Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Arrival of the Son of Man

“And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)

Daniel 7:13-14

-In the year 553 B.C., a man by the name of Daniel is serving King Belshazzar in Babylon. Living in exile for approximately 50 years at this point, Daniel has long been immersed in the pagan Babylonian culture—yet he never has become absorbed by the culture. He has continued to be a godly man of integrity and courage in a land hostile to the God he serves. Serving in a secular capacity as the president of the magicians, scribes, and wisemen and in a sacred capacity as God’s famous prophet in the capital city, Daniel is in a unique position to serve the Lord. In this year, Daniel sees visions that would become some of the most important in the 4,000 years of Old Testament history—the visions that compose Daniel 7.
-In Daniel 7:1-8, Daniel’s vision opens with a picture of four terrifying beasts. Representing the four major world empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, Daniel sees that these empires rise and fall after each other. Yet he also sees a little horn atop the head of the fourth beast—later to be revealed in biblical theology as the eschatological Antichrist that will war against Christ and His saints in the last days. Yet in verses 9-12, Daniel sees the Ancient of Days take His seat of holy judgment and bring about the end of the little horn. Now, in verses 13-14, Daniel sees what takes place after the defeat of the Antichrist.

Verse 13
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.

-In this third part of this vision, Daniel sees a new figure.
“I saw in the night visions”
חָזֵה הֲוֵית בְּחֶזְוֵי לֵילְיָא) indicates that this is part of the same visionary sequence, but introduces a new scene.
-“And behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man”
וַאֲרוּ עִם־עֲנָנֵי שְׁמַיָּא כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ אָתֵה הֲוָה).
-“Clouds of heaven” (
עִם־עֲנָנֵי שְׁמַיָּא) in this apocalyptic imagery were common associations of deity in the ancient Near East in Daniel’s day.
-In the Old Testament, clouds served as transports for the Lord God of Israel in prophetic or poetic literature (Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 68:33; Isaiah 19:1).
-The figure that comes on the clouds of heaven is “one like a son of man”
כְּבַר אֱנָשׁ אָתֵה). But who is this son of man?
-The Aramaic phrase bar-enosh literally means “son of man”. In Hebrew, it is ben-adam.
-The phrase “son of man” is firstly simply a way to refer to a human being (Psalm 144:3; Psalm 146:3).
-God refers to the prophet Ezekiel repeatedly as the “son of man”, which would be equivalent to us referring to an individual as a human (Ezekiel 2:1, 3, 6, 8). Daniel is likewise called a “son of man” in Daniel 8:17.
-The plural phrase “sons of men” also refers to human beings in Scripture (2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 45:2; Ephesians 3:5).
-However, the depiction here of one like a son of man does not align with a description of a mere human being, for this figure is transported by clouds of heaven—a common symbol for deity. The phrase “son of man” is not unusual, but this is highly unusual in how one like a son of man is presented here.
-The Jewish interpreters after Daniel’s day interpreted this figure as the promised Messiah, particularly in light of the text in Daniel to follow. Some thought that this “son of man” is the angel Gabriel, who will be introduced in Daniel 8. Modern liberal interpreters identified this “son of man” figure as the nation of Israel personified.
-However, in the first century A.D. one Man made it very clear who this Son of Man in Daniel 7 is. 82 times in the four Gospels, Jesus Christ uses this title for Himself.
-In Matthew, Jesus uses this title “Son of Man” 30 times (Matthew 8:20, 9:6, 10:23, 11:19, 12:8, 32, 40; 13:27, 41; 16:13, 27, 28; 17:9, 12, 22; 19:28; 20:18, 28, 24:27, 30, 37, 39, 44; 25:31, 26:2, 24, 45, 64).
-In Mark, Jesus uses this title “Son of Man” 14 times (Mark 2:10, 28; 8:31, 38; 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33, 45; 13:26; 14:21, 41, 62).
-In Luke, Jesus uses this title “Son of Man” 25 times (Luke 5:24, 6:5, 22; 7:34, 9:22, 26, 44, 58; 11:30; 12:8, 10, 40; 17:22, 24, 26, 30; 18:8, 31; 19:10; 21:27, 36; 22:22, 48, 69; 24:7).
-In John, Jesus uses this title “Son of Man 13 times (John 1:51; 3:13, 14; 5:27; 6:27, 53, 62; 8:28; 9:35; 12:23, 34; 13:31).
-Jesus and Scripture both declare that the Lord Jesus will return on the clouds at His second coming (Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:26; Revelation 1:7), thus further solidifying this identify of Daniel’s figure with Jesus Christ.
-This Son of Man “came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him”
וְעַד־עַתִּיק יוֹמַיָּא מְטָה וּקְדָמוֹהִי הַקְרְבוּהִי׃).
-To be presented before a monarch meant one must be worthy to be presented, just as Daniel was trained for three years before being presented to King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:5).
-To stand before the Most High God—the Ancient of Days—requires worthiness not seen in heaven or earth. This is clearly revealed in the scene in Revelation 5:1-4.
-However, John sees that Jesus Christ—and Christ alone—is worthy to stand before the Ancient of Days (Revelation 5:5-8).

