PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|Visions of the Four Beasts||The Vision of the Four Beasts||Daniel's Vision of the Four Beasts||The Vision of the Beasts, the One Most Venerable and the Son of Man|
|Vision of the Ancient of Days||The Vision of the One Who Has Been Living Forever||7:8-10|
|Daniel's Vision Interpreted||The Visions are Explained||The Interpretation of the Vision|
READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
A. Chapters 2, 7 and 8 are related as they reveal a sequence of four coming Gentile kingdoms and a fifth eternal divine kingdom. See Contextual Insights at chapter 8.
|B.||Chapter 2||Chapter 7||Chapter 8|
gold, v. 32
silver, v. 32
bronze, v. 32
iron/clay, v. 33
stone (Messianic), v. 34
winged lion, v. 4
bear, v. 5
winged leopard, v. 6
fierce beast, v. 7
Son of Man (Messianic), v. 13
ram, vv. 3-4
goat, vv. 5-8
C. The kingdoms seem to be:
1. neo-Babylonian (1:38)
2. Medo-Persia (8:20)
3. Greece (8:20)
4. Rome (implication)
5. the Eternal Kingdom of God (2:45)
D. These Gentile kingdoms became progressively anti-God. It is surprising that these kingdoms, which seem to be in chronological order (cf. v. 17, are crushed simultaneously (cf. 2:35,45). This crushing represents God's ultimate and complete victory (cf. 2:44; 7:14,18,27), not that all these empires have to be in power or in existence at the same time (cf. vv. 11-12).
God's complete control and sovereignty of all historical events, both individual and national is the theological theme of the book of Daniel.
E. This chapter continues the Aramaic section, which unites the two obvious literary divisions (chapters 1-6 and 7-12) of Daniel. Chapters 2-7 are addressed to Gentile rulers and deal with Gentile nations so they are addressed in Aramaic. The remaining chapters are addressed specifically to God's people and are in Hebrew.
F. This begins the visions of Daniel which overlap the events of Daniel 1-6. These visions have an affinity in genre to both Hebrew prophecy and apocalyptic literature (which began in Isaiah, but is fully developed in Daniel 7-12 and Zechariah).
G. The poetic sections of this chapter (vv. 9-10; 13-14) are the theological heart of the book. They capsule God's eternal purpose and plan for human redemption—the Messiah! They speak of victory through suffering for the saints of the Highest One (cf. vv. 21-22,25,27).
This text (especially vv. 13-14) is the origin of Jesus' use of the phrase "Son of Man," which reveals His true humanity and divinity (cf. John 1:1-14; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:15-18; Heb. 1:1-3; I John 4:1-3).
WORD AND PHRASE STUDY
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:7:1-8
1In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it. 2Daniel said, "I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. 4The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. 5And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!' 6After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts."
7:1 "in the first year of Belshazzar" This shows that the book is not written in chronological order (cf. chapter 5, which is the fall of the city of Babylon in Oct. of 539 b.c.). The date mentioned in the text would be about 552-551 b.c., which is fourteen years after chapter 5. The Aramaic section of Daniel goes from 2:4 through 7:28, which marks it as a literary unit. Therefore, we must relate chapter 7 with what goes before, as well as with what follows.
▣ "Daniel saw" It is interesting that chapters 1-6 are written in the third person, as is 7:1, but the first person predominates chapters 7-12 (e.g. 7:2,6,7,8,9,11[twice],13,15,16,19,21,28).
▣ "a dream and visions" In chapters 1-6 the dreams were given to Gentile rulers, which is rare in the OT (cf. Pharaoh and Joseph), but in chapters 7-12 the revelations from YHWH come to Daniel.
The apparent distinction between dreams and visions is not the level of inspiration, but whether one is asleep or awake, unconscious or conscious. In this context Daniel is obviously in bed, but it is unspecified if he was asleep. In this context the two terms are synonyms of God's special revelations to Daniel about how these Gentile empires will affect the people of God.
NKJV"the main facts"
TEV"a record of"
This is an idiom from the Aramaic word for "head" (BDB 1112) used twice in this verse, once literally and once idiomatically. The footnote of NKJV has "literally ‘head' (or chief) of the words." This Aramaic term is used in several senses in the OT.
1. head of
a. head of man, Dan. 3:27
b. head of image, Dan. 2:32,38
c. head of beast, Dan. 7:6,20
2. seat of visions, Dan. 2:28; 4:2,7,10; 7:1,15
3. chief, Ezra 5:10
4. summary, Dan. 7:1 (BDB 1112)
5. The Anchor Bible Commentary, vol. 23, p. 205, speculates that this may mean "beginning" since v. 28 uses an idiom for the conclusion (cf. E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel, p. 141, who says this is possible, but not likely).
From Daniel's style of writing the two phrases in v. 1b ("wrote" and "related") are parallel with no distinction. Notice the next verse, "answered and said," typifies the repetitive style of Daniel.
7:2 "the four winds of heaven" Four is the biblical symbolic number for the world (i.e. the four corners of the earth, cf. Dan. 8:8; 11:4; Zech. 2:6; 6:5). This has been interpreted as (1) universal divine knowledge (cf. Zech. 1:8-11; 6:1-8); (2) a gathering of angels (cf. Isa. 11:12; Matt. 13:41; 24:31; Mark 13:27); or (3) destroying angels (cf. Jer. 49:36; Zech. 2:6; Rev. 7:1; 9:14-15). This and similar phrases are a metaphor for God's activity in the world (where "four" is combined with "winds," "corners," "angels"). God knows and allows/controls all activity on planet earth (apocalyptic theology).
