We begin chapter 7 of The Book of Daniel, moving beyond the historical account of Daniel’s life and into his prophetic message. We start by examining the structure of the book and the nature of its prophecies. The focus in chapter seven is on Daniel’s dream and the four beasts. Using images similar to the Book of Revelation, Daniel’s ultimate message is also the same – a call to worship, to live a life of faith, and be a faithful witness to the Gospel of God.
Alright, so we’re in chapter 7 of Daniel.
This gets a little more difficult because we’re talking we’re talking about prophecy. We’re going to look at a lot of the structure of the book of Daniel. We’re going to see how Daniel’s laid out a little bit differently. We haven’t really talked about this before.
Before we dive in, we’re going to do a little quick review. We’re going to look at the structure of the book of Daniel, then we’re going to break it down into structures within chapter 7 of Daniel.
If you’ll recall, in 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar—he’s the king of the Babylonians. He comes into Judah and takes over. He takes Daniel and a few of his friends hostage along with thousands of other people. So the first six chapters of Daniel, you see this powerful story unfold where Daniel and his three friends are taken into Babylonian captivity, and Daniel is interpreting dreams and having prophecies and things like that. We saw this in 1-6.
Chapters 7-12 are going to be a lot of these prophecies as they unfold. So, there’s a lot of neat design in the way that Daniel is laid out. It’s going to really help us understand the structure of the book as we look at it. Even in the book’s language.
The book of Daniel alternates between Hebrew and Aramaic
Chapter 1 is written in Hebrew, so you’re going to see the structure just in how this book is laid out in language. It is really helpful to help us understand how it’s all put together and why it’s put together the way it is.
So we see chapter 1 written in Hebrew. Chapters 2-7 are written in Aramaic. And Aramaic is another ancient language, very common in biblical times, related to Hebrew.
And then in chapters 8-12, we switch back to Hebrew.
And there’s a reason for all that. What we can interpret from this is that chapters 2-7 are a coherent structure placed together that way, written in one language for a reason; and then 8‑12 is very similar. They are separate.
But there’s also some other neat symmetry that we can see in how Daniel’s laid out.
We can see in chapter 1—that’s written in Hebrew—that’s all about Daniel and his three friends. They’re very young, and they’re recruited—if you’ll recall—to work in the palace under Nebuchadnezzar.
They’re pressured to give up their beliefs as they’re renamed after the pagan gods of Babylon. They’re pressured to eat these foods that are outside their religious practices. But they don’t give up. They don’t give in. They stay committed, and they stay faithful.
And because of this, they end up being elevated by the king.
Next, in chapter 2—which is now switching to the Aramaic portion—this also has a really cool symmetrical design. First we have the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. He’s having a dream, and he needs it interpreted.
If you’ll recall, only Daniel knows how to interpret that dream. And the dream’s of that statue. And the statue’s made up of four different types of metals that talks about how the sequence of these empires are going to come into play.
And then finally after he sees the statue, that huge rock comes in and crushes the statue, and just destroys it. And Daniel says the dream’s a sequence of human kingdoms after Babylon that will bring violence to the world and that the final kingdom, God’s kingdom, will come and humble these others and heal the world with God’s justice.
Well, chapter 3 tells the story of Daniel’s three friends who refuse to bow down to or worship that statue that Nebuchadnezzar builds, and they’re thrown into the fiery furnace where God delivers them from death, and they’re exalted again by the king, who actually recognizes that God is the God above all gods through this particular trial that his three friends went through.
So again, a story of faithfulness.
The next chapters, 4 and 5, give us a pair of stories about the Babylonian kings Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, who are both filled with pride. They’re in a position of great authority. And they’re kind of really egotistical and self-centric, as you can imagine you would be when you get to be the king over most of the world.
All this imperial power that they have, but God steps in and warns them. And just like in chapter 2, only Daniel can interpret these dreams that they have, and he says that both kings are supposed to humble themselves before God. Of course, they refuse.
