Grace Theological Journal 6.2 (1985) 247-256.

[Copyright © 1985 Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission;

digitally prepared for use at Gordon and Grace Colleges and elsewhere]










The vision of Daniel 7, like the dream of Daniel 2, gives a picture

of history future to the time of the writing of the book of Daniel (ca.

6th century B.C.). Each of the four beasts represents a kingdom, the

last one being Rome. The Roman empire has two phases, one past

and one future. Correlations can be traced between Daniel 7 and the

book of Revelation.

                                                *   *   *




THE book of Daniel may be outlined as having two sections, the

first section consisting of chaps. 1-6 and the second of chaps.

7-12. The vision in Daniel 7 portrays the same chronological order of

events as is found in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Dan 2:31-45). It is

important, however, to grasp the chronology of the book itself. The

vision recorded in Daniel 7 occurred in approximately 553 B.C., four-

teen years before the events recorded in chap. 5. Indeed, chaps. 7 and

8 (set as they are in the first and third years of the reign of Belshazzar)

fit historically between chaps. 4 and 5.

Daniel 7 links with the first part of the book partly because it is

in Aramaic and therefore seems to continue the narrative of 2:4-6:28,

but also because it parallels the subject matter, particularly of chap. 2.

Baldwin writes, "Looked at in relation to the Aramaic section this

chapter [Daniel 7] constitutes the climax, and it is the high point in

relation to the whole book; subsequent chapters treat only part of the

picture and concentrate on some particular aspect of it."l

But Daniel 7 is as marked by disparity from the previous six

chapters as it is by similarity. For one thing, beginning in Daniel 7

and throughout the second half of the book, information is received

through angelic mediation rather than through dreams as it had been

in Daniel 1-6. The method of reporting also changes, switching from

the third to the first person.


1 Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel (TOTC; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1978) 137.


248                             GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

It is essential and unavoidable to compare chap. 2 with chap. 7.

Culver has summarized the comparisons succinctly.

            The differences between the dream prophecy of chapter 2 and the

vision prophecy of chapter 7 are chiefly as follows: 1) The dream was

not seen originally by a man of God but by a heathen monarch, hence

it was something that would appeal to such a man and which might be

readily explicable to his intellect. The vision was seen by a holy man of

God, and hence in terms more readily explicable to his intellect. 2) The

first presented the history of nations in their outward aspect--majestic,

splendid; the second in their inward spiritual aspect--as ravening wild

beasts. This might be elaborated to say that the first is a view of the

history of nations as man sees them, the second as God sees them.

Since the same general subject is treated in this vision as in the

dream of chapter 2 it is natural that the same general principles present

in that prophecy should follow here--the same series of powers, the

same continuity of rule, degeneration and character of authority, divi-

sion of sovereignty, and increasing strength of the kingdoms.2


Some have suggested that chap. 2 is the cosmological view (perhaps

even the cosmetic view) of the nations whereas chap. 7 provides the

spiritual view, which demonstrates the onerous reality of the pagan


This study focuses attention on the vision of the four beasts and

the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7. This study does not discuss similar-

ities between Daniel 7 and other ancient works3 but seeks to elucidate

the text as it is found.



Dan 7:1-7, 15-17 describes the vision of the four beasts. The

question of how to understand the metaphorical phrases such as "the

four winds" (7:2) is crucial. The image of "wind" in the book of

Daniel seems to be used of God's sovereign power and therefore

suggests a picture of heavenly forces (2:35, 44). Some have suggested

that "four" symbolizes the completeness of the whole earth.

       This image is used to describe the chaos from which the four

beasts arise. It occurs already in Isaiah and Jeremiah where the roar of

nations is compared to the roaring of the seas (Isa. 17:12-13; Jer. 6:23).

The four winds need not signify more than the totality of the earth, the

whole earth, the four corners.4


2 Robert D. Culver, Daniel and the Latter Days (Westwood: Revell, 1954) 126.

3 For an article that sees similarities between Daniel 7 and other ancient works see

Helge S. Kvanvig, “An Akkadian Vision as Background for Daniel 7?" ST 35 (1981)


4 Ziony Zevit, "The Structure and Individual Elements of Daniel 7," ZNW, 80

(1968) 391.


