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This chapter contains Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, The time, place, manner, writing, and declaration of the vision, ( Daniel 7:1), the rise of the beasts, and the description of them, ( Daniel 7:2-8), the judgment of God upon them, especially the last, and the delivery of universal monarchy to his Son, ( Daniel 7:9-14), the interpretation of the vision at the request of Daniel, being greatly affected with it, ( Daniel 7:15-18), a particular inquiry of his about the fourth beast, concerning which a full account is given, ( Daniel 7:19-27), all which caused in him many thoughts of heart, and reflections of mind, ( Daniel 7:28).
Ver. 1 . In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon , etc.] Daniel having finished the historical part of his book, and committed to writing what was necessary concerning himself and his three companions, and concerning Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the Mede, proceeds to the prophetic part, and goes back to the first year of Belshazzar’s reign, seventeen years before his death, and the fall of the Babylonish monarchy last mentioned; for so long Belshazzar reigned, according to Josephus f260 ; and with which agrees the canon of Ptolemy, who ascribes so many years to the reign of Nabonadius, the same, with Belshazzar: he began to reign, according to Bishop Usher f261 , Dean Prideaux f262 , and Mr, Whiston f263 , in the year of the world 3449 A.M., and 555 B.C.; and in the first year of his reign Daniel had the dream of the four monarchies, as follows: Daniel had a dream : as Nebuchadnezzar before had, concerning the same things, the four monarchies of the world, and the kingdom of Christ, only represented in a different manner: or, “saw a dream” f264 ; in his dream he had a vision, and objects were presented to his fancy as if he really saw them, as follows: and visions of his head came upon his bed ; as he lay upon his bed, and deep sleep was fallen on him, things in a visionary way were exhibited to him very wonderful and surprising, and which made strong impressions upon him: then he wrote the dream : awaking out of his sleep, and perfectly remembering the dream he had dreamed, and recollecting the several things he had seen in it; that they might not be lost, but transmitted to posterity for their use and benefit, he immediately committed them to writing: and told the sum of the matters ; the whole of what he had dreamt and seen; or however the sum and substance of it, the more principal parts of it, the most interesting things in it, and of the greatest importance: when it was daylight, and he rose from his bed, and went out of his chamber, he called his friends together, and told them by word of mouth what he had seen in his dream the night past; or read what he had written of it, which was as follows:
Ver. 2. Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night , etc.] He declared he had had a vision by night, and this was the substance of it: and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea : the east, west, north, and south winds, broke out from each of their quarters, and rushed in upon the great sea; either the Mediterranean, so called in comparison of the sea of Sodom, and the sea of Tiberias in Judea; or upon the waters of the main ocean, and raised up its waves, and seemed as it were to be striving and fighting with them, and put them into a strange agitation; by which may be meant the whole world, and the kingdoms and nations of it, because of its largeness, inconstancy, instability, and disquietude; (see Revelation 17:15 Isaiah 57:20), and by the “four winds” some understand the angels, either good or bad, concerned in the affairs of Providence on earth, either by divine order or permission; or rather the kings of the earth raising commotions in it, striving and fighting with one another, either to defend or enlarge their dominions; and which have been the means in Providence of the rising up of some great state or monarchy, as after appears.
Ver. 3. And four great beasts came up from the sea , etc.] Which are afterwards interpreted of four kings or kingdoms, ( Daniel 7:17), which rose up in the world, not at once, but successively, and out of the sea or world, through the commotions and agitations of it; and these are the four monarchies, Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman; compared to “beasts”, because of the rapine and violence, cruelty, oppression, and tyranny, by which they were obtained, set up, supported, and maintained; and to “great ones”, being not like single separate kingdoms, as the kingdom of Israel, and the like, but consisting of many kingdoms and nations, and so like beasts of an enormous size: diverse one from another ; in their situation, language, manner, strength, and power; hence expressed by divers sorts of beasts, as the lion, bear, leopard, etc.; as in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream by different metals, gold, silver, brass, and iron.
Ver. 4 . The first was like a lion , etc.] That which rose up first, the kingdom of the Babylonians, as the Syriac version expresses it; or the Assyrian monarchy, founded by Nimrod, increased by the Assyrians, and brought to its height under Nebuchadnezzar by the Babylonians and Chaldeans; this is said to be like a “lion” for its strength and power, for its greatness, dignity, and majesty; the same with the head of gold in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; (see Jeremiah 4:7 50:17): and had eagles’ wings ; denoting the celerity and swiftness with which Nebuchadnezzar ran, or rather flew, over several kingdoms and countries, and added them to his empire; (see Jeremiah 4:13 48:40 49:22): and I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked ; it was retarded and stopped in its conquests; it could fly no further, nor make any new acquisitions; yea, it was deplumed and stripped of some of its dominions, the Medes and Persians falling off, and making war with it: and it was lifted up from the earth ; or, “with which it was lifted up from, the earth” f265 ; with which wings it raised itself up, and lifted itself above other kingdoms and nations; but now were plucked, and could not soar aloft as formerly; its glory and majesty, power and strength, were lessened, whole provinces revolting, as in the times of Evilmerodach, Neriglissar, and Belshazzar: and made stand upon the feet as a man ; it did not fly like an eagle as before, and overrun countries, and waste them; or go upon all four, as a beast; but stood on its feet, its two hinder legs, like a man; signifying that it abated, in the reigns of the above princes, of its strength and fierceness, and became more mild and tractable, and was reduced within bounds like other kingdoms: and a man’s heart was given to it ; instead of a lion like heart, that was bold and intrepid, and feared nothing, it became weak and fearful, and timorous like the heart of man, especially in Belshazzar’s time; not only when he saw the handwriting on the wall, to which Jacchiades refers this; but when he was so fearful of Cyrus that he shut himself up in Babylon, and durst not stir out to give him battle, as Xenophon relates; and when the city was taken, the Babylonians were obliged to deliver up their arms, employ themselves in tilling their fields, and to pay tribute to the Persians, and always salute them as their lords and masters, as the same historian f267 says; (see Jeremiah 51:30).
