The first beast was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and given the mind of a man.
transition here from history to prophecy; the date, the first year of Belshazzar, that is, before the fall of the first of the world-powers about to be described; the form, a dream, - before this Daniel had interpreted others' dreams, he now dreams himself; the fact that it was at once committed to writing, i.e. not set down after fulfilment; and that the prophecy is only an outline, so that we must not expect too much detail. All this in ver. 1. The nature of the prophecy rebukes dogmatism. It may be well to call attention here to the fact that all these expositions and homilies are written independently of each other; there may be, then, possibly some diversity of critical judgment; this, however, will be no disadvantage to the student. For our own homiletic purpose we treat this chapter under three sections - in the first, we have a vision of brute rule; in the second, of Divine sovereignty; in the third, of a great rebellion.
I. ITS CONDITION. "The great sea" is distinguished from all inland seas. The ocean. The image of our troubled world (Isaiah 17:12-14; Revelation 21:1). Out of the commotion and confusion of troubled peoples the four forms of brute rule arose.
II. ITS CAUSE. "The four winds of heaven strove upon the great sea." As the wind plays on ocean, so do supernatural powers (in this case evil) lash into fury the passions of a troubled world; and out of revolutionary confusion emerges oft mute despotism.
III. ITS GENERIC NATURE. "Four beasts." Four great empires. Same as described in ch. 2. Why the different form? That vision gave the external glory; this the inmost nature. They had life in them, but it was a life less than human. Man sinks below the human when the πνεῦμα is no longer animated by the Spirit of God. As with man individually, so collectively, so with nations, governments. Government is of God, but may lose the Divine in it, and so become brutal. A boast may inspire terror; but its look is not heavenward, but earthward; hears no Divine voice; has no conscious relations with God. "Four beasts," but "diverse." All brutal.
IV. SPECIFIC FORMS.
1. The lion-form. The Babylonian empire. Dominant, like the king of the forest; swift and reaching far, like the eagle. Then came deteriorations. The deteriorations developed slowly. "I continued looking" is the sense. Swift energy was crippled. Not even with the speed of a lion walking did the empire advance; but painfully, slowly, as a beast marching on hind legs alone. Then instead of the lion-heart at the centre of government, the timid heart of a man. Here we have the glory of Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon, its gradual decay under his successors, until it fell before one mightier than itself. So do governments without God go down.
2. The bear-form. The Persian empire. Less noble than the lion; fierce, heavy, slow. Of these characteristics, the most striking illustration would be the cumbrousness and slow advance of the Persian armies; e.g. the invasion of Greece by Xerxes (see the histories). Note the accessories of the symbol. Raising itself on one side, and perhaps striking out with its right forearm. This indicates the combination of Mode with Persian - the latter the stronger and more aggressive. The three ribs devoured stand for Lydia, Babylon, Egypt, subdued. "Devour much flesh" suggests the awful waste of life incident to Persian progress. How many of the two millions returned from Greece?
3. The leopard-form. The Greek empire, specially under Alexander. Characteristics: insatiable appetite for blood, swiftness, subtlety. "Four wings." "Four heads." The Greek dominion essentially one, but with four centres. Trace the analogy. Alexander's determination to conquer the world. Swift movement, equalled only by Napoleon I. The subtlety of his genius. The division of his empire into four.
4. The nameless form. The Roman empire. So terrible is this power, that no one creature can represent it, nor the combined attributes of many. The eminence and importance of this empire are apparent from:
(a) Its prominence in this chapter.
(b) Daniel's anxiety to "know the truth of the fourth beast."
(c) Its collision with the Divine kingdom.
(d) Its successive historical aspects.
(1) Its first aspect. (See ver. 7.) All this exhibits the utterly destructive energy of Rome. What it did not devour, it destroyed for destruction's sake. A contrast with the other powers. They ravaged, subdued, extorted tribute; "but their connection with the states which they subdued was loose and disjointed." Rome conquered all, kept all, assimilated all
(2) Two developments.
(a) "Ten horns. Horn is the symbol of power. The ten were on the head from the beginning, to manifest the unity of the Roman empire plus the European nations. Their development, however, was not at once.
(b) The one. Small at the beginning. Displaces a third (nearly) of existing powers. A development of the Roman domination. Eyes" for a certain intelligence. Pride and blasphemy out of its "mouth"? What can this be but the papacy?