▣ "were stirring up" God was active in sending the "four winds of heaven" to disrupt earthly activities. This chapter is yet another emphasis on God's control of history and nations.
▣ "the great sea. . .the sea" There have been several theories of the meaning of this phrase: (1) it refers literally to the Mediterranean Ocean (cf. Num. 34:6, 7; Joshua 9:1) (2) it refers metaphorically to the nations of the earth (cf. v. 17; Ps. 65:7; Isa. 17:12-13; 57:20; Rev. 17:15); or (3) it refers to the initial watery chaos which was part of creation (cf. Gen. 1:2; 7:11; 49:25; Ps. 36:6; Isa. 51:10; Amos 7:4). As always context determines meaning. Here it refers to the known world of the ancient Near East, that part of the world which affects the people of God and the Promised Land.
7:3 "and four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another" This seems to imply simultaneous kingdoms (cf. v. 12 and 2:44), but the extended contexts of chapters 2 and 8 demand sequential kingdoms.
There are several aspects to this description that would have intensified a negative Jewish reaction to this vision.
1. The great surging ocean would have been fearful to those accustomed to the semi-arid life of Palestine. Jews never were extensively involved in ocean trade. Even Solomon's fleet was manned by foreigners (Phoenicians).
2. Predatory, Levitically unclean animals were attacking humanity.
3. Animals of composite types would violate the "after their kind" of Gen. 1.
4. The inhumanity of these pagan empires (especially the fourth empire, cf. vv. 7,23)
5. The blasphemy of the little horn against God (cf. v. 8,11,20,25)
7:4 "the first was like a lion" Notice the word "like" used here is from an Aramaic PREPOSITION. This same idea is repeated in v. 5, but with the Aramaic word demah (cf. 3:25). In v. 6 the PREPOSITION is used again. The whole point is that what Daniel saw was not real earthly animals, but similar to known animals with different physical attributes (i.e. winged lion, winged leopard). These are apocalyptic symbols of rulers and empires.
SPECIAL TOPIC: LIONS IN THE OT
▣ "which had wings like an eagle" The Babylonian army is described as a swooping eagle (cf. Jer. 49:22: Ezek. 17:3: Hab. 1:8). This was a metaphor to describe the speed of their advance.
▣ "its wings were plucked" This is a metaphor of military defeat. These powerful, national armies seemed invincible, but in reality they were still just human armies.
Notice how often in this verse divine action is directed toward the Gentile empire: "wings were plucked" (BDB 1101, Piel PERFECT); "it was lifted up" (BDB 1102, Piel PERFECT); "made to stand" (BDB 1110, Hoph PERFECT); and "human mind also was given to it" (Piel PRESENT) [this is true of "was raised up on one side," cf. v. 5]. God is in complete control (cf. 2:20). Some commentators believe that these actions reflect Nebuchadnezzar's madness in chapter 4. Although this is possible, again interpreters must be careful of trying to find a historical referent to all the details of Daniel's visions.
▣ "made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it" Some commentators think this refers to (1) Nebuchadnezzar's madness and restoration of chapter 4 or (2) the barbaric Chaldeans becoming more civilized and cultured after their initial conquest (i.e. affected by Sumerian culture).
However, the phrase is very ambiguous and may simply be an apocalyptic detail which was never meant to have a historical fulfillment. This powerful empire existed and was destroyed, making room for the next empire from the ancient Near East.
7:5 "a bear" This is another powerful predator of the Near East, which is used often in the OT paralleled with lion (cf. I Sam. 17:34,36,37; Prov. 28:15; Amos 5:19; Rev. 13:2). Several Scriptures describe the fierceness of a bear with cubs (cf. II Sam. 17:8; Prov. 17:12; Hos. 13:8).
This refers to the Medo-Persian Empire (cf. 8:21). Possibly the "raised on one side" may refer to (1) the supremacy of Persia (see note at 5:28) or (2) preparing to attack again, even though it was still eating the last victim (a metaphor of unsatiated power and military destruction).
▣ "three ribs" The NRSV and NAB translate this Aramaic term as "tusks" (Hebrew BDB 854, Aramaic form BDB 1106). This probably comes from the basic meaning of the Hebrew counterpart, taken frm the Arabic "curved." But also other usages of the Hebrew root are a play on the word "side" (i.e. rib of a hill, side chambers, rib of a tree or plank, BDB 854).
The controversy over the etymology of this term is related to its use in Gen. 2:21-22. The New International Dictionary of OT Theology and Exegesis, vol. 3, p. 811, gives an alternate possibility of the term "rib," as being confused with the Sumerian term for "life." How this would affect this verse in Daniel is uncertain.
This is a parallel to the ram of 8:4, where the ribs may relate to the three directions or areas of conquest: Babylon to the West, Lydia to the North, and Egypt to the South. Ben Ezra thinks they refer to three cities which were conquered. We know from historical records that Medo-Persia did not have many conquests to the East until the reign of Darius I Hystapes.
