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Chapter 7: The Four Beasts of Daniel 7

by R, H. Boll


[caption id="attachment_3201" align="alignleft" width="207"]Robert H. Boll (1875-1956) Robert H. Boll (1875-1956)[/caption]

The vision of this chapter is dated during the time of Babylon's empire. It was the first year of Belshazzar's reign-therefore after the events of chapter 4, and before those of chapter 5-that Daniel saw this dream and vision. First of all he saw the four winds of heaven break out upon the great sea.  Four great beasts now rise in succession out of the stormy sea: the first like a lion, having eagle’s wings, which wings were afterward plucked, and the lion made to stand on two feet, and a man's heart is given to him. Follows a second beast, which was like a bear. It was lifted up on its one side, and three ribs were in its mouth, between its teeth, and a call went out to him: "Arise, devour much meat!"

Another, a third beast, rose out of the sea: one like unto a leopard, having four wings of a bird
on its back, and it had four heads: "and dominion was given to it."

Last came another beast, unlike to anything-"dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong." It had large iron teeth and claws of bronze (v. 19). "It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder [the whole earth, v. 23] with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns." (v.7).

Some changes took place among the ten horns as Daniel was looking on: another horn, a little one (whose look was more stout than the others, v.20) rose up among them, and three of them were plucked up before it by the roots. Also in this horn were eyes, as the eyes of a man, and it had a mouth speaking boastfully-words of blasphemy against the Most High God (v. 25).

The vision now turns to the super-terrestrial realm. God is seen taking a hand in the situation.

Note in this passage (vs. 9-14) three marked parts:

I. The vision of the Ancient of Days, in preparation for judgment.

II. The execution of the judgment.

III. One like unto the son of man receives the kingdom and dominion forever.

  1. "I kept looking until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames; its wheels were a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened."
  2. "Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time."
  3. "I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven  One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days  and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed."

Thus far runs the vision itself- the rest of the chapter being chiefly interpretation and explanation, with some details added.

Daniel requested an explanation from "one of those who were standing by." He is given a general interpretation of the vision; first, regarding the four beasts: -These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. “Then as to the final outcome of the Divine transaction in vs. 9, 10 and 13, l4,-HBut the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come." Obviously, it is the kingdom held by the four beasts which the saints of the Most High shall receive and possess for ever; and this as certainly refers to the same time and event as that which is announced in Revelation 11:15- “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever."

But Daniel desired especially to know more about this, and made particular inquiry concerning the terrible and powerful beast and the devastation it wrought in the earth, and that strange "little horn" which came up, and before which three fell, which had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. Also (and this had not before been mentioned)- Daniel had witnessed  how that same horn was "was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest  One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom."*

* It is worthy of note in passing that the beast's persecution of the saints continues  sharply up to the time when the Ancient of Days comes and executes judgment upon the beast; whereupon the kingdom is at once transferred over to the saints of the Most  High for an everlasting possession. Not by gradual betterment or by earthly change, but by a sudden act of intervention from above is this radical turn of affairs effected.

A fuller interpretation is now given to Daniel.

"The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth-"

So the beasts symbolize kingdoms as well as kings (v .17) the individual king being the representative of the kingdom. The context in each case will show which is meant, whether the king, or the kingdom.  -"which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it." (v.23).

Then, as to the ten horns-these are ten kings that shall arise out of that fourth kingdom. The "little horn" is another king who shall arise after these ten, a king of a different sort, and he shall put down three of the first ten kings. That wicked leader, as represented by the little horn, shall "speak out against the Most High," and will wear down the saints of the Most High, and will attempt to change the times and the law. The saints "will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time."**

** A comparison of Revelation 12:14 with Revelation 12:6 show that this period is of the same length as that in Revelation 1l: 3 and 13:5, and in Daniel. 7:25 and 12:7, namely three-and-one-half years.

Then God takes a hand. "But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him."

Note the fact that this realm which is given to "the people of the saints of the Highest One”.
(Compare v. 18) is not up in heaven but "under the whole heaven"; and that it is the same realm and territory that the beasts had previously held. Also, that it is that "kingdom of God" of which Daniel speaks-that "everlasting kingdom." (Daniel 7:27.)