V. ITS JUDGMENT AND OVERTHROW. Not for ever and for ever shall the brutal reign. How sublime the contrast ushered in by ver. 9! Below, the ocean, lashed by powers of evil; out of it the brutal, its last developments the worst. Now heaven opens. Thrones were set (not "cast down"). A central throne. On it the Eternal The throne the source of all splendour, the fount of energy (Revelation 4:5). Judgment proceeding. Not the last judgment. But the continuous judgment of men and nations. The Roman empire, and all that came of it doomed - annihilated. The other empires long gone, though for a while they lingered. Learn:
1. The eternal supremacy of God.
2. The righteousness of his judgments.
3. The certain doom of all that is alienated from his own Divine life.
Individuals and nations are human and. humane only as they live in him. The reign of the brutal in any form cannot be eternal. Animalism in all its ugly, cruel, sensual forms, must go down; for God in Christ "must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet." - R.
Daniel 6:8, 12, 15).(3) It is the only empire which fits the symbols. The symbol of the second empire in Nebuchadnezzar's dream is "the breast and arms of silver." The symbol is emblematic of its inferiority to the first empire, represented by the head of gold, and the two arms are the two people who composed it. Its symbol in Daniel's dream is the second wild beast, "like to a bear, raised upon one side, with three ribs between its teeth, to which it was said, Arise, devour much flesh." The Medo-Persian empire, like the bear, was powerful and destructive; one of its two people, the Persians, like one of the sides of the bear, was more prominent than the other; it had in its grasp, like the bear with the three ribs in its mouth, the three kingdoms of Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt; and it was sluggish, like the bear, and needed to be stimulated in its destructive voracity. The Medo-Persian empire fits exactly both symbols, while the empire of the Medes fits neither. On these three grounds it seems certain that the second empire symbolised in the two dreams was the Mede-Persian. The third world-empire is the Greek or Macedonian. Its symbol in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar is "the belly and thighs of brass"; in the dream of Daniel, a leopard with four heads and four wings. The leopard is a fierce animal, remarkable for its swiftness and agility. When the prophet wished to impress his fellow-countrymen with the exceeding swiftness of the horses of the Chaldeans, he described them as "swifter than leopards" (Habakkuk 1:8). This quality of swiftness is here intensified by the leopard "having the four wings of a bird." The lion, the symbol of the Babylonian empire, had only two wings; but the leopard, the symbol of the Macedonian, had four. The exceeding swiftness of such a wild beast is an emblem of Alexander the Great in his conquering career. The rapidity of his military movements was not only superior to those of Nebuchadnezzar and of Cyrus, but perhaps unexampled in the history of the world. The four heads of the leopard represent the four kingdoms into which the Macedonian empire was divided after Alexander's death. The third wild beast seems in every, respect an apt symbol of the Macedonian empire. The higher critics generally, on the other hand, take the third wild beast to be a symbol of the Persian empire. I have already given three reasons for thinking that the second wild beast must be intended for the Medo-Persian empire. After the Babylonian empire there was neither a Median nor a Persian empire, but only a Medo-Persian empire; and if the second wild beast refers to the Medo-Persian empire, then the third wild beast must refer to the Macedonian empire, which immediately came, after it. But in addition, the third wild beast is not an apt symbol of the Medo-Persian empire. The four-winged leopard might be looked upon as a fit symbol of Cyrus, though not nearly so apt as a symbol of Alexander the Great, either for rapidity or ferocity; but it is altogether inappropriate to the general character of the Medo-Persian empire. Instead of being like a four-winged leopard, it strikingly resembled the awkward, slow-moving bear. Again, the four heads are not satisfactorily explained of the Medo-Persian empire by supposing that they refer either to its universal dominion — the four heads being understood as the four points of the compass towards which the empire spread — or to four of its rulers. The heads naturally suggest kings or kingdoms, and the four heads being on the beast at one and the same time suggest four contemporaneous, and not four successive kings. The fourth world-empire is the Roman. The fourth wild beast, as it appeared to Daniel in the dream, is said to be "terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns." There are two striking points of resemblance between this symbol and that of the fourth empire in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. One is, that both have iron as a characteristic feature. The fourth wild beast had great iron teeth, and the fourth or lowest part of the colossal image was iron; and as iron was an emblem of a breaking and subduing power, it strikingly shadows forth the Roman empire. The other is, that both were marked by the number ten. The fourth beast had "ten horns," and the iron portion of the image "ten toes." The ten horns and the ten toes represent the ten kingdoms into which the Roman empire would be divided; and here, as elsewhere in Scripture, the definite number ten seems to be used in an indefinite sense for a great many. But while an apt symbol for the divided Roman empire, the number ten seems totally inapplicable to the Grecian empire, which is the favourite view of the higher critics. We come now to what is said about the Little Horn. "I considered," says Daniel, "the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots; and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things." He says also in the 21st and 22nd verses: "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom." The general opinion of the higher critics is that the little horn is a symbol for Antiochus Epiphanes, one of the Grecian kings of Syria ( 175 B.C.