James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
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.Daniel 7:1-28
THE VISION OF THE FOUR BEASTS
This and the vision in chapter 8 are the prophet’s “dream and visions,” and not the king’s. They occurred apparently during his political retirement in the earlier years of Belshazzar (Daniel 7:1; Daniel 8:1). They cover the same ground as Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and give us in more detail, and from a different point of view, the same story of Gentile dominion from his period to the end of the present age. One difference is that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream revealed the imposing outward splendor of the world-powers, while Daniel’s shows their moral character as indicated by ferocious and rapacious beasts. The heraldic insignia of the Gentile nations are all beasts or birds of prey.
The sea, in Scripture, stands for the peoples of the earth (Isaiah 17:5, Revelation 17:15). The “great sea” Daniel saw was the Mediterranean, the center of the prophetic earth. This is, where not otherwise indicated, the nations with which prophecy has to do chiefly, are those that border on that sea, or whose political affiliations are closely related to them.
THE FOUR BEASTS (Daniel 7:1-8)
The first of the two visions (chap. 7), when more closely viewed, resolves itself into four, with their interpretations, but we shall treat it singly.
The lion (Daniel 7:4) corresponds to the golden head of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, and stands for Babylon. The bear (Daniel 7:5) corresponds to the breast and arms of silver, and stands for the Medo-Persian empire. Being “raised up on one side,” means that one part of the empire was stronger than the other, which was Persia. The “three ribs in the mouth of it” are the three provinces conquered by it not long before, Susiana, Lydia and Asia Minor. The leopard (Daniel 7:6) is the Grecian empire, corresponding to the “belly and thighs of brass.” The four wings denote the swiftness with which it carried its victories in every direction, and the four heads its ultimate partition into four parts on the death of its great head, Alexander. The terrible beast, too dreadful for a name (Daniel 7:7) corresponds to the legs of iron, and is equivalent to the Roman empire. Its ten horns, like the ten toes in the other case, speak of ten kingdoms into which it shall be divided at the end of this age. The little horn (Daniel 7:8) “who subdues three of the ten kings so completely that the identity of their kingdoms is lost,” is the important additional feature of this vision over that of Nebuchadnezzar. We will again refer to this.
THE ANCIENT OF DAYS (Daniel 7:9-14)
While these events are culminating on the earth others are transpiring in heaven. A great judgment scene is before us (compare Psalms 2; Matthew 25:31-46, and Revelation 19:19-21). “The Ancient of Days” is identified by some as the first, and by others as the second person of the Godhead (Revelation 1:12-14; John 5:22). The slaying of the “beast” (Daniel 7:11) means the destruction of the world-pow-ers are represented in their final form of the revived Roman Empire. As to the “rest of the beasts” whose dominion was taken away while their lives were prolonged for a season (Daniel 7:12), the meaning is that each of the preceding empires was, in turn, swallowed up by its successor, and lived in it, though it lost its place of independent power. “The Son of man” (Daniel 7:13) needs no identification as He comes forward to receive His earthly Kingdom the stone cut out of the mountains without hands. (Compare the parable of the nobleman in Luke 19.)
THE INSPIRED INTERPRETATION (Daniel 7:15-27)
Note that while the Son of man receives the Kingdom (Daniel 7:13) “the saints of the Most High” take and possess it with him (Daniel 7:18). These may mean the faithful Israelites on earth, but the glorified church will be with the King as her Head in the air reigning over the earth.
The great interest for the prophet in this interpretation focuses on “the little horn” (Daniel 7:24), which is referred to under the title of the “Beast” in Revelation 13, 17. He is a blasphemer of God and a persecutor of His saints (Daniel 7:25), who shall have great power for three and one-half years at the close of this age, and just before God interposes with Jews to set up His Kingdom. “Time” here stands for a year, “times” for two years, and “the dividing of time,” half a year. (See Revelation 11:2-3; Revelation 12:6.)
1. To whom is this vision revealed, and at what period in his life?
2. How does it correspond with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?
3. How does it differ in its point of view?
4. What does the sea symbolize in the Bible?
5. What particular sea is now in mind, and what gives it its great importance prophetically?
6. Which was the stronger part of the second empire?
7. What is the interpretation of Daniel 7:12?
8. What is the meaning of “a time, and times, and the dividing of time”?