I Dreamed A Dream
The writer dates this dream for us. It is out of chronological order for the book. Daniel saw this dream and vision in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign. This would put the event somewhere between chapters 3 and 4. The Babylonians still ruled the world. They seemed invincible.
The night vision granted to Daniel in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign is a rich source from which the imagery of John’s visions will be drawn in Revelation.
The message of this apocalyptic vision is simple: hope for God’s people that are oppressed, for victory belongs ultimately and permanently to God and his people.
The first things Daniel saw in his dream, or vision, was a series of beasts. They were all terrifying. Each was worse than the preceding ones.
The beasts came up out of the sea. (3) The sea was churning with the winds of heaven. Remember that the sea was seen by those in the Middle East as dangerous and scary. It was the epitome of chaos and evil. It symbolized rebellion against God. For the beasts to come out of the sea, then, indicated they would bring danger and evil to God’s people.
The first beast was like a lion, but it had eagles wings. it is a combination of two unclean (under Old Testament law) animals. This beast was lifted up to stand on two feet like a man and the mind of man was given to it. (4)
The second beast was like a bear. (5) It raised up one side, as if to attack. It had 3 ribs in its mouth from something it had already devoured. But it was told to “devour much flesh”. (5)
The third beast was like a leopard, but with 4 wings on its back. (6) As if that were not enough, it had four heads. Dominion was given to it, meaning it ruled over other nations.
Finally the fourth beast was the most terrifying of all. Not much is told of its appearance. It was terrifying, dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth that destroyed everything in its path. It stamped on the remains with its feet.
The fourth beast also had 10 horns. (7) Horns are symbols of power. Ten hors symbolizes massive strength.
While Daniel looked at the 10 horns, another, small horn came up, causing 3 of the first horns to be uprooted. This horn had eyes like a man and was boasting (saying great things).
We will see in verse 17 that each beast represents a king, each worse than the preceding one.
This vision all occurs on earth, from the sea to the land. But the next verses, 9-10, shift the scene from earth to heaven.
God on his Throne
While on earth the beasts caused chaos and destruction, the scene is heaven is quite different. Thrones were set up. In the center, God the Father, the Ancient of Days, took his seat on his throne. Daniel’s first sight in heaven is dominated by God on his throne. Likewise, when John is taken to heaven in his vision in Revelation, the first thing he saw was God seated on his glorious throne. (Revelation 4:2-3)
In Daniel’s vision, the throne was fiery flames. It wheels were burning fire, reminding us of Ezekiel’s vision of a throne in Ezekiel 1, with fire all about and wheels that blazed with the fire of the four living creatures that bore it.
Daniel saw other thrones as well, the picture of a court of judgment by rulers. (9) In fact, it says the court sat in judgment and the books were opened. (10) The idea is that the books are accounts of the sins of all who lived on earth. Those are the books Daniel also saw, as judgment is about to come in his vision also.
John also saw 24 thrones and 24 elders sitting on them. (Revelation 4:4) John also saw judgment as books were opened. (Revelation 20:11-12) Daniel had no other book. But John saw the Book of Life containing the names of all who are in Christ and, therefore, saved in full.
Daniel described God anthropomorphically. He described human traits, but these, I believe, are symbols. God’s hair was white, probably symbolizing wisdom. (John in Revelation says the Son of Man’s head and hair are white like wool or snow.) His clothing was white, symbolizing purity. Fire came out from the throne, symbolizing the power and right to judge and destroy his evil enemies.
God is also attended by an uncountable number (then thousand times then thousand) beings who served him. (10)
Judgment of the Beasts
The speaking horn continued to boast up to the last minute when the beast was killed, its body destroyed, and it was given over to be burned with fire. The other beasts suffered the removal of their dominion, but lived for a while longer.
The Son of Man
The next part of the vision showed one like the son of man arrive in heaven on the clouds. This is an Aramaic term meaning “human being” as contrasted to the beasts. But it takes on more meaning for us than it would for Daniel, for it is used 69 times in the Synoptic Gospels and 12 times in the Gospel of John to refer to Christ. It is also the title Jesus most often used of himself.
The image of one like the son of man in Daniel 7 is used to portray Christ in Revelation 1:13.
The Son of Man comes with the clouds. In the Old Testament, only God comes on the clouds. It is a symbol of divinity. For example, Isaiah 19:1 says “Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud”. Ezekiel’s first vision of the glory of the Lord began with a cloud that had brightness around it. (Ezekiel 1:4) When God came to Mount Sinai to make a covenant with Israel, there was a thick cloud on the mountain. (Exodus 19:16) At his trial, Jesus was asked by the high priest if he was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus said he would see the Son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven. The high priest accused him of blasphemy, understanding he was claiming to be God. (Matthew 26:57-68)
The Son of man was presented to the Ancient of Days. The Son was presented to the Father. The son received dominion, glory and a kingdom. This must have been confusing to Daniel, for this Son of Man had human and divine traits. It makes sense to us, though, for we know Jesus was fully human and fully divine on earth and will keep his appearance, in glorified form, for eternity.
In this kingdom all peoples, nations, and languages serve and worship the Son. This is the same language used in the kings proclamations in Daniels to refer to all the people of the world. The dominion of the Son will last forever. it will never pass away. It cannot be destroyed, unlike the kingdoms represented by the beasts. (14)