Daniel 7: Wikis


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Daniel's vision of the four beasts - Woodcut by Hans Holbein the Younger.

Daniel 7 is from the Book of Daniel in the Bible.

One evening during the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylonia, Daniel had a vision that caused him great concern. He describes the vision and tells of the interpretation he was given by someone he talked to in the dream.


Literary structure

Arthur Ferch Th.D.[1] points out that the vision forms a chiasm.

A. First 3 beasts (4-6)
B. Fourth beast (7)
C. Little horn (8)
D. The Judgment (9, 10)
C'. Little horn (11a)
B'. Fourth beast (11b)
A'. First 3 beasts (12)


Daniel sees a great sea being whipped up by the four winds. Four beasts come out of the sea – 1) a lion with wings, 2) a bear with ribs in its mouth, 3) a leopard with four wings and four heads, and 4) a nondescript, but terrifying and powerful beast. Then the court of the Ancient of Days is held, books are opened and judgment pronounced in favor of the saints. The fourth remaining beast is destroyed. The “son of man” is given an everlasting dominion, which is then given over to the saints.

Daniel asks for an interpretation from someone in the dream and is told that the four beasts represent four kingdoms to appear on earth. The fourth beast and the horns especially intrigue Daniel. He is then told further interpretation about the fourth beast.

Synthesis of dream and given interpretation

Parallel paraphrase of Dream and Interpretation. The text is arranged to read top-to-bottom, and parallel left-to-right. (Words in bold font indicate parallel phrases. Colors demarcate the different kingdoms.)

This is a synthesis of the dream and interpretation given to Daniel as illustrated in the paraphrased table.

First beast: A lion with eagle’s wings, has its wings torn off. It is then stood up on two feet and given a man’s heart.

Second beast: A bear, raised up on one side, has three ribs in its teeth. He is told to gorge himself of flesh.

Third beast: A leopard with four wings and four heads is given authority to rule.

Fourth beast: A terrifying, powerful, nondescript beast, unlike any other, crushes and devours the whole earth with its iron teeth—trampling it down. Ten kings/kingdoms will come out of this kingdom. Then a different sort of horn uproots 3 of the kings/kingdoms. It boasts against the Most High trying to change set times and laws. He will oppress the saints for a time, times and half a time (or a year, two years, and half a year = 3.5 years)

After that time the Ancient of Days sets up court, opens the books and pronounces judgment in favor of the saint.

Then the 4th beast will have its power taken away and be destroyed in fire.

Then the ‘son of man’ comes in the clouds of heaven. The Ancient of Days gives him an everlasting dominion which he hands over to the saints. All rulers will worship and obey him.

Principles of interpretation

Principles of interpretations are rules for interpreting Bible prophecies derived from the Bible by either direct explanation or derived from examples.


Beasts represent kingdoms

This principle comes from a direct explanation. An angel explains:

  • "The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth." (Daniel 7:17)

This same principle is also found in Chapter 8.

Animal horns represent individual kings

This principle is derived from examples and by direct statement. The three examples are found by parallel paraphrase. The vision is put beside its interpretation.

  • "three of the first horns were uprooted before it"(Daniel 7:8), "he will subdue three kings" (Daniel 7:24)

This same principle is also found in Chapter 8.

Identification of Kingdoms and the Little Horn

Unlike Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 where the head of Gold is identified as Nebuchadnezzar and Babylonia, none of the beasts is identified in this vision. Of the four beasts, only the 4th beast and its horn are interpreted.

While no beast is clearly identified in this interpretation, some Christian theologians ever since the second century have connected the eagle winged lion with Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonia, a matter still open to considerable debate.

One traditional interpretation of these four beasts is that, in order from first to last, they are Neo-Babylonia, followed by the joint rule of the Medes and the Persians, followed by the Greeks and the Roman Empire. This "historical Interpretation" is described by Adam Clark with biblical references for the Babylonian Empire to be as a lion found in Jeremiah 4:7 and Isaiah 5:29; and to fly like an eagle as found in Jeremiah 48:40 and Ezekiel 17:3,7. [2]

Medieval Christian writers, especially in Apocalyptic accounts, often identified the beasts with later empires, closer to their own times, believing that Daniel's prophecy had yet to be fulfilled; the rapid rise of the Islamic Caliphate in and around traditionally Christian lands made its identification with the last beast attractive.

