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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Daniel 7

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. VII.

Daniel's vision of four beasts, and of God's kingdom. The interpretation thereof.

Before Christ 555.

THE historical part of the book of Daniel was finished with the last chapter; the remaining part of this book acquaints us with the visions which at different times were communicated to the prophet himself. The interval of time from the first to the last of these visions is about one or two-and-twenty years, that is to say, from the first year of Belshazzar mentioned at the beginning of this chapter to the third year of Cyrus at the beginning of chapter 10th. The first vision or dream is contained in the 7th chapter, and is the only one that is written in the Chaldee language; and perhaps the similarity of it to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar which the prophet had related and expounded at chapter 2: might have been one reason why this same language was here adopted; and the benefit designed by it for the impious king in whose reign it was delivered, another. What was there prefigured by a large statue, composed of various metals, is here pointed at by a very different sort of emblems, each suited to the disposition or character of the persons to whom the communications were made. Four beasts are, in this dream, designed to signify the four great monarchies or kingdoms, according to the interpretation of an angel; and some circumstances relating to the fourth beast are intended to adumbrate a series of events which were to reach to the latest ages of the world.


Verse 2-3

Daniel 7:2-3. Behold, the four winds—strove, &c.— What was revealed to Nebuchadnezzar concerning the four great empires of the world was again revealed to Daniel, with some additions, about forty-eight years after. But what was represented to Nebuchadnezzar in the form of a great image, was exhibited to Daniel in the shape of great wild beasts. The reason of this difference might be, that this image appeared with a glorious lustre in the imagination of Nebuchadnezzar, whose mind was wholly taken up with the admiration of worldly pomp and splendour; whereas the same monarchies were represented to Daniel under the shape of fierce wild beasts, as being the great supporters of idolatry and tyranny. These great beasts, as explained by the angel, Daniel 7:17 are kingdoms. They arise out of a stormy and tempestuous sea; that is, out of the wars and commotions of the world; and they are called great, in comparison of other less states and kingdoms, as they are denominated beasts for their tyrannical and cruel oppression. These beasts are indeed monstrous productions; a lion, with eagle's wings; a bear, with three ribs in its mouth; a leopard, with four wings and four heads; and a beast with ten horns: but such emblems and hieroglyphics were usual among the eastern nations, as may be seen in the monuments of antiquity: a winged lion and such like fictitious animals may still be seen in the ruins of Persepolis. Horns are attributed to beasts which naturally have none, being used in hieroglyphic writings for the symbols of strength and power; and these figures are supposed to be the arms or symbols of particular nations, and are not more strange than several which are still used in heraldry. See Bishop Newton, vol. 1: p. 441. Instead of, Strove upon the great sea, at the end of the second verse, Houbigant reads, Agitated the great sea; by which, he says, is meant Asia; the great theatre of the wars and commotions here foreseen by Daniel.


Verse 4

Daniel 7:4. The first was like a lion This is the kingdom of the Babylonians; and the king of Babylon is in like manner compared to a lion, Jeremiah 5:6 and said to fly as an eagle, Jeremiah 48:40. He is also compared to an eagle, Ezekiel 3:7. The lion is esteemed the king of beasts, and the eagle the king of birds; and therefore the kingdom of Babylon, which is described as the first and noblest kingdom, and was the greatest then in being, is said to partake of the nature of both. Instead of a lion, the Vulgate, Greek, and Arabic, read a lioness; and St. Jerome observes, that the kingdom of Babylon, for its cruelty, is compared not to a lion, but to a lioness; which, naturalists assert, is the fiercer of the two. The eagle's wings denote its swiftness and rapidity: and the conquests of Babylon were very rapid; that empire being advanced to its height within a few years by a single person, by the conduct and arms of Nebuchadnezzar. It is farther said, that the wings thereof were plucked, &c. that is to say, it was taken away from the earth, as it is commonly understood, and as it is rendered in almost all the ancient versions: or it may be translated, The wings thereof were plucked, wherewith it was lifted up from the earth; as Grotius explains it, and as we read in the margin of our Bibles; the conjunction copulative sometimes supplying the place of a relative. Its wings were beginning to be plucked at the time of the delivery of this prophesy; for at this time the Medes and Persians were incroaching upon it. Belshazzar the king, now reigning, was the last of his race; and in the seventeenth year of his reign Babylon was taken, and the kingdom transferred to the Medes and Persians. It is not easy to say what is the precise meaning of the last clause, And made stand, &c. It is most probable, that after the Babylonian empire was subverted, the people became humane and gentle; their minds were humbled with their fortunes; and they who vaunted as if they had been gods, now felt themselves to be but men. They were brought to such a sense as the inspired writer wishes, Psalms 9:20. See Bishop Newton as above. Houbigant reads, And it stood upon its feet, as a man; that is, says he, before its wings were plucked; for the pride of Nebuchadnezzar is here marked out, who seemed in his own opinion to be above a man; like an animal desirous to advance itself to the human condition.


