Section I. - Analysis of the Chapter
This chapter contains an account of a remarkable prophetic dream which Daniel had in the first year of the reign of Belshazzar, and of the interpretation of the dream. After a brief statement of the contents of the chapter, it will be proper, in order to its more clear exposition, to state the different methods which have been proposed for interpreting it, or the different views of its application which have been adopted. The chapter comprises the following main points: the vision, Daniel 7:1-14; and the explanation, Daniel 7:15-28.
I. The vision, Daniel 7:1-14. The dream occurred in the first year of the reign of Belshazzar, and was immediately written out. Daniel is represented as standing near the sea, and a violent wind rages upon the sea, tossing the waves in wild commotion. Suddenly he sees four monsters emerge from the agitated waves, each one apparently remaining for a little time, and then disappearing. The first, in its general form, resembled a lion, but had wings like an eagle. On this he attentively gazed, until the wings were plucked away, and the beast was made to stand upright as a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.
Nothing is said as to what became of the beast after this. Then there appeared a second beast, resembling a bear, raising itself up on one side, and having three ribs in its mouth, and a command was given to it to arise and devour much flesh. Nothing is said further of what became of this beast. Then there arose another beast like a leopard, with four wings, and four heads, and to this beast was given wide dominion. Nothing is said as to what became of this animal. Then there arose a fourth beast more remarkable still. Its form is not mentioned, but it was fierce and strong. It had great iron teeth. It trampled down everything before it, and devoured and brake in pieces. This beast had at first ten horns, but soon there sprang up in the midst of them another - a smaller horn at first, but as this increased three of the ten horns were plucked up by the roots - apparently either by this, or in order to give place to it. What was more remarkable still, in this smaller horn there appeared the eyes of a man - emblematic of intelligence and vigilance; and a mouth speaking great things - indicative of pride and arrogance. Daniel looked on this singular vision until a throne was set up or established, and then the Ancient of days did sit - until the old forms of dominations ceased, and the reign of God was introduced and established. He contemplated it until, on account of the great words which the “horn spake,” the beast was slain, and his body was destroyed, and given to the burning flame. In the meantime the dominion was taken away from the other beasts; though their existence was prolonged for a little time. Then appeared in vision one in the form of man, who came to the Ancient of days, and there was given to him universal dominion over all people a kingdom that should never be destroyed.
II. The interpretation of the vision Daniel 7:15-28. Daniel was greatly troubled at the vision which he had seen, and he approached one who stood near, and asked him the meaning of it, Daniel 7:15-16. The explanation with which he was favored was, in general, the following: That those four beasts which he had seen represented four kings or kingdoms which would exist on the earth, and that the great design of the vision was to state the fact that the saints of tho Most High would ultimately possess the kingdom, and would reign forever, Daniel 7:17-18. The grand purpose of the vision was to represent the succession of dynasties, and the particular character of each one, until the government over the world should pass into the hands of the people of God, or until the actual rule on the earth should be in the hands of the righteous. The ultimate object, the thing to which all revolutions tended, and which was designed to be indicated in the vision, was the final reign of the saints on the earth. There was to be a time when the kingdom under the whole heaven was to be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; or, in other words, there would be a state of things on the earth, when “all dominions,” or all “rulers” (margin, Daniel 7:27), would obey him. This general announcement in reference to the ultimate thing contemplated, and to the three first kingdoms, represented by the three first beasts, was satisfactory to Daniel, but he was still perplexed in regard to the particular thing designed to be represented by the fourth beast, so remarkable in its structure, so unlike all the others, and undergoing so surprising a transformation, Daniel 7:19-22. The sum of what was stated to him, in regard to the events represented by the fourth beast, is as follows:
(1) That this was designed to represent a fourth kingdom or dynasty which would arise upon the earth, in many respects, different from the three which would precede it. It was to be a kingdom which would be distinguished for oppressive conquests. It would subdue the whole earth, and it would crush, and prostrate, and trample down those whom it invaded. The description would characterize a dominion that would be stern, and mighty, and cruel, and successful; that would keep the nations which it subdued under its control by the terror of arms rather than by the administration of just laws; Daniel 7:23.
(2) The ten horns that Daniel saw spring out of its head denoted ten kings that would arise, or a succession of rulers that would sway the authority of the kingdom, Daniel 7:24.
(3) The other horn that sprang up among the ten, and after them, denoted another dynasty that would arise, and this would have peculiar characteristics. It would so far have connection with the former that it would spring out of them. But in most important respects it would differ from them. Its characteristics may be summed up as follows:
(a) It would spring from their midst, or be somehow attached, or connected with them - as the horn sprang from the head of the beast - and this would properly denote that the new power somehow sprang from the dynasty denoted by the fourth beast - as the horn sprang from the head of that beast;
(b) though springing from that, it would be “diverse” from it, having a character to be determined, not from the mere fact of its origin, but from something else.
(c) It would “subdue three of these kings;” that is, it would evercome and prostrate a certain portion of the power and authority denoted by the ten horns perhaps meaning that it would usurp something like one-third of the power of the kingdom denoted by the fourth beast.
(d) It would be characterized by arrogance and haughtiness - so much so that the fair construction of its claims would be that of “speaking against the Most High.”
(e) It would “wear out the saints of the Most High” - evidently referring to persecution.
(f) It would claim legislative authority so as to “change times and laws” - clearly referring to some claim set up over established laws, or to unusual authority, Daniel 7:24-25.
(4) Into the hand of this new power, all these things would be given for “a time, and times, and half a time:” implying that it would not be permanent, but would come to an end, Daniel 7:25.
(5) After that there would be a judgment - a judicial determination in regard to this new power, and the dominion would be taken away, to be utterly destroyed, Daniel 7:26.
(6) There would come a period when the whole dominion of the earth would pass into the hands of the saints; or, in other words, there would be a universal reign of the principles of truth and righteousness, Daniel 7:27.
In the conclusion of the chapter Daniel 7:28, Daniel says that these communications deeply affected his heart. He had been permitted to look far into futurity, and to contemplate vast changes in the progress of human affairs, and even to look forward to a period when all the nations would be brought under the dominion of the law of God, and the friends of the Most High would be put in possession of all power. Such events were fitted to fill the mind with solemn thought, and it is not wonderful that he contemplated them with deep emotion.
Section II. - Various Methods of Interpreting This Chapter
It is hardly necessary to say that there have been very different methods of interpreting this chapter, and that the views of its proper interpretation are by no means agreed on by expositors. It may be useful to refer to some of those methods before we advance to its exposition, that they may be before the mind in its consideration. We shall be the better able to ascertain what is the true interpretation by inquiring which of them, if any, accords with the fair exposition of the language employed by the sacred writer. The opinions entertained may be reduced to the following classes:
I. Hardt supposes that the four beasts here denote four particular kings - Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach, Belshazzar, and Cyrus.
II. Ephraem, who is followed by Eichhorn, supposes that the first beast referred to the Babylonian-Chaldean kingdom; the second, the Medish empire under Cyaxares II, the three “ribs” of which denote the Medish, Persian, and Chaldean portions of that empire; the third, the Persian empire, the four heads and wings of which denote the spread of the Persian empire toward the four regions under heaven, or to all parts of the world; the fourth, to the Grecian empire under Alexander and his successors, the ten horns of which denote ten eminent kings among the successors of Alexander, and the “little horn,” that sprang up among them, Antiochus Epiphanes. The succeeding state of things, according to Ephraem and Eichhorn, refers to the kingdom of the Messiah.
III. Grotius, representing another class of interpreters, whom Hetzel follows, supposes that the succession of the kingdoms here referred to is the Babylonian-Chaldean; the Persian; the kingdom of Alexander, and his successors. The fifth is the Roman empire.
IV. The most common interpretation which has prevailed in the church is what supposes that the first beast denotes the Chaldean kingdom; the second, the Medo-Persian; the third, the Greek empire under Alexander and his successors; the fourth, the Roman empire. The dominion of the saints is the reign of the Messiah and his laws. But this opinion, particularly as far as pertains to the fourth and fifth of these kingdoms, has had a great variety of modifications, especially in reference to the signification of the ten horns, and the little horn that sprang up among them. Some who, under the fifth kingdom, suppose that the reign of Christ is referred to, regard the fourth kingdom as relating to Rome under the Caesars, and that the ten horns refer to a succession of ten regents, and the little horn to Julius Caesar. Others, who refer the last empire to the personal reign of Christ on the earth, and the kingdom which he would set up, suppose that the ten horns refer to ten kings or dynasties that sprang out of the Roman power - either a succession of the emperors, or those who came in after the invasion of the northern hordes, or certain kingdoms of Europe which succeeded the Roman power after it fell; and by the little horn, they suppose that either the Turkish power with its various branches is designated, or Mahomet, or the Papacy, or Anti-christ.
V. The Jews, in general, suppose that the fifth kingdom refers to the reign of the Messiah; but still there has been great diversity of views among them in regard to the application of particular parts of the prophecy. Many of the older interpreters among them supposed that the ten horns denoted ten Roman Caesars, and that the last horn referred to Titus Vespasian. Most of the later Jewish interpreters refer this to their fabulous Gog and Magog.
VI. Another interpretation which has had its advocates is what supposes that the first kingdom was the Chaldean; the second, the Persian; the third, that of Alexander; the fourth, that of his successors; and the fifth, that of the Asmonean princes who rose up to deliver the Jewish nation from the despotism of the Syrian kings.
VII. As a specimen of one mode of interpretation which has prevailed to some extent in the church, the opinion of Cocceius may be referred to. He supposes that the first beast, with the eagle’s wings, denoted the reign of the Christian emperors in Rome, and the spread of Christianity under them into remote regions of the East and West; the second, with the three ribs in his mouth, the Arian Goths, Vandals, and Lombards; the third, with the four heads and four wings, the Mahometan kingdom with the four Caliphates; the fourth, the kingdom of Charlemagne, and the ten horns in this kingdom, the Carlovingians, Saxons, Salle, Swedish, Hollandish, English, etc., princes and dynasties or people; and the little horn, the Papacy as the actual Anti-christ.
The statement of these various opinions, and methods of interpretation, I have translated from Bertholdt, Daniel, pp. 419-426. To these should be added the opinion which Bertholdt himself maintains, and which has been held by many others, and which Bertholdt has explained and defended at length, pp. 426-446. That opinion is, substantially, that the first kingdom is the Babylonian kingdom under Nebuchadnezzar, and that the wings of the first beast denote the extended spread of that empire. The second beast, with the three “ribs,” or fangs, denotes the Median, Lydian, and Babylonian kingdoms, which were erected under one scepter, the Persian. The third beast, with the four wings and four heads, denotes the Grecian dynasty under Alexander, and the spread of that kingdom throughout the four parts of the world. The fourth beast denotes the kingdom of the Lagidae and Seleucidae, under which the Hebrews suffered so much. The statement respecting this kingdom Daniel 7:7, that “it was diverse from all that went before it,” refers to the “plurality of the fourth kingdom.” or the fact that it was an aggregate made up of many others - a kingdom in a collective sense. The “ten horns” denote ten successive princes or kings in that kingdom, and Bertholdt enumerates them in the following order:
1. Seleucus Nicator;
2. Antiochus Soter;
3. Antiochus Theos;
4. Seleucus Kallinicus;
5. Seleucus Keraunus;
6. Antiochus the Great;
7. Seleucus Philopater;
9. Ptolemy Philometer;
The eleventh - denoted by the little horn - was Antiochus Epiphanes, who brought so many calamitities upon the Hebrew people. His reign lasted, according to Bertholdt, “a time, and times, and half a time” - or three years and a half; and then the kingdom was restored to the people of God to be a permanent reign, and, ultimately, under the Messiah, to fill the world and endure to the end of time.
The interpretation thus stated, supposing that the “little horn” refers to Antiochus Epiphanes, is also maintained by Prof. Stuart. - Hints on Prophecy, 2nd ed., pp. 85-98. Compare also Commentary on Daniel, pp. 173-194, and 205-211.
Amidst such a variety of views, the only hope of arriving at any satisfactory conclusion respecting the meaning of this chapter is by a careful examination of the text, and the fair meaning of the symbols employed by Daniel.
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon - On the character and reign of Belshazzar, see Introduction to Daniel 5 Section II. He was the last of the kings of Babylon, and this fact may cast some light on the disclosures made in the dream.
Daniel had a dream - Margin, as in Hebrew, saw. He saw a series of events in vision when he was asleep. The dream refers to that representation, and was of such a nature that it was proper to speak of it as if he saw it. Compare the notes at Daniel 2:1.
And visions of his head upon his bed - See the notes at Daniel 4:5.
Then he wrote the dream - He made a record of it at the time. He did not commit it to tradition, or wait for its fulfillment before it was recorded, but long before the events referred to occurred he committed the prediction to writing, that when the prophecy was fulfilled they might be compared with it. It was customary among the prophets to record their predictions, whether communicated in a dream, in a vision, or by words to them, that there might be no doubt when the event occurred that there had been an inspired prediction of it, and that there might be an opportunity of a careful comparison of the prediction with the event. Often the prophets were commanded to record their predictions. See Isaiah 8:1, Isaiah 8:16; Isaiah 30:8; Habakkuk 2:2. Compare Revelation 1:19; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 21:5. In many instances, as in the case before us, the record was made hundreds of years before the event occurred, and as there is all the evidence that there could be in a case that the record has not been altered to adapt it to the event, the highest proof is thus furnished of the inspiration of the prophets. The meaning here is, that Daniel wrote out the dream as soon as it occurred.
And told the sum of the matters - Chaldee, “And spake the head of the words.” That is, he spake or told them by writing. He made a communication of them in this manner to the world. It is not implied that he made any oral communication of them to anyone, but that he communicated them - to wit, in the way specified. The word “sum” here - ראשׁ rē'sh - means “head”; and would properly denote such a record as would be a heading up, or a summary - as stating in a brief way the contents of a book, or the chief points of a thing without going into detail. The meaning here seems to be that he did not go into detail - as by writing names, and dates, and places; or, perhaps, that he did not enter into a minute description of all that he saw in regard to the beasts that came up from the sea, but that he recorded what might be considered as peculiar, and as having special significancy.
The Codex Chisianus renders this, ἔγραψεν ἐις κεφάλαια λόγων egrapsen eis kephalaia logōn - “He wrote in heads of words,” that is, he reduced it to a summary description. It is well remarked by Lengerke, on this place, that the prophets, when they described what was to occur to tyrants in future times, conveyed their oracles in a comparatively dark and obscure manner, yet so as to be clear when the events should occur. The reason of this is obvious. If the meaning of many of the predictions had been understood by those to whom they referred, that fact would have been a motive to them to induce them to defeat them; and as the fulfillment depended on their voluntary agency, the prophecy would have been void. It was necessary, therefore, in general, to avoid direct predictions, and the mention of names, dates, and places, and to make use of symbols whose meaning would be obscure at the time when the prediction was made, but which would be plain when the event should occur. A comparison of Daniel 7:4, Daniel 7:9, Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:14, will show that only a sumptuary of what was to occur was recorded.
Matters - Margin, as in Chaldee, words. The term words, however; is often used to denote things.
Daniel spake and said - That is, he spake and said in the manner intimated in the previous verse. It was by a record made at the time, and thus he might be said to speak to his own generation and to all future times.
I saw in my vision by night - I beheld in the vision; that is, he saw represented to him the scene which he proceeds to describe. He seemed to see the sea in a tempest, and these monsters come up from it, and the strange succession of events which followed.
And behold, the four winds of the heaven - The winds that blow under the heaven, or that seem to come from the heaven - or the air. Compare Jeremiah 49:36. The number of the winds is here referred to as four as they are now, as blowing mainly from the four quarters of the earth. Nothing is more common now than to designate them in this manner - as the east, the south, the west, the north wind. So the Latins - Eurus, Auster, Zephyrus, Boreas.
Strove - מגיחן megı̂ychân. Burst, or rushed forth; seemed to conflict together. The winds burst, rushed from all quarters, and seemed to meet on the sea, throwing it into wild commotion. The Hebrew word (גיח gı̂yach) means to break or burst forth, as a fountain or stream of waters, Job 40:23; an infant breaking forth from the womb, Job 38:8; a warrior rushing forth to battle, Ezekiel 32:2. Hence, the Chaldean to break forth; to rush forth as the winds. The symbol here would naturally denote some wild commotion among the nations, as if the winds of heaven should rush together in confusion.