Verse 14
And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
-Daniel now sees the Ancient of Days confer gifts to the Son of Man. “And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom” (
וְלֵהּ יְהִיב שָׁלְטָן וִיקָר וּמַלְכוּ).
-“Dominion” (
שָׁלְטָן) refers to the executive right to rule.
-In Daniel, many kings have dominion. King Nebuchadnezzar was given dominion by God (Daniel 1:1-3), King Darius was given dominion by God (Daniel 5:30-31) and the four world empires in Daniel 7 receive their dominion from God.
-“Glory” (
יְקָר) refers to royal honor and majesty.
-God gave glory to King Nebuchadnezzar, but struck him down from his throne for his pride and refusal to acknowledge God (Daniel 4:28-32).
-Here, God glorifies His Son as the Messiah and the King (John 17:5).
-A “kingdom” (
מַלְכ֔וּ) is what Jesus Christ receives from God the Father. Christ does not receive a democracy or a republic or a parliamentary form of government or a communist state or an anarchy, but receives a kingdom where He Himself is King.
-The Scriptures prophesied that the Messiah would receive the promised Kingdom (Psalm 72), and Scripture makes it clear that God the Father acknowledges God the Son as King over all (Hebrews 1:8-9).
-Here, the Ancient of Days crowns the Son of Man as the supreme King over all, so “that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him”
וְכֹל עַמְמַיָּא אֻמַיָּא וְלִשָּׁנַיָּא לֵהּ יִפְלְחוּן).
-Many rulers have claimed to rule the entire world, but only Christ is King over the entire world (Revelation 1:5).
-The fact that Daniel sees that “all” (
כֹּל) peoples, nations, and languages serving the Son of Man indicates that the reign of the Son of Man is global (Zechariah 14:9) and He alone reigns as King (Philippians 2:9-11).
-This also points to the fact that the Son of Man would reign not only over Israel, but that there would be Gentiles under His reign—a fact thereby making possible our salvation in Christ (Revelation 5:9-10).
-However, in Daniel 2:44-45, the four world empires are destroyed and replaced by God’s Kingdom. Here, God gives the dominion of the world’s empires to the Son of Man.
-Unlike the dominion of the four world empires or the kings already seen in Daniel’s book, the dominion of the Son of Man is eternal and not temporary. “His dominion is an everlasting dominion” (
שָׁלְטָנֵהּ שָׁלְטָן עָלַם).
-Because this is an everlasting dominion, it is a dominion “which shall not pass away”
דִּי־לָא יֶעְדֵּה).
-The theology in the book of Daniel declares that God possesses everlasting dominion (Daniel 4:3; Daniel 4:34; Daniel 5:26).
-The Son of Man possesses the dominion of God Himself, for He Himself would be revealed in Scripture as God incarnate (John 1:1).
-Jesus Christ will come as King as His second coming, and no one will take away his kingdom or overthrow it, for “his kingdom [is] one that shall not be destroyed”
וּמַלְכוּתֵהּ דִּי־לָא תִתְחַבַּל׃).
-The kingdom that God has promised us is one that shall never be destroyed and never overthrown, and it is a kingdom where the Jesus Christ—is King (Hebrews 12:28).
-Because the Antichrist has been killed in the preceding passage, this text refers to the reign of Christ on earth with His saints at His second coming (Revelation 19:11-20:6).
-Unlike other human rulers, when Christ comes to reign on the earth, He alone will be King and His kingdom will never be destroyed.

And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:5-6)


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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Throne Room of the Ancient of Days

God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.” (Psalm 47:8)

Daniel 7:9-12

-In our world today, we see a great deal that troubles the hearts of God’s people. We see wars and rumors of wars. We see famines and earthquakes in various places. We see the militant rise of the sexual revolution in the 21st century sweeping not only the United States of America, but the entire western world. We see the authority of Scripture abandoned in many of the mainstream denominations. We see the erosion of religious liberties. We see the abandonment of historic Reformed orthodoxy. We see nations in turmoil. Yet in the midst of all of this, we need to see even more clearly than all the rest of these realities is that God reigns over the nations and understand that God sits on His holy throne.
-Daniel’s world in the sixth century B.C. is a world that appears dark and pagan. He has lived separated from his countrymen and his homeland for approximately 60 years by Daniel 7. He has not laid eyes on the Lord’s temple in 60 years. He has not seen worship among God’s people for over 60 years, as he was a young boy when the last great godly king—King Josiah—died. Daniel may not even personally remember a time when God’s people honored the Lord. In this vision in Daniel 7, Daniel sees a world that appears frightening. Four powerful beasts arise—Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Yet in the midst of seeing these four terrifying beasts representing four terrifying world empires, Daniel sees something else emerge.