It must be obvious to the reader (though disputed in some quarters) that this vision of Daniel 7 is parallel with the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel 2. The four parts of the great Statue corresponds to the four Beasts. The same progress of deterioration that marked the four successive parts of the Image-from the pure gold of the head, to the silver, the brass, the iron, (in its last development mingled with clay), is seen in the four beasts: the lion, noblest and most royal of the beasts, is followed by the bear; next comes the leopard, quick, stealthy, cruel; finally an unnamed, unnamable beast, but more powerful than all that went before him (Comp. Daniel 2:40) having ten horns (as the feet of the statue had ten toes) whose dominion is abruptly  terminated by intervention from on High, just as the feet of the Statue, (and with them the whole Statue, symbolizing Gentile world-rule) were smitten by a rock cut out of the mountain without hands.

Both, the vision of the great Statue, and that of the four beasts, deal with the same great theme:  the rise, career and end of the Gentile world-power and how these are to be superseded at last by the kingdom of God;   the same number of kingdoms appear in both; and in both prophecies the last world power comes to its end, not by human power and agency, but super-naturally by an act of God, who then takes over the reign and government.

These four world-powers are:

Babylon (the transformation of which, during its career is indicated in Daniel 7:4, and is set out in Daniel 4). Medo-Persia- its two-foldness (as seen in the arms and breast of silver) being indicated by  the fact that the bear's one side is raised up higher than the other (Daniel 7:5; comp. Daniel 8:3, 20)" and the three ribs between its teeth corresponding to three great conquests which (as history says) were Lydia, Babylon, and Egypt.

Greece, Alexander's empire, the subsequent four-fold division of which, well known to all historians is indicated in Daniel 8:8, 21, and 22.

But the chief interest centers upon the fourth beast, which can be none other than Rome, the fourth and the only other world-power which ever followed those three. And it is not Rome as she was then, but as seen in her last development -as a ten-fold confederacy, headed by a wicked ruler, cruel, ruthless, anti- Semitic, anti-Christian, God-defying.

In Revelation 13 we meet that fourth beast again--clearly the same one; for there were not to be five, but only four Gentile world-powers; and that this ten-homed beast of Revelation 13 is a world-power, may be seen in Revelation 13:2 and 7. It is worthy of note that this beast in Revelation 13 combines in himself the characteristic features of all the four beasts of Daniel's prophecy: he himself is the ten-horned beast, but he also has the mouth of the lion, the feet of the bear, and he has the general contour and the aspect of the leopard. Like the fourth beast of Daniel he is the bitter persecutor and blasphemer; and he likewise comes to his end at the hands of that One who is like unto a Son of man. (Revelation 19: l lff.)

The identification of the four parts of the Image with the four beasts is complete and unquestionable; and just as certain is it that the fifth kingdom, the kingdom of God which follows upon the destruction of the fourth Gentile world-power, is the same in both Daniel 2:44 and Daniel 7: 14, 18, and 27.


Daniel did not try to interpret the vision. He did not attempt to figure out the meaning of the four beasts, nor to guess at the significance of any part of the vision. But "I approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this. So He told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: ... Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast. .. “(vs. 16, 19). The interpretation was given in plain, simple language, easy to understand, and is to be accepted simply at what it says.

"Beasts" versus "Statue". Nebuchadnezzar in his dream saw the four Gentile world-powers as a whole, in the figure of a great statue "which was large and of extraordinary splendor .... and its appearance was awesome." But to Daniel's vision they were revealed as to their real nature: four beasts. Ruthless, cruel, ferocious, rapacious, absolutely selfish, bent on their own advantage, without regard to others-they manifest the beast nature. The first two were the more respectable of the four; but all four were wild beasts.

Man without God is like a beast. If God be taken out of man's life he becomes a mere animal His whole nature becomes bestial. Yes, no beast on earth is so vicious and dreadful as man, created for fellowship with God and fallen from his high estate. When the first of the four beasts was brought to some knowledge of God (DanieI4) it began to take on human features: it was made to stand uprights on its feet, and a man's heart was given to it. (Daniel 7:4.)

The four Gentile world-powers were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. All four are mentioned in the Bible, the first three in Daniel, the last appears in the New Testament. But this last one, the Roman power, has never yet been seen in the form of its final development-a ten-king confederacy. Much ingenuity has been spent by "historical interpreters" to find a ten-fold division in the Roman empire in the past; with the result that "twenty-eight lists, including sixty-five kingdoms have been put forward in the controversy ... a proof of how worthless is the evidence of any such fulfillment."

