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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Daniel 7

 

 

Verses 1-28

IN Daniel 5:1-31, we had the record of the last year, indeed of the last hours, of the kingship of Belshazzar. As we open chapter 7, we are carried back to the first year of his reign. At this time Daniel had sunk into complete obscurity, as chapter 5 bears witness. He had lost touch with worldly fame, but by a dream he was still in touch with heaven. Previously his fame had largely rested upon his God-given interpretations of dreams, though in Daniel 2:1-49 the interpretation was revealed to him in 'a night vision'. Now, in his retirement from worldly affairs, by a dream a prophetic revelation is given to him, and 'he wrote the dream', for our benefit, since it has been included in the inspired Scriptures.

Verse Daniel 7:2 is very instructive. What he saw was produced by the striving of 'the four winds of the heaven... upon the great sea'. Now the sea is used figuratively as indicating the masses of mankind, as are the 'many waters' of Revelation 17:1; Revelation 17:15, which represent 'peoples, and multitudes, and nations'. So also, 'wind' often represents the power of Satan, for he is 'the prince of the power of the air' (Ephesians 2:2). What Daniel saw was, in figure, the forces of darkness working on the masses of mankind, and as a result producing, as we shall see, the four world-empires that fill up the times of the Gentiles. Israel is the only nation that has been raised up by God to a place of supremacy; but, while it is set aside, four world powers arise as a result of the striving of Satanic forces, and not of the working of God's power.

The powers that emerge are represented by 'beasts'. It is worthy of note that this figure re-appears in the book of Revelation, where the revival of the Roman Empire in the last days is presented as 'a beast' rising up 'out of the sea' (Revelation 13:1). That the four empires should be portrayed as beasts is no compliment to them. But God does not pay compliments, but pre-figures things exactly as they are, according to their inward nature. History, as far as it has been enacted up to the present, quite supports the accuracy of the figure used.

The four beasts appear in rotation, and are described in verses Daniel 7:4-7. The first was the Babylonian, with the strength of a lion and the swiftness of an eagle, and the latter part of verse Daniel 7:4 seems to refer to God's disciplinary dealings with Nebuchadnezzar. This had been nearly fulfilled when Daniel had the dream.

The second, described in verse Daniel 7:5, was the Medo-Persian, that overthrew the Babylonian soon after Daniel had the dream. It is represented as a bear, which is worthy of note. The Babylonian was like a lion and an eagle, as we see also in Jeremiah 4:7, and Jeremiah 49:19-22. Now the bear in nature has not the strength of the lion, but it is marked by rapacity, as indicated in our verse. History records that 'one side' of it, namely the Median, came up first, for Darius was a Mede; but soon Cyrus the Persian became dominant. He became favourable to the Jews, as the opening verses of Ezra show, but apart from this its power was not tolerant, and the words, 'Arise, devour much flesh', were fulfilled in its history.

In verse Daniel 7:6, the third empire is prefigured, which we know as the Grecian, founded by Alexander the Great. Now a leopard is a cruel beast, marked by great agility. The idea of swift agility is increased by this beast having 'four wings of a fowl' on its back. This aptly sets forth the swiftness of Alexander's conquests, and his overthrow of the Persian empire. It also had 'four heads', and in this we see an allusion to what followed the early death of Alexander — the division of the empire into four separate states, under four of his leading generals.

But a fourth empire was to arise, as stated in verse Daniel 7:7; namely the Roman, which would be so remarkable that no well-known beast, such as lion, bear or leopard, could represent it. It would be, 'diverse from all the beasts that were before it', — 'dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly'. Its teeth would be 'iron', and it would not only subdue, but also devour and break in pieces all that it subdued. How exactly this described the Roman empire, history bears witness.

Here then we have the four world-empires, that were indicated in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, recorded in Daniel 2:1-49. But they are presented in a very different aspect. There the deterioration in the quality of their governments, descending from gold to an unreliable combination of iron and clay, was indicated. Here we have their true inner character and spirit set before us; and all four are beasts, endowed with great strength, which is used with destructive force. What a terrible unveiling is here before us as to the true character, as God sees it, of the mighty empires of men, which are to fill up the times of the Gentiles. Let us ponder these things deeply, and learn to view world affairs in the light of what is here made known to us.