Contemporary View

Some scholars believe that the four beasts stand for Babylonia, Medes, Persia, and Alexander's Greek empire[3]. The ten horns represent the kings from Alexander on through the Seleucid kingdom:[3][4]

  1. Alexander the Great
  2. Seleucus I Nicator,
  3. Antiochus I Soter,
  4. Antiochus II Theos,
  5. Seleucus II Callinicus,
  6. Seleucus III Ceraunus,
  7. Antiochus III the Great,
  8. Seleucus IV Philopator, (assassinated by the following)
  9. Heliodorus,
  10. Seleucus IV’s infant son Antiochus (puppet for Heliodorus).

The last three "horns" had to fall to make way for the "little horn" Antiochus IV Epiphanes and his arrival on the throne, effectively by usurpation.[5] Daniel 7:25 is a reference to the persecutions of Antiochus, his suppression of the Jewish religion, and his attempt to force the Jews to adopt the Greek customs.[4][6][7]

Parallels with Daniel 11

Just as scholars and theologians since the 2nd Century have considered the visions of Chapter 2 and Chapter 7 parallel, so too, Chapter 8 and Chapter 11 were considered parallel with the other two.

Chapter 7 Chapter 11
Little horn:
Contemptible person:
(Antiochus Epiphanes who was called Epimanes/madman):
He was preceded by 10 kings(Daniel 7:24) He was preceded by 10 kings to the Seleucid throne(11:3-21)
He will speak against the Most High(7:25) He will exalt and magnify himself above every god(11:36)
He will say unheard-of things against the God of gods(11:36)
He will oppress the saints(7:25) He will vent his fury against the holy covenant(11:30)
The Godly and wise people who resist him, will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered.(11:32-33)
He will try to change the set times and the laws(7:25) He will vent his fury against the holy covenant(11:30)
He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant(11:30)
He will subdue three kings(Daniel 7:24) He will seize the kingdom through intrigue(11:21)
He looked more imposing than the others(7:20) He will achieve what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did(11:24)
The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time(7:25) It shall be for a time, times, and a half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished(11:45-12:7)
He is the last king before the end of time(Daniel 7:26-28) He is the last king before the end of time or persecution(11:45-12:7)


According to Seventh-day Adventist apologist, Martin Weber, Antiochus Epiphanes fails the prophecy in several points of Chapter 7:[8]

1. The little horn rises after the ten kings of the fourth world power (vs. 24), but Antiochus came to power in the middle to the Seleucid dynasty, not after it. The death of Antiochus was not followed by the everlasting kingdom of the saints as required by verses 11-14. However, this could be due to the author's belief that the 10 kings of the Greek/Seleucid Kingdom were the last kingdom and the little horn(Antiochus) the last king to exist before the end, cf Daniel 2:43-44, Daniel 7:24-27, Daniel 11:45-12:7.[9] Weber's particular interpretation has merit, however, if considered in strict chronological order.

2. Antiochus did not rise after the ten kings of the Seleucid dynasty. He was eighth in the Seleucid line not the last. He did not kill 3 of the 10 dynasty kings to gain power as required by verse 8--"He will uproot 3 of the first 10 kings", however the "10 kings" could mean, "10 kings to the Seleucid throne". Similarly, "3 of the first 10 kings" could mean, 3 of the earlier 10 kings. These have been identified as Heliodorus and the two sons/heirs of Seleucus IV Philopator who might have contested the throne against Antiochus Epiphanes.[citation needed]

3. He did not look more imposing (vs 20) than his associates. His father, instead, was known as "Antiochus the Great". However, Porphyry of Tyros noted that "In a battle in between Pelusium and Mount Casius, the generals of Ptolemaeus were defeated and Antiochus Epiphanes, after sparing the boy and pretending to be his friend, went up to Memphis where he was proclaimed king of Egypt in the traditional fashion. He said that he was protecting the boy's interests, and with a moderately sized army he subjugated the whole of Egypt. He entered into flourishing and wealthy cities, and "achieved what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did"; none of them had plundered Egypt in this way, and he was so clever that by his deceit he undermined the prudent plans of the boy's ministers."[10]

4. He disrupted the temple services for 3 years and 10 day according to 1 Maccabees, not 3 and 1/2 years, from his attack on Jerusalem and the Maccabees to his death. According to Josephus however, Antiochus suspended the Temple rituals for 3 and 1/2 years[11]

Adam Clark's commentary written in 1836 supports the interpretation that the little horn is Papal Rome by this comment "Among Protestant writers this is considered to be the popedom." [12]

Other Views

Contrary to the views below, the 10 horns are 10 individual kings, not 10 kingdoms/nations, "the ten horns are ten kings" (Daniel 7:24);"there before me was another horn"(Daniel 7:24)";"After them another king" (Daniel 7:24); he(singular) will subdue three kings" (Daniel 7:24)


Just as scholars note parallels between the prophetic chapters, so to have Historicists ever since the Protestant reformation. The following is a historicist based illustration of the parallels.

