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Da 7:1-28. VISION OF THE FOUR BEASTS.
This chapter treats of the same subject as the second chapter. But there the four kingdoms, and Messiah's final kingdom, were regarded according to their external political aspect, but here according to the mind of God concerning them, and their moral features. The outward political history had been shown in its general features to the world ruler, whose position fitted him for receiving such a revelation. But God's prophet here receives disclosures as to the characters of the powers of the world, in a religious point of view, suited to his position and receptivity. Hence in the second chapter the images are taken from the inanimate sphere; in the seventh chapter they are taken from the animate. Nebuchadnezzar saw superficially the world power as a splendid human figure, and the kingdom of God as a mere stone at the first. Daniel sees the world kingdoms in their inner essence as of an animal nature lower than human, being estranged from God; and that only in the kingdom of God ("the Son of man," the representative man) is the true dignity of man realized. So, as contrasted with Nebuchadnezzar's vision, the kingdom of God appears to Daniel, from the very first, superior to the world kingdom. For though in physical force the beasts excel man, man has essentially spiritual powers. Nebuchadnezzar's colossal image represents mankind in its own strength, but only the outward man. Daniel sees man spiritually degraded to the beast level, led by blind impulses, through his alienation from God. It is only from above that the perfect Son of man comes, and in His kingdom man attains his true destiny. Compare Ps 8:1-9 with Ge 1:26-28. Humanity is impossible without divinity: it sinks to bestiality (Ps 32:9; 49:20; 73:22). Obstinate heathen nations are compared to "bulls" (Ps 68:30); Egypt to the dragon in the Nile (Isa 27:1; 51:9; Eze 29:3). The animal with all its sagacity looks always to the ground, without consciousness of relation to God. What elevates man is communion with God, in willing subjection to Him. The moment he tries to exalt himself to independence of God, as did Nebuchadnezzar (Da 4:30), he sinks to the beast's level. Daniel's acquaintance with the animal colossal figures in Babylon and Nineveh was a psychological preparation for his animal visions. Ho 13:7, 8 would occur to him while viewing those ensigns of the world power. Compare Jer 2:15; 4:7; 5:6.
1. Belshazzar--Good Hebrew manuscripts have "Belshazzar"; meaning
"Bel is to be burnt with hostile fire"
(Jer 50:2; 51:44).
In the history he is called by his ordinary name; in the
prophecy, which gives his true destiny, he is called a
corresponding name, by the change of a letter.
2. the four winds--answering to the "four beasts"; their several
conflicts in the four quarters or directions of the world.
3. beasts--not living animals, as the cherubic four in Re 4:7 (for the original is a different word from "beasts," and ought to be there translated, living animals). The cherubic living animals represent redeemed man, combining in himself the highest forms of animal life. But the "beasts" here represent the world powers, in their beast-like, grovelling character. It is on the fundamental harmony between nature and spirit, between the three kingdoms of nature, history, and revelation, that Scripture symbolism rests. The selection of symbols is not arbitrary, but based on the essence of things.
4. lion--the symbol of strength and courage; chief among the
kingdoms, as the lion among the beasts. Nebuchadnezzar is called "the
5. bear--symbolizing the austere life of the Persians in their
mountains, also their cruelty
(Isa 13:17, 18;
Cambyses, Ochus, and other of the Persian princes were notoriously
cruel; the Persian laws involved, for one man's offense, the whole
kindred and neighborhood in destruction,
and rapacity. "A bear is an all-devouring animal" [ARISTOTLE, 8.5],
(Jer 51:48, 56).
6. leopard--smaller than the lion; swift
the opposite of tame; springing suddenly from its hiding place on its
spotted. So Alexander, a small king, of a small kingdom, Macedon,
attacked Darius at the head of the vast empire reaching from the
Ægean Sea to the Indies. In twelve years he subjugated part of
Europe, and all Asia from Illyricum and the Adriatic to the Ganges, not
so much fighting as conquering [JEROME]. Hence,
whereas Babylon is represented with two wings, Macedon has
four, so rapid were its conquests. The various spots denote the
various nations incorporated into his empire [BOCHART]; or Alexander's own variation in character, at
one time mild, at another cruel, now temperate, and now drunken and
7. As Daniel lived under the kingdom of the first beast, and
therefore needed not to describe it, and as the second and third are
described fully in the second part of the book, the chief emphasis falls
on the fourth. Also prophecy most dwells on the end, which is the
consummation of the preceding series of events. It is in the fourth that
the world power manifests fully its God-opposing nature. Whereas the
three former kingdoms were designated respectively, as a lion, bear, and
leopard, no particular beast is specified as the image of the fourth;
for Rome is so terrible as to be not describable by any one, but
combines in itself all that we can imagine inexpressibly fierce in all
beasts. Hence thrice
(Da 7:7, 19, 23)
it is repeated, that the fourth was "diverse from all" the others. The
formula of introduction, "I saw in the night visions," occurs here, as
and again at
thus dividing the whole vision into three parts--the first embracing
the three kingdoms, the second the fourth and its overthrow, the third
Messiah's kingdom. The first three together take up a few centuries;
the fourth, thousands of years. The whole lower half of the image in
the second chapter is given to it. And whereas the other kingdoms
consist of only one material, this consists of two, iron and clay (on
which much stress is laid,
the "iron teeth" here allude to one material in the fourth
kingdom of the image.
8. little horn--little at first, but afterwards waxing greater
than all others. He must be sought "among them," namely, the ten horns.
The Roman empire did not represent itself as a continuation of
Alexander's; but the Germanic empire calls itself "the holy Roman
empire." Napoleon's attempted universal monarchy was avowedly Roman: his
son was called king of Rome. The czar (Cæsar) also professes to
represent the eastern half of the Roman empire. The Roman civilization,
church, language, and law are the chief elements in Germanic
civilization. But the Romanic element seeks universal empire, while the
Germanic seeks individualization. Hence the universal monarchies
attempted by the Papacy, Charlemagne, Charles V, and Napoleon have
failed, the iron not amalgamating with the clay. In the king symbolized
by "the little horn," the God-opposing, haughty spirit of the world,
represented by the fourth monarchy, finds its intensest development.
"The man of sin," "the son of perdition"
(1Jo 2:18, 22; 4:3).
It is the complete evolution of the evil principle introduced by the