-164 B.C.), and the arch-persecutor of the Jewish people. But this empire cannot be correct if, as we have already tried to show, the fourth world-empire is the Roman. Ahtiochus Epiphanes belongs to the third world-empire, and not to the fourth. Besides, there are two things in the symbol which show that it could not refer to Antiochus Epiphanes. One is, that the little horn canto up after the ten horns, and was distinct from them. Antiochus, on the other hand, was one of the ordinary kings of Syria. His kingship was not distinct from those of the divided empire. The other is, that the little horn rooted out three of the ten. There is nothing corresponding, or approaching to, this in the history of Antiochus Epiphanes. The little horn means, I have no doubt, Papal Rome. In the fifth century of our era the Roman empire was broken up by the invasion of northern hordes; and amongst the kingdoms into which it was divided the church in Rome, with its bishop, sprang into existence as one of the kingdoms of the empire. This took place in , when Pepin, king of the Franks, granted to the Pope for a temporal dominion the Ex-archate of Ravenna, the Pentapolis, and the Duchy of Rome; and so, according to the prophetic dream, the new kingdom came up after the other ten. It was also a little horn, whether you look at the church in Rome as an ecclesiastical body or at the temporal dominion with which it was invested. The States of the Church, even with the Dukedom of Spoleto, which Charlemagne added in , formed only the central part of the Italian peninsula. In 1870 these States were lost to the Church of Rome, and in 1871 formally annexed to the kingdom of Italy, while the Italian parliament agreed to allow the Pope to live in the Vatican as a sovereign, not subject to the laws of the land, and to grant him an annual appanage of nearly three and a quarter million of lires. So far, then, as temporal dominion is concerned, the Pope has always been a little horn. Again, Papal Rome, like the little horn, is diverse from the other horns of the empire, inasmuch as the spiritual power is combined with the temporal, the ecclesiastical with the political. Another thing noted of the little horn is, that "before it three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots." This also is true of Papal Rome. Of the various opinions as to what the three extinguished sovereignties were, I am inclined to adopt that of Sir Isaac Newton, that they were the kingdom of the Lombards, the Ex-archate of Ravenna which represented the dominion of the Byzantine emperors, and the Duchy of Rome. Gibbon, in the forty-fifth chapter of his great work, says: "during a period of two hundred years, Italy was unequally divided between the kingdom of the Lombards and the Ex-archate of Ravenna." And there can be no doubt that it was the Pope, by means of Pepin and Charlemagne, who put down these two sovereignties in the empire. The Duchy of Rome, which he also plucked up by the roots, though small in size, was yet, on account of its prominence and importance in the empire, well entitled to be represented as one of the ten horns. And it is a memorable and suggestive fact that the Pope, alone of all sovereigns, wears a triple crown. Again, Daniel says of the little horn: "Behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows." The eye is the symbol of intelligence, and the eyes of a man in the little horn imply that it would be distinguished amongst the kingdoms of the world for its subtle and astute diplomacy. Its intelligence would be that of a man as compared with that of a wild beast. And such extraordinary intelligence has been a distinguishing feature in the worldly policy of Papal Rome. Its diplomacy is unrivalled for duplicity and craft. And no worldly power ever approached it for speaking great swelling words of vanity. This is what is said to the Pope at his coronation: "Receive the tiara ornamented by the three crowns, and know that you are the father of bishops and kings, the earthly governor of the world, the vicar of our Saviour Jesus Christ to whom be honour, world without end." Another feature of the little horn, which belongs also to Papal Rome, is its persecution of the people of God. "I beheld," says Daniel (v. 21), "and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them." In interpreting this, the angel said to Daniel (v. 25): "And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time, and times, and half a time." There is no need to enlarge upon the persecutions of the Papacy, as there is no land in Christendom whose soil has not been stained with the blood of the martyrs which she has shed. Happily its power to persecute is for the present, at least to a large extent, taken away. The next thing in the dream is the doom which was to befall the little horn. First of all, there is the sitting of the Heavenly court on the conduct of the little horn (v. 9, 10). There are judgment days in Heaven continually occurring with regard to human affairs. After the destruction of the little horn, the world-wide empire of the Messiah begins. Daniel thus continues his dream (v. 13, 14).
