Thoughts to Ponder: Chapter 18

Chapter 18: Daniel Glimpses Eternity ~ Daniel 7:1-14

Q1 – How was the fourth beast different from the other beasts in Daniel’s dream? How was its ultimate fate different?

A1 – As you read the descriptions of the beasts, notice that, unlike the first three, the fourth beast is not likened to any known animal. In addition to being terrifying, only three characteristics are named at first: huge iron teeth, feet, and ten horns. Then, when the small horn appeared and three of the original horns were torn out by the roots to make room for it, the characteristics of eyes and a mouth are mentioned. This beast was a destruction machine. It used it’s extra strong and powerful iron teeth to devour and crush its victims, and any pieces that remained were stomped and trampled under its feet. It was also the only beast that spoke.

The horns of the fourth beast figure prominently, while no mention is made of horns on the other three beasts. Horns are mentioned numerous times in the Bible. They typically symbolize strength, power, and authority. Animals which have horns use them to both aggressively fight others for control as well as to defend themselves. The alter of the burnt offering in the tabernacle was constructed with a horn at each of its four corners (Exodus 27:2), as was the alter of incense (Exodus 30:2-3).

While the fourth beast was the most terrifying and destructive of all the beasts, it was the only one killed, and its body was destroyed by fire. The other three beasts were allowed to live awhile longer, but their authority to rule was taken away.

Q2 – How are the words spoken by the mouth on the horn of the fourth beast described? (Compare several versions of the Bible to get a better idea.) When does this mouth finally stop uttering these words? Do you sense relief when the words cease?

Note: If you want to compare various versions side by side, is a good site to use. Type in “Daniel 7” in the search box and then click either the word “Parallel” to go through the chapter verse by verse using many versions, or right under that word is an icon for “Parallel Chapters” (hover over the icons to see what they mean). This view shows the whole chapter in five different versions at once.

A2 – In general, the various versions say the mouth was speaking great things, uttering great boasts, or boasting arrogantly. The ISV states the little horn “had eyes like those of a human being and a mouth that boasted with audacious claims.” (Daniel 7:8b, ISV)

So the mouth on the little horn of the fourth beast seemed to be uttering words of self-directed, over-exaggerated praise. Perhaps it was boasting of its great power and of its great ability to destroy. Perhaps it was making threats and accusations. The exact words it spoke are unknown, but they were greatly disturbing for Daniel to hear. This beast was already terrifying to look at, with its huge iron teeth that ruthlessly devoured its victims and feet that crushed to pieces whatever was left of them. You can imagine that the words it spewed from its mouth made it even more horrifying to behold.

While Daniel was observing these beasts, the judgement scene came into place. (Note the similarities with the judgement scene described in Revelation 20:11-15.) Although it’s not explicitly stated, you get the sense that the fourth beast has been continually uttering these boastful words the entire time: “‘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.’” (Daniel 7:11, NIV)

The fourth beast was silenced upon its death. Its reign of terror and destruction were over, and the beast itself was destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. What a relief that must have been to Daniel, and what a relief to those who, through the centuries, have read Daniel’s account of this vision! We can know that ultimately evil will be destroyed.

Q3 – Describe the power represented by the beasts. Is their power peaceful? Is it lasting? Contrast their power with that of the Son of Man.

Note: Bible commentaries can be very helpful in studying the Bible. While they are not inspired writings, they offer insight and represent many years of study by Bible scholars. This site, Bible Study Tools, provides a collection of commentaries as well as many other useful Bible resources.

A3 – Recall Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream of the giant statue in Daniel 2. Each of the four parts of the statue represented the kingdoms which would come into power, one after the other. The head of gold was Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian empire, but the others were not explicitly named. However, the fourth was characterized with legs of iron and feet that were part iron and part clay. It would crush the other kingdoms with its sheer strength but ultimately would not hold together, as iron and clay do not mix.

Various Bible scholars believe Daniel’s dream in chapter 7 parallels Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2. Indeed, when you read the remainder of chapter 7 and the explanation that was provided to Daniel, you learn that the four beasts do represent four early kingdoms (Daniel 7:17). You also see the commonality of what will ultimately happen, that in the end that “the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever…” (Daniel 7:18, NIV).

While the earthly kingdoms represented by the four beasts are not named, the general assumption seems to be that the first beast is the Babylonian empire and the second is the Medo-Persian, which took over when Belshazzar was killed and Darius came to power. Daniel lived during the time of these two kingdoms, so we have his historical record. The third kingdom is assumed to be Greece, and the fourth the Roman Empire. This would fit with the Romans being in power during the time of Christ and the ensuing great persecution of the early day Christians. (This article by John F. Walvoord entitled, “Daniel’s Vision of Future World History,” discusses Daniel Chapter 7 at length. He also presents an entire series on Daniel, which you may find interesting as well.)

Regardless of which world kingdoms these four beasts represent or how dreaded and oppressive their power, the good news in this whole vision is the coming of the “son of man.” Christians recognize this to be Jesus, who often referred to Himself in this manner. (Search for this phrase and note the references in Matthew alone.) Having lived a life without sin, Jesus became the perfect sacrifice, once and for all. He fulfilled the Old Law and established God’s new, eternal kingdom which will never end or be destroyed.

New Testament scriptures affirm what Daniel saw in his vision in Daniel 7:13-14. In what is known as the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus stated that all authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth. Other New Testament scriptures state that He now sits at God’s right hand (Ephesians 1:18-23 is one of several such references). Stephen, as he was being stoned, looked up and said he saw Jesus at God’s right hand (Acts 7:55-57).

So while we cannot know with absolute certainty who the beasts represent or the meaning of the various details of their descriptions, we can be certain of the most important part—Jesus Christ reigns eternal and God’s eternal kingdom will never be destroyed!