NASB, NKJV"thus they said to it"
NRSV"and was told"
TEV"a voice said to it"
NJB"came the command"
This must refer to the personified "four winds of heaven" from v. 2 which symbolize God's omniscient presence throughout the earth (cf. Zech. 1,6).
▣ "‘Arise, devour much meat'" The first VERB (BDB 1110) is a Peal IMPERATIVE. The second VERB (BDB 1080) is also a Peal IMPERATIVE. Continuing with the predator metaphor, God allows (cf. v. 6, "dominion was given to it") this second kingdom to conquer and spread its influence throughout the known world of the ancient Fertile Crescent.
7:6 "a leopard which had on its back four wings of a bird" This refers to the speed of the military conquest of Alexander the Great. Greece then is the third predatory Gentile Empire (cf. 8:21). The symbolic number "four" may refer to its conquest of the whole known world (cf. v. 2).
▣ "also had four heads" This specific detail about the number of Alexander's generals who succeed him, has caused many modern scholars to reject the predictive nature of Daniel. Yet, the affirmation of a supernatural God revealing to a faithful servant for the purpose of affirming His sovereignty to later generations seems perfectly adequate to explain this detailed description of history.
All of these details are not prophetic. Commentators must look to history to help interpret ambiguous apocalyptic passages. The four heads may refer to (1) extensive conquests in all directions or (2) the four regional generals of Alexander the Great. Alexander died from a fever at the young age of 32 while in Babylon (or some say Egypt). His kingdom was initially divided among five generals, but four of them became dominant: (1) Ptolemy in Egypt; (2) Cassender in Macedonia and Greece; (3) Seleucus in Syria and Babylon, and (4) Lysimichus in Thrace. Antigonus ruled part of Asia Minor for a brief period, but was killed in 301 b.c. and was only of minor influence and importance.
7:7 "a fourth beast" By the sequencing of chapters 2, 7, and 8 (see Textual Insights A., B., and C.) this refers to the Roman Empire. This would correlate with the iron and clay legs and feet of 2:33,41-43.
The fourth empire is characterized in several ways.
1. dreadful, vv. 7,19
2. terrifying, v. 7
3. extremely strong, v. 7
4. iron teeth, vv. 7,19 (DUAL in Hebrew, possibly two large teeth or two rows of teeth)
5. devoured, vv. 7,19
6. crushed, vv. 7,19
7. trampled down the remainder with its feet, vv. 7,19
8. ten horns, vv. 7,20
9. a boastful little horn, vv. 7,20
10. claws of bronze, v. 19
Several of these terms are used in different senses in the book, which shows how context determines meaning.
1. "dreadful" is used of
a. the image in 2:31 and translated "awesome"
b. Daniel's fears in 4:2 and the people's fear in 5:19
2. "devour" is used
a. literally in 4:33; 7:5,7,19
b. metaphorically of slander in 3:8; 6:25
3. "crushed" ("broke in pieces") is used literally in vv. 7,19,23
a. also literally of the Messiah breaking the image in 2:35,45
b. also literally of the lions crushing those who attacked Daniel in 6:24
▣ "ten horns" This may speak of ten simultaneous kings (cf. 2:44). Because three of them are ripped out at the same time (cf. v. 8,24), they must be simultaneous. However, I believe them to be symbols of completeness or of power (cf. Zech. 1:18-21; Rev. 13:1), not literal kings which commentators try to fit into known history.
The term "horns" (BDB 1111) often stands for "kings" (Dan. 7 & 8) or "power" (OT metaphor, i.e. the horns of the sacrificial altar).
7:8 "another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by its roots before it" The little horn of Dan. 7 may be the Anti-Christ of the end-time because it comes from the fourth kingdom (cf. H. C. Leopold, Exposition of Daniel, pp. 322-323 and E. J Young, The Prophecy of Daniel, p. 150). This is somewhat confusing because the little horn of 8:9-14 seems to refer to the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 b.c.) who comes from the third kingdom during the Maccabean Period. He is a type of anti-christ which is always among us (cf. I John 2:18).
These "little horns" are both arrogant and boastful. They reject the worship of YHWH and try to destroy His people. They are both allowed by God to prosper and both will be destroyed by God. They come to epitomize rebellious, egocentric, fallen humanity.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:7:9-12
9"I kept looking
Until thrones were set up,
And the Ancient of Days took His seat;
His vesture was like white snow
And the hair of His head like pure wool.
His throne was ablaze with flames,
Its wheels were a burning fire.
10A river of fire was flowing
And coming out from before Him;
Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,
And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;
The court sat,
And the books were opened.
11Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. 12As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time."
7:9 Verses 9-10 and 13-14 are set in poetic form (i.e. poetic lines) in NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NJB. This means that the verses must be interpreted in light of Semitic poetic parallelism.
Synonymous parallelism in verses :
9b and c
9d and e
9f and g
10 a and b
10c and d
14e and f and gh
Beginning in v. 9 the evil, suffering and chaos of the fallen earth is contrasted with the peace, calm, and purposeful actions of God in heaven. This section of chapter 7 is parallel to the crushing divine stone of chapter 2 that initiates the eternal kingdom! God's judicial acts result in redemption, reconciliation, and lasting fellowship between the Triune God, faithful angels, and faithful humans! The purpose of original creation is restored through God's merciful character and redemptive intervention.
