Daniel 7 has the first of four dreams Daniel will see. These are prophetic in nature, and I’ll share some thoughts from scholars on what they might mean. Daniel chapters 1 through 6 describe the life and times of Daniel. Chapters 7 through 12 describe visions Daniel had. This first vision was the most comprehensive. “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea”. Stirring up the Great Sea is almost certainly the Mediterranean Sea. Each one of the empires mentioned in this vision had a geographical connection to the Mediterranean Sea.
In the dream, four large, ferocious animals emerged from the Great Sea, each one distinct from the other. Daniel tells us that these four beasts are four kingdoms ruling over the earth. The descriptions are:
- The first was like a lion – This fits in well with the majesty and authority of Nebuchadnezzar in his reign over the empire of Babylon.
- The second like a bear – The Medes and Persians are compared to a bear on account of their cruelty and thirst after blood.
- The third was like a leopard – This represents the Greek Empire. Alexander the Great quickly conquered the civilized world by age 28.
- The fourth beast was indescribable, and uniquely horrific in its power and conquest – this represents the Roman Empire, which was the largest, strongest, most unified and enduring of them all.
Each animal is mighty, but dominates its prey in a different way. The lion devours, the bear crushes, and the leopard springs upon its prey.
Then Daniel sees God. “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire”. The Ancient of Days is obviously God, but there is debate as to if He is specifically God the Father or God the Son. Most believe it is God the Father, and the white garments and white hair stress the eternal character of God the Father. The key is that God is God and in control of all things. He’s there, watching all of it and orchestrating the desired outcome.
“As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me”. Daniel saw all this, and in more detail than he describes for us. He did not really understand all that he saw, and was troubled because of his lack of understanding. The divine interpretation of the dream shows that this vision covers the same material as Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in Daniel 2, which also described the rise of four empires, which are succeeded by the kingdom of God. Daniel was convinced that the prophecy was true, and that it was the word of God.
Most of these comments courtesy of David Guzik’s commentary.