Setting Date Overview Commentary
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.
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.
3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
12 As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.
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.
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.
15 I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.
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.
17 These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
18 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.
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;
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.
21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;
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.
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.
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.
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.
26 But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.
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.
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.
Chapters 7 and 8 actually precede chapters 5 and 6 chronologically. See the setting of chapter 5 for information on the seven kings of Babylon and other happenings in the world at that time.
When Daniel received this vision, King Nabonidus had retired to Tema in Arabia, and his son, Belshazzar, sat on the throne in Babylon.
This chapter took place in the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon. It seems that this must have been the year 553/552 B.C. Here is how we figure:
Nabonidus became king in 556 B.C. His accession year would have ended in the spring of 555. The Nabonidus Chronicle indicates that he conquered Tema in the third year of his reign, which would be 553/552. It was at that time that he "entrusted the kingship" of Babylon to his son, Belshazzar.
Since Belshazzar did not become king upon the death of a previous king, we are assuming that no accession year for him was counted. Nabonidus was still king, and Belshazzar was simply a co-ruler. The first year of Belshazzar's reign, as reckoned in Daniel 7:1, would have begun at the commencement of his co-regency.
This chapter records the first major outline prophecy given specifically to the prophet Daniel. You will remember that the prophecy recorded in chapter 2 was actually given to Nebuchadnezzar, although it was also evidently repeated to Daniel in a dream.
In this vision, Daniel saw a stormy sea. Out of that sea came forth, in their order, a lion, a bear, a leopard, and then a "dreadful and terrible" beast which evidently could not be identified with any known creature.
The fourth beast had ten horns. But as the prophet watched, another little horn emerged which plucked up three of the first horns as it arose.
Daniel's attention was then turned to the throne of God in heaven, surrounded by thousands of heavenly beings. A judgment commenced, and books were opened. The Son of man was seen coming to the Ancient of days. There He received a kingdom and an everlasting dominion.
As Daniel inquired about the meaning of it all, a heavenly being gave him a full explanation.
See the outline of this chapter.
As in the prophecies of chapters 2 and 8, this vision employs prophetic symbolism. Although it sounds mysterious, it is actually quite straightforward. All of the important symbols in Bible prophecy are explained by the Bible itself. This eliminates the hazards of guessing. There is usually only one meaning for each symbol, and that meaning is consistent whenever that symbol is used. For a list of prominent prophetic symbols and their meanings, see the key to prophetic symbols.
This vision covers the same subject material as did Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter 2. In this chapter, however, additional focus is given to events and powers affecting the people of God since the days of ancient Rome.
Verse 2 Text
"The great sea"
According to Genesis 1:10, a sea is "the gathering together of the waters." What, then, do "waters" represent in prophecy? Revelation 17:15 says, "The waters which thou sawest . . . are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." So a "sea" in Bible prophecy represents an area in which there are gathered together many peoples and nations and languages. Specifically this refers to the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian regions.
Verse 3 Text
"Four great beasts"
Verse 17 says, "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings which shall arise out of the earth." Verse 23 says, "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth." So a beast represents a kingdom.
Verse 4 Text
"The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings"
Babylon is referred to as a "lion" in Jeremiah 50:17. In Ezekiel 17 Babylon is described as "a great eagle with great wings" (See verses 3 and 12).
Archaeology has revealed composite lion-eagle creatures to be common symbols in ancient Babylon. Regarding lions as royal beasts, Nebuchadnezzar engraved them on his walls and stampled bricks with them. Pictures of these may be found in LeRoy E. Froom, The Prophetic Faith of our Fathers, Vol. I, Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1950, pp. 48-52.
Eagles' wings symbolize God's providence (See Exodus 19:4 and Revelation 12:14). God Himself had set up Nebuchadnezzar and given Babylon its position of supremacy in the world (Jeremiah 27:4-8).
"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"
*The margin reads, "wherewith it was lifted up from the earth". So the wings, which had allowed it to be lifted up from the earth, were plucked.