Ver. 5 . And, behold, another beast, a second, like to a bear , etc.] Another monarchy, and which succeeded the former, and rose up upon the ruins of it, the Medo-Persian monarchy; and so the Syriac version prefixes to this verse, by way of explanation, “the kingdom of the Medes” like to a bear, less generous and strong than the lion; more rough and uncivil, but equally cruel and voracious; which describes the Medes and Persians as a fierce and cruel people, and less polished, and more uncivilized, than the Chaldeans; and answers to the silver breasts and arms in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; (see Isaiah 13:17,18 Jeremiah 51:27,28): and it raised up itself on one side ; either of the lion, the first beast it destroyed; or rather on one side of itself, on the side of Persia; from whence Cyrus came, who was the principal instrument of raising this empire to the pitch it was brought unto. Some render it, “and it raised up one government” f268 ; one empire out of many nations and kingdoms it subdued: and it had three ribs in the mouth of it, between the teeth of it ; that is, three ribs covered with flesh, which, it was devouring; the bear being very voracious, and a great flesh eater: these, according to some, signify three kings that followed Darius the Mede; Cyrus, Ahasuerus, and Darius; so Jarchi and Jacchiades; and, according to Jerom, three kingdoms, the Babylonian, Median, and Persian: but neither of these kings nor kingdoms can be said to be in its mouth, and between its teeth, as ground and devoured by it, unless the Babylonian; wherefore it is better interpreted by others, as Theodoret, the three parts of the world it conquered, westward, northward, and southward, ( Daniel 8:4), though it is best of all, with Sir Isaac Newton and Bishop Chandler, to understand by them Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt; which countries were ground and oppressed by the Medes and Persians, as the ribs of any creature are ground in the mouth of a bear: and they said thus unto it, arise, devour much flesh ; which Jerom refers to Haman’s orders to destroy the Jews in the times of Ahasuerus; but it is much better applied by others to Cyaxares or Darius sending for Cyrus to take upon him the command of his army; and to the Hyrcanians, Gobryas, and others, inviting him to avenge them on the Babylonians, promising to join and assist him, as Xenophon relates: or rather this is to be interpreted of the divine will, and of the conduct of Providence by means of angels stirring up the spirit of Cyrus, and of the Medes and Persians, to attack and subdue many nations, and particularly the Babylonians, and fill themselves with their wealth and substance; hence they are styled the Lord’s sanctified, whom he ordered and called to such service; (see Isaiah 13:3 21:2).
Ver. 6. After this I beheld, and, lo another, like a leopard , etc.] Another beast, another monarchy, a third monarchy succeeding the Persian monarchy, and which rose up on the ruins of that; Darius king of the Persians being beaten by Alexander king of Macedon, who was the instrument of setting up the Grecian monarchy here intended; compared to a leopard, a smaller creature than a lion; signifying that this monarchy arose from a small beginning; and a crafty one, Alexander having many wise counsellors of his father’s about him, though he himself was rash and hasty; and a spotted one, denoting the various virtues and vices of Alexander, and his inconstancy in them; sometimes exercising the one, and sometimes the other; or rather the different nations, and the manners of them, he conquered, of which this empire consisted; not to say anything of the cruelty and swiftness of this creature, which are both to be observed in this conqueror: which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl ; denoting the swiftness of Alexander in his conquests; who in a few years made himself master of the whole world, at least as he thought, whose empire was greater than that of Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans, to whom only two wings of an eagle are given, ( Daniel 7:4). Says Jerom, “nothing was more swift than the conquest of Alexander, from Illyricum and the Adriatic sea, unto the Indian ocean, and the river Ganges; he rather ran through the world by victories than by battles, and in six years subdued part of Europe, all Asia even unto India,” to which may be added all Egypt, Syria, and Palestine. Arimazes being master of a rock in Sogdiana, which was thought inaccessible and impregnable, Alexander sent a messenger to him to demand the delivery of it to him; but, among other things he proudly said, he asked the messenger, with a sneer, if Alexander could fly; which, when the messenger reported, nettled him much, that he should be insulted because he had not wings; and vowed that the next night he would make him believe that the Macedonians did fly; and accordingly they found ways and means to get to the top of it, which, when the governor saw, he declared that Alexander’s soldiers had wings f270 : the beast also had four heads ; which signify the four kingdoms into which the Grecian empire was divided after Alexander’s death, under four of his generals, who were heads or governors of them: Macedonia under Antipater, or, as others, Cassander; Egypt under Ptolemy; Syria under Seleucus; and Asia under Antigonus, or, as others, Lysimachus: and dominion was given to it ; the dominion of the whole world, or, however, a very large dominion; and this was given of God, and according to his will, and the ordering of his providence; for to nothing else can it be ascribed, that with thirty thousand men Alexander should beat an army of six hundred thousand; and with such a handful of men subdue so many kingdoms and nations, and that in the space of a few years.
Ver. 7. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast , etc.] Not in another night, as Jarchi; but in the same night, and in the same visions of it; only after he had seen the other three successively, then last of all he saw this fourth beast; and more being said of this than of the rest, shows that this was the principal thing in the vision to be observed, as being to endure until, and having a close connection with, the kingdom of the Messiah; which, arising, shall destroy it, and take place of it: this is not the Turkish empire, as Aben Ezra, and others: nor the kingdom of the Seleucidae, as Grotius, and others; to which neither the characters, nor the duration of it, agree; but the Roman empire, which succeeded the Grecian, so Gorionides f271 : dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly ; exceeding powerful, as the Roman empire was, and terrible to all the kingdoms of the earth; its armies, wherever they came, struck terror among the nations, and threw them into a panic, killing, wasting, robbing all they met with f272 ; and especially it was terrible to Christians, by their persecutions of them, as both Rome Pagan and Rome Papal have been. Rome has its name from strength with the Greeks, and from height with the Hebrews, as Jerom observes: it had great iron teeth ; which may design its generals and emperors, such as Scipio, Pompey, Julius Caesar, and others; which crushed and devoured all that came in their way: this monarchy answers to the legs and feet of iron in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it ; it devoured nations, broke kingdoms in pieces, and brought them in subjection to them; reducing them to the greatest servitude, and obliging them to pay heavy taxes and tribute: it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it : in its original, language, laws, customs, and forms of government; it was such a monster, that no name could be given it; there was no one beast in nature to which it could be compared; it had all the ill properties of the other beasts, for craft, cruelty oppression, and tyranny; and therefore John describes this same beast as being like a leopard, having the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion. ( Revelation 13:2): and it had ten horns ; which are explained of ten kings or kingdoms, ( Daniel 7:24), the same with the ten toes in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and with the ten kings that received power as kings with the beast or ten kingdoms, into which the Roman empire was divided about the time of the rise of antichrist,(see Gill on “ Revelation 17:12”).