Daniel also sees a "great sea," quite possibly a picture of humanity

(cf. Luke 21:25; Matt 13:47; Rev 13:1), suggesting unrest and con-

fusion. The world rages like a sea when it is whipped by the heavenly

winds. Daniel relates that four different great beasts come up out of

this troubled sea (7:3).

The lion with the eagle's wings (7:4) parallels the gold head of

2:37, 38. The lion signifies strength and the eagle's wings, swiftness. The

reference to "heart of man" may point to the individual at the center

of the kingdom of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar himself (Jer 49:19-22),

or it may refer back to the events of 4:34. Throughout the book of

Daniel, God shows Nebuchadnezzar the source of his authority and

how his and all other human monarchies fade into insignificance

when confronted with the absolute reign of God. Pusey notes, "The

intense nothingness and transitoriness of man's might in its highest

estate, and so of his, Nebuchadnezzar's own also, and the might of

God's kingdom, apart from all human strength, are the chief subjects

of this vision, as explained to Nebuchadnezzar.”5

The second beast "looked like a bear" (7:5). Though bears appear

thirteen times in the Bible, the use of the simile here should be cor-

related with the silver breast of 2:39. It depicts the kingdom of Persia.

The size of the animal may be intended to symbolize the size of the

Persian armies, which contained as many as two and a half million

men (notably in the battles of Xerxes against Greece). The posture

("raised up on one side") is thought by some to indicate a predatory

stance--as if the great beast were about ready to pounce. Others

suggest that this symbolizes the dominance of Persia in the Medo-

Persian Empire. The interpretation of the three ribs in the bear's

mouth is also debated. Gaebelein indicates, "The bear had three ribs

in its mouth, because Susiana, Lydia and Asia Minor had been

conquered by this power.”6 Leupold generalizes the number.

"Three" appears to be a number that signifies rather substantial con-

quests and is not to be taken literally. For the Medo-Persian empire

conquered more than Babylonia, Lydia, and Egypt. Such enumerations

of three definite powers are more or less arbitrary. Three does some-

times signify nothing more than a fairly large number and has no

reference to God or the holy Trinity. That is especially true in a case

like this. Someone has rightly remarked that "the three ribs constitute a

large mouthful."7


The third beast "looked like a leopard" (7:6). It had four wings,

four heads, and was given authority to rule. Babylon had seized


5 E. B. Pusey, Daniel the Prophet (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1885) 118.

6 Arno C. Gaebelein, The Prophet Daniel (New York: Our Hope, 1911) 74.

7 H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1941) 292.




power from Assyria in 612 B.C. only to lose it to the Medo-Persians

in 539 B.C. Then in 336 B.C. Alexander came like a leopard from his

lair with his Greek army headed by four generals and known, not for

its size like Persia, but for its speed. The leopard should be correlated

with the bronze belly and thighs of 2:39.

Most conservative scholars believe that Daniel was written in the

sixth century B.C. but other scholars assume that the book is a second

century B.C. diatribe against Antiochus Epiphanes. Such scholars

usually consider the four kingdoms of Daniel 7 to be Babylon, Media,

Persia, and Greece. Rome is often omitted entirely from the interpre-

tation of the beasts. Hanhart, however, believes that the third beast

portrays Rome. He dates Daniel in the second century B.C. and views

the dream of Daniel and the vision of Daniel 7 as referring to four

contemporary kingdoms, not a succession of sequential kingdoms.

Part of his argument is based upon Rev 13:2:

      A clue, hidden in Rev. 13:2, namely that the leopard in Dan. 7:6

must represent the Romans and not the Parthians, strengthens an earlier

observation that the four beasts in Dan. 7 represent four contempora-

neous kingdoms existing alongside each other. These two data upset

the age old axiom that in Dan. 2:31 ff. and in 7:2 ff. the same empires

are intended, for in the order of succeeding kingdoms the Roman

empire cannot possibly appear ahead of that of the Hellenes. The

introductory phrase, "The four winds of heaven were stirring up the

great sea," leads me to conclude that the four kingdoms in Dan. 7

are situated around the Mediterranean Sea according to the four points

of the compass, to wit: South-Egypt, the lion; East-Persia, the

bear; West-Rome, the leopard; North-Syria, the anonymous beast,

probably an elephant! (exclamation point mine).8


Hanhart's approach is imaginative but has not been widely accepted.

