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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Daniel 7

 

 

Verse 1

Daniel 7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, [and] told the sum of the matters.

Ver. 1. In the first year of Belshazzar.] Here beginneth, to speak properly, the prophecy of Daniel, or rather the second part of Daniel’s works, which is concerning visions exhibited of God by divine revelations, not to others, but to himself. This vision is the subject and groundwork of the rest that follow to the end of the prophecy. One not unfitly compareth it to a general map of the whole world; the rest to particular tables of various countries.

Daniel had a dream and visions of his head.] God renewed unto him the same thing by vision which he had exhibited before by dream, in recompense of his religious care to know the matter and to record it for the Church’s comfort. (a)

Then he wrote the dream.] It was God’s will the visions of the prophets should be written [Isaiah 30:10] and published to the Church. [Isaiah 30:30]


Verse 2

Daniel 7:2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.

Ver. 2. Daniel spake and said.] His writing is called his speaking, to teach us to receive the writings of the prophets and apostles with no less reverence than if we had heard them speak with their own mouths. (a)

I saw in my vision by night.] The night doth in Scripture frequently signify trouble. This "vision by night" was of troublesome businesses - viz., hurlyburlies in the world, and persecutions in the Church.

And behold the four winds of the heavens strove upon the great sea,] i.e., There was a huge bustle upon the earth, by means of the four successive monarchies. See Revelation 13:1; Revelation 13:11. The world is fitly called the "great sea," ever unquiet and full of commotions; which are also called "winds" for their boisterousness, contrariety of nature, and inconstance.


Verse 3

Daniel 7:3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.

Ver. 3. And four great beasts.] Regnorum feritas bestiarum nomine demonstratur, saith Jerome. The fierceness of the four kingdoms is set forth by the name of beasts. Bellum a belluis. Monarchies are mostly gotten, kept, and governed with violence and tyranny. [Psalms 76:4 Song of Solomon 4:8] Regna mundana parantur et retinentur bellis. Commune vitium monarchiis et tyrannis.


Verse 4

Daniel 7:4 The first [was] like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.

Ver. 4. The first was like a lion.] Which is the king of beasts (as the eagle is of birds), generous, strong, fierce, fair-conditioned; so were the Assyrian monarchs in comparison of those that followed them.

And had eagle’s wings.] Whereby is noted their victorious celerity and alacrity in seizing upon kingdoms. {as Obadiah 1:4 2 Samuel 1:23 Jeremiah 4:13; Jeremiah 48:40 Ezekiel 17:3}

I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked,] scil., By the Medes and Persians, taming Babel’s insolence, and making her inhabitants tributaries and slaves, to till their ground and to maintain their garrisons, saluting them as their masters wherever they met them. (a)

And made stand upon the feet as a man,] i.e., Brought down to the common rank of men, and no longer lift up as an eagle.

And a man’s heart (b) was given to it.] Which before thought itseff as good as God, now had low and common spirits; not as once, imperious and impetuous.


Verse 5

Daniel 7:5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and [it had] three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.

Ver. 5. And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear.] Which is nothing so generous and ingenuous as a lion; but slow, dull, cruel, ravenous. Such were the Persians; a mountainous, rough, uncivil people, of barbarous and beastly cruelty.

And it raised up itself on one side,] scil., By joining with the Medes, by whose help Cyrus subdued the Syrians, Assyrians, Arabians, Cappadocians, and many more nations act easily reckoned, who, to gratify him, desired to be ruled according to his pleasure. (a)

And it had three ribs in the mouth of it.] While they conquered three parts of the known world, pushing westward, northward, and southward. [Daniel 8:4] Westward by Cyrus, southward by Cambyses, and northward by Darius Hystaspis.

And they said (or, it was said) thus unto it, Arise, devour.] Intimating that it was God who turned this bear loose upon the nations, and gave them to him for a prey. Tyrants prosper by God’s permission. [John 19:11]


Verse 6

Daniel 7:6 After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.

Ver. 6. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard.] Which is a creature cruel, desirous of man’s blood, crafty, spotted, and very swift of foot. So were the Grecians; Alexander especially (the founder of that third monarchy), active, bold, and headlong, but directed much by those who had been counsellors to his father Philip, a subtle prince; leopard-like, he was spotted by a mixture of virtues and vices; he was very quick of despatch, Mηδεν αναβαλλομενος, never deferring any enterprise; he much delighted in wine, and so took his death; like as the leopard is no way else to be taken but by such a bait laid for him.