Verse 5

Daniel 7:5. A second, like to a bear These animals are not only emblems of strength and power, but must be allowed to be here used with peculiar propriety. This second, is the kingdom of the Medes and Persians; and the largest bears were found in Media, a mountainous, rough, cold country, covered with woods. The Medes and Persians are compared to a bear, on account of their cruelty, and greediness after blood; a bear being a most voracious and cruel animal. The resemblance between the Persians and bears has been carried to great lengths by learned authors; who suppose them to resemble each other in their gluttony, in the remarkable length of their hair, in the restlessness of their disposition, &c. But the chief likeness consisted in what we have mentioned above; and that this likeness was principally intended by the prophet, may be inferred from the text itself; Arise, devour much flesh. A bear is called by Aristotle an omnivorous, or all-devouring animal; and Grotius informs us, that the Medo-Persians were great robbers and spoilers; according to Jeremiah 48:47. See also Isaiah 13:18. Calmet observes, that the Persians have exercised the most severe and cruel dominion that we know of. The punishments used among them beget horror in those who read them. Bishop Newton.

And it had three ribs, &c.— And it had three throats. Houbigant; who observes, that these three throats are those by which it absorbed Cyrus, and had in its power the three empires of the Chaldeans, Medes, and Persians. These animals denote not so much kingdoms, as the founders of kingdoms; for in the 17th verse it is said to Daniel, These four animals are four kings. Sir Isaac Newton and Bishop Chandler explain these three ribs, of the kingdoms of Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt, which were conquered by this beast; but were not properly parts and members of its body. They might be called ribs, says Bishop Newton, as the conquest of them much strengthened the Persian empire; and they might be said to be between the teeth of the bear, as they were much grinded and oppressed by the Persians. See his Dissertations, vol. 1: p. 446-448.


Verse 6

Daniel 7:6. Lo, another, like a leopard This third kingdom is that of the Macedonians or Grecians, who, under the command of Alexander the Great, overcame the Persians, and reigned next after them; and it is most fitly compared to a leopard upon several accounts. The leopard is remarkable for its swiftness; and Alexander and the Macedonians were amazingly rapid in their conquest; insomuch, that St. Jerome says, he seems rather to have overrun the world by his victories, than by his battles. The leopard is a spotted animal, and so was a proper emblem of the various nations which Alexander commanded, or of the various manners of Alexander himself; who was sometimes merciful, and sometimes cruel; sometimes temperate, and sometimes drunken; sometimes abstemious, and sometimes incontinent. The leopard is of small stature, but of great courage, so as not to be afraid to engage with the lion, and the largest beasts; and so Alexander, a little king in comparison, and with a small army, dared to attack Darius, the king of kings, whose kingdom extended from the AEgean sea to the Indies. This leopard had upon its back four wings. The Babylonian empire was represented with two wings, but this is described with four: for nothing was swifter than Alexander's conquests, who ran through all the countries from Illyricum to the Adriatic sea, and through a great part of India; not so much fighting, as conquering; and in twelve years subdued part of Europe, and almost all Asia. The beast also had four heads, to denote the four kingdoms into which this third kingdom should be divided, as it was after the death of Alexander among his four captains; Cassander reigning over Macedon and Greece, Lysimachus over Thrace and Bithynia, Ptolemy over Egypt, and Seleucus over Syria. And dominion was given to it, which shews that it was not owing to the fortitude of Alexander, but proceeded from the will of the Lord. And indeed, unless he had been directed, preserved, and assisted by the mighty power of God, how could Alexander, with 30,000 men, have overcome Darius with 600,000, and in so short a time have brought the countries from Greece as far as to India, into subjection? Bishop Newton.