Verse 9
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.

-Daniel has just looked at the little horn on the head of the fourth beast, which is a direct prophecy of the coming Antichrist in the last days. But Daniel sees more. “As I looked, thrones were placed” (
חָזֵה הֲוֵית עַד דִּי כָרְסָוָן רְמִיו). But who sits on these thrones? More enemies of God’s people?
-The New Testament reveals that the saints are those who sit on thrones in the last days (1 Corinthians 6:2; Revelation 3:21). God’s people sit on these thrones.
-However, these thrones are of secondary focus, for “the Ancient of Days took his seat”
וְעַתִּיק יוֹמִין יְתִב). God Himself now sits on His holy throne.
-The title “Ancient of Days” does not refer to God being an elderly, frail figure, but the God who is eternal, who has been in existence for a very, very long time. It only appears three times in the Bible, with all three times appearing exclusively in Daniel 7.
-The Lord is the eternal God, who existed before the world was even created (Psalm 90:2). John the Apostle wrote the same things in the book of Revelation (Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8; Revelation 11:17).
-Unlike the kings of the earth and the children of men who die (Psalm 103:15-16), God is the living God who lives forever and ever (Daniel 6:26).
-Here, the Ancient of Days “took his seat” (
-Often in our world, we cry out, “How long, O Lord?” (Habakkuk 1:2; Revelation 6:10).
-God’s people yearn for God’s justice and righteousness to be brought to bear in the world (Genesis 18:25).
-Here, God now sits as Judge of all the earth and King of the nations. One of the reasons a king sat on his throne was to judge cases, and now the Ancient of Days takes His seat (Psalm 9:5). God’s throne is in the heavens, where He rules over the world (Psalm 103:19).
-John the Apostle sees God the Father seated on His throne to declare that God is sovereignly in control of how the last days unfold—in the midst of global apocalypse and the rise of Satan, the Antichrist, and the false prophet, God is seated on His holy throne ruling over the cosmos (Revelation 4:1-6).
-Daniel now sees the raiment of God the Father. The Person of the Trinity Daniel first sees is the Father, as the Son appears in the next section of the vision. “His clothing was white as snow” (
לְבוּשֵׁהּ כִּתְלַג חִוָּר).
-White clothing symbolizes absolute purity, which the angels (John 20:12) and the saints in heaven also wear (Revelation 6:11). This signifies that there is no evil and no sin whatsoever to any degree in God’s character or God’s actions (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 5:4; Psalm 92:15).
-The Scriptures declare that “the hair of his head like pure wool”
וּשְׂעַר רֵאשֵׁהּ כַּעֲמַר נְקֵא) is also .
-White hair like pure wool symbolizes great age, and great age brings great wisdom (Job 12:12).
-God does not acquire wisdom as do human beings—God’s omniscience means God has infinite wisdom (Proverbs 2:6). God is infinitely wise in how He has decreed the world to end (Isaiah 28:29).
-Daniel now describes God’s holy throne. “His throne was fiery flames”
כָּרְסְיֵהּ שְׁבִיבִין דִּי־נוּר).
-When the Lord appeared to Moses, He appeared in the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6).
-When the Lord descended on Mount Sinai to establish His covenant with Moses, the mountain was enveloped with fire and smoke (Exodus 19:18).
-The Lord is described as a “consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Fiery theophanies reinforce the absolute holiness of God that consumes evil. Here, it means that God reigns in absolute righteousness and holiness—something no human ruler can boast (Psalm 89:14; Psalm 97:2)
-Daniel then intriguingly describes the wheels of God’s throne. “Its wheels were burning fire”
גַּלְגִּלּוֹהִי נוּר דָּלִק׃). A wheeled-throne would be very bizarre to us today, but in the ancient Near East, kings and gods were portrayed as having wheeled thrones that could be moved from location to location.
-In Ezekiel 1:15-21 and Ezekiel 10:9-14, wheels surround God’s throne. Wheels here signify mobility—God is not limited by space as are human beings