Which had upon the back of it four wings.] Denoting the rapidity and celerity of Alexander and some other of the Grecian monarchs, in overrunning countries, as if they had flown.

The beast had also four heads,] i.e., This monarchy was, after Alexander’s death, divided into four satrapies, or rather kingdoms. Cassander had Macedonia; Antigonus, Asia; Seleucus, Syria; and Ptolemy, Egypt.


Verse 7

Daniel 7:7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it [was] diverse from all the beasts that [were] before it; and it had ten horns.

Ver. 7. Behold a fourth beast.] Not likened to any certain beast, because none can be named so cruel which can express the cruelty of this fourth monarchy - viz., that of the Romans, no, although it were

" Pροσθε λεων, μετοπισθε δρακων, μεσσηδε χιμαιρα." - Hom.

It is a nameless monster, made up of all the properties of the former beasts. [Revelation 13:1-2] The Rabbis, with their "wild boar out of the wood," [Psalms 80:13] fall far short of it. Luther (a) not unfitly compareth the Church of God to a silly poor maid, sitting in a wood or wilderness, and beset with hungry lions, wolves, boars, bears, and with all manner of hurtful and cruel creatures.

Dreadful and terrible.] Because able and ready to annoy others with great evils.

And strong exceedingly.] So that it passed for a proverb, Irasci populo Romano nemo impune potest. It is not safe for any nation to fall out with the Romans; for they are sure to be tamed and tawed with their iron teeth.

And it had great iron teeth,] i.e., Conquering captains, such as Scipio - of whom Ennius sang thus:

Si fas caedendo coelestia scaudere cuiquam,

Mi soli coeli maxima porta patet. ”

Pompey, who by his great acts and achievements merited the name of Magnus; and Julius Caesar, who before the Pharsalian wars had taken a thousand towns, conquered three hundred nations, took prisoner one million men, and slain as many. (b)

And stamped the residue with the feet of it,] i.e., With their provincial magistrates, such as were Verres, Pilate, Felix, &c., said to have nails of brass, [Daniel 7:19] and fitly compared to petulant wild beasts, which, when they can feed no longer, trample with their feet on the residue of the prey. The poor Jews had hard measure from them always.

And it was diverse from all the beasts.] In respect of diversity and strange multiplicity of forms of government.

And it had ten horns.] Which the angel afterwards interpreted as kings or kingdoms. [Daniel 7:24] This occured not long after Constantine the Great, when the Roman empire began to moulder and fall in pieces. About the year 456, it appeared broken into ten parts, which by a learned interpreter are thus reckoned. The kingdom of the Britons, of the Saxons, both in Brittany; of the Franks, of the Burgundians, in France; of the West Goths in the southern part of France and part of Spain; of the Sueves and Alanes in part of Spain; of the Vandals in Africa, a little before in Spain; of the Allmanns in Rhetia and Noricum, provinces of Germany; of the East Goths in Pannonia, a little after in Italy; of the Greeks in the remnant of the empire.


Verse 8

Daniel 7:8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn [were] eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

Ver. 8. And I considered the horns.] For without a serious and sedulous consideration I could not have kenned it. So slyly and secretly worketh the mystery of iniquity.

And behold there came up among them another little horn.] This is Antiochus Epiphanes, say some, the Great Turk, say others, the Pope, say a third sort, and with them I concur, whose kingdom is here called a "little horn," because the Pope was at first a mean minister of the Roman Church, viz., till Constantine’s time. Afterwards he was only primate and metropolitan of the churches of Italy. No man took him for a prince, no, not when he began to write Volumns et iubemus, We will and command you, A.D. 606; but he grew up by degrees, and cunningly got among the ten horns, till at length he overtopped them.

Before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots.] These were, according to some, Chilperick the French king, Frederick the emperor, and King John of England, whom he made his vassal. Others reckon them to be Chilperick, the exarch of Italy in the time of Gregory II, and Desiderius, king of Lombards, slain by Charles the Great at the instigation of the Pope. For three kingdoms coming under him, let it be considered whether they be not Spain, Germany, and France; or whether this prefigured not, saith one, his triple crown.

And, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man.] In respect to his feigned courtesy and profound policy. To be sharp-sighted is commendable; but to be wittily wicked is to do the devil doubty service.

And a mouth speaking great things.] Big swollen with blasphemies, both against God and his viceregents upon earth. Pope Boniface wrote to Philip the Fair, king of France, Volumus te scire te in temporali et spirituali nobis subiacere. (a) We would you should know, sir, that you are to subject yourselves to us, both in temporals and spirituals, &c. Accordingly he took upon him to overtop and command at pleasure all Christian kings and emperors. The application that the malicious Jewish doctors blasphemously make of this little horn to our Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of all execration.


Verse 9

Daniel 7:9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment [was] white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne [was like] the fiery flame, [and] his wheels [as] burning fire.

Ver. 9. I beheld till the thrones were cast down.] All these tyrannous dominions overturned. Some read it, "till the thrones were set up"; for till the last judgment Antichrist is to continue. [Daniel 7:21-22; Daniel 7:25-26]

And the Ancient of days did sit,] i.e., God Almighty, whom Thales, also a heathen philosopher, called πρεσβυτατον των οντων, the most ancient of all that are. (a) The poets say also that Saturn, the father of their gods, had his name from his fulness of years, (b) God’s eternity and wisdom is set forth; by this title here, like as also is, by his "white garments," his majesty and authority; by his "hair as pure wool," his innocence and integrity in judgment; by his "throne like the fiery flame," his just anger and severity, against the man of sin especially; by his "wheels" - or the wheels thereof, viz., of his throne; for princes’ thrones used in those days to be set upon wheels - "as burning fire" is set forth his facility and dexterity in executing his judgments, his efficacy also, since all things are fiery.


Verse 10

Daniel 7:10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.

Ver. 10. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him.] The last and great judgment must needs be very dreadful, where, beside that wicked men shall give account with all the world flaming about their ears, the law they shall be judged by is a fiery law, [Deuteronomy 33:2] the tribunal of fire, [Ezekiel 1:27] the judge a consuming fire; [Hebrews 12:29] his attendants flaming seraphims; his pleading with sinners shall be in flames of fire; [2 Thessalonians 1:8] the trial of their works shall be by fire; [1 Corinthians 3:13] the place of punishment a lake of fire, fed with tormenting temper, and kindled by the breath of the Lord. [Isaiah 30:33] Well may the "sinners in Zion be afraid, and fearfulness surprise hypocrites"; well may they run away, if they can at least tell whither, with these words in their mouths, "Who among us shall dwell with this devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" [Isaiah 33:14]

Thousand thousands ministered unto him.] There is an innumerable company of angels, [Hebrews 12:22] and when Christ cometh to judge the world, he shall bring them all with him, not one being left behind him in heaven, [Matthew 16:27] that he may have their assistance in the sentence and execution of judgment. [1 Corinthians 6:2-3]

The judgment was set, (a) and the books were opened.] Terms taken from judgments among men, wherein indictments are read, proofs are produced, laws also are considered. The books that shall here be opened are God’s records and conscience’s register. Quae scripta sunt non atramento sed flagitiorum inquinamento, saith Ambrose, which are written, not with ink, but with sin’s filth.

I beheld then because of the voice of the great words.] As Antichrist shall be judged for his blasphemies, so shall all ungodly men for their hard speeches, [ 1:15] yea, for their waste words. [Matthew 12:36]


Verse 11

Daniel 7:11 I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld [even] till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.

Ver. 11. I beheld even till the beast was slain.] Till the whole body of the monster, and with it the Papal kingdom, came to ruin. This Bellarmine confesseth, and lamenteth that ever since we began to call the Pope Antichrist, the Church of Rome hath suffered loss. Cotton, the Jesuit, confesseth that the authority of the Pope is incomparably less than it was, and that now the Christian Church is but a diminutive.

And his body destroyed and given to the burning flame.] The Revelation, which is a heavenly commentary upon this prophecy, hath it thus, "The beast and the false prophet were cast alive," for more torment, "into a lake of fire burning with brimstone." [Revelation 19:20]


Verse 12

Daniel 7:12 As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.