Verses 13 and 14 are one of the greatest Messianic texts in the OT. One like a Son of Man is coming, riding on the clouds of heaven and the Ancient of Days gives Him the eternal kingdom (cf. 2:44; 4:3,34; 6:26; 7:14,27), but this involves a period of suffering and persecution of God's people. There is no victory without suffering (cf. Gen. 3:15; Ps. 22; Isa. 53; Zech. 12-14; Rom. 8:17,18-25; Phil. 3:10; II Tim. 2:11-13; I Pet. 4:13). Evil brings pain and suffering, but God transforms it into the path of growth and maturity (cf. Heb. 5:8).
▣ "thrones were set up" The King James Version has "cast down," but the NKJV corrects this mistranslation by "the thrones were put in place" (i.e. arranged, BDB 1113, Peil PERFECT). There have been three major theories concerning who sits on these thrones: (1) angels (cf. Ps. 89:7, 8); (2) saints (cf. LXX v. 22; Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30; I Cor. 6:2; Rev. 20:4); (3) some type of judges, identity unknown. Whomever these thrones represent, it is obvious that this is a court scene in heaven (cf. Rev. 4-5; 20:11-15; Matt. 25:31-46).
Option number one is best because of the OT recurrent mentioning of the concept of a heavenly angelic council (cf. I Kgs. 22:19; Job 1:6; 2:1; Ps. 82:1). The plural term Elohim, translated God (cf. Gen. 1:1) may relate to God and the angelic council. This concept was developed in rabbinical Judaism as the seven angels of the presence.
▣ "the Ancient of Days took His seat" There is no definite ARTICLE with this unique Aramaic title "ancient of days" here, so it may emphasize the quality of timelessness ("one that was ancient of days"). The ARTICLE is present in vv. 13 and 22. This title is related to the characterization of God as "living" in 4:34; 6:26; 12:7. The covenant name, YHWH, is from the CAUSATIVE form of the Hebrew VERB "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14), the Ever Living One!
▣ "His vesture was like white snow"span> This refers to the garments of heavenly beings.
1. God (here)
2. Jesus (cf. Matt. 17:2; Mark. 9:3; Luke 9:29)
a. OT (cf. Dan. 10:5-6)
b. NT (cf. Matt. 28:3; Luke 24:4; John 20:12; Acts 1:10; Rev. 15:6)
4. saints (cf. Rev. 3:4-5,18; 7:13; 19:8)
▣ "the hair of His head like pure wool" This refers to the wisdom of the aged (of Jesus in Rev. 1:14). The "white" and "bright" of these two lines of poetry speak of both wisdom and holiness (cf. the Judgment scene of Isa. 1:18-20), which gives God the right and authority to judge (i.e. white throne judgment of Rev. 20:11; Jesus on a white horse as Judge in Rev. 19:11,14).
The following poetic lines speak of fire, which is another metaphor of holiness, cleansing, and judgment.
▣ "its wheels were burning fire" This is probably the portable throne-chariot of God, which Ezekiel saw in Babylon in Ezek. 1 and 10. If this is truly a reference to the Ezekiel texts then Daniel must have known of Ezekiel's writings because this description of YHWH's chariot occurs only here and in Ezekiel 1 and 10. Daniel was in the palace in the city of Babylon; Ezekiel was in a concentration camp by the canal Chebar, while Jeremiah was in the city of Jerusalem (but forced to go to Egypt by renegade Jews). They must have known of each other's ministries, words or writings.
7:10 "a river of fire was flowing" The terms "flowing" and "coming out of" are parallel, possibly hendiadys. This is typical of Daniel's literary style. The metaphor of fire coming from God is a biblical idiom of God coming to His creation for judgment (cf. Ps. 18:7-8; 50:3-6; 97:3; Isa. 30:27-28) as the phrases in v. 10e , "the court sat" (cf. vv. 22,26) and 10f, "the books were opened" (cf. 12:1) imply.
▣ "thousands upon thousands were attending Him" If verse 10, c and d, are parallel (i.e. "10,000 x 10,000), some have assumed that these were angels who serve God (cf. v. 10c) because of v. 16 and Deut. 33:2 (cf. Heb. 12:22; Rev. 5:11). Others have assumed that they are humans awaiting judgment (cf. v. 10d) or perhaps saints because of vv. 18, 22, and 27. This phrase is alluded to in Jude v. 14.
▣ "the books were opened" There is no definite ARTICLE. Here and in Revelation 20:11-15 there are two heavenly metaphorical books mentioned: (1) the Book of Life which records the names of God's people (i.e. saints/believers, cf. Exod. 32:32-33; Ps. 3; 69:28; Isa. 4:3; Dan. 12:1; Luke 10:20; Phil. 4:3; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27) and (2) the Book of Remembrances (or deeds) which records the deeds of humanity, both positive and negative (cf. Ps. 56:8; 139:16; Isa. 65:6; Mal. 3:16; Rev. 20:12-13).
These are metaphorical for the memory of a holy God. They form the documented basis for judgment and rewards.
SPECIAL TOPIC: DEGREES OF REWARDS AND PUNISHMENT
▣ "were opened" The United Bible Societies' A Handbook on the Book of Daniel, p. 188, mentions the interesting translation option of translating "the court sat" and "the books were opened" (both PASSIVE) as if they refer to the judges who sat on the thrones of v. 9b, "the judges sat down" ("to begin their work and opened the books").
