By Sam E. Stone
The genuineness of the prophetic message of Daniel was sanctioned by Jesus Christ himself (Matthew 24:15). Edward J. Young points out, however, “Daniel was not a prophet in a restricted, technical sense. He was rather a statesman at the court of heathen monarchs . . .
inspired of God to write his book.”
Daniel was one of the prominent Jews taken from Jerusalem to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar when Israel was conquered (Daniel 12:1-7). These young men were “from the royal family and the nobility—showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.”
It was the first year of another king—Belshazzar. He began reigning about 553 BC. He has been described as an arrogant king who mocked God by mistreating the temple vessels carried away from Jerusalem (5:2-4). Earlier the Jewish prisoners had been assigned new names. Daniel was called Belteshazzar. Among his friends were three men whose names were changed to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1:1-8).
Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine served to new recruits in the king’s service. He asked the chief official to give them permission not to defile themselves with this diet, but to check and see if they did not appear better than their counterparts after a trial period. The test was permitted, and they looked healthier and better nourished than the others (1:15).
Soon Daniel became known for his ability to interpret dreams for King Nebuchadnezzar. The incident when God kept Daniel safe in the lions’ den is well known (6:1-28). Starting in chapter 7, however, the remainder of the book is mostly concerned with Daniel’s dreams and visions. Tremper Longman III wrote, “While children resonate with the lessons of Daniel 1-6, seasoned Bible scholars scratch their heads over Daniel 7-12.” The first dream God gave Daniel concerned the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea, and four great beasts coming out of the sea.
Ancient of Days Enthroned
Daniel 7:9, 10
Each beast represents a king or kingdom (see vv. 4-8). They were a lion, with the wings of an eagle; a bear, with three ribs in its mouth; a leopard, with four heads and four wings; and a frightening and very powerful beast, with ten horns. Their thrones were set in place. The Ancient of Days (another name for God) was there. He is the one who always was and always will be (Revelation 4:8, 9). His white clothing suggests purity and his white hair maturity; his throne of flaming fire suggests cleansing, judgment, and punishment.
From the throne a river of fire was flowing. Evil human kingdoms are compared to horrifying hybrid animals, while the divine realm is pictured by human beings. The great body of angels who stand ready to do God’s bidding is beyond our imagination. Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. All the help that could ever become necessary to accomplish the Lord’s will is available to him all of the time! The scene is set. The court was seated, and the books were opened. Scripture does not specify just what books were opened. Revelation 20:12 suggests Daniel may be indicating the book of life. “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” In this scene multiple books were opened, including the book of life.
Daniel 7:11, 12
Even though the Lord permits the beasts to live for a short period of time, their destiny is sealed. As Daniel watched, he saw a boastful beast slain and thrown into the fire. Various interpretations have been offered as to just what government should be identified with this beast. Many feel the reference is to the Roman Empire. The important thing, however, is to see that no worldly ruler, no matter how strong or wild, can conquer the living God, the Ancient of Days. God is in control and will overcome the seemingly invulnerable evil forces of the day. As the old spiritual says, “We shall overcome!”
Son of Man Appears
Daniel 7:13, 14
Into the picture then comes one like a son of man. Elsewhere Daniel uses “son of man” to distinguish a human from an angel (8:17). It is another way of saying “descendant of Adam.” Since man was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), it is appropriate that the God-man, Christ Jesus, be pictured in this way. Jesus is often described by this term (see Matthew 12:40; 16:28; 26:64). To him is given all authority, glory and sovereign power. His kingdom is eternal.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.