Ver. 12. As concerning the rest of the beasts.] The four great monarchies, as was before noted, had their times and their turns - their rise and their ruin.

Yet their lives were prolonged for a season.] Such is the Lord’s lenity, respiting his enemies for a time. [1 Kings 21:29] The Persian and Turk are yet puissant princes. The success that the Antichristian rout yet hath in some places maketh good that which was sometimes said of dying Carthage, Morientium nempe bestiarum violentiores esse morsus, i.e., The bites of dying beasts are more violent than ordinary.


Verse 13

Daniel 7:13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, [one] like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

Ver. 13. I saw in the night visions, &c.] Here comes in the fifth monarchy, properly so called, the kingdom being wrested from the fourth tyrant. Well might Jerome call Daniel Polyhistora, the general historian.

And, behold, one like the Son of man.] So Christ showed himseff often to the fathers, before his incarnation, for their confirmation in that article which, being the ground of his passion, was to be especially believed, for the foundation of Christian faith. Christ’s Godhead also, another main article, is here not obscurely deciphered, while he is said to be like the Son of man; therefore he is more than a mere man. Again, he came with the clouds. Compare Matthew 24:30, "Then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds," as in his chariot of state. Add hereunto his solemn, glorious access unto the Father, that Ancient of days, that is, the eternal God, as being his co-equal, of the same nature, power, glory, &c., with his Father, and coeternal unto him. So the Lamb is said to approach to him that sat upon the throne to receive the book. [Revelation 5:7]

And they brought him near before him.] (a) The angels did, as great men’s attendants are said to bring their masters to the courts.


Verse 14

Daniel 7:14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom [that] which shall not be destroyed.

Ver. 14. And there was given him dominion.] Christ hath a manifold right to the kingdom; it is his by inheritance, conquest, donation, &c. This is comfortable to consider, forasmuch as he will not reign without his members, who all hold all in capite; and have all already, (1.) In precio; in prayer (2.) In promisso; in promise (3.) In primitiis. in starting.

That all people, nations, and languages, &c.] Christ’s kingdom is first universal, secondly perpetual; so was none of the former, though the Roman was very large, reaching from Euphrates to Great Britain, and the Assyrian very lasting, of a thousand and four hundred years’ duration.


Verse 15

Daniel 7:15 I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of [my] body, and the visions of my head troubled me.

Ver. 15. I Daniel was grieved in my spirit.] Chald., My spirit was scabbed through, so that my body became as an empty sheath or scabbard. Oh, the terror of that last judgment, when such a man as Daniel was so frightened to see the manner of it in vision only! "If the righteous scarcely be saved," &c.

In the midst of my body.] Chald., Of my sheath: the body is but the soul’s sheath (Pliny, (a) in the history of Hermotinus Clazomenius, maketh use of the same metaphor), and compared to the soul it is but as a clay wall that encompasseth a treasure, as a wooden box of a jeweller, as a coarse case to a rich instrument, or as a mask to a beautiful face.


Verse 16

Daniel 7:16 I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.

Ver. 16. I came near unto one of them that stood by,] i.e., To one of the holy angels. {as Daniel 7:10} Let us have recourse in like case to Christ’s ministers, who are called "angels of the churches"; like as angels, by a like change of name, are called "ministering spirits." [Hebrews 1:14] The preaching of the gospel is taken from the angels, [Luke 2:10] and given to the ministers: hence Paul was sent to Ananias for further direction, [Acts 9:10-11] and Cornelius to Peter. [Acts 10:3-5]

And asked him the truth,] i.e., The thing hereby signified. See John 1:17; John 14:7; holy minds are industrious after knowledge.


Verse 17

Daniel 7:17 These great beasts, which are four, [are] four kings, [which] shall arise out of the earth.

Ver. 17. These great beasts … are four kings,] i.e., A succession of kings, all of them truculent and savage towards the saints.

Which shall arise out of the earth.] And as toads, strive who shall die with most earth in their mouths.


Verse 18

Daniel 7:18 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.

