Studies on Daniel 7

Daniel 7; Zechariah 11
In this second part of the book we have no longer the interpretation of dreams made to Nebuchadnezzar, etc., but the communications made to Daniel himself. You remember also, that the subject of which the book of Daniel treats is the Jews. God's ancient people were in captivity, and had been replaced, as to the throne of the world (at least as to the rights of this throne), by the Gentiles. God had had until lately His throne at Jerusalem. He was now no longer there, as He had once been literally there. Before the captivity God had placed
His glory in the temple. He exercised the functions of government, punishing the wicked at times by instant judgments. He was in immediate relationship with the people. It was a pure theocracy, though connected with the monarchy of the house of David at the close; but all that was entirely gone. The Jews, instead of conducting themselves as those under the government of God ought to do, had become thoroughly unfaithful; they had made their children pass through the fire to Moloch, and had worshipped idols. The consequence of such conduct was, that God could no longer identify Himself with the nation. He rejected them, took away His throne from Jerusalem, and confided the dominion and empire of the world to the Gentiles. (See chap. 2: 38.) Upon this Nebuchadnezzar takes Jerusalem, and the times of the Gentiles begin.
There are two aspects to this part of the subject: on one side, the responsibility of the Gentiles, and on the other, the circumstances of the Jews in those times, and in particular of the faithful remnant-the special object of God's care. We have already seen the general characters of the Gentile kings.
But now we come to more intimate details of these beasts in their relationship with the Jewish people, and with the remnant who had their expectation from God. These beasts, as we have seen, had lost their knowledge of God, and had persecuted His people; and thus, in order to bring out more perfectly the circumstances of the Jews, we are given a more minute history of some of these beasts, together with some account of the remnant under their power, and also many circumstances, as we shall presently see, which will have their accomplishment in the holy people.
We must note a feature in this book, as also in the prophetic part of the Apocalypse, that there is nothing addressed to the people of God. In the other prophets, for instance Isaiah and Jeremiah, there are many particulars concerning these same things, but the prophet always addressed the people of God, because they were still acknowledged. But when this is no longer the case, God may give to a prophet, to Daniel, to a remnant, revelations having reference to the people; but the prophet no longer addresses himself to the people. Thus Daniel is full of joy at these communications, but he does not say a word of them to the Jews directly. God was with the remnant, even Daniel. He had nothing more to do with His people in the government of the world, but He had a remnant, and He communicated to the faithful whom He had chosen His intention concerning this remnant, and the events which were to take place. It is thus in the Apocalypse in its prophetic part. Certain things are told to John: it is not John speaking to Christians.
Such prophecies are a kind of depot of certain truths, which is for the blessing of the church at all times, and for the Jews whenever they believe. As to the people of God not being acknowledged, I believe this ought to have its weight in studying the Apocalypse, and you will do well to consider it. We are now going to enter into the second part of the book, wherein the conduct of the beasts and of the different powers of the Gentiles is given in detail; as well as the circumstances of the saints during their (the Gentile) dominion, and the judgment of God which comes down at the end.
Chapter 7 is an introduction, and contains three visions. There is the first general fact that there would be these four beasts, but the fourth was of the most importance; for although the others had been wicked enough, whether in acting against God or His people, it was under the fourth that the open revolt was to take place, whether of Jews or of Christianity, against God-a revolt which should result in the entire destruction of the beast, because of its lifting itself up against the authority and glory of God.
The first vision gives the description, however, only of the three earlier beasts, whose dominion was successively taken away from them, but whose lives were prolonged; that is, they were not entirely destroyed. The second vision (v. 7) is the circumstantial history of the fourth beast previously mentioned. The third vision (v. 13) is the opposition of all this, viz., the dominion given to the Son of man. The explanation follows.
First vision. " Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of heaven strove upon the great sea " (v. 2). The great sea, in prophetic language, constantly signifies masses of people; thus Babylon (Rev. 17:1515And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. (Revelation 17:15); Jer. 51) is described as dwelling (v. 13) " upon many waters "; that is, people not yet at the time of the vision formed into kingdoms, empires, and as such acknowledged by God as prophetic objects. These last are rather called the earth.
