7:1 [this chapter marks a division between historical narratives and prophetic visions] In the first year [553 BC] of Belshazzar king of Babylon [Daniel had these visions before Belshazzar saw the writing on the palace wall (5:24-31)], Daniel [had been in captivity since 605 BC; was about sixty-seven years old at this time] had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.
7:2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked [cf. 7:9,13], and there before me were the four [number represents the four points of the compass; implies that devastation created by winds affected entire world] winds [Heb. word may also be translated “spirits” (thereby referring to angels of judgment; c. Rev. 7:1-3; 9:13-19)] of heaven churning [tossed about by decisions and actions of evil rulers] up the great sea [a metaphor for humanity].
Note: Characteristics of Apocalyptic literature.
• the revelation is given by God
• the revelation refers to future events
• written during times of persecution or crisis
• contains a great deal of symbolism
• major message is the ultimate triumph of God’s kingdom
7:3 Four great beasts [traditionally interpreted as the kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome], each different from the others [yet each one was powerful, fierce, and cruel; each more ruthless than its predecessor], came up out of the sea [humanity; the nations and peoples of the world].
7:4 [1–Babylon] “The first was like a lion [a common symbol of royal power; cf. 1 Kings 10:20; 2 Chron. 9:19], and it had the wings of an eagle [cf. Jer. 4:7; Ezek. 17:3 re: lion and eagle as symbols of Babylon]. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.
7:5 [2–Medo-Persia] “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear [a very strong animal]. It was raised up on one of its sides [perhaps an indication that the union between the Persians and the Medes was not an equal one], and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’
7:6 [3–Greece] “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard [a swift and feared animal of prey]. And on its back it had four wings [these would make the leopard swifter; cf. swiftness with which Alexander the Great conquered much of civilized world in his day] like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.
7:7 [4–Rome] “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast [Rome]—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten [number ten probably symbolized completeness] horns [typically represented power of kings or kingdoms in apocalyptic visions; represented ten kings who would rise in the kingdom (cf. 7:24)].
7:8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one [represented a king who would violently overthrow three of the kings; traditionally understood to represent the Antichrist], which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes [indicated the intelligence and cleverness of the king] like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully [a characteristic of those who oppose God].
7:9 “As I looked [cf. 7:2,13], “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days [title designates the sovereign, eternal God; this phrase occurs only in this chapter] took his seat [indicates judgment was about to begin]. His clothing [cf. Isa. 6:1 re: majestic robe] was as white as snow [emphasizes purity and holiness]; the hair of his head was white like wool [stresses the Lord’s eternal nature and holiness]. His throne was flaming with fire [emphasized the wrath of God’s judgment], and its wheels [cf. Ezek. 10:18-19] were all ablaze.
7:10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him [describes God’s judgment going forth against the horn and the beast and all who oppose Him]. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand [these were the largest numbers people in the ancient world could imagine] stood before him [cf. Rev. 5:11-12; 7:9-10]. The court was seated, and the books [God keeps a records of every person’s thoughts, words, and deeds; these books recorded what the king and others rulers had done] were opened [the time of judgment and accountability had come].
7:11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words [words spoken against God and His purpose] the horn [the Antichrist; ancient kings often thought themselves equal to the gods] was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire [a typical way of referring to divine punishment; cf. Rev. 19:20].
7:12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority [when they were conquered by the succeeding empire], but were allowed to live for a period of time.)
7:13 “In my vision at night I looked [cf. 7:2,9], and there before me was one like a son of man [Jesus commonly used this title to refer to Himself (Mk. 10:45; Jn. 3:13-14)], coming with the clouds [cf. Matt. 24:29-31; 1 Thess. 4:16-17; Jesus’ return will be visible to everyone] of heaven [Jesus quoted this verse at His trial before the high priest (Matt. 26:64) thus identifying Himself as the Messiah]. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.
7:14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power [kingly rule]; all peoples, nations and men of every language [everyone everywhere] worshiped [served] him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion [as opposed to the temporary dominions of earthly rulers] that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
7:15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me.
7:16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all this. “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things:
7:17 ‘The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth.
7:18 But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’
7:19 “Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left.
7:20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully.
7:21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them,
7:22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.
7:23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it.
7:24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings.
7:25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.
7:26 ” ‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever.
7:27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’
7:28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”