Other Sacred Writings
We must never forget what the Bible is. It is God speaking to us. It is the Sovereign Creator and Ruler making known himself, his will, and his redemptive activity. It is God making known his story, his true story, of his glory in Jesus Christ. Week by week we have listened to God’s message according to the Hebrew order of the Old Testament Scriptures. With the book of Daniel, we come to the section simply called “Other Sacred Writings”. As we listen to God’s words in Daniel, it is very important that we listen carefully to what God says, and not to how many people try to present this book through the grid of human historical writings and contemporary media reports. Most Christians would be outraged to hear Romans interpreted by opinions of the talking heads on CNN or Fox News. But they comfortably accept it when the same worldly wisdom is applied to Daniel or the last book of the Bible. More on this shortly.
Structure of Daniel (based on Hamilton, p.325), observe the chiastic structure
- Daniel in exile (1:1-21)
- Nebuchadnezzar’s vision (2:1-49)
- Rescue from the fiery furnace (3:1-30)
- Nebuchadnezzar humbled (4:1-37)
- Belshazzar humbled (5:1-31)
- Rescue from the lion’s den (6:1-28)
- Daniel’s visions of the kingdoms (7:1-9:27)
- Daniel’s vision of the end of the exile (10:1-12:13)
Ideas and features of Daniel
- The book was written by the author of the same name; part of the book was written in Hebrew and the rest in Aramaic
- The book consists of two genres: the first six chapters are historical narrative, and the last six are apocalyptic; the apocalyptic genre uses dreams or visions that speak through complex, symbolic, and mysterious imagery
- There is much conflict in the book; God’s kingdom overcoming all the kingdoms of mankind; “God is still, and always has been, and always will be in control of his creation—even of his most egotistical creatures” (Williams, How to Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens, p. 108); to put this differently, God acts to reestablish peace
- Daniel shows that it is possible for God’s people to live godly in exile (cf. Jer 29:5-7), in spite of powerful, evil opposition; it provides examples for the way of life First Peter calls us to
- In Daniel we see God humbling the proud and exalting the humble
- God uses the prayers of the faithful to accomplish his purposes; prayer is an essential means
- Daniel emphasizes that there is hope for God’s people after the exile; in fact, God has a glorious future in store, which will take place through the Messiah
Exposition: Daniel’s dream/vision is made up of three parts. Part one presents the kingdoms of this world, part two the kingdom of God, and part three provides additional information to understand the whole dream. It occurs in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign—before chapter six.
So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. 2 Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had eagles ‘wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. 5 And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh. ’ 6 After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.
9 “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.
10 A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.
11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
13 “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17 ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever. ’
19 “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 20 and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. 21 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.
23 “Thus he said:‘As for the fourth beast,
there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24 As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.
25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
for a time, times, and half a time.
26 But the court shall sit in judgment,
and his dominion shall be taken away,
to be consumed and destroyed to the end.
27 And the kingdom and the dominion
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven
shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High;
his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey him. ’
28 “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed, but I kept the matter in my heart.
I. The first part of the dream (7:1-8)
The setting is the earth and what happens on it.
A.He saw four great beasts; they are monstrous, especially the last one, which seems like something out of an “R-rated” sci-fi horror movie.
1.They come up out of the sea, out of the world in rebellion against God (cf. Ps 89:9-10; 93:3-4); the number four represents completeness (Zech 1:18, 20; 2:6; 6:1, 5; Rev 4:6; 6; 7); these four are not necessarily consecutive kingdoms but representative kingdoms of evil throughout history
2.They are kingdoms are of different kinds (7:3) but they share the same ultimate origin, out of the sea (cf. Rev 13:1). They bring greed, oppression, genocide, and persecution.
3.People do not fare well under these kingdoms; there is oppression and cruelty; this even affects the saints. This is part of God’s story that we all want to ignore. But since the world is opposed to God, it will attack the people of God.
Point: As long as the war lasts, we will live in conflict.
B.Some observations about the interpretation of the dream
1.Daniel admitted that he was troubled and disturbed (7:15) and that he didn’t understand the meaning of his vision (7:16). Though the Spirit’s activity in the inspired writers guaranteed that the written product was the word of God, it didn’t give any special insight to the human writer. Habakkuk is another example of this. The Spirit made use of the weaknesses of the writer’s to convey God’s message to us. Here, Daniel’s mood portrays the anxiety that everyone feels about the mysterious ways of God.
2.Though Daniel was told that the four beasts are four kingdoms, he was not told the identity of the kingdoms. This dream is not a repetition of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. In other words, do not assume that they represent Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome. A case could be made that they are Great Britain, Russia, the United States, and China, or other empires throughout history, like France, Spain, and Mongolia. Nothing in history to this point matches up well with the fourth kingdom, though there are a few that have displayed its characteristics. The idea is that this is the nature of human history until the Messiah sets up God’s kingdom. Compare the teaching of Jesus (Matt 24).
3.From the fourth kingdom will come ten horns or kings. A horn represents power and ten horns suggest multiplied strength. After the ten, an eleventh will come. He will be different from the ten and will subdue three of them. He will openly speak against the Most High God, oppress the saints (those set apart for the Lord; that is, believers), and try to change the set order of all things. This might be the Antichrist mentioned in the NTS or one of the many antichrists that arise in the last days (1 Jn 2:18).
Point: Do not think you are in weird situation; the Spirit has told us of these times.
II. The second part of the dream (7:9-14)
The setting is heaven and presents how God rules over the kingdoms of the earth. If you’re fascinated with monstrous beasts when you read this chapter, you’ve missed the point. The purpose of this vision is to refresh our hope in our sovereign God.
A.Two persons dominate this dream.
1.The first is the Ancient of Days. His white clothing and hair speak of his purity. He is the Father. His throne is glorious (cf. Ezk 1:15-21, 26-27). A river of fire flows from him, the awesome power of his holy justice and wrath (cf. Rm 1:18). He is attended by a myriad of angels, as he presides of Judge over all (cf. Heb 12:23). The visions directs us to the right one to fear (Mt 10:28).
2.The second is the Son of Man. This name speaks of true humanity, but it is obvious that he is more than human. He is the “cloud rider” (Ps 68:4; Is 19:1). He is Jesus, the Son of God, who ascended in clouds of glory and will return to earth the same way. Son of Man was Jesus’ favorite name for himself. When on trial before the Jewish authorities, Jesus asserted that he is this Son of Man (Mk 14:61-62).
Point: Let the confidence of Jesus refresh your soul.
B.The sovereign authority of the Son of Man is the message of this dream.
1.The Father gives him power over all nations and people (Mt 28:18; Jn 18:36; Ac 2:29-36; 26:15-18; Rm 10:9-10; 15:12; 1 Cor 15:20-28; Eph 1:22; Ph 2:9-11; Col 1:18; 2 Th 1:6-10; 2 Tm 4:1; etc.)
2.People from all nations worship him (fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, cf. Rev 5).
3.The Son of Man will rule in his kingdom (7:14b), and his people will share in his kingdom (7:18, 27). Here is the ultimate hope for his people. We ought to confidently anticipate that day everyday.
Point: Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2).
Apply: The purpose of prophecy is to fuel fresh faith in our sovereign Lord. Yes, we live in terrible times, but those times lead up to the full display of the amazing glory of God. It simply awaits a word from the court of heaven (9:26-27). Then the Lord Christ will come with a sharp sword and strike down the nations and rule with an iron scepter (Rev 19:11-16). His name is the Word of God.
Ideas that by grace can change our lives:
- As long as the war lasts, we will live in conflict
- Do not think you are in weird situation; the Spirit has told us of these times
- Let the confidence of Jesus refresh your soul
- Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith
Pastor Dave Frampton
The faithful and spiritually profitable labors of Dave Frampton are featured here at CMC. As a Bible teacher he excels. Teacher and student alike will profit much from his labor in God’s Word. Visit Newtown Square Baptist Church.