7:11 "the sound of boastful words" This refers to the "little horn" of the fourth kingdom (cf. vv. 7-8). Arrogance was Nebuchadnezzar's problem in 4:28-31; 5:20 and also Belshazzar's in 5:22-23. This arrogant attitude characterizes unbelieving Gentile powers (i.e. the little horn of the third kingdom of 8:11 and here the little horn of the fourth kingdom, cf. v. 8).
Paul discusses this very issue of human pride. See Special Topic below.
▣ "the beast was slain" Again God is in complete control of history (cf. 2:21)! This boastful ruler is judged and destroyed, but apparently the kingdoms represented by the other beasts (cf. vv. 3-6) continue in existence but without their previous power and glory (cf. v. 12, "their dominion was taken away").
This is a good place to admit that an interpreter is never sure when the details are to be taken as historical details or just part of the apocalyptic picture (much like the details of Jesus' parables). The issue is not one of truth, but one of literary presentation. Authorial intent, not literalness, is the interpretive key to figurative eastern language and literature!
7:12 "as for the rest of the beasts. . .extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time" The phrases in Aramaic "for a season" and "and a time" are other examples of hendiadys. They mean the same thing. The nations continued to exist, but without their previous power and world influence. Their influence is limited and will be removed (cf. 2:21 and 7:18,22,27). This would therefore, refer to Iraq (Babylon), Iran (Persia), Greece, and Italy (Rome). Notice the theme of God's sovereignty over the nations continues ("for an appointed period of time"). The Bible is teleological, not cyclical. History is moving toward a consummation!
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:7:13-14
13"I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
14And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed."
7:13 "behold with the clouds of heaven" The Septuagint has the PREPOSITION "on," but the Aramaic has the preposition "with." Does this affect the theological aspect of this "one like a son of man" (human-like) being described with divine qualities (i.e. riding on the clouds of heaven)? Let us remember
1. in a judgment scene (cf. vv. 9-10) he is unjudged, even rewarded
2. he is given the eternal kingdom
3. all peoples serve (i.e. worship) him
4. parallel phrases are used in conjunction with the High One in v. 27
5. NT authors used this text repeatedly for Jesus, who they believed was the promised Messiah
The phrase "The clouds of heaven" is used in several ways in the OT.
1. God's physical, personal presence with His people by means of the Shekinah cloud of glory during the wilderness wandering period (cf. Exod. 13:21; 16:10; Num. 11:25)
2. a way to hide God's visible presence lest sinful humans see His holiness and glory and die (cf. Exod. 33:20; I Kgs. 8:10-11,12; Isa. 6:5)
3. a metaphorical way of expressing God's physical movements (cf. Isa. 19:1; Jer. 4:13; Dan. 7:13). This unique Messianic usage in v. 13 is alluded to over thirty times in the NT.
a. the Messiah comes before God to receive the kingdom with clouds (Dan. 7:13)
b. He leaves the earth on clouds (cf. Acts 1:9)
c. He returns on clouds (cf. Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 21:27; I Thess. 4:17; Rev. 1:7).
▣ "one like" This Aramaic prefixed PREPOSITION meaning "like" has caused some commentators to reject this imagery as individual and Messianic. Theologically the "like" is parallel to Phil. 2:6-8, where even Paul is cautious about a complete and total identification of Incarnate Deity with fallen humanity. He is surely one with us and has faced the temptations of the flesh (cf. Heb. 2:18), but He was not affected by human rebellion and its pervasive consequences (cf. Heb. 4:15).
▣ "a son of man was coming" The Aramaic phrase ("ben enosh," construct BDB 1085 and 1081) "son of man" is different from the similar Hebrew phrase ("ben adam") found in Psalms and Ezekiel. Both phrases are used in parallel in Job 25:6; Ps. 8:4; 90:3; 144:3; Isa. 13:12. This obviously refers to the Messiah and it links his humanity (cf. 8:17; Job 25:6; Ps. 8:4; Ezek. 2:1), which is the meaning of the Aramaic and Hebrew phrases, "son of man" with his deity because the clouds are the transportation of deity (cf. Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Rev. 1:7; 14:14).
Jesus uses the phrase to refer to Himself in the NT. It was not used of the Messiah in rabbinical Judaism. It had no exclusivistic, nationalistic, militaristic connotations. It uniquely describes the Messiah as fully human and fully God (cf. I John 4:1-3). Daniel's usage is the first which focuses on its divine aspect!
Jesus used the phrase for Himself in three senses.
1. His suffering and death (e.g. Mark 8:31; 10:45; 14:21; Luke 9:22,44)
2. His coming as Judge (e.g. Matt. 16:27; 25:31; John 5:27)
3. His coming in glory to set up His kingdom (e.g. Matt. 16:28; 19:28; Mark 13:26-27; 14:62)
From The Jewish Study Bible, p. 1657 (also see George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, pp. 136-139), the later Jewish tradition about this text are listed.
