“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. Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.” Daniel 7:1-8 (KJV)
Daniel writes now of the few years before the events of Daniel chapter 5. The John MacArthur Study Bible note states,
“This represented a flashback to 553 B.C., 14 years before the feast of 5:1-3. Chapters 7, 8 occur after chapter 4, but before chapter 5.” (pg. 1238 NKJV).
God knows the directions of kings and kingdoms of men – enough that He could reveal the rise and fall of four Gentile kingdoms ruling the known world. I think at this point it would help any reading at this point to go and read Psalm 2.
THE TIME BEFORE THE MEDES AND PERSIANS (v. 1). Chapter 7 takes place before chapter five. It is possible that this is as many as 15 years before Belshazzar fell, and the Medes and Persians conquered the city of Babylon.
The dream Daniel has is not all that far removed from the visions of Nebuchadnezzar.
NOTE… In chapter two we had to look at a hideous monstrosity of the image of a man with a head of gold; breast and arms of silver; belly and thighs of brass; legs of iron; and feet part of iron and part of clay. By man’s standard it would be something beautiful to look upon. In chapter seven we see how God looks upon the kingdoms of men.
GOD’S VIEW OF THE KINGDOMS OF MEN (vv. 2-8). God’s vision given to Daniel has similarities of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, but yet different in one’s perception. Nebuchadnezzar saw it as a good thing – something beautiful to look upon. To God and Daniel these were beasts. God seems to always liken governments of men as beasts.
There are four beasts mentioned in thise verses… 1) A lion with eagles wings; 2) A bear with three ribs between its teeth; 3) A leopard with four wings as a fowl and with four heads; 4) A dreadful beast, evidently unlike anything Daniel had ever seen – it devoured and brake in pieces… and had ten horns on its head.
The lion with wings represents Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire. Its wings being plucked speaks of Nebuchadnezzar’s losing his mind and the fall of Babylon (You can easily notice that Nebuchadnezzar represents the total kingdom until its fall). Where king Nebuchadnezzar saw a head of gold, God saw a defeated lion.
The Bear with ribs between its teeth represents the Medo-Persian empire over powering Lydia, Babylon, and Egypt – the three ribs.
The four headed leopard represents the rule of Alexander the Great – the leopard is also seen by Daniel having four wings of a fowl. The Persians were defeated by Greece (Alexanders place of rule). The leopard is one of the swiftest of all land creatures and that is how Alexander conquered – without haste. A leopard with wings implies very swift, like never touching the ground. The leopard is also seen as having four heads. When Alexander died the Greecian empire was divided into four kingdoms led by his four leading generals. Alexander had only 35,000 troops when he fought against the Medo-Persian empire. He won a miraculous victory against two or three hundred thousand of the Medo-Persia army. Alexander could conquer the world, but he could not conquer himself. He was an alcoholic and died at the age of thirty two years of age. This is the kingdom of Brass. We see in Alexander the Great that the problem with alcohol is not a new thing. Lives cut short. Families destroyed. Just what are the real benefits of the poison? None, that are of any worth.
The next kingdom is almost beyond description. It is a kingdom of iron and clay. It represents the Roman empire – legs of iron and part clay. This was a divided kingdom – two legs; ten toes – iron and clay. The ten horns mentioned represent the ten toes. Horns are a symbol of power. The toes would represent the provinces (States) of Rome with the horns representing the human ruler. The “little horn” is the “end time” ruler of the world. The ten toes also, probably, represent the Roman empire risen again. This fourth beast is vicious, and it devours every thing that opposes it. God’s view of kingdoms of men – they shall fall. The only part of these beasts that has not yet taken place is the “ten toes” and the “ten heads”. This fourth beast is seen by Daniel as “dreadful”. This was the same empire that would put our Lord to death on the cruel old wooden cross. They had absolutely no power to take His life, because He gave His life willingly for our sins. Their cruelty just showed the depths and lengths of depravity men will stoop to rid the world of God.
This is seen again by the apostle John as He witnessed the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and wrote it down. It is written there for the people of the final days to be warned, and prayerfully turn their eyes toward the One who gave His life upon Calvary’s cross for the sins of the world.