" And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another " (v. 3). You will find the distinction between the sea and the earth in Rev. 13, where the first beast comes out of the sea, whereas the second comes from the earth, because the first beast was the empire which arose amidst the confusion of nations, whilst the second beast appears when the first was already upon the earth and his empire established.
" 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 " (v. 4). This was the Babylonish monarchy, the first, which carried everything before it. Pharaoh desired to do so, but his fate was sealed at Carchemish near the Euphrates; Jer. 46. This lion with wings was Nebuchadnezzar; his empire had lasted only seventy years. Darius the Mede took the kingdom, and Babylon remained a great city after its dominion was taken away. There was a subsequent judgment upon it, for it was besieged and taken a second time, and then it stood upon its feet as a man, submissive, and no more ravaging the nations; it became a province, and was no longer mistress of the world.
Second beast. " 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 " (v. 5). This is the Persian empire. I will not discuss this, because all who have studied the prophecies are agreed about it.
Third beast. " 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 " (v. 6). This is without doubt the empire of Alexander. The beast is described, more under the features which it took after the death of that prince, when his empire was divided into four parts, than under those which it had when united under his power. This is important, because in fact two of the parts into which it was divided have had much more to do with the Jews, than the empire had in the time of Alexander himself. Two of these are afterward called (chap. 11) the king of the north and the king of the south.
Daniel said in a general manner that there were four beasts, but the fourth is reserved for a special vision. " 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 " (v. 7). That which particularly marks this beast was that it had ten horns (ten kings). " 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 a man, and a mouth speaking great things " (v. 8).
This description is not simply that of a power hurried into action under the influence of his passions, nor of a conqueror who goes about ravaging everywhere; but there was something more in the ways of this little horn, viz., exceeding arrogance, intelligence, design, counsel, reflection, etc.-he had eyes as the eyes of a man. It is said of the Lamb, in the Apocalypse, that it had seven eyes-an expression for the perfection of foresight and understanding. Here it is not perfection, but at least intelligence, reflection, and design: all these are represented by the eyes; " and a mouth speaking great things," namely, prodigious boasting; and this characterizes particularly this horn. It is on account of the words which this horn spake that the beast was destroyed. He is the one who causes -the judgment of the fourth beast. The little horn is he who morally influences the beast. " I beheld till the thrones were cast down (placed), and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool... the judgment was set and the books were opened " (v. 9).
This is an assize. The thrones are not overthrown, but placed. The Ancient of days sits in judgment; myriads of myriads are there before Him. The books are opened. But as yet the Son of man does not appear, but only the Ancient of days. In another sense Christ is Himself the Ancient of days, but here, a little farther on in the chapter, He is presented to Him (the Ancient of days) as the Son of man.
In the Apocalypse, when John sees (chap. i) the Son of man, it is with all the attributes of the Ancient of days. But here the Ancient of days is seen Himself apart in vision, because Christ, in this book, is always considered as the Messiah, or as the Son of man, in His own separate and proper character as such, as the Anointed One (and thus also as man), because it was under this character that He was known to the Jews, or as inheriting the rights of man on the part of God in this world.
Herein we have the distinction in the expressions Messiah and Son of man, and this difference may be particularly traced in the gospel by Matthew. In His quality of the Anointed One, He appeared as king down here. When He came thus as Messiah, He was rejected: the Messiah, we are told, was cut off, and had nothing; Dan. 9:2626And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:26) (margin). But when God at a future period shall set up His throne (we are not speaking of His heavenly glory, for that is already accomplished), it will not be only as the Messiah. It is not the way of God to re-establish that which has been spoiled. Such a procedure would be unworthy of God: if Satan spoils God's work, He is not satisfied with simply mending it. Whenever the folly of man and the malice of Satan have perverted any passing blessing which God has given to man, God establishes something infinitely superior. We have a striking instance of this in Jesus Christ Himself. Man was placed in innocence upon the earth. This state of things was soon altered by the folly of man tempted by the devil. Does God re-establish again an innocent man on the earth? No. He sets up His own Son, a glorified man in heaven and earth. Thus God, in allowing the things which He has presented or confided to man to be corrupted, afterward Himself establishes something infinitely superior according to His own purpose.
