The Pulpit Commentary

Daniel 7:1-28 (Daniel 7:1-28)



This chapter begins the second section of the book. All before this has been narrative; visions are introduced into the narrative, but they were not given to Daniel himself, but to others; his role was the secondary one of interpreter. These visions and the events connected with them are related more as incidents in the biography of Daniel, than as revelations of the future. With this chapter begins a series of revelations to Daniel personally. This chapter is the last chapter of the Aramaic portion of Daniel. Though thus linguistically joined to what has preceded, logically it is related to what follows.

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Daniel 7:15-18 (Daniel 7:15-18)

I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 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. These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth, But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. The version of the Septuagint differs in some points from the Massoretic. In the fifteenth verse there is no reference to the spirit being in the body; it adds "of the night" after "visions," and changes "my head" into "my thoughts." The sixteenth verse presents no essential points of difference. In the seventeenth verse the differences are more considerable, "These great beasts are four kingdoms, which shall be destroyed from the earth." There seems a good deal to be said for the reading behind this version. The first variation, "kingdoms" instead of "kings," may be due to logic, but it has further "destroyed from" instead of "arising out of," which cannot have resulted from the Massoretic. The verb qoom , "to stand up," followed by min , "from," is not elsewhere used in the sense which we find in the Massoretic here. When one is prone on the earth, as Saul before the revelation of the witch of Endor, "he stood up from the earth" ( 1 Samuel 28:23 , Targum Jonathan)—word for word as here. When Abraham ( Genesis 23:3 , Targum Onkelos) arose from before his dead, we have a similar construction. In 2 Samuel 11:2 , "David arose from his couch." This construction involves Change of position, either directly or implicitly. It is difficult to understand how the one reading arose from the other. The condensation of the sense as it appears in the Septuagint is not likely to be attained by a falsarius. In 2 Samuel 11:18 there is nothing calling for remark, save that the reduplication of "for ever and ever "is omitted. While Theodotion is nearer the Massoretic text, he too differs from it in some points—his rendering of nidnay by ἕξις. Schleusner thinks this probably a false reading for ἐκστάσις. However, in 14:9 we have ἕξις used for "body." In the seventeenth verse we have "kingdoms" instead of "kings." The last clause agrees with the Massoretic, but there is subjoined αἱ ἀρθήσονται, "which shall be taken away"—an addition that suggests that some of the manuscripts before Theodotion had the same reading as that before the Septuagint translator. He renders yeqoomoon min by ἀναστήσονται ἐπί, showing that at all events he had a different preposition. The reduplication of "for ever and ever" is omitted. The Peshitta 14:15 has "in the midst of my couch" instead of "in the midst of my body." In the sixteenth verse it resolves the bystanders into "servants." In the seventeenth verse the preposition is not min , but ‛al. Jerome, instead of corpus , "body," has in his, "in these,"—as if he had read b‛idena instead of nidnay ; he also in 14:17 reads regna , not reges. The Massoretic text has some peculiarities. The first words afford one of the rare instances where we have the 'ithpael instead of the hithpael; it may be due to scribal correction. In the seventeenth verse 'inoon (K'thib) affords an instance of the frequent Syriasm in Daniel. The "Most High" is rendered by a plural adjective, עֶלְיוֹנִין ( ‛elyoneen ); it is explained differently. Kranichfeld and Stuart regard it as pluralis excellentiae. Bevan and Behrmann regard it as a case of attraction, the latter giving as parallel instances, benee 'ayleem ( Psalms 29:1 ) and benee nebeem. The difficulty remains that neither the pluralis excellentiae nor change of number is known in Aramaic. The fact that this strange form has produced no effect on any of the versions makes the reading suspicious. Professor Fuller sees in this word a proof of Babylonian influence, but he does not assign his reason, We now enter a new stage in the development of this vision. After the wonderful assize has ended, Daniel dreams that he is still standing among these innumerable multitudes, and, feeling that all these things are symbols, he is grieved because he cannot comprehend what is meant by them. So from one of those attendants who crowd the canvas of his vision he asks an explanation, or rather "the certainty," of this vision; he wishes to know whether it is s mere vision or of the nature of a revelation. This is a perfectly natural psychological condition in dreaming. In the act of dreaming we question ourselves whether we are dreaming or not; we may even ask one of the characters in our dream the question. The interpretation is interesting, but has been already, to some extent forestalled. A difficulty is seen by some commentators—how these four kingdoms could be said to arise, when one of them was nearing its fall. If we take the reading of the Septuagint, this difficulty is obviated. Saadia Gaon makes these four kings the nominative to the verb "receive" (wrongly translated in our Authorized Version, "take"), and maintains each of these empires shall hold the kingdom of Israel until the Messiah shall come. This view would necessitate grammatically that the Messiah should never come, but that the reign of these four world-empires should be prolonged into eternity. "The saints of the Most High," in the thought of Daniel would be, of necessity, the Jews; for we need not discuss the possibility of the angels being the holy ones implied here—they always have the kingdoms of the world under them—but we may see the Israel of faith in this figure. The believers in Christ are the true Israel, and the kingdom of heaven which Christ set up is thus promised to fill the earth. The Church is thus the true ultimate state. If we regard the Church as a society formed of those who are mutually attracted to each other. have a mutual love for each other, end have a common love to God, then all the history of the world is tending towards the establishment of such a society, universal as the world. National hatreds are much less acute now than they were. Despite the efforts to rouse class against class, there seems more sympathy between classes than there was. The final break-down of national and class oppositions, not necessarily by the abolition of either class or nation, will prepare the way for the Christ-commanded love which is the tie that unites the members of the true eternal Church of God.