Verse 10
A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.
-Not only are the throne and wheels composed of fire, “A stream of fire issued and came out from before him” (
נְהַר דִּי־נוּר נָגֵד וְנָפֵק מִן־קֳדָמוֹהִי). This is the only time in Scripture where a river of fire flows from the throne of God.
-This is the fire of judgment, as verse 11 makes clear. Fire purifies and consumes, and God’s wrath is pure and holy and not like man’s wrath (James 1:20).
-God’s wrath upon His foes means that He is saving His people from those who would destroy them (Psalm 7:10-13; Habakkuk 3:8-13).
-Daniel also sees “a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him” (
אֶלֶף אַלְפִים יְשַׁמְּשׁוּנֵּהּ וְרִבּוֹ רִבְוָן קָדָמוֹהִי יְקוּמוּן).
-The phrases “thousand thousands” (
אֶלֶף אַלְפִים) coupled with “ten thousand times ten thousand” (וְרִבּוֹ רִבְוָן) means an innumerable number.
-Innumerable numbers of angels serve the living God, such as evidenced at Mount Sinai when the Lord appeared in fire (Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:18).
-Angels can be agents of God’s wrath, such as happened during the days of King Hezekiah when God delivered His people from the Assyrians (Isaiah 37:33-36).
-Angels are the agents of the wrath of God in the last days, as revealed by John in the book of Revelation (Revelation 8:6-12).
-There are more with the Lord our God than will be with the eschatological Antichrist, just as Elisha’s servant realized when they faced enemies of the Israelite king (2 Kings 6:16-17).
-Now, “the court sat in judgment” (
דִּינָא יְתִב).
-Why would anyone but God sit in judgment? Calvin explains,
Councillors and nobles would sit around him on both sides, not partaking of his power, but rather increasing the splendour of his appearance. For if the king alone should occupy the whole place, the dignity would not be so magnificent as when his nobles, who depend upon him, are present on all sides, because they far surpass the ordinary multitude. Daniel, therefore, relates the vision presented to him in this form; first, because he was a man dwelling in the flesh; and next, he did not see it for himself personally, but for the common benefit of the whole Church.[1]
-The Ancient of Days now sits in judgment in order to render the final verdicts on the evils in the world. In this moment, God is seated on His holy throne right before Jesus Christ returns in His second coming.

Verse 11
“I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire.
-Daniel’s gaze is diverted from God’s throne and royal court to the little horn atop the head of the fourth beast. “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking” (
חָזֵה הֲוֵית בֵּאדַיִן מִן־קָל מִלַּיָּא רַבְרְבָתָא דִּי קַרְנָא מְמַלֱּלָה).
-The little horn of the fourth beast, which symbolizes the Antichrist, has continued to speak throughout this scene (Daniel 7:8).
-As with verse 8, the “great words” (
מִלַּיָּא רַבְרְבָתָא) refer to blasphemous words that the Antichrist speaks against the Ancient of Days.
-Scripture teaches that God’s judgment will fall on all those who unrepentantly blaspheme God (Galatians 6:7).
-Revelation reveals that the Antichrist blasphemes God and all that is connected with God (Revelation 13:5-6).
-Daniel then sees that “as I looked, the beast was killed” (
קְטִילַת חֵיוְתָא).
-This moment will occur in history when King Jesus slays the Antichrist at His second coming (Revelation 19:15-20).
-Whereas this fourth beast overpowers all the others, and the future portion of this fourth empire will be unconquerable by military might in the world, Jesus Christ defeats the Antichrist.
-Now the stream of fire issuing from the throne of God consumes this fourth beast. “its body [was] destroyed and given over to be burned with fire” (
גִּשְׁמַהּ וִיהִיבַת לִיקֵדַת אֶשָּׁא).
-Historically, ancient Rome gradually died from internal collapse and external pressure. Prophetically, the revised Roman Empire will be defeated at the Battle of Armageddon. Jesus Christ casts the Antichrist into the eternal lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).

Verse 12
As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

-Verse 12 now looks back to the historical empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece and does not refer to the end-times portion of the fourth beast’s reign.
-Daniel says, “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away”
וּשְׁאָר חֵיוָתָא הֶעְדִּיו שָׁלְטָנְהוֹן).
-Babylon’s dominion was taken by the Medo-Persian Empire when Babylon fell the evening described in Daniel 5. Medo-Persia was conquered by Greece. Greece was in turn conquered and absorbed by the Roman Empire. Hence, Daniel says “but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time” (
וְאַרְכָה בְחַיִּין יְהִיבַת לְהוֹן עַד־זְמַן וְעִדָּן׃).
-The phrase “season and a time” (
עַד־זְמַן וְעִדָּן) is translated “an appointed period of time” (NASB) and “period of time” (NIV). Indeed, Babylonian culture influenced the Medo-Persian Empire, and Persian culture influenced the Greek empire, and the Greeks had a very strong and profound influence upon the Romans.
-Here, God demonstrates His royal decrees both in the future from Daniel’s perspective and the future from our perspective. The final empire, led by the final Antichrist, will be defeated by a Man we will see in the next section of Daniel’s vision—all according to God’s sovereign decree.