Verse 7

Daniel 7:7. Behold, a fourth beast, &c.— The fourth kingdom is represented by a fourth beast, dreaded, terrible, and exceeding strong. Daniel was curious to know particularly what this might mean, Daniel 7:19 and the angel answers him, Daniel 7:23. This kingdom can be no other than the Roman empire, which answers this emphatical description better than any of the former kingdoms. The beast devoured, and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue, that is, the remains of the former kingdoms, with its feet. It reduced Macedon into a Roman province about 168 years, the kingdom of Pergamus about 133 years, Syria about 65 years, and Egypt about 30 years before Christ. And besides the remains of the Macedonian empire, it subdued many other provinces and kingdoms; so that it might, by a very usual figure, be said to devour the whole earth, to tread it down, and break it in pieces; and become in a manner what the Roman writers delighted to call it, "The empire of the whole world." The words of Dionysius Halicarnassus are very apposite to this subject: "The city of Rome (says he) ruleth over all the earth, as far as it is inhabited; and commands all the sea, not only that within the Pillars of Hercules, but also the ocean, as far as it is navigable; having first and alone, of all the celebrated kingdoms, made the east and west the bounds of its empire: and its dominion hath continued longer than that of any other city or kingdom." This fourth was diverse from all the beasts; and thus Rome was different from all the kingdoms, not only in its republican form of government, but also in power and greatness, length of duration, and extent of dominion. See Bishop Newton, Dr. Chandler's Vindication of Daniel, and the note on Daniel 7:24.


Verse 8

Daniel 7:8. Another little horn This refers to Antichrist, or the papal usurpation. See on Daniel 7:24.


Verse 9-10

Daniel 7:9-10. I beheld till the thrones were cast down Till thrones were set or placed. The metaphors and figures here used are borrowed from the solemnities of earthly judicatures, and particularly the great Sanhedrin of the Jews; where the father of the consistory sat, with his assessors placed on each side of him, in the form of a semicircle, and the people standing before him: and probably from this description was also taken that of the day of judgment in the New Testament. See Bishop Newton. Instead of the judgment was set, we may read, the council sat.


Verse 11

Daniel 7:11. I beheld then because of the voice, &c.— The beast will be destroyed, because of the great words which the horn spake. The destruction of the beast will be the destruction of the horn also; and consequently the horn is a part of the fourth beast, or of the Roman empire. Bishop Newton.


Verse 12

Daniel 7:12. As concerning the rest, &c.— When the dominion was taken away from the rest of the beasts, their bodies were not destroyed, but suffered to continue still in being: but when the dominion shall be taken away from this beast, his body shall be totally destroyed, because other kingdoms succeeded to those, but none other earthly kingdom shall succeed to this. Ibid.


Verse 13

Daniel 7:13. I saw in the night visions This has always been, and can only be, understood of the Messiah. Hence the expression, Son of man, was a known phrase for the Messiah among the Jews, as appears from several of their own writers. ענני Anani, the word here used, and which signifies clouds, was also a known name for the Messiah; so that he who assumed the one, was supposed to affect the character of the other. This will appear evidently from what passed at the trial of our blessed Saviour. The high-priest adjuring him to declare whether he was the Son of God, Jesus answered him, in the words of our prophet, Hereafter shall ye see the SON OF MAN sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Every one took this for a declaration that he was the Messiah. The high-priest rent his clothes, as if he had spoken blasphemy, and the people reproached him for it. Art thou then the Christ?—Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who struck thee? Christ only said, that he was Daniel's Son of man, the Anani; that is to say, He who cometh in the clouds: the rest was their own inference, for which they could have no other foundation, than that Daniel was known to prophesy of the Messiah in this passage. Clouds are a known symbol of heaven, and of divine power and majesty; and the ascribing of this symbol to one like the Son of man, according to Saadiah Gaon, an eminent Jewish writer, "is a declaration of the supreme magnificence and authority which God shall give to that Son of Man, the Messiah." It seems, indeed, farther to imply, that this Son of man was then in heaven, when Daniel prophesied, and in high dignity before this new commission was given him. See Bishop Newton, p. 492 and Bishop Chandler's Defence, p. 107.