It seems clear that the symbolism of Daniel 2, 7, and 8 portrays a

succession of four kingdoms.

The final beast is "terrifying and frightening and very powerful"

(7:7). It was different from the other beasts in several ways, not the

least of which was its ten horns. The iron teeth of 7:7 correspond with

the iron legs of 2:33 and the ten horns with the ten toes. Most con-

servatives identify this beast as Rome.9 Rome ruled the world for

over 700 years from 336 B.C. to A.D. 407. Even after the sack of Rome

there were "Roman" rulers until the time of the Renaissance.

Anderson compares the dream and the vision:


8 K. Hanhart, "The Four Beasts of Daniel's Vision in the Night in the Light of

Rev. 13:2," NTS 27 (1981) 580-81.

9 For a conservative but unconvincing attempt to identify the fourth beast as

Greece, see Robert J. M. Gurney, "The Four Kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7" Themelios

2 (1977) 39-45.


     As the four empires which were destined successively to wield

sovereign power during "the times of the Gentiles" are represented in

Nebuchadnezzar's dream by the four divisions of the great image, they

are here typified by four wild beasts. The ten toes of the image in the

second chapter have their correlatives in the ten horns of the fourth

beast in the seventh chapter. The character and course of the fourth

empire are the prominent subject of the later vision, but both prophecies

are equally explicit yet the empire in its ultimate phase will be brought

to a signal and sudden end by a manifestation of Divine power on


This is certainly a lugubrious scene for the aging Daniel. Jerusalem

had been in ruins for more than forty years and Daniel had been in

Babylon for close to sixty years. The prophet had seen kings come

and go and then God had revealed to him how he would prepare the

world for the Messiah's kingdom. The beasts were important in the

divine plan. Persia, the second beast, was to send the people of God

back to their own land. Greece, the third beast, would spread a

culture and a language by which the Gospel would be communicated

all over the Mediterranean world. Rome, the fourth beast, would

build roads and write laws so that Christ's messengers could carry his

Word wherever they were sent.

Before Daniel was able to inquire about any details regarding the

terrible beast and the little horn, he saw the Ancient of Days enter the

scene (Dan 7:9-10). But before looking at these verses, I will briefly

consider the vision of the little horn.



The vision of the little horn is recorded in Dan 7:11-12, 19-25.

After all of the beasts had been "stripped of their authority" (7:12),

each was "allowed to live for a period of time." Some suggest that

this phrase means that each lived out its God-ordained time. Another

possibility is that each lived on into the next in the way that Greek

culture continued throughout the Roman era. The one exception is

the fourth beast which was completely slain, destroyed and thrown

into the blazing fire. Concerning the fourth beast, its ten horns and

particularly the little horn, three questions surface.


What About the Fourth Beast?

I noted above that the fourth beast corresponds to the legs and

feet of the image in Daniel 2, and that both are to be equated with the

Roman Empire. But the fourth kingdom is different from the others


10 Robert Anderson, The Coming Prince (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1903)

36, 37.

252                             GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL

in that it will be revived in some form at the end time. The connection

with the future kingdom of Rev 17:12 cannot be overlooked. Culver

reminds us, "Nearly all Postmillennialists, Amillennialists, and Pre-

millennialists unite in affirming that the Man of Sin of Paul and the

Antichrist and first Beast of John are the same as this 'little horn' of

Daniel seven."11 The intense cruelty demonstrated by the fourth beast

is its primary distinctive; it tramples down and crushes as its wanton

cruelty destroys the world.


What About the Ten Horns?

There will be dissension within the fourth beast's kingdom. The

eleventh king (the little horn) will subdue three lesser kings. Anderson

reminds us that the ascendance of the little horn has not been fulfilled

historically and suggests that "the Roman earth shall one day be

parceled out in ten separate kingdoms, and out of one there shall

arise that terrible enemy of God and His people, whose destruction is

to be one of the events of the second advent ofChrist."12


What About the Little Horn?

