I. Introduction: Predictive Prophecy as Proof of the Truth of the Bible
II. Does the Book of Daniel Predict the Future? The Prophecies of Daniel Expounded
A.) Daniel 2 & 7: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome
B.) Daniel 8 & 11: Medo-Persia and Greece
C.) Daniel 9: The Year and Day of the Messiah’s Coming to Jerusalem under the Romans
III. Has the Text of Daniel been Corrupted? Evidence for the Preservation of Scripture
IV. Did Daniel Write the Book of Daniel? The Authorship of Daniel Defended
B.) The Book of Daniel’s Own Claims and their Reception
C.) Early References to the Book of Daniel in Other Works
D.) Manuscript Evidence Supporting Daniel’s Authorship
E.) The 6th Century Hebrew and Aramaic Language of Daniel
F.) The Knowledge of 6th Century History Supporting an Early Date for Daniel
G.) Miscellaneous Evidences for the 6th Century Date of Daniel
H.) Weak Arguments for a Late Maccabean Date for Daniel
V. Unavoidable Predictive Prophecy in Daniel
A.) Daniel’s Fourth Kingdom: Rome, not Greece
B.) Daniel’s 70 weeks Prophecy an Unavoidable Prediction
VI. Conclusion: The Bible: A Supernatural Book—The Meaning for You
VII. Appendix: A Technical Linguistic Justification of the Translation of Daniel 9:24-27 in the Authorized Version (KJV) and of Related Questions Pertaining to the Coming of Messiah Jesus in A. D. 33.
VIII. Sources for Further Reading and Bibliography
A.) Recommended Sources for Further Reading
I. Introduction: Predictive Prophecy as Proof of the Truth of the Bible Does absolute truth exist? Can we know what it is? Is there a God? If so, what does He want of us? Such questions are certainly important. I ask you then, dear reader, to carefully study this work in its entirety. Surely the answer to such questions—the most important you will ever have to answer, and ones with tremendous practical consequences for both your life now and for eternity to come—merit a few moments of your time. They would certainly deserve consideration for a period of time far less than that you have likely spent watching TV, standing in lines, and doing other trivialities. Carefully read this composition, seek to understand it, and acquire more information on anything you do not understand. (In this work, more technical information appears in the footnotes, the appendix, and certain other noted portions. These portions may not be necessary for every reader, but the main body of the text and the non-technical portions would be beneficial to all.)
Before we go any further, however, I must ask one thing of you. You will soon see in plain terms how you can know that the God of the Bible is the true and living God and that Scripture is His perfect, error-free revelation. If you accept these things as true and consequently act on them, it will result in a radical transformation of your life, for this Biblical God is King of Kings and Lord of lords; as such, He commands you to submit to Him in all your ways. What I ask of you, then, is that befor reading this paper any further, determine that you will be willing to do whatever the Scriptures say and to submit absolutely to the God revealed therein, if it is demonstrated that the Bible truly is God’s Word. If your desire to act, think, and live your own way is so great that you will do what you want regardless of the truth—if you would rather commit intellectual suicide by rejecting overwhelming evidence for the Bible than be willing to submit to its Divine Author—it would be better for you to give this study to someone else and read no further, for the more truth you reject, the more awful your eternal damnation will be. However, if you have made this terrible choice, and stubbornly refuse to change your mind, it will certainly be true of you what the Lord Jesus said of another lost sinner: “good were it for that man, if he had never been born” (Mark 14:21). I sincerely hope your mind and heart are not closed in this matter, but that you are truly willing to obey the truth; I repeat my request, then, for it is very important: determine in your heart at this very moment that you will follow the truth, no matter where it leads you, or whatever the consequences are, and persevere in this determination through the whole course of our study here. The Lord Jesus Christ said “If any man will do (that is, “is willing to do”) His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).1 Let us take the Lord up on this statement, be willing to do His will, and see if the Bible is really from the living God.
In the book of Isaiah, we read:
6 Thus saith the LORD2 the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. 7 And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? And the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them. 8 Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any. (Isaiah 44:6-8)
Here the God of the Bible asserts that He is the only true God, and that, as the Eternally Existent and All-Knowing One, He is able to show “the things that are coming, and shall come” (v. 7)—that is, He is able to successfully predict the future. He claims absolute uniqueness in this ability: “And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it[?]” (v. 7). In another passage, the God of the Bible contrasts His ability to predict the future with the absolute inability of all other so-called gods to do so:
21 Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. 22 Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. 23 Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together. 24 Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you. (Isaiah 41:21-24)
We see that the God of the Bible claims to be the only true God, and declares that all may know this because He is able to predict the future—something which no man, false god, or false religion can do. We will shortly test this claim to predict the future in an undeniably supernatural way with some prophecies from one book of the Bible, the book of Daniel. Sometimes people say they would believe the Bible if they saw a miracle—we will shortly see that we have standing evidence of something absolutely miraculous in Daniel’s prophecies.
