An Overview of Daniel's First Vision (Daniel 7)

William Arnold III

Introduction · Overview · Comments


Daniel chapter 7 is the first recorded vision of Daniel. In time, it goes back to between chapters 4 and 5, since Daniel says he had this dream "in the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon" (Dan. 7:1). Chapter 5 started with Belshazzar already ruling and by the end of the chapter he is killed (5:1, 30).

Chapters 2 through 7 are a special part of the book of Daniel. They are written in Aramiac whereas the rest of the book of Daniel (and almost the entire Old Testament) is written in Hebrew. They also form an interesting chiasm (named after the Greek letter X, chi). Chapters 2 and 7 are parallel, as are 3 and 6 and also 4 and 5. Both 2 and 7 are about a dream from God concerning the future. 3 and 6 are both about the miraculous deliverance of Godís faithful. Chapter 3 is the Hebrew men in the fiery furnace and 6 is Daniel in the lionís den. Both chapters 4 and 5 are about Godís judgment on a Babylonian king. In chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar is turned into a wild beast, but he repents and has faith in God. In chapter 5, God pronounces judgment on Belshazzar with the handwriting on the wall and his kingdom is taken and he is destroyed.


Now in chapter 7, Daniel has a dream about the end times. He sees four different beasts come out of the sea (v. 1-8). The fourth beast however gets special attention, especially a little horn on its head who has eyes like a man and even speaks (v. 7-8). Daniel later sees the destruction of this fourth beast (v. 11). During this, he also has a vision of God (the ancient of days, v. 9-10) and the coming of Jesus Christ (the Son of Man, v. 13) with the clouds where Jesus receives a kingdom which will last forever (v. 14, 27).

Daniel was very shaken up by this vision and asked someone who was standing by (presumably an angel) to explain it to him (v. 15-16). He is told that these beasts all represent kings (v. 17), which in turn represent their respective kingdoms (see v. 23-24). He assures Daniel immediately that the saints will receive "the" kingdom and will possess it for all ages to come (v. 18). Daniel asks for more information about the fourth beast and the little horn on his head (v. 19-20). He also states that he saw the horn making war with the saints and overpowering them until God steps in, puts an end to it and gives the kingdom to the saints (v. 21-22).

Daniel is then told that this fourth beast will be a different kingdom than all the others and that it will conquer the world (v. 23). He is told that ten kings will arise from this kingdom but that another will rise up and subdue three of them (v. 24). This king then will blaspheme God, wear down the saints and try to change times and law (v. 25). Daniel is assured however, that the horn will only be allowed to persecute the saints for a limited amount of time, 3 ½ years (v. 25). After this time, his dominion will be taken away and given to the saints, as will all of the kingdoms on the earth (v. 26-27). Daniel is told that all of the kingdoms will then be subject to the kingdom of God (v. 27).


As for the four beasts in the beginning, most scholars identify them with the four successive kingdoms of chapter 2: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. What I believe to be the strongest argument for this position is that the third beast (the leopard) had four heads and the Greek empire was indeed split up between Alexander the Greatís four generals after his death. However, I do believe that these beasts also represent modern (or some future) nations. One reason is because these nations are allowed to continue even after the antichrist (fourth beast) is destroyed (v. 11-12). How could this be possible of ancient nations which no longer exist? The abuse of the multiple reference phenomenon of prophecy has made many reluctant to see it where we are not specifically told of multiple reference. However, we should not allow this abuse to take away from the legitimacy of this principle, since it occurs quite often.

The first beast is a lion and eagles wings are taken from this lion. The lion is the official animal symbol of Great Britain. The eagle is the symbol of the United States. The United states came from Great Britain. Could these two nations be in view here? The second beast is a bear. Russia is symbolized by the bear. Note that these three are also major nations, not third world countries. The third beast is the leopard and some have tried to make a connection of it with Germany. This may be possible, but the evidence is not nearly as strong as it is for the other three. Perhaps the identity of this third beast (or maybe even the other two) will become more clear as the time draws closer.

The fourth beast represents the kingdom of the antichrist and the little horn represents the man specifically. According to this chapter, his kingdom will be "dreadful," "terrifying," and "extremely strong" (v. 7). It will be a union of ten kings, but another (the little horn) will arise, subdue three of them and take control of this kingdom (v. 7-8, 20, 24). This king (the antichrist) is said to boast great things (which will include blaspheming God, v. 8, 20, 25) and for some reason, attention is drawn to his eyes (v. 8).

The climax of all this is when God will come in and drastically put an end to this manís tyranny and his persecution of the saints (v. 9-11). After that, the Son of Man will come and be given a kingdom and all people and nations will serve him (v. 13-14, 27). The point seems to be both to warn the saints of this dreadful time to come, but also to give them hope by showing them that in the end, God is victorious, the antichrist is destroyed, Jesus rules the world and the saints are rewarded by allowing to share in this rule with him (v. 18, 27).

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