And four great beasts came up from the sea.
Outlines by London Minister.I. THE ELEMENT OUT OF WHICH THE WORLD-KINGDOMS CAME INTO EXISTENCE. "Four beasts came up from the sea." The sea, when looked at in some of its aspects, is a most fit symbol of the means by which human kingdoms without godliness have made progress in the world.
1. There is the element of treachery. The sea is at one moment calm, and apparently harmless; and the next, sending a nation into mourning by overwhelming her vessels and casting their crews into the depths of the ocean.
2. The element of restless change. From its creation to the present moment its waters have not been at rest for a single hour.
3. The element of destructiveness. The sea is a terribly destroying power. The Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman empires were destructive rather than constructive forces in the world.
II. THE CREATURES WHICH ARE USED AS SYMBOLS OF THE WORLD-KINGDOMS. "Four beasts." The characteristics of these kingdoms were animal rather than human. There is no true humanity where there is no divinity. These kingdoms of the parabolic vision are symbolised by beasts of prey noted for their strength, and cruelty, and treachery; no animal of a gentle, peaceful nature is found among them; denoting the entire absence of these characteristics in kingdoms without godliness.
III. THE KINGDOM THAT AROSE LAST OUT OF THE SEA OF TIME, EXCEEDED THOSE THAT HAD GONE BEFORE IT IN CRUELTY AND POWER. No mere animal could set forth all its destructive power; it had "iron teeth" and "ten horns." The longer wickedness goes on unchecked the more its evil tendencies develops themselves, and the more it spreads desolation in the world.
IV. A TRULY HUMAN KINGDOM CANNOT ARISE OUT OF ANY ELEMENT OF EARTH, IT MUST COME FROM ABOVE. "The Son of man came with the clouds of heaven." The head of every kingdom except Christ's Kingdom has been a mere man. But the Son of man was from above, and He came to be the head of a kingdom of true humanity. The subjects of His Kingdom become partakers of the Divine natural, and, therefore, this kingdom exhibits none of the characteristics set forth by the beasts. It is a human kingdom because it is a Divine kingdom. Therefore, it is an everlasting kingdom. This vision teaches us:
1. The knowledge of the eternal in relation to human affairs in the ages to come.
2. That God has stretched a measuring line across the bounds of every kingdom. He has appointed the bound of their habitation.
3. Human kingdoms form a dark background to reveal the beauties of the Kingdom of Christ.
(Outlines by London Minister.)
