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Daniel 7

File:Daniel 4 Beasts.JPG
Daniel's vision of the four beasts - woodcut by Hans Holbein the Younger

Daniel 7 is the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. It is the last chapter written in Aramaic before it continues again in the Hebraic Masoretic text of the next chapter. This chapter begins the first series of apocalyptic visions that Daniel receives and is given cryptic interpretations for a portion of them.

The chapter includes visions that Daniel receives of four beasts coming out of the sea, as well as a vision of "one like the Son of Man" coming up to the Ancient of Days. Some interpretation of these visions is given to Daniel, but no beast is clearly identified with any specific kingdom. However, some Christian theologians since the 2nd century have connected the eagle winged lion with Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonia, a matter still open to considerable debate. One traditional interpretation of these four beasts is that, in order from first to last, they are Neo-Babylonian Empire, followed by Achaemenid Empire (which was made up of Medes and Persia, with one being stronger than the other), then the Macedonian Empire and the Roman Empire.

Literary structure

Arthur Ferch points out that the vision forms a chiasm:[1]

A. First 3 beasts (4-6)
B. Fourth beast (7)
C. Little horn (8)
D. The Judgment (9, 10)
C'. Little horn (11a)
B'. Fourth beast (11b)
A'. First 3 beasts (12)


For more details on this topic, see Four monarchies.
Parallel paraphrase of Dream and Interpretation. The text is arranged to read top-to-bottom, and parallel left-to-right. (Words in bold font indicate parallel phrases. Colors demarcate the different kingdoms.)

Daniel's first vision [2] is that of four beasts and he asks for an interpretation of them. He is told that the four beasts represent four monarchies to appear on Earth. Unlike Chapter 2, only the latter half of this vision, beginning with the fourth beast, is given a textual interpretation.

Beast like a lion

The first beast is like a lion with eagle’s wings, which are torn off. It is then made to stand on two feet like a man and given a man’s heart (or "mind").

Beast like a bear

The second beast is like a bear, raised up on one side, and has three ribs between its teeth. He is told to gorge himself on flesh.

Beast like a leopard

The third Beast is like a leopard with four wings and four heads. It is given authority to rule.

Fourth beast

7 After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beastterrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

Interpretation given in text
23 The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom.

Little horn

8 While I considered the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

Interpretation given in text
24 After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times and the laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time.

Divine judgment

9 As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him;ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.

Interpretation given in text
26 But the court will sit,

Execution of judgment

11 "Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.)

Interpretation given in text
and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever.

Final kingdom

13 "In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.

  • 13 (Jewish alternative) "I was watching in night visions and behold! with the clouds of heaven, one like a man [= someone, that is the anointed King (Rashi)] came; he came up to the One of Ancient Days, and they brought him before Him."[3]

14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language served him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Interpretation given in text
27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey him.

Parallels with Daniel 11

Just as scholars and theologians since the 2nd century have considered the visions of Chapter 2 and Chapter 7 parallel, so too, Chapter 8 and Chapter 11 were considered parallel with the other two.[citation needed]

Chapter 7 Chapter 11
Little horn:
Contemptible person:
(Antiochus Epiphanes who was called Epimanes/madman):
He was preceded by 10 kings (Daniel 7:24) He was preceded by kings to the Seleucid throne (11:3-21)
He will speak against the Most High (7:25) He will exalt and magnify himself above every god (11:36)
He will say unheard-of things against the God of gods (11:36)
He will oppress the saints (7:25) He will vent his fury against the holy covenant (11:30)
The Godly and wise people who resist him, will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. (11:32-33)
He will try to change the set times and the laws (7:25) He will vent his fury against the holy covenant (11:30)
He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant (11:30)
He will subdue three kings (Daniel 7:24) He will seize the kingdom through intrigue (11:21)
He looked more imposing than the others (7:20) He will achieve what neither his fathers nor his forefathers did (11:24)
The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time (7:25) It shall be for a time, times, and a half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished (11:45-12:7)
He is the last king before the end of time (Daniel 7:26-28) He is the last king before the end of time or persecution (11:45-12:7)

History of Interpretation

Early and Medieval Interpreters

Medieval Christian writers, especially in Apocalyptic accounts, often identified the beasts with later empires, closer to their own times, believing that Daniel's prophecy had yet to be fulfilled; the rapid rise of the Islamic Caliphate in and around traditionally Christian lands made its identification with the last beast attractive.

