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…
Dreams have a foundation in external fact. The mind of man has a creative faculty - a faint reflection of the Divine - and, when released from the domination of visible things, it asserts its original power. Daniel was advanced in years, had seen many changes in the government of Babylon, and probably had been brooding seriously over the fortunes and prospects of the Hebrews. The past and the future were inextricably interlaced.
I. NIGHT HAS ITS USES, AS WELL AS DAY. Night is not an entire blank in a man's history. God is as much with us by night as by day. "He giveth his beloved sleep." But, at the same time, he supports the imagination and memory in strange activity. Here we have a hint of the separate life of mind and body. If this occurs now, may not the mind be amply active, while the body is fast asleep in the grave? Night reveals to us pictures, which the garish day dissipates. Darkness is freighted with celestial light. What is darkness to the body need not be darkness to the mind. Trial may have a rough exterior, but there is latent good within. Sorrow is endowed with a Divine power of benediction. Death itself to the saint is but a veil that hides the dawning light. Reality is often the antipodes of phenomenon.
II. MATERIAL THINGS ARE MIRRORS IN WHICH MEN MAY SEE THEIR TRUE CHARACTERS. The mind, in its infantile state, is most impressed with visible and tangible things. "The great sea" is a significant picture of the mobility and restlessness of the multitude. The masses of men, having no settled beliefs, no fixed principles of action, are as fickle, and as easily wrought upon, as the unstable sea. As the briny waters are promptly driven hither and Thither by every wind that blows, so the multitudes are moved and tossed by every passing passion - by the faintest prospect of self-advantage - or by the fevered ambition of a stronger will than their own. The Jews, having relinquished their safe anchorage, viz. faith in God, were driven helplessly north and south, east and west, by the wind passions of unscrupulous conquerors. It seemed as if the four winds of heaven strive at one and the same time upon this Hebrew sea. "The wicked are like the troubled sea."
III. UNTAMED BEASTS ARE THE APTEST SYMBOLS OF MILITARY CONQUERORS. One is like a lion, though, as years roll on, he at length acquires a man's heart - the sensibility of human tenderness. A second is like a leopard; yet so swift is he for destruction, that the fleetness of the leopard fails to convey all the truth; therefore four wings of a fowl are added to the symbol. A third is like a bear, intent only on tearing and consuming much flesh. A fourth destroyer of men is so fierce and death-breathing that not one of the savage beasts in nature can represent him. He is a "beast dreadful and terrible," having teeth of iron. It is rare that beasts of prey make war upon their own species, much less upon their own kindred. God has provided the wildest beast with but two horns, to serve as weapons of defence; but this human monster was furnished with ten horns. One cannot but be struck with the singular incongruities we meet with in this prophetic dream; yet even this fact is instructive. The wildest vagaries of the imagination are outstripped by the moral incongruities of human character and human conduct. Where shall we find an incongruity so strange as this - the wilful degradation of the man to a level lower than the untrained beasts?
IV. GOD'S PRESENT REVELATIONS TO MEN ARE PARTLY OBSCURE, PARTLY CLEAR. "We know only in part; hence we prophesy only in part." We may be sure that this arrangement is best. It is an act of kindness and of wisdom on the part of God. It serves to stimulate inquiry on our part. We may learn from it to cherish humility, inasmuch as we are not at present competent to receive larger communications of God's will. Thankful ought we to be that we have enough knowledge of God's will for our practical guidance; and when we have worked up all this raw material into personal service, we shall obtain more. God "made known his ways unto Moses," but his acts only unto "the children of Israel." "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord." It is one of the attractions of the heavenly state, that fresh light will continually be shed upon the past history of our race, as well as upon the wisdom of the Divine government. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.