1. This context is Messianic (cf. I Enoch 46:1; 48:10; 4 Ezra [2 Esdras] chapter 13; b. Sanh. 98a)
2. All predictions in this context are already fulfilled (cf. b. Sanh. 97b)
3. This context does not refer to the end-time (cf. Gen. Rab. 98:2)
4. This context represents Israel (cf. Ibn Ezra and Rashi)
SPECIAL TOPIC: OT TITLES OF THE SPECIAL COMING ONE
▣ "was presented before Him" As the Messiah ("one like a son of man") is presented (BDB 1111, Haphel PERFECT) before the covenant-making YHWH, so Jesus introduces believers into the presence of God the Father (cf. Col. 1:22,28; II Cor. 4:14). Remember the Messiah receives the eternal kingdom, but in the same context it is the "saints" (holy ones) who receive the eternal kingdom (cf. vv. 13-14 versus vv. 18,22,27).
7:14 All things that Gentile rulers sought in power, glory, and extent of their kingdom, the God of Judahhas freely given to the Messiah. This contrast magnifies God's sovereignty, as well as His merciful character and eternal purpose in redemption through the Messiah.
1. The Covenant-making God, YHWH, gives the eternal kingdom to the Son of Man (v. 14; Isa. 9:6; 11:1-5; Micah 5:4-5a)
2. The Son of Man gives the eternal kingdom to the saints of the Highest One, which comes from all peoples (vv. 18,22,27)
3. It is possible that the Great Commission of Matt. 28:19-20 is parallel in imagery to this text.
▣ "serve Him" Verse 27 adds "and obey Him" (both "serve" and "obey" are Peal IMPERFECTS)! The OT uses the king and kingdom metaphor to describe the appropriate relationship between God and humanity (cf. Zech. 6:15), but the NT picks up on the rare family metaphors of Father (or parent) and children. The goal is an interpersonal and dependent relationship between the Creator and those made in His image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:7:15-18
15"As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. 16I approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. 18But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.'"
7:15-28 This is the angelic interpretation of Daniel's vision. The same literary pattern is in the vision of 8:1-14 and the interpretation in 8:15-27.
7:15 These powerful visions of God's power and human evil distressed Daniel (cf. 4:19; 7:28; 8:27).
▣ "within me" The marginal note of NASB, "in the midst of its sheath" (BDB 1102) is a Semitic idiom that later translators did not understand. Daniel had both "a spirit of the holy gods" (cf. 4:8,9,18; 5:11,14), as well as an anxious human spirit.
7:16 One characteristic of apocalyptic literature is interpreting angels (e.g. 8:16,17; 9:22; Zech. 1:9,19; 2:2,3; 4:4,5,13; 6:4; Rev. 5:5; 7:13). This is another way to show God's sovereignty. No human can know the true interpretation without heaven's help! These visions and dreams are given to communicate inspired truths from God, but they are still under God's control. Only some understand (cf. Isa. 6:9-10; 43:8; Jer. 5:21; Ezek. 12:2; Matt. 11:15; 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; Luke 8:8; 14:35; Acts 7:51; 28:27; Rev. 2:7,11,29; 3:6,13,22; 13:9). This is revelation for God's people!
7:17 "these great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will rise upon the earth" This is the angel's interpretation of the successive nature of the kingdoms mentioned in the vision. The first had already come (i.e. Nebuchadnezzar).
7:18 "but the saints of the Highest One receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever for all ages to come" This shows the fluidity of this chapter as well as apocalyptic literature between the Highest One (cf. v. 27), the Messiah (cf. v. 13) and His people (cf. vv. 18,22,27). Notice again the emphasis on the eternal nature of the kingdom (cf. v. 27; Dan. 12:2-3). This cannot refer to a millennial kingdom unless it, itself, is a metaphor of the eternal kingdom!
The identification of the Aramaic phrase "saints" or "the holy ones" (BDB 1110) has been disputed.
a. the Hebrew counterpart phrase almost always refers to angels (cf. 4:13,17,23; 8:13; Job 5:1; Ps. 89:5,7)
b. the term "people" in v. 27 can mean "hosts of," which would remind one of the common OT angelic description "the hosts of YHWH"
a. in the OT they are rarely called "saints" or "holy ones" (cf. 8:24; Ps. 16:3; 34:9). The designation probably comes from Exod. 19:5-6; Deut. 14:21; 26:19.
b. they receive the eternal kingdom (cf. vv. 18,22,27)
c. they suffer persecution and defeat (cf. vv. 21,25)
3. the real problem is the GENITIVE phrase used with "people" in v. 27, "to the people of the saints of the Highest One." This looks like "people" and "saints" are distinct groups.
Also notice the Aramaic ADJECTIVE "Most High" is PLURAL in vv. 18,22,25,27, while the SINGULAR is in 3:26,32; 4:21,22,29,31; 5:18,21. Notice in v. 25 both forms occur as a title for God. This same fluctuation is found with the Hebrew ADJECTIVE. This does not relate to polytheism, but probably to the Semitic grammatical feature called the PLURAL OF MAJESTY.
NASB"forever, for all ages to come"
TEV"forever and ever"
This phrase is the threefold use of olam (BDB 1106) with the PREPOSITION "until" (twice) used of time (BDB 1105, cf. 2:20; 6:15,27; 7:18,26). It is an Aramaic superlative! The concept of "eternal future" is expressed often in Daniel using olam (and in other ways also, cf. 6:26) in its various forms and phrases (cf. R. B. Girldestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, pp. 316-317).