Ver. 8. I considered the horns , etc.] The ten horns of the fourth beast; these the prophet particularly looked at, took special notice of them, carefully observed them, their number, form, and situation, and pondered in his mind what should be the meaning of them: and, behold ; while he was attentive to these, and thinking within himself what they should be, something still more wonderful presented: there came up among them another little horn ; not Titus Vespasian, as Jarchi; nor the Turkish empire, as Saadiah; nor Antiochus Epiphanes, as many Christian interpreters; for not a single person or king is meant by a horn, but a kingdom or state, and a succession of governors; as by the other ten horns are meant ten kings or kingdoms; besides, this little horn is a part of the fourth, and not the third beast, to which Antiochus belonged; and was to rise up, not in the third or Grecian monarchy, as he did, but in the fourth and Roman monarchy; and was to continue until the spiritual coming of Christ; or, until his kingdom in a spiritual sense takers place; which is not true of him: and since no other has appeared in the Roman empire, to whom the characters of this horn agree, but antichrist or the pope of Rome, he may be well thought to be intended. Irenaeus f274 , an ancient Christian writer, who lived in the second century, interprets it of antichrist; of whom having said many things, has these words: “Daniel having respect to the end of the last kingdom; that is the last ten kings among whom their kingdom should be divided, upon whom the son of perdition shall come; he says that ten horns shall be upon the beast, and another little horn should rise up in the midst of them; and three horns of the first be rooted out before him; and, “behold”, saith he, “in this horn were eyes as the eyes of man”, etc.; of whom again the Apostle Paul, in ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8) declaring together the cause of his coming, thus says, “and then shall that wicked one be revealed etc.”” and in a following chapter the same writer observes, “John the disciple of the Lord in the Revelation hath yet more manifestly signified of the last time, and of those ten kings in it, among whom the empire that now reigns (the Roman empire) shall be divided; declaring what shall be the ten horns, which were seen by Daniel; saying, “the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet, etc.”; therefore it is manifest, that of these he that is to come shall slay three, and the rest shall be subject to him, and he shall be the eighth among them;” and Jerom on the place says, that this is the sense of “all ecclesiastical writers, that when the Roman empire is destroyed, there shall be ten kings who shall divide it among them; and an eleventh shall arise, a little king, who shall conquer three of the ten kings; and having slain them, the other seven shall submit their necks to the conqueror:” who he further observes is not a devil or demon, but a man, the man of sin, and son of perdition; so as that he dare to sit in the temple of God, making himself as if he was God: now to the Roman antichrist everything here said answers: he is a “horn”, possessed of power, strength, authority, and dominion, of which the horn is an emblem; a “little” one, which rose from small beginnings, and came to his ecclesiastic power, from a common pastor or bishop, to be a metropolitan of Italy, and then universal bishop; and to his secular power, which at first was very small, and since increased; and yet in comparison of other horns or kingdoms, but little; though, being allowed to exercise a power within others, is, or at least has been, very formidable: this “came up among” the other horns; when the northern barbarous nations broke into the empire and set up ten kingdoms in it, this little horn sprung up among them; and while they were forming kingdoms for themselves, he was contriving one for himself; they rose at the same time and reigned together; (see Revelation 17:12,13): before whom, there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots ; before whom three kings or kingdoms fell, and were subdued as in ( Daniel 7:20,24) which, according to Mr. Mede f276 , were the kingdoms of the Greeks, of the Longobards, and of the Franks; but, according to Sir Isaac Newton f277 , they were the exarchate of Ravenna, the kingdom of the Lombards, and the senate and dukedom of Rome; or, according to the present bishop of Clogher f278 , the Campagnia of Rome, the exarchate of Ravenna, and the region of Pentapolis, which were plucked up by Pipin and Charlemagne, kings of France, and given to the pope; and were confirmed to him by their successor Lewis the pious, and is what is called the patrimony of St. Peter; in memory of which a piece of Mosaic work was made and put up in the pope’s palace, representing St. Peter with three keys in his lap; signifying the three keys of the three parts of his patrimony; and to show his sovereignty over them, the pope to this day wears a triple crown: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man ; in some monstrous births there have been eyes in the knees, and in the belly above the navel f279 ; but never was there known such a monster as this, to have a horn, and eyes in the horn; horns some monsters have but not eyes in them: these may design the pretended sanctity and religion of the pope of Rome or antichrist, who, though a beast, would be thought to be a man, a religious creature; or his pretended modesty, humanity, and courtesy, when he is all the reverse; or rather his insight into the Scriptures he makes pretension to, setting himself up as an infallible judge of them, and of all controversies: though they seem better to design what he really has than what he pretends to; and may denote his penetration and sagacity, his craft and cunning, and sharp looking out to get power and dominion, temporal and spiritual; and his watchfulness to keep it, that it is not encroached upon, and took away from him; and also all means and instruments by which he inspects his own and others’ affairs; particularly the order of the Jesuits, which are his eyes everywhere, spies in all kingdoms and courts, and get intelligence of what is done in the councils and cabinets of princes: how many eyes this horn had is not said; nor is it easy to say how many the pope of Rome has; he has as many as Argus, and more too, and these sharp and piercing: and a mouth speaking great things as that he is Christ’s vicar on earth, Peter’s successor, head of the church, and universal bishop; that he is infallible, and cannot err; that he has all power in heaven, earth, and hell; that he can forgive sin, grant indulgences, make new laws, and bind the consciences of men; dispense with the laws of God and men; dispose of kingdoms, and remove and set up kings at pleasure, with many others of the like kind; (see Revelation 13:5,6).