Dan 7:20b-25 unfolds the first thorough biblical description of

the Antichrist. Daniel 8 may refer to Antiochus Epiphanes, but only

the Antichrist can be in view in Daniel 7 (cf. Rev 19:19-21). Daniel

was especially interested in this aspect of the fourth beast's kingdom

(7:20). At the beginning the little horn will be just another human

king (7:8). But then he will become greater than the "horns" before

him (7:20) and will be uniquely different from the other horns (7:20,

24), running an absolute dictatorship. Through his keen intelligence

(7:8, 20) he will conquer three kings and will boastfully represent

himself as the ultimate lawless one (2 Thess 2:9, 10). His ultimate

enemy is not any of his contemporary kings but the people of God

and, therefore, God himself. Even though the saints of God will be

given into his hand, his time is limited--"a time, times and half a

time" (7:25). Baldwin well summarizes the main features of the little


      Four characteristics of his role are given: i) blasphemy, ii) long-

drawn-out persecution (wear out, as a garment, implies this), iii) a new

table of religious festivals (so suppressing Israel's holy days) and iv) a

new morality; the outcome will be the subjugation of God 's people. Of

these the third and fourth indicate an intention which is not necessarily

allowed to be carried out, but the people are given into his hand. A


11 Culver, Daniel, 131.

12 Anderson, The Coming Prince, 40.



greater than he is in control, and whereas this last king thought to

change the times, the greater than he has decreed the time, two times,

and half a time. The expected progression, one, two, three is cut off

arbitrarily but decisively.13




The picture of Jehovah as seen by Daniel reminds one of the

marvelous worship hymn, "Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise." The

imagery of the passage points to holiness, authority, power and wor-

ship. The phrase "Ancient of Days" is used only three times in

Scripture, all of them in this chapter (7:10, 13, and 22).


      It is the name given to the eternal God. Before ever time began,

He is the great I AM. He has always had one clear objective which is

described as His "eternal purpose" (Eph. 3:11). He has never deviated

from this intention of His and when time is no more, He will still be

the I AM, though now with the full realisation of that heart purpose of



One cannot ignore the connection with Rev 5:11. "Then I looked

and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thou-

sands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne

and the living creatures and the elders." The open books of 7:10

surely should be connected with the books of Rev 20:12.

Daniel also provides a picture of the Son of Man. Jesus used this

phrase of himself twenty-seven times in Luke alone. The image of

clouds in v 13 is reminiscent of Sinai (Exod 16:10) and is perhaps the

basis for Matt 24:30. Bock points out how the NT development of the

term "Son of Man" completes the picture begun by Daniel. He sum-

marizes this NT development in the following nine statements:

1. Jesus progressively revealed His messianic understanding of the term.

2. The messianic significance of the term for Jesus is eventually directly

    revealed by Jesus to the disciples after Peter's confession at Caesarea


3. Jesus fuses the term with other Old Testament descriptions of His

    mission, specifically the Servant, and thus is able to speak of the

    Son of Man's necessity to suffer in the suffering sayings which domi-

    nate the middle portions of the gospels.

4. As Jesus faces the cross, He begins to reveal to His disciples the

     background and significance of the term Son of Man in terms of

     Daniel seven with the apocalyptic sayings.


13 Baldwin, Daniel, 146.

14 Harry Foster, "The Secret of Daniel's Strength," Toward the Mark 10 (1981) 8.


254                             GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


5. This same background is revealed publicly at His trial before the


6. Thus the term is a convenient vehicle for revealing Himself to those

     who believe, while avoiding the immediate political connotations of

     the term, Messiah.

7. The usage in John's gospel parallels that of the Synoptics while

     reflecting a development of themes implicit in both the Synoptics

     and Daniel seven.

8. The term in its Danielic usage in the New Testament has in view His

    ultimate victory and apocalyptic return, a significant fact in view of

    His approaching Passion.