Verse 14

Daniel 7:14. There was given him dominion All these kingdoms shall in their turns be destroyed, but the kingdom of the Messiah shall stand for ever. It was in allusion to this prophesy that the angel said of Jesus before he was conceived in the womb, He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end, Luke 1:33. After what manner these great changes will be finally and completely effected, we cannot at present say, but in the way of conjecture. We see the remains of the ten horns, which arose out of the Roman empire: (see on Daniel 7:24.) we see the little horn still subsisting, though not in full strength and vigour, but, as we hope, upon the decline, and tending fast towards a dissolution. And, having seen so many of these particulars accomplished, we can have no reason to doubt that the rest also will be fulfilled in due season; though we can only conjecture at present, how Christ will be manifested in glory; how the little horn with the body of the fourth beast, will be given to the burning flame, or how the saints will take the kingdom, and possess it for ever. See Bishop Newton, p. 493.


Verse 19

Daniel 7:19. Diverse Different, and so Daniel 7:23-24. There is no mention of the nails of brass in the 7th verse, where this beast is first described. But Daniel certainly would never have desired to have been informed concerning this circumstance in the beast, if he had not seen these nails. See Houbigant's note.


Verse 24

Daniel 7:24. The ten horns—are ten kings Or kingdoms; and so Daniel 7:17. If we fix the aera for these ten kingdoms to the eighth century, the chief governments will be found to be, 1. The senate of Rome, who revolted from the Grecian emperors, and claimed and exerted the privilege of choosing a new western emperor; 2 the Greeks in Ravenna; 3 the Lombards in Lombardy; 4 the Huns in Hungary; 5 the Allemans in Germany; 6 the Franks in France; 7 the Burgundians in Burgundy; 8 the Saracens in Africa and Spain; 9 the Goths in other parts of Spain; 10 the Saxons in Britain. Not that there were constantly ten kingdoms; they were sometimes more and sometimes fewer: but, as Sir Isaac Newton observes, whatever was their number afterwards, they are still called the ten kings from their first number. Bishop Newton, p. 463.

Another shall arise after them This is called a little horn, Daniel 7:8 before whom three of the first horns were plucked up; that is to say, as is here explained, who should subdue three kings or kingdoms. The fourth beast signified the Roman empire; the ten horns represent the ten kingdoms into which that empire was divided: and if, in agreement with the fathers, we look among these ten horns for the little horn, we shall find it to be antichrist, who should root up three of the ten kings, and domineer over the rest; and who, we doubt not, will soon appear to answer in all respects the character here given. Machiavel himself, in his history of Florence, has set forth sufficient grounds to affirm this to be the pope. See particularly book 1: p. 6 of the English translation. The bishop of Rome was respectable as a bishop long before the period that he mentions; but he did not become properly a horn, which is an emblem of power, till he became a temporal prince. He was to rise after the others; that is, behind them, as the Greek version has it; so that the ten kings were not aware of the growing up of the little horn, till it overtopped them; the original word signifying as well behind in place, as after in time. Three of the first horns, that is three of the first kings or kingdoms, were to be plucked up by the roots, Daniel 7:8 and to fall before him, Daniel 7:20 and these three we conceive, with Sir Isaac Newton, to be the exarchate of Ravenna, the kingdom of the Lombards, and the state of Rome; those three states or kingdoms, which constituted the pope's dominions. The ex-archate of Ravenna was given to Pope Stephen II. by Pepin king of France, in the year 755, and henceforward the popes, being now become temporal princes, did no longer date their epistles and bulls by the years of the emperor's reign, but by their own advancement to the papal chair. The kingdom of the Lombards was subdued by Charles the Great, called Charlemagne of France, who resigned his pretensions to it to St. Peter in the year 774. The state of Rome, both in spirituals and temporals, was vested in the pope, and confirmed to him by Lewis the Pious. These, as we conceive, were the three horns, or three of the first horns which fell before the little horn; and the pope has in a manner pointed himself out for the person by wearing the triple crown. In other respects too he answers to the character of the little horn.—He is a little horn;—the power of the popes was originally very small, and their temporal dominions were little and inconsiderable in comparison with others of the ten horns.—He shall be diverse from the first; which the Greek and Arabic render, "He shall exceed in wickedness all before him;" and so most of the fathers, who made use only of the Greek translation understood it: but it rather signifies that his kingdom shall be of a different nature and constitution; and the power of the popes differs greatly from that of all other princes, being an ecclesiastical and spiritual, as well as a civil and temporal authority. We are told in Daniel 7:8 that in this horn were eyes, like the eyes of a man; which denotes cunning and foresight, exercised in looking out and watching all opportunities of promoting one's interest: and the policy of the Roman hierarchy has almost passed into a proverb. In Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:20 it is said, He had a mouth speaking great things: and who has been more noisy and blustering than the pope, especially in former ages; boasting of his supremacy, thundering out bulls and anathemas, excommunicating princes, and absolving subjects from their allegiance?—His look was more stout than his fellows, Daniel 7:20. And the pope assumes a superiority not only above his fellow bishops, but even over crowned heads; and requires his foot to be kissed, and greater honours to be paid to him than to kings and emperors themselves. See Bishop Newton, vol. 1: p. 464, &c.