Ver. 9. I beheld till the thrones were cast down , etc.] On which the governors of the above monarchies sat; and those of the ten kings, signified by the ten horns; and also that of the little horn. The prophet kept looking on the objects before him, till he in his dream, and the visions of the night, saw all those empires and kingdoms demolished, and all rule, power, and authority, put down, and way made for the glorious kingdom of the Messiah, and his saints with him; to this sense Aben Ezra, Saadiah, and Jacchiades, interpret the word used; but the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Arabic versions, render it, “until the thrones were set up” f280 ; for the judges to sit upon to try, judge, and condemn the four beasts or monarchies; in order to make way for the kingdom of the Son of man to take place in the spirituality and glory of it: here are more thrones than one; (see Revelation 20:4), one for the Ancient of days, and another for him who was like to the Son of man, brought near before him; and so the Jews say, here were two thrones pitched and prepared, one for the Ancient of days, and another for David, that is, the Messiah, or Son of David; and so Jarchi paraphrases the words, “the thrones were pitched and prepared to sit upon in judgment:” and this sense is confirmed by the use of the word in ( Ezra 7:24) and in the Targum on ( 2 Kings 18:14 Jeremiah 1:15) and to this agrees best the following clause: and the Ancient of days did sit ; on one of the thrones pitched, as chief Judge: this is to be understood of God the Father, as distinct from the Messiah, the Son of God, said to be like the Son of man brought unto him, ( Daniel 7:13) and is so called, not only because he is from everlasting, and without beginning of days; but chiefly because he is permanent, and endures for ever; his years fail not, and of his days there will be no end; and he will be when these empires, signified by the four beasts, will be no more; and very fit to be Judge of them, because of his consummate wisdom and prudence, signified also by this phrase; and the divine Father of Christ is still more proper, because it is in Christ’s cause the judgment will proceed; and this in order to introduce him openly into his dominions in the world: whose garment was white as snow ; denoting the purity of his nature, the brightness of his majesty, and his uncorruptness in judgment: and the hair of his head like the pure wool ; signifying his venerableness, gravity, wisdom, and ripeness of judgment; being wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working: his throne was like the fiery flame ; expressive of him, as awful and formidable, as a consuming fire; and of his piercing judgment, and the severity of it: and his wheels as burning fire ; the wheels of his throne; alluding to such seats and thrones as were made to turn about, and to be moved from place to place; denoting the power and providence of God everywhere; the clear view he has of all things, in all places; and his swiftness in the execution of his judgments.
Ver. 10 . A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him , etc.] Or, “a river of fire” f282 ; which denotes the copious judgments of God, the abundance of them; the full flow of his wrath, and the fierceness of it; and also its rapidity, which cannot be resisted and stopped: thousand thousands ministered unto him ; attended upon him, waiting his orders, and ready to execute them; an innumerable company of angels, ( <19A320> Psalm 103:20,21): and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him ; to be judged by him; the numerous inhabitants of the several monarchies, with their kings; particularly all the antichristian states, and the worshippers of the beast, whom the whole world went after, ( Revelation 13:3,8 14:10,11): the judgment was set ; that is, the court was set; the Judge was upon the bench, and all his assessors and apparitors about him, and that ministered to him: and the books were opened ; both to take the trial in writing, and to produce evidence against the criminals; the book of God’s purposes and decrees concerning these beasts; the book of prophecies relating to them; the book of God’s remembrance, and of their own consciences, with respect to the evils committed by them; and the book of records, statutes, and laws made in such cases; even the book of the Scriptures, which contains the revelation of the will of God. In some things there is a likeness between this and the last and future judgment, and in other things a disagreement; the Judge in both is a divine Person, the eternal God, omniscient, omnipotent, holy, just, and true, which is absolutely necessary for carrying on such a process; none but God over all is equal to such a work: in the last judgment, as in this, there will be thrones; the throne of God and of the Lamb, particularly a great white throne, a symbol of purity, justice, and equity, on which the Judge himself will sit, and execute judgment, from whose presence the earth and heaven will flee away; and besides, there will be other thrones for the martyrs of Jesus, and true professors of his name, to sit upon as spectators, witnesses, and approvers of the solemn procedure, and shall reign with Christ a thousand years: likewise the number of the persons judged, as here, will be very great, even innumerable; all, both small and great, as to age or dignity, will stand before the Judge, to be judged by him, and receive their sentence from him; and there will be books for that purpose, as here, even the same, and particularly the book of life, in which, if a man’s name is not written, he will be cast into the lake of fire; (see Revelation 20:4,11,12,15), but in other things they differ; here the Judge is God the Father, the first Person in the Trinity, called the Ancient of days, distinguished from Christ, said to be like the Son of man; whereas the last and future judgment will be committed to the Son of God, the second Person, who is ordained Judge of quick and dead; and who will come a second time to judge the world in righteousness; and, though the description of the Ancient of days will agree well enough with him, he having the same glorious perfections his Father has, which qualify him for a Judge; (see Revelation 1:14), yet it is certain not he, but his divine Father, is intended: nor in the account of the future judgment is there any mention of “a fiery stream” issuing forth before him, as here, for the burning of the body of the beast; unless the lake of fire may be thought to answer to it, into which will be cast all such who have no part in the Lamb, nor a name in his book of life: however, the accounts of both are very awful and striking; and this may be considered as a type, example, presage, and pledge, of the future judgment; this will be at the beginning of the spiritual reign of Christ, when antichrist will be destroyed with the breath of his mouth, and the brightness of his coming; the judgment of the saints will be at the beginning of his personal reign, even of the quick and dead, those that will be found alive, and those that will be raised from the dead, at his appearing and kingdom; and the judgment of the wicked will be at the close of it, or at the end of the Millennium; (see Revelation 20:5,6,12).