Nebuchadnezzar, he loses his mind. He’s turned into a beast, essentially. And then after a while, he humbles himself, and he’s brought back into power. And he recognizes that God is the one true God.
Belshazzar refuses to humble himself before God, doesn’t recover from that, and he is killed that very night.
Well, chapter 6 is the pair-chapter to chapter 3. So you can kind of see how chapters 2 and 7 are going to talk about dreams. Chapters 3 and 6 are stories of faithfulness with the fiery furnace and the lion’s den. And then 4 and 5 are pair-chapters. We have Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and Belshazzar’s pride, which are going to cause them to fall.
So chapter 6, being the pair to chapter 3, is where Daniel refuses to worship the king.
Remember last week we talked a lot about a lot about this. They kind of trick Darius saying, “Hey, make a law, and everybody has to worship you for the next 30 days. And if they refuse, they should be killed.” So the satraps trick him into writing that law, and because of the law of the Persian’s at the time, he can’t go back on his own law.
So this all this all happens because of Daniel’s honesty. Remember, he’s one of the three guys who’s out there collecting taxes, and he’s collecting more taxes than everyone else. Well, he’s not really collecting more, he’s giving it over to the king where the other guys are skimming off the top.
So Darius decides, maybe I’ll put Daniel in charge of all of this activity, and the other guys don’t like that because if Daniel’s put in charge, who’s going to get the money? The king will. They won’t won’t be able to have their own summer lake houses and things like that. Maybe Jet Skis and all the other things they want to have.
Instead what they do is they throw Daniel under the bus. They get King Darius to write this law, and he can’t go back on his law. So they throw Daniel into the lions’ den.
We saw that even though these folks conspired against Daniel, the tables get turned on them because the angel steps in and seals the mouths of the lions for the time that Daniel’s in there, and Daniel’s brought out, and they and their families are thrown in.
Chapter 6 is another story of faith.
We can see, chapter 1 is all about Daniel and his three friends being recruited. Then you’ve got 2 and 7 paired together talking about dreams. Chapter 1 is a dream that Daniel interprets for Nebuchadnezzar; and 7 is the dream that we’re going to talk about today which is about prophecy.
Chapters 3 and 6 are stories of faithfulness paired together with the fiery furnace and the lion’s den.
And then 4 and 5, stories of pride and man’s fall because of putting pride before God.
So chapter 7 is the pair to chapter 2. We have another dream. But this time it’s to Daniel, and Daniel alone.
And what we get to see is as Daniel has this dream, it’s going to cause a lot of turmoil for him. He’s going to really be upset trying to interpret prophecy. He even has trouble—even though he’s seeing this dream, and it’s taking place in front of him—he has trouble interpreting it himself. He’s so scared, and it’s just so overwhelming that it takes an angelic messenger to actually step in at the end of chapter 7 and interpret this dream for him.
As we look at 1, 3, and 6, stories of faithfulness despite persecution meant to have us have hope and be faithful witness. Chapters 4 and 5 are about human kingdoms’ rebellion against God and becoming like beasts as seen, literally, in Nebuchadnezzar’s instance.
Chapters 2 and 7 are about dreams that encourage patience, and God’s people are to wait for him to bring his kingdom to the world and vindicate his suffering people.
When is this going to happen?
So that leads to the question—when will all this happen? Well this is what the final chapters of Daniel are all about. The when and how is all this going to take place. We’re not going to get a clear answer on any of this, but we will get a clear understanding of one thing and that’s—God’s in control. He’s got this. We’re not going to be able to interpret this down to exactly what’s going to happen and what minute it’s going to happen. That’s not meant for us to do.
But we will get the understanding that God has got all of this. He’s in control.
So we’re going to look at Daniel 7, and we’re going to talk about this in two major divisions. The first half is going to be the dream that Daniel has which is verses 1-14. And the second half is going to be about the interpretation of the dream which is 15-28. We’re going to look at that in more detail.
The first half, 1-14, we’re going to break that down. Verses 1-8 are going to be the four beasts. 9-12, the Ancient of Days, and 13-14, the Son of Man.