Verse 25

Daniel 7:25. He shall speak great words Symmachus reads, He shall speak great words, as the Most High; setting up himself above all laws divine and human; arrogating to himself godlike attributes, and titles of holiness and infallibility. Exacting obedience to his ordinances and decrees, in preference to, and in open violation of reason and Scripture; insulting men and blaspheming God. In Gratian's Decretals, the pope has the title of god given to him!

And shall wear out the saints By wars, and massacres, and inquisitions, persecuting and destroying the faithful servants of Jesus, and the true worshippers of God, who protest against his innovations, and refuse to comply with the idolatry practised in the court of Rome. Instead of, wear out, Houbigant reads, lie in wait for, or form schemes of deceit against. He shall think to change times and laws;—appointing fasts and feasts, canonizing saints, granting pardons and indulgences for sins, instituting new modes of worship, imposing new articles of faith, enjoining new rules of practice, and reversing at pleasure the laws of God and man.

And they shall be given, &c.— A time, all agree, signifies a year, and a time and times, and the dividing of time, or half a time, are three years and a half: the ancient Jewish year consisting of twelve months, and each month of thirty days; a time, and times, and half a time, are reckoned in Revelation 11:2-3; Revelation 6:14 as equivalent to forty-two months, or a thousand two hundred and threescore days: and a day, in the style of the prophets, is a year. This is expressly asserted, Ezekiel 4:6 and it is confessed, that the seventy weeks, in chap. 9: of this book, are weeks of years, and consequently one thousand two hundred and sixty days are one thousand two hundred and sixty years. So long antichrist, or the little horn, will continue; but from what point of time the commencement of these twelve hundred and sixty years is to be dated, is not so easy to determine. It should seem that they are to be computed from the full establishment of the power of the pope; and no less is implied in the expression given into his hand.


Verse 26

Daniel 7:26. But the judgment shall fit Then the judgment, &c. The reference seems, ultimately at least, to the future and final judgment; "The destruction of the impious shall be eternal." But before this, shall all the earthly kingdoms be destroyed, Ezekiel's prophesy in chap. 38: and 39: against Gog in the land of Magog be fulfilled, the kingdom of Christ be restored, and the church's ascendancy over all the earth be established; and, as it follows in the next verse, the saints of the Most High shall receive a very extensive dominion, which shall commence here on earth, and be continued for ever and ever. See Daniel 7:18 and Revelation 5:10.


Verse 28

Daniel 7:28. My cogitations much troubled me, &c.— My thoughts, &c. Daniel was much troubled, and his countenance changed in him, at the foresight of the calamities to be brought upon the church by the little horn. But he kept the matter in his heart. Much more may good men now be grieved at these calamities, and lament the prevalence of popery, infidelity, and wickedness in the world. But let them keep it in their heart, that a time of just retribution will certainly come. The proof may be drawn from the moral attributes of God, as well as from his promises in Daniel 7:26-27. The judgment shall sit, &c. See Bishop Newton, vol. 1: p. 497.

A general or compendious view of these things might be all which either in prudence or propriety was then expedient to be given to the nations, for their own benefit, or that of the dispersed Israelites who resided among them; but a more exact and particular prospect might be held out for those highly-favoured people, who were to constitute the restored visible church of Christ, and from whom was to descend the promised Messiah, who was to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to spread salvation unto the ends of the earth.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The date of this vision is in the first year of Belshazzar. It was revealed to Daniel on his bed in a dream, and when he awoke he wrote it down, and communicated it to his brethren whom it so nearly concerned. They were about to be delivered from their long captivity; but must not expect uninterrupted tranquillity, as they perhaps flattered themselves, in the land to which they were about to return.

