Daniel 7 Explained
This concludes the narrative of Daniel's life and begins the account of his visions and prophecies. In chapter 2 we saw the image of four metals symbolizing the four great world empires from Daniel's day to the end of time; in this chapter we have four beasts that represent the same kingdoms in more detail.
In verse 23 the angel says: "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth." Even today we portray nations with animal symbols (US—Eagle, Russia—Bear, England—Lion, etc.). Winds in Bible prophecy depict war, strife and bloodshed. See Jeremiah 25:31-33. The "Four winds" indicates that the strife is coming from all directions of the compass. See Matthew 24:31. The "sea" and waters symbolize many people. See Revelation 17:15. So beasts arising from the turbulent waters symbolize nations arising from wars among many peoples.
Babylon is filthy represented by a "lion". See Jeremiah 4:7;50:17,43,44. Just as gold is supreme among the metals so the "lion" is king among beasts and the "eagle" is king of the birds. Babylon's rise from a vessel state of Assyria to ruler of the k known world was breathtakingly swift. In the 21 years after Babylon gained it's independence from Assyria, it had conquered the surrounding nations, and become the most powerful empire in the region; thus the "eagle's wings" portray speed. See Habakkuk 1:6-8. Later, this nation ceased to expand and conquer, represented by the wings being "plucked" off. After the death of Nebuchadnezzar the succeeding kings of Babylon chose to ignore God's law and mock Him. Then Babylon lost its lionlike nobility. It was given a "man's heart" and made to stand upon it's "feet as a man."
The next kingdom, corresponding to the chest and arms of silver from the image of Daniel 2, is Medo-Persia. Persia was dominant over Media; which is represented by the "bear" "raised up" "on one side." The "three ribs" in the bear's mouth likely represent the major kingdoms which Medo-Persia conquered — Babylon, Lydia(in Turkey) and Egypt. At the height of its power this empire had conquered more than six times as much land as had it's predecessor Babylon. It did "devour much flesh."
These amazing prophecies show both the certainty of Christ's second coming and the unfailing nature of the Bible.
7:6 Medo-Persia was defeated by the Macedonian Greece, represented as a "leopard" with "four heads" and "four wings." The "four wings" represent unprecedented swiftness. See Habakkuk 1:6. The conquests of Macedonian Greece under Alexander the Great were more rapid than even those of Babylon. In just three short years, from 334-331 B.C., he conquered the entire Persian empire. The leopard is more agile and swift than a lion or bear, yet more frail. Alexander died in 323 B.C. at age of thirty-two. His four strongest generals(Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy, and Selecus), divided the kingdom amongst themselves, symbolized by the leopard's "four heads"
7:7 The previous empires were represented by some of the most ferocious animals prey; but this "beast" is represented by a frightful monster. This is a fitting figure of the Roman Empire which dominated the world with its iron legions. The "iron teeth" of this monster give it a direct parallel to the iron in the image in Daniel 2:40. It was Rome that ruled the Mediterranean world when Jesus lived on earth, and it was the Roman governor, Pilate, who sent Him to the cross, where He does for the sins of all mankind. The "ten horns," like the leopard's "four heads," show a splintering of the kingdom into multiple parts.
7:8 Verse 24 tells us, "the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings." So this horn is a little kingdom.
7:9-10 In Daniel 2 we saw a stone crush the statue to powder, then fill the whole earth, vividly portraying the time when these nations will be judged and destroyed. At that time God will set up His kingdom and reign forever. This chapter adds the fact That God will "sit" for a solemn day of judgement before He sets up His "everlasting dominion." See verses 9-12,22,26. His verdict will be both just and merciful, because He commits the judgement to His Son, who gave His life for us. John 5:22-27.
7:11,12 The territory and subjects of the three previous kingdoms were not destroyed even though they ceased to exist as separate empires. In contrast, the fourth kingdom ends in the lake of fire and has no existence beyond. See Revelation 19:20.
7:24-25 "The ten horns" of the beast, like the feet of iron mixed with clay in Daniel 2, predicted that the Roman Empire would fragment into ten parts. Barbarian tribes invaded the empire's territory from the north and east, and eventually became the nations of modern Europe. See Revelation 13:1. See "The Little Horny & The Beast" p. 30.
Note: The ten barbarian tribes and the modern nations they endangered were: Anglo-Saxons(England), Alemanni(Germany), Franks(France), Visigoths(Spain), Suevi(Portugal), Lombards(Italy), Burgundians(Switzerland), Vandals(destroyed in A.D. 534) Heruli(destroyed in A.D.493), and Osthrogoths(destroyed in A.D. 538)
7:26-27 The climax of this prophecy is God's final judgement. The beast and the little horn power are judged and their Kingdom is taken away; at the same time the verdict is made in favor of the saints and dominion is given to them. These same events were portrayed in Daniel 2 when the stone crushed the statue to powder and filled the whole earth. God will set up His everlasting kingdom full of love, joy and peace; there will be no sickness or death. Revelation 21:3,4.
The Four Great Beasts. 553 B.C.
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. 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. 7:3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 7:15 I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 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. 7:17 These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. 7:18 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. 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; 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. 7:21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 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. 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. 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. 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. 7:26 But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 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. 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.