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns!’” (1 Chronicles 16:31)


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[1] Calvin, J., & Myers, T. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel (Vol. 2, p. 32). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Four Fearsome Beasts

The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land.” (Psalm 10:16 ESV)

Daniel 7:1-8

-Many people find the history of those who preceded them to be fascinating. Oftentimes, history can be a lost subject, as many grow up ignorant of their own history. Many fail to understand the present in light of history. Some Christians, who know not their history and God’s workings in history, can become very discouraged about the world they see around them. They believe they are facing challenges that others have not faced, and they do not know how those before them responded to the challenges to Christian conviction that centuries of believers have encountered. Yet Robert E. Lee said, “The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope." The message of Daniel thus far is that God is sovereign in the present times—and the message of Daniel from chapter 7 onwards is that God is sovereign in the future times.
-In the first half of Daniel’s book, chapters 1-6 declare the narrative of Daniel’s life. From a teenager taken captive when Nebuchadnezzar defeated Jehoiakim to Daniel’s life as a Medo-Persian president, we have seen the decades of godly faithfulness, godly courage, godly integrity, and godly wisdom that characterize Daniel. We have also seen God’s power and sovereignty over the nations and over the rulers of the earth, for everything that unfolds happens to glorify the Lord and declare that He is King over the nations and gives the kingdoms of the earth to whomsoever He will.
-In the second half of Daniel, chapters 7-12 give the clearest prophetic messages regarding the coming King and the millennial kingdom in the Old Testament. We will see God’s sovereignty over time, God’s providence in the workings of future history, and God’s sovereign and providential plan to provide redemption in His Son. Finally, we will see Jesus Christ reigning over the nations as King of kings and Lord of lords—and we will reign with Him in His kingdom.

The Vision
v. 1-3
1In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. 2Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.

Verse 1

-The text opens “in the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon”
בִּשְׁנַת חֲדָה לְבֵלְאשַׁצַּר מֶלֶךְ בָּבֶל). King Belshazzar and the city of Babylon fell in 539 B.C. in Daniel 5, but here Daniel finds himself 14 years before those events. He is still living in a relatively powerful Babylonian Empire in Daniel 7, and the events of chapter 6 would be 20 years later from this vantage point.
Chronologically, therefore, Daniel’s first vision occurred many years before the events of chaps. 5 and 6. When was the first year of Belshazzar? The so-called “Verse Account of Nabonidus” states:
When the third year was about to begin, he [Nabonidus] entrusted the “Camp” to his oldest (son), the firstborn [Belshazzar], the troops everywhere in the country he ordered under his (command). He let (everything) go, entrusted the kingship to him and, himself, he started out for a long journey.
Nabonidus began his reign in 556 b.c., so his third year would have been approximately 553 b.c. Since the above text seems to indicate that Belshazzar became coregent (at least practically if not legally) in Nabonidus’s third year, Daniel probably considered Belshazzar’s first year to have begun in 553. If Daniel was fifteen when taken into captivity in 605 b.c., he would now have been about sixty-seven years old. Nebuchadnezzar had died only nine years before.[1]
-“Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed”
דָּנִיֵּאל חֵלֶם חֲזָה וְחֶזְוֵי רֵאשֵׁהּ עַל־מִשְׁכְּבֵהּ), meaning that Daniel was asleep when he received these dreams.
-To receive visions while sleeping happens numerous times in the Bible, such as when God appeared to Abraham and made an everlasting covenant with him (Genesis 15:12-21).
-King Nebuchadnezzar had visions and dreams about 47 years earlier when he was lying on his bed (Daniel 2:1).
-When he awakes from the vision, “he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter.” (
בֵּאדַיִן חֶלְמָא כְתַב רֵאשׁ מִלִּין אֲמַר׃)
-God’s prophets received visions from the Lord that they then wrote down to preserve and distribute the message (Habakkuk 2:2). In doing so, sacred Scripture itself was being created through their prophetic ministries.
-The “sum of the matter” (
רֵאשׁ מִלִּין אֲמַר) literally means “the chief of the words”, which means that Daniel is writing down in literary form what he first received in visual form.
Verse 2
-From here onwards, Daniel will permanently switch to first-person in this book. Previously, he primarily refers to himself in the third person. While most biblical authors would always refer to themselves in the first person (such as the apostle Paul), a few would refer to themselves in the third person (such as Moses). “Daniel declared, ‘I saw in my vision by night’”
עָנֵה דָנִיֵּאל וְאָמַר חָזֵה הֲוֵית בְּחֶזְוִי עִם־לֵילְיָא).
-Daniel had earlier received a vision by night 47 years earlier in Daniel 2, wherein God revealed to him the meaning of the statue representing the four great kingdoms (Daniel 2:19-23)
-Daniel writes, “Behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea.”
וַאֲרוּ אַרְבַּע רוּחֵי שְׁמַיָּא מְגִיחָן לְיַמָּא רַבָּא׃).
-The phrase “four winds of heaven” (
אַרְבַּע רוּחֵי שְׁמַיָּא) appears in Daniel and elsewhere in prophetic literature (Zechariah 2:6; Zechariah 6:5) to refer to universality (Jeremiah 49:36). Today, we would refer to the points of the compass rather than the “four winds of heaven” to refer to “every direction”.
-The winds coming from every direction “were stirring up the great sea”
מְגִיחָן לְיַמָּא רַבָּא׃) The Aramaic verb גוח has the idea of bursting forth, and here denotes the idea that the great sea is suddenly boiling due to the wind turbulence coming from every direction.
-What does the “great sea” (
לְיַמָּא רַבָּא) mean? Geographically, it would refer to the Mediterranean Sea. However, this is apocalyptic literature, and this is here clearly an apocalyptic symbol, for the great sea changes to be the earth in verse 17. In prophetic literature, the great sea symbolically can refer to the masses of peoples and nations that do not fear or honor God (Isaiah 17:12-13; Isaiah 57:20). Therefore, here the great sea is symbolic for the unbelieving nations and not literal for the Mediterranean Sea.
Verse 3
-“And four great beasts came up out of the sea” (
וְאַרְבַּע חֵיוָן רַבְרְבָן סָלְקָן מִן־יַמָּא).
-The phrase “four great beasts” (
וְאַרְבַּע חֵיוָן רַבְרְבָן) identifies firstly the number: four. Then, it signifies that it symbolizes four “great” (רַב) entities. These are not small or minor entities, but they are large and powerful. Thirdly, these entities are typified as “beasts” (חֵיוָה), which does not refer to household pets or domestic animals. The Aramaic means these are wild animals (even monsters) that devour and destroy and have great and brutal strength.
-These powerful, brutal, and large beasts come out of the sea, which refers to these beasts coming from the unbelieving masses of the earth.
-However, these are not four identical beasts, for they are “different from one another”
שָׁנְיָן דָּא מִן־דָּא׃). This means that these beasts do not represent the same entities.