Ver. 18. But the saints of the Most High.] Or, The most high saints, highly exalted in Christ, and preferred far above those earth sprung mushroom monarchs, [Daniel 7:17] who are of the earth earthy, and partake not of the inheritance of the saints in light. Now this is a very true definition of a Church, saith Junius here, viz., Coetus sanctorum ad excelsa, a company of saints partaking of a high and heavenly calling. [Hebrews 3:1]

Shall take the kingdom.] Take it "by force," [Matthew 11:12] lay hold on the promised inheritance; yet not till it is given them, and the time is come. [Daniel 7:22]


Verse 19

Daniel 7:19 Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth [were of] iron, and his nails [of] brass; [which] devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;

Ver. 19. Then I would know the truth.] See Daniel 7:16. And take notice that godly minds are not content with the knowledge of things in gross, but covet a particular and distinct knowledge. [Philippians 3:10]


Verse 20

Daniel 7:20 And of the ten horns that [were] in his head, and [of] the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even [of] that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look [was] more stout than his fellows.

Ver. 20. And of the ten horns.] See Daniel 7:7.

And of the other that came up.] See Daniel 7:8.

Whose look was more stout than his fellows,] i.e., Than the ten horns. Antichrist exalteth himself above kings, and above all that is august. [2 Thessalonians 2:4] {See Trapp on "2 Thessalonians 2:4"}


Verse 21

Daniel 7:21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;

Ver. 21. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints.] With the Waldenses, against whom the Pope turned his croisados, those armies of the Cross which had been first appointed against the Saracens. (a) This war began in the year 1160, and yet continueth, and must till the end of the reign of Antichrist. [Daniel 7:9-10; Daniel 7:26]

And prevailed against them.] As they did against the ancient Waldenses or Leonists, and against their posterity lately in Piedmont. Yea, it is the opinion and fear of some great divines that Antichrist, before his abolition, shall once again overflow the whole face of the West, and suppress the whole Protestant Churches.


Verse 22

Daniel 7:22 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.

Ver. 22. Until the Ancient of days came.] Not by change of place, but change of providence. [Zechariah 14:3-4]

And judgment was given to the saints.] As upprovers of Christ’s righteous judgment.

That the saints possessed the kingdom,] sc., In Christ their head. [Daniel 7:10]


Verse 23

Daniel 7:23 Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.

Ver. 23. Thus he said.] So ready are the holy angels to further good desires. [Matthew 28:1-2]


Verse 24

Daniel 7:24 And the ten horns out of this kingdom [are] ten kings [that] shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.

Ver. 24. And the ten horns out of this kingdom.] He saith not kingdoms: this maketh against those that make the Seleucidae and Legidae, the fourth monarchy.

And he shall be diverse from the first.] For the first were secular kings, but he styleth himself chief bishop and head of the Church, having both Peter’s keys and Paul’s sword, &c.

And he shall subdue three kings.] See on Daniel 7:8.


Verse 25

Daniel 7:25 And he shall speak [great] words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.

Ver. 25. And he shall speak great words.] As Pope Julius III did, when he called for his pork flesh, forbidden him by his physician as naught for his gout, al despito di Dio, in despite of God; and missing a cold peacock which he commanded to be set up for his supper, he raged extremely at his steward; and being desired to be more patient, he replied, If God were so angry with our first parents for an apple, may not I, who am his vicar, be so much more for my peacock? (a) See on Revelation 13:5.

And shall think to change times and laws,] i.e., He shall usurp a power over religion and men’s consciences, set up holidays, canonise saints, appoint fasts, order times, &c.

Until a time and times and half a time,] i.e., Until that time which God alone knoweth, and hath in his power.


Verse 26

Daniel 7:26 But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy [it] unto the end.

Ver. 26. But the judgment shall sit.] And then an end of him howsoever.


Verse 27

Daniel 7:27 And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom [is] an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

Ver. 27. And the kingdom and dominion.] When once Christ’s foes shall be in that place which is fittest for them, viz., "under his feet."


Verse 28

Daniel 7:28 Hitherto [is] the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.

Ver. 28. Hitherto is the end of the matter.] This seemeth added, to stop all curious inquiries after things not revealed.

My cogitations much troubled me.] For the ensuing troubles of God’s people under those godless tyrants.

And my countenance changed.] Chald., My brightnesses. I looked wan and pale; much study will cause it; [Ecclesiastes 12:12] as it did in Mr Fox, the martyrologue, so that his friends knew him not.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Daniel 7:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/daniel-7.html. 1865-1868.

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