In this manner the Messiah was offered as king of the Jews. Faith, indeed, confessed Him as the Son of God; but as the Son of David, if He had been received, He would have possessed the throne of David. Man, being a sinner, would not receive Him; but when He returns, it will not be as Messiah, or as the Son of David only. He is gone to receive a kingdom from the hands of His Father, an inheritance over all things, not only as Messiah, but as the Son of man; for God has decreed, that " all things shall be subdued unto him," 1 Cor. 15. It is for this reason that He is seen coming with the clouds of heaven as Son of man.
When Christ presented Himself to the Jews as Messiah, and even to the Gentiles under Pontius Pilate, He was rejected; after which God does not establish Him as Messiah alone, but as Heir of all things. Is this done by the will of man? By no means. Christ has been presented to the good-will of man, but He was received with hatred and disdain. They crucified Him. He will be established by the decree of God.
Now when this little horn speaks great things-when all its insolent pride is manifested-when it has come to its height, then the thrones are placed, and God begins to exercise His power. When power, as confided to man, is turned into rebellion against God, it is time for God to act, and for the thrones of judgment to be placed, for the books to be opened, and for man to give account to God.
The result of this judgment on the part of the Ancient of days is to give the kingdom to the Son of man. It is a question here of this power-these rights of the Ancient of days. It is the demonstration that He who had possessed the rights from the beginning to the end, although He had been concealed, was He who gave the power to the one and to the other.
God had been hidden, so to speak, during the time of the other beasts, nevertheless His providence acted. The Babylonians were replaced by the Persians, and these last by the Greeks. All this was done, as things are done even now, by the arrangement of that providence which governs the world, because the Ancient of days (whose rights, notwithstanding, cannot be annihilated) was not yet sitting to execute judgment on account of the acts which had been committed against Him. But it will not be thus at the end. As yet the open revolt had not taken place. The fourth beast had not yet said, Isa. 47:88Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children: (Isaiah 47:8), " I am, and none else beside me." Compare what is said to the prince of Tire, " Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? " (Ezek. 28:99Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? but thou shalt be a man, and no God, in the hand of him that slayeth thee. (Ezekiel 28:9)). The judgment of this fourth beast will be as against man in a state of open rebellion against God.
Now the attention of Daniel (v. 11) is entirely taken up with the little horn. " I beheld, then, because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake; I beheld even till the beast was slain; and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame." He is amazed to hear there, in the very presence of God, this horn speaking blasphemous things. He wondered that God should permit it; but he saw the beast slain. This was the result. Then he says, " As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time "; that is, after the dominion had been taken from Babylon, it continued to subsist for some time, as did the Persian likewise; but the destruction of the fourth beast shall be entire. To the others a prolongation of life had been granted after the fall of the empire; but here the judgment and the destruction go together.
Consequent upon all this is a third vision (v. 13, 14). It is the Son of man presented to the Ancient of days. " Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him." " And there was given him dominion, and glory... that all people... should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion," etc., etc. (v. 14). This is the kingdom which will be confided to Him, and which He will administer for the subjection of all things to God Himself.
Now we come to the explanation given to the prophet (v. 15-17). " The visions of my head," says Daniel, " troubled me. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked
him the truth of all this. So he told me," etc. " These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth." But he adds a fact not before mentioned: " The saints of the most high shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever " (v. 18). It is not alone the history of something which takes place by the interposition of providence, or by the judgment of God; but the interpretation is occupied with the people of God-the saints of the most high. We always find, whether in prophecy or in parable, that the explanation goes beyond that which the original statement itself contains. There is always some new fact. So here, the truth is added, that the saints of the most High are to obtain and to keep the kingdom. The general thesis of the chapter is, that four great beasts would rise on the earth, and be finally judged by God. The truth added in the explanation is, that the saints of the most High would receive the kingdom, the beasts being set aside.
" Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast.. which brake in pieces and stamped the residue with his feet " (v. 19). This violence and cruelty has always marked the conduct of the fourth beast; it is Europe, at all events, in the west. " And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up... even of that horn that had eyes...." (v. 20). The horn had intelligence and designs. Three of the horns (kingdoms) fell before this horn, which, little at the beginning, becomes in appearance more stout than his fellows, and, at last, rules in the midst of the horns. And you will see, as we proceed, that this horn usurps all the power of the beast, or, at least, stamps the whole with its character. The horn gets the power. As it is the conduct of this little horn, which determines that of the beast, so also is the horn the cause of the beast's destruction.
" I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them "... (v. 21) " until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom " (v. 22). Afterward the explanation is given, verses 23-25, and the little horn is more fully mentioned. This horn is not to be an ordinary kingdom, but a special power which raises itself up in the midst of the others.
The fourth beast is to do three things: first, it speaks great things against the God who is on high, ruler of heaven and earth; secondly, it wears out the saints of the most High (those, namely, who own God in the high or heavenly places); also it makes war with the faithful Jews who have returned to their land. Thirdly, it not only destroys the saints, but it thinks to change the times (that is, solemn days-certain days which return from year to year, and which mark certain epochs among the Jews, as Pentecost, the feast of Tabernacles, etc.), and the law itself.
They shall be delivered into his hands, that is, these times and laws, until a certain period; it will not be forever. The beast, then, apostatizes against God, makes war against the saints who confess Him, and, lastly, completely sets aside the Jewish ordinances. This is the final character which the beast takes.
We shall still have to consider this beast, and, consequently, we must follow with care this part of the book, because of the important place which the little horn occupies in the revelations of God. Meanwhile let us remember that, whilst the prophetic part of this chapter, as contrasted with the explanatory part, treats of the beast being destroyed and delivered to the fire; in the latter part, the Spirit of God is almost entirely occupied with the actings of this little horn. The judgment is to sit, and the dominion to be taken away (that is, of the little horn), verse 26. We shall see that the ten horns give their power to the beast; but this little horn rules the beast, morally speaking, and so all the others, by its intelligence and influence. Thus the Spirit of God can speak of the little horn as being everything.
Notwithstanding it was still the beast, for the little horn possessed all the power of the beast, and its (the little horn's) conduct characterized the beast; for as it was the horn which blasphemed, persecuted, and changed the law, so it is its dominion which is taken away.
At the same time bear in mind that, although the little horn was principally before the eyes of the prophet, the others had not ceased to exist. There yet remained seven horns after three had been swallowed up, so that we do not see, in the little horn, all the empire of the fourth beast, considered geographically. The little horn is morally, but not geographically, the beast. Seven of the horns which existed previously will still subsist. The features of the beast, then, are, that we have one particular horn which is very different from the others, small in appearance when it rose, but whose looks and words were stouter than the others, three of whom fell before it. It is this horn that persecutes and changes the times, and represents completely the beast before God as to the judgment; but at the same time, as to physical and material power, there are seven other horns in other places, but within the limits of the Roman empire; and who are thus the instruments of the moral evil of the little horn. One horn is the great worker of evil, whilst the mass of the empire, divided into seven parts, gives the power to that one.
Napoleon may serve to give us an idea of this state of things. Spain, Belgium, Westphalia, etc., followed him, they were his auxiliaries; but he personally stamped his character on the whole course of events. And so with these seven: their authority may exist within their own limits, but their power will be given to him, who will exalt himself against God and His saints.
Rev. 13 and 17, also bring this beast before us. In chapter 13 he is shown as seated upon the throne, and wielding the power of Satan, by means of another beast who helped to glorify the first on the throne. In chapter 17 he is shown more in his relationships with Babylon; whilst here in Dan. 7 he is represented to us as making war against God Himself, in his relationship also with the saints of the most High, and with the Jews. In Dan. 11:36-3936And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. 37Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all. 38But in his estate shall he honor the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honor with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things. 39Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain. (Daniel 11:36‑39), where we have again this king, or little horn, we learn more particularly his actings in the east-in the Jewish or glorious land. It is the special place where the evil works. In Zech. 2 we have details of an idol shepherd, who shall be found in Judea and shall oppress the people, and who, I think, is the same as the second beast of Rev. 13, which I shall not now examine.
In 2 Thess. 2 he is seen in quite another aspect (viz., in connection with apostate Christendom); just as in Dan. 11:3636And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. (Daniel 11:36) he is considered with respect to his evil conduct as king in Palestine; whilst here, he is seen rising from among the Gentiles, acting against the saints of the most High, and the faithful Jews. I do not make any allusion in this place to chapter 8 because it is my conviction that the little horn of that chapter is not the same as this one. Some who have studied the subject are not of this opinion, but for myself, it is my belief that it is another power which will be found there, in special connection with the Jews, invading those eastern countries, but which is not the little horn of chapter 7. There is still another passage to be referred to in regard to this little horn. It is the latter part of Dan. 9 in connection with the desolation of Jerusalem. I mention it only that the chain of passages may be complete. In examining this book, I have no pretension to give a complete exposition, but only to notice some leading points which may assist you, and myself also, in further inquiry. One of the most remarkable facts in this chapter is the open revolt of man against God; it is that which so astonished Daniel. In the end man will arrogate to himself power, as if it were found in himself, instead of derived from God, just as it was the religion of man among the Jews which dared to reject and crucify the Messiah.
But this power of man, complete in apostasy, given up to Satan, is the instrument of the war which Satan wages against God and His Anointed. It is not iniquity alone, and the commission of sin, but the open revolt of sin as a principle. Under whatever form man is found in connection with God, this beast will give himself the trouble, so to speak, to unite in himself all these characters in opposition to God. Is it a question of God Himself? he derides Him and sets himself up against Him. Is it a question of the saints? he persecutes and destroys them. His object is to overturn everything for the setting up of himself. It is the king who does according to his own will. Satan gives him his throne after he has been driven out of heaven, three years and a half before the judgment: when, having but a short time, he acts in great wrath, establishing thus the wicked one upon his throne on earth, inspiring man, and putting him forward, as the head of everything here below, and destroying all relationship with God. Thus in 2 Thess. 2 we find that the rebellion against God, as known in Christianity, is based upon the apostasy; and then the man of sin rises and shows himself as God in the temple of God (all those who have not received the truth in the love of it having been deceived by the lying wonders of the power of the enemy).
Then the events of Rev. 13 will be realized; that Satan gives his throne to the beast, and at that time, I judge, the horrible character of open revolt in all its bearings will be publicly manifested. The evil works beforehand in principles, in mysteries; but when the throne of Satan is set up down here, after he has been driven from heaven (at least three years and a half before the end), and in consequence, is no longer able to deceive, after a religious sort, in making himself god on high; and the saints, as a result, having no combat to sustain in the heavenly places, then he gives his throne to the beast; and open rebellion will follow-rebellion against God; for the beast becomes the wicked one in specialty: " that wicked one shall be revealed, whom the Lord shall destroy." Then the throne will be given to the Son of man.
It is very important, through God's grace, to see where the course of this world will end; and be assured that it is not necessary that man should be outwardly degraded in habits in order to serve Satan, or that these events should take place; for the little horn had the eyes of a man, all the intelligence of man, his capacity, and clear-sightedness. These faculties distinguish him. Nevertheless, he will reject God; his conscience will not be in exercise; he will have no sense of his responsibility towards Him; whilst the desire of self-elevation and aggrandizement will choke every trace of love: just as Adam, who wished to be as God, and put God aside. But the judgment will come in, and Christ will be manifested in all His glory, and it is this for which we wait, as regards the improvement of things here below. But, thanks be to God, we have, as Christians, a better portion, even a heavenly, which consists in being like Christ and with Him forever.