The First Beast: Babylon
v. 4

The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it.

-Daniel describes the first beast. He writes, “The first was like a lion and had eagle’s wings” (
קַדְמָיְתָא כְאַרְיֵה וְגַפִּין דִּי־נְשַׁר לַהּ).
-A “lion” (
אַרְיֵה) is the king of the beasts, which signifies that this is the most magnificent beast. But it also had “eagle’s wings” (וְגַפִּין דִּי־נְשַׁר). While western readers in the 21st century might be at a loss to understand the symbolism, readers following Daniel’s day would have immediately known what entity this first beast typifies.
-King Nebuchadnezzar in Scripture was often symbolized as both a lion (Jeremiah 4:7; Jeremiah 50:17) and an eagle (Ezekiel Jeremiah 49:22; Ezekiel 17:3) by Daniel’s two contemporaries Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Further, lions in relief decorated the Ishtar Gate in Babylon, and statues of winged lions have been found in archeological excavations in Babylon. In the same way, a bald eagle represents the United States of America today, a bear and a red star represents Russia, the hammer and sickle represented the former USSR, and the red maple leaf represents Canada.
-This immediately indicates that this first winged lion represents the same thing that the head of gold represented in Daniel 2:37-38. The winged lion represents the empire of Babylon and its greatest king Nebuchadnezzar. This then reveals that the following three beasts represent the same three kingdoms as seen in the chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, and feet of iron and toes of mixed iron and clay.
-Daniel says, “Then I looked as its wings were plucked off” (
הֲוֵית עַד דִּי־מְּרִיטוּ גַפַּיַּהּ).
-In Daniel 4:28-33, the wings of the lion were plucked off. King Nebuchadnezzar lost his throne, his majesty, and his mind.
-However, Daniel sees that “it was lifted up
from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it.
-In Daniel 4:34-37, King Nebuchadnezzar repented of his pride and his sin and received his throne and his majesty and his kingdom back to him. He also received his mental sanity back, and he praised the Most High as ruler of the kings and kingdoms of the earth.
-From Daniel’s vantage point in chapter 7, the first beast has already appeared in world history in his lifetime.