Contemporary views

Modern Critical Views

Thorne Wittstruck noted in 1978 that there was general agreement among modern scholars that the four beasts represent Babylonia, Medes, Persia, and Alexander's Greek empire.[4][5] Other scholars interpret the fourth beast as the Roman Empire.[6]

The majority view is that ten horns represent the kings from Alexander on through the Seleucid kingdom:[4][7]

  1. Alexander the Great
  2. Seleucus I Nicator,
  3. Antiochus I Soter,
  4. Antiochus II Theos,
  5. Seleucus II Callinicus,
  6. Seleucus III Ceraunus,
  7. Antiochus III the Great,
  8. Seleucus IV Philopator, (assassinated by the following)
  9. Heliodorus,
  10. Seleucus IV’s infant son Antiochus (puppet for Heliodorus).

The last three "horns" had to fall to make way for the "little horn" Antiochus IV Epiphanes and his arrival on the throne, effectively by usurpation.[8] Daniel 7:25 is a reference to the persecutions of Antiochus, his suppression of the Jewish religion, and his attempt to force the Jews to adopt the Greek customs.[7][9][10]

Historicist views

Just as scholars note parallels between the prophetic chapters, so too have historicists since the Protestant Reformation. "The Reformation ... was really born of a twofold discovery--first, the rediscovery of Christ and His salvation; and second, the discovery of the identity of Antichrist and his subversions."[11] "The reformers were unanimous in its acceptance. And it was this interpretation of prophecy that lent emphasis to their reformatory action. It led them to protest against Rome with extraordinary strength and undaunted courage. ... This was the rallying point and the battle cry that made the Reformation unconquerable."[12] The following is a historicist-based illustration of the parallels.

Chapter Parallel sequence of prophetic elements as understood by Historicists[13][14]
Past Present Future
Daniel 2 Head
Chest & 2 arms
Belly and thighs
2 Legs
2 Feet with toes
Clay & Iron
God's unending kingdom
left to no other people
Daniel 7 Winged Lion Lopsided Bear 4 Headed/4 Winged
Iron toothed Beast
w/Little Horn
Judgment scene
Beast w/Horn
A son of man comes in clouds
Given everlasting dominion
He gives it to the saints.

Seventh-Day Adventists

Following the interpretations of William Miller, early SDA writers Uriah Smith, James White and Ellen White adopted the general historicist school common among Protestants. As Daniel became crucial to their identity, they interpreted Daniel 7 to refer to an "investigative judgment" which commenced in 1844.

Concerning the "little horn", interpreters of the Historicist school (e.g. Adventist) identify the "little horn" as Papal Rome that came to power among the 10 Barbarians tribes (the 10 horns) that had broken up the Pagan Roman empire. The reference to changing "times and law" (Daniel 7:25) refers to the change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. The "time, times and half a time" (Daniel 7:25) was the 1260 years spanning 538 AD and 1798 AD, when the Roman Church dominated the Christian world. (See Day-year principle for details)


Adam Clarke's commentary published in 1831 supports the interpretation that the little horn is Papal Rome by this comment "Among Protestant writers this is considered to be the popedom."[15]

He stated that the 1260-year period should commence in 755, the year Pepin the Short actually invaded Lombard territory, resulting in the Pope's elevation from a subject of the Byzantine Empire to an independent head of state.[16] The Donation of Pepin, which first occurred in 754 and again in 756 gave to the Pope temporal power of the Papal States. His time line, which began in 755 will end in 2015. But his introductory comments on Daniel 7 added 756 as an alternative commencement date [17] Based on this, commentators anticipate the end of the Papacy in 2016:

“As the date of the prevalence and reign of antichrist must, according to the principles here laid down, be fixed at A.D. 756, therefore the end of this period of his reign must be A.D. 756 added to 1260; equal to 2016, the year of the Christian era set by infinite wisdom for this long-prayed-for event. Amen and amen!" [18][19]

Futurist views

In the Futurist view, the "little horn" is identified as the future antichrist who will rise to power through the "revived Roman Empire"(the fourth beast). The "time, times and half a time" (Daniel 7:25) is taken as a literal 3½ year period corresponding to the last half of the 7 year tribulation within the 70th week of Daniel 9:24-27.