In the vision he observed,

1. The four winds strove upon the great sea, and the effect of such a furious storm must needs be the most violent agitation. This sea is either Asia or the whole world with its inhabitants, the winds the monarchs of the earth contending for mastery, and filling it with violence and confusion.

2. From this foaming ocean came up four great beasts, in figure different from each other, representing the four great monarchies, and the different genius of the people by whom they were erected.

[1.] The first was like a lion, which was the Babylonish monarchy, strong and despotic; and had eagles' wings, intimating the rapidity of Nebuchadnezzar's conquests; but the wings were soon plucked, with which it was lifted up from the earth; for under his successors the empire began to be dismembered and weakened; they lost their courage and intrepidity, and the lion's heart was changed into a man's.

[2.] The second beast was like to a bear, representing the Medo-Persian monarchy, fierce and savage; and it raised up itself on one side, on the side of Persia, whence Cyrus the conqueror came; and it had three ribs in the mouth of it, between the teeth of it, so many kingdoms or provinces; and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh; either the generals of the Persian army encouraged their troops to slay their enemies, or there are the orders of the divine Providence to Cyrus, sending him to devour the spoils of the conquered Chaldeans.

[3.] The third beast, that next arose, was like a leopard, prefiguring the Grecian monarchy under Alexander, agile, crafty, spotted, a compound of vices and virtues; or this may refer to the motley people of this vast empire. It had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; so swift were his marches, so rapid his conquests. The beast had also four heads; the empire, on Alexander's decease, being divided into four parts. See the annotations. And dominion was given to it; God's hand being strongly evident in the successes of the Grecian conqueror.

[4.] The fourth beast differed from all the rest, being dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly, which is to be interpreted of the Roman empire; and it had great iron teeth, devouring, breaking in pieces, and stamping down all who stood in its way; as the Roman generals and armies did, till they had erected universal monarchy. And it had ten horns; the empire, on its decline, being divided into so many kingdoms. The little horn, is by the best interpreters supposed to be the antichristian power, which rose from small beginnings, and from an ecclesiastic the bishop of Rome became a temporal prince, and seized on considerable territories, dispossessing three of the other horns. And in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, intimating the vigilance and craft of the Romish court and emissaries; and a mouth speaking great things, boasting of infallibility, power to remit sin, and other such like proud blasphemies.

2nd, Very glorious things are here recorded, for the comfort of the people of God under all the persecutions that they may be called to suffer in this wicked world.

1. An awful judge makes his appearance. I beheld till the thrones were cast down; all these monarchies successively overturned: or it may be read till the thrones were set up; the thrones of judgment, the thrones of God and the Lamb: and this may point either at his providential judgments on all the enemies of his church in this world, or his final and eternal judgment at the great day of his appearing and glory. And the Ancient of days did sit; God the Father, the judge of all: his garment was white as snow, denoting his perfect righteousness, and that his bosom is the seat of justice; and the hair of his head like the pure wool, venerable and majestic: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire; so piercing his scrutiny; so swift the execution of his sentence, and so terrible his wrath: a fiery stream issued and came forth from before him, to consume his adversaries; thousand thousands ministered unto him, angels and archangels; and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him, waiting from his lips their eternal doom. The judgment was set, the court ready to hear and determine; and the books were opened, the book of revelation, the book of omniscience, the book of conscience, in allusion to proceedings in courts of human judicature.

2. The prisoner at the bar is condemned and executed. I beheld then, because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake, his pride and blasphemies being proved, and condign punishment decreed; I beheld, even till the beast was slain, the Romish power; and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame; Rome, the seat of antichristian tyranny, being not improbably doomed to be devoured with fire; but, according to the express declaration of Scripture, both the beast and the false prophet will together at last be cast into the burning lake. See Revelation 17; Revelation 18; Revelation 19. As concerning the rest of the beasts, the other three monarchies, they had their dominion taken away, successively giving place to each other; yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time; though the sovereign power departed from them, they each continued in being as a people; whereas, when judgment passes on the fourth, he will perish at once and utterly.

3. The kingdom of the Messiah is to be set up on the ruin of his enemies. I saw in the night visions, and behold, one like the son of man, like the sons of men in his incarnation, but more than man in the glory of his divine Person, came with the clouds of heaven, with great majesty, to take possession of his kingdom, and came to the Ancient of days, his eternal Father, either at his ascension, or rather it refers to the future day of his glory, when he shall take to himself his great power and reign; and they brought him near before him; and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, his mediatorial kingdom, which, as the man Christ Jesus, he receives from his Father; and this kingdom, we doubt not, will be more eminent and extensive upon earth hereafter than it has ever yet been; so that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him, made obedient to the faith, and become his loyal subjects: and, as his kingdom will be universal in its extent, it will be eternal in duration; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. Blessed and happy are they who have their lot and portion among the happy subjects of this divine Redeemer!