Ver. 11. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake , etc.] Or, “from the voice” f283 ; from the time it was heard, the prophet continued looking to see what would be the issue of all this; especially from the time he heard the little horn speak such blasphemous things against God, and Christ, and his people, which were so intolerable, that he concluded some notice would be taken of them in a way of correction and punishment; and the rather, when he saw the Judge appear with so much majesty and grandeur, and all things prepared for a judicial process: I beheld even till the beast was slain ; the fourth beast, the Roman monarchy, to which a period will be put, and be utterly abolished in every form and shape, and with it the little horn or Papacy; when the beast on which the whore of Rome sits and rules, and by whom she is supported, will go into perdition; and she herself shall be made desolate and naked, her flesh eaten, and she burned with fire by the ten horns, or kings, that shall rise up against her, being filled with hatred to her, ( Revelation 17:3,8,16): and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame ; when Rome with all its power and wealth shall cease, and be no more, the whole body of the antichristian states shall perish; the city of Rome shall be burnt with fire; the beast and false prophet shall be taken and cast into a lake of fire, burning with brimstone, ( Revelation 18:8 19:20).
Ver. 12 . As concerning the rest of the beasts . etc.] The other three which represent the Babylonian, Persian and Grecian monarchies: they had their dominion taken away ; not at this time when the fourth beast, or Roman empire, is destroyed, but long ago; and not together, but successively; the dominion was taken away from the Babylonians, and given to the Persians; and then their dominion was taken away, and given to the Grecians; and after that the dominion of the Grecians was taken away from them, and given to the Romans: the prophet having observed what became of the fourth beast, he was most intent upon, just in a few words takes notice of the fate of the other three, before this: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time : these monarchies did not at once become extinct, as the fourth beast or monarchy will, but by degrees; and the kingdoms of which they consisted are still in being, though in another form of government, and in different hands; whereas, when the fourth monarchy is destroyed, all rule and authority will be put down, and the kingdom be given to Christ and his saints, as follow:
Ver. 13. I saw in the night visions , etc.] Very probably the same night in which he had the dream and vision of the four beasts; but this that follows, being a new object presented, is introduced and prefaced after this manner; as well as, being something wonderful and worthy of attention, has a “behold” prefixed to it: and, behold one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven ; not Judas Maccabaeus, as Porphyry; nor the Roman people, as Grotius; nor the people of Israel, as Aben Ezra; nor the people of the saints of the most High, as Cocceius; but the Messiah, as most Christian interpreters, and even the Jews themselves, both ancient and modern, allow. In the ancient book of Zohar it is said, “in the times of the Messiah, Israel shall be one people, to the Lord, and he shall make them one nation in the earth, and they shall rule above and below; as it is written, “behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven”; this is the King Messiah of whom it is written, “and in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven, set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed”, etc. ( Daniel 2:44)” So in the Talmud this prophecy is thus reconciled with another, concerning the Messiah, in ( Zechariah 9:9), to what R. Alexander said, R. Joshua ben Levi objects what is written, and, behold, one like to the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven ; and it is written, “poor, and riding upon an ass”: which is thus adjusted, “if they (the Israelites) are worthy, he (the Messiah) comes with the clouds of heaven; but if they are not worthy, he comes poor, and riding on an ass;” and so it is interpreted in their ancient Midrashes f286 , or expositions, as well us in more modern ones: Jarchi on the text says, “he is the Messiah;” and so R. Saadiah Gaon and Jacchiades, this is Messiah our righteousness; and Aben Ezra observes, that this is the sense R. Jeshua gives, “that one like to the Son of man” is the Messiah; and he adds, it is right, only along with him must be joined the holy people, who are the Israelites: and, with the Jews, Anani, which signifies “clouds”, is the name of the Messiah, founded upon this text, in the Targum of ( 1 Chronicles 3:24), where mention is made of the name of a person, Anani, it is added, “who is the Messiah that is to be revealed;” so in an ancient book called Tanchuma f287 , speaking of Zerubbabel, it is asked, from whence did he spring? it is answered from David, as it is said, ( 1 Chronicles 3:10) “and Solomon’s son was Rehoboam”, etc.; and so all in the line are mentioned unto Anani, ( Daniel 7:24) and then it is asked, who is this Anani? this is the Messiah, as it is said, ( Daniel 7:13): and I saw in the visions of the night, and, behold, one like to the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven . He is said to be “as”, or “like the Son of man”, in agreement with the style of these visions, ( Daniel 7:4-6), or because as yet he was not really incarnate, only appeared in a human form; or this as is not a note of similitude, but of truth and reality, as in ( John 1:14 Matthew 14:5 Philippians 2:7,8) or because he was more than a man: and his coming with the clouds of heaven denotes the majesty, visibility, and swiftness, with which he came to take open possession of his kingdom and glory. Saadiah interprets them of the angels of heaven, with which he will be attended: and came to the Ancient of days ; his divine Father, from whom, as man and Mediator, he receives his mediatorial kingdom, is invested with it, and insisted it, to it; (see Revelation 5:7) this is not to be understood of his first coming in the flesh, which was from his Father, and not to him; nor of his ascension to heaven, exaltation and session at the right hand of God, when he indeed received the kingdom from the Father, and was made and declared Lord and Christ; but this seems to respect what shall be upon the destruction of the fourth beast, when Christ shall receive and take to himself his great power, and reign, and more visibly appear by his Father’s designation and appointment, and his open glory, to be King and Lord over all: and they brought him near before him ; not Elijah the prophet, as Jacchindes; rather the angels, as others; or the saints by their prayers, who hasten to, and hasten thereby, the coming and kingdom of Christ in a more spiritual and glorious manner; or it may be rendered impersonally, “he was brought near before him,” as by the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions.
