In the notes upon the parallel, though supplementary, vision contained in Daniel 2, 7 attention has been directed to each of the four empires which has hitherto governed the world. It has been explained in the notes that these four empires are the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Græco-Macedonian, and the Roman. The fourth empire in each case is succeeded by the kingdom of the Messiah, which in Daniel 2 is symbolised by a stone, but in Daniel 7:27 is described more clearly as the “kingdom of the people of the saints of the Most High.” This view of the four kingdoms is found in the early part of the second century A.D. maintained by the author of the epistle of Barnabas, who speaks of the ten kingdoms (Barn., Ep. iv. 4, 5) foretold by Daniel as then existing, and of the fourth beast as then reigning. The fragments of St. Hippolytus show that the same opinion prevailed in the Church a century later. The longer ecclesiastical commentaries of St. Jerome and Theodoret maintain the same opinion, which has been followed in modern times, with some modifications, by a large number of commentators.
A second view, of great antiquity, is mentioned by Porphyry, who flourished in the third century. His opinion coincided with the interpretation just mentioned up to a certain point. He made the panther, or third beast, represent Alexander the Great; but the fourth beast, according to him, meant the four successors of Alexander. He then enumerated up to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes those kings whom he conceived to have been most remarkable for persecuting God’s people in the times of the Ptolemies and Seleucidæ, and ultimately identified the little horn with Antiochus Epiphanes, in whose time he believed the Book of Daniel to have been written. This view has not been without support in recent times.
A third view, which has antiquity to support it, is due in the first instance to St. Ephraim Syrus, according to whose teaching the four kingdoms are the Babylonian, the Median, the Persian, and the Greek. He is careful, however, to point out that the fulfilment which the prophecy received in the times of the Maccabees is only typical of a further fulfilment to be expected in the last days. It exceeds the limit of a note to trace the origin of this opinion in the Syrian Church, and the development of it in modern times. It is sufficient to observe that, like Porphyry’s interpretation, it limits the horizon of the prophet chiefly to the Greek period.
This view, which, more or less modified, finds many adherents in the present day, rests upon the identification of the little horn in Daniel 7:8, with the little horn in Daniel 8:9. If Antiochus is the horn of Daniel 8, why should he not be hinted at in Daniel 7? and if so, why should not the goat (Daniel 8:5), which is known (Daniel 8:21) to be the kingdom of Greece, be identical with the fourth beast of Daniel 7? It is then argued that the period of persecution hinted at in Daniel 7:25 coincides with that which is mentioned in Daniel 9:27, being half a week, or three days and a half, and that the same measure of time occurs in Daniel 12:7. Is it possible, it is asked, that these similar measures of time represent different events? Again, it is observed that there is no interval mentioned as occurring between the last times and the times of the persecutions mentioned in Daniel 7, 8, 10-12, and also that the words in which Antiochus is predicted (Daniel 8:19) are spoken of as the “last end of indignation” and “the end.” This is stated to support the view that the predictions of Daniel are limited by the times of Antiochus.
On these grounds the persecution mentioned in Daniel 7:25 is supposed to be that of Antiochus. The Greek Empire is represented by the fourth beast, while the second and third beasts represent the Median and the Persian Empires respectively. But here the question arises, Are there any grounds for believing that Daniel intended to speak of a distinct Median Empire? The passages alleged in support are Daniel 5:28; Daniel 5:31; Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12; Daniel 6:15. Daniel states of Darius expressly that he was a Mede and of Median descent (Daniel 5:31; Daniel 9:1; Daniel 11:1), and, on the contrary, that Cyrus was a Persian (Daniel 6:28; Daniel 10:1). Also in Daniel 6:28 the writer appears to be contrasting Darius the Mede with Cyrus the Persian, as if each belonged to a different empire. And though the kings of Media and Persia are distinctly mentioned in Daniel 8:20, it is maintained that the unity of the Medo-Persian Empire is not established thereby, because the two horns, and not the body, of the goat are assumed to be the key of the vision. If the brief duration and slight importance of the so-called Median Empire is objected, it is replied that the importance of it to Israel was very great, for in the first year of it the exile terminated, and at that very time Darius was under the special protection of the Angel of the Lord (Daniel 11:1).
Upon this hypothesis the visions in Daniel 2, 7 are explained in the following manner:—The materials of which the feet of the image were formed corresponds to the two divisions of the Greek Empire noticed in Daniel 11, the iron representing the Ptolemies, the clay the Seleucidæ. The mixture of the iron and clay points to such attempts as are mentioned in Daniel 11:8; Daniel 11:17 to unite certain heterogeneous elements in the political world. The silver breasts and arms are the Median Empire, which was inferior to the Babylonian (Daniel 2:39). which, it is asserted, does not hold true of the Persian Empire. Then comes the Persian Empire, which, as Daniel interpreted the vision (Daniel 2:39), “bare rule over all.” Similarly, in Daniel 7, those who maintain the interpretation find no difficulty about the first beast; but the second beast is Darius the Mede; the three ribs are the three satrapies mentioned in Daniel 6:2 (St. Ephraim explains them of the Medes, the Babylonians, and the Persians). The command, “Arise, and devour much flesh,” means that the empire of Darius had a great future prospect, which he would not realise. Then the panther is Cyrus; the four wings are the Persians, Medes, Babylonians, and Egyptians; the four heads are four Persian kings, Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius Hystaspes, and the last, who is either Xerxes or Darius Codemannus. It remains that the fourth beast is the Greek Empire, the first which was of a totally distinct character from the Asiatic empires which had preceded it. The little horn is Antiochus Epiphanes, and the other ten horns are ten kings, who are not supposed to be reigning simultaneously; three of them, however, were contemporaneous with the little horn. The ten kings are assumed to be—(1) Seleucus Nicator, (2) Antiochus Soter, (3) Antiochus Theos, (4) Seleucus Callinicus, (5) Seleucus Ceraunus, (6) Antiochus the Great, (7) Seleucus Philopator, (8) Heliodorus, (9) Demetrius, (10) Ptolemy Philometor. The last three were deposed by Antiochus Epiphanes, the allusion being to Demetrius (Daniel 11:21) and to Ptolemy Philometor (Daniel 11:22-28). It is then alleged that all the events which are explicitly mentioned in Daniel 11 are figuratively expressed by the ten toes of the image and by the ten horns of the fourth beast.
In this interpretation there is much that appears plausible at first sight. It seems to make the whole plan of the book more distinct, and to introduce a symmetry and coherence among the several parts which is wanting to the interpretation given above. But though the truth is simple, everything simple is not true. Grave difficulties will be found, upon closer inspection, to underlie this hypothesis respecting the four kingdoms.
(1) What reason is there for identifying the little horn in Daniel 7:8 with the little horn in Daniel 8:9? In one case it grows up amongst ten, in the other out of four. In one case it destroys three of the other horns, in the other none. Or, to take Daniel’s own interpretation, the “kink of a fierce countenance” (Daniel 8:23) arises while the four horns are still in existence, though “in the latter time of their kingdom.” Bearing in mind that the ten toes of the image correspond to the ten horns of the fourth beast, there appears to be strong primâ facie evidence for supposing that the horizon of Daniel 8 is different from that of Daniel 2, 7, 11.
(2) Further consideration shows that Antiochus Epiphanes does not correspond with the little horn (Daniel 7), or with the king mentioned (Daniel 11:21, &c.). Antiochus is foretold (Daniel 8:9-12; Daniel 8:23-25) as “becoming great toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land, and waxing great even to the host of heaven,” &c.; but the person foretold in Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:20; Daniel 7:25, “has a mouth speaking proud things,” &c. In no point do these two awful personages agree, except in blaspheming God and in making war against His people. They differ in many important respects.
(3) The measures of time, again, are different in each vision. Antiochus Epiphanes carries on his destructive work for 2,300 (or 1,150) days, but the Antichrist mentioned in Daniel 7:25 has the saints in his power for a “time, times, and the dividing of time.” By no possible calculation can these two measures of time be made identical. Nor can the same measure of time which occurs in Daniel 12:7 be identified either with the 1,290 days, or with the 1,335 days mentioned in Daniel 12:11-12.
(4) Further, in Daniel 8:9 “the last end of indignation” does not mean the end of all things, any more than it means the end of the captivity. It points to the persecution of Antiochus, when, for the last time in Jewish history, the innocent suffered for the guilt of the apostates. This was a persecution of which the adherence of the Jews to their religion was the cause. Politics provoked later persecutions, but in this they were involved in only a secondary manner. The plain question was, would the Jews suffer their religion to be Hellenised, or would they not? This, again, is alien to the thoughts contained in Daniel 7:21; Daniel 7:25.
(5) Nor is it clear that Daniel knew of a Median as distinct from a Persian Empire. If Darius “received the kingdom,” some superior power must have given it to him. If he was “made king,” some higher authority must have invested him with the sovereignty. Nor does history give us any reasons for supposing that there was at this time any broad national distinction between the Medes and Persians.
(6) Lastly, the empire of Alexander the Great does not correspond to the fourth empire, which is described in Daniel 2, 7. None of the elements of iron appear in it. The leading characteristic of it was not “breaking in pieces and bruising” other empires, but rather assimilation. The policy of it was to Hellenise them, to clothe their ideas in Greek forms, to unite widely separated nations which it had subdued, by treating them courteously, adopting their national customs, and by polishing the whole external with Greek culture.
Great and undoubted though the difficulties are which are contained in the interpretation given above in the Notes, they are not so great as those which are involved by the so-called “modern” interpretation just mentioned.
Daniel 7:1In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.VII.
(1) The date of this and of the following chapter comes in chronological order after the fourth chapter. As St. Jerome has observed, “In superioribus ordo sequitur historiœ quid sub Nebuchadonosor et Balthasar, et Dario sive Cyro mirabilium signorum acciderit. In kis vero narrantur somnia quœ singulis sint visa ternporibus: quorum solus propheta conscius est, et nullam habent apud barbaras nationes signi vel revelationis magnitudinem, sed tantum scribuntur, ut apud posteros eorum quœ visa sunt memoria perseveret.”
Visions.—From this, and from the phrase “sum of the matters,” it appears that Daniel had other visions at this time. By “sum” is meant the principal parts of the vision.
The wings . . . plucked.—The eagle, deprived of its wings, loses its power of swiftness and unrestrained motion.
From the earth.—The beast was raised from being on its four feet into the position of a man, as is indicated by the words “a man’s heart.” We have not sufficient historical details respecting the last years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign to enable us to point to the reference. It has been suggested by St. Jerome that the words refer to the madness of the king and to his subsequent recovery; but it must be borne in mind that it is the kingdom rather than the king of Babylon which is the subject of the vision.
One side.—In explaining this very difficult phrase, it must be remembered that the two sides of the bear are parallel in meaning to the two breasts and two arms of the Colossus. It is implied, therefore, that the second kingdom consists of two parts, and the raising up of one side implies that one part of the kingdom would come into greater prominence than the other. Such was the case with the Medo-Persian Empire (comp. Daniel 8:3), in which the Persian element surpassed the Median.
Three ribs.—These cannot signify the people who constitute the second empire, but rather some kingdoms which had already been subdued by it; and by the command, “Arise and devour,” the second empire is permitted to make further conquests before its disappearance. The three ribs have been understood from the time of St. Hippolytus to mean three nations: the Babylonians, the Lydians, and the Egyptians.
The residue—i.e., what it did not destroy with its teeth it trampled upon and annihilated with its feet.
Ancient of days.—Literally, a very aged man. (Comp. Ezekiel 1:26-28.) The attribute of age expresses the majesty of the judge. (Comp. Psalm 55:19; Deuteronomy 33:27.) It may be remarked that notwithstanding the title “Ancient” is applied to the Deity, “Anou,” yet His titles, “generator and father of the gods,” are so completely at variance with Old Testament doctrines that it is inconceivable that Daniel should have incorporated in his vision any portions of Babylonian mythology. Similar remarks apply to Silik-moulou-khi, between whom and the Son of man (Daniel 7:13) a parallel has been pointed out. The conception of the former is completely different from what is revealed about the latter.
White as snow.—Indicating, like the “pure wool,” the purity and justice of the Judge.
Fiery flame.—Fire appears in Scripture sometimes as a metaphor for affliction or punishment (e.g., 1 Corinthians 3:13, &c.), sometimes as a symbol of the chastening and punitive righteousness of God (Ezekiel 1:13-14; Ezekiel 1:27-28). Elsewhere it sets forth the fiery indignation which devours the enemies of God (Hebrews 10:27; Revelation 19:11-12). The figure of speech is here used in each of these senses. The “wheels” represent the omnipresence of Almighty God.
Burning flame.—Such is the doctrine of final retribution, as revealed to Daniel. (Comp. Isaiah 66:24; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10.)
Time and times and the dividing of time.—This is frequently explained to mean three years and a half. Those who adopt this explanation assume that by “times” a dual is implied, which in Chaldee is represented by the plural. They next assume that by “a time” is meant one year, resting their assumption partly on Daniel 4:16, and partly on a comparison of Daniel 12:7 with Revelation 13:5; Revelation 11:2-3. This gives a sum of three years and a half, which is interpreted either literally, or explained to mean half a sabbatical period, or half some divinely-appointed period symbolised by the number “seven.” According to the second interpretation, Daniel teaches us that the days of tribulation shall be shortened (Matthew 24:22). But it may be questioned whether “years” are intended in Daniel 4:16. Also the language in Daniel 12:7 is very obscure. A more correct view of the prediction is that the reign of Antichrist will be divided into three periods—the first long, the second longer, the third shortest of all. It also appears that the last is to be the severest time of trial. It may be remarked that in Daniel 9 the seventy weeks are divided into three periods, forming a similar series, 7 + 62 + 1 = 70.
Unto the end.—Comp. Daniel 6:26.
In my heart.—Daniel suffers as in Daniel 7:15 and Daniel 10:8. However, he comforts himself by keeping in his heart the words of the angel spoken in Daniel 7:17. (Comp. Luke 2:19.)