The Second Beast: Medo-Persia
v. 5

And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’

-Daniel then describes the second beast: “And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear” (
וַאֲרוּ חֵיוָה אָחֳרִי תִנְיָנָה דָּמְיָה לְדֹב). This is the “second one”, and as indicated by the dream in Daniel 2, this is not a simultaneous kingdom but a successive kingdom that shall arise after the empire of Babylon has ended (Daniel 2:39a). 20 years later, Daniel knew that the second beast represented the Medo-Persian Empire.
-This beast is “like a bear” (
דָּמְיָה לְדֹב). Bears are not as majestic as lions, but they are much larger and have much more stamina. A male lion weighs around 550lbs, but a grizzly bear weighs around 900lbs. As with the succession of silver from gold in the vision of the statue, this kingdom is not as glorious as the first but is larger and more powerful.
-Yet this bear “was raised up on one side” (
וְלִשְׂטַר־חַד הֳקִמַת). The empire of Medo-Persia was primarily Persian, but King Cyrus assimilated the Median Empire when he conquered them. The Persian element was much larger than the Median element.
-“It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth” (
וּתְלָת עִלְעִין בְּפֻמַּהּ בֵּין שִׁנַּיַּהּ). Ribs would signify that which the bear had already conquered and consumed.
These ribs may denote military triumphs generally or three specific peoples subdued by Medo-Persia. Although Young considers the three ribs to represent “the insatiable nature of the beast … since, not being content with one body, it devoured many,” others (probably correctly) have taken the ribs to represent Medo-Persia’s three major conquests—Babylon (539 b.c.), Lydia (546 b.c.), and Egypt (525 b.c.).[2]
-“And it was told: ‘Arise, devour much flesh’” (
וְכֵן אָמְרִין לַהּ קוּמִי אֲכֻלִי בְּשַׂר שַׂגִּיא׃).
-The speaker is God, and refers to God giving the nations of the earth into the hands of the Medo-Persian Empire. “Much flesh” (
בְּשַׂר שַׂגִּיא) refers to the fact that the Medo-Persian Empire would become the largest empire in Daniel’s lifetime and in the history of the Old Testament. Daniel would die in the time of the second beast, and Old Testament history would end during the days of the Medo-Persian Empire.

The Third Beast: Greece
v. 6

After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it.

-Daniel then says, “After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard”
בָּאתַר דְּנָה חָזֵה הֲוֵית וַאֲרוּ אָחֳרִי כִּנְמַר).
-A leopard catches its prey much more quickly than a lion or a bear, as it is much more agile. This third beast represents the same kingdom as revealed by the belly and thighs of bronze—even less magnificent than Medo-Persia, but more powerful. Daniel chapters 8 and 11 will go into the prophecy of this third kingdom in much more detail.
-History reveals that the empire of Greece fulfilled Daniel’s prophecy exactly as foretold. Alexander the Great conquered the world more rapidly than any ruler in human history—he conquered in 10 years what took others decades to do.
-The “four wings of a bird on its back” (
וְלַהּ גַּפִּין אַרְבַּע דִּי־עוֹף עַל־גַּבַּיַּהּ) means that it is much faster than the previous two beasts, for the bear had no wings and the lion only had two wings. Alexander the Great conquered the world much faster than King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon or King Cyrus of Persia did in history.
-“And the beast had four heads” (
וְאַרְבְּעָה רֵאשִׁין לְחֵיוְתָא). Both in Daniel and Revelation, heads on beasts represent kings. Alexander the Great had four great military generals underneath him, who ruled the Greek Empire after his death.
-The statement “dominion was given to it” (
וְשָׁלְטָן יְהִיב לַהּ׃) indicates that just as with Babylon and Medo-Persia, God gave the Greek Empire dominion over the nations. These nations did not ultimately conquer because of their power or might, but because God raised them up and gave them control of the world, just as Daniel said (Daniel 2:20-21). While the entire history of the Greek Empire took place between the Old and New Testament and is thus not mentioned much in Scripture, God was still in control during the period of time in which He was silent.

The Fourth Beast: Rome
v. 7-8
7After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.
Verse 7