Ver. 14. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom , etc.] That is, a large, powerful, and glorious kingdom; not but that he had a kingdom before, but now it will be more extensive, and appear in greater glory: this will be fulfilled when the kingdoms of this world shall become his, and all nations shall serve and worship him, ( Revelation 11:15 15:3,4), as follows: that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him ; embrace his Gospel, submit to his ordinances serve and worship him in every religious duty; every people, of all nations, and of every language under heaven; which will be the case when the everlasting Gospel will be preached to them all with success, ( Revelation 14:6 Psalm 72:11): his dominion is an everlasting dominion ; it shall never have an end, as the rest of the monarchies, signified by the four beasts, have had, or will have; (see Psalm 14:6 Isaiah 9:7): which shall not pass away ; or be removed from one to another, like the above monarchies: and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed ; or “corrupted” f288 abolished and brought to nothing, as the said monarchies were one by another; and, at last, all of them by the stone cut out of the mountain; (see Daniel 2:44).
Ver. 15 . I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body , etc.] Or “sheath” f289 ; the soul being in the body as a sword in its scabbard; where it was “cut” and pierced, as the word signifies; and was wounded, distressed, and grieved at the vision seen; not at the sight of the Son of man, and the glorious and everlasting kingdom given to him; but of the four beasts, and especially the last, and more particularly the little horn, and the look, and words, and actions of that, as well as the awful scene of judgment presented to his view: and the visions of my head troubled me ; the things he saw, which appeared to his fancy as real things, gave him a great deal of uneasiness, and chiefly because he did not understand the meaning of them; it was not so much the things themselves, as ignorance of them, that cut him to the heart, and grieved and troubled him; for what is more so to an inquisitive mind, that has got a hint of something great and useful to be known, but cannot as yet come to the knowledge of it?
Ver. 16. I came near unto one of them that stood by , etc.] To one of the angels that attended, either the throne of judgment, or, the Son of man in his approach to his divine Father: and asked him the truth of all this ; the substance of these visions; what these images, presented to his view, were shadows and representations of; so type and truth, shadow and substance, are opposed to each other. The real meaning of all this was what he asked; nor need any be ashamed to ask of whomsoever they can hope to get knowledge of truth, and especially of superiors, of the angels of the churches, or pastors of them: so he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things ; he interpreted everything in the vision to him, and gave him the true meaning and real design of the whole, as follows: this was asked and told, not when Daniel was awake, and was considering of what he had dreamed; but in his dream, in his vision by night; this was all transacted in a visionary way, both the things and the interpretation of them.
Ver. 17 . These great beasts, which are four, are four kings , etc.] Or kingdoms, as the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions; and so Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Saadiah; so the fourth beast is called the fourth kingdom, ( Daniel 7:23) or a succession of kings in four kingdoms or monarchies, comparable to beasts for their strength, cruelty, and tyranny: these are the words of him that stood by, of one of the angels Daniel applied to, to know the meaning of his dream; and might be better rendered, “as to these great beasts, which are four”; for their quality beasts, for their quantity great, and for number four. The meaning is, four kings shall arise out of the earth ; or kingdoms; which have an earthly original and foundation; are supported by earthly and worldly means, and with earthly and worldly views; and are different from the kingdom of Christ and his saints, which is not of the world, though it may be in it: this explains what is meant by the great sea, from whence these beasts are said to come up, ( Daniel 7:3), nor is it any material objection that the first of these kingdoms, the Babylonian, was risen already, and almost at an end; since the denomination is taken from the larger number; three of them were to arise, and the first was of the same original with them; thus it is said, ( Daniel 11:2), that three kings of Persia should stand up, and yet Cyrus, who was one of them, reigned already.
Ver. 18. But the saints of the most High , etc.] Or, “of the most high Ones” f292 , Father, Son, and Spirit, separated by God the Father in election, and in that sense his servants, or sanctified ones, ( Jude 1:1), and redeemed by the Son, and sanctified with his blood, or their sins atoned by it, and to whom he is made sanctification, and so his saints, ( Hebrews 13:12 1 Corinthians 1:30) and sanctified by the Spirit, who in conversion implants principles of grace and holiness in them, ( Corinthians 6:11), or, “the saints of high” f293 , places or things; who are born from above, and are called with a high and heavenly calling, towards which they are pressing, reckoning themselves strangers here below: these shall take the kingdom ; or “receive” it, as a free gift from God; and not by force, and rapine, and violence, as the beasts did: and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever ; after the four monarchies are destroyed, a fifth kingdom shall be set up; and this will be given to, and put into the possession of, the saints; they shall have the rule and government in the world, even in the whole world, as well as reign with Christ spiritually; which manner of rule shall last long; and then after the first resurrection they shall reign with him a thousand years on earth, and afterwards in heaven to all eternity. There is another rendering and sense of the words given, “and they (the beasts) shall receive the kingdom of the saints of the most High” f295 , etc.; and so Saadiah interprets them, “and these kingdoms shall receive the kingdom of Israel, who are the saints of the most High, until the world to come, until the Messiah reigns;” and this way go many others, who understand the words of those several monarchies possessing the land of Judea, and ruling over it; and of the continuance of it in the hands of Papists or Turks for a long, time, even until the glorious kingdom of Christ takes place; but this does not agree with the accentuation of the words, their form of construction, their connection, and strong manner of expression, “for ever and ever”; and especially if compared with ( Daniel 7:22,27).
Ver. 19. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast ; etc.] What it represented, what kingdom or monarchy was meant by it; for, by the above answer of the angel, he understood the four beasts signified four kings or kingdoms; the three first he pretty well understood; at least he was not so solicitous about them as about the fourth; and this he was desirous of having a very particular and exact account of; it threatening, by its appearance, a great deal of trouble to the world, and especially to the church of God: which was diverse from all the others ; or, “from all them”, or “those” f296 , the other three beasts: exceeding dreadful ; to other kingdoms and nations: whose teeth were of iron ; of these parts of its description, see on ( Daniel 7:7), and his nails of brass ; this is a new circumstance, not before mentioned, and here added with great propriety: “nails” belonging to a beast of prey, and these said to be of “brass”, to denote its strength, cruelty, and voraciousness in tearing its prey, to pieces; and, moreover, to show that this kingdom has somewhat of the nature of the third or Grecian monarchy, said to be of brass in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; some out of that kingdom being taken into the Roman militia, as, Theodoret observes; and soldiers are to a king what nails are to a beast: which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet ; some kingdoms and provinces were destroyed by it, and the rest were made subject to it; (see Daniel 7:7).
