Reading through the Bible together
In this chapter Daniel shifts from history to prophecy. It is not that Daniel came to the end of his life and as an old man started to dream and have visions so that the last seven chapters are full of his own dreams. These dreams were from God.
As we learned from the previous chapter, Nabonidus, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, abandoned Babylon to live in a different city and have his own religion. He turned everything over to his son Belshazzar who was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. In that year, Daniel had a dream one night with many visions. Composite beasts were coming out of a great sea from the directions of the four winds (vv. 1-3). The beasts resembled a lion, bear, leopard, and a terrible beast without any commonly recognized features. The beasts came chronologically one after the other (vv. 4-7). As Daniel wondered about the fourth terrible beast with its horns, a little horn “came up from among them” and before it three horns were uprooted (v. 8).
The first lion-like beast had wings but they were torn off and then without wings “it was lifted up from the ground” and it stood like a man and [God] gave it a human heart. These animals ran their activities not without the Hand of God being involved. The bear-like beast did not lay down on one side, “it was raised up on one of its sides.” It was doing what it was told by a higher Power. The leopard-like beast “was given authority to rule” so that political history is not merely a man-made product. The fourth animal was a persecutor which “crushed and devoured its victims.” The little horn that came up among the ten horns and “had eyes like the eyes of a man” and it spoke great and boastful things (v. 8).
After the four beasts, Daniel saw many thrones set up but another one with wheels of flames had the “Ancient of Days” sitting on it (v. 9). The Ancient of Days is God Himself. Periods of existence were set for these beasts (vv. 11, 12). Daniel learned that God switches-on and switches-off empires. He permits some to continue and others to disappear. Authority is “stripped” and the “stripping” is determined in heaven. The fourth beast with the little horn speaking boastfully was finally destroyed. Its executive punishment or Executive Judgment as seen by Daniel in vision was that it will ultimately be destroyed by fire. This not only includes Imperial Rome but also the Holy Roman Empire, its spiritual successor
At this point, Daniel was very confused and troubled about this heavenly judgment scene, so he “drew near” to one of those in the dream who stood by and asked about the meaning of this (vv. 15, 16). He was told that after all these beast-like empires had ceased to exist, the saints of the Most-High possessed the kingdom forever (vv. 17, 18).
This is not a psychological stressed-out Daniel in exile hoping for a Utopia of Peace forever. It is history to come, laid out before his eyes in visions of a long dream at night. Daniel was grieved and a bit confused by the fourth beast and wanted to know more about it (v. 19). He especially wanted to know about the horns and that Little Horn that spoke so “boastfully” (v. 20). Daniel was shown how the Little Horn would “wage war against the saints” (v. 21). This persecution was to last until the Heavenly Judgment Event and the Ancient of Days would come and defeat the persecutors (v. 22).
The Judgment “in favor of the saints” is only after that Investigative Judgment in heaven and “the time came when they possessed the kingdom” but not before then. The Little Horn is explained to Daniel in (v. 25), telling him that it will speak against the Most High, oppress the saints, and try to change times and laws. This period of persecution began under the Roman Emperor Justinian, and the length of persecution is given as “time, times and half a time,” a phrase that was preserved in the Qumran Text. The word time is 360 days and times are 360 days x 2 and half a time is 180 days. The number adds up to 1260 days, each day for a year, or 1260 years. The prophet Daniel’s math is the same as the math of the prophet John’s math in Revelation 12:6 which spells out the 1260 years.
The scribe to whom Daniel was retelling this from his own cryptic notes, stopped using Aramaic at the last verse as we see from the Qumran texts. Then he switched back to Hebrew beginning in chapter 8 to the end of the book.
Daniel could not tell or write future history without seeing Your Hand involved in changing events. Also in our day, Lord, Your Hand guides the Faithful Remnant Seed, to avoid becoming the Remnant Weed. Guide us, O Lord. Amen.
Koot van Wyk, DLitt et Phil; ThD.
Kyungpook National University
Sangju, South Korea.