Upon the great sea - This expression would properly apply to any great sea or ocean, but it is probable that the one that would occur to Daniel would be the Mediterranean Sea, as that was best known to him and his contemporaries. A heaving ocean - or an ocean tossed with storms - would be a natural emblem to denote a nation, or nations, agitated with internal conflicts, or nations in the midst of revolutions. Among the sacred poets and the prophets, hosts of armies invading a land are compared to overflowing waters, and mighty changes among the nations to the heaving billows of the ocean in a storm. Compare Jeremiah 46:7-8; Jeremiah 47:2; Isaiah 8:7-8; Isaiah 17:12; Isaiah 59:19; Daniel 11:40; Revelation 13:1. The classic reader will be reminded in the description here of the words of Virgil, AEn. I. 82, following:
“Ac venti, velut agmine facto
Qua data porta ruunt, et terras turbine perflant.
Incubuere mari, totumque a sedibus imis
Una Eurusque, Notusque ruunt, creberquc procellis.
Africus, et vastos volvunt ad littora fluctus.”
Compare also Ovid, Trist. I. 2, 25, following. It was from this agitated sea that the beasts that Daniel saw, representing successive kingdoms, seemed to rise; and the fair interpretation of this part of the symbol is, that there was, or would be, as it appeared in vision to Daniel, commotions among the nations resembling the sea driven by storms, and that from these commotions there would arise successive kingdoms having the characteristics specified by the appearance of the four beasts. We naturally look, in the fulfillment of this, to some state of things in which the nations were agitated and convulsed; in which they struggled against each other, as the winds strove upon the sea; a state of things which preceded the rise of these four successive kingdoms. Without now pretending to determine whether that was the time denoted by this, it is certain that all that is here said would find a counterpart in the period which immediately preceded the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, or the kingdom which he founded and adorned. His rapid and extensive conquests; the agitation of the nations in self-defense, and their wars against one another, would be well denoted by the agitation of the ocean as seen in vision by Daniel. It is true that there have been many other periods of the world to which the image would be applicable, but no one can doubt that it was applicable to this period, and that would be all that would be necessary if the design was to represent a series of kingdoms commencing with that of Nebuchadnezzar.
And four great beasts came up from the sea - Not at once, but in succession. See the following verses. Their particular form is described in the subsequent verses. The design of mentioning them here, as coming up from, the sea, seems to have been to show that this succession of kingdoms sprang from the agitations and commotions among the nations represented by the heaving ocean. It is not uncommon for the prophets to make use of animals to represent or symbolize kingdoms and nations - usually by some animal which was in a manner peculiar to the land that was symbolized, or which abounded there. Thus in Isaiah 27:1, leviathan, or the dragon, or crocodile, is used to represent Babylon. See the note at that passage. In Ezekiel 29:3-5, the dragon or the crocodile of the Nile is put for Pharaoh; in Ezekiel 32:2, Pharaoh is compared to a young lion, and to a whale in the seas. In Psalms 74:13-14, the kingdom of Egypt is compared to the dragon and the leviathan.
So on ancient coins, animals are often used as emblems of kingdoms, as it may be added, the lion and the unicorn represent Great Britain now, and the eagle the United States. It is well remarked by Lengerke (in loc.), that when the prophets design to represent kingdoms that are made up of other kingdoms, or that are combined by being brought by conquest under the power of others, they do this, not by any single animal as actually found in nature, but by monsters - fabulous beings that are compounded of others, in which the peculiar qualities of different animals are brought together - as in the case of the lion with eagle’s wings. Thus in Revelation 13:1, the Romish power is represented by a beast coming out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, Compare it. Ezra (Apocry.) 11:1, where an eagle is represented as coming from the sea with twelve feathered wings and three heads. As an illustration of the attempts made in the apocryphal writings to imitate the prophets, the whole of chapter 11 and chapter 12 of the second book of Ezra may be referred to.
Diverse one from another - Though they all came up from the same abyss, yet they differed from each other - denoting, doubtless, that though the successive kingdoms referred to would all rise out of the nations represented by the agitated sea, yet that in important respects they would differ from each other.
The first was like a lion - It is to be assumed, in explaining and applying these symbols, that they are significant - that is, that there was some adaptedness or propriety in using these symbols to denote the kingdoms referred to; or that in each case there was a reason why the particular animal was selected for a symbol rather than one of the others; that is, there was something in the lion that was better fitted to symbolize the kingdom referred to than there was in the bear or the leopard, and this was the reason why this particular symbol was chosen in the case. It is to be further assumed that all the characteristics in the symbol were significant, and we are to expect to find them all in the kingdom which they were designed to represent; nor can the symbol be fairly applied to any kingdom, unless something shall be found in its character or history that shall correspond alike to the particular circumstances referred to in the symbol, and to the grouping or succession. In regard to the first beast, there were five things that entered into the symbol, all of which it is to be presumed were significant: the lion, the eagle’s wings - the fact that the wings were plucked - the fact that the beast was lifted up so as to stand up as a man - and the fact that the heart of a man was given to it. It is proper to consider these in their order, and then to inquire whether they found a fulfillment in any known state of things.
(a) The animal that was seen: “the lion.” The lion, “the king of beasts,” is the symbol of strength and courage, and becomes the proper emblem of a king - as when the Mussulmans call Ali, Mahomet’s son-in-law, “The Lion of God, always victorious.” Thus it is often used in the Scriptures. Genesis 49:9, “Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?” The warlike character, the conquest, the supremacy of that tribe are here undoubtedly denoted. So in Ezekiel 19:2-3. “What is thy mother? A lioness: she lay down among lions, she nourished her whelps among young lions.” Here is an allusion, says Grotius, to Genesis 49:9. Judea was among the nations like a lioness among the beasts of the forest; she had strength and sovereignty. The lion is an emblem of a hero: 2 Samuel 23:20, “He slew two lion-like men of Moab.” Compare Gesenius zu Isa. i. 851. So Hercules and Achilles are called by Homer θυμολέοντα thumoleonta, or λεοντόθυμον leontothumon - lion-hearted - Iliad e 639, ee 228, Odyssey l 766. See the character, the intrepidity, and the habits of the lion fully illustrated in Bochart, Hieroz. lib. iii. c. 2, pp. 723-745 - Credner, der prophet Joel, s. 100. f. Compare also the following places in Scripture: Psalms 7:2; Psalms 22:21; Psalms 57:4; Psalms 58:6; Psalms 74:4; 1 Samuel 17:37; Job 4:10; Jeremiah 4:7; Jeremiah 49:19; Joel 1:6; Isaiah 29:1-2. The proper notion here, so far as the emblem of a lion is concerned, is that of a king or kingdom that would be distinguished for power, conquest, dominion; that would be in relation to other kings and kingdoms as the lion is among the beasts of the forest - keeping them in awe, and maintaining dominion over them - marching where he pleases, with none to cope with him or to resist him.
(b) The eagle’s wings: “and had eagle’s wings.” Here appears one peculiarity of the emblem - the union of things which are not found joined together in nature - the representation of things or qualities which no one animal would represent. The lion would denote one thing, or one quality in the kingdom referred to - power, dominion, sovereignty - but there would be some characteristic in that king or kingdom which nothing in the lion would properly represent, and which could be symbolized only by attaching to him qualities to be found in some other animal. The lion, distinguished for his power, his dominion, his keeping other animals in awe - his spring, and the severity of his blow - is not remarkable for his speed, nor for going forth to conquest. He does not range far to accomplish his purpose, nor are his movements eminent for fleetness. Hence, there were attached to the lion the wings of an eagle. The proper notion, therefore, of this symbol, would be that of a dominion or conquest rapidly secured, as if a lion, the king of beasts, should move, not as he commonly does, with a spring or bound, confining himself to a certain space or range, but should move as the eagle does, with rapid and prolonged flight, extending his conquests afar. The meaning of the symbol may be seen by comparing this passage with Isaiah 46:11, where Cyrus is compared to “a ravenous bird” - “calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsels from a far country.” The eagle is an emblem of swiftness: Jeremiah 4:13, “His horses are swifter than eagles;” Jeremiah 48:40, “Behold, he shall fly as an eagle, and shall spread his wings over Moab.” See also Jeremiah 49:22; Lamentations 4:19; Habakkuk 1:8.
(c) The clipping of the wings: “I beheld until the wings thereof were plucked” The word used (מרט meraṭ) means, to pluck or pull, as to pull out the beard (compare Nehemiah 13:25; Isaiah 50:6), and would here be properly applied to some process of pulling out the feathers or quills from the wings of the eagle. The obvious and proper meaning of this symbol is, that there was some check put to the progress of the conqueror - as there would be to an eagle by plucking off the feathers from his wings; that is, the rapidity of his conquests would cease. The prophet says, that he looked on until this was done, implying that it was not accomplished at once, but leaving the impression that these conquests were extended far. They were, however, checked, and we see the lion again without the wings; the sovereign who has ceased to spread his triumphs over the earth.
(d) The lifting up from the earth: “and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon the feet as a man.” That is, the lion, with the wings thus plucked off, was made to stand upright on his hind feet - an unusual position, but the meaning of the symbol is not difficult. It was still the lion - the monarch - but changed as if the lion was changed to a man; that is, as if the ferocity, and the power, and the energy of the lion had given place to the comparative weakness of a man. There would be as much difference in the case referred to as there would be if a lion so fierce and powerful should be made so far to change his nature as to stand upright, and to walk as a man. This would evidently denote some remarkable change - something that would be unusual - something where there would be a diminution of ferocity, and yet perhaps a change to comparative weakness - as a man is feebler than a lion.
(e) The giving to it of a man’s heart: “and a man heart was given to it.” The word heart in the Scriptures often has a closer relation to the intellect or the understanding than it new has commonly with us; and here perhaps it is a general term to denote something like human nature - that is, there would be as great a change in the case as if the nature of the lion should be transformed to that of a man; or, the meaning may be, that this mighty empire, carrying its arms with the rapidity of an eagle, and the fierceness of a lion, through the world, would be checked in its career; its ferocity would be tamed, and it would be characterized by comparative moderation and humanity. In Daniel 4:16, it is said of Nebuchadnezzar, “Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him;” here, if the symbol refers to him, it does not refer to that scene of humiliation when he was compelled to eat grass like a beast, but to the fact that he was brought to look at things as a man should do; he ceased to act like a ravenous beast, and was led to calm reflection, and to think and speak like a man - a rational being. Or, if it refers to the empire of Babylon, instead of the monarch, it would mean that a change had come over the nation under the succession of princes, so that the fierceness and ferocity of the first princes of the empire had ceased, and the nation had not only closed its conquests, but had actually become, to some extent, moderate and rational.
Now, in regard to the application of this symbol, there can be but little difficulty, and there is almost no difference of opinion among expositors. All, or nearly all, agree that it refers to the kingdom of Babylon, of which Nebuchadnezzar was the head, and to the gradual diminution of the ferocity of conquest under a succession of comparatively weak princes. Whatever view may be taken of the book of Daniel whether it be regarded as inspired prophecy composed by Daniel himself, and written at the time when it professes to have been, or whether it be supposed to have been written long after his time by some one who forged it in his name, there can be no doubt that it relates to the head of the Babylonian empire, or to that which the “head of gold,” in the image referred to in Daniel 2, represents. The circumstances all so well agree with that application, that, although in the explication of the dream Daniel 7:16-27 this part of it is not explained - for the perplexity of Daniel related particularly to the fourth beast Daniel 7:19, yet there can be no reasonable doubt as to what was intended. For
(a) the lion - the king of beasts - would accurately symbolize that kingdom in the days of Nebuchadnezzar - a kingdom occupying the same position among other kingdoms which the lion does among other beasts, and well represented in its power and ferocity by the lion. See the character and position of this kingdom fully illustrated in the notes at Daniel 2:37-38.
(b) The eagle’s wings would accurately denote the rapid conquests of that kingdom - its leaving, as it were, its own native domain, and flying abroad. The lion alone would have represented the character of the kingdom considered as already having spread itself, or as being at the head of other kingdoms; the wings of the eagle, the rapidity with which the arms of the Babylonians were carried into Palestine, Egypt, Assyria, etc. It is true that this symbol alone would not designate Babylon anymore than it would the conquests of Cyrus, or Alexander, or Caesar, but it is to be taken in the connection in which it is here found, and no one can doubt that it has a striking applicability to Babylon.
(c) The clipping or plucking of these wings would denote the cessation of conquest - as if it would extend no farther; that is, we see a nation once distinguished for the invasion of other nations now ceasing its conquests; and remarkable, not for its victories, but as standing at the head of all other nations, as the lion stands among the beasts of the forest. All who are acquainted with history know that, after the conquests of that kingdom under Nebuchadnezzar, it ceased characteristically to be a kingdom distinguished for conquest, but that, though under his successors, it held a pre-eminence or headship among the nations, yet its victories were extended no further. The successors of Nebuchadnezzar were comparatively weak and indolent princes - as if the wings of the monster had been plucked.
(d) The rising up of the lion on the feet, and standing on the feet as a man, would denote, not inappropriately, the change of the kingdom under the successors of Nebuchadnezzar. See above in the explanation of the symbol.
(e) The giving of a man’s heart to it would not be inapplicable to the change produced in the empire after the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and under a succession of comparatively weak and inefficient princes. Instead of the heart of the lion - of being “lion-hearted” - it had the heart of a man; that is, the character of wildness and fierceness denoted by an untamed beast was succeeded by what would be better represented by a human being. It is not the character of the lion changed to that of the bear, or the panther, or the leopard; nor is it man considered as a warrior or conqueror, but man as he is distinguished from the wild and ferocious beast of the desert. The change in the character of the empire, until it ceased under the feeble reign of Belshazzar; would be well denoted by this symbol.
And, behold, another beast, a second, like to a bear - That is, after the lion had appeared, and he had watched it until it had undergone these surprising transformations. There are several circumstances, also, in regard to this symbol, all of which, it is to be supposed, were significant, and all of which demand explication before it is attempted to apply them.
(a) The animal seen: the bear. For a full description of the bear, see Bochart, Hieroz. lib. iii. c. 9: The animal is well known, and has properties quite distinct from the lion and other animals. There was doubtless some reason why this symbol was employed to denote a particular kingdom, and there was something in the kingdom that corresponded with these peculiar properties, as there was in the case of the lion. The bear might, in some respects, have been a proper representative of Babylon, but it would not in all nor in the main respects. According to Bochart (Hiefoz, vol. i. p. 812), the bear is distinguished mainly for two things, cunning and ferocity. Aristotle says that the bear is greedy as well as silly and foolhardy. (Wemyss, Key to the Symbolic Language of Scripture.) The name in Hebrew is taken from his grumbling or growling. Compare Isaiah 19:11 :
“We roar all like bears.”
Compare Horace, Epod. 16, 51:
“Nec vespertinus circumgemit ursus ovile.”
Virgil mentions their ferocity:
“Atque in praesepibus ursi Saevire.”
- AEn. vii. 17.
The bear is noted as especially fierce when hungry, or when robbed of its whelps. Jerome (on Hosea 13:8) remarks, “It is said by those who have studied the nature of wild beasts, that none among them is more ferocious than the bear when deprived of its young, or when hungry.” Compare 2 Samuel 17:8; Proverbs 17:12; Hosea 13:8. The characteristics of the kingdom, therefore, that would be denoted by the bear would be ferocity, roughness, fierceness in war, especially when provoked; a spirit less manly and noble than that denoted by the lion; severe in its treatment of enemies, with a mixture of fierce and savage cunning.
(b) Its rising up on one of its sides: “and it raised up itself on one side.” The Chaldee word used here (שׁטר sheṭar) occurs nowhere else. It means side (Gesenius), and would be applied here to the side of an animal, as if he lifted up one side before the other when he rose. The Latin Vulgate renders it, in parte stetit. The Greek (Walton), έις μέρος ἕν ἐστάθη eis meros hen estathē - “it stood on one part;” or, as Thompson renders it, “he stood half erect.” The Codex Chisianus, ἐπὶ τοῦ ἑνὸς πλευροῦ ἐστάθη epi tou henos pleurou estathē - “it stood upon one side.” Maurer renders this, “on one of its forefeet it was recumbent, and stood on the other,” and says that this is the figure exhibited on one of the stones found in Babylon, an engraving of which may be seen in Munter, Religion d. Babyl. p. 112. The animal referred to here, as found in Babylon, says Lengerke, “lies kneeling on the right forefoot, and is in the act of rising on the left foot.” Bertholdt and Havernick understand this as meaning that the animal stood on the hindfeet, with the forepart raised, as the bear is said to do; but probably the true position is that referred to by Maurer and Lengerke, that the animal was in the act of raising itself up from a recumbent posture, and rested on one of its forefeet while the other was reached out, and the body on that side was partially raised. This position would naturally denote a kingdom that had been quiet and at rest, but that was now rousing itself deliberately for some purpose, as of conquest or war - as the bear that had been couching down would rise when hungry, or when going forth for prey.