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Daniel 7:15-28 (Daniel 7:15-28)

The great antagonist.

"I behold, and the same horn," etc. ( Daniel 7:21 , Daniel 7:22 ). In introducing this subject, let the following interesting facts be noted. The dream occasioned Daniel great anxiety. "Even I Daniel grieved was my spirit, in the midst of [ its ] sheath. " The soul a sword in its scabbard. He solicited information from one of the myriads in attendance on the Eternal. In answer, two or three suggestions were made, leading Daniel to inquire further, which he did, especially respecting the fourth brute power. The angelic interpreter explained, and also gave additional touches to the picture, of which we shall make use in the homily. All this is the dream , mark! We shall assume that the single horn does not stand for the antichrist of the Old Testament, viz. Antiochus Epiphanes; and that the schemes of interpretation which involve that it does so break down. The reasons for that assumption we could give, but would be more proper to the body of a critical commentary than to a homily. We must assume all this in homiletical treatment. This prophetic Scripture throws forward lights, then, on—


1 . It was the fourth brute world-power. (Verse 17.)

2 . Its genius differed from those that had gone before. "Diverse," etc. (verse 23).

3 . It appropriated to itself the good of every land. "Shall devour," etc. (verse 23).

4 . Its tyranny was oppressive. "Shall tread," etc. (verse 23).

5 . It survives until the final overthrow of all brute-power by the establishment of the eternal kingdom. Rome imperial, Rome dismembered, Rome papal, are still Rome. "One!—one mighty and formidable power, trampling down the liberties of the world; oppressing and persecuting the people of God, the true Church; and maintaining an absolute and arbitrary dominion over the souls of men; as a mighty domination standing in the way of the progress of truth, and keeping back the reign of the saints on earth."


1 . The "ten horns" were sovereignties .

2 . Developments of the Roman empire .

3 . Contemporaneous .

4 . The exact designation of them is not necessary .

The "ten" have been designated. But differences of opinion have arisen. This not wonderful, seeing that the new powers arose in a time of great confusion, and the boundaries were frequently changing. Perhaps strict literal and numerical exactness is not to be expected. The vague character of prophecy generally would warrant a contrary conclusion.

III. ROME FATAL . The rise and progress of the papacy constitute a truly wonderful fulfilment of Daniel's dream. But it is necessary in all contemplation of the Romish religious system to distinguish carefully and ever in our minds between the Christian element in it, and the corruption of that Christian element.

1 . The "other" horn was another sovereignty.