The fourth beast had ten horns, answering to the ten toes at the base of the image, in Daniel 2:1-49. Verses Daniel 7:8-9 of our chapter show that these 'horns' prefigure powerful men and kings, that will arise in the last days of the fourth beast. Of these, three will be overthrown before 'another little horn', to be marked by penetrating intelligence and great powers of boastful speech. Here, for the first time, we meet with that evil man in whom Satan's power will be personified, as we shall see lower down in our chapter.

As Daniel gazed at this remarkable sight, 'thrones were set, and the Ancient of days did sit' (New. Trans.); that is, he saw the hour of God's judgment arrived. How majestic is the language of these verses! One cannot read them without being reminded of the way the Lord Jesus appeared to John, as he records in Revelation 1:1-20. We remember also that 'the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son' (John 5:22). To Pharisees and others John the Baptist declared, 'He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire... He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire' (Matthew 3:11, Matthew 3:12); and 'fire', you notice, marks the scene we have before us here.

The 'Ancient of days' then presents God to us in the eternity of His Being, for we must remember that the Persons of the Godhead were not clearly distinguished, as they have been since the coming of Christ. In the presence of Almighty God the Roman empire in its last and worst phase, under the domination of the 'little horn', whom we identify with the first beast of Revelation 13:1-18 will be destroyed in judgment; while up to that time the three earlier beasts will have been permitted to exist, though dominion had been taken from them, as stated in verse Daniel 7:12.

This dream clearly divides into three parts. The first, the vision of the four beasts. The second, the vision of judgment established and the fourth beast with its little horn destroyed in the presence of Almighty God. The third, the vision of the advent and glory and eternal dominion of 'the Son of Man'. The allusion to the Lord Jesus here is not as distinct as it is in Psalms 8:4, where the first 'man' represents the Hebrew word meaning 'mortal man', and the second is the word 'Adam'. He was not mortal man, but He was indeed 'Son of Adam', as Luke's Gospel shows. In verse Daniel 7:13, however, it is really, 'a son of man' (New Trans.), and the word in the Chaldee is the one used for mortal man. Daniel saw the One in the vision as being like a son of man, and this He was, for He was 'made in the likeness of men' (Philippians 2:7). In the light of the New Testament we are privileged to know who He really is.

From verse Daniel 7:15 to the end of the chapter we have the explanation that was given to Daniel, of the vision he had seen. Much of it we have already mentioned, but there are in it details not represented in the dream. In verses Daniel 7:18; Daniel 7:25, for instance, we find mentioned 'the saints of the most High', or 'of the high places'. When the fourth beast is destroyed, together with the 'horn', which is its imperial head, these saints will take the kingdom and possess it forever. Yet some of them will be worn out, or destroyed. As verse Daniel 7:21 says, the 'horn' made war with the saints, 'and prevailed against them'.

We have here a brief allusion to things more clearly revealed in Revelation 13:7 and Revelation 14:9-13. We ask our readers to read these verses, noting particularly the 13th verse, and then turning to Revelation 20:4. It seems plain then that the 'horn' who is the first 'beast' of Revelation 13:1-18, will persecute and slay many of the godly, who refuse him and his 'mark'. But such will be blessed in a particular degree, as resting from their labours, and they will be raised before the start of Christ's reign, to share in a heavenly portion and have dominion given to them, in common with all others, who are 'of the high places'; that is, enjoying a heavenly portion, as distinct from a place in millennial blessedness on earth.

Not all the saints, mentioned in verse Daniel 7:21 of our chapter, are slain, though war is made against them. These of course will pass into the earthly blessedness of the Kingdom. So, in our chapter we have 'the saints', who will escape and be blessed on earth: 'the saints of the high places,' whose portion is in heaven: and further, in verse Daniel 7:27, 'the people of the saints of the high places', to whom the greatness of the kingdom 'under the whole heaven', is to be given. That people will be the true Israel, cleansed and born again, as predicted in Ezekiel 36:1-38, and thus made spiritually to live, according to Ezekiel 37:1-28.

This vision was given to Daniel shortly before the first of the four great empires fell, and since he was without the further light shed in the New Testament, we can understand what a disturbing effect it had on his mind. What disturbed him may well encourage us. The beast-like empires of men will vanish in judgment, and all dominion will be vested in the Son of Man, while delegated authority will be exercised by saints both heavenly and earthly.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Daniel 7:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/daniel-7.html. 1947.

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