Study Notes

Daniel 7:1-8


We have looked at the first six chapters of the book of Daniel, which covered his lifetime chronologically from the time he was a teenager in Jerusalem until he was an old man enjoying success in the Medo-Persian Empire under Darius the Mede.

But now we leave the systematic timeline and return to the past. The rest of the book of Daniel will cover the visions that Daniel experienced.

Now, I've got to tell you in advance, that the visions described in Daniel are not easily interpreted, and chapter seven is the beginning of the confusion.

While I have spent years in study of this book, I must admit that my understanding of many of these things changes with the temperature, and every commentary I read on the book of Daniel only serves to greater cloud the issues.

I believe that the things which I will share in this study are the proper and accurate interpretations, but I will also give you some of the common alternate interpretations as we go. With that disclaimer duly noted, let's jump into the text at Daniel seven, verse one.

7:1 First Year Of Belshazzar

We go back to the first year of Bale-shats-TSAR, about 553 BC. This would put this vision chronologically before chapter five, since it was there we saw the end of King Belshazzar's reign over Babylon. In fact, we saw the end of the Babylonian Empire itself in that event. This vision was given to Daniel fourteen years before the fall of Babylon.

Wrote The Dream Down

After Daniel saw this dream, he wrote it down.

I find that writing is a great way to relate facts which could become subjective after a period of time. This was, in fact, the reason that Dr. Luke wrote his gospel.

Luke 1:3-4 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write {it} out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

He talked to eyewitnesses, investigated everything carefully, and wrote it down in consecutive order so that we could know the exact truth.

With the same reasoning, we can rest assured that exactly what Daniel saw is exactly what we have printed here.

7:2-3 Looking In My Visions By Night

The "dream and visions in his mind" (7:1) are described by Daniel as being seen while he was "looking in my vision by night." What a mysterious phrase! Scripture seems to describe night visions as dreams, and yet more than dreams, as we examined in chapter two.

People often feel the need to describe to me dreams that they have had, followed with the question, "What do you think it means? Could it be from God?" I often try to be polite and look for some Biblical or edifying truth to be gleaned from their descriptions. But I never say, "Yup, this sounds like it's from God." The reason why is that those who received dreams and visions from God had no doubt what they had experienced. God spoke to Jacob in visions of the night (Gen 46:2), as well as Paul the apostle (Acts 18:9). These men and others knew for certain that the visions they'd had were from God. There was absolutely no question in their minds.

Daniel knew that this was more than a typical dream to be awakened from and forgotten.

The Four Winds Of Heaven

In Daniel's vision, he describes the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea. The prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah all mention the four winds of heaven (Jer. 49:36; Ezek. 37:9; Dan. 8:8; Zech. 2:6). Even Jesus said that He would send angels to gather together His elect from the four winds (Matt. 24:31; Mark 13:27).

But what exactly are these four winds of heaven? There are lots of speculations.

The most intriguing is that this speaks of spiritual powers or forces. Indeed, Scripture speaks of wind over 150 times, and many of those references speak of God's power and ability to affect world events and influence the actions of mankind. For example, God used wind to cause the water of Noah's flood to subside (Gen. 8:1), and used wind to divide the waters of the Red Sea (Exod. 14:21).

But there are times that satan used the wind as well. Remember that when Jesus and His disciples were in a life-threatening storm,

Mark 4:39 ...He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.

And Job's servants reported that his children were killed when...

Job 1:19 "...a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died; and I alone have escaped to tell you."

So it would seem that the wind, in a spiritual sense, could represent spiritual powers, either the power of God, or the power of the devil.

However, it is interesting to me that Jeremiah called these winds,

Jer. 49:36 ...the four winds from the four ends of heaven...

Although it is not as mystical an interpretation as some credit me with, it sounds to me like these could simply be winds from the four directions: north, south, east, and west. As Asaph the psalmist wrote,

Ps. 78:26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens; And by His power He directed the south wind.

So, the four winds of heaven could either speak of spiritual powers, or simply wind from different directions. I really don't know if we can know for certain. After all, Jesus said of the wind,

John 3:8 "The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going..."

The Great Sea

The four winds were stirring up the great sea. What is this sea? One common interpretation of the sea is that of the Gentile nations, or of humanity in general. Jesus did describe God's calling of people into the kingdom as being...

Matt. 13:47 " a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering {fish} of every kind"

On the other hand, I believe, along with many others, that "the Great Sea" refers to the Mediterranean Sea, that great body of water which divides Africa and the European nations. This is also the sea that has on its eastern shore the land of Israel. There is certainly much Biblical precedence for this interpretation. The books of Numbers, Joshua, and Ezekiel all refer to the Mediterranean as "the Great Sea" (Num. 34:6-7; Josh. 1:4, 9:1, etc.; Ezek. 47).

Four Great Beasts

The four winds stirred up the great sea, and four great beasts were coming up from the sea.

When it says that they are "great," it does not mean "great" as in, "Hey, that's great!" but rather, great in power and size.

These four beasts are interpreted for us down in verse 17.

Dan. 7:17 ‘These great beasts, which are four {in number,} are four kings {who} will arise from the earth.

The beasts represent kings, or more specifically, their world empires. Fortunately, while there is some debate, most conservative scholars agree that these empires are the same empires that were represented in Nebuchadnezzar's dream back in chapter two: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greek, and Rome.

If this is the proper interpretation, then it would seem that the great sea would in fact represent the Mediterranean, since all four of these empires bordered the Mediterranean Sea.

Let's read Daniel's description of these beasts.

7:4 The First Beast

The first beast is described as being like a lion with eagles' wings. This would accurately represent the Babylonian Empire, since the winged lion represents supreme authority, power, and swiftness. It is written by Walvoord that, "Winged lions guarded the gates of the royal palaces of the Babylonians."

But even more interesting is that the beast had his wings plucked, was lifted up from the ground, made to stand like a man, and received a human mind. This seems to speak of what happened to Babylon's King Nebuchadnezzar in chapter four.

Because of the king's pride, God had pronounced over him,

Dan. 4:16 "Let his mind be changed from {that of} a man, and let a beast's mind be given to him, and let seven periods of time pass over him."

For seven years, he lived as a beast in the field. His hair grew like eagles' feathers. But when he lifted his eyes up to heaven, he was restored. Reason returned to him. He once again stood on his two feet like a man, and his mind was given back to him.

7:5 The Second Beast

The second beast that Daniel saw resembled a bear. Raised up on one side, it had three ribs in its mouth, and it was told to get up and eat a lot of meat. Weird stuff, huh?

If we are following the lead of chapter two, this beast would represent the Medo-Persian Empire, which toppled the Babylonian Empire at the end of chapter five.

In the Scripture, the bear represents a predator that rises up against its enemy. When David was trying to convince King Saul to let him fight Goliath,

1Sam. 17:34-35 ...David said to Saul, "Your servant was tending his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued {it} from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized {him} by his beard and struck him and killed him.

The bear is also biblically described as fierce (2Sam. 17:8), deadly (2Kings 2:24), and one who lies in wait (Lam. 3:10).

These descriptions accurately portray the Medo-Persian Empire. As a bear rises up against its enemy, this beast resembling a bear rose up on only one side. I believe that this speaks of the greater power that the Persians had.

The three ribs in the beast's mouth seem to remain a mystery. Lots of commentaries make lots of suggestions. Are the three ribs representative of nations, provinces, or cities?

Looking at it Biblically, the only other place that ribs are mentioned in Scripture is found in Genesis two, when the Lord was creating a mate for Adam.

Gen. 2:21-22 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.

Although I have not read the suggestion in any commentary, it is highly probable that the three ribs represent three people. I could even venture a guess that one of them is King Bale-shats-TSAR who was killed the night that the Medes and Persians invaded (Dan. 5:30). But beyond that suggestion, I really don't know who or what the ribs might represent.

7:6 The Third Beast

The third beast that Daniel saw in his vision was like a leopard with four heads and four wings. We believe that this beast represents the Grecian Empire under Alexander the Great.

The leopard with wings would be an obvious symbol of deadly swiftness and agility, which certainly personified the Greeks. Alexander accomplished his conquests in such a short time that it was practically unbelievable. After his death, the kingdom was divided under four kings into four parts: Egypt, Persia, Western Asia, and Greece.

7:7-8 The Fourth Beast

Daniel then saw a fourth beast - one that was far different - more dreadful, terrifying, and strong - than the previous three beasts.

This was the Roman Empire, crushing and devastating everything in its path. They were ruthless conquerors, killing and selling into slavery those who opposed them.

But the vision of this beast has not yet been completely fulfilled. The description of these ten horns and another little horn will become reality during the last days.

There is no way that we could cover this topic with any kind of depth tonight, so I have decided to save the study of this final beast and its corresponding kingdom until next week. This will give us a chance to look at the antichrist and at Jesus Christ.

This week for homework, I commend to your reading the rest of the book of Daniel, as well as Revelation 11 through 20.

Why The Beasts?

But before we close tonight, I want us to consider something. These are the same kingdoms that were described in chapter two as,

Dan. 2:32-33 "The head of that statue {was made} of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.

But here in chapter seven, they are seen and described as terrible beasts.

The first vision was in the image of man, made of precious and useful metals. The second was frightening, featuring mutated monstrosities. If they are both the same, why the difference? I believe that it has everything to do with the one who sees the vision.

Nebuchadnezzar was a man of the world. Daniel was a man of God.

Nebuchadnezzar was a man of vengeance. Daniel was a man of prayer.

Nebuchadnezzar was a man of fleshly pride. Daniel was a man of spiritual humility.

And when these two men were shown the kingdoms of the world, they saw them entirely differently. King Nebuchadnezzar saw an image of a man with glory, strength, and value. Daniel saw freakish beasts wreaking havoc, terror, and death.

What is your world view tonight? Do you see the glittering gold of prosperity? Or the frightening spectre of greed? Do you see the shining silver of a nation built on the right to free speech? Or do you see the monstrosity of vulgarity and sensuality out of control?

Saints, I pray that our world view would be seen through the eyes of Daniel, not Nebuchadnezzar. As the Scriptures say,

Rom. 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

When Jesus prayed for us, He said,

John 17:15-17 "I do noe will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

When Jesus prayed for us, He said,

John 17:15-17 "I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil {one.} They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.

May our study of the Word of God set us apart from this world, even as we must live in it.

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