First, however, let us notice that the Lord asserts that the words of the Bible are His words: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). When the Biblical writings, the Scriptures, claim to be “inspired,” they are claiming to be the very words of God—the word inspired in 2 Timothy 3:16 means “God-breathed.” This claim for inspiration means the Scripture is as much the words of God as these words that I have written here are my words. The Bible further states that “the words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6). “Every word of God is pure” (Proverbs 30:5). The apostle Peter, on the mountain where Jesus was transfigured, had heard the audible voice of God, who had said “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:1-9). Later, Peter wrote about this experience in an epistle:
16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1:16-21)
After recalling his experience of hearing God speak directly (vv. 16-18), Peter makes a remarkable claim for the Scriptures in verses 19-21—he calls them a “more sure word” than the audible voice of God! If someone told you something audibly, you could mishear him—however, if he wrote it down, you could examine it over and over again until you were sure that you understood the message correctly. The Bible makes the claim that its words are as surely God’s words as if one were to hear His voice directly. It asserts that this is so because the Scripture “came not in old time by the will of man,” but as the prophets were “moved by the Holy Ghost.” One could compare the Bible’s claim about itself with the way we would write a letter with a pen; someone could say that it was really the pen that recorded the words, but each word was really the choice of the letter-writer. In the same way, while God used human individuals to be His “pen,” as it were, each word recorded in the Bible is really God’s word. We see, then, that the God of the Bible asserts that He is the only true God, and that the Bible is His perfect, error-free revelation. The Bible also claims that it is the all-sufficient, complete, and final revelation given in this manner (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Revelation 22:18-19)—it claims absolute exclusivity as the Word of God. This is a very strong claim to make (one which we shall soon see is supported by overwhelming evidence). It is interesting to note that many so-called “holy books,” including the great majority of the compositions of Eastern religions, do not even claim to be inspired in this sense, so a work of the kind you are reading would be out of place—these writings do not claim to be absolute truth or authoritative revelation. Whether one wishes to read or follow selected portions of them consequently becomes a matter of preference or indifference, somewhat comparable to one’s taste for various types of food, or one’s favorite sports team. The Bible’s claim, on the other hand, requires a much stronger affirmative or negative response because of its claim of absolutely exclusive authority. If the words of the Bible are the very words, thoughts, and perfect revelation of the Almighty God it speaks of, then the Bible in its entirety must be wholeheartedly obeyed. If it is not what it claims to be, it must be utterly repudiated as a frightful deception and a terrible imposition upon mankind.
The Bible contains sixty-six books, thirty-nine in the Old Testament, which was composed before the time of Jesus Christ, and twenty-seven in the New Testament, which was penned after Christ’s coming. While the entire Bible is historically accurate,3 this composition will focus upon the book of Daniel. This Old Testament book was written by the prophet Daniel, a sixth-century Jew who, along with many other Israelites had been taken captive by the Babylonians.4 Daniel put the book together in its final and canonical form c. 530 B. C., after a long career of governmental service from the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in the 590s to the rise of Cyrus the Great in the 530s. Chapter 2, 7, 8, 9, and 11 of Daniel’s book contain many absolutely remarkable prophecies that conclusively demonstrate the inspiration of the Bible to an unbiased reader. While the interpretation of these prophecies is clear to one willing to spend the time to examine them, some understanding of the history of the times within which Daniel so remarkably predicted the future is required, and shall be examined. It is noteworthy that when Christ gave parables, He did so for two reasons: to explain the truth to those who were open and searching (Mark 4:34), and to hide the truth from those who were not seeking or open (Mark 4:11-12). The book of Daniel similarly states concerning its prophecies: “the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10). Thus, one who does not care about the truth enough to search for it and find it, but blindly holds to his own baseless opinions with a “don’t confuse me with the facts” attitude, will, in his ignorance, generally neglect to evaluate these predictions in Daniel, and so will not discover the strength of the evidence they provide for the Bible. However, one who wants and seeks for the truth will be willing to actually study such a matter with an open mind and heart to see if it really proves the Bible is God’s Word. May you, dear reader, be in the latter category of people!
