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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.

Daniel proceeds with his description of the fourth beast. First, he says, he was attentive, with the intention of rousing us to serious meditation. For what is said of the fourth beast, was remarkably memorable and worthy of notice. This, then, is the reason why God struck the heart of his servant with wonder. For the Prophet would not have given his attention to the consideration of the fourth beast, unless he had been impelled to it by the secret instinct of God. The Prophet’s attention, then, sprang from a heavenly impulse. Wherefore it is our duty not to read carelessly what is here written, but to weigh seriously and with the greatest diligence what the Spirit intends by this vision. I was attentive, therefore, says he, to the horns, and behold one small one arose among them. Here interpreters begin to vary; some twist this to mean the Pope, and others the Turk; but neither opinion seems to me probable; they are both wrong, since they think the whole course of Christ’s kingdom is here described, while God wished only to declare to his Prophet what should happen up to the first advent of Christ. This, then, is the error of all those who wish to embrace under this vision the perpetual state of the Church up to the end of the world. But the Holy Spirit’s intention was completely different. We explained at the beginning why this vision appeared to the Prophet — because the minds of the pious would constantly fail them in the dreadful convulsions which were at hand, when they saw the supreme dominion pass over to the Persians. And then the Macedonians broke in upon them, and acquired authority throughout; the whole of the East, and afterwards those robbers who made war under Alexander suddenly became kings, partly by cruelty and partly by fraud and perfidy, which created more strife than outward hostility. And when the faithful saw all those monarchies perish, and the Roman Empire spring up like a new prodigy, they would lose their courage in such confused and turbulent changes. Thus this vision was presented to the Prophet, that all the children of God might understand what severe trials awaited them before the advent of Christ. Daniel, then, does not proceed beyond the promised redemption, and does not embrace, as I have said, the whole kingdom, of Christ, but is content to bring the faithful to that exhibition of grace which they hoped and longed for.

It is sufficiently clear, therefore, that this exhibition ought to be referred to the first advent of Christ. I have no doubt that the little horn relates to Julius Caesar and the other Caesars who succeeded him, namely, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, and others. Although, as we said before, the counsel of the Holy Spirit must be attended to, which leads the faithful forwards to the beginning of the reign of Christ, that is, to the preaching of the Gospel, which was commenced under Claudius, Nero, and their successors. He calls it a little horn, because Caesar did not assume the name of king; but when Pompey and the greater part of the senate were conquered, he could not enjoy his victory without assuming to himself supreme power. Hence he made himself tribune of the people and their dictator. Meanwhile, there were always Consuls; there was always some shadow of a Republic, while they daily consulted the senate and sat in his seat while the consuls were at the tribunals. Octavius followed the same practice, and afterwards Tiberius also. For none of the Caesars, unless he was consul, dared to ascend the tribunal; each had his own seat, although from that place he commanded all others. It is not surprising, then, if Daniel calls the monarchy of Julius and the other Caesars a little horn, its splendor and dignity were not great enough to eclipse the majesty of the senate; for while the senate retained the name and form of honor, it is sufficiently known that one man alone possessed the supreme power. He says, therefore, this little horn was raised among the ten others. I must defer the explanation of what follows, viz., three of these ten were taken away.

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