(c) The ribs in its mouth: “and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it.” Bertholdt understands this of fangs or tusks - or fangs crooked or bent like ribs, p. 451, But the proper meaning of the Chaldee עלע ‛ala‛ is the same as the Hebrew צלע tsēlâ‛ - “a rib.” - Gesenius. The Latin Vulgate is, tres ordines - three rows; the Syriac and the Greek, three ribs. This would be sufficiently characteristic of a bear, and the attitude of the animal here seems to be that it had killed some other animal, and had, in devouring it, torn out three ribs from its side, and now held them in its mouth. It was slowly rising from a recumbent posture, with these ribs in its mouth, and about to receive a command to go forth and devour much flesh. The number three, in this place, Lengerke supposes to be a round number, without any special significancy; others suppose that it denotes the number of nations or kingdoms which the people here represented by the bear had overcome. Perhaps this latter would be the more obvious idea as suggested by the symbol, but it is not necessary, in order to a proper understanding of a symbol, to press such a point too closely. The natural idea which would be suggested by this part of the symbol would be that of a kingdom or people of a fierce and rough character having already subdued some, and then, after reposing, rising up with the trophies of its former conquests to go forth to new victories, or to overcome others. The symbol would be a very striking one to represent a conquering nation in such a posture.
(d) The command given to this beast: “and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.” That is, it was said to it; or some one having authority said it. A voice was heard commanding it to go forth and devour. This command is wholly in accordance with the nature of the bear. The bear is called by Aristotle σαρκοφαγῶν sarkofagōn, flesh-eater, and ξῶον πάμφαγον xōon pamphagon, a beast devouring everything (Hist. Nat. viii. 5), and no better description could be given of it. As a symbol, this would properly be applicable to a nation about receiving, as it were, a command from God to go forth to wider conquests than it had already made; to arouse itself from its repose and to achieve new triumphs.
The application of this symbol was not explained by the angel to Daniel; but if the former pertained to Babylon, there can be little difficulty in understanding to what this is to be applied. It is evidently to what succeeded the Babylonian - the Medo-Persian, the kingdom ruled successively by Cyrus, Cambyses, Smerdis, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes, and Darius Nothus, until it was overthrown by Alexander the Great. The only inquiry now is as to the pertinency of the symbol here employed to represent this kingdom.
(a) The symbol of the bear. As already seen, the bear would denote any fierce, rough, overbearing, and arbitrary kingdom, and it is clear that while it might have applicability to any such kingdom, it would better represent that of Medo-Persia than the lion would, for while, in some respects, either symbol would be applicable to either nation, the Medo-Persian did not stand so decidedly at the head of nations as the Babylonian. As to its character, however, the bear was not an inappropriate symbol. Taking the whole nation together, it was fierce and rough, and unpolished, little disposed to friendliness with the nations, and dissatisfied while any around it had peace or prosperity. In the image seen in Dan. ii., this kingdom, denoted by the breast and arms of silver Dan. 7:32, is described in the explanation Dan. 7:39 as “inferior to thee;” that is, to Nebuchadnezzar. For a sufficiently full account of this kingdom - of the mad projects of Cambyses, and his savage rage against the Ethiopians - well represented by the ferocity of the bear; of the ill-starred expedition to Greece under Xerxes - an expedition in its fierceness and folly well represented by the bear, and of the degeneracy of the national character after Xerxes - well represented by the bear as compared with the lion, see the notes at Daniel 2:39. No one acquainted with the history of that nation can doubt the propriety and applicability of the emblem.
(b) The rising up on its side, or from a recumbent posture, as if it had been in a state of repose, and was now arousing itself for action. Different interpretations have been adopted of this emblem as applicable to the Medo-Persians. The ancient Hebrew interpreters, as Jerome remarks, explain it as meaning that that kingdom was “on one side” in the sense of separate; that is, that this kingdom kept itself aloof from Judea, or did not inflict injury on it. Thus also Grotius explains it as meaning that it did not injure Judea - Judea nihil nocuit.” Ephraern the Syrian, and Theodoret, explain it as meaning that the empire of the Medo-Persians was situated on the side of Judea, or held itself within its proper bounds, in the sense that it never extended its dominion, like Babylon, over the whole earth. Rosenmuller explains it as meaning that in relation to the kingdom represented by the lion, it was at its side, both occupying the regions of the East. John D. Michaelis understands it as denoting that, as the bear was raising itself up, one part being more raised than the other, the Medo-Persian empire was composed of two kingdoms, one of which was more exalted or advanced than the other.
Compare Lengerke. The true meaning however, is that, as seen by Daniel, the nation that had been in a state of repose was now preparing itself for new conquests - a state descriptive of, and in every way quite applicable to the condition of the Medo-Persian empire, after the conquests by Cyrus, as he overran the kingdom of Lydia, etc., then reposing, and now about arousing to the conquest and subjugation of Babylon. The precise time, therefore, indicated would be about 544 b.c. (Calmer), when, having overcome the Medes, and having secured the conquest of Lydia, and the dethronement of Croesus, he is meditating the destruction of Babylon. This interval of repose lasted about a year, and it is at this time that the united empire is seen, under the image of the bear rising on its side, arousing itself to go forth to new conquests.
(c) The ribs in the mouth of the beast. This, as above remarked, would properly refer to some previous conquest - as a bear appearing in that manner would indicate that some other animal had been overcome and slain by him, and torn in pieces. The emblem would be fulfilled if the power here symbolized had been successful in former wars, and had rent kingdoms or people asunder. That this description would apply to the Medo-Persian power before its attack on Babylon, or before extending its dominion over Babylon, and its establishment as the Medo-Persian kingdoms, no one can doubt. Compare the notes at Daniel 2:39. It has been commonly supposed that Cyrus succeeded to the throne of Media without war. But this is far from being the case - though so represented in what may be regarded as the romance of the Cyropaedia In the Anabasis of Xenophon, however, the fact of his having subdued Media by arms is distinctly admitted, Daniel 3:4, Daniel 3:7, Daniel 3:12. Herodotus, Ctesias, Isocrates, and Strabo, all agree also in the fact that it was so. The Upper Tigris was the seat of one campaign, where the cities of Larissa and Mespila were taken by Cyrus. From Strabo we learn that the decisive battle was fought on the spot where Cyrus afterward built Pasargardae, in Persia, for his capital. See Kitto, Cyclo., art. “Cyrus.” In addition to this, we are to remember the well-known conquests of Cyrus in Lydia and elsewhere, and the propriety of the emblem will be apparent. It may not be certain that the number three is significant in the emblem, but it is possible that there may have been reference to the three kingdoms of Persia, Media, and Lydia, that were actually under the dominion of Cyrus when the aggressive movement was made on Babylon.
(d) The command to “arise and devour much flesh.” No one can fail to see the appropriateness of this, considered as addressed to the Medo-Persian power - that power which subdued Babylon; which brought under its dominion a considerable part of the world, and which, under Darius and Xerxes, poured its million on Greece. The emblem used here is, therefore, one of the most striking and appropriate that could be employed, and it cannot be doubted that it had reference to this kingdom, and that, in all the particulars, there was a clear fulfillment.
After this I beheld, and, lo, another, like a leopard - That is, as before, after the bear had appeared - indicating that this was to be a succeeding kingdom or power. The beast which now appeared was a monster, and, as in the former cases, so in regard to this, there are several circumstances which demand explanation in order to understand the symbol. It may assist us, perhaps, in forming a correct idea of the symbol here introduced to have before us a representation of the animal as it appeared to Daniel.
(a) The animal itself: “a leopard.” The word used here - נמר nemar - or in Hebrew נמר nâmêr - denotes a panther or leopard, so called from his spots. This is a well-known beast of prey, distinguished for blood-thirstiness and cruelty, and these characteristics are especially applicable to the female panther. The animal is referred to in the Scriptures as emblematic of the following things, or as having the following characteristics:
(1) As next in dignity to the lion - of the same general nature. Compare Bochart, Hieroz. P. I. lib. iii. c. vii. Thus the lion and the panther, or leopard, are often united in the Scriptures. Compare Jeremiah 5:6; Hosea 13:7. See also in the Apocrypha, Ecclesiasticus 28:23. So also they are united in Homer, r
Ὄυτε οἶν παρδάλιος τόσσον μένος, ὄυτε λέοντος.
Oute oun pardalios tosson menos, oute leontos.
“Neither had the leopard nor the lion such strength.”
(2) As distinguished for cruelty, or a fierce nature, as contrasted with the gentle and tame animal. Isaiah 11:6, “and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.” In Jeremiah 5:6, it is compared with the lion and the wolf: “A lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them, a leopard shall watch over their cities.” Compare Hosea 13:7.
(3) As distinguished for swiftness or fleetness. Habakkuk 1:8 : “their horses are swifter than the leopards.” Compare also the quotations from the classics in Bochart as above, p. 788. His fleetness is often referred to - the celerity of his spring or bound especially - by the Greek and Roman writers.
(4) As insidious, or as lying in wait, and springing unexpectedly upon the unwary traveler. Compare Hosea 13:7 : “As a leopard by the way will I observe them;” that is, I will “watch” (אשׁור 'âshûr) them. So Pliny says of leopards: Insidunt pardi condensa arborurn, occultatique earurn ramis in prcetereuntia desiliunt.
(5) They are characterized by their spots. In the general nature of the animal there is a strong resemblance to the lion. Thus, an Arabic writer quoted by Bochart, deflates the leopard to be “an animal resembling the lion, except that it is smaller, and has a skin marked by black spots.” The proper idea in this representation, when used as a symbol, would be of a nation or kingdom that would have more nobleness than the one represented by the bear, but a less decisive headship over others than that represented by the lion; a nation that, was addicted to conquest, or that preyed upon others; a nation rapid in its movements, and springing upon others unawares, and perhaps in its spots denoting a nation or people made up, not of homogeneous elements, but of various different people. See below in the application of this.
(b) The four wings: which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl. The first beast was seen with the wings of an eagle, but without any specified number; this appears with wings, but without specifying any particular kind of wings, though the number is mentioned. In both of them celerity of movement is undoubtedly intended - celerity beyond what would be properly denoted by the animal itself the lion or the leopard. If there is a difference in the design of the representation, as there would seem to be by mentioning the kind of wings in the one case, and the number in the other, it is probable that the former would denote a more bold and extended flight; the latter a flight more rapid, denoted by the four wings. We should look for the fulfillment of the former in a nation that extended its conquests over a broader space; in the latter, to a nation that moved with more celerity. But there is some danger of pressing these similitudes too far. Nothing is said in the passage about the arrangement of the wings, except that they were on the back of the animal. It is to be supposed that there were two on each side.
(c) The four heads: “the beast had also four heads.” This representation must have been designed to signify either that the one power or kingdom denoted by the leopard was composed of four separate powers or nations now united in one; or that there were four successive kings or dynasties that made up its history; or that the power or kingdom actually appeared, as seen in its prevailing characteristic, as a distinct dominion, as having four heads, or as being divided into so many separate sovereignties. It seems to me that either one of these would be a proper and natural fulfillment of the design of the image, though the second suggested would be less proper than either of the others, as the heads appeared on the animal not in succession - as the little horn sprung up in the midst of the other ten, as represented in the fourth beast - but existed simultaneously. The general idea would be, that in some way the one particular sovereignty had four sources of power blended into one, or actually exerted the same kind of dominion, and constituted, in fact, the one kingdom as distinguished from the others.
(d) The dominion given to it: “and dominion was given to it.” That is, it was appointed to rule where the former had ruled, and until it should be succeeded by another - the beast with the ten horns.
In regard to the application of this, though the angel did not explain it to Daniel, except in general that a kingdom was represented by it. Daniel 7:17, it would seem that there could be little difficulty, though there has been some variety in the views entertained. Maurer, Lengerke, and some others, refer it to the Medo-Persian empire - supposing that the second symbol referred to the kingdom of Media. But the objections to this are so obvious, and so numerous, that it seems to me the opinion cannot be entertained, for
(1) the kingdom of Media did not, in any proper sense, succeed that of Babylon;
(2) the representation of the bear with three ribs has no proper application to Media;
(3) the whole description, as we have seen above, of the second beast, accords entirely with the history of the Medo-Persian empire.
If this be so, then we naturally look for the fulfillment of this symbol - the third head - in the kingdom or dynasty that followed directly that of Medo-Persia - the Macedonian dynasty or kingdom founded by Alexander the Great, extending over the same countries before occupied by Babylon and the Medo-Persian empire, and continuing until it was swallowed up in the conquests of Rome. We shall find that all the circumstances agree with this supposition:
(a) The animal - the leopard. The comparative nobleness of the animal; a beast of prey; the celerity of its movements; the spring or bound with which it leaps upon its prey - all agree well with the kingdom of which Alexander was the founder. Indeed there was no other kingdom among the ancients to which it could be better applied; and it will be admitted that, on the supposition that it was the design of Daniel to choose a symbol that would represent the Macedonian empire, he could not have selected one that was better adapted to it than the leopard. All the characteristics of the animal that have been noticed -
(1) as next in dignity to the lion:
(2) as distinguished for a fierce nature;
(3) as characterized by fleetness;
(4) as known for lying in wait, and springing suddenly upon its prey; and
(5) in the point to be noticed soon - their spots - all agree with the characteristics of Alexander, and his movements among the nations, and with the kingdom that was founded by him in the East.
(b) The four wings. These represent well the rapidity of the conquests of Alexander, for no more rapid conquests were ever made than were his in the East. It was noticed that the leopard had four wings, as contrasted with the first beast, in reference to which the number is not mentioned: the one denoting a broader flight, and the other a more rapid one; and the one agrees well with the conquests of Nebuchadnezzar, and the other with those of Alexander.
(c) The four heads united to one body. It is well known that when Alexander died, his empire was left to four of his generals, and that they came to be at the head of as many distinct dominions, yet all springing from the same source, and all, in fact, out of the Macedonian empire. This fact would not be so well represented by four distinct and separate animals, as by one animal with four heads; that is, as the head represents authority or dominion, one empire, in fact, now ruling by four distinct authorities. The one empire, considered as Macedonian, continued its sway until it was swallowed up by the Romans; that is, the Macedonian power or dominion as distinct from that of Babylon or Medo-Persia; as having characteristics unlike these; as introducing a new order of things, continued, though that power was broken up and exercised under distinct manifestations of sovereignty. The fact was, that, at the death of Alexander, to whom the founding of this empire was owing, “Philip Aridaeus, brother of Alexander, and his infant son by Roxana, were appointed by the generals of the army to succeed, and Perdiccas was made regent. The empire was divided into thirty-three governments, distributed among as many general officers. Hence arose a series of bloody, desolating wars, and a period of confusion, anarchy, and crime ensued, that is almost without a parallel in the history of the world. After the battle of Ipsus, 301 b.c., in which Antigonus was defeated, the empire was divided into four kingdoms - Thrace and Bithynia under Lysimachus; Syria and the East under Seleucus; Egypt, under Ptolemy Soter; and Macedonia under Cassander.” - Lyman Hist. Chart. It was these four powers, thus springing out of the one empire founded by Alexander, that was clearly represented by. the four heads.
(d) The dominion given to it. No one can doubt that a dominion was given to Alexander and the Macedonian dynasty, which would fully correspond with this. In fact the dominion of the world was practically conceded to that kingdom.
(e) There is only one other circumstance to be noticed, though perhaps we are not to seek an exact accomphshment for that in any specific events. It is the fact tbat the leopard is marked by spots - a circumstance which many have supposed had a fulfillment in the fact that numerous nations, not homogeneous, were found in the empire of Alexander. So Bochart, Hieroz. P. I. lib. iii. c. vii. p. 789, says: “The spots of the leopard refer to the different customs of the nations over which he ruled. Among these, besides the Macedonians, Greeks, Thracians, and Illyrians, in Europe, there were in Africa the Libyans, Egyptians, and Troglodites; in Asia, almost all the nations to the Ganges.” But, without insisting on this, no one can compare the other particulars which were clearly designed to be symbolic, without perceiving that they had a full accomplishment in the Macedonian empire.
After this I saw in the night visions - The other beasts were seen also in a dream Daniel 7:1, and this probably in the same night, though as a subsequent part of the dream, for the whole vision evidently passed before the prophet in a single dream. The succession, or the fact that he saw one after the other, indicates a sucession in the kingdoms. They were not to be at the same time upon the earth, but one was to arise after another in the order here indicated, though they were in some respects to occupy the same territory. The singular character of the beast that now appears; the number of the horns; the springing up of a new horn; the might and terror of the beast, and the long duration of its dominion upon the earth, attracted and fixed the attention of Daniel, led him into a more minute description of the appearance of the animal, and induced him particularly to ask an explanation of the angel of the meaning of this part of the vision, Daniel 7:19.
And, behold, a fourth beast - This beast had peculiar characteristics, all of which were regarded as symbolic, and all of which demand explanation in order that we may have a just view of the nature and design of the symbol.