3rdly, The visions so affected the prophet, that his mind was much troubled; and, earnestly desirous to be informed of the meaning of what he saw, he inquires of one of the celestial attendants concerning them; who readily relieved him from his suspense, and explained the particulars of his prophetic dream. Note; (1.) When we are ignorant, we should never be ashamed to inquire of those who can teach us. (2.) The truths of God should engage our diligent attention; and what we read or hear, we should, by prayer and meditation, endeavour fully to understand.

The interpretation given is,

1. That the four beasts are four kings, or kingdoms, which should arise out of the earth, and, springing from the dust, should return thither again: but a fifth should succeed them, of heavenly original, and endure for ever and ever; as he more fully afterwards explains.

2. As Daniel was most solicitous to have a fuller explication of the meaning of the fourth beast, which seemed the fiercest of them all, and of the ten horns, and the little horn that sprung up afterwards, which had eyes, and a mouth that spake great things, and his look was more stout than his fellows; which made war against the saints of the most High, and prevailed, till the Ancient of days came, vindicated their cause, and slew their adversary; the angel informs him, that this terrible beast is the fourth kingdom, meaning, I doubt not, the Roman monarchy, to which the characters given seem most exactly to agree. It was diverse from all the other kingdoms in its form of government; it trod down and devoured the whole earth, by long and bloody wars subduing the nations which refused to submit. The ten horns are ten kings, or kingdoms, which arose on the decline of the empire, when the Huns, Goths, Alans, and other northern nations, successively dismembered the empire, and erected these ten separate kingdoms: and though learned interpreters reckon differently, they agree in the grand points, that these ten kingdoms were erected by them, and here represented by the ten horns. The little horn is the papal power, arising to its height after this division of the empire, speaking great things, pretending to be Christ's vicar upon earth, and assuming the incommunicable prerogatives of the most High; and in look more stout than his fellows, the head of that power assuming authority, not only over all his fellow-bishops, but over all kings and princes. He is diverse from the other monarchs, having the ecclesiastical as well as civil dominion, and ruling over the consciences as well as persons of his subjects. He shall subdue three kings. See the annotations. And he shall speak great words against the most High, the words of blasphemy, affecting such authority and spiritual powers as if he was God upon earth. By wars and persecutions, and inquisitorial dungeons, he shall wear out the saints of the most High, endeavouring to weary out their patience and bring them under his yoke; and he shall think to change times and laws, affecting to depose and set up kings at his pleasure, to alter the constitution of kingdoms, consecrating particular times and seasons, dispensing with the laws of God and man, and binding his own upon the consciences of men: and they shall be given into his hand; he shall for a while succeed in his usurpations; until a time and times, and the dividing of time; three years and a half; the same with the 1260 days, and the forty-two months, Revelation 11:2-3; Revelation 12:14; Revelation 13:5 during which the tyranny of Antichrist shall more or less prevail. But God will at last judge this persecuting power, and utterly destroy it, setting up on its ruins the kingdom of his Christ, whose people shall then reign with him, enjoying freely all privileges and ordinances without disturbance, and seeing all their enemies made their footstool. And this some refer to a temporal reign of the saints upon earth, under Christ their head; others to the reign of grace in the souls of the faithful redeemed, and the universal spread of the Gospel in the world at the latter day; others to the kingdom of the Redeemer in heaven, when, after the last judgment, his saints shall reign with him in glory everlasting. In whichever sense it be taken, the prospect is truly glorious, and suited to support the faith, the patience, and constancy of his people, even in the darkest times.

3. Daniel appears much impressed and affected with what had been told him: his very look was altered by it; but he kept the matter in his heart, pondering thereupon, and seeking thoroughly to understand the meaning, that he might transmit the vision, with the interpretation, to succeeding generations. Note; It is good thus to store up in our hearts the blessed words of truth that we hear, ready to produce them, on every proper occasion, for the edification and comfort of our brethren.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Daniel 7:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/daniel-7.html. 1801-1803.

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