-Daniel now reaches the climax of the vision: the fourth beast. “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast”
בָּאתַר דְּנָה חָזֵה הֲוֵית בְּחֶזְוֵי לֵילְיָא וַאֲרוּ חֵיוָה רְבִיעָיָה).
-However, this fourth beast is unlike any other. It is “terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong” (
דְּחִילָה וְאֵימְתָנִי וְתַקִּיפָא יַתִּירָא). This fourth beast invokes great fear and terror. Moreover, it is more powerful than any other empire that preceded it, for it is “exceedingly strong” (וְתַקִּיפָא יַתִּירָא).
-“It had great iron teeth” (
וְשִׁנַּיִן דִּי־פַרְזֶל לַהּ)—this corresponds with the legs of iron of the fourth kingdom in Daniel 2 (Daniel 2:40).
-With its great iron teeth, “it devoured and broke in pieces” (
אָכְלָה וּמַדֱּקָה). The Roman Empire conquered more land than any other kingdom ever had. Only in terms of surface area was the Mongol Empire greater, but the Roman Empire was the longest empire in history (1,000 years) and the strongest empire in history. By far, no empire in human history has yet surpassed Rome in strength, power, and longevity.
-But not only did it devour with iron teeth, it
stamped what was left with its feet”
וּשְׁאָרָא בְּרַגְלַיַּהּ רָפְסָה). It completely conquered everything in its path. But we know the Romans to have been masters even as far as Babylon; we know the following countries to have been subdued by them: Asia Minor, Syria, Cilicia, Greece, and Macedon, both the Spains, Gaul, Illyricum, and part of Germany. At length Britain was subjugated by Julius Cæsar. No wonder this beast is called formidable and very strong! For before Julius Cæsar became master of the Empire, the whole Mediterranean Sea was in all its parts under subjection to the Roman Empire. Its amazing extent is well known. Egypt had indeed its own kings, but they were tributary; whatever edicts the Romans decreed, they were executed immediately in Egypt. Minor sovereigns existed in Asia Minor as a kind of spies, but this state of things we shall treat presently. It is also well known that they possessed supreme power throughout the Mediterranean Sea, and that by the conquest of Mithridates. Pompey reduced Pontus under his dominion. In the East affairs were all at peace. The Medes and Persians gave them some trouble, but they never moved unless they were provoked. The Spains were not yet accustomed to the yoke, but we know that there were always two prætors there. Julius Cæsar was the first who entered Britain after subduing Gaul. Hence we see how far and wide the Romans extended their power, and with what immense cruelty. Hence Daniel calls this beast formidable and very strong.[3]
-“It was different from all the beasts that were before it”
וְהִיא מְשַׁנְּיָה מִן־כָּל־חֵיוָתָא דִּי קֳדָמַיַּהּ). Daniel does not identify which kind of animal this fourth beast is—indeed, it defies any animal in existence. The beast was of such terrible strength and destructive rage, that the whole animal world could furnish no representative by whose name it might be characterized.[4]
-The history of the Roman Empire is well known to sacred and secular historians alike. The entire New Testament took place within the timeline of the Roman Empire, and it was an empire that fiercely persecuted and devoured God’s people. The Roman Empire would arise long after Daniel died, yet it would last for a millennium. Yet not everything about the fourth beast has yet been fulfilled even in our day, for Daniel then says that “it had ten horns” (וְקַרְנַיִן עֲשַׂר לַהּ׃)
-The ten horns of the beast here correspond to the ten toes of the statue in Daniel 2 (Daniel 2:42-43). In Revelation, this is revealed to be an end-times alliance between kings of the earth and the Antichrist, who takes on all the evil characteristics of the kingdoms in Daniel (Revelation 13:1-2).
Verse 8
-In verse 8, Scripture speaks of the eschatological system that will be in place by the time the final Antichrist rules the earth. Caution should be given in trying yet to identify this ten-part alliance, as different identifications have been given in history. As Calvin stated, some tried to identify these ten horns and final Antichrist with the Roman Catholic papacy, and others in his day tried to identify it as the Muslim Empire. Still others later in history identified it as the European Union, which at one point had a ten-nation alliance. However, the final Antichrist and his world empire have not yet arisen. From the testimony of Scripture, we know that it will be a revised Roman Empire led by the Antichrist in the last days before Christ returns.
-Daniel now closely looks at the horns. “I considered the horns”
מִשְׂתַּכַּל הֲוֵית בְּקַרְנַיָּא). In the ancient world, horns signified power and strength, and here refers to royal power (Psalm 75:10).
-Daniel observes that “behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots”. The uprooting of three horns symbolizes that three kings or kingdoms (nations) will be conquered by the new ruler.[5] This is a direct prophecy that in the future in a revised Roman-like Empire, a ruler will arise who will conquer three out of ten kingdoms.
-“And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things” (
וַאֲלוּ עַיְנִין כְּעַיְנֵי אֲנָשָׁא בְּקַרְנָא־דָא וּפֻם מְמַלִּל רַבְרְבָן׃)
-“Eyes like the eyes of a man” (
עַיְנִין כְּעַיְנֵי אֲנָשָׁא) refer this figure being human, but also refer to having great intelligence (Revelation 5:6). The Antichrist will be an “evil genius” unlike anything the world has ever seen.
-“A mouth speaking great things” (
וּפֻם מְמַלִּל רַבְרְבָן׃) refers to the pride and blasphemy of the Antichrist.
-The phrase “great things” (
רַבְרְבָן) is better understood as “great boasts” (NASB) or “speaking arrogantly” (NRSV).
-Revelation speaks of the blasphemous mouth of the Antichrist, who will try to exalt himself on the level of God Almighty (Revelation 13:5-6).

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:6-14 ESV)
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[1] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, p. 194). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[2] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, pp. 198–199). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[3] Calvin, J., & Myers, T. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel (Vol. 2, p. 22). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[4] Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 9, p. 642). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
[5] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, p. 202). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.