As in reference to the three former beasts, so also in regard to this, it will be proper to explain first the significance of the different parts of the symbol, and then in the exposition (Daniel 7:19, following) to inquire into the application. The particulars of this symbol are more numerous, more striking, and more important than in either of the previous ones. These particulars are the following Daniel 7:7-11 :
(a) The animal itself Daniel 5:7 : “a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly.” The form or nature of the beast is not given as in the preceding cases - the lion, the bear, and the leopard - but it is left for the imagination to fill up. It was a beast more terrific in its appearance than either of the others, and was evidently a monster such as could not be designated by a single name. The terms which are used here in describing the beast - “dreadful, terrible, exceedingly strong,” are nearly synonymous, and are heaped together in order to give an impressive view of the terror inspired by the beast. There can be no doubt as to the general meaning of this, for it is explained Daniel 7:23 as denoting a kingdom that “should devour the whole earth, and tread it down, and break it in pieces.” As a symbol, it would denote some power much more fearful and much more to be dreaded; having a wider dominion; and more stern, more oppressive in its character, more severe in its exactions, and more entirely destroying the liberty of others; advancing more by power and terror, and less by art and cunning, than either. This characteristic is manifest throughout the symbol.
(b) The teeth Daniel 7:7 : “and it had great iron teeth.” Not only teeth or tusks, such as other animals may have, but teeth made of iron. This is characteristic of a monster, and shows that there was to be something very peculiar in the dominion that was here symbolized. The teeth are of use to eat or devour; and the symbol here is that of devouring or rending - as a fierce monster with such teeth might be supposed to rend or devour all that was before it. This, too, would denote a nation exceedingly fierce; a nation of savage ferocity; a nation that would be signally formidable to all others. For illustration, compare Jeremiah 15:12; Micah 4:13. As explained in Daniel 7:23, it is said that the kingdom denoted by this would “devour the whole earth.” Teeth - great teeth, are often used as the symbols of cruelty, or of a devouring enemy. Thus in Proverbs 30:14 : “There is a generation whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth are as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men.” So David uses the word to denote the cruelty of tyrants: Psalms 3:7, “Thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly;” Psalms 57:4, “whose teeth are spears and arrows;” Psalms 58:6, “break their teeth in their mouth; break out the great teeth of the young lions.”
(c) The stamping with the feet Daniel 7:7 : “it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it.” That is, like a fierce monster, whatever it could not devour it stamped down and crushed in the earth. This indicates a disposition or purpose to destroy, for the sake of destroying, or where no other purpose could be gained. It denotes rage, wrath, a determination to crush all in its way, to have universal dominion; and would be applicable to a nation that subdued and crushed others for the mere sake of doing it, or because it was unwilling that any other should exist and enjoy liberty - even where itself could not hope for any advantage.
(d) The fact that it was different from all that went before it Daniel 7:7 : “and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it.” The prophet does not specify particularly in what respects it was different, for he does not attempt to give its appearance. It was not a lion, a bear, or a leopard, but he does not say precisely what it was. Probably it was such a monster that there were no animals with which it could be compared. He states some circumstances, however, in which it was different - as in regard to the ten horns, the little horn, the iron teeth, etc., but still the imagination is left to fill up the picture in general. The meaning of this must be, that the fourth kingdom, represented by this beast, would be materially different from those which preceded it, and we must look for the fulfillment in some features that would characterize it by which it would be unlike the others. There must be something marked in the difference - something that would be more than the common difference between nations.
(e) The ten horns Daniel 7:7 : “and it had ten horns.” That is, the prophet saw on it ten horns as characterizing the beast. The horn is a symbol of power, and is frequently so used as an emblem or symbol in Daniel Daniel 7:7-8, Daniel 7:20, Daniel 7:24; Daniel 8:3-9, Daniel 8:20-22 and Revelation Revelation 5:6; Revelation 13:1, Revelation 13:11; Revelation 17:3, Revelation 17:12, Revelation 17:16. It is used as a symbol because the great strength of horned animals is found there. Thus in Amos 6:13, it is said:
“Ye that rejoice in a thing of nought,
That say, Have we not taken dominion to ourselves By our own strength?”
So in Deuteronomy 33:17 :
“His beauty shall be that of a young bull,
And his horns shall be the horns of a rhinoceros:
With these he shall push the people to the extremities of the land:
Such are the ten thousands of Ephraim,
Such the thousands of Manasseh.”
So in 1 Kings 22:11, we find horns used in a symbolic action on the part of the false prophet Zedekiah. “He made him horns of iron, and said, Thus saith Jehovah, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them.” In Zechariah 1:18, the four horns that are seen by the prophet are said to be the four great powers which had scattered and wasted the Jews. Compare Wemyss on the Symbolic Language of Scripture, art. “Horns.” There can be no doubt as to the meaning of the symbol here, for it is explained in a subsequent part of the chapter Daniel 7:24, “the ten horns are the ten kings that shall arise.” It would seem also, from that explanation, that they were to be ten kings that would “arise” or spring out of that kingdom at some period of its history. “And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise;” that is, not that the kingdom itself would spring out of ten others that would be amalgamated or consolidated into one, but that out of that one kingdom there would spring up ten that would exercise dominion, or in which the power of the one kingdom would be ultimately lodged. Though Daniel appears to have seen these horns as pertaining to the beast when he first saw him, yet the subsequent explanation is, that these horns were emblems of the manner in which the power of that one kingdom would be finally exerted; or that ten kings or dynasties would spring out of it. We are, then, naturally to look for the fulfillment of this in some one great kingdom of huge power that would crush the nations, and from which, while the same general characteristic would remain, there would spring up ten kings, or dynasties, or kingdoms, in which the power would be concentrated.
(f) The springing up of the little horn Daniel 7:8 : “I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn.” There are several points to be noticed in regard to this:
(1) The fact that he “considered the horns;” that is, he looked on them until another sprang up among them. This implies that when he first saw the monster, it had no such horn, and that the horn sprang up a considerable time after he first saw it - intimating that it would occur, perhaps, far on in the history of the kingdom that was symbolized. It is implied that it was not an event which would soon occur.
(2) It sprang up “among” the others (ביניהן bēynēyhēn) - starting from the same source, and pertaining to the same animal, and therefore a development or putting forth of the same power. The language used here does not designate, with any degree of certainty, the precise place which it occupied, but it would seem that the others stood close together, and that this sprang out of the center, or from the very midst of them - implying that the new dominion symbolized would not be a foreign dominion, but one that would spring out of the kingdom itself, or that would seem to grow up in the kingdom.
(3) It was a little horn; that is, it was small at first, though subsequently it grew so as to be emblematic of great power. This would denote that the power symbolized would be small at first - springing up gradually. The fulfillment of this would be found, neither in conquest nor in revolution, nor in a change of dynasty, nor in a sudden change of a constitution, but in some power that had an obscure origin, and that was feeble and small at the beginning, yet gradually increasing, until, by its own growth, it put aside a portion of the power before exercised and occupied its place. We should naturally look for the fulfillment of this in the increase of some power within the state that had a humble origin, and that slowly developed itself until it absorbed a considerable portion of the authority that essentially resided in the kingdom represented by the monster.
(4) In the growth of that “horn,” three of the others were plucked up by the roots. The proper meaning of the word used to express this (אתעקרו 'ethe‛ăqârâv) is, that they were rooted out - as a tree is overturned by the roots, or the roots are turned out from the earth. The process by which this was done seems to have been by growth. The gradual increase of the horn so crowded on the others that a portion of them was forced out, and fell. What is fairly indicated by this was not any act of violence, or any sudden convulsion or revolution, but such a gradual growth of power that a portion of the original power was removed, and this new power occupied its place. There was no revolution, properly so-called; no change of the whole dynasty, for a large portion of the horns remained, but the gradual rise of a new power that would wield a portion of that formerly wielded by others, and that would now wield the power in its place. The number three would either indicate that three parts out of the ten were absorbed in this way, or that a considerable, though an indefinite portion, was thus absorbed.
(5) The eyes: “and behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man.” Eyes denote intelligence, as we see objects by their aid. The rims of the wheels in Ezekiel’s vision were full of eyes Ezekiel 1:18, as symbolic of intelligence. This would denote that the power here referred to would be remarkably sagacious. We should naturally look for the fulfillment of this in a power that laid its plans wisely and intelligently; that had large and clear views of policy; that was shrewd and far-seeing in its counsels and purposes; that was skilled in diplomacy; or, that was eminent for statesman-like plans. This part of the symbol, if it stood alone, would find its fulfillment in any wise and shrewd administration; as it stands here, surrounded by others, it would seem that this, as contrasted with them, was characteristically shrewd and far-seeing in its policy. Lengerke, following Jerome, supposes that this means that the object referred to would be a man, “as the eyes of men are keener and sharper than those of other animals.” But the more correct interpretation is that above referred to - that it denotes intelligence, shrewdness, sagacity.
(6) The mouth: “and a mouth speaking great things.” A mouth indicating pride and arrogance. This is explained in Daniel 7:25, as meaning that he to whom it refers would “speak great words against the Most High;” that is, would be guilty of blasphemy. There would be such arrogance, and such claims set up, and such a spirit evinced, that it would be in fact a speaking against God. We naturally look for the fulfillment of this to some haughty and blaspheming power; some power that would really blaspheme religion, and that would be opposed to its progress and prosperity in the world. The Septuagint, in the Codex Chisianus, adds here, “and shall make war against the saints;” but these words are not found in the original Chaldee. They accord, however, well with the explanation in Daniel 7:25. What has been here considered embraces all that pertains properly to this symbol - the symbol of the fourth beast - except the fact stated in Daniel 7:11, that the beast was slain, and that his body was given to the burning flame. The inquiry as to the fulfillment will be appropriate when we come to consider the explanation given at the request of Daniel, by the angel, in Daniel 7:19-25.
I beheld - “I continued looking on these strange sights, and contemplating these transformations.” This implies that some time elapsed before all these things had occurred. He looked on until he saw a solemn judgment passed on this fourth beast particularly, as if God had come forth in his majesty and glory to pronounce that judgment, and to bring the power and arrogance of the beast to an end.
Till the thrones were cast down - The Chaldee word (כרסון kâresâvân) means, properly, thrones - seats on which monarchs sit. So far as the word is concerned, it would apply either to a throne occupied by an earthly monarch, or to the throne of God. The use of the plural here would seem to imply, at least, that the reference is not to the throne of God, but to some other throne. Maurer and Lengerke suppose that the allusion is to the thrones on which the celestial beings sat in the solemn judgment that was to be pronounced - the throne of God, and the thrones or seats of the attending inhabitants of heaven, coming with him to the solemn judgment. Lengerke refers for illustration to 1 Kings 22:19; Isaiah 6:1; Job 1:6, and Revelation 5:11-12. But the word itself might be properly applied to the thrones of earthly monarchs as well as to the throne of God. The phrase “were cast down” (רמיו remı̂yv), in our translation, would seem to suppose that there was some throwing down, or overturning of thrones, at this period, and that the solemn judgment would follow this, or be consequent on this.
The Chaldee word (רמא remâh) means, as explained by Gesenius, to cast, to throw Daniel 3:21, Daniel 3:24; Daniel 6:16-17; to set, to place, e. g., thrones; to impose tribute Ezra 7:24. The passage is rendered by the Latin Vulgate, throni positi sunt - “thrones were placed;” by the Greek, ἐτέθησαν etethēsan - “were placed.” So Luther, stuhle gesetzt; and so Lengerke, stuhle aufgestellt - the thrones were placed, or set up. The proper meaning, therefore, of the phrase would seem to be - not, as in our translation, that the “thrones would be cast down” - as if there was to be an overturning of thrones on the earth to mark this particular period of history - but that there was, in the vision, a setting up, or a placing of thrones for the purpose of administering judgment, etc., on the beast. The use of the plural is, doubtless, in accordance with the language elsewhere employed, to denote the fact that the great Judge would be surrounded with others who would be, as it were, associated in administering justice - either angels or redeemed spirits.
Nothing is more common in the Scripture than to represent others as thus associated with God in pronouncing judgment on men. Compare Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; 1Co 6:2-3; 1 Timothy 5:21; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 4:4. The era, or period, therefore, marked here, would be when a solemn Divine judgment was to be passed on the “beast,” or when some events were to take place, as if such a judgment were pronounced. The events pertaining to the fourth beast were to be the last in the series preparatory to the reign of the saints, or the setting up of the kingdom of the Messiah, and therefore it is introduced in this manner, as if a solemn judgment scene were to occur.
And the Ancient of days did sit - Was seated for the purposes of judgment. The phrase “Ancient of days” - יומין עתיק ‛attı̂yq yômı̂yn - is one that denotes an elderly or old person; meaning, he who is most ancient as to days, and is equivalent to the French L’Eternel, or English, The Eternal. It occurs only in Daniel 7:9, Daniel 7:13, Daniel 7:22, and is a representation of one venerable in years, sitting down for the purposes of judgment. The appellation does not of itself denote eternity, but it is employed, probably, with reference to the fact that God is eternal. God is often represented under some such appellation, as he that is “from everlasting to everlasting” Psalms 90:2, “the first and the last” Isaiah 44:6, etc. There can be no doubt that the reference here is to God as a Judge, or as about to pronounce judgment, though there is no necessity for supposing that it will be in a visible and literal form, anymore than there is for supposing that all that is here represented by symbols will literally take place.
If it should be insisted on that the proper interpretation demands that there will be a literal and visible judgment, such as is here described, it may be replied that the same rigid interpretation would demand that there will be a literal “slaying of the beast, and a giving of his body to the flame” Daniel 7:11, and more generally still, that all that is here referred to by symbols will literally occur. The fact, however, is, that all these events are referred to by symbols - symbols which have an expressive meaning, but which, by their very nature and design, are not to be literally understood. All that is fairly implied here is, that events would occur in regard to this fourth beast as if God should sit in solemn judgment on it, and should condemn it in the manner here referred to. We are, doubtless, in the fulfillment of this - to look for some event that will be of so decisive and marked a character, that it may be regarded as a Divine judgment in the case, or that will show the strongly marked Divine disapprobation - as really as if the judgment-seat were formally set, and God should appear in majesty to give sentence. Sitting was the usual posture among the ancients, as it is among the moderns, in pronouncing judgment. Among the ancients the judge sat on a throne or bench while the parties stood before him (compare Zechariah 4:13), and with the Greeks and Romans so essential was the sitting posture for a judge, that a sentence pronounced in any other posture was not valid. - Lengerke. It was a maxim, Animus sedendo magis sapit; or, as Servius on the AEn. i. 56, remarks, Est enim curantis et solliciti sedere.
Whose garment was white as snow - Whose robe. The reference here is to the long flowing robe that was worn by ancient princes, noblemen, or priests. See the notes at Isaiah 6:1. Compare the notes at Revelation 1:13. White was an emblem of purity and honor, and was not an improper symbol of the purity of the judge, and of the justness of the sentence which he would pronounce. So the elder Pitt, in his celebrated speech against employing Indians in the war with the American people, besought the bishops to “interpose the unsullied purity of their lawn.” Lengerke supposes, as Prof. Stuart does on Revelation 1:13, that the whiteness here referred to was not the mere color of the material of which the robe was made, but, was a celestial splendor or brightness, as if it were lightning or fire - such as is appropriate to the Divine Majesty. Lengerke refers here to Exodus 19:18-24; Daniel 2:22; Mat 17:2; 1 Timothy 6:16; 1 Timothy 2 Esdras 7:55; Ascension of Isa 8:21-25; Revelation 1:13-14; Revelation 4:2-4. But the more correct interpretation is to suppose that this refers to a pure white robe, such as judges might wear, and which would not be an improper symbol of their office.
And the hair of his head like the pure wool - That is, for whiteness - a characteristic of venerable age. Compare the notes at Revelation 1:14. The image here set before us is that of one venerable by years and wisdom.
His throne was like the fiery flame - The seat on which he sat seemed to be fire. That is, it was brilliant and splendid, as if it were a mass of flame.
And his wheels as burning fire - The wheels of his throne - for, as in Ezekiel 1; Ezekiel 10, the throne on which Jehovah sat appeared to be on wheels. In Ezekiel Ezekiel 1:16; Ezekiel 10:9, the wheels of the throne appeared to be of the color of beryl; that is, they were like precious stones. Here, perhaps, they had only the appearance of a flame - as such wheels would seem to flash flames. So, Milton, in describing the chariot of the Son of God:
“Forth rush’d with whirlwind sound
The chariot of Paternal Deity,
Flashing thick flames, wheel within wheel undrawn,
Itself instinct with spirit, but convoyed
By four cherubic shapes; four faces each
Had wondrous; as with stars their bodies all,
And wings were set with eyes; with eyes the wheels
Of beryl, and careering fires between.”
- Par. Lost, b. vi.
A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him - Streams of fire seemed to burst forth from his throne. Representations of this kind abound in the Scriptures to illustrate the majesty and glory of God. Compare Revelation 4:5, “And out of the throne proceeded lightnings, and thunderings, and voices.” Exodus 19:16; Habakkuk 3:4; Psalms 18:8.