This is the first prophecy in the book revealed directly to Daniel. The other prophecies were revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar, but they were interpreted by Daniel. So this is the first one he gets.
The four beasts of Daniel’s dream
Let’s look at Daniel 7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts.
Where we are historically— chapter 6 was about Darius. Darius comes after Belshazzar, so Daniel’s not necessarily written sequentially; it’s not written in order. We’re jumping back now to the time of Belshazzar.
It’s the first year of Belshazzar. And Belshazzar is Nebuchadnezzar’s son or maybe grandson. So you’ve got Nebuchadnezzar, then he moves on; he dies. And then Belshazzar takes over following him in lineage. Then Darius comes after that.
Not to be confused, chapter 6 is about Darius. So the lions’ den happens after this event in chapter 7. So chapter 7, verse 2.
Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea.
The four winds of heaven are creating a raging storm on the sea. This means that the following events that he’s going to talk about are ordained by God. If you remember from our study in Revelation, this might look familiar to you because if you look at Revelation 7:1, it says.
After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.
Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”
And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed:
So God pauses the four winds while he selects the hundred and forty-four thousand and sets the seals.
In Daniel, the four winds stir up the sea or the nations, out of which arise four beasts. And we’re going to talk about the four beasts.
When we think about these winds and the turmoil, perhaps it’s God. He deals in order, and the earth deals in chaos.
The first beast
Alright, verse 3. Now we’re going to get into the four beasts here.
7:3. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.
The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
Generally it’s agreed that this beast represents the Babylonian empire and King Nebuchadnezzar in particular. The description certainly fits here with Nebuchadnezzar’s plunge from power that took place. And his loss of sanity in chapter 4, where his wings are plucked off as we see here in the vision.
Later Nebuchadnezzar’s brought back and reinstated into power. He’s turned back from beast into man.
So while God tells neither Daniel nor us that the beast represents Nebuchadnezzar, he does reveal the head of gold in the vision in chapter 2. That, he said, does represent Nebuchadnezzar. We see that in chapter 2:36-38.
Since the head of gold seems to describe the same king and kingdom as the first beast, it may not be too far afield to conclude that Nebuchadnezzar is the king represented by the first beast.
So the first empire is the Babylonian empire, the coming of that lion with wings like an eagle.
Also, in many places in the Old Testament Babylon is symbolized as both a lion and an eagle. You see those representations all over the place.
So by far, when you look at this, the first beast that we’re talking about here is the best of a bad bunch. He’s more beastly in the beginning and more human towards the end paralleling the character of Nebuchadnezzar.
This also underscores that these four kingdoms go from reasonably good to unbelievably bad.
The only human things mentioned in the fourth beast that we’re going to talk about are his eyes and his mouth. His mouth is used to speak boastfully. So as you see this, the first beast is more humanlike, and as we go to two, three, and four, it’s going to get worse and worse.
The second beast
So 7:5. “And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’
This is that kingdom of those Medo-Persians. We see this in chapter 6 when Darius takes over. And we know this because in chapter 8, Daniel has another vision, and we saw this next week when we talk about it in more detail. But just to give you some context of where we’re getting the idea here: Daniel 8 has this vision where the kingdom is described differently, but it’s stated that the Medo-Persians will be the second kingdom.
If you look at 8:18 it says, Now, as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me, and stood me upright.
And he said, “Look, I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be.
The ram which you saw, having the two horns—they are the kings of Media and Persia.
And this is the second kingdom that he’s talking about. So we tie that back and say the kingdom he’s talking about with this bear is the Medo-Persians.
We can even look at some of the symbolism where you’re looking at this bear. We see this bear, or parts of this bear, again in Revelation.
The third beast
So if you look at Revelation 13:2 it says, Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion.
So the feet of a bear. Perhaps a foundation of laws that they represent. So we see the laws of the Medes and the Persians could not be broken. Perhaps the feet represent the organization of the Persian government structure.
