Daniel 7 Commentary (incomplete)

Daniel's vision of the four beasts (Daniel 7).
And I thought my dreams were wierd.

Okay, I know I’ve been slacking on the blog.  The good news is that I’ve gotten the first several YouTube vids’ worth of talk and slides prepped.  The bad news is that I now get to combine them into actual videos.  Yay!

After I’ve cut my teeth on those, I’ll get to work on the Revelation A/V, I promise.

Anyway, I don’t want to neglect the blog completely, so here’s some partial commentary I’ve written on Daniel 7, apropos of absolutely nothing else:

7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, or about 541 BCE, just two years before Babylon fell to the Persians and 63 years after Nebuchadnezzar’s related vision in chapter 2, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head on his bed: then he wrote the dream and told the sum of the matters. 7:2 Daniel spoke and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the sky broke forth on the great sea.  These four winds always appear to herald the great movements of kingdoms and empires to cause men to be scattered, as it is written, On Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of the sky, and will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation where the outcasts of Elam shall not come (Jer. 49:36).  Or as Daniel prophesied of Alexander the Great’s kingdom, the great horn was broken; and instead of it there came up four notable horns toward the four winds of the sky (8:8) and his kingdom shall be broken, and shall be divided toward the four winds of the sky (11:4).

These four winds also portend the gathering of the Holy One’s people, as seen by Ezekiel–Come from the four winds, breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live (37:9)–and the words of our Lord Messiah Himself, “Then he will send out his angels, and will gather together his chosen ones from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the sky” (Mark 13:29).

Here, the four winds blow in response to the succession of empires that will drive each other out, a succession of war and violence that will end in the Day of the Lord, when four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, [will hold] the four winds of the earth, so that no wind would blow on the earth, or on the sea, or on any tree” (Rev. 7:1).

7:3 Four great animals came up from the sea, diverse one from another, as it is commonly translated, but the more literal translation would be, “this one was changed (shenin) from that one,” meaning that each was transformed from or exchanged for the previous one.  The key word is used elsewhere, for example, to indicate when Jehoiachin changed (shena) his prison garments for more noble raiment in the court of Babylon (2Ki. 25:29).  This again indicating that these four beasts come in succession rather than exist all together.

7:4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings, the classical representation of a kheruv or cherub in Babylonian art: I saw until its wings were plucked, its royal pride diminished when Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and he was driven from men, and ate grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of the sky, until his hair was grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws (Dan. 4:33), and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand on two feet as a man when Nebuchadnezzar “lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him who lives forever” (v. 34); and a man’s heart was given to it.  This new heart may represent a new birth, as Ezekiel promised: I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh (36:26), and it may well be.  The Aramaic is lavav anash, the heart of a mortal man.  This may represent the humility of Nebuchadnezzar, so long a god in his own eyes, realizing his own mortality, or it may represent that though he was restored as a man, he yet had a frail mortal heart and mind subject to this world.

7:5 Behold, another animal, a second, like a bear, representing the Medo-Persian empire that conquered Babylon and which, as the bear is larger but less regal than the lion, the empire of the Medes and Persians was larger in size but was earlier proclaimed by Daniel to be another kingdom inferior to you (2:39).  And it was, or rather, “he caused to be” raised up on one side as the Persians came to overshadow and dominate the Medes, just as was also prophesied in the next chapter’s vision of the ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last (8:3).  And three ribs, or rather, “sides,” as ‘ili’in literally means, were in its mouth between its teeth representing the westward, and northward, and southward sides which the Medes and Persians devoured (8:4).  John Gill writes “with Sir Isaac Newton and Bishop Chandler, to understand by them Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt.”  And they said thus to it, Arise, devour much flesh. This signified to Daniel that this second beast had not yet arisen, but had just been given word to do so, and indeed, as we noted to v. 1 of this chapter, it would be but two years before the Medes and the Persians conquered Babylon for themselves.

7:6 After this I saw, and behold, another, like a leopard, signifying Greece, which under Alexander of Macedonia conquered the whole Persian world with leopard’s swiftness, which had on its back four wings of a bird, with which it might like the shaggy goat signifying the same nation, come from the west over the surface of the whole earth, and didn’t touch the ground (Dan. 8:5).  The animal had also four heads, signifying the four generals who would, after Alexander’s death, carve up his kingdom for themselves.  And dominion, that is, an empire, was given to it from Heaven, not by Man.

7:7 After this I saw in the night visions, and, behold, a fourth beast to which Daniel could find no animal analogue as he could the others.  This mighty beast, awesome and powerful, and strong exceedingly, is the same as seen by John in the Revelation, coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads. On his horns were ten crowns, and on his heads, blasphemous names. The beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority (Rev. 13:1-2).  John sees the beast in its final form, having absorbed the Babylonian lion, the Grecian leopard, and the Persian bear into itself.  Rome of old certainly absorbed Greece, and for a time exercised its strength over the region called Mesopotamia, but Persia, called Parthia, lay beyond its reach and power, being a rival empire in the days of Messiah.