This is a description of a kingdom losing its greatness and glory. It loses its wings and its lion heart. The kings who followed Nebuchadnezzar made no great advancements, but allowed the kingdom to deteriorate until it was conquered by an inferior (Daniel 2:39) nation.
Verse 5 Text
As bears live in mountainous regions, so the Medes came from the mountains north of Babylon. In fact, it is said that Nebuchadnezzar's wife, a Mede, missed the mountains so much that her husband built the famous hanging gardens in Babylon to remind her of her mountain homeland.
"It raised up itself on one side"
The bear represents the united kingdoms of Media and Persia. This bear had a dominant side, which turned out to be Persia.
"It had three ribs in the mouth of it"
If you ever see a bear with ribs in its mouth, you know that it has just "devoured" some "flesh" as this verse says. These ribs represent three notable Medo-Persian conquests: Lydia in 547 B.C., Babylon in 539 B.C. and Egypt in 525 B.C.
Verse 6 Text
This leopard had four wings, indicating the exceptional swiftness of its conquests. Greece, under Alexander the Great, conquered the world with unprecedented speed.
These represent the four divisions of the Greek Empire following the death of Alexander. For a discussion of these four divisions, see comments on Daniel 8:8.
"Dominion was given to it"
Dominion is a key word in Daniel 7, appearing eight times in the chapter. Who holds dominion is the issue at stake in the great controversy between Christ and Satan.
Verse 7 Text
"A fourth beast"
This nation could not be described by any known animal. It is depicted simply as being "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly." This was Rome. Its great iron teeth remind us of the iron legs of the image in chapter 2.
"And it had ten horns"
The Bible clearly defines the ten horns:
"And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise." Daniel 7:24.
The ten horns refer to the nations into which the Western Roman Empire was absorbed. The number ten stands to represent the number of notable Germanic tribes which by the end of the fifth century had infiltrated the Empire and established themselves as kingdoms. Once that number is given in prophecy the nations represented by them are always afterward referred to as "the ten horns," even though the actual number of nations was in almost continual fluctuation throughout their history. For purposes of consistent identification of the symbol, those nations and their descendants, regardless of how many there were at any given time, are always referred to as "the ten horns."
For a detailed discussion of the invading Germanic kingdoms, see the article, The Ten Horns.
The most generally recognized list of ten kingdoms is as follows: Alemanni, Anglo-Saxons, Burgundians, Franks, Heruli, Lombards, Ostrogoths, Suevi, Vandals, Visigoths.
Verse 8 Text
"There came up among them another little horn"
Here is a power which arises among the kingdoms which were represented by the ten horns. Of all that Daniel was shown in this vision, it is this little horn which aroused his curiosity the most. As a result, more verses in this chapter are devoted to the description of this power than to any other.
To the student of history, the identification of this little horn is unmistakable. The only major entity which gained power at the time and place specified in the prophecy, and which did indeed perform the prophecied activities, was the Roman Catholic Papacy.
"Before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots"
Verse 20 says, "Before whom three [horns] fell."
Verse 24 says, "He shall subdue three kings."
For purposes of identification, these would need to be three of the original Germanic kingdoms which had migrated into the the Western Roman provices; and they would need to be completely eliminated in the process of the rise of papal power. For a discussion of the possible options to be considered in indentifying these three, click here.
Which three you select as those mentioned in the text depends upon the criteria you employ in identifying them. Certainly the destruction of the three kingdoms must be related to an incompatibility between them and the developing Catholic religio-political system. The text attributes their uprooting to the papal power itself. Therefore, we must look for some connection between the rise of the papacy and the fall of the designated kingdoms. Secondly, the verse implies a complete destruction of the kingdoms, not simply a change in form.
The destruction of the once powerful kingdoms of the Vandals and the Ostrogoths fits both criteria. Both kingdoms opposed the creed of the Catholic Church. Both made it impossible for the bishop of Rome to hold supreme power in the West, and their elimination was essential to the development of the papacy. Belisarius' attack against both kingdoms was directly related to the rise of the papacy. And when in 538 the Ostrogoths were driven from Rome, the pope held undisputed supremacy throughout the West.