They were known for their bureaucracy, right? We saw this in chapter 6. Remember Darius couldn’t take back the law that he wrote about worshipping him for 30 days. So if you didn’t worship him for 30 days, then you’re thrown into the lions’ den. So he couldn’t even take that back even though he was the one making the law. So this really thick red-tape bureaucracy they had going on. Perhaps that’s what the bear represents there.
Back to Daniel 7:6 “After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.
So the third beast is meant to represent the Grecian empire founded by Alexander the Great. He’s the next one in history.
So you’ve got the Babylonians. Then you have the Medo-Persians. And now you have Alexander the Great and the Grecian empire.
We know this from history, but also from Daniel 8:20, again, he’s going to talk about the goat and the ram where he’s referencing Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great and the Greeks are going to rule from 331 to 31 B.C. for approximately 300 years.
The symbolism here with the leopard is very appropriate for Alexander the Great because, as we discussed last week, they rolled through kingdoms very, very quickly. Nobody really put up a fight for them. They kind of moved through the land and pulled up to the city and said, hey, throw out the heads of your rulers, and we’ll replace them with other people who will provide security and, by the way, lower your taxes. Aha! Or, we’ll come in and murder you all. Your choice.
Usually, the heads of the rulers came out, and they would just take over and keep moving.
So now, think of this leopard, this great leopard, how quickly a leopard moves. Kind of neat to think of how fast Alexander the Great’s armies moved through the land, but now throw wings on its back. And I’d like to see a gazelle escape that on National Geographic channel! Just imagine how fast their armies moved with lightning speed.
So again, they pull up, give the ultimatum, “Throw out the heads of your rulers, or we’re going to come in and kill you all.”
It’s a pretty good business model for Alexander and company. They pull up and take right over. No big deal, no loss of life.
Looking back at Daniel 1-6, we have the great kings who gained very large empires through extreme military might and decisive victories. Yet their kingdoms were only temporary. Each rose, and then they fell.
We’ll continue on.
The fourth beast
Verse 7. “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.
I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.
So we saw the first beast—we can see Nebuchadnezzar in that beast, given the heart of a man, the mind of a man, again. We saw a little bit of a man there. Second is just a beast. The third is an even bigger and badder beast. And now, this beast, the only thing human-like about it, is the way his mouth is speaking these pompous words, speaking blasphemy.
So the fourth beast is different than the other ones mentioned. Like the others, it symbolizes a vast and powerful empire on earth, yet it’s different. It has ten horns, and still another small horn.
This beast corresponds with the statue of Nebuchadnezzar that we saw in chapter 2 in his dream, but it represents the Roman empire. You can see the iron teeth correspond with the legs of iron on that statue in chapter 2.
Alexander conquered by the rapidity of his troops moving so quickly through the land where Rome conquered by ruthless crushing of other people. It devoured and crushed. And anything that was left, it trampled with its feet. That’s how Rome did it. They would move in and just kind of take over and just crush anything that resisted against them.
So we see a beast similar to this, again, in Revelation 13:1. It says, Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.
So the Roman empire went from 31 B.C. until today, 2020, and counting. So we’re looking at about 2051 years and counting. We are still Romans. That’s what we’re trying to portray here, to help you understand.
What’s changed since then? Well, our road systems—they’re still Roman, still the same kind of structure, still Roman-based designs. Even our water and sewer systems are very similar to what they put in place. Our culture is predominantly the same as the Roman culture. Our government is like there’s. We both have legislative, executive, and judicial branches with the system of checks and balances. Both have social packages to help the poor through taxation of other people to help the citizens. We have football stadiums; they had gladiator coliseums. But pretty much the same thing.
There have been some pretty major changes since the fall of ancient Rome, but essentially we’re still Rome.
We noticed here, also, this little horn is not an animal but a man speaking pompous words. This will happen during this Roman empire. The person will be a powerful person as, in the Bible, a horn is usually used to represent someone very powerful or a powerful kingdom. So we kind of get this sense that this fourth kingdom being Rome is going to last a long time, as, obviously, it has. The fall of ancient Rome, and now you might want to call us New Rome. Essentially it’s the same thing. This has been going on for a while.