Thousand thousands ministered unto him - “A thousand of thousands;” that is, thousands multiplied a thousand times. The mind is struck with the fact that there are thousands present - and then the number seems as great as if those thousands were multiplied a thousand times. The idea is that there was an immense - a countless host. The reference here is to the angels, and God is often represented as attended with great numbers of these celestial beings when he comes down to our world. Deuteronomy 33:2, “he came with ten thousands of saints;” that is, of holy ones. Psalms 68:17, “the chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels.” Compare Jude 1:14. The word “ministered” means that they attended on him.
And ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him - An innumerable host. These were not to be judged, but were attendants on him as he pronounced sentence. The judgment here referred to was not on the world at large, but on the beast, preparatory to giving the kingdom to the one who was like the Son of man Daniel 7:13-14.
The judgment was set - That is, all the arrangements for a solemn act of judgment were made, and the process of the judgment commenced.
And the books were opened - As containing the record of the deeds of those who were to be judged. Compare Revelation 20:12. The great Judge is represented as having before him the record of all the deeds on which judgment was to be pronounced, and to be about to pronounce sentence according to those deeds. The judgment here referred to seems to have been some solemn act on the part of God transferring the power over the world, from what had long swayed it, to the saints. As already remarked, the necessary interpretation of the passage does not require us to understand this of a literal and visible judgment - of a personal appearing of the “Ancient of days” - of a formal application to him by “one like the Son of man” Daniel 7:13 - or of a public and visible making over to him of a kingdom upon the earth. It is to be remembered that all this passed in vision before the mind of the prophet; that it is a symbolic representation; and that we are to find the fulfillment of this in some event changing the course of empire - putting a period to the power represented by the “beast” and the “horn,” and causing that power to pass into other hands - producing a change as great on the earth as if such a solemn act of judgment were passed. The nature of the representation requires that we should look for the fulfillment of this in some great and momentous change in human affairs - some events that would take away the power of the “beast,” and that would cause the dominion to pass into other hands. On the fulfillment, see the notes at Daniel 7:26.
I beheld then, because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake - I was attracted by these words - by their arrogance, and haughtiness, and pride; and I saw that it was on account of these mainly that the solemn judgment proceeded against the beast. The attitude of the seer here is this - he heard arrogant and proud words uttered by the “horn,” and he waited in deep attention, and in earnest expectation, to learn what judgment would be pronounced. He had seen Daniel 7:8 that horn spring up and grow to great power, and utter great things; he had then seen, immediately on this, a solemn and sublime preparation for judgment, and he now waited anxiously to learn what sentence would be pronounced. The result is stated in the subsequent part of the verse.
I beheld - I continued beholding. This would seem to imply that it was not done at once, but that some time intervened.
Even until the beast was slain - The fourth beast: what had the ten horns, and on which the little horn had sprung up. This was the result of the judgment. It is evidently implied here that the beast was slain on account of the words uttered by the horn that sprang up, or that the pride and arrogance denoted by that symbol were the cause of the fact that the beast was put to death. It is not said by whom the beast would be slain; but the fair meaning is, that the procuring cause of that death would be the Divine judgment, on account of the pride and arrogancy of the “horn” that sprang up in the midst of the others. If the “beast” represents a mighty monarchy that would exist on the earth and the “little horn” a new power that would spring out of that, then the fulfillment is to be found in such a fact as this - that this power, so mighty and terrible formerly, and that crushed down the nations, would, under the Divine judgment, be ultimately destroyed, on account of the nature of the authority claimed. We are to look for the accomplishment of this in some such state of things as that of a new power springing out of an existing dominion, that the existing dominion still remains, but was so much controlled by the new power, that it would be necessary to destroy the former on account of the arrogance and pride of what sprang from it. In other words, the destruction of the kingdom represented by the fourth beast would be, as a Divine judgment, on account of the arrogancy of that represented by the little horn.
And his body destroyed - That is, there would be a destruction of the kingdom here represented as much as there would be of the beast if his body was destroyed. The power of that kingdom, as such, is to come to an end.
And given to the burning flame - Consumed. This would represent, in strong terms, that the power here symbolized by the beast would be utterly destroyed. It is not, however, necessary to suppose that this is to be the mode in which it would be done, or that it would be by fire. It is to be remembered that all this is symbol, and no one part of the symbol should be taken literally more than another, nor is it congruous to suppose there would be a literal consuming fire in the case anymore than that there would be literally a beast, or ten horns, or a little horn, The fair meaning is, that there would be as real a destruction as if it were accomplished by fire; or a destruction of which fire would be the proper emblem. The allusion is here, probably, to the fact that the dead bodies of animals were often consumed by fire.
As concerning the rest of the beasts - They had been superseded, but not destroyed. It would seem that they were still represented in vision to Daniel, as retaining their existence, though their power was taken away, and their fierceness subdued, or that they still seemed to remain alive for a time, or while the vision was passing. They were not cut down, destroyed, and consumed as the fourth beast was.
They had their dominion taken away - They were superseded, or they no longer exercised power. They no more appeared exerting a control over the nations. They still existed, but they were subdued and quiet. It was possible to discern them, but they no longer acted the conspicuous part which they had done in the days of their greatness and grandeur. Their power had passed away. This cannot be difficult of interpretation. We should naturally look for the fulfillment of this in the fact that the nations referred to by these first three beasts were still in being, and could be recognized as nations, in their boundaries, or customs, or languages; but that the power which they had wielded had passed into other hands.
Yet their lives were prolonged - Margin, as in Chaldee, “a prolonging in life was given them.” That is, they were not utterly destroyed and consumed as the power of the fourth beast was after the solemn judgment. The meaning is, that in these kingdoms there would be energy for a time. They had life still; and the difference between them and the kingdom represented by the fourth beast was what would exist between wild animals subdued but still living, and a wild animal killed and burned. We should look for the fulfillment of this in some state of things where the kingdoms referred to by the three beasts were subdued and succeeded by others, though they still retained something of their national character; while the other kingdom had no successor of a civil kind, but where its power wholly ceased, and the dominion went wholly into other hands - so that it might be said that that kingdom, as such, had wholly ceased to be.
For a season and time - Compare the notes at Daniel 7:25. The time mentioned here is not definite. The phrase used (ועדן עד־זמן ‛ad-zeman ve‛ı̂ddân) refers to a definite period, both the words in the original referring to a designated or appointed time, though neither of them indicates anything about the length of the time, anymore than our word time does. Luther renders this, “For there was a time and an hour appointed to them how long each one should continue.” Grotius explains this as meaning, “Beyond the time fixed by God they could not continue.” The true meaning of the Chaldee is probably this: “For a time, even a definite time.” The mind of the prophet is at first fixed upon the fact that they continue to live; then upon the fact, somehow apparent, that it is for a definite period. Perhaps in the vision he saw them one after another die or disappear. In the words used here, however, there is nothing by which we can determine how long they were to continue. The time that the power represented by the little horn is to continue explained in Daniel 7:25, but there is no clue by which we can ascertain how long the existence of the power represented by the first three beasts was to continue. All that is clear is, that it was to be lengthened out for some period, but that that was a definite and fixed period.
I saw in the night visions - Evidently in the same night visions, or on the same occasion, for the visions are connected. See Daniel 7:1, Daniel 7:7. The meaning is, that he continued beholding, or that a new vision passed before him.
And, behold, one like the Son of man ... - It is remarkable that Daniel does not attempt to represent this by any symbol. The representation by symbols ceases with the fourth beast; and now the description assumes a literal form - the setting up of the kingdom of the Messiah and of the saints. Why this change of form occurs is not stated or known, but the sacred writers seem carefully to have avoided any representation of the Messiah by symbols. The phrase “The Son of Man” - אנשׁ בר bar 'ĕnâsh - does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament in such a connection, and with such a reference as it has here, though it is often found in the New, and is, in fact, the favorite term by which the Saviour designates himself. In Daniel 3:25, we have the phrase “the Son of God” (see the note at that passage), as applicable to one who appeared with the three” children” that were cast into the burning furnace; and in Ezekiel, the phrase “son of man” often occurs as applicable to himself as a prophet, being found more than eighty times in his prophecies, but the expression here used does not elsewhere occur in the Old Testament as applicable to the personage intended. As occurring here, it is important to explain it, not only in view of the events connected with it in the prophecy, but as having done much to mould the language of the New Testament. There are three questions in regard to its meaning: What does it signify? To whom does it refer? And what would be its proper fulfillment?
(1) The phrase is more than a mere Hebrew or Chaldee expression to denote man, but is always used with some peculiar significancy, and with relation to some peculiar characteristic of the person to whom it is applied, or with some special design. To ascertain this design, regard should be had to the expression of the original. “While the words אישׁ 'ı̂ysh and אישׁה 'ı̂iyshâh are used simply as designations of sex, אנושׁ 'ĕnôsh, which is etymologically akin to אישׁ 'ı̂ysh, is employed with constant reference to its original meaning, to be weak, sick; it is the ethical designation of man, but אדם 'âdâm denotes man as to his, physical, natural condition - whence the use of the word in such passages as Psalms 8:4; Job 25:6, and also its connection with בן bên are satisfactorily explained, The emphatic address אדם בן bên 'âdâm - Son of man - is therefore (in Ezekiel) a continued admonition to the prophet to remember that he is a man like all the rest.” - Havernick, Com. on, Ezekiel 2:1-2, quoted in the Bibliotheca Sacra, v. 718. The expression used here is בר־אנושׁ bar -'ĕnôsh, and would properly refer to man as weak and feeble, and as liable to be sick, etc. Applied to anyone as “a Son of man,” it would be used to denote that he partook of the weakness and infirmities of the race; and, as the phrase “the Son of man” is used in the New Testament when applied by the Saviour to himself, there is an undoubted reference to this fact - that he sustained a peculiar relation to our race; that he was in all respects a man; that he was one of us; that he had so taken our nature on himself that there was a peculiar propriety that a term which would at once designate this should be given to him. The phrase used here by Daniel would denote some one
(a) in the human form;
(b) some one sustaining a peculiar relation to man - as if human nature were embodied in him.
(2) The next inquiry here is, to whom, this refers? Who, in fact, was the one that was thus seen in vision by the prophet? Or who was designed to be set forth by this? This inquiry is not so much, whom did Daniel suppose or understand this to be? as, who was in fact designed to be represented; or in whom would the fulfillment be found? For, on the supposition that this was a heavenly vision, it is clear that it was intended to designate some one in whom the complete fulfillment was to be found. Now, admitting that this was a heavenly vision, and that it was intended to represent what would occur in future times, there are the clearest reasons for supposing that the Messiah was referred to; and indeed this is so plain, that it may be assumed as one of the indisputable things by which to determine the character and design of the prophecy. Among these reasons are the following:
(a) The name itself, as a name assumed by the Lord Jesus - the favorite name by which he chose to designate himself when on the earth. This name he used technically; he used it as one that would be understood to denote the Messiah; he used it as if it needed no explanation as having a reference to the Messiah. But this usage could have been derived only from this passage in Daniel, for there is no other place in the Old Testament where the name could refer with propriety to the Messiah, or would be understood to be applicable to him.
(b) This interpretation has been given to it by the Jewish writers in general, in all ages. I refer to this, not to say that their explanation is authoritative, but to show that it is the natural and obvious meaning; and because, as we shall see, it is what has given shape and form to the language of the New Testament, and is fully sanctioned there. Thus, in the ancient book of Zohar it is said, “In the times of the Messiah, Israel shall be one people to the Lord, and he shall make them one nation in the earth, and they shall rule above and below; as it is written, “Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven;” this is the King Messiah, of whom it is written, And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, etc.” So in the Talmud, and so the majority of the ancient Jewish rabbis. See Gill, Com. in loc. It is true that this interpretation has not been uniform among the Jewish rabbis, but still it has prevailed among them, as it has among Christian interpreters.
(c) A sanction seems to be given to this interpretation by the adoption of the title “Son of man” by the Lord Jesus, as that by which he chose to designate himself. That title was such as would constantly suggest this place in Daniel as referring to himself, and especially as he connected with it the declaration that “the Son of man would come in the clouds of heaven, etc.” It was hardly possible that he should use the title in such a connection without suggesting this place in Daniel, or without leaving the impression on the minds of his hearers that he meant to be understood as applying this to himself.
(d) It may be added, that it cannot with propriety be applied to any other. Porphyry, indeed, supposed that Judas Maccabeus was intended; Grotius that it referred to the Roman people; Aben Ezra to the people of Israel; and Cocceius to the people of the Most High (Gill); but all these are unnatural interpretations, and are contrary to what one would obtain by allowing the language of the New Testament to influence his mind. The title - so often used by the Saviour himself; the attending circumstances of the clouds of heaven; the place which the vision occupies - so immediately preceding the setting up of the kingdom of the saints; and the fact that that kingdom can be set up only under the Messiah, all point to him as the personage represented in the vision.
(3) But if it refers to the Messiah, the next inquiry is, What is to be regarded as the proper fulfillment of the vision? To what precisely does it relate? Are we to suppose that there will be a literal appearing of the Son of man - the Messiah - in the clouds of heaven, and a passing over of the kingdom in a public and solemn manner into the hands of the saints? In reply to these questions, it may be remarked
(a) that this cannot be understood as relating to the last judgment, for it is not introduced with reference to at all. The “Son of man” is not here represented as coming with a view to judge the world at the winding-up of human affairs, but for the purpose of setting up a kingdom, or procuring a kingdom for his saints. There is no assembling of the people of the world together; no act of judging the righteous and the wicked; no pronouncing of a sentence on either. It is evident that the world is to continue much longer under the dominion of the saints.
(b) It is not to be taken literally; that is, we are not, from this passage, to expect a literal appearance of the of man in the clouds of heaven, preparatory to the setting up of the kingdom of the saints. For if one portion is to be taken literally, there is no reason why all should not be. Then we are to expect, not merely the appearing of the Son of man in the clouds, but also the following things, as a part of the fulfillment of the vision, to wit: the literal placing of a throne, or seat; the literal streaming forth of flame from his throne; the literal appearing of the “Ancient of days,” with a garment of white, and hair as wool; a literal approach of the Son of man to him as seated on his throne to ask of him a kingdom, etc. But no one can believe that all this is to occur; no one does believe that it will.
(c) The proper interpretation is to regard this, as it was seen by Daniel, as a vision - a representation of a state of things in the world as if what is here described would occur. That is, great events were to take place, of which this would be a proper symbolic representation - or as if the Son of man, the Messiah, would thus appear; would approach the “Ancient of days;” would receive a kingdom, and would make it over to the saints. Now, there is no real difficulty in understanding what is here meant to be taught, and what we are to expect; and these points of fact are the following, namely,:
1. That he who is here called the “Ancient of days” is the source of power and dominion.
2. That there would be some severe adjudication of the power here represented by the beast and the horn.
3. That the kingdom or dominion of the world is to be in fact given to him who is here called “the Son of man” - the Messiah - a fact represented here by his approaching the “Ancient of days,” who is the source of all power.
4. That there is to be some passing over of the kingdom or power into the hands of the saints; or some setting up of a kingdom on the earth, of which he is to be the head, and in which the dominion over the world shall be in fact in the hands of his people, and the laws of the Messiah everywhere prevail. What will be the essential characteristics of that kingdom we may learn by the exposition of Daniel 7:14, compared with Daniel 7:27.
Came with the clouds of heaven - That is, he seemed to come down from the sky encompassed with clouds. So the Saviour, probably intending to refer to this language, speaks of himself, when he shall come to judge the world, as coming in clouds, or encompassed by clouds, Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62. Compare Revelation 1:7. Clouds are an appropriate symbol of the Divinity. See Psalms 97:2; Psalms 104:3. The same symbol was employed by the pagan, representing their deities as appearing covered with a cloud:
“Tandem venias, precamur,
Nube candentes humeros amictus,
- Horace, Lyr. I. 2.
The allusion in the place before us is not to the last judgment, but to the fact that a kingdom on tho earth would be passed over into the hands of the Messiah. He is represented as coming sublimely to the world, and as receiving a kingdom that would succeed those represented by the beasts.
And came to the Ancient of days - Daniel 7:9. This shows that the passage cannot refer to the final judgment. He comes to the “Ancient of days” - to God as the source of power - as if to ask a petition for a kingdom; not to pronounce a judgment on mankind. The act here appropriately denotes that God is the source of all power; that all who reign derive their authority from him, and that even the Messiah, in setting up his kingdom in the world, receives it at the hand of the Father. This is in accordance with all the representations in the New Testament. We are not to suppose that this will occur literally. There is to be no such literal sitting of one with the appearance of age - denoted by the “Ancient of days” - on a throne; nor is there to be any such literal approaching him by one in the form of a man to receive a kingdom. Such passages show the absurdity of the attcmpts to interpret the language of the Scriptures literally. All that this symbol fairly means must be, that the kingdom that was to be set up under the Messiah on the earth was received from God.
