to.

the great sea] a name of the Mediterranean Sea, Joshua 1:4; Joshua 9:1 al. However, that sense is not to be pressed here; the ‘great sea,’ tossed up by the four winds of heaven, symbolizes the agitated world of nations (cf. Daniel 7:3 with Daniel 7:17; and comp. Revelation 17:15 : also Isaiah 17:12).

Verse 2. - Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. The Septuagint omits the introductory clause, and renders, "On my couch I saw in my night-sleep, and, behold, the four winds of heaven fell upon the great sea." Theodotion, like the LXX., omits the introductory clause, and renders, "I Daniel beheld, and, lo, the four winds of the heaven rushed upon (προσέβαλον) the great sea." The Peshitta seems as if transferred from the Massoretic text, the resemblance is so close. The variations in the Greek Version may be due to condensation of a fuller narrative. The verb translated "strove" in our Authorized Version is better rendered, as in the Revised, "brake forth upon." Luther's version is, "sturmeten wider einander." This, like the Authorized Version, seems to be the result of the Vulgate pugnabant. The only objection to this is that it ought to be followed by a preposition (Bevan). The translation suggested by Levy, "stirred up," appears still better. The sea referred to is naturally to be taken as the Mediterranean; it is "the great sea" of the prophets (Ezekiel 47:10). Jerusalem is not so far from the sea but that Daniel might have seen it in his boyhood. The symbolic meaning of the sea is the mass of heathen nations (Psalm 65:7). The "four winds of heaven" usually stand for the points of the compass (Jeremiah 49:34). Here, however, the winds are pictured as actual forces dashing down upon the sea, and stirring it up to its depths. It may be objected that this is an impossible picture. It might be replied that Virgil, in the first book of the 'AEneid,' 84-86, and Milton, in 'Paradise Regained,' has the same thing. Daniel has more freedom, for he narrates a vision, and, further, to him the winds (rucheen) were under the guidance of angels. Hitzig denies that the winds can be angelicae potestates, as Jerome maintains; and, when Jerome supports his position by a quotation from the Septuagint Version of Deuteronomy 32:8, gives as answer a mark of exclamation. The passage, "He set the nations according to the number of the angels of God," represents a phase of thought in regard to angelology, which Daniel elsewhere obviously has. The double meaning of the word ruach made the transition easy. We see the same double meaning in Zechariah 6:5. The sea, then, is to be regarded as the great mass of Gentile nations, and the winds are, therefore, the spiritual agencies by which God carries on the history of the world. As there are four winds, there are also four empires. There are angelic princes of at least two of these empires referred to later. May we not argue that these empires had, according to the thought of Daniel, each an angelic head? It may be doubted whether the most advanced critics know more of angelology than Daniel, or can be certain that his view was a mistaken one. Moreover, the Mediterranean Sea was the centre round which the epic of history, as revealed to Daniel, unfolded itself. Nebuchadnezzar marched along the eastern shores of that midland sea; the Persian monarchs essayed to command it by their fleets; across a branch of that sea came Alexander; and from yet further across its blue waters came the Romans. The Mediterranean saw most of the history transacted that took place between the time of Daniel and that of our Lord. Daniel 7:2With Daniel 7:2 Daniel begins his written report: "Daniel began and said," introduces the matter. חזוי עם־ליליא, visions in (during) the night, cf. Daniel 2:19. Daniel 7:2 and Daniel 7:3 describe the scene in general. The four winds of heaven break loose upon the great sea, and rage fiercely, so that four great beasts, each diverse from the others, arise out of its bosom. The great sea is not the Mediterranean (Berth., Ges., Hitz., Ewald), for such a geographical reference is foreign to the context. It is the ocean; and the storm on it represents the "tumults of the people," commotions among the nations of the world (Hv., Leng., Hofm., etc.), corresponding to the prophetic comparison found in Jeremiah 17:12; Jeremiah 46:7. "Since the beasts represent the forms of the world-power, the sea must represent that out of which they arise, the whole heathen world" (Hofmann). In the interpretation of the image (Daniel 7:17) יגּמא מן is explained by ארעא מן. גּיח means to break forth (Ezekiel 32:2), to burst out in storm, not causative, "to make the great sea break forth" (Kran.). The causative meaning is not certainly found either in the Hebrew or the Chaldee. The four winds stand in relation to the four quarters of the heavens; cf. Jeremiah 49:39. Calvin remarks: Mundus similis turbulento mari, quod non agitatur una procella vel uno vento, sed diversis ventis inter se confligentibus, ac si totum coelum conspiraret ad motus excitandos. With this, however, the meaning of the words is not exhausted. The four winds of heaven are not merely diversi venti, and their bursting forth is not only an image of a general commotion represented by a storm in the ocean. The winds of the heavens represent the heavenly powers and forces by which God sets the nations of the world in motion; and the number four has a symbolical meaning: that the people of all regions of the earth are moved hither and thither in violent commotion. "(Ecumenical commotions give rise to oecumenical kingdoms" (Kliefoth). As a consequence of the storm on the sea, there arise out of it four fierce beasts, not all at once, but, as Daniel 7:6 and Daniel 7:7 teach, one after another, and each having a different appearance. The diversity of the form of the beasts, inasmuch as they represent kingdoms, is determined beforehand, not only to make it noticeable that the selection of this symbol is not arbitrary but is significant (Hvernick), but emphatically to intimate that the vision of different kingdoms is not to be dealt with, as many interpreters seem inclined to do, as one only of different kings of one kingdom.
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