9. Therefore, the term is most appropriate for summarizing Christ's

    Christology, for in it one like a man who is more than a man

    exercises dominion and authority to such an extent that he can also

    be considered divine. As such, He will be the center of a new king-

    dom, king in a new age when all men will recognize His authority

    and worship His person. God's sovereign plan of history will culmi-

    nate in the completion of the Son of Man's mission in eternal

    victory. His future return in vindication makes this certain, even as

    He heads for the cross. In the promise of His victory, disciples can

    walk in hope and expectation even though He went to the cross. His

    rule will cause all men to pause at the marvelous grace of God as it

    is observed that Jesus the Christ, the Son of Man, is truly the

    greatest One whoever walked the earth.15


In Daniel's vision the Son of Man stood in the presence of the

Ancient of Days, and "was given authority, glory and sovereign power;

all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His

dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His

kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (7:14). The basis for NT

interpretation of the concept of "kingdom" begins here. The millen-

nium is just the beginning of the eternal kingdom, but in the OT the

concept merges into the eternal state. God will ultimately bring

together the saints of all the ages who will possess the everlasting

kingdom of the Son of Man (7:27).

In the light of Daniel's language and its NT development one

wonders about the validity of Zevit's angelic interpretation:

     It is the angel Gabriel, representing saints of the Most High, who

receives dominion, glory and kingship-basic elements of God's king-

dom. The interpretation of the vision makes it quite clear that it is the

saints who will receive the kingdom. The author did not dwell on the

angelic figure because he took him for granted. Gabriel and a number

of other heavenly beings continued to function throughout the book


            15 Darrell L. Bock, "The Son of Man in Daniel and the Messiah" (unpublished

Th.M. thesis; Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1979) 97-100.



because the major concern of the author was not with the celestial, but

with the terrestrial.16

One need not belittle the importance of angels in rejecting such an

inadequate approach, especially in view of Hebrews 1.



Those who study and teach prophecy are sometimes justly accused

of having no concern for the present. Yet this chapter of deep escha-

tological significance also contains a number of lessons for the present


This vision reminds believers that the control of the world belongs

to God (cf. Dan 4:17; 5:20). The world may deny him, curse him,

laugh at him, or ignore him as various kingdoms rise and fall. But

when the throne of the Ancient of Days is set in place, eyery knee

shall bow. The Son of Man and his saints will then prevail. The Son

of Man is not a mere collective personification for the saints. As

Boutflower explains,

      . . . "The saints" belong to the vision, and not merely to its inter-

pretation. They have already appeared in the vision as a persecuted

people. It is, therefore, most unlikely that in its further development

they should be represented in symbol by a single individual. But in as

much as the kingdom given to "One like unto a Son of Man" is seen to

be given also to "the saints," we are forced to conclude that the

mysterious person thus described is the God-appointed head of the


Daniel 7 also reminds believers that Satan is indeed the prince of

this world (cf. John 12:31; 14:30; Eph 2:2). Such an awareness, how-

ever, should not lead to monasticism. Daniel is a great historic

example of a godly leader in a pagan society. To be sure, believers are

pilgrims and strangers in the world but that status should not lead to

a total withdrawal from existing society.

The passage also suggests that believers' lives should reflect their

eschatology (7:15, 28). Peter makes the point succinctly when he asks,

"Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people

ought you to be?" (1 Pet 3:11). Then he answers his own question by

saying, "You want to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to

the day of God and speed its coming" (3:11b-12a).


16 Zevit, "Daniel 7," 396.

17 Charles Boutflower, In and Around the Book of Daniel (reprint; Grand Rapids:

Kregel, 1977) 59.


256                             GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


It is imperative that with bowed hearts all of God's people

recognize that the ultimate glory belongs to him alone (Rev 11:15,



Careless seems the great Avenger, history's pages but record

One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and Thy Word.

Truth forever on the scaffold; wrong forever on the throne! Yet that

Scaffold sways the future, and beyond the dim unknown

Standeth God within the shadows, keeping watch above His own.18


18 Quoted by Robert D. Culver (unpublished class notes; Trinity Evangelical

Divinity School, September, 1972).




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