See also


Over the centuries Bible Scholars have identified specific kingdoms as fulfillment of the beast and horn symbols as illustrated in the following table.


  1. ^ Ferch 1988, p. 27
  2. ^ Collins, edited by John J.; VanEpps, Peter W. Flint ; with the assistance of Cameron (2002). The book of Daniel : composition and reception ([Reprint] ed.). Boston: Brill Academic Publishers. p. 295. ISBN 0-391-04128-2. 
  3. ^ Brander, edited by Nosson Scherman ; contributing editors, Yaakov Blinder, Avie Gold, Meir Zlotowitz ; designed by Sheah (1998). Tanakh = Tanach : Torah, Neviʼim, Ketuvim : the Torah, Prophets, Writings : the twenty-four books of the Bible, newly translated and annotated (1st student size ed., Stone ed. ed.). Brooklyn, N.Y.: Mesorah Publications. ISBN 1-57819-109-2. 
  4. ^ a b Rowley 1935, p. 97
  5. ^ Wittstruck, Thorne (1978). "The Influence of Treaty Curse Imagery on the Beast Imagery of Daniel 7". JBL 97 (1): 101. 
  6. ^ Hill, Andrew E. (2008). "Daniel". Daniel-Malachi. Zondervan. p. 143. Retrieved 12 February 2015. 
  7. ^ a b New American Bible
  8. ^ After the Battle of Magnesia, Antiochus IV Epiphanes lived in Rome as a hostage in connection with the reparations his father Antiochus III the Great had to pay. In 175 BC, he was released by the intervention of his brother Seleucus IV Philopator who substituted his own son Demetrius I Soter as hostage. While Antiochus IV Epiphanes was at Athens, Seleucus IV Philopator was assassinated by his chief minister Heliodorus who then seized the throne. Antiochus IV Epiphanes with the military sanction of Pergamon monarch Eumenes II expelled Heliodorus and usurped the throne to the exclusion of Demetrius and the late king's younger son, Antiochus, still a baby in Syria. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Bromiley, 145)
  9. ^ Bright 2000, pp. 424–425
  10. ^ Bar 2001, p. 211
  11. ^ Froom 1948, p. 243
  12. ^ Froom 1948, pp. 244, 245
  13. ^ Smith 1944
  14. ^ Anderson 1975
  15. ^ Adam Clarke's Commentary of Daniel, Chapter 7 (see notes on verse 8)
  16. ^ Earle, abridged by Ralph (1831). Adam Clarke's commentary on the Bible (Reprint 1967 ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: World Pub. ISBN 9780529106346. 
  17. ^ Adam Clarke ”The Holy Bible” New York: Lane and Scott (1850) Vol. IV, Introduction to Chapter VII. Page 592 “It will be proper to remark that the period of a time, times, and a half, mentioned in the twenty-fifth verse are the duration of the dominion of the little horn that made war with the saints, (generally supposed to be a symbolic representation of the papal power,) had most probably its commencement in A.D. 755 or 756, when Pepin, king of France, invested the pope with temporal power. This hypothesis will bring the conclusion of the period to about the year of Christ 2000, a time fixed by Jews and Christians for some remarkable revolution; when the world, as they suppose, will be renewed, and the wicked cease from troubling the Church, and the saints of the Most High have dominion over the whole habitable globe.“
  18. ^ Freeborn Garretson Hibbard “Eschatology: Or, The Doctrine of the Last Things” New York: Hunt & Eaton (1890) page 84
  19. ^ D. D. Whedon “The Methodist Quarterly Review” New York: Carlton & Porter (1866) Article V page 256
  20. ^ After table in Froom 1950, pp. 456–7
  21. ^ After table in Froom 1950, pp. 894-75
  22. ^ a b After table in Froom 1948, pp. 528–9
  23. ^ After table in Froom 1948, pp. 784–5
  24. ^ After table in Froom 1946, pp. 252–3
  25. ^ After table in Froom 1946, pp. 744–5