Daniel’s Dream of Four Beasts, 1-14
Dan 7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.
2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.
4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.
5 “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’
6 “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.
7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.
8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.
9 “As I looked,
“thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
10 A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
and the books were opened.
‘This passage [7-14] lies at the very heart of the book of Daniel, and is probably the most important scene in the entire work in terms of its impact upon subsequent Jewish and Christian thought. ‘ (Harper’s Bible Commentary)
The court was seated –
‘The background to this is the divine council motif, which is common in ancient Near Eastern texts. Among Israel’s polytheistic neighbors there would be a chief god who was king and head of the pantheon. The lesser gods served as part of his court and privy council. In Israel, of course, there was only supposed to be one God. The other heavenly beings were not normally called deities, but they were part of his council (1 Kgs. 22:19–22; Job 1–2; Pss. 82; 89:6–8; Isa. 6:1–7; Jer. 23:18). Psalm 82 is unusual because it does seem to allow that the members of the heavenly assembly were gods (Ps. 82:1). But God judges them and condemns them to death (Ps. 82:6–7). It concludes with a prayer that God will “rise up” and “judge the earth” (Ps. 82:8). Psalm 96 also proclaims God as judge: “he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with his truth” (Ps. 96:13). In the NT, Jesus promises twelve thrones for his disciples so that they might judge Israel (Matt. 19:28). There are also thrones in heaven for the twenty-four elders (Rev. 4:4).’ (Nelson)
11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)
13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
One like a son of man – ‘This figure is True Man by contrast with the beasts. He is able to bear the holiness of God and remain in his presence. In this figure the rock of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan 2:35, 44–45) becomes a man in whom the true image of God shines forth (Gen 1:26–28), the Messianic Man who will be God’s true regent (cf. Pss 2:8; 8:4–8; 72:1–11, 17; Heb. 2:5–9; 12:28).’ (NBC)
Waltke & Ue observe: ‘Jesus appropriated to himself the title Son of Man in Daniel 7:13, though in Daniel the epithet refers to the kingdom of Israel in contrast to the bestial nations that ruled prior to the advent of the kingdom of God in the Messiah. In any case, Jesus is the quintessential expression of that kingdom.’ (An Old Testament Theology)
The clouds of heaven – Consistently suggestive, in the OT, of a theophany. ‘The act of coming with clouds suggests a theophany of Yahweh himself. If Dan. 7:13 does not refer to a divine being, then it is the only exception out of about seventy passages in the O.T.’ (J.A. Emerton)
He approached the Ancient of Days – The LXX translates this, ‘He came as the Ancient of Days’.
Davis comments: ‘The text is saying to you: ‘Here, you must see this scene [9–14] behind the “seen” [7–8]: the majestic Judge [9–10] and reigning King [13–14] have mortgaged none of their sovereignty over history and its scourges.’ Seeing this secret behind history may not keep God’s people from pain but should keep them from panic; we may still be fearful but should not be frantic.’
The Interpretation of the Dream, 15-28
15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this.
“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’
19 “Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.
23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.
26 “ ‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’
28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”