Ver. 20 . And of the ten horns , etc.] That is, Daniel desired to know the truth of the ten horns, or the meaning of them what they signified, and who they pointed at, of which in ( Daniel 7:7), here it is added, that were in his head ; observing the situation of them; thought the horns of a beast could hardly be thought to be elsewhere: and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell ; particularly he was very desirous to know the meaning of a single horn, which rose up among the rest, and before which three of the other horns fell, being plucked up by the roots: even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things : (See Gill on “ Daniel 7:8”): whose look was more stout than his fellows ; than the other beasts, or rather than the other horns; either than his fellow bishops, claiming an authority over them, as being universal bishop; or than the kings and princes of the earth, setting up himself above all that is called god, emperors and kings; taking to himself all power in heaven and in earth; a power to depose kings, and absolve their subjects from allegiance to them, and even over the consciences of men; so that his look is more bold and impudent than others, as well as more fierce and terrible, threatening kings and kingdoms with his bulls, anathemas, and interdicts: or, “whose appearance is greater than his fellows” f297 ; in pomp and splendour, making a greater show and figure than the kings of the earth, and claiming a superiority over them.
Ver. 21 . I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints , etc.] The same little horn before described; not Antiochus Epiphanes, who made war with the Jews, as many think; or the Roman Caesars, that persecuted the church of Christ, as others; nor Titus Vespasian, who fought against Israel, as Saadiah; but antichrist, or the pope of Rome; and this refers to the wars of the popes with the Waldenses, which began in the year 1160, and continued long, and with the two witnesses at the close of their testimony, ( Revelation 11:7 13:7), this Daniel had a view of in vision; not while he was inquiring of the angel, but before, though not mentioned till now; and was a reason he was so very inquisitive about this little horn, because of its war with the saints, and its success, as follows: and prevailed against them : as the popes and their abettors did against the Waldenses and Albigenses, whom they slew in great numbers, and got the victory over; as the beast also, the same with this little horn, will overcome the witnesses, and slay them, ( Revelation 11:7).
Ver. 22 . Until the Ancient of days came , etc.] Not locally, by change of place, he being the omnipresent God; but in a providential way, to check and put a stop to the power and prevalency of the little horn over the saints; for this is the terminus or end of that; which puts a period to it; for when the Ancient of days comes in the exertion of his power and providence, he will come and sit as a Judge upon this little horn or antichrist, and judge, and condemn, and punish it; (see Daniel 7:9,11): and judgment was given to the saints of the most High ; their characters vindicated from all calumny and false aspersions; their adversaries condemned and punished; and power, dominion, and authority, given to them with Christ; (see Daniel 7:27 John 5:22): and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom ; (see Gill on “ Daniel 7:18”); till which time the little horn or antichrist will reign and rage, and prevail over the saints, but no longer.
Ver. 23. Thus he said , etc.] The person that stood by, the angel, of whom Daniel made his inquiries, and who answered him, as follows: the fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom on earth ; which shows that the angel, by four kings, ( Daniel 7:17), meant four kingdoms, that should successively arise in the earth, and out of it, one after another; and this kingdom is not the kingdom of the Seleucidae, nor the Turkish, but the Roman empire; for this is to continue until the kingdom of Christ takes place; (see Daniel 7:7): which shall be diverse from all kingdoms ; from the kingdoms and monarchies that were before it; particularly as a kingdom, in its form of government, both when Pagan and when Papal; (see Daniel 7:7): and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces : not the whole land of Judea only, as some read and interpret it; but the whole world, which the Romans became masters of; and the phrases used denote the destruction and desolation they made, wherever they carried their arms, and the cruelty and tyranny they exercised, and the vast profusion of blood made by them, both among the Heathens they subdued, and the Christians they persecuted.
Ver. 24 . And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise , etc.]. Or ten kingdoms which sprung out of the Roman empire, or into which it was broken and divided upon the dissolution of it, about A.D. 476; which, according to Mr. Mede f298 , were thus divided, A.D. 456, 1. Britons; 2. Saxons; 3. Franks; 4. Burgundians; 5 Visigoths; 6. Suevians and Alanes; 7. Vandals; 8. Almanes; 9. Ostrogoths; 10. Greeks.
The list Bishop Lloyd has given of them is, 1. Hunns, who erected their kingdom in that part of Pannonia and Dacia, which was from them called Hungary, about A.D. 356. 2. Ostrogoths, who settled themselves in the countries that reach from Rhetia to Maesia, even to Thrace, about 377; and afterwards came into Italy under Alaricus, in 410. 3. Visigoths, who settled in the south parts of France, and in Catalonia, about 378. 4. Franks, who seized upon part of Germany and Gaul, A.D. 410. 5. Vandals, who settled in Spain; afterwards set up their kingdom in Africa, A.D. 407; their king Gensericus sacked Rome, 455. 6. Suevians and Alans, who seized the western parts of Spain, A.D. 407; and invaded Italy, 457. 7. Burgundians, who came out of Germany, into that part of Gaul called from them Burgundy, 407. 8. Herules, Rugians, and Thoringians, who settled in Italy under Odoacer, about A.D. 476. 9. Saxons, who made themselves masters of Great Britain about the same time, 476. 10. Longobards, called likewise Gopidae, who settled in Germany, about Magdeburg, A.D. 383; and afterwards succeeded the Heruli and Thuringi in Hungary, about the year 826.
