Daniel 7

The Word Made Fresh

1During the first year of the reign of Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions came to his mind as he lay in bed. He recorded the dream in writing:

2“I, Daniel, in my dreams and visions during the night, saw the four winds of the heavens stirring up the great sea. 3Four giant beasts, each one different from the others, arose out of the water. 4The first was like a lion with eagles’ wings, but as I watched, its wings were torn off and it was lifted up and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it.

5“A second beast appeared. It looked like a bear. It raised up on one side and it had three ribs in its teeth. It was told to rise and eat its fill of flesh.

6“Then as I watched, another beast appeared, one that looked like a leopard. This one had four wings on its back, like birds’ wings, and four heads. It was given an area to rule.

7“Then I saw in this vision of the night a fourth beast. It was a dreadful beast, terrifying and very strong. It had huge iron teeth and was eating everything, breaking things in pieces and stomping what was left with its feet. It was different from the other beasts: it had ten horns. 8As I was studying the horns, another horn appeared. It was smaller, but to make room for it three of the other horns were pulled out. This smaller horn had eyes like a man’s eyes, and its mouth was saying arrogant things.

9“While I was watching, thrones were set up and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was white as snow and his hair looked like pure wool. His throne was flaming with fire and its wheels were afire. 10A blaze of fire flowed from his presence. Thousands of thousands served him. Ten thousand times ten thousand attended him. The court sat in judgment and the books were opened.

11“The beast was noisily uttering arrogant words, and as I watched, the beast was killed. Its body was given over to be burned with fire. 12The realms of the other beasts were taken away from them, but their lives were spared for a time. 15As I took in these visions, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He came and was presented to the Ancient of Days. 14He was given dominion and glory and made the ruler of all the people, nations, and languages. His dominion is everlasting. It will never pass away. His authority will never be taken from him.

15“My spirit was troubled and the visions terrified me. 16I went to one of the attendants and asked him to explain all this, and he interpreted the scene for me. 17‘These four beasts,’ he said, ‘represent four kings who will come to power in the world. 18But the sacred ones who belong to the Most High will receive the kingdom, and they will possess it forever and ever.’

19“I wanted to know the truth about the fourth beast – the one that was so different from the others and more terrifying with iron teeth and bronze claws that devoured and broke things apart and stomped on the others with its feet. 20And I wanted to know the meaning of the ten horns on its head, and the other horn that grew up and displaced three of the original horns – the one that had eyes and a mouth that spoke with arrogance and seemed more powerful than the others. 21As I watched, this horn attacked the sacred ones and had the upper hand over them 22until the Ancient of Days came and gave authority to them, and the time came for the sacred ones to take possession of the kingdom.

23“Then he said, ‘As for the fourth beast, there will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, different from the others; it will attack the whole earth and trample on it and break it apart. 24And as for the ten horns, out of them ten kings will rise up, and another after them who will be different from the rest; he will subdue three of the kings. 25But he will also speak against the Most High. He will wear down the sacred followers of the Most High and attempt to change the law and the sacred celebrations. And they will be given into his power for a time, times, and half a time. 26But then the court will gather to judge, and his kingdom will be taken away to be torn apart and utterly destroyed. 27The leadership over the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms on earth will be given to the people who are the holy ones of the Most High. Their kingdoms will serve them and be obedient to them.’

28“And this is where the story ends. I, Daniel, was greatly terrified by what I had seen. My face was white. But I kept the experience to myself.”


1-8: The remainder of the book of Daniel contains accounts of Daniel’s own visions of the distant future and the end of time. The first vision is described here. He “sees” the 4 winds stirring up the sea and 4 monsters coming up out of the sea: a lion with eagles’ wings; a bear with 3 ribs in its teeth; a leopard with 4 wings and 4 heads; and a sort of mechanical monster with iron teeth and 10 horns. The four winds represent the power of God, and the sea represents the Chaos that is always God’s enemy. The monsters are earthly kingdoms, as we shall see. The implication is that earthly kingdoms are on the side of Chaos.

The first monster is a lion, a ravenous beast of prey. Some scholars think the lion represents Nebuchadnezzar, and the plucked-off wings a curtailment of his power. He is lifted up on two feet and given a human mind, reminding us of the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s temporary insanity.

The second monster is a bear that is told, “Arise, devour many bodies,” and the bear is doing just that, with three ribs already in its teeth. Many scholars think the voice is God’s, but others say it is the voice of Chaos urging war against God’s creation.

The third monster is a leopard with four wings and four heads. Some scholars think this is a representation of the Persian Empire because the Bible names but four of its kings — Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, and Artaxerxes.

The fourth monster is the most terrible of all. Scholars have not been able to identify which rulers are represented by the 10 horns. Later Christian commentators tried to relate the 10 horns to rulers in Rome. However, most scholars agree that the little arrogant horn represents Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who sacked Jerusalem in 167 B.C., desecrated the temple and outlawed the worship of God (This is recorded in the Apocrypha in 1 Maccabees 6:1-11, which can be most easily found in the Catholic Bible. Protestants Bibles only include the Old and New Testaments). The three horns that are discarded may represent the three men whom Antiochus IV disposed of in order to seize the throne for himself.

9-14: Daniel next “sees” an event unfolding in the courts of heaven. The “Ancient of Days,” or “Ancient One,” is God, of course. The fourth beast is put to death, the other three linger, perhaps a reference to the vestiges of earlier empires. Daniel’s “night visions” continue with the arrival of “one like a son of man,” or “one like a human being.” Note that this one is not actually a human being, only “like” one. Most scholars agree this is a reference to the archangel Michael (see 10:21 and 12:1). In Daniel’s vision this personage is to be given dominion over the world.

15-18: Daniel (in his dream) approaches an attendant (one of the “thousand thousands” in verse 10) and asks for an explanation. The attendant tells him that his vision has to do with the ultimate battle between God and Chaos, Chaos being represented by earthly kings and kingdoms.

19-22: Daniel asks about the fourth beast and the arrogant little horn that made war with “the holy ones,” meaning the Jews. This horn was prevailing until the arrival of God in verse 9 (see the commentary above on verse 9), and then the Jews regained possession of Israel.

23-28: The attendant’s explanation of the fourth beast and its fate has been covered in the above commentary.


It is difficult in the extreme to interpret much of what Daniel presents as visions. The lesson is clear, though: no matter how human beings try to take charge of the world, God is in charge. Do not despair, God will overcome the world in God’s time. We should strive to see all of our troubles as opportunities.