If the complete overthrow of a kingdom is a primary criteria for an uprooted horn, the Herulian rule in Italy must be considered to be the other horn of the three, for no Herulian kingdom survived that event. King Odoacer did oppose the Catholic creed, and his rule prevented the bishop of Rome from exercising full authority. Thus the Heruli, Vandals, and Ostrogoths are most generally recognized as being the three kingdoms which fell in answer to the prophecy. They were the three which had had the greatest impact upon the city of Rome and had been the greatest obstacle to the pope's ability to exercise authority.
The Alemanni, Visigoths, and Burgundians, on the other hand, had been somewhat removed from the center of Catholic power, and their presence did not restrict the pope's activities in Rome. While Clovis' attacks on the Visigoths were indeed inspired by his desire to extend the Catholic creed throughout Gaul, the defeated Goths were not extinguished, only displaced.
The three uprooted horns may be summarized as those kingdoms whose domination succeeded that of the Western emperors in the control of Rome and Italy, and whose elimination was essential to the implementation of full papal authority. These were the Heruli, Vandals, and Ostrogoths.
"Eyes like the eyes of man"
This is generally understood to be a symbol of intelligence. In contrast with the barbarians, who were largely illiterate, the papacy provided farseeing intellectual leadership.
"A mouth speaking great things
Comparing this with similar expressions in verses 11, 20, and 25, this characteristic describes the boastful and blasphemous claims of the papacy.
Verse 9 Text
From the scene of earthly kingdoms, Daniel's attention is now turned to events transpiring in heaven.
"Thrones were cast down"
The phrase "cast down" is from the Aramaic word remi, which may correctly be translated "to set in place."
"The Ancient of days did sit"
This is God, the Father, called in Revelation 1:4, "Him which is, and which was, and which is to come." These expressions imply His eternity of existence.
Three times in verses 9 and 10 is fire mentioned. This is the indescribable glory that surrounds the personal being of God.
Verse 10 Text
"Thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him"
This is the number of angels which surround God's throne (See Revelation 5:11). The Psalmist indicates that these angels stand ready to do God's bidding:
|"The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all. Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure." Psalm 103:19-21.|
"The judgment was set"
This heavenly throne-room scene is describing the commencement of the great judgment. The reality of the judgment is clearly taught throughout the Scriptures. See sample texts.
"And the books were opened"
These books contain the evidence which is brought forth in the judgment. What is recorded in the books? The Bible tells us very specifically. See the texts.
Verse 11 Text
"I beheld then"
The arrangement of these verses implies that the horn power is still speaking his great words while the judgment is taking place in heaven. Notice the order:
The Bible indicates that the determinative phase of the judgment takes place before Jesus returns. We sometimes refer to this phase as the pre-advent judgment.
Verse 12 Text
"The rest of the beasts" would be the lion, the bear, and the leopard. Here it says that even though those kingdoms lost their dominion, yet in some way their lives were prolonged. Revelation 13:2 describes a beast from the sea which is a composite of a leopard, a bear, and a lion. In that beast the essence of these earlier kingdoms was prolonged.
Verse 13 Text
The description of the judgment continues.
"One like the Son of man"
This is Jesus, who in light of His incarnation most often referred to Himself as "the Son of man."
"Came with the clouds of heaven"
"Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud." Isaiah 19:1.
"Who maketh the clouds his chariot." Psalm 104:3.
"The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels." Psalm 68:17.
Clouds here are a symbol of the angels which form the chariot of the Lord.
"Came to the Ancient of days"
Described in Revelation 1:4 as "Him which is, and which was, and which is to come," the Ancient of days is God the Father.
The judgment was set, the books were opened, and now the Son of man, to whom the Father "hath committed all judgment" (John 5:22), is brought in.
Verse 14 Text
"And there was given unto him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom"
The judgment results in the establishment of Christ's kingdom. When the work of judgment ceases, it has been decided who shall be subjects of that kingdom. At that time Jesus begins to reign, and He soon destroys the kingdoms of men (verse 26).