The ten-horned beast of Revelation 13 can be no other than the fourth beast of Daniel's vision. It is, like Daniel's fourth beast, a world-power (Revelation 13:2, 7) and of the same God-defying character. He also comes to his end in like manner-namely by Divine intervention (Daniel 7: II; Revelation 19: 19, 20). That beast is yet to make its appearance, and when it comes it will be Daniel's fourth world-power, Rome, in its final development. (Comp. Revelation 17:8.)
For there will not be five such world-powers-only four; and then, upon the destruction of this beast, follows the world-wide reign of the Son of Man and "of the saints, the people of the Most High" (Daniel 7:27), when the "kingdom of the world" shall have "become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15.)

"A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return" (Luke 19:11-27). This is the same picture as that of Daniel 7:13, 14. Having received the authority of this world-wide kingdom he returns, and first calls his own servants to account, then assigns them a share in this world-wide rule, according to their several faithfulness and diligence. Then he proceeds to execute judgment on his adversaries. This parable spoke Jesus because they had neared Jerusalem in His last journey, and the people thought that the kingdom of God was immediately to appear. (Luke 19:11-27.) Not till the Nobleman returns will the kingdom
appear. (Compare Luke 21:31.)

Christ's "Good Confession" before the high priest touched upon this prophecy of Daniel. "I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God." Said Caiaphas. Jesus answered, "You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN." Calling this "blasphemy" they then pronounced the death sentence upon him. (Matthew 26:63-66.)

Going or Coming? It is sometimes objected that in Daniel 7: 13 Christ is seen as coming to, and being brought near before, the Ancient of Days, who manifestly is God, the Father, and not as coming back from heaven. That is quite true, but His coming on the clouds of heaven is also world-ward, as seen in Matthew 26 above, and in Matthew 24:30. (See also Revelation 1:7.) Daniel combines the two in one picture. Note also that the "Ancient of Days is said to have come" (Daniel 7:22)-as though the whole court of heaven had moved down to the terrestrial sphere. (Comp. Daniel 7:9, 10.)

The sovereignty of all the earth belongs to Jesus because He is the Son of man. "The heavens are the heavens of the LORD, but the earth He has given to the sons of men." (Psalms 115: 16.) In heaven God acts Himself, direct, and upon His own initiative. On the earth this right is given to man. God must have a willing man to work through. Jesus Christ above all is God's Man, through whom all the will of God is done on earth. And the government must rest on His shoulders.

The present manhood of Jesus- how much depends on it! The religionists who deny the fact that Christ is Man now have lost the keystone to all prophecy and all the plans of God. Only because He is Man (glorified Man, but really, truly Man) can He be our Mediator (l Timothy 2:5) and our High priest (Hebrews 5: 1-9). Only because He is Man has the right of judgment been placed in His hands (John 5:27). Only because of His manhood can He sit on David's throne: for the oath to David was that of the fruit of his loins [an actual physical descendant] one should sit on his throne. It is only because of his humanity, and His human relationship to David that Jesus can claim this right; and His only link with David is through His human body, carefully preserved from corruption, and in His resurrection immortalized and glorified (Acts 2:26-32; 2 Timothy 2:8; Revelation 22:16). It is this Jesus (that was His name as Man) that shall come again (Acts 1:11); it was "Jesus of Nazareth" that spoke to Saul on Damascus road (Acts 22:8); it is the Son of man that shall return in glory (Matthew 25:31). And in His Person He is now representing our humanity before the face of God in the Holy of Holies in heaven.

Who are these "saints, the people of the Most High" to whom, after the judgment of the fourth beast, is given "the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven"? First, and most naturally, Israel: for they were the only "saints of the Most High" Daniel knew of, and could have meant. But the word of God is not necessarily to be limited to the knowledge of the prophet who spoke it. True, Israel redeemed and restored will have the sovereignty and leadership over all the nations of the earth (Isaiah 60); but over them and higher than they, because more closely identified with the King is a class of "saints" who  constitute His Body and His Bride, and who shall share His throne and His rule over all the world (Revelation (2:26, 27; 3:21). In this expression, "people of the saints of the Highest One;" we have a "possessive case," as well as a "genitive of apposition."


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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10