And they brought him near before him - That is, he was brought near before him. Or, it may mean that his attendants brought him near. All that the language necessarily implies is, that he came near to his seat, and received from him a kingdom.
And there was given him dominion - That is, by him who is represented as the “Ancient of days.” The fair interpretation of this is, that he received the dominion from him. This is the uniform representation in the New Testament. Compare Matthew 28:18; Joh 3:35; 1 Corinthians 15:27. The word dominion here means rule or auhority - such as a prince exercises. He was set over a kingdom as a prince or ruler.
And glory - That is the glory or honor appropriate to one at the head of such an empire.
And a kingdom - That is, he would reign. He would have sovereignty. The nature and the extent of this kingdom is immediately designated as one that would be universal and perpetual. What is properly implied in this language as to the question whether it will be literal and visible, will be appropriately considered at the close of the verse. All that is necessary to be noticed here is, that it is everywhere promised in the Old Testament that the Messiah would be a king, and have a kingdom. Compare Psalms 2:1-12; Isaiah 9:6-7.
That all people, nations, and languages should serve him - It would be universal; would embrace all nations. The language here is such as would emphatically denote universality. See the notes at Daniel 3:4; Daniel 4:1. It implies that that kingdom would extend over all the nations of the earth, and we are to look for the fulfillment of this only in such a universal reign of the Messiah.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion ... - The others, represented by the four beasts, would all pass away, but this would be permanent and eternal. Nothing would destroy it. It would not have, as most kingdoms of the earth have had, any such internal weakness or source of discord as would be the cause of its destruction, nor would there be any external power that would invade or overthrow it. This declaration affirms nothing as to the form in which the kingdom would exist, but merely asserts the fact that it would do so. Respecting the kingdom of the Messiah, to which this undoubtedly alludes, the same thing is repeatedly and uniformly affirmed in the New Testament. Compare Matthew 16:18; Hebrews 12:28; Revelation 11:15. The form and manner in which this will occur is more fully developed in the New Testament; in the vision seen by Daniel the fact only is stated.
The question now arises, What would be a fulfillment of this prediction respecting the kingdom that will be given to the saints? What, from the language used in the vision, should we be legitimately authorized to expect to take place on the earth? In regard to these questions, there are but two views which can be taken, and the interpretation of the passage must sustain the one or the other.
(a) One is what supposes that this will be literally fulfilled in the sense that the Son of God, the Messiah, will reign personally on earth. According to this, he will come to set up a visible and glorious kingdom, making Jerusalem his capital, and swaying his scepter over the world. All nations and people will be subject to him; all authority will be wielded by his people under him.
(b) According to the other view, there will be a spiritual reign of the Son of God over the earth; that is, the principles of his religion will everywhere prevail, and the righteous will rule, and the laws of the Redeemer will be obeyed everywhere. There will be such a prevalence of his gospel on the hearts of all - rulers and people; the gospel will so modify all laws, and control all customs, and remove all abuses, and all the forms of evil; men will be so generally under the influence of that gospel, that it may be said that He reigns on the earth, or that the government actually administered is his.
In regard to these different views, and to the true interpretation of the passage, it may be remarked,
(1) That we are not to look for the literal fulfillment of this; we are not to expect that what is here described will literally occur. The whole is evidently a symbolic representation, and the fulfillment is to be found in something that the symbol would properly denote. No one can pretend that there is to be an actual sitting on the throne, by one in the form of an old man - “the Ancient of days” - or that there is to be a literal coming to him by one “like the Son of man,” to receive a kingdom. But if one part of the representation is not to be literally interpreted, why should the other be? It may be added, that it is nowhere said that this would literally occur.
(2) All that is fairly implied here is found in the latter interpretation. Such a prevalence of the principles of the gospel would meet the force of the language, and every part of the vision would find a real fulfillment in that.
(a) The fact that it proceeds from God - represented as “the Ancient of days.”
(b) The fact that it is given by him, or that the kingdom is made over by him to the Messiah.
(c) The fact that the Messiah would have such a kingdom; that is, that he would reign on the earth, in the hearts and lives of men.
(d) The fact that that kingdom would be universal - extending over all people.
(e) And the fact that it would be perpetual; that is, that it would extend down to the end of time, or the consummation of all things here, and that it would be then eternal in the heavens.
For a very full and ample illustration of this passage - so full and ample as to supersede the necessity of any additional illustration here, see the notes at Daniel 2:44-45.
I Daniel was grieved in my spirit - That is, I was troubled; or my heart was made heavy and sad. This was probably in part because he did not fully understand the meaning of the vision, and partly on account of the fearful and momentous nature of what was indicated by it. So the apostle John Revelation 5:4 says, “And I wept much because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book.”
In the midst of my body - Margin, as in the Chaldee, sheath. The body is undoubtedly referred to, and is so called as the envelope of the mind - or as that in which the soul is inserted, as the sword is in the sheath, and from which it is drawn out by death. The same metaphor is employed by Pliny: Donec cremato co inimici remeanti animae velut vaginam ademerint. So, too, a certain philosopher, who was slighted by Alexander the Great on account of his ugly face, is said to have replied, Corpus hominis nil est nisi vagina gladii in qua anima reconditur. - Gesenius. Compare Lengerke, in loc. See also Job 27:8, “When God taketh away his soul;” or rather draws out his soul, as a sword is drawn out of the sheath. Compare the note at that place. See also Buxtorf’s Lexicon Tal. p. 1307. The meaning here is plain - that Daniel felt sad and troubled in mind, and that this produced a sensible effect on his body.
And the visions of my head troubled me - The head is here regarded as the seat of the intellect, and he speaks of these visions as if they were seen by the head. That is, they seemed to pass before his eyes.
I came near unto one of them that stood by - That is, to one of the angels who appeared to stand near the throne. Daniel 7:10. Compare Daniel 8:13; Zechariah 4:4-5; Revelation 7:13. It was natural for Daniel to suppose that the angels who were seen encircling the throne would be able to give him information on the subject, and the answers which Daniel received show that he was not mistaken in his expectation. God has often employed angels to communicate important truths to men, or has made them the medium of communicating his will. Compare Revelation 1:1; Acts 7:53; Hebrews 2:2.
So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things - He explained the meaning of the symbols, so that Daniel understood them. It would seem probable that Daniel has not recorded all that the angel communicated respecting the vision, but he has preserved so much that we may understand its general signification.
These great beasts, which are four, are four kings - Four kings or four dynasties. There is no reason for supposing that they refer to individual kings, but the obvious meaning is, that they refer to four dominions or empires that would succeed one another on the earth. So the whole representation leads us to suppose, and so the passage has been always interpreted. The Latin Vulgate renders it regna; the Septuagint βασιλεῖαι basileiai; Luther, Reiche; Lengerke, Konigreiche. This interpretation is confirmed, also, by Daniel 7:23, where it is expressly said that “the fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth.” See also Daniel 7:24.
Which shall arise out of the earth - In Daniel 7:2 the beasts are represented as coming up from the sea - the emblem of agitated nations. Here the same idea is presented more literally - that they would seem to spring up out of the earth, thus thrown into wild commotion. These dynasties were to be upon the earth, and they were in all things to indicate their earthly origin. Perhaps, also, it is designed by these words to denote a marked contrast between these four dynasties and the one that would follow - which would be of heavenly origin. This was the general intimation which was given to the meaning of the vision, and he was satisfied at once as to the explanation, so far as the first three were concerned; but the fourth seemed to indicate more mysterious and important events, and respecting this he was induced to ask a more particular explanation.
But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom - That is, they shall ultimately take possession of the rule over all the world, and shall control it from that time onward to the end. This is the grand thing which the vision is designed to disclose, and on this it was evidently the intention to fix the mind. Everything before was preparatory and subordinate to this, and to this all things tended. The phrase rendered the Most High - in the margin “high ones, i. e., things or places” - עליונין ‛eleyônı̂yn - is in the plural number, and means literally high ones; but there can be no doubt that it refers here to God, and is given to Him as the word אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym is (Genesis 1:1, et saepe), to denote majesty or honor - pluralis excellentice. The word rendered saints means the holy, and the reference is undoubtedly to the people of God on the earth, meaning here that they would take possession of the kingdom, or that they would rule. When true religion shall everywhere prevail, and when all offices shall be in the hands of good men - of men that fear God and that keep his commandments - instead of being in the hands of bad men, as they generally have been, then this prediction will be accomplished in respect to all that is fairly implied in it.
And possess the kingdom for ever, even forever and ever - This is a strong and emphatic declaration, affirming that this dominion will be perpetual. It will not pass away, like the other kingdoms, to be succeeded by another one. What is here affirmed, as above remarked, will be true if such a reign should continue on earth to the winding up of all things, and should then be succeeded by an eternal reign of holiness in the heavens. It is not necessary to interpret this as meaning that there would be literally an eternal kingdom on this earth, for it is everywhere taught in the Scriptures that the present order of things will come to a close. But it does seem necessary to understand this as teaching that there will be a state of prevalent righteousness on the earth hereafter, and that when that is introduced it will continue to the end of time.
Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast - I desired to know particularly what was symbolized by that. He appears to have been satisfied with the most general intimations in regard to the first three beasts, for the kingdoms represented by them seemed to have nothing very remarkable. But it was different in regard to the fourth. The beast itself was so remarkable - so fierce and terrific; the number of the horns was so great; the springing up of the little horn was so surprising; the character of that horn was so unusual; the judgment passed on it was so solemn; and the vision of one like the Son of man coming to take possession of the kingdom - all these things were of so fearful and so uncommon a character, that the mind of Daniel was peculiarly affected in view of them, and he sought earnestly for a further explanation. In the description that Daniel here gives of the beast and the horns, he refers in the main to the same cirumstances which he had before described; but he adds a few which he had before omitted, all tending to impress the mind more deeply with the fearful character and the momentous import of the vision; as, for instance, the fact that it had nails of brass, and made war with the saints.
Which was diverse from all the others - Different in its form and character; - so different as to attract particular attention, and to leave the impression that something very peculiar and remarkable was denoted by it. Notes, Daniel 7:7.
Exceeding dreadful - Notes, Daniel 7:7.
And his nails of brass - This circumstance is not mentioned in the first statement, Daniel 7:7. It accords well with the other part of the description, that his teeth were of iron, and is designed to denote the fearful and terrific character of tho kingdom, symbolized by the beast.
Which devoured ... - See the notes at Daniel 7:7.
And of the ten horns ... - See the notes at Daniel 7:7-8.
Whose look was more stout than his fellows - literally, “whose aspect was greater than that of its companions.” This does not mean that its look or aspect was more fierce or severe than that of the others, but that the appearance of the horn was greater - רב rab. In Daniel 7:8, this is described as a “little horn;” and to understand this, and reconcile the two, we must suppose that the seer watched this as it grew until it became the largest of the number. Three fell before it, and it outgrew in size all the others until it became the most prominent. This would clearly denote that the kingdom or the authority referred to by this eleventh horn would be more distinct and prominent than either of the others - would become so conspicuous and important as in fact to concentrate and embody all the power of the beast.
I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints - I continued to look on this until I saw war made by this horn with the people of God. This circumstance, also, is not referred to in the first description, and the order of time in the description would seem to imply that the war with the saints would be at a considerable period after the first appearance of the horn, or would be only when it had grown to its great size and power. This “war” might refer to open hostilities, carried on in the usual manner of war; or to persecution, or to any invasion of the rights and privileges of others. As it is a “war with the saints,” it would be most natural to refer it to persecution.
And prevailed against them - That is, he overcame and subdued them, he was stronger than they were, and they were not able to resist him. The same events are evidently referred to and in almost similar language - borrowed probably from Daniel - in Revelation 13:5-7 : “And there was given him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.”
Until the Ancient of days came - Notes, Daniel 7:9. That is, this was to occur after the horn grew to its full size, and after the war was made with the saints, and they had been overcome. It does not affirm that this would occur immediately, but that at some subsequent period the Ancient of days would come, and would set up a kingdom on the earth, or would make over the kingdom to the saints. There would be as real a transfer and as actual a setting up of a peculiar kingdom, as if God himself should appear on the earth, and should publicly make over the dominion to them.
And judgment was given to the saints of the Most High - That is, there was a solemn act of judgement in the case by which the kingdom was given to their hands. It was as real a transfer as if there had been a judgment pronounced on the beast, and he had been condemned and overthrown, and as if the dominion which he once had should be made over to the servants of the Most High.
And the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom - That they ruled on the earth; that good men made and administered the laws; that the principles of religion prevailed, influencing the hearts of all men, and causing righteousness and justice to be done. The universal prevalence of true religion, in controlling the hearts and lives of men, and disposing them to do what in all circumstances ought to be done, would be a complete fulfillment of all that is here said. Thus far the description of what Daniel saw, of which he was so desirous to obtain an explanation. The explanation follows, and embraces the remainder of the chapter.
Thus he said ... - That is, in explanation of the fourth symbol which appeared - the fourth beast, and of the events connected with his appearing. This explanation embraces the remainder of the chapter; and as the whole subject appeared difficult and momentous to Daniel before the explanation, so it may be said to be in many respects difficult, and in all respects momentous still. It is a question on which expositors of the Scriptures are by no means agreed, to what it refers, and whether it has been already accomplished, or whether it extends still into the future; and it is of importance, therefore, to determine, if possible, what is its true meaning. The two points of inquiry which are properly before us are, first, What do the words of explanation as used by the angel fairly imply - that is, what, according to the fair interpretation of these words, would be the course of events referred to, or what should we naturally expect to find as actually occurring on the earth in the fulfillment of this? and, secondly, To what events the prophecy is actually to be applied - whether to what has already occurred, or what is yet to occur; whether we can find anything in what is now past which would be an accomplishment of this, or whether it is to be applied to events a part of which are yet future? This will lead us into a statement of the points which it is affirmed would occur in regard to this kingdom: and then into an inquiry respecting the application.
What is fairly implied in the explanation of the angel? This would embrace the following points:
(1) There was to be a fourth kingdom on the earth: “the fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth,” Daniel 7:23. This was to succeed the other three, symbolized by the lion, the bear, and the leopard. No further reference is made to them, but the characteristics of this are fully stated. Those characteristics, which have been explained in the notes at Daniel 7:7, are, as here repeated,
(a) that it would be in important respects different from the others;
(b) that it would devour, or subdue the whole earth;
(c) that it would tread it down and break it in pieces; that is, it would be a universal dynasty, of a fierce and warlike character, that would keep the whole world subdued and subject by power.
(2) out of this sovereignty or dominion, ten powers would arise Daniel 7:24 : “and the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise.” Compare the notes at Daniel 7:7. That is, they would spring out of this one dominion, or it would be broken up into these minor sovereignties, yet all manifestly springing from the one kingdom, and wielding the same power. We should not naturally look for the fulfillment of this in a succession of kings, for that would have been symbolized by the beast itself representing the entire dominion or dynasty, but rather to a number of contemporaneous powers that had somehow sprung out of the one power, or that now possessed and wielded the power of that one dominion. If the kingdom here referred to should be broken up into such a number of powers, or if in any way these powers became possessed of this authority, and wielded it, such a fact would express what we are to expect to find in this kingdom.
(3) From the midst of these sovereignties or kingdoms there was to spring up another one of peculiar characteristics, Daniel 7:24-25. These characteristics are the following:
(a) That it would spring out of the others, or be, as it were, one form of the administration of the same power - as the eleventh horn sprang from the same source as the ten, and we are, therefore, to look for the exercise of this power somehow in connection with the same kingdom or dynasty.
(b) This would not spring up contemporaneously with the ten, but would arise “after them” - and we are to look for the power as in some sense succeeding them.
(c) It would be small at first - as was the horn Daniel 7:8, and we are to look for the fulfillment in some power that would be feeble at first.
(d) It would grow to be a mighty power for the little horn became so powerful as to pluck up three of the others Daniel 7:8, and it is said in the explanation Daniel 7:24, that he would subdue three of the kings.
(e) It would subdue “three kings;” that is, three of the ten, and we are to look for the fulfillment in some manifestation of that power by which, either literally three of them were overthrown, or by which about one-third of their power was taken away. The mention of the exact number of “three,” however, would rather seem to imply that we are to expect some such exact fulfillment, or some prostration of three sovereignties by the new power that would arise.