1. "everlasting kingdom," 4:3; 7:27
2. "forever, for all the ages to come," 7:18
3. "forever and ever," 2:20
4. "live forever" (Nebuchadnezzar), 2:4; 3:9 (Belshazzar), 5:10; (Darius), 6:6,21, "lives forever" (YHWH), 4:34
5. "which will never be destroyed," 2:44a; 7:18
6. "endure forever," 2:44c; 6:26
7. "everlasting dominion," 4:34; 7:14
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:7:19-22
19 "Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet, 20and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts and which was larger in appearance than its associates. 21I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 22until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom."
NASB"the exact meaning"
NKJV, NRSV"the truth about"
This PREPOSITION and Pael INFINITIVE (BDB 1096) are used several times in Daniel in two senses.
1. certain or sure, 2:8,45; 3:24
2. true, 6:12; 7:16,19
Daniel wanted to know truthfully and with certainty the identity of the fourth beast and also the ten horns as well as the boastful little horn (cf. v. 20).
NASB"which was larger in appearance than its associates"
NKJV"whose appearance was greater than his fellows"
NRSV"that seemed greater than the others"
TEV"It was more terrifying than any of the others"
NJB"it looked more impressive than its fellows"
This little horn suddenly looked larger: (1) its boasting arrogance (cf. vv. 8,11); (2) its overthrow of three other horns (cf. v. 8); (3) it grew as Daniel watched from a little horn to the largest horn, showing its extended kingdom; or (4) the fact that it attacked and overcame the saints of the Highest One (cf. v. 21).
7:21-22 "and I kept looking" It seems that vv. 21-22 are part of Daniel's vision (cf. 7:2) and not part of the angels' explanation. If so then Daniel's questions in vv. 19-20 are not answered until v. 23.
The new information about the suffering of the saints ("holy ones") is addressed in vv. 25,27.
7:21 "and the horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them" This shows the historical setting of the time of the little horn of the fourth empire will be the severe persecution of God's people. God allows this to happen for His ultimate purposes (cf. Rev. 13:7).
7:22 "until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One" We must remember that this chapter had a word for those in exile in Babylon as well as for believers of every age who suffer persecution for their faith in YHWH and His Messiah and do not always understand why! God is in control even amidst suffering and persecution (the book of Revelation).
Notice that the titles "the Ancient of Days" (cf. 7:9,13) and "the Highest One" (cf. 7:18,25,27) are synonymous. This is also true of "the Most High" and "the Highest One" of v. 25.
Daniel's titles for deity are much more Jewish in chapter 9, where he prays for himself and his nation's sins (adon, YHWH, Elohim).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:7:23-27
23Thus he said: "The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. 24As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. 25He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 26But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. 27Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him."
7:23 The NKJV, NRSV, and NJB print verses 23-27 as poetry, but the NASB and TEV treat it as prose. This same problem is also found in vv. 9-10, 13-14. It is difficult to know if these verses are poetic or elevated prose.
▣ "he said" This refers to the interpreting angel of v. 16.
▣ "which will be different from the previous ones" Notice the fourth kingdom is different by its ferocity (cf. v. 19) and extent (cf. v. 23), but the little horn is different by being more arrogant than its predecessors (cf. vv. 8,11) and larger in extent (cf. vv. 20,24), but most of all in its persecution of God's people (cf. vv. 21,25).
▣ "will devour the whole earth" The VERB (BDB 1080) is a Peal IMPERFECT. See 4:1 for the use of this same hyperbole, which refers to the known world.
7:24 The specificity of this verse has caused problems for commentators who try to take it literally. Apocalyptic literature is notoriously ambiguous and uses a form of hyperbolic stylized language (see D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic, IVP, 2002).
It is quite possible that "ten" is used symbolically for a complete number. Notice the time sequence and progression.
1. ten kings of the fourth kingdom
2. then the eleventh comes, who is different from the others
3. the three kings are
a.not part of the ten kings (i.e. horns, cf. v. 8)
b. "pulled out" of v. 8 and "subdue" of v. 24 refer to the influence, policies, or remembrances of these three kings are being removed. The interpretive issue is, are the ten horns (1) sequential kings of the fourth empire (cf. v. 24); (2) somehow simultaneous kings of different parts or regions of the fourth empire (cf. v. 8); or (3) apocalyptic details not meant to be historically specific?
4. the eleventh king (the little horn) is allowed to persecute the people of God (cf. vv, 21,25)
5. God passes judgment and the little horn is destroyed (cf. v. 26)
6. sovereignty and the eternal kingdom is given to the people of God (cf. vv, 18,27)
7:25 Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel, p. 146, points out the four characteristics of the fourth kingdom
3. alteration of annual religious holidays
4. an altered morality
But all four deal with the anti-God bias of this kingdom and its leaders. Like Belshazzar they despise YHWH and His covenant people because they demand complete personal freedom and independence from all religious mores.
Brown, Driver, Briggs (1084, Pael IMPERFECT) has "figurative for harass continually." The Hebrew counterpart is used similarly in I Chr. 17:9. It is normally used for wearing out clothing. The same surprising divine permission to persecute and overcome the saints ("holy ones") is found in Rev. 11:7 (the two witnesses are a symbol for the whole people of God) and 13:7! God allows evil to fully reveal itself and its intentions so that its judgment, punishment, and removal/isolation is understood as fair and just.