2 . It sprang from the Roman domination. Papal Rome in many ways represents Rome imperial, in the world-wideness of its sway, in possessing the same capital, etc.

3 . It came into being after the dismemberment. After the ten.

4 . Small at the beginning. From the apostolic age there had been a bishop at Rome; but the rise of the papacy is to be dated from the assumption of civil power. When ? This one of the most difficult questions in history. Different theories of interpretation depend on the answers. Enough that so small was the beginning, that none can answer with certainty when ?

5 . The sovereignty differed from all other. (Verse 24.) Combination of spiritual with secular power. This involves a mighty difference.

6 . It displaced other sovereignties. (Verse 25.) "He shall subdue three kings." Either three kingdoms went down before it, or a third, about a third of the power an I influence of existing monarchies disappeared. Distinct governments vanished before the rising papacy; and the papacy itself assumed civil functions. Here again it is not necessary to involve the broad incontrovertible facts with questionable historic detail (see end of verse 20). "More stout" refers to the magnitude finally attained.

7 . Has been distinguished by a far-seeing sagacity. "Eyes like the eyes of a man." A sagacity of human sort, not Divine. The diplomacy of Rome, the sublety of the Jesuit, are notorious. The historical illustrations, medieval and modern, are infinitely varied and innumerable.

8 . By blasphemy. (Verse 25.) "He shall speak great words against the Most High." Blasphemy

(1) either denies to God something of his essential glory;

9 . By persecution.

10. The new sovereignty has" changed times and law. " Not "laws," but the fundamental and eternal law of right. Of this, too, the illustrations are without number.

IV. ROME JUDGED . (Verses 11, 26.)

1 . The dream even now waits fulfilment. Much has been fulfilled, but much remains to be. Imperial Rome has gone. The many other kingdoms have arisen; and a part of their power has disappeared before the growing supremacy of papal Rome. But even that has within the last hall-century been shorn of its strength. Still much remains for the future to disclose.

2 . Rome papal will stand for a definite time. "Until a time," etc. (verse 25). The time is definite , though to us, as we believe, unknown.

3 . But will certainly fall. (Verses 11, 26.) Note the reason in verse 11.

4 . Then to vise no move. (Verses 11, 26.) Are explicit and strong.

V. HER POWER TRANSFERRED . Given to the saints; once theirs, theirs everywhere , theirs for ever. War was indeed made against the saints, achieved, too, a certain success. But principle never dies. The final victory lay with the persecuted. Dominion passed over to them. In what sense? We might say that good men made the laws, but this would be a poor thing to say. Rather is this the truth—that the need of government almost passed away. THE INFLUENCE OF CHARACTER WAS ENOUGH . Some judicial administration might be necessary to arrange debatable points. But deliberate crime had now become non-existent. To illustrate: Mr. Goldwin Smith, after saying that, in a particular instance, "not the special form of the government, but the comparative absence of necessity for government, is the thing to be noted and admired," goes on to say, "The proper sphere of government is compulsion. The necessity for it in any given community is in inverse proportion to the social virtue and the intelligence of the people. The policeman, the executioner, the tax-gatherer,—these are its proper ministers, and the representatives of what we call its majesty. It is destined to decrease as Christianity increases, and as force is superseded by social affection, and spontaneous combination for the public good. The more a community can afford to dispense with government, the more Christian it must be". The Ancient of days gives over empire to the Son of man; his sovereignty is exercised through his saints. They have something of his own sway. What is that? The sway of spiritual supremacy. The rule of righteousness. The law of love. The empire of Calvary.—R.


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Daniel 7:15-28 (Daniel 7:15-28)

Godly obedience the basis of permanent dominion.

Wisdom and righteousness are the qualities of a real king. Daniel, though not ambitious of a material sceptre, yet, by virtue of his weighty influence, swayed the destinies of the Babylonian empire. He ruled by an unpretentious grace.