(f) It would be proud, and ambitious, and particularly arrogant against God: “and he shall speak great words against the Most High,” Daniel 7:25. The Chaldee here rendered against - לצד letsad - means, literally, at, or against the part of it, and then against. Vulgate contra; Greek πρὸς pros. This would be fulfilled in one who would blaspheme God directly; or who would be rebellious against his government and authority; or who would complain of his administration and laws; or who would give utterance to harsh and reproachful words against his real claims. It would find a fulfillment obviously in an open opposer of the claims and the authority of the true God; or in one the whole spirit and bearing of whose pretensions might be fairly construed as in fact an utterance of great words against him.
(g) This would be a persecuting power: “and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,” Daniel 7:25. That is, it would be characterized by a persecution of the real saints - of those who were truly the friends of God, and who served him.
(h) It would claim legislative power, the power of changing established customs and laws: “and think to change times and laws,” Daniel 7:25. The word rendered “think” (סבר sebar) means, more properly, to hope; and the idea here is, that he hopes and trusts to be able to change times and laws. Vulgate, Putabit quod possit mutare tempora, etc. The state of mind here referred to would be that of one who would desire to produce changes in regard to the times and laws referred to, and who would hope that he would be able to effect it. If there was a strong wish to do this, and if there was a belief that in any way he could bring it about, it would meet what is implied in the use of the word here. There would be the exercise of some kind of authority in regard to existing times for festivals, or other occasions, and to existing laws, and there would be a purpose so to change them as to accomplish his own ends.
The word “times” - זמנין zı̂mnı̂yn - would seem to refer properly to some stated or designated times - as times appointed for festivals, etc. Gesenius, “time, specially an appointed time, season:” Ecclesiastes 3:1; Nehemiah 2:6; Esther 9:27, Esther 9:31. Lengerke renders the word Fest-Zeiten - “festival times,” and explains it as meaning the holy times, festival days, Leviticus 23:2, Leviticus 23:4, Leviticus 23:37, Leviticus 23:44. The allusion is, undoubtedly, to such periods set apart as festivals or fasts - seasons consecrated to the services of religion and the kind of jurisdiction which the power here referred to would hope and desire to set up would be to have control of these periods, and so to change and alter them as to accomplish his own purposes - either by abolishing those in existence, or by substituting others in their place. At all times these seasons have had a direct connection with the state and progress of religion; and he who has power over them, either to abolish existing festivals, or to substitute others in their places, or to appoint new festivals, has an important control over the whole subject of religion, and over a nation.
The word rendered “laws” here - דת dâth - while it might refer to any law, would more properly designate laws pertaining to religion. See Daniel 6:5, Daniel 6:7, Daniel 6:12 (Daniel 6:6, Daniel 6:9, Daniel 6:13); Ezra 7:12, Ezra 7:21. So Lengerke explains it as referring to the laws of religion, or to religion. The kind of jurisdiction, therefore, referred to in this place would be what would pertain to the laws and institutions of religion; it would be a purpose to obtain the control of these; it would be a claim of right to abolish such as existed, and to institute new ones; it would be a determination to exert this power in such a way as to promote its own ends.
(i) It would continue for a definite period: “and they shall be given into his hands until a time and times and the dividing of time,” Daniel 7:25. They; that is, either those laws, or the people, the powers referred to. Maurer refers this to the “saints of the Most High,” as meaning that they would be delivered into his hands. Though this is not designated expressly, yet perhaps it is the most natural construction, as meaning that he would have jurisdiction over the saints during this period; and if so, then the meaning is, that he would have absolute control over them, or set up a dominion over them, for the time specified the time, and times, etc. In regard to this expression “a time and times, etc., it is unnecessary to say that there has been great diversity of opinion among expositors, and that many of the controversies in respect to future events turn on the sense attached to this and to the similar expressions which occur in the book of Revelation. The first and main inquiry pertains, of course, to its literal and proper signification. The word used here rendered “time, times, time” - עדן עדנין ‛ı̂dânı̂yn ‛ı̂dân - is a word which in itself would no more designate any definite and fixed period than our word time does.
See Daniel 2:8-9, Daniel 2:21; Daniel 3:5, Daniel 3:15; Daniel 4:16, Daniel 4:23, Daniel 4:25, Daniel 4:32; Daniel 7:12. In some of these instances, the period actually referred to was a year Daniel 4:16, Daniel 4:23, but this is not necessarily implied in the word used, but the limitation is demanded by the circumstances of the case. So far as the word is concerned, it would denote a day, a week, a month, a year, or a larger or smaller division of time, and the period actually intended to be designated must be determined from the connection. The Latin Vulgate is indefinite - ad tempus; so the Greek - ἕως καιροῦ heōs kairou; so the Syriac, and so Luther - eine Zeit; and so Lengerke - eine Zeit. The phrase “for a time” expresses accurately the meaning of the original word. The word rendered “times” is the same word in the plural, though evidently with a dual signification. - Gesenius, Lexicon; Lengerke, in loc. The obvious meaning is two such times as is designated by the former “time.”
The phrase “and the dividing of a time” means clearly half of such a period. Thus, if the period denoted by a “time,” here be a year, the whole period would be three years and a half. Designations of time like this, or of this same period, occur several times in the prophecies (Daniel and Revelation), and on their meaning much depends in regard to the interpretation of the prophecies pertaining to the future. This period of three years and a half equals forty-two months, or twelve hundred and sixty days - the periods mentioned in Revelation 11:2; Revelation 12:6, and on which so much depends in the interpretation of that book. The only question of importance in regard to the period of time here designated is, whether this is to be taken literally to denote three years and a half, or whether a symbolic method is to be adopted, by making each one of the days represent a year, thus making the time referred to, in fact, twelve hundred and sixty years. On this question expositors are divided, and probably will continue to be, and according as one or the other view is adopted, they refer the events here to Antiochus Epiphanes, or to the Papal power; or perhaps it should be said more accurately, according as they are disposed to refer the events here to Antiochus or to the Papacy, do they embrace one or the other method of interpretation in regard to the meaning of the days. At this point in the examination of the passage, the only object is to look at it exegetically; to examine it as language apart from the application, or unbiassed by any purpose of application; and though absolute certainty cannot perhaps be obtained, yet the following may be regarded as exegetically probable:
(1) The word time may be viewed as denoting a year: I mean a year rather than a week, a month, or any other period - because a year is a more marked and important portion of time, and because a day, a week, a month, is so short that it cannot be reasonably supposed that it is intended. As there is no larger natural period than a year - no cycle in nature that is so marked and obvious as to be properly suggested by the word time, it cannot be supposed that any such cycle is intended. And as there is so much particularity in the language used here, “a time, and times, and half a time,” it is to be presumed that some definite and marked period is intended, and that it is not time in general. It may be presumed, therefore, that in some sense of the term the period of a year is referred to.
(2) The language does not forbid the application to a literal year, and then the actual time designated would be three years and a half. No laws of exegesis, nothing in the language itself, could be regarded as violated, if such an interpretation were given to the language, and so far as this point is concerned, there would be no room for debate.
(3) The same remark may be made as to the symbolic application of the language - taking it for a much longer period than literally three years and a half; that is, regarding each day as standing for a year, and thus considering it as denoting twelve hundred and sixty years. This could not be shown to be a violation of prophetic usage, or to be forbidden by the nature of prophetic language, because nothing is more common than symbols, and because there are actual instances in which such an interpretation must be understood. Thus in Ezekiel 4:6, where the prophet was commanded to lie upon his right side forty days, it is expressly said that it was symbolic or emblematic: “I have appointed thee each day for a year.” No one can doubt that it would be strictly consistent with prophetic usage to suppose that the time here might be symbolic, and that a longer time might be referred to than the literal interpretation would require.
(4) It may be added, that there are some circumstances, even considering the passage with reference only to the interpretation of the language, and with no view to the question of its application, which would make this appear probable. Among these circumstances are the following:
(a) the fact that, in the prophecies, it is unusual to designate the time literally. Very few instances can be referred to in which this is done. It is commonly by some symbol; some mark; some peculiarity of the time or age referred to, that the designation is made, or by some symbol that may be understood when the event has occurred.
(b) This designation of time occurs in the midst of symbols - where all is symbol - the beasts, the horns, the little horn, etc.; and it would seem to be much more probable that such method would be adopted as designating the time referred to than a literal method.
(c) It is quite apparent on the mere perusal of the passage here that the events do actually extend far into the future - far beyond what would be denoted by the brief period of three and a half years. This will be considered more fully in another place in the inquiry as to the meaning of these prophecies. (See also Editor’s Preface to volume on Revelation.)
(4) A fourth point in the explanation given by the interpreter to Daniel is, that there would be a solemn judgment in regard to this power, and that the dominion conceded to it over the saints for a time would be utterly taken away, and the power itself destroyed: “but the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume, and to destroy it unto the end,” Daniel 7:26. That is, it shall be taken away; it shall come entirely to an end. The interpreter does not say by whom this would be done, but he asserts the fact, and that the destruction of the dominion would be final. That is, it would entirely and forever cease. This would be done by an act of Divine judgment, or as if a solemn judgment should be held, and a sentence pronounced. It would be as manifestly an act of God as if he should sit as a judge, and pronounce sentence. See the notes at Daniel 7:9-11.
(5) And, a fifth point in the explanation of the interpreter is, that the dominion under the whole heaven would be given to the saints of the Most High, and that all nations should serve him; that is, that there would be a universal prevalence of righteousness on the earth, and that God would reign in the hearts and lives of men, Daniel 7:27. See the notes at Daniel 7:13-14.
Hitherto is the end of the matter - That is, the end of what I saw and heard. This is the sum of what was disclosed to the prophet, but he still says that he meditated on it with profound interest, and that he had much solicitude in regard to these great events. The words rendered hitherto, mean, so far, or thus far. The phrase “end of the matter,” means “the close of the saying a thing;” that is, this was all the revelation which was made to him, and he was left to his own meditations respecting it.
As for me Daniel - So far as I was concerned; or so far as this had any effect on me. It was not unnatural, at the close of this remarkable vision, to state the effect that it had on himself.
My cogitations much troubled me - My thoughts in regard to it. It was a subject which he could not avoid reflecting on, and which could not but produce deep solicitude in regard to the events which were to occur. Who could look into the future without anxious and agitating thought? These events were such as to engage the profoundest attention; such as to fix the mind in solemn thought. Compare the notes at Revelation 5:4.
And my countenance changed in me - The effect of these revelations depicted themselves on my countenance. The prophet does not say in what way - whether by making him pale, or careworn, or anxious, but merely that it produced a change in his appearance. The Chaldee is “brightness” - זיו zı̂yv - and the meaning would seem to be, that his bright and cheerful countenance was changed; that is, that his bright looks were changed; either by becoming pale (Gesenius, Lengerke), or by becoming serious and thoughtful.
But I kept the matter in my heart - I communicated to no one the cause of my deep and anxious thoughts. He hid the whole subject in his own mind, until he thought proper to make this record of what he had seen and heard. Perhaps there was no one to whom he could communicate the matter who would credit it; perhaps there was no one at court who would sympathize with him; perhaps he thought that it might savor of vanity if it were known; perhaps he felt that as no one could throw any new light on the subject, there would be no use in making it a subject of conversation; perhaps he felt so overpowered that he could not readily converse on it.
We are prepared now, having gone through with an exposition of this chapter, as to the meaning of the symbols, the words, and the phrases, to endeavor to ascertain what events are referred to in this remarkable prophecy, and to ask what events it was designed should be pourtrayed. And in reference to this there are but two opinions, or two classes of interpretations, that require notice: what refers it primarily and exclusively to Antiochus Epiphanes, and what refers it to the rise and character of the Papal power; what regards the fourth beast as referring to the empire of Alexander, and the little horn to Antiochus, and what regards the fourth beast as referring to the Roman empire, and the little horn to the Papal dominion. In inquiring which of these is the true interpretation, it will be proper, first, to consider whether it is applicable to Antiochus Epiphanes; secondly, whether it in fact finds a fulfillment in the Roman empire and the Papacy; and, thirdly, if such is the proper application, what are we to look for in the future in what remains unfulfilled in regard to the prophecy.
I. The question whether it is applicable to the case of Antiochus Epiphanes. A large class of interpreters, of the most respectable character, among whom are Lengerke, Maurer, Prof. Stuart (Hints on the Interpretation of Prophecy, p. 86, following; also Com. on Daniel, pp. 205-211), Eichhorn, Bertholdt, Bleek, and many others, suppose that the allusion to Antiochus is clear, and that the primary, if not the exclusive, reference to the prophecy is to him. Professor Stuart (Hints, p. 86) says, “The passage in Daniel 7:25 is so clear as to leave no reasonable room for doubt.” “In Daniel 7:8, Daniel 7:20, Daniel 7:24, the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes is described; for the fourth beast is, beyond all reasonable doubt, the divided Grecian dominion which succeeded the reign of Alexander the Great. From this dynasty springs Antiochus, Daniel 7:8, Daniel 7:20, who is most graphically described in Daniel 7:25 ‘as one who shall speak great words against the most High,’ etc.”
The facts in regard to Antiochus, so far as they are necessary to be known in the inquiry, are briefly these: Antiochus Epiphanes (the Illustrios, a name taken on himself, Prideaux, iii. 213), was the son of Antiochus the Great, but succeeded his brother, Seleucus Philopator, who died 176 b.c. Antiochus reigned over Syria, the capital of which was Antioch, on the Oronres, from 176 b.c. to 164 b.c. His character, as that of a cruel tyrant, and a most bloodthirsty and bitter enemy of the Jews, is fully detailed in the first and second book of Maccabees. Compare also Prideaux, Con. vol. iii. 213-234. The facts in the case of Antiochus, so far as they are supposed to bear on the application of the prophecy before us, are thus stated by Prof. Stuart (Hints on the Interpretation of Prophecy, pp. 89, 90): “In the year 168 before Christ, in the month of May, Antiochus Epiphanes was on his way to attack Egypt, and he detached Apollonius, one of his military confidants, with 22,000 soldiers, in order to subdue and plunder Jerusalem. The mission was executed with entire success. A horrible slaughter was made of the men at Jerusalem, and a large portion of the women and children, being made captives, were sold and treated as slaves. The services of the temple were interrupted, and its joyful feasts were turned into mourning, 1 Macc. 1:37-39. Soon after this the Jews in general were compelled to eat swine’s flesh, and to sacrifice to idols. In December of that same year, the temple was profaned by introducing the statue of Jupiter Olympius; and on the 25th of that month sacrifices were offered to that idol on the altar of Jehovah. Just three years after this last event, namely, December 25, 165 b.c., the temple was expurgated by Judas Maccabeus, and the worship of Jehovah restored.
Thus, three years and a half, or almost exactly this period, passed away, while Antiochus had complete possession and control of everything in and around Jerusalem and the temple. It may be noted, also, that just three years passed, from the time when the profanation of the temple was carried to its greatest height - namely, by sacrificing to the statue of Jupiter Olympius on the altar of Jehovah, down to the time when Judas renewed the regular worship. I mention this last circumstance in order to account for the three years of Antiochus’ profanations, which are named as the period of them in Joseptus, Ant. xii. 7, Section 6. This period tallies exactly with the time during which the profanation as consummated was carried on, if we reckon down to the period when the temple worship was restored by Judas Maceabeus. But in Prooem. ad Bell. Jud. Section 7, and Bell. Jude 1:1, Section 1, Josephus reckons three years and a half as the period during which Antiochus ravaged Jerusalem and Judea.”
In regard to this statement, while the general facts are correct, there are some additional statements which should be made, to determine as to its real bearing on the case. The act of detaching Apollonius to attack Jerusalem was not, as is stated in this extract, when Antiochus was on his way to Egypt, but was on his return from Egypt, and was just two years after Jerusalem had been taken by Antiochus. - Prideaux, iii. 239. The occasion of his detaching Apollonius, was that Antiochus was enraged because he had been defeated in Egypt by the Romans, and resolved to vent all his wrath upon the Jews, who at that time had given him no particular offence. When, two years before, Antiochus had himself taken Jerusalem, he killed forty thousand persons; he took as many captives, and sold them for slaves; he forced himself into the temple, and entered the most holy place; he caused a great sow to be offered on the altar of burnt-offering, to show his contempt for the temple and the Jewish religion; he sprinkled the broth over every part of the temple for the purpose of polluting it; he plundered the temple of the altar of incense, the showbread table, and the golden candlestick, and then returned to Antioch, having appointed Philip, a Phrygian, a man of a cruel and barbarous temper, to be governor of the Jews. - Prideaux, iii. 231.
When Apollonius again attacked the city, two years afterward, he waited quietly until the Sabbath, and then made his assault. He filled the city with blood, set it on fire, demolished the houses, pulled down the walls, built a strong fortress over against the temple, from which the garrison could fall on all who should attempt to go to worship. From this time, “the temple became deserted, and the daily sacrifices were omitted,” until the service was restored by Judas Maccabeus, three years and a half after. The time during which this continued was, in fact, just three years and a half, until Judas MaccaUcus succeeded in expelling the pagan from the temple and from Jerusalem, when the temple was purified, and was solemnly reconsecrated to the worship of God. See Prideaux, Con. iii. 240, 241, and the authorities there cited.