II. Does the Book of Daniel Predict the Future?
The Prophecies of Daniel Expounded
A.) Daniel 2 & 7: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome
We will begin this study with an examination of the prophecies of Daniel two, seven, and eight. The chart below provides a graphical overview of the prophecies of these chapters:
Furthermore, consider that while these predictions employ the literary device of symbols, they cannot be twisted to signify whatever one wishes: Scripture has only one correct interpretation (2 Peter 1:20), and the Bible explains the significance of the symbols it employs, so we must, to give the text a fair meaning, interpret them literally—symbols represent what other passages of Scripture define them to mean. For example, Daniel 8:6 mentions a ram with two horns. Daniel 8:20 then states “The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.” The ram represents the kings of Media and Persia, not the establishment of the United States, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, or anything else. Daniel 8:5-8 mentions a goat with a notable horn, and Daniel 8:21 states “And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.” It is not possible to take the prophecies of these chapters and make them mean whatever one wishes—the Bible defines its symbols and definitively specifies its meaning. Our interpretation is not speculative, but exegetical—it comes from evaluating the plain declarations of the text, not reading into it what it does not say to create “predictive prophecy.” Taking the text for what it says, we discover that God has made amazing predictions. First of all, let us examine Daniel chapter two.
In this chapter, Daniel recounts and interprets a dream of king Nebuchadnezzar. He tells the king:
31 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. 32 This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. 34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. 35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. 36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. 37 Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. 38 And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. 39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. 40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. 41 And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. 43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. 44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. (Daniel 2:31-45)
The four sections of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream are said to represent four kingdoms, which will appear again in our examination of Daniel 7, 8, 9, and 11, with a different emphasis in each of these chapters. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and representative of his empire, is said to represent the head of gold (v. 38).5 During Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, the Babylonians, who already controlled the ancient near East, spread their dominion and influence as far as India, Tyre, Egypt, and further parts of North Africa. Other verses in Scripture refer to Babylon as the “golden city” (Isaiah 14:4), “abundant in treasures” (Jeremiah 51:13). Nebuchadnezzar enriched his capital with the spoils of other nations above any other city on earth, so that it became one of the wonders of the ancient world. Furthermore, his kingdom was more splendid than that of the world empires that were to follow, so that Babylon was appropriately denominated a head of gold.
Subsequent to Babylon, another “inferior” (v. 39) kingdom, represented by the breast and arms of silver (v. 32), would arise. This empire was Medo-Persia (see Daniel 5:28, 6:8, 10, 12, 8:20-21, 11:1-2; cf. Esther 1:3, 14, 18, 19, 10:2).6 Established when Cyrus conquered Babylon, and enduring through the reigns of his successors until subdued by Alexander the Great, it lasted from 538 B. C. to the overthrow of Darius Codomanus in 333 B. C. The two arms of the image likely represent the alliance of the Medes and Persians. Medo-Persia lacked the central authority and fine organization that characterized Babylonian rule and was thus appropriately termed inferior to the empire of Nebuchadnezzar. Furthermore, while Cyrus was an effective monarch, his successor, Cambyses, was a madman. The Persian kings who followed Cyrus were distinguished only for folly and crime. Subsequent to the days of Cyrus, the kingdom was also remarkable for its succession of military defeats, including the devastating losses of Cambyses in Africa and the famous failure of Mardonius and Xerxes to subdue the Greeks. From the days of Xerxes (479 B. C.) onward, corruption multiplied and the central government declined in power so that, in the reign of Darius Nothus (423 B. C.), the rulers of the distant provinces paid only token obedience to the king, while they were, in effect, sovereigns over their own territories; they even conducted wars against other provinces of the empire.
Such internal cancers prepared the way for the empire of the Greeks, the third in the vision of Daniel two, the “kingdom of brass” (v. 39). Succeeding Medo-Persia, the Greek empire dominated the known world until the ascendancy of Rome in the first century B. C. Brass was a metal peculiarly appropriate for the Greeks, who were distinguished by their brazen armor, and whom ancient writers most commonly termed “the brazen-coated Greeks.” Their empire could appropriately be said to “bear rule over all the earth” (v. 39) because it covered, in addition to all that had been under the domain of Babylon and Medo-Persia, essentially all of the known world from Yugoslavia to India, except for that under the sway of the small but rising power of Rome. Alexander the Great, who never tasted military defeat in his entire career, even commanded that he should be addressed as “the king of all the world.” The two legs of the image probably represent the division, from the standpoint of Israel, of the Greek kingdom between Syria and Egypt, the East and the West.7 It is noteworthy that Josephus, the first century Jewish historian, records8 that, after Alexander had conquered Tyre, he became enraged at the Jews for refusing to furnish supplies for his army during the siege, so he marched to Jerusalem intending to take and to destroy it. Jaddua, the high priest, showed Alexander the prophecies of Daniel, which declared that one of the Greeks would destroy the empire of the Persians. Seeing this writing, Alexander stated that he was the man intended, and was glad. He then offered sacrifices in the temple and granted to the Hebrews the freedom of their country and the exercise of their laws and religion. Of course, Alexander did indeed subdue the Medes and the Persians, and his empire continued to hold sway until the rise of the Romans, who, under Pompey the Great in 63 B. C., took over that part of the Near East that included the land of Israel.
The Roman Empire is described in the vision of Daniel two as the empire of iron, which “breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise” (2:40). Iron, a considerably stronger metal than gold, silver, or brass, aptly designated the Roman empire, which was certainly superior to the kingdoms that preceded it in power, as it conquered all from the eastern nations, to Africa, the Danube, the Rhine, and Britain. The description of Rome as a nation that “breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things” fits well. In contrast to the common practice of the previous empires of the vision such as Babylon, where subdued people were often allowed some degree of independence while they paid tribute to their national overlord, the nations Rome subdued ceased to be kingdoms. They were reduced to provinces, lost all independence, and were brought into the most entire subjection. While Alexander the Great conquered by the rapidity of his troop movements and seldom crushed the people he conquered, the Roman Empire ruthlessly destroyed all who contended against its power, killed captives by the thousands, and sold them into slavery by the hundreds of thousands. The two legs of the image represent the Eastern and Western sections of the empire, which embraced the entire Mediterranean region as well as western Asia, and was ultimately recognized by the political division of the Roman Empire into eastern and western portions under Emperor Valentinian in A. D. 364.
The feet of the image, made partly of iron and partly of clay, speak of the time after the catching away or Rapture of the saints9 of this current church age, when Israel will again be God’s institution for His work in the world (Zechariah 14, Ezekiel 40-48, Hosea 1:10, 2:19-23, Romans 11, etc.). For the entire period described in the body of the image up to the description of Rome, Israel had seved in the capacity of being God’s institution on earth.10 Following the Rapture, the event in which all true believers on earth are caught up to be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4), the seventieth period of seven years described in Daniel’s prophecy in chapter nine will commence. This period is known as the Tribulation period and is described in detail in Revelation 4-19. After this period of seven years, Christ will come again with His saints to establish His kingdom on earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20); then the eternal state will commence. The saved will fellowship with God forever in perfect joy while the lost are doomed to damnation in the lake of fire (Revelation 21-22). While these details form a very interesting and important study, one can hardly use prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled to prove the veracity of the Bible, so the sections of the book of Daniel that pertain to the future will be passed over without much comment.11 When Christ has established His everlasting kingdom there will be very little need to prove that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. The image in Daniel is said to have feet with, of course, ten toes. The toes pertain to the ten horns of Daniel 7, which are stated to represent ten kings, and about whom we receive more information in the book of Revelation (12:3; 13; 17). The “little horn” of Daniel 7 is the Antichrist, the “prince that shall come” of Daniel 9, and the ruler who will head the one-world government, which will accompany the one-world religion centered at Rome, in the Tribulation period, as described in Revelation 17. However, since none of these events have yet been fulfilled (although the present-day ecumenical movement is preparing the way for the establishment of one-world religion at Rome), we will now proceed to an examination of the prophecy of Daniel chapter 7, focusing upon the sections that have been fulfilled up to this point.
The seventh chapter of the book of Daniel declares:
1 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. 2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4 The 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. 5 And 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. 6 After 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. 7 After 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. 8 I 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. 9 I 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. 10 A 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. 11 I 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. 12 As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. 13 I 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. 14 And 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. 15 I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16 I 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. 17 These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. 19 Then 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; 20 And 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. 21 I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22 Until 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. 23 Thus 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. 24 And 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. 25 And 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. 26 But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27 And 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. 28 Hitherto 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. (Dan 7:1-28)
While significant sections of Daniel seven relate to a future ten-kingdom confederacy and the time when the Antichrist (the king that will arise from it) will both reign over the revived Roman empire and suffer destruction at the coming of Christ, other portions of the chapter deal with a period of time now past. For instance, the description of the four beasts in 7:1-7, as interpreted in 7:16ff., confirms the predictions of Daniel chapter 2 in its sequence of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires. Daniel 7:17 explicity states that the four beasts represent four kings or kingdoms (cf. 7:23). These arise out of the sea and represent the mass of Gentile humanity (cf. Isaiah 8:6-8, Jeremiah 46:7-8, 47:2, Revelation 13:1, 17:1, 15), the “earth” (Daniel 7:17), the non-Jewish world. The first beast to arise “was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings” (Daniel 7:4). This beast represents the royal power of the Babylonian empire, as does the head of gold in Daniel 2. The lion is obviously associated with royalty and power (cf. 1 Kings 10:20; 2 Chronicles 9:19; Ezekiel 19:2-3; Genesis 49:9; Joel 1:6); today we commonly consider it the king of the beasts, and similar associations existed in ancient days. Likewise, the eagle was the king of the birds. Winged lions guarded the gates of the royal palaces of the Babylonians, and the Babylonian’s swift conquests were appropriately compared to the swiftness of the eagle. Many passages of Scripture equate Babylon with both a lion and eagle (Jeremiah 4:7, 13; 49:19, 22; 50:17, 44; Lamentation 4:19; Ezekiel 17:3, 12; Habakkuk 1:8). The image of the plucking of the wings and the replacement of a man’s heart for that of a lion appears to relate to the cessation of further rapid conquests in the Babylonian kingdom after the days of Nebuchadnezzar and the growing weakness of the kingdom; it is possible that it also relates to the humbling of Nebuchadnezzar detailed in Daniel chapter four.
The next beast, the bear, represents Medo-Persia, as did the silver breast and arms of the image in Daniel chapter two. The description of the animal as having “raised up itself on one side” (7:5) corresponds to the one-sided union of the Persians and the Medes; although Persia came up later, it quickly became the strongly dominant portion of the empire, as appears explicitly in Daniel 8:3 and 8:20. The empire is apparently described as a “bear” in contrast to Babylon as a lion because, while it is powerful and ferocious (cf. Isaiah 13:17-18), it was less majestic, swift, and glorious and was “inferior” to Babylon (Daniel 2:39), as silver is to gold (2:32). The three ribs refer to the conquest of Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt, and the devouring of “much flesh” describes the various conquests of the nation, probably after it had already defeated Babylon.12
The leopard with four wings and four heads represents the Greek empire, as did the brass portion of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision (Daniel 2:32). A leopard was particularly appropriate as a choice for the Greek empire in light of the swiftness of Alexander the Great’s conquests (cf. Habakkuk 1:8). The wings given the leopard further accentuate its swiftness; no conqueror in history spread his domains abroad as quickly. The “four wings and heads” correspond to the four generals who assumed control of Alexander’s empire upon his death (cf. Daniel 8:8): Cassander took control of Macedonia and Greece; Lysimacus held Thrace, Bithynia, and most of Asia Minor; Seleucus took Syria and the eastern lands, including Babylonia; and Ptolemy established control over Egypt, Palestine, and Arabia Petraea.
The fourth beast, which is not compared to a specific animal as were the lion, bear, and leopard, is described as “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly,” with “great iron teeth.” This animal “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” (7:7). The “iron teeth” make it clear that this beast corresponds to the iron section of the image of Daniel 2; Rome is again in view. The great strength of the Roman power, distinguishing it from the empires that preceded it, is apparent in its longevity. From its first expansion in the subjugation of Sicily in 241 B. C., it next defeated Spain and then Carthage. In 202 B. C., Rome conquered the area north of Italy and then moved east to take Macedonia, Greece, and Asia Minor. In 63 B. C. the Roman general Pompey entered Jerusalem after defeating remnants of the Seleucid power. During the following decades, Rome subjugated southern Britain, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Germany west of the Rhine; it continued to grow gradually for several centuries, reaching its height in A. D. 117. Its decline was likewise gradual, becoming obvious only in the fifth century. Byzantium, the capital of the eastern leg of the Roman empire, did not fall until A. D. 1453. Further, Rome’s legacy continues to this day in the Roman Catholic church, which exercises political control of the Papal states in Italy; and, although not as prominent as when it controlled the spiritual and temporal affairs of Europe in the Dark Ages (cf. Revelation 17:18), the Roman Church-State sends ambassadors to the nations of the earth and wields tremendous influence. This Roman influence will continue to exist until the Roman Empire revives, a situation projected to occur after the Rapture, as related in Daniel 7:7-8.
As we saw before in the description in Daniel 2, so here in chapter 7, details of the church age are largely passed over and we go directly from the ancient Roman empire to the revived Roman empire where the Antichrist, the horn of 7:21, will oppress God’s people in the Tribulation period until Christ, the Son of Man, destroys him and sets up His own everlasting kingdom. Since the ten-kingdom confederacy described here and the final establishment of Christ’s kingdom is yet future, we will not further examine these aspects of Daniel.