Chapter Parallel sequence of prophetic elements as understood by conservatives[13][14]
The Past We are here The Future
Daniel 2 Head
Chest & 2 arms
Belly and thighs
2 Legs
2 Feet with toes
Clay & Iron
God's unending kingdom
left to no other people
Daniel 7 Winged Lion Lopsided Bear 4 Headed/4 Winged
Iron toothed beast
w/Little Horn
Judgment scene
Beast slain
A son of man comes in clouds
Given everlasting dominion
He gives it to the saints.[15]
Daniel 8 2-horned Ram
Uni- / 4-horned Goat
4 Winds (Greece)
Little Horn
A Master of Intrigue
Cleansing of Sanctuary
Leads to:
(Kingdom of God)
Daniel 11-12 Kings
North & South Kings
4 Winds (Greece)
North & South Kings
A Contemptible
Person of Intrigue
Pagan & Papal Rome
North & South Kings
End Times
Global religio-political
Michael stands up
Many dead awake
To everlasting life

Concerning the "little horn", interpreters of the Historicist school (e.g. Adventist) identify the "little horn" as Papal Rome that came to power among the 10 Barbarians tribes (the 10 horns) that had broken up the Pagan Roman empire. The reference to changing "times and law" (Daniel 7:25) refers to the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. The "time, times and half a time" (Daniel 7:25) was the 1260 years spanning 538 CE and 1798 CE, when the Roman Church dominated the Christian world. (See Day-year principle for details)


In the Futurist view, the "little horn" is identified as the future antichrist who will rise to power through the "revived Roman Empire"(the fourth beast). The "time, times and half a time" (Daniel 7:25) is taken as a literal 3 1/2 year period corresponding to the last half of the 7 year tribulation within the 70th week of Daniel 9:24-27.

See also


  1. ^ Ferch, Arthur J., 1988, Daniel on Solid Ground, Review and Herald Publishing Assoc., p. 27
  2. ^ Adam Clark's 1836 Commentary book of the old testament for Daniel, Chapter 7 see notes for verse 4)
  3. ^ a b H. H. Rowley (1935). Darius the Mede and the Four World empires in the Book of Daniel. p. 97. 
  4. ^ a b New American Bible
  5. ^ After the Battle of Magnesia, Antiochus IV Epiphanes lived in Rome as a hostage in connection with the reparations his father Antiochus III the Great had to pay. In 175 BC, he was released by the intervention of his brother Seleucus IV Philopator who substituted his own son Demetrius I Soter as hostage. While Antiochus IV Epiphanes was at Athens, Seleucus IV Philopator was assassinated by his chief minister Heliodorus who then seized the throne. Antiochus IV Epiphanes with the military sanction of Pergamon monarch Eumenes II expelled Heliodorus and usurped the throne to the exclusion of Demetrius and the late king's younger son, Antiochus, still a baby in Syria.(International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Bromiley, 145)
  6. ^ A History of Israel, John Bright, pp 424-425
  7. ^ A Letter that Has Not Been Read By Shaul Bar, p. 211
  8. ^ Weber, Martin, 1985, "Some Call it Heresy" Review and Herald Publishing Asso., p. 30-31
  9. ^ Collins, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, Hermeneia—A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible
  10. ^ Porphyrius: Comments on the book of Daniel
  11. ^ War of the Jews 1:1:1
  12. ^ Adam Clark's Commentary of the old testament for Daniel, Chapter 7 see notes on verse 8)
  13. ^ Smith, U., 1944, Daniel and Revelation, Southern Publishing Association, Nashvill, TN
  14. ^ Anderson, A., 1975, Pacific PRess Pub. Assoc., Unfolding Daniel's Prophecies, Mountain View, CA
  15. ^ Daniel 7:13-27 see verses 13, 14, 22, 27


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