Now, in reference to this interpretation, supposing that the prophecy relates to Antiochus, it must be admitted that there are coincidences which are remarkable, and it is on the ground of these coincidences that the prophecy has been applied to him. These circumstances are such as the following:
(a) The general character of the authority that would exist as denoted by the “little horn,” as that of severity and cruelty. None could be better fitted to represent that than the character of Antiochus Epiptianes. Compare Prideaux, Con. iii. 213, 214.
(b) His arrogance and blasphemy - “speaking great words against the Most High.” Nothing is easier than to find what would be a fulfillment of this in the character of Antiochus - in his sacrilegious entrance into the most holy places; in his setting up the statue of Jupiter; in his offering a sow as a sacrifice on the great altar; in His sprinkling the broth of swine on the temple in contempt of the Hebrews and their worship, and in his causing the daily sacrifice at the temple to cease.
(c) His making war with the “saints,” and “wearing out the saints of the Most High” - all this could be found accomplished in the wars which Antiochus waged against the Jews in the slaughter of so many thousands, and in sending so many into hopeless slavery.
(d) His attempt to “change times and laws” - this could be found to have been fulfilled in the case of Antiochus - in his arbitrary character, and in his interference with the laws of the Hebrews.
(e) The time, as above stated, is the most remarkable coincidence. If this is not to be regarded as referring exclusively to Antiochus, it must be explained on one of two suppositions - either that it is one of those coincidences which will be found to happen in history, as coincidences happen in dreams; or as having a double reference, intended to refer primarily to Antiochus, but in a secondary and more important sense referring also to other events having a strong resemblance to this; or, in other words, that the language was designedly so couched as to relate to two similar classes of events. It is not to be regarded as very remarkable, however, that it is possible to find a fulfillment of these predictions in Antiochus, though it be supposed that the design was to describe the Papacy, for some of the expressions are of so general a character that they could be applied to many events which have occurred, and, from the nature of the case, there were strong points of resemblance between Antiochus and the Papal power. It is not absolutely necessary, therefore, to suppose that this had reference to Antiochus Epiphanes; and there are so many objections to this view as to make it, it seems to me, morally impossible that it should have had such a reference. Among these objections are the following:
(1) This interpretation makes it necessary to divide the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, and to consider them two kingdoms, as Eichhorn, Jahn, Dereser, DeWette, and Bleek do. In order to this interpretation, the following are the kingdoms denoted by the four beasts - by the first, the Chaldee; by the second, the Medish; by the third, the Persian; and by the fourth, the Macedonian, or the Macedonian-Asiatic kingdom under Alexander the Great. But to say nothing now of any other difficulties, it is an insuperable objection to this, that so far as the kingdoms of the Medes and Persians are mentioned in Scripture, and so far as they play any part in the fulfillment of prophecy, they are always mentioned as one. They appear as one; they act as one; they are regarded as one. The kingdom of the Medes does not appear until it is united with that of the Persians, and this remark is of special importance when they are spoken of as succeeding the kingdom of Babylon. The kingdom of the Medes was contemporaneous with that of Babylon; it was the Mede-Persian kingdom that was in any proper sense the successor of that of Babylon, as described in these symbols. The kingdom of the Medes, as Hengstenberg well remarks, could in no sense be said to have succeeded that of Babylon any longer than during the reign of Cyaxares II, after the taking of Babylon: and even during that short period of two years, the government was in fact in the hands of Cyrus. - Die Authentic des Daniel, p. 200. Schlosser (p. 243) says, “the kingdom of the Medes and Persians is to be regarded as in fact one and the same kingdom, only that in the change of the dynasty another branch obtained the authority.” See particularly, Rosenmuller, Alterthumskunde, i. 290, 291. These two kingdoms are in fact always blended - their laws, their customs, their religion, and they are mentioned as one. Compare Esther 1:3, Esther 1:18-19; Esther 10:2; Daniel 5:28; Daniel 6:8, Daniel 6:12, Daniel 6:15.
(2) In order to this interpretation, it is necessary to divide the empire founded by Alexander, and instead of regarding it as one, to consider what existed when he reigned as one; and that of Antiochus, one of the successors of Alexander, as another. This opinion is maintained by Bertholdt, who supposes that the first beast represented the Babylonian kingdom; the second, the kingdom of the Medes and Persians; the third, that of Alexander; and the fourth the kingdoms that sprang out of that. In order to this, it is necessary to suppose that the four heads and wings, and the ten horns, equally represent that kingdom, or sprang from it - the four heads, the kingdom when divided at the death of Alexander, and the ten horns, powers that ultimately sprang up from the same dominion. But this is contrary to the whole representation in regard to the Asiatic-Macedonian empire. In Daniel 8:8-9, where there is an undoubted reference to that empire, it is said “the he-goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven. And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, etc.” Here is an undoubted allusion to Alexander, and to his followers, and particularly to Antiochus, but no mention of any such division as is necessary to be supposed if the fourth beast represents the power that succeeded Alexander in the East. In no place is the kingdom of the successors of Alexander divided from his in the same sense in which the kingdom of the Medes and Persians is from that of Babylon, or the kingdom of Alexander from that of the Persians. Compare Hengstenberg, as above, pp. 203-205.
(3) The supposition that the fourth beast represents either the kingdom of Alexander, or, according to Bertholdt and others, the successors of Alexander, by no means agrees with the character of that beast as compared with the others. That beast was far more formidable, and more to be dreaded than either of the others. It had iron teeth and brazen claws; it stamped down all before it, and broke all to pieces, and manifestly represented a far more fearful dominion than either of the others. The same is true in regard to the parallel representation in Daniel 2:33, Daniel 2:40, of the fourth kingdom represented by the legs and feet of iron, as more terrific than either of those denoted by the gold, the silver, or the brass. But this representation by no means agrees with the character of the kingdom of either Alexander or his successors, and in fact would not be true of them. It would agree well, as we shall see, with the Roman power, even as contrasted with that of Babylon, Persia, or Macedon; but it is not the representation which would, with propriety, be given of the empire of Alexander, or his successors, as contrasted with those which preceded them. Compare Hengstenberg, as above, pp. 205-207. Moreover, this does not agree with what is expressly said of this power that should succeed that of Alexander, in a passage undoubtedly referring to it, in Daniel 8:22, where it is said, “Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.”
(4) On this supposition it is impossible to determine who are meant by the “ten horns” of the fourth beast Daniel 7:7, and the “ten kings” Daniel 7:24 that are represented by these. All the statements in Daniel that refer to the Macedonian kingdom Daniel 7:6; Daniel 8:8, Daniel 8:22 imply that the Macedonian empire in the East, when the founder died, would be divided into four great powers or monarchies - in accordance with what is well known to have been the fact. But who are the ten kings or sovereignties that were to exist under this general Macedonian power, on the supposition that the fourth beast represents this? Bertholdt supposes that the ten horns are “ten Syrian kings,” and that the eleventh little horn is Antiochus Epiphanes. The names of these kings, according to Bertholdt (pp. 432, 433), are Seleucus Nicator, Antiochus Sorer, Antiochus Theos, Seleucus Callinicus, Seleucus Ceraunus, Antiochus the Great, Seleucus Philopator, Heliodorus, Ptolemy Philometor, and Demetrius. So also Prof. Stuart, Com. on Dan. p. 208. But it is impossible to make out this exact number of Syrian kings from history, to say nothing now of the improbability of supposing that their power was represented by the fourth beast. These kings were not of the same dynasty, of Syria, of Macedonia, or of Egypt, but the list is made up of different kingdoms. Grotius (in loc.) forms the catalogue of ten kings out of the lists of the kings of Syria and Egypt - five out of one, and five out of the other; but this is manifestly contrary to the intention of the prophecy, which is to represent them as springing out of one and the same power. It is a further objection to this view, that these are lists of successive kings - rising up one after the other; whereas the representation of the ten horns would lead us to suppose that they existed simultaneously; or that somehow there were ten powers that sprang out of the one great power represented by the fourth beast.
(5) Equally difficult is it, on this supposition, to know who are intended by the “three horns” that were plucked up by the little horn that sprang up among the ten, Daniel 7:8. Grotius, who regards the “little horn” as representing Antiochus Epiphanes, supposes that the three horns were his elder brothers, Seleucus, Demetrius, the son of Seleucus, and Ptolemy Philopator, king of Egypt. But it is an insuperable objection to this that the three kings mentioned by Grotius are not all in his list of ten kings, neither Ptolemy Philometor (if Philometor he meant), nor Demetrius being of the number. - Newton on the Proph. p. 211. Neither were they plucked up by the roots by Antiochus, or by his order. Seieueus was poisoned by his treasurer, Helioderus, whose aim it was to usurp the crown for himself, before Antiochus came from Rome, where he had been detained as a hostage for several years. Demetrius lived to dethrone and murder the son of Antiochus, and succeeded him in the kingdom of Syria. Ptolemy Philopater died king of Egypt almost thirty years before Antiochus came to the throne of Syria; or if Ptolemy Philometer, as is most probable, was meant by Grotius, though he suffered much in the wars with Antiochus, yet he survived him about eighteen years, and died in possession of the crown of Egypt. - Newton, ut supra. Bertlholdt supposes that the three kings were Heliodorus, who poisoned Seleucus Philopater, and sought, by the help of a party, to obtain the throne; Ptolemy Philometor, king of Egypt, who, as sister’s son to the king, laid claim to the throne; and Demetrius, who, as son of the former king, was legitimate heir to the throne. But there are two objections to this view;
(a) that the representation by the prophet is of actual kings - which these were not; and
(b) that Antiochus ascended the throne peaceably; Demetrius, who would have been regarded as the king of Syria, not being able to make his title good, was detained as a hostage at Rome. Hengstenberg, pp. 207, 208. Prof Stuart, Com. on Dan., pp. 208, 209, supposes that the three kings referred to were Heliodorus, Ptolemy Philometer, and Demetrius I; but in regard to these it should be observed, that they were mere pretenders to the throne, whereas the text in Daniel supposes that they would be actual kings. Compare Hengstenberg, p. 208.
(6) The time mentioned here, on the supposition that literally three years and a half Daniel 7:25 are intended, does not agree with the actual dominion of Antiochus. In an undoubted reference to him in Daniel 8:13-14, it is said that “the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation,” would be “unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed;” that is, one thousand and forty days, or some two years and ten months more than the time mentioned here. I am aware of the difficulty of explaining this (see Prof. Stuart, Hints on the Interpretation of Prophecy, p. 98, following), and the exact menning of the passage in Daniel 8:13-14, will come up for consideration hereafter; but it is an objection of some force to the application of the “time, and times, and dividing of a time” Daniel 7:25 to Antiochus, that it is not the same time which is applied to him elsewhere.
(7) And, one more objection to this application is, that, in the prophecy, it is said that he who was represented by the “little horn” would continue until “the Ancient of days should sit,” and evidently until the kingdom should be taken by the one in the likeness of the Son of man, Daniel 7:9-10, Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel 7:21-22, Daniel 7:26. But if this refers to Antiochus, then these events must refer to the coming of the Messiah, and to the setting up of his kingdom in the world. Yet, as a matter of fact; Antiochus died about 164 years before the Saviour came, and there is no way of showing that he continued until the Messiah came in the flesh.
These objections to the opinion that this refers to Antiochus Epiphanes seem to me to be insuperable.
II. The question whether it refers to the Roman empire and the Papal power. The fair inquiry is, whether the things referred to in the vision actually find such a correspondence in the Roman empire and the Papacy, that they would fairly represent them if the symbols had been made use of after the events occurred. Are they such as we might properly use now as describing the portions of those events that are past, on the supposition that the reference was to those events? To determine this, it will be proper to refer to the things in the symbol, and to inquire whether events corresponding to them have actually occurred in the Roman empire and the Papacy. Recalling the exposition which has been above given of the explanation furnished by the angel to Daniel, the things there referred to will find an ample and a striking fulfillment in the Roman empire and the Papal power.
(1) The fourth kingdom, symbolized by the fourth beast, is accurately represented by the Roman power. This is true in regard to the place which that power would occupy in the history of the world, on the supposition that the first three referred to the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, and the Macedonian. On this supposition there is no need of regarding the Medo-Persian empire as divided into two, represented by two symbols; or the kingdom founded by Alexander - the Asiatic-Macedonian - as distinct from that of his successors. As the Medo-Persian was in fact one dominion, so was the Macedonian under Alexander, and in the form of the four dynasties into which it was divided on his death, and down to the time when the whole was subverted by the Roman conquests. On this supposition, also, everything in the symbol is fulfilled. The fourth beast - so mighty, so terrific, so powerful, so unlike all the others, armed with iron teeth, and with claws of brass, trampling down and stamping on all the earth - well represents the Roman dominion.
The symbol is such a one as we should now use appropriately to represent that power, and in every respect that empire was well represented by the symbol. It may be added, also, that this supposition corresponds with the obvious interpretation of the parallel place in Daniel 2:33, Daniel 2:40, where the same empire is referred to in the image by the legs and feet of iron. See the note at that passage. It should be added, that this fourth kingdom is to be considered as prolonged through the entire continuance of the Roman power, in the various forms in which that power has been kept up on the earth - alike under the empire, and when broken up into separate sovereignties, and when again concentrated and embodied under the Papacy. That fourth power or dominion was to be continued, according to the prediction here, until the establishment of the kingdom of the saints. Either, then, that kingdom of the saints has come, or has been set up, or the fourth kingdom, in some form, still remains.
The truth is, that in prophecy the entire Roman dominion seems to be contemplated as one - one mighty and formidable power trampling down the liberties of the world; oppressing and persecuting the people of God - the true church; and maintaining an absolute and arbitrary dominion over the souls of men - as a mighty domination standing in the way of the progress of truth, and keeping back the reign of the saints on the earth. In these respects the Papal dominion is, and has been, but a prolongation, in another form, of the influence of pagan Rome, and the entire domination may be represented as one, and might be symbolized by the fourth beast in the vision of Daniel. When that power shall cease, we may, according to the prophecy, look for the time when the “kingdom shall be given to the saints,” or when the true kingdom of God shall be set up all over the world.
(2) Out of this one sovereignty, represented by the fourth beast, ten powers or sovereignties, represented by the ten horns, were to arise. It was shown in the exposition, that these would all spring out of that one dominion, and would wield the power that was wielded by that; that is, that the one great power would be broken up and distributed into the number represented by ten. As the horns all appeared at the same time on the beast, and did not spring up after one another, so these powers would be simultaneous, and would not be a mere succession; and as the horns all sprang from the beast, so these powers would all have the same origin, and be a portion of the same one power now divided into many. The question then is, whether the Roman power was in fact distributed into so many sovereignties at any period such as would be represented by the springing up of the little horn - if that refers to the Papacy. Now, one has only to look into any historical work, to see how in fact the Roman power became distributed and broken up in this way into a large number of kingdoms, or comparatively petty sovereignties, occupying the portions of the world once governed by Rome. In the decline of the empire, and as the new power represented by the “little horn” arose, there was a complete breaking up of the one power that was formerly wielded, and a large number of states and kingdoms sprang out of it.
To see that there is no difficulty in making out the number ten, or that some such distribution and breaking up of the one power is naturally suggested, I cast my eye on the historical chart of Lyman, and found the following kingdoms or sovereignties specified as occupying the same territory which was possessed by the Roman empire, and springing from that - namely, the Vandals, Alans, Suevi, Heruli, Franks, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, Lombards, Britons. The Roman empire as such had ceased, and the power was distributed into a large number of comparatively petty sovereignties - well represented at this period by the ten horns on the head of the beast. Even the Romanists themselves admit that the Roman empire was, by means of the incursions of the northern nations, dismembered into ten kingdoms (Calmet on Revelation 13:1; and he refers likewise to Berengaud, Bossuet, and Dupin. See Newton, p. 209); and Machiaveli (Hist. of Flor. 1. i.), with no design of furnishing an illustration of this prophecy, and probably with no recollection of it, has mentioned these names:
1, the Ostrogoths in Moesia;
2, the Visigoths in Pannonia;
3, the Sueves and Alans in Gascoign and Spain;
4, the Vandals in Africa;
5, the Franks in France;
6, the Burgundians in Burgundy;
7, the Heruli and Turingi in Italy;
8, the Saxons and Angles in Britain;
9, the Huns in Hungary;
10, the Lombards at first upon the Danube, afterward in Italy.
The arrangement proposed by Sir Isaac Newton is the following:
1, The kingdom of the Vandals and Alans in Spain and Africa;
2, the kingdom of the Suevians in Spain;
3, the kingdom of the Visigoths;
4, the kingdom of the Alans in Gallia;
5, the kingdom of the Burgundians;
6, the kingdