Daniel 7:1-8; Four Beasts from the Sea ~ 20220320 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

03/20_Daniel 07:1-8; Four Beasts from the Sea; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220320_dan07_1-8.mp3


Daniel chapter 7 is the hinge of the book, that links the two sections of the book together. The first six chapters are mostly narrative, giving us the accounts of saints under persecution, God’s people displaced from their land, suffering oppression and opposition from foreign powers, who burn them and throw them to wild beasts.

But it is also the story of God’s provision for them in the midst of captivity, his presence with them in suffering, his preservation and protection of them through persecution and even death. And it is the story of the powerful witness of God’s people to their persecutors, bringing light to the nations, revealing who this God of Israel is, a God who is able to humble the proud (4:37) and lift up the humble. As Nebuchadnezzar learned, ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men’ (4:17,25,32).

Chapter 7 begins the section of apocalyptic visions of future events, showing that although God’s people will be severely persecuted and even killed, God is still sovereign, and the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.

Temple Ransacked/Restored

Chapter 1 begins with God’s holy people and the holy vessels of God’s temple given into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (1:1-2) and chapter 6 concludes with:

Daniel 6:28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Darius the Mede, known outside of Daniel as Cyrus the Persian, is the one according to Ezra 1 who in his first year made a decree to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, to release the exiles and return to them the vessels of the house of YHWH that had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar.

First Year of Belshazzar

Chapter 7 jumps back more than 15 years, to the first year of Belshazzar. Belshazzar was the wicked final king of Babylon, who

Daniel 5:23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

Chapter 7 falls chronologically between the events of chapters 4 and 5. The 9 tumultuous years since Nebuchadnezzar’s death saw the succession of 4 different kings, characterized by assassination and revolution. Belshazzar was an evil ruler, hostile to God and his people. In the year his father Nabonidus entrusted him with the kingdom and left to pursue his interest in history and archaeology, God gave Daniel this vision of four beasts rising up out of the sea.

Mirror of Chapter 2

Although chapter 7 connects by genre with the rest of the apocalyptic visions of the second half, it connects linguistically and structurally with the first half of the book, tying the two parts together.

Chapters 2-7 were written in Aramaic, the language of the nations, while the introduction (1:1-2:4) and chapters 8-12 were written in Hebrew, the language of God’s people. So linguistically, chapter 7 is the final section of the Aramaic.

If we look at an outline of this Aramaic section of Daniel, it is laid out in a mirror structure. Starting in the middle, we have chapters 4 and 5, the tale of two proud kings, one who was humbled by God and bowed to the Most High, and one who arrogantly defied the God of Israel and was weighed and found wanting, whose days were numbered and whose kingdom was divided. Moving out, we have chapters 3 and 6, the three Hebrews accused of refusing to bow to an idol, who were thrown into the furnace, who were preserved through the fire and lifted up; and Daniel, accused of refusing to cease bowing to the Most High, who was thrown to the lions, but preserved by the presence of God, lifted up above his enemies. The outer pair, chapters 2 and 7, are both visions of four kingdoms of this world ultimately crushed by the Most High and replaced by his everlasting kingdom.

In fact, it seems these two chapters are in content the same vision, one given to Nebuchadnezzar and interpreted by Daniel, one given to Daniel and interpreted by an angel. Like the dreams interpreted by Joseph many years prior,

Genesis 4:25 ...“The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. ...32 And the doubling of Pharaoh's dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.

Remember, the vision given to Nebuchadnezzar was also given to Daniel, because Nebuchadnezzar was testing his interpreters and refused to tell them his dream.

Nebuchadnezzar sees the empires of the earth in the image of a man, made of precious metals. Daniel sees the kingdoms of man as deviant and distorted wild beasts intent on destruction. Nebuchadnezzar sees the coming kingdom as a meteoric stone hurtling through space. Daniel sees one in true humanity coming on the clouds to receive the kingdom from his Father.

The Sea and Winds from Heaven

It will be helpful as we work our way through this vision to compare it with the parallel vision of chapter 2.

In chapter 2, God ‘has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. ...as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be’ (2:28-29). ‘A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure’ (2:45). These are future events, extending to the very end of time.

Daniel 7:1 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.

In chapter 2,

Daniel 2:31 “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening.

Here in chapter 7,

Daniel 7:2 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.

Nebuchadnezzar saw the unified nature of the kingdoms of man; one colossal glorious but frightening image standing in defiance of God.

The angel gave Daniel this interpretation in verse 17;

Daniel 7:17 ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth.

Daniel sees four gigantic beasts, each different from one another, emerging from the sea. The great sea is dangerous, turbulent and unstable, home of the great dragon Leviathan (Is.27:1; Ps.74:13-14). But it is the four winds of heaven, the very breath of God that stirs the sea, and calls up the beasts, each raised up by God to carry out his own sovereign will.

Babylon [605 – 539 BC] (66yrs)

Nebuchadnezzar’s vision started at the top.

Daniel 2:32 The head of this image was of fine gold,

In Daniel’s vison,

Daniel 7:4 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.

Daniel’s interpretation in chapter 2 began:

Daniel 2:37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.

Nebuchadnezzar, head of the Babylonian empire, is the head of gold.

In Daniel’s dream, the first beast is a hybrid, like a lion, but with eagle’s wings. Jeremiah (4:7) compares Babylon to a lion, a destroyer of nations; while Ezekiel (17:3) compares Babylon to a great eagle. The famous Ishtar gate of Babylon was decorated with lions.

If we recall the events of chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar was lifted up with pride, but he was humbled by God, driven from among men, made to eat grass like an ox, his hair grew like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws (4:33). But ‘at the end of the days I ...lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me’ (4:34). This fits well with what is said of the first beast, whose wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up and given the mind of a man.

Medo-Persia [539 – 330 BC] (207 yrs)

The image from chapter 2 had:

Daniel 2:32 ...its chest and arms of silver,

Daniel’s interpretations was that:

Daniel 2:39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you,

Historically, Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon in 539 BC.

Daniel 7:5 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.’

The Median empire came first, but was quickly absorbed by Persia, which grew to dominance. This could explain one side being raised up. The three main conquests of Medo-Persia were Babylon (539 BC), Lydia (546 BC) and Egypt (525 BC), possibly explaining the three ribs in its mouth.

Greece [330 – 146 BC] (186 yrs)

The multi-metallic image had:

Daniel 2:32 ...its middle and thighs of bronze,

And the interpretation:

Daniel 2:39 ...and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.

Alexander the Great overtook Persia and conquered Babylon in 330 BC. Daniel:

Daniel 7:6 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.

Alexander, son of Philip II of Macedon, student of Aristotle, took the throne at only 20 years old, after his fathers assassination in 336 BC. The speed and success of his military career gained him one of the largest empires in history and a reputation as one of history’s greatest military commanders. In 10 short years, with the speed of a winged leopard, he had extended his empire from Macedonia to Egypt, from Greece to India. Legend has it that he ‘wept seeing as he had no more worlds to conquer’.

Alexander died at age 32 in Babylon, and his empire was eventually divided between four of his generals. The four heads were Antipater, and later Cassander ruled Greece and Macedonia; Lysimachus ruled Thrace and much of Asia Minor; Seleucus ruled Syria, Babylon, and much of the Middle East; and Ptolemy ruled Egypt and Palestine. Chapter 8 brings much more clarity and confirmation of this understanding of the Greek empire, but we will get there when we get there.

Rome [146 BC - 1453 AD??] (1599 yrs?)

The image of Nebuchadnezzar had

Daniel 2:33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.

The interpretation:

Daniel 2:40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these.

In Daniel’s vision,

Daniel 7:7 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.

In verse 19, Daniel

Daniel 7:19 “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,

The angelic interpreter said:

Daniel 7:23 “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.

The Roman Republic had grown over time, and by the 2nd century BC, Rome had overtaken the divided Greek empire as the new world power. Their unprecedented power extended beyond all previous boundaries into Africa, Spain and Europe, controlling the entire Mediterranean. The iron boot of the Roman Legions crushed nations. And their longevity far surpassed any other empire. Where Babylon lasted about 66 years, Medo-Persian domination some 200 years, Greek control around 180; Rome’s power extended over 1500 years, and their culture and politics have continued to shape civilization up through our present day.

God Sovereign over the Nations

We haven’t even gotten to the good part yet, but it is already clear that even in the face of these nightmarish beasts bent on destruction, God is sovereign over the nations.

It was explicit in chapter 2; ‘The God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory’ to Nebuchadnezzar; it is God who gives it into his hand and makes him rule (2:37-38). Here in chapter 7, we see the same thing in the wind from heaven and the divine passives; of the first beast, ‘it was lifted up ...and made to stand ...the mind of a man was given to it’ (7:4). The second beast was given a divine commission; ‘it was told ‘arise, devour much flesh’ (7:5). ‘Dominion was given to’ the third beast (7:6). The final beast, ‘the saints of the Most High ...shall be given into his hand’ for a limited period of time (7:25).

Do not be afraid of fire or wild beasts; the God whom you serve continually is able to deliver you. Do not be derailed by those who arrogantly lift themselves up and oppose he living God; he is able to humble the proud. Jesus said:

Matthew 24:6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.

The nations rage, kings and kingdoms rise and fall, but God is seated on his eternal throne; ‘the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’


2022.03.20 Sermon Notes

Daniel 7:1-8 Four Beasts from the Sea

1-6: narrative of the saints under persecution

7-12: apocalyptic visions of God’s sovereignty over persecutors

Aramaic Section:

2 The King’s Dream -4 kingdom statue

--3 The Fiery Furnace -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

----4 Nebuchadnezzar’s Beastly Pride – repentance -> worship

----5 Belshazzar’s Pride & fall

--6 The Lion’s Den -refusal to worship; divine rescue & exalted

7 Daniel’s Dream -4 kingdom beasts

Babylon; the head of gold [605-539 BC]

Daniel 2:32, 37-38 // Daniel 7:4

Medo-Persia; chest and arms of silver [539-330 BC]

Daniel 2:32, 39 // Daniel 7:5

Greece; middle and thighs of bronze [330-146 BC]

Daniel 2:32, 39 // Daniel 7:6

Rome; legs of iron [146 BC – 1453 AD]

Daniel 2:33, 40 // Daniel 7:7, 19, 23

God is sovereign over the nations

Daniel 2:37-38 // Daniel 7:2, 4-6, 25

Matthew 24:6-8

Daniel 4:17, 25, 32; 5:21


Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org