▣ "to make alterations in times and in laws" These two terms may be a hendiadys (refer to one thing, not two). This phrase is not limited to religious laws, but the context seems to demand this. This ruler will try to overcome the worship of YHWH by changing the religious calendar (cf. Lev. 23).
This text is the reason why many modern commentators speculate that the fourth kingdom refers to Greece and that this phrase specifically reflects Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 b.c., cf. I Maccabees 1:41-53; II Maccabees 6:2,6,7) trying to force the Jews of Palestine to become more Hellenistic by drastically changing and modifying their religious traditions and worship practices.
Personally I think, because of 2:38 and 8:20-21, that the third sequenced empire is Greece. What Antiochus did has a multiple significance as does the phrase "the abomination of desolation."
NASB"a time, times, and a half time"
NKJV"a time and times and a half time"
NRSV, NJB"a time, two times, and a half a time"
TEV"three and a half years"
This same phrase is used in Dan. 12:7 and Rev. 12:4. Its exact meaning is uncertain. Many assume "time" refers to years, however; this is not spelled out in the text. But because of related time phrases (1) Dan. 8:14, "2300 evenings and mornings"; (2) Dan. 12:11, "1290 days"; (3) Dan. 12:12, "1335 days"; and (4) Rev. 11:2, 13:5, "42 months" or "1260 days," the understanding of "years" seems to be the best interpretation.
Another way to look at this enigmatic phrase is to see it as a sequence: one, two, but not a third; therefore, a divinely limited amount of time under which Gentile kingdoms persecute God's people. God, in the book of Daniel, is in complete control (cf. vv. 4,6,11,12,18,22,25,26,27)!
This shows the contrast. Gentile empires and their arrogant rulers are under God's control and guidance (cf. 2:21). As there was a stark contrast between Daniel's vision of the four beasts and their destructive power (cf. 7:1-8) with the calmness and dignity of the heavenly court (cf. 7:9-14), the same chaos/calm is found here.
▣ "the court" This is the court described in vv. 9-12,13-14,18,22,27.
▣ "his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever" The first VERB (BDB 1105) is a Haphel IMPERFECT and the next two (BDB 1116 and 1078) are Haphel INFINITIVES. This deals with the ultimate judgment and complete destruction of all powers that are opposed to God! There is both temporal judgment and eschatological judgment. Verses like this are what causes some to assert the annihilation of the wicked (cf. Edward Fudge, The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment), but Dan. 12:2 specifically mentions two eternal destinies (cf. Matt. 25:46).
7:27 "all the kingdoms under the whole heaven" This sounds very much like Rev. 11:15b.
NASB"will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One"
NKJV"shall be given to the people,
"the saints of the Most High"
The VERB (BDB 1095) is a Piel PERFECT.
This shows the two ways this phrase is understood (cf. a similar Hebrew phrase in 8:24). The NKJV and TEV translations make "people" and "saints" parallel (appositional). If the NASB is followed then angels seem to be the referent of "holy ones" or "saints" in this verse, which would relate it to the national angels of Deut. 32:8, in this case, to Michael and Gabriel and other angels (cf. Dan. 10) that serve God and His people. Some commentators even see "Son of Man" in v. 13 as referring to these same angels. Daniel, as all apocalyptic literature, pictures angels as intimately involved with God's dealings with humanity.
▣ "His kingdom" Notice the continuing fluidity between the kingdom as belonging to:
1. God, vv. 9-10, 27
2. His Messiah, "Son of Man," v. 13
3. His people, vv. 18,22,27
4. some would see v. 27 as referring to faithful angels (i.e. Michael, Gabriel, angel of chapter 10, etc.)
▣ "and all the dominions will serve and obey Him" This term "dominion," "have power," or "sovereignty" (BDB 1115) is used in Daniel for (1) God (cf. 4:3,34; 6:26) or (2) the Gentile kingdoms (cf. 4:22; 6:26; 7:6,12,26). It is used of the "Son of Man" in 7:14, which may reflect Gen. 1:26,28-30, where Adam (and thereby mankind) is given authority or dominion over this planet. One wonders if the phrase "all the dominions" refers to (1) the PLURAL "kingdoms" in v. 27; (2) the believers of the OT and NT (cf. Isa. 45:20-25); or (3) possibly angelic realms (cf. Heb. 1:13-14; Dan. 7:10). This concept of complete cosmic allegiance may be expressed in Phil. 2:10-11 and Col. 1:16-20 or even I Cor. 15:24-25!
The first VERB (BDB 1105) is a Pael IMPERFECT and the second (BDB 1116) is a Hithpael IMPERFECT.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:7:28
28"At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself."
7:28 "‘at this point the revelation ended'" Chapter 7 is a literary unit. It is linked to chapter 6, but the vision is complete in itself and covers the entire history of mankind from Daniel's day to the eschaton.
▣ "‘my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale'" See note at 4:19 (also 7:15,28; 8:27; 10:16-17).
▣ "‘I kept the matter to myself'" How would he communicate these visions and to whom? This is when and how apocalyptic literature becomes so helpful!
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.
1. How are chapters 2, 7 and 8 related?
2. Why is there such a problem in identifying these four nations?
3. Who is the Ancient of Days? the Son of Man? the little horn?
4. What does verse 25 say about the time element of this occurrence?
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