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7. Daniel's Dream of Four Beasts
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. 2Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. 3And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it. 5And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. 8I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
9I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. 12As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. 13I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
15I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. 17These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. 18But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. 19Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet; 20And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows. 21I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. 23Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings. 25And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. 26But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27And 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, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 28Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.
Thus this prophecy was fulfilled, namely, The four beasts took upon themselves the empire which properly belonged to the sacred lofty ones; that is, to God’s elect sons, who, though dwellers on earth, are dependent on heaven. In this interpretation I see nothing forced, and whoever prudently weighs the matter will, as I hope, recognize what I have said as the meaning of the Prophet. The latter clause now follows. They shall obtain the kingdom, says he, for ever, and even for ever and ever A difficult question arises here, because by these words Daniel, or the angel addressing him, seems to express a perpetual condition under these four monarchies;. Belshazzar was the last king of the Babylonian dynasty, and at the perform of this vision the overthrow of that monarchy was at hand. With regard to the Persian kings, there were only eight of them besides Cyrus. And concerning Alexander we know a sudden change happened; the terror of him spread abroad like a storm, but it vanished away after it had affected all the people of the East. The Macedonian kingdom also suffered a concussion, when those leaders began to disagree among themselves who had obtained from Alexander authority and rank; and at length the kingdom became fourfold, as we have already stated, and shall mention again. Now if we count the years, the length of those monarchies was not so great as to justify the epithet “perpetual.” I reply, this must be referred to the sensations of the pious, to whom that delay seemed specially tedious, so that they would have pined away in their miseries, had not this prophecy in some way relieved them. We see at the present moment how great is the for your of desire when reference is made to the help of God; and when our minds have been heated with desire, they immediately decline to impatience. It thus happens that the promises of God do not suffice to sustain us, because nothing is more difficult than to bear long delay. For if the Church in our time had been oppressed for a hundred years, what constancy would have been discerned ht us? If a whirlwind arises, we are astonished, and cry out, “What next? what next?” Three or four months will not have elapsed before all men enter upon a strife with God and expostulate with him, because he does not hasten at once to bring assistance to his Church. We are not surprised, then, at the angel here assigning one age, or even an “age of ages,” to tyrants under whom the Church should be oppressed. Although I do not doubt the reference to the fullness of times, as we: know Christ to have been the end of the Law, and as his advent drew nearer, so God admonished the faithful to carry forward their own expectations to the advent of their Redeemer. When, therefore, the angel uses the phrase one age and an age of ages, I have no doubt that he defined the time for the elect, to strengthen them in patiently bearing trouble of all kinds, as this had been divinely decreed; for the four beasts were to reign not only for a few years, but for continual ages; that is, until the time of renovation had arrived for the world, when God completely restored his Church. Let us proceed: —