I. GOOD MEN ARE MORE CONCERNED FOR GOD 'S CAUSE THAN FOR ANY SELF - EXALTATION . Daniel was grieved in spirit, not because of personal ill, nor from fear of the lions' den, but because of the obscurity of the vision; in other words, because of the uncertain fortune of God's kingdom. The symbol of the fourth beast seemed to betoken disaster, suffering, yea, even destruction, for the people of God. That under the violence of this unnatural monster the saints of the Most High should be worn out with oppression, and that rude wickedness should prevail; this distressed and overwhelmed the heart of Daniel. He lived for one object. His life, from the early days of youth, had been directed towards one end—viz, the reversal of Israel's over-throw—the restoration of the Hebrews to Canaan. If this end seemed nearer, he was content; if this event was shrouded in doubt, he grieved. In his ease self was repressed—kept down. He was consumed with pious zeal for others' good—for God's honour. Never once do we find him plotting for his own elevation or for his own interests. He did not live for fame. Yet he had it. He thought mainly of God, and God set his thought and care upon him. He had so completely identified himself with God's cause on earth, that all his interest and happiness were indissolubly bound up with it. Herein God observed his promise, "Them that honour me I will honour." To him heaven was open. He moved in the society of angels. And, when his mind was enveloped with difficulty, he gladly sought counsel and instruction from one of the heavenly host. A wise man will ever seek to increase his wisdom. He welcomes light from every quarter.

II. SELF - EXALTATION IS EVENTUALLY DOOMED TO DESTRUCTION . The nature of man has great possibilities both of elevation and descent. He who will be a monarch, be the methods what they may, shall be degraded to the level of a beast. These four human sovereigns are represented by the Spirit of truth as four beasts. They were so rapacious after rule, that, on the road, they did not hesitate to devour much flesh. A thousand, or a myriad, human lives were, in their estimation, nothing , so long as they could climb to a throne, and see their proud wills obeyed. Yet they were only beasts in the guise of men. They had the tastes, inclinations, ferocity, of brutes. The fourth in the contemptible series was so wanton and lustful in his rage, that not one of the wild beasts on earth could fitly represent him. He was a very prodigy of brutality. But empire so gained could not continue. The seeds of decay were sown in it from the beginning. "They that use the sword shall perish by the sword." Their success is but for a moment—a vapour, which barely appeareth, and then for ever vanisheth. Who can point us to-day to an earthly throne, which has been founded by military arms, and has endured? Vaulting ambition has always overleaped itself. They that have determined to be rulers, be the cost what it may, shall sink into infamy—into the pit of human scorn. "The judgment shall sit." A King of all other kings calmly rules, with irresistible sceptre, in a higher sphere; and woe be to the puny tyrant that dares resist his will! Jehovah hath "prepared his throne in the heavens;" and this is a fundamental principle in his kingdom: "He that exalteth himself shall be abased." They that bite and devour shall be consumed one of another.

III. LOWLY GOODNESS SHALL RISE TO A GLORIOUS AND PERMANENT THRONE . They who sink self shall rise into the possession of a better nature and of a loftier state. To live for others is heroic—god-like. Real goodness thinks little about itself—is blind to its own virtues and charms. It deems others' merits superior to its own, others' faults to be less. Its eye is mainly fixed upon the true standard of excellence, and it strains every nerve to reach that. So long as that is beyond, unattained, it mourns and grieves. The mark of true saints, in their present state, is not perfection, but consecration. They are God's devoted ones—"the sacramental host of his elect." Their characteristic mark is loyalty—growing holiness. They are devoid of personal ambition. If they have crowns thrust upon them, they will place them at once at the service of their Lord. To acquire wisdom, righteousness, love,— this is their ambitious aim, even to be worthy friends of the King of grace. In process of time they become "more than conquerors," for they acquire a conquest which is permanent and irreversible—a conquest which serves as a vantage-ground for higher conquest yet. Whether the dominion, which the saints of God obtain, is over evil principles, or over living personalities, or over men, may remain an open question. It may very properly be said to include all. It is a dominion over self, over sin, over death, over Satan, yea, over their fellow-men. For, in the nature of firings, in proportion as any man has wisdom, purity, love, he rules with invisible sceptre over other men. Yet, kings and priests though the saints are, they are willing vassals under Christ. He is "Lord of all."—D.

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