1. Because they were to exercise the greatest influence upon the church during the period to which this prophecy refers.
2. Because through them God intended to civilize and Christianize the whole earth. It is a fact which will not be denied that these empires have had the principal effect upon the church for good or for evil In the days of Daniel, the church existed only within the limits of the Chaldean empire. Afterwards, we find it within the Persian empire. Then we find it principally connected with the Grecian monarchy, favoured by the great Alexander, and persecuted by more than one of his successors. In the latter days of the Jewish dispensation, we find the Old Testament church connected with the empire of Rome. It was by Rome that Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jews driven into exile. The place of their dispersion, and the scone of their sufferings, during a period of nearly eighteen centuries, has been almost exclusively within the limits of the four prophetic monarchies. Within this district the Son of God became incarnate and was crucified. Here the fires of persecution blazed most fiercely against His devoted witnesses. Here the great apostacy from the truth was generated. This district was the battle-field between Christ and anti-Christ during many generations. It is the centre still of all the contests between light and darkness, between God and Satan. It is thus a fact that these four empires have had most effect upon the church for good or for evil; and, therefore, we seem warranted in concluding that they alone are mentioned in these predictions, because of the influential connection in which they were to stand to the church. And it is not less true that these four empires have had the principal effect in the Christianization and civilization of the other districts of the world. Beyond the limits of these monarchies, the four winds have striven on the great sea. There have been wars, and changes, and conquests, but, unless we greatly mistake the matter, there is a very marked difference between the political commotions and changes which took place within the territorial limits of the four empires and those which occurred elsewhere. Beyond this district, we will see one great conqueror after another sweeping over the earth in the same murderous career. But we see no permanent current of civilization following these commotions. We see no advancement amid all these changes. We see the nations living in the same barbarous, or semi-civilized, condition in which they were in the times of Daniel. But the commotions which have occurred within the limits of the four monarchies have had a civilizing tendency in the issue. Not to ascend higher, wherever the Romans carried their arms, they carried their noble literature, and left a seed of it behind. Their later conquests were preparatory to the dissemination of the gospel; and to the fourth empire, as the Divine instrument, may be traced the whole of European civilization. Look beyond the limits of these four empires, and wherever we see civilization it will be found to have come from them. Civilization and religion went from them to America, to Greenland, Australia, the isles of the Pacific, and to many spots in Africa. And there can now be little doubt that by means of the fourth empire, in its last form, and of the church within it, God intended to originate those movements which shall result in the Christianization of the world. How thankful should we be unto God that we have been born within the limits of these four monarchies, not merely because the currents of civilization flow there, but because of the streams of life by which they are watered and fertilized. How great and glorious does God appear in connection with this prophecy! How low should we lie in the dust before Him, under a profound feeling of the nothingness of our intellects, when we see His omniscient eye piercing the vista of ages and generations, and unfolding the end from the beginning! When we survey the long and dreary domination of the four predicted beasts, we are apt to be seized with a feeling of despondency. Why has wickedness been permitted to exult so long? But when we remember that the Lord reigneth, and that the past stages of the world are merely preparatory to its future glory, a prospect opens on our view delightful beyond all description. If rays of the Divine glory are seen sparkling out amid the eras that are past, we are prepared for the announcement that, when the work is completed, "the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea."
1. The terribly significant truth, that earthly power, in and of itself, degenerates into brutality. The appropriate symbol of a great empire is a wild beast. The kingdoms of the earth have stood on military conquest. Might has taken the place of right. The sword has been the arbiter of imperial dynasties, and the struggles between rival powers have been as fierce and destructive as the contentions of wild animals in the jungle.
2. The tendency of this brutality is to increase. Note the order in which the four beasts are set. Bad as the Babylonians were, they were outdone by the Persians; these were exceeded by the Greeks; while the Romans were the worst of all. Note that all this while the nations were growing in what has been called culture and civisation. This was a merely superficial thing, and served only to veneer the rottenness and cruelty which were beneath.
3. The restoration of man to humanity must come, not from himself, but from above. He who introduced the healing salt which is yet to purify thoroughly the bitter fountain of our earthly life was sent forth from "the ancient of days." There are few more striking arguments for the Divine origin of the Gospel, and the deity of its author, than that which may be drawn from the contrast between the character of Jesus and that of His age. Surely, the hope of the world lies in the diffusion of the Gospel of Christ. Wherever the Gospel goes in power, it restores men to humanity by bringing them back to God. Civilisation without the Gospel is only a veneered brutality.
(William M. Taylor, D.D.)
(E. B. Pusey, D.D.)
1. Man, in his state of nature, is dead in trespasses and sins. In the symbols of the prophecy he is an atom of the dazzling, but lifeless image; a member incorporated in the wild beast of prey. The first work of redemption is to deliver him from this state. The bestial nature is then crucified and done away; and he becomes a living member of the body of Christ. He is no longer a lifeless atom of clay in the feet of the image. The breath of a new life has been breathed into his nostrils, and, like Adam in the day of creation, he stands once mere erect in the image of God.
2. The prophecy leads us to contemplate the true character and blessedness of a righteous nation. The closing part of those visions teaches us:(1) The intense reality of God's providence here below.(2) The true standard of national excellence and honour. Not wealth and riches. Not military ambition. Not the cold and heartless theories of political ungodliness; but ordinances of royalty and righteous dominion.
(T. R. Birks, M.A.)
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