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Daniel's Vision of the Four Beasts

1In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. 2Daniel declared,11Aramaic answered and said “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. 5And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ 6After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different 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.

The Ancient of Days Reigns

9“As I looked,

thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
10A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.

11“I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

The Son of Man Is Given Dominion

13“I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

Daniel's Vision Interpreted

15“As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me22Aramaic within its sheath was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’

19“Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 20and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. 21As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.

23“Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,

there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.
25He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
for a time, times, and half a time.
26But the court shall sit in judgment,
and his dominion shall be taken away,
to be consumed and destroyed to 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;
their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey them.’33Or his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him

28“Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.”


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It is clear that the four monarchies are here depicted. But it is not agreed upon among all writers which monarchy is the last, and which the third. With regard to the first, all agree in understanding’ the vision of the Chaldean Empire, which was joined with the Assyrian, as we saw before. For Nineveh was absorbed by the Chaldeans and Babylonians; but the Prophet discourses at length of the Assyrian and Chaldean Empire, which was then flourishing. No one, however, would have thought it so near its end; and on the very night on which Belshazzar was slain, we saw how securely and proudly he was immersed in his pleasures, and what great and listless security existed throughout the city. This monarchy then ought to be set before us in the first place. As in the second chapter that empire was called the golden head of the statue, so also it is now called a lion; that is, it is compared to a generous animal. It is comprehended under the image of a beast, and its fierceness and atrocity, as I have said, is hereby denoted; but with respect to the other kingdom, some superiority is granted to it, since the world is always growing worse and worse. And although Cyrus was a very prudent prince, yet he did not reach the temperance of former ages; for his ambition, avarice, and cruelty were insatiable. For Isaiah also, when he speaks of the Persians, says, They desire neither silver nor gold, but thirst after human blood. (Isaiah 13:17.)

We perceive then the reason why the Prophet says, The first beast offered to me was like a lion, because greater integrity flourished under the Chaldeans than when all the empires were mixed together, and the Persians subdued both the Chaldeans and the Medes. For it is evident from all histories that they were a barbarous and fierce nation. They were indeed showy in their praise of virtue, since they spent their lives in austerity, and despised all luxuries, and were exceedingly temperate in their living; but their ferocity and brutal cruelty rendered them detestable. The first beast then was like a lion, says he, and had eagles wings; that is, although it was a lion, yet it had wings. This refers to its swiftness, since we know in how short a time the Assyrians increased their monarchy, for they had previously subdued the Chaldeans, just like a lion for swiftness. For a lion has force, spirit, and cruelty for committing injuries. Besides, the prophet saw a winged lion, since they not only increased their empire by their own strength, but suddenly extended their wings in every direction. We see, then, how strength and power are denoted on the one hand, and the greatest speed on the other. He afterwards adds, Their wings were dragged or torn off. For when the Chaldeans desired to stretch beyond their bounds, the Lord restrained them within due limits, and checked their continual victories. Their wings were then torn off, when God restrained them by the check of a bridle, lest they should wander as freely as they had formerly done.

The Prophet then adds, This beast was raised from the earth, implying the cessation of the empire. For neither the Chaldeans nor the Assyrians were entirely destroyed; but their glory was completely taken away. The face of the beast no longer appeared, when God transferred that monarchy to the Medes and Persians. Hence the Prophet adds, It stood upon its feet, and the heart of a man was given to it By this form of expression, he means to imply the reduction of the Assyrians and Chaldeans to their ordinary condition, and that they were no longer like a lion, but like private men deprived of their power and strength. Hence the expression, a man’s heart was given to them, is not intended by way of praise, but by “a man” he intends any private person; as if he had said, the aspect of the Chaldeans and Assyrians was no longer terrible, since, while their sway prevailed, all men dreaded their power. Hence God removed from the world the face of that beast, and substituted that of a man, and made them stand upon their feet. Formerly they flew about in the air, and despised the earth as far beneath their feet, but God makes them stand upon their feet; that is, not conduct themselves after their customary and former manner, but simply on the common level, after God had deprived them of their empire. This, in my judgment, is the simple meaning of the Prophet. Should there be any necessity, we shall afterwards confirm the remarks which we now run through but cursorily. It follows: —




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