World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
Visions of the Four Beasts
In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream:
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.
visions of his head—not confused "dreams," but distinct images seen while his mind was collected.
sum—a "summary." In predictions, generally, details are not given so fully as to leave no scope for free agency, faith, and patient waiting for God manifesting His will in the event. He "wrote" it for the Church in all ages; he "told" it for the comfort of his captive fellow countrymen.