II. DANIEL’S VISIONS
The Beasts and the Judgment.
#This vision continues the motif of the four kingdoms from chap. 2; see note on 2:36–45. To the four succeeding world kingdoms, Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Greek, is opposed the heavenly kingdom of God and the kingdom of God’s people on earth. The beast imagery of this chapter has been used extensively in the Book of Revelation, where it is applied to the Roman empire, the persecutor of the Church. 1In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, as Daniel lay in bed he had a dream, visions in his head. Then he wrote down the dream; the account began: 2In the vision I saw during the night, suddenly the four winds of heaven stirred up the great sea,#The great sea: the primordial ocean beneath the earth, according to ancient Near Eastern cosmology (Gn 7:11; 49:25). It was thought to contain various monsters (Is 27:1; Jb 7:12), and in particular mythological monsters symbolizing the chaos which God had vanquished in primordial times (Jb 9:13; 26:12; Is 51:9–10; etc.). 3from which emerged four immense beasts,#a. [7:3] Rev 13:1. each different from the others. 4The first was like a lion, but with eagle’s wings.#In ancient times the Babylonian empire was commonly represented as a winged lion, in the rampant position (raised up on one side). The two wings that were plucked may represent Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. On two feet like a human being…a human mind: contrasts with what is said in 4:13, 30. While I watched, the wings were plucked; it was raised from the ground to stand on two feet like a human being, and given a human mind. 5The second beast was like a bear;#A bear: represents the Median empire, its three tusks symbolizing its destructive nature; hence, the command: “Arise, devour much flesh.” it was raised up on one side, and among the teeth in its mouth were three tusks. It was given the order, “Arise, devour much flesh.” 6After this I looked and saw another beast, like a leopard;#A leopard: used to symbolize the swiftness with which Cyrus the Persian established his kingdom. Four heads: corresponding to the four Persian kings of 11:2. on its back were four wings like those of a bird, and it had four heads. To this beast dominion was given. 7#Alexander’s empire was different from all the others in that it was Western rather than Eastern in inspiration, and far exceeded the others in power. The ten horns represent the kings of the Seleucid dynasty, the only part of the Hellenistic empire that concerned the author. The little horn is Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 B.C.), who usurped the throne and persecuted the Jews. After this, in the visions of the night I saw a fourth beast, terrifying, horrible, and of extraordinary strength; it had great iron teeth with which it devoured and crushed, and it trampled with its feet what was left. It differed from the beasts that preceded it. It had ten horns. 8I was considering the ten horns it had, when suddenly another, a little horn, sprang out of their midst, and three of the previous horns were torn away to make room for it. This horn had eyes like human eyes, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly. 9#A vision of the heavenly throne of God (the Ancient of Days), who sits in judgment over the nations. Some of the details of the vision, depicting the divine majesty and omnipotence, are to be found in Ezekiel 1. Others are paralleled in 1 Enoch, a contemporary Jewish apocalypse. As I watched,
Thrones were set up
and the Ancient of Days took his throne.
His clothing was white as snow,
the hair on his head like pure wool;
His throne was flames of fire,
with wheels of burning fire.
10A river of fire surged forth,
flowing from where he sat;
Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him,
and myriads upon myriads stood before him.#b. [7:10] Rev 5:11.
The court was convened, and the books were opened. 11I watched, then, from the first of the arrogant words which the horn spoke, until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the burning fire. 12As for the other beasts, their dominion was taken away, but they were granted a prolongation of life for a time and a season. 13As the visions during the night continued, I saw coming with the clouds of heaven#c. [7:13] Mk 13:26; 14:62.
One like a son of man.#One like a son of man: In contrast to the worldly kingdoms opposed to God, which are represented as grotesque beasts, the coming Kingdom of God is represented by a human figure. Scholars disagree as to whether this figure should be taken as a collective symbol for the people of God (cf. 7:27) or identified as a particular individual, e.g., the archangel Michael (cf. 12:1) or the messiah. The phrase “Son of Man” becomes a title for Jesus in the gospels, especially in passages dealing with the Second Coming (Mk 13 and parallels).
When he reached the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him,
14He received dominion, splendor, and kingship;
all nations, peoples and tongues will serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed.#d. [7:14] Dn 3:33; 4:31.
15Because of this, my spirit was anguished and I, Daniel, was terrified by my visions. 16I approached one of those present and asked him the truth of all this; in answer, he made known to me its meaning: 17“These four great beasts stand for four kings which shall arise on the earth. 18But the holy ones#“Holy ones” in Hebrew and Aramaic literature are nearly always members of the heavenly court or angels (cf. 4:10, 14, 20; 8:13), though here the term is commonly taken to refer to Israel. of the Most High shall receive the kingship, to possess it forever and ever.”
19Then I wished to make certain about the fourth beast, so very terrible and different from the others, devouring and crushing with its iron teeth and bronze claws, and trampling with its feet what was left; 20and about the ten horns on its head, and the other one that sprang up, before which three horns fell; and about the horn with the eyes and the mouth that spoke arrogantly, which appeared greater than its fellows. 21For, as I watched, that horn made war against the holy ones and was victorious 22until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was pronounced in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, and the time arrived for the holy ones to possess the kingship. 23He answered me thus:
“The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
different from all the others;
The whole earth it shall devour,
trample down and crush.
24The ten horns shall be ten kings
rising out of that kingdom;
another shall rise up after them,
Different from those before him,
who shall lay low three kings.
25He shall speak against the Most High
and wear down the holy ones of the Most High,
intending to change the feast days and the law.#The reference is to the persecution of Antiochus IV and specifically to the disruption of the Temple cult (1 Mc 1:41–64). A time, two times, and half a time: an indefinite, evil period of time. Probably here, three and a half years, which becomes the standard period of tribulation in apocalyptic literature (Rev 11:2; 13:5 [in months]; 11:3 [in days]; and cf. 12:14). As seven is the Jewish “perfect” number, half of it signifies great imperfection. Actually, the Temple was desecrated for three years (1 Mc 4:52–54). The duration of the persecution was a little longer, since it was already under way before the Temple was desecrated.
They shall be handed over to him
for a time, two times, and half a time.
26But when the court is convened,
and his dominion is taken away
to be abolished and completely destroyed,
27Then the kingship and dominion and majesty
of all the kingdoms under the heavens
shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High,
Whose kingship shall be an everlasting kingship,
whom all dominions shall serve and obey.”
28This is the end of the report. I, Daniel, was greatly terrified by my thoughts, and my face became pale, but I kept the matter to myself.#This verse ends the Aramaic part of the Book of Daniel.