Daniel 7 Study Notes
7:1-28 This chapter of Daniel is one of the most important in the entire OT, an essential guide to biblical prophecy. Moreover, the vision of the Son of Man is the centerpiece of OT revelation concerning the Messiah. The Aramaic section of Daniel begins in chap. 2 with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the colossus and ends at the end of chap. 7. One reason for repeating the similar information in chaps. 2 and 8 is that chap. 2 presents the world kingdoms from a Gentile perspective, while chap. 8 views the Gentile empires from the perspective of the Jewish people. Another reason for the repetition is to confirm the certainty of the predictions. As Joseph said, Pharaoh’s dreams were repeated because “the matter has been determined by God, and he will carry it out soon” (Gn 41:32). The vision was included to give hope to Israel in captivity, informing the nation that life in the times of the Gentiles would get worse for God’s covenant people, but ultimately the messianic kingdom would be established.
7:1 Belshazzar became co-regent with Nabonidus in 553 BC. Assuming Daniel was about fifteen when he was exiled to Babylon, he would have received this vision when he was approximately sixty-seven years old. The events described in this chapter precede those of Dn 5.
7:2 The four winds stirring up the great sea refers to the convulsions of the Gentile nations in the times of the Gentiles. The chapter later indicates that the sea represents “the earth” (v. 17) from which the four kingdoms arise. Moreover, “the sea” is frequently symbolic of Gentile humanity in other biblical passages (Is 17:12-13; 57:20; Rv 13:1; 17:1,15).
7:3 The four huge beasts represent the four nations previously identified in the vision of the colossus in Dn 2 (see note at 2:31-45). These four beasts are increasingly violent, perhaps indicating the growing moral degeneracy of the respective kingdoms they represent.
7:4 The lion with eagle’s wings represents the Babylonian Empire. The winged lion was a fitting symbol because some biblical passages represent Nebuchadnezzar as a lion (Jr 4:7; 49:19; 50:17,44) and others as an eagle (Jr 49:22; Lm 4:19; Ezk 17:3; Hab 1:8). The Babylonian Empire used lions to represent itself, and statues with winged lions were common there. Perhaps the wings being torn off represents Nebuchadnezzar’s madness, and the lion’s being set on its feet like a man indicates his restoration.
7:5 The bear . . . with three ribs in its mouth represents the Medo-Persian Empire and its three main conquests: Babylon (539 BC), Lydia (546 BC), and Egypt (525 BC). Its lopsided nature expresses the Persian dominance in this joint empire.
7:6 The leopard represents the Greek Empire. Its four wings refer to the great speed of Alexander’s conquests, and its four heads represent the four principle sections of the empire: Greece and Macedonia, Thrace and Asia Minor, Syria and Babylon, and Egypt and Israel.
7:7 The terrifying fourth beast represents the Roman Empire. It was different from the previous three because it was more powerful and had longer dominion. Horns commonly represent kings or kingdoms in Scripture (Ps 132:17; Zch 1:18; Rv 13:1; 17:12), as the angel’s later interpretation plainly indicates (Dn 7:24).
7:8 A little . . . horn represents a king who starts small in power but becomes dominant. The little horn’s eyes like the eyes of a human indicates its shrewdness and its mouth that was speaking arrogantly points to its boasting blasphemously against God (cp. v. 25). This little horn is a future world ruler whom Scripture also calls “the coming ruler” (9:26); the king who “will do whatever he wants” (11:36); “the man of lawlessness,” “the man doomed to destruction” (2Th 2:3); “the beast” (Rv 13:1-10); and the “antichrist” (1Jn 2:18).
7:9-10 The phrase the Ancient of Days refers to God’s eternal nature.
7:11-12 The destruction of the beast by burning fire refers to the end of the fourth kingdom, the revived Roman Empire. The rest of the beasts, meaning the previous three kingdoms, would continue to exist but without their earlier dominance, until the coming of the messianic kingdom.
7:13-14 Although some have maintained that the son of man is the archangel Michael or a collective personification of the “holy ones of the Most High” (v. 18), this one is none other than the divine Messiah himself, who will fulfill the destiny of humanity (Ps 8; Heb 2:5-18). Jesus understood it to be a messianic title (Mk 14:61-62), and he used it to speak of himself. Later rabbis saw it as one of the names of the Messiah.
7:15-17 Daniel is told that the four beasts represent four kings.
7:18 The holy ones of the Most High is most likely a reference to Israel when the nation turns in faith to their Messiah Jesus (Zch 12:10; Rm 11:26). The literal covenant people will receive the kingdom, emphasizing that Messiah’s final kingdom will be a literal kingdom on earth.
7:19-24a After a summary of the vision’s meaning (vv. 19-22), the angel explains that the fourth kingdom, in its future state, will devour the whole earth, indicating world domination. The ten kings could be a metaphor for completeness. More likely, it refers to an empire with a literal confederation of ten kings (cp. Rv 17:12-13).
7:24b-26 Another king, the antichrist (cp. vv. 7-8), described in the vision as the little horn, will arise and take control of this last human empire by subduing three kings. He will be characterized by blasphemy (words against the Most High), anti-Semitism (he will oppress the holy ones of the Most High), and religious corruption (he will intend to change religious festivals and laws). He will oppress the Jewish people for time, times, and half a time, meaning three and one-half years, or the second half of the future tribulation (cp. Rv 7:14). Some conclude that this was fulfilled when Antiochus oppressed the Jewish people from 167-164 BC. This is unlikely since that period was for only three years and not three and one-half years. It is better to view this oppression as yet future. When the heavenly court will convene, the antichrist will be completely destroyed forever.
7:27 The Son of Man will take his throne and rule over his everlasting kingdom. Then the people—the believing remnant of Israel, also called holy ones—will receive this kingdom under the authority of their Messiah, the Son of Man.