“In the first year of Belshazzar King of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions…” (Daniel 7:1)
Critics used to claim that Belshazzar never existed. The Zondervan’s Pictorial Bible Dictionary says, “For many years regarded as a fictitious literary creation… It is now well-authenticated through archaeological studies that Belshazzar was a historic personage” (p. 104). Don Simpson writes, “Belshazzar was not a figment of Daniel’s imagination. Inscriptions have cited Belshazzar as a King, and furthermore, as the son of Nabonidus… All evidences point to the fact that Nabonidus was in retirement and his son Belshazzar managed the governmental affairs” (A Textual Study of the Book of Daniel, p. 65-66). Wayne Jackson states, “The Nabonidus Chronicle reveals that Belshazzar was made King (in 556 B.C.) while Nabonidus was in Arabia for some ten years” (Biblical Studies in Light of Archaeology, p. 39). Daniel may hint at joint Kingship of Belshazzar and Nabonidus (cf. Dan. 5:16).
“And four great beasts came up from the sea” (Daniel 7:3).
The beasts are Kingdoms (cf. Daniel 7:23). The sea may refer to the Mediterranean Sea, the area these four kingdoms would dominate (Daniel 7:2 “Great Sea” cf. Joshua 1:4); or the sea may refer to the sea of nations (cf. Revelation 17:15).
This is similar to Daniel 2. Daniel 2 spoke of four kingdoms described as four metals. This speaks of four kingdoms described as four beasts.
1. “The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings” (Daniel 7:4).
The lion is known as “the king of beasts”. The eagle is the greatest of the birds of prey. “What the gold is among metals and the head among members of the body, that the lion is among beasts, and the eagle is among birds” (Keil and Delitzch quoted by Leslie Thomas in Studies in the Book of Daniel, pg. 39).
The plucking of the wings and the making of the beast into a man may refer to God’s humbling of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 7:4 cf. Daniel 4). The power of Babylon “gradually deteriorated following his demise” (Thomas, pg. 39).
2. “And suddenly another beast, a second like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth” (Daniel 7:5).
The bear is larger than the lion. The Persian military was the largest of the ancient world. Herodotus places the number in Xerxes’ army, navy, and support staff at 5,283,220 men (Book 7, paragraphs 184-186).
The three ribs in its mouth tell of the bear’s ferocity. The three ribs may represent Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt which were the three major conquests by Persia.
3. “After this I looked and there was another like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it” (Daniel 7:6).
The leopard is smaller than the previous two, but it is pound for pound stronger. It is said that the leopard is pound for pound the strongest of the big cats. (www.ofcats.com/2008/04/leopards-facts). The Macedonian (Greek) army of Alexander was small; perhaps less than 40,000 well-trained men (www.prothos.org-AboutAlexander’sarmy).
The four wings may represent swiftness. In just 9 years, Alexander gained control of the land from Macedonia to Egypt (North and South), Macedonia to India (East and West).
The four heads refer to the four divisions of Alexander’s empire. His empire was divided between his top generals after his death: (1) Ptolemy (Egypt and the south); (2) Seleucus (Syria, Babylon, and the east); (3) Antipater and Cassander (Macedonia, Greece, and the west); (4) Antigonus and Lysimachus (Thrace, Asia Minor, and the north). This division also is mentioned in Daniel 8:8, 22.
4. “After this… behold a fourth beast, dreadful, and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring” (Daniel 7:7).
This beast, unlike the previous beasts, is not in animal form. Its teeth are iron and its nails are bronze (Daniel 7:7, 19). It is like a machine. Note: Iron has been mentioned before (cf. Daniel 2:40). This is Rome.
There are only four beasts counted; however, on this fourth beast are eleven horns (Daniel 7:7-8). These horns represent Kings (Daniel 7:24).
The eleventh horn is depicted as especially bad. He (a) spoke against the Most High. (b) Persecuted the saints. (c) Intended to change worship (Daniel 7:25 cf. 1 Kings 12:25-33). His rule would not continue (Daniel 7:11-12; 7:26).
Who is this eleventh King? Don Simpson suggests – (1) Augustus 27B.C. – 14A.D. (2) Tiberius 14A.D. – 37A.D. (3) Caligula 37A.D – 41A.D. (4) Claudius 41A.D. – 54A.D. (5) Nero 54A.D. – 68A.D. (6) Galba 68A.D. (7) Otho 68A.D. (8) vitellus 69A.D. (9) Vespasian 69A.D. – 79A.D. (10) Titus 79A.D. – 81A.D. (11) Domitian 81A.D. – 96A.D. (Simpson, pg. 86).
Other suggestions have been made. David Vaughn Elliot suggests – (1) Burgundians; (2) Franks; (3) Heruli; (4) Huns; (5) Lombards; (6) Ostrogoths; (7) Saxon; (8) Suevi; (9) Vandals; (10) Visigoths, all barbaric parts into which the Roman Empire disintegrated – followed by (11) Papal Power (Nobody Left Behind, p. 159-164).
The Eternal Kingdom
“Behold, one like the Son of Man, coming with clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they bought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His Kingdom the one which shall never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
Consider these points:
1. The one to receive this Kingdom is said to be “like the Son of Man”. Jesus was made like us (Hebrews 2:17; Philippians 2:7). He is even referred to as “the Son of Man” (Matthew 16:13; Acts 7:56; etc.).
2. The Kingdom was not received upon a visit to the earth.
3. The Kingdom was received upon a going to “The Ancient of Days”. Who better fits the title than God? (Genesis 1:1; Exodus 3:14; Hebrews 3:4; etc.).
4. The going to “The Ancient of Days” is associated “with clouds”. Jesus’ ascention was with clouds (Acts 1:9). He returned to the Father (John 16:28). He is at the right hand, or near God (Acts 2:31). He reigns (1 Corinthians 15:24-25). The Kingdom exists (Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9).