Daniel continues, and it had great iron teeth, just as the legs representing it in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream were strong as iron, because iron breaks in pieces and subdues all things; and as iron that crushes all these, shall it break in pieces and crush (2:40), so the prophet says of this fourth beast it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet.  And it was diverse from, that is, as in verse 3, changed from or transformed from (m’shanyah), not simply different from all the animals that were before it; and it had ten horns.  7:8 I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one which the prophet will later see rising from the Grecian male goat . . . which grew exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the glorious land (8:8-9), 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.  All these things will be explained to the prophet shortly.

7:9 I saw until thrones were placed, and one who was ancient of days sat.  “R. Akiva said: One throne was for Himself and one throne was for David,” meaning the Messiah, Ben David, and was promptly rebuked for agreeing with the “heretics” (b.Sanh. 38b).  His clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels burning fire. 7:10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousands of thousands ministered to him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 7:11 I saw at that time because of the voice of the great words which the horn spoke; I saw even until the animal was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire.

7:12 As for the rest of the animals, their dominion was taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.  They ceased to dominate the world, but never ceased to exist as independent peoples, but still survive today as Iraq, Iran, and Greece.

7:13 I saw in the night visions, and behold, there came with the clouds of the sky one like a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.  That this refers to the Messiah is readily admitted by our rabbis who, in trying to understand the strange contrast between this verse and the lowly coming described by Zechariah, said, ““‘If [the Israelites] have merit, it will be “with the clouds of heaven” (Dan. 7:13), and if they do not have merit, it will be “lowly and riding upon an ass” (Zec. 9: 7)’” (b.Sanh. 98a).  However, neither prophecy gives the possibility of and either/or.  The truth is that when Messiah came to Israel the first time, we were not worthy of Him, and His disciples threw their cloaks on the colt, and set Yeshua on them (Luke 19:35). However, He will come again when He has made Israel worthy, when Israel and Jerusalem have accomplished through Him to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy (Dan. 9:24).

7:14 There was given him, Messiah, dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Rule of God in the hearts of the faithful, as our rabbis acknowledge; and in that day when Messiah rides the clouds of heaven, that Kingdom will be made manifest, 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, just as is written by Isaiah, His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from that time on, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will perform this (9:6-7).

7:15 As for me, Daniel, my spirit was grieved, et’k’rit ruchi, lit. “my spirit was pierced,” in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.  This seems very strange, since the vision concludes with the glorious Kingdom of the Holy One having victory over the kingdoms of this world.  Certainly, Daniel’s grief was not that there would be kingdoms after the Babylonian and the Persian that would exercise dominion over Israel for a time, for he had known this since interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s vision as a youth.  What disturbed him is one particular element of the vision, as we shall see.

7:16 I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. 7:17 These great animals, which are four, are four kings, or kingdoms, who shall arise out of the earth. 7:18 But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.  This interpretation is plain from the vision itself, and the one standing nearby in the vision doubtless intended to allay Daniel’s fear and grief.

But the reassurance did not divert Daniel from the true source of his grief, which he inquires after urgently:  7:19 Then I desired to know the truth concerning the fourth animal, which was diverse, or rather, “changed/transformed,” as discussed before, from all of them, exceedingly terrible, whose teeth were of iron, and its nails of bronze, a new detail, which now shows a common element between the fourth kingdom of iron and the third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth (Dan. 2:39).  Indeed, the Romans very much admired the Greeks and when they had overthrown them, absorbed many aspects of Greek culture, which has ever torn at the Jewish people like talons, into their own.

Daniel continues his question about this Roman Beast which devoured Judea into their empire after its short period of freedom from the Greeks when the Hasmonians foolishly invited them to mediate a dispute in their own house, broke the Jews in pieces and scattered us throughout their lands after the failure of the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 CE prompted Emperor Hadrian to ban every Jew from our ancient homeland on penalty of death, and stamped the residue with its feet, continuing the pattern of humilation, oppression, and destruction for nearly two thousand years, even after the Roman Empire itself had long since disintegrated into squabbling kingdoms, as Nebuchadnezzar foresaw:  Whereas you saw the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, because you saw the iron mixed with miry clay.  As the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken (Dan. 2:41-42).

Daniel continues his line of questioning to the real source of his grief and fear:  7:20 And 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 spoke great things, whose look was more stout than its fellows.

7:21 I saw, and the same horn made war with the holy ones, and prevailed against them; 7:22 until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the holy ones of the Most High, and the time came that the holy ones possessed the kingdom. 7:23 Thus he said, The fourth animal shall be a fourth kingdom on 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. 7:24 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. 7:25 He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the holy ones 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. 7:26 But the judgment shall be set, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it to the end. 7:27 The kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole sky, shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 7:28 Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts much troubled me, and my face was changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.

Shalom

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