Verse 16 Text
"The interpretation of the things"
After receiving this vision, Daniel was not left to guess as to its meaning. As the angel explained the symbolism of beasts as kingdoms (verse 17), Daniel was particularly interested in the fourth beast (verse 19), which represented the fourth kingdom (verse 23). He wanted to know about the ten horns, but especially about the little horn (verse 20). All these things were explained to him in the succeeding verses.
Verse 17 Text
"These great beasts, which are four, are four kings"
Verse 23 Text
"The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom"
Verse 25 Text
"And he shall speak great words against the most High"
This is in reference to the little horn, which we have identified in verse 8 as the papacy. Regarding the "great words" spoken of here, see comments on "a mouth speaking great things" in verse 8.
"And shall wear out the saints of the most High"
Verse 21 mentioned that "the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them." Thus the papacy was predicted to be a persecutor of God's people.
The millions of martyrdoms inflicted by the Roman church is a fact that is largely forgotten today. Yet history faithfully reports that the Church of Rome has taken the lives of more men, women, and children than has any other institution that has ever existed.
"And think to change times and laws"
Here prophecy foretold that the papacy would tamper with "times and laws." The words, "think to change" suggest that the times and laws concerned are actually outside the jurisdiction of the little horn, yet he would attempt to change them.
Whose times and laws would they be? In context, the "great words" that he speaks are against "the most High," and the "saints" which he would "wear out" were of "the most High." Logically then, the "times and laws" which he would think to change would also be "of the most High." The papacy would think to change God's times and laws.
The pope has indeed claimed the right to change God's law. Notice the following quotation:
"The pope is of so great authority and power that he can modify, explain, or interpret even divine laws. . . . The pope can modify divine law, since his power is not of man, but of God, and he acts in the place of God upon earth." (Lucius Ferraris, "Papa," art. 2, in Prompta Bibliotheca)
God's law is recorded in Exodus 20. God spoke those commandments with His own voice and wrote them with His own finger on tables of stone. Yet, the papacy claims the right to alter them. Look in a standard Catholic catechism and compare the commandments of men with the laws of God as written in the Bible.
For example, God's second commandment says, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image." But because images are an important part of Catholic worship, the papacy has completely removed this commandment from its catechism and renumbered the rest of the commandments, dividing the tenth into two to make ten.
Daniel 7:25 says that he shall think to change "times and laws." The only law of God pertaining to time is His fourth commandment. It says, "Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work." Exodus 20:8-10.
Have you ever wondered why most Christians observe Sunday as their day of worship rather than the seventh day of the week, as was done in Bible times? Here is the answer: "The Catholic Church, . . . by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday." The Catholic Mirror, September 23, 1893.
Notice the following from an autographed letter from Cardinal Gibbons:
"1. Is Saturday the 7th day according to the Bible & the 10 Commandments?
"I answer yes.
"2. Is Sunday the first day of the week & did the Church change the 7th day--Saturday--for Sunday, the 1st. day:
"I answer yes.
"3. Did Christ change the day?
"I answer no! Faithfully yours,
"J. Card. Gibbons"
In changing the day of worship from the seventh to the first day of the week, the Roman church has fulfilled the prophecy of "thinking to change times and laws."
"And they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time"
This would be the period during which the little horn would exercise its supremacy. We learned in chapter 4 of Daniel that a "time" is one year. Nebuchadnezzar lost his sanity until "seven times" had passed. That was seven years.
The present verse speaks of "a time and times and the dividing of time." In other words: one time, plus two times, plus half a time. That would total three and a half "times" or years.
This prophetic period is mentioned several times in Daniel and Revelation. Let's notice them:
In symbolic prophecies, the Bible often employs the Year-Day Principle in which each year is represented in the prophecy as a day. Such is the case in the present text. In other words, "1260 days" is actually symbolic of 1260 years. Prophecy therefore predicted that the papacy would hold supremacy for 1260 years. And the facts of history confirm that to be the case. The specific years were A.D. 538-1798.
Verse 26 Text
"But the judgment shall sit"
The judgment will rule against the little horn, and the kingdom shall be given "to the people of the saints of the most High" (verse 27).