World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
7. Daniel's Dream of Four Beasts
1In 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 heaven brake forth 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 to stand upon two 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 was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6After this I beheld, and, lo, another, like a leopard, which had upon its back four wings of a bird; 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, terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet: 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 horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. 9I beheld till thrones were placed, and one that was ancient of days did sit: his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and the wheels thereof burning fire. 10A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousands of thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11I beheld at that time because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake; I beheld even till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire. 12And as for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 13I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even 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 the peoples, 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. 15As for me, Daniel, my spirit was grieved 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 concerning all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. 17These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, that shall arise out of the earth. 18But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. 19Then I desired to know the truth concerning the fourth beast, which was diverse from all of them, exceeding terrible, whose teeth were of iron, and its nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet; 20and concerning the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, and before which three fell, even that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake great things, whose look was more stout than its 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 a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24And as for the ten horns, out of this kingdom shall ten kings arise: and another shall arise after them; and he shall be diverse from the former, and he shall put down three kings. 25And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time. 26But the judgment shall be set, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 28Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts much troubled me, and my countenance was changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.
Hear. Daniel begins to offer instruction peculiar to the Church. For God had formerly appointed him an interpreter and instructor to, profane kings. But he now appoints him a teacher to the Church, that he may exercise his office within it, and instruct the sons of God in the bosom of the Church. We must notice this first of all, because thus far his predictions extended beyond the limits of the household of faith, but here Daniel’s duty is restricted to the Church. He says: This vision was bestowed upon him in the first year of King Belshazzar, before that change happened, which we have previously seen. First of all, we must try to understand the design of the Holy Spirit; that is, the end and use for which he opened up to Daniel the material of this chapter. All the prophets had held out to the elect people the hope of deliverance, after God had punished them for their ingratitude and obstinacy. When we read what other prophets announce concerning their future redemption, we should suppose the Church to have been promised a happy, quiet, and completely peaceful state, after the people had returned from captivity. But history testifies how very differently it turned out. For the faithful must have grown weary and have fallen away unless they had been admonished of the various disturbances which were at hand. This, then, is the first reason why God revealed to his Prophet what we shall soon see; namely, that three monarchies yet remained, each of which should succeed the former, and that during them all the faithful should endure permanently and constantly in reliance on the promises, although they should see the whole world shaken, and severe and distressing convulsions prevailing everywhere. For this reason, Daniel’s vision concerning the four empires is here set forth. Perhaps it will be better to defer the summary of it till the Prophet begins to treat of each beast separately. But with regard to the two first verses, we must observe the time of the dream.
Before the Medes and Persians transferred the Chaldean Empire to themselves, the Prophet was instructed in this subject, that the Jews might recognize the partial fulfillment of what God had so often promised themselves and their fathers. For if their enemies had possessed Babylon without any new prediction, the Jews perhaps would not have been so attentive to those prophecies which had been long ago uttered in their favor. Hence God wished to refresh their memories, and then, when they saw the fall of that empire which all thought to be impregnable, they would perceive the government of God’s secret counsels, and the partial, if not the complete fulfillment of what he had testified by their prophets. He says — he saw a dream When he previously spoke of the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar he mentioned a vision, but not for the same reason, because the unbelieving when seeing do not observe. They perceive something indeed, dimly and without distinctness, while their thoughts immediately fade away. The Prophet’s method was different; because he not only dreamed, but saw a distinct vision, and thus could profitably deliver to others what he had received. The Prophet then expresses something peculiar by this phrase, for we know how prophets usually attribute such visions to God, when they perceive the secrets of heaven, not with the eyes of flesh, but by the illumination and intelligence of the