Sir Isaac Newton reckons the ten kingdoms in the following order: 1. the kingdom of the Vandals and Alans in Spain and Africa; 2. of the Suevians in Spain; 3. of the Visigoths; 4. of the Alans in Gallia; 5. of the Burgundians; 6. of the Franks; 7. of the Britons; 8. of the Hunns; 9. of the Lombards; 10. of Ravenna; who gives an account of the various kings of these kingdoms; and these, as the same learned writer says f301 , whatever was their number afterwards, they are still called the ten kings from their first number; and though they have not always been in the same form and order, yet they have been generally about, if not exactly, the same number; as they are now near the same; and may be thus reckoned, as the kingdoms of France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Great Britain, Sardinia, Denmark, the two Sicilies, Swedeland, Prussia, and Poland; of which see more (see Gill on “ Revelation 17:12”). And another shall rise after thee : not Titus Vespeasian, as Jarchi and Saadiah; nor the nation of Gog and Magog, as Jacchiades: but the pope of Rome, or antichrist; who came to his power as universal bishop, and as a horn or temporal prince, after the above kingdoms arose; not after they were at an end, but after they were constituted and established, as it was proper they should first be; since they were to give their strength, power, and kingdom, to the antichristian beast, by which it became a horn or temporal prince, ( Revelation 17:13). The Septuagint render it, “behind them”; which Mr. Mede interprets of his springing up unawares, imperceptibly, unnoticed, and unobserved by them, till he overtopped them. And he shall be diverse from the first ; from the first ten horns, kings or kingdoms; having, besides a secular power and temporal authority, an ecclesiastical and spiritual one; a power not only over the bodies and estates of men, but over their souls and consciences; and even over the other horns and kingdoms, which they had not over one another; and so was different from them all: and he shall subdue three kings ; designed by the three horns plucked up by the roots, and which fell before him; of which (see Gill on “ Daniel 7:8”).
Ver. 25. And he shall speak great words against the most High , etc.] Or, “at the side of the most High” f303 ; setting himself up as a rival, and upon an equality with him; taking the names and characters of holiness, infallibility, yea, of deity itself, unto him; claiming a power to forgive sin, which is peculiar to God; and preferring his own laws, doctrines, and traditions, to the word of God: and shall wear out the saints of the most High ; by his wars with them, and murders and massacres of them; by taking away their lives and their substance; so lessening their numbers, and weakening their strength and power, wear them out, as a garment is wore out, as the word signifies; utterly consume and destroy them, at least in his own apprehensions; which will be the case when the witnesses will be slain, ( Revelation 11:8-10), and especially will wear out their patience, or however thoroughly exercise it. The word f305 , in the Arabic language, signifies “to afflict and handle roughly”; and such usage the saints have met with, more or less, in all ages, from the man of sin. And think to change times and laws : to alter the forms and constitutions of kingdoms, and the customs and usages of them; yea, to set up and pull down kings at pleasure; (see Daniel 2:21), or to change the use of times and seasons, by setting apart days as holy for canonized saints; and appointing such days in a week, and such a season in the year, for abstinence from meats; and even to change the laws of God and man, by dispensing with both, and making new ones of his own: and they shall be given into his hand ; either the saints he makes war with, and wears out, who shall be overcome by him; or the times and laws, which he shall not only have it in his mind and purpose to change, but shall have it in his power to do it, and shall do it: until a time, and times, and the dividing of time ; by “a time” is meant a year, the longest part of time; by “times”, two years; and “the dividing of time”, half a year; in all three years and a half, which is the same with days, or forty two months, the time of the witnesses prophesying in sackcloth, and of the reign of antichrist; so long shall he continue, exercising his power and authority, his wrath and rage, and blasphemy, and no longer; (see Revelation 11:2,3 12:14 13:5).
Ver. 26. But the judgment shall sit , etc.] As in ( Daniel 7:10), the court shall sit, the Judge shall take the bench, and all things be prepared for the arraignment, trial, condemnation, and punishment, of the little horn or antichrist, when the above time is up; God the Father, the Ancient of days, and Christ, said to be like the Son of man, brought near to him, shall sit as Judges, attended by the holy angels: and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end ; either the angels, or rather the saints of the most High; particularly the Christian princes, into whose hearts God will put it to hate the whore, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire; so that there shall be an utter end of antichrist; he shall be stripped of all his power and authority; his destruction will be inevitable and irrecoverable; he shall never come out of it; it shall continue to the end of the world, to the end of time.
Ver. 27 . And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High , etc.] Not only the dominion that shall be taken away from the little horn or antichrist, and from all the antichristian states, but the dominion of all others throughout all the earth, and under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of God, and the true professors of faith in Christ. The kingdoms of this world will become Christ’s, and Christian princes will be kings of them everywhere; and not only the royal power and authority will be vested with them, but all the grandeur and state belonging to them will be theirs; as well as all the saints in general shall reign in a spiritual manner with Christ, enjoying all ordinances, and all religious liberties, as well as civil, and be free from all persecutions. Whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him ; the people of the saints of the most High, all shall be subject to them, all dominions, and the governors of them; or Christ the head of them, under and with whom they reign. So Saadiah paraphrases it, “the kingdom of the King Messiah is an everlasting kingdom, and his government is to generation and generation, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.”
This spiritual reign of Christ, which will take place in a more glorious manner at the destruction of antichrist, will continue until the Millennium, or the personal reign of Christ, begins; and after that will be the ultimate glory, in which Christ and his people will reign to all eternity.
Ver. 28. Hitherto is the end of the matter , etc.] Of the angel’s words, and of the interpretation of those things Daniel was desirous of being informed about, and of the whole dream and vision Daniel had; and indeed this is the end and issue of all events in Providence, the kingdom and glory of Christ with his people: as for me Daniel : with respect to his frame of mind, and the state of his body, when he awaked from this dream, and reflected upon it, and especially upon that part of it which affected the people of God: my cogitations much troubled me ; when he thought of these powerful monarchies, their strength and cruelty, and what the people of God would suffer under them, and especially under the fourth beast or monarchy, and ignore particularly under the little horn or antichrist: and my countenance changed in me : turned pale: he looked sorrowful and dejected, because of the afflictions of God’s people; though the issue of them, one would have thought, would have inspired him with joy and pleasure: but I kept the matter in my heart ; laid it up in his memory; pondered it in his mind; meditated upon it; and well weighed the several things observed to him; that he might be thoroughly master of them, and make them known to others, and leave them in writing for the benefit of the church of God in future ages.