Spirit. He adds — visions of his head were on his bed; thus the dream would have more weight, and lest we should think any confusion existed in Daniel’s brain. Thus he expresses how he saw whatever the Lord wished him to know in a dream with a calm mind. He afterwards adds — Then he wrote the dream, and explained the meaning of the words. By this phrase he teaches us how his seeing the vision was not for his own sake personally, but for the common edification of the Church. Those who suppose Daniel to have leapt suddenly from his bed, lest he should forget the dream, offer a vain and frivolous comment. Daniel rather wished to bear ‘witness to this vision as not peculiar to himself, but common to God’s elect people; and hence not only to be celebrated orally, but to be delivered to posterity for a perpetual remembrance. We must bear in mind these two points; first, Daniel wrote this prophecy that the knowledge of it might ever be celebrated among the faithful; and then, he considered the interests of posterity, and so left the vision written. Both these points are worthy of notice to induce us to pay greater attention to the vision, since it was not delivered for a single individual; but God chose Daniel as his minister, and as the herald and witness of this oracle. Hence we see how it concerns us; it was not teaching for any single age, but it extends to us, and ought to flourish till the end of the world. He repeats the same thing by adding — he explained the sense of the words. For those who separate these two clauses, seem to stumble on plain ground. 22 The phrase in the Latin text is a proverb: nodum quaerere in scyrpo The French is correct in its interpretation: chercher de la difficulte ou il n’y en a point. Both Ennius and Terence use the proverb. — Ed Daniel then spoke and said — This has no reference to words, but to writing; as if the Prophet had said, I have discharged my duty; since he knew that what we shall afterwards see concerning the four monarchies was not divinely entrusted to him for the sake of suppressing anything made known, but he rather felt himself a chosen instrument of God, who was thus suggesting to the faithful material for trust and endurance. He spoke, therefore, and explained; that is, when he desired to promulgate this oracle, he bore witness to there being no difference between himself and God’s Church in this announcement; but as he had been an elect and ordained teacher, so he delivered what he had received, through his hands, Hence Daniel not only commends his own faith, but excites all the pious to anxiety and attention, lest they should despise what God had pronounced through his mouth.
He repeats again, He saw in his vision during the night. Again, I say, Daniel affirms that he brought forward nothing but what God had authoritatively delivered to him. For we know that in the Church all human traditions ought to be treated as worthless, since all men’s wisdom is vanity and lies. As God alone deserves to be listened to by the faithful, so Daniel here asserts that he offers nothing of his own by dreaming: in the ordinary way, but, that the vision is sure, and such as cannot deceive the pious.
He afterwards adds, Behold! the four winds of heaven fought in a great sea. I much prefer this rendering. Interpreters differ respecting the winds, but the genuine sense appears to be this; Daniel assumes a simile universally known, for on solid ground any such turbulent concussion is seldom heard of as at sea, when any mighty tempest arises. Without doubt, he here proposes the image of a raging sea to warn the faithful against dreadful commotion at hand, just as, if the sea were agitated with storms and raging with tempests on all sides. This is the meaning of the phrase. Hence he names four winds, to show the faithful how the motion which should shatter the globe should not be single and simple, but that various storms should arise together on all sides — exactly as it happens. We may’ sometimes see the earth moved just as if a tempest were, tossing about the sea in all directions, but the motion will yet be single. But God wished to show his Prophet not only a simple concussion, but many and different ones, just as if all the winds were to, meet in one general conflict. Philosophers, indeed, enumerate more winds than four when they desire to treat of the number with precision, but it is the common phrase to speak of four winds blowing from the four quarters or regions of the globe. The sense, however, is clear and by no means forced — the world being like a troubled sea, not agitated by a single storm or wind, but by different conflicting blast., as if the whole heavens conspired to stir up commotion’s. This vision at the first glance was very bitter to the faithful, because they counted the years prescribed to them by Jeremiah; the seventieth year was now at hand, and God had then promised them an end of their troubles. Now God announces that they must not indulge in the hope of rest and joy, but rather prepare themselves for sustaining the rush of the fiercest winds, as the world would be everywhere agitated by different storms. They might perhaps suspect God of not performing his promises, but this ought, to be sufficient for appeasing their minds and propping them up with the hope of redemption, when they saw nothing happen either rashly or by chance. Again God came to meet their temptations lest their courage should fail, by teaching them that the method of their redemption was not quite so easy as they had previously conceived from former predictions. God indeed had not changed his plans, for although a long period had elapsed since he spoke by Isaiah and the other prophets, yet he wished to prepare the Jews against delay, lest it should break down the courage which would be required to meet such great afflictions. But when redemption really approached, then God explained its method more fully and familiarly, and showed how great and severe were the remaining struggles. Hence the faithful, instructed by such prophecies, would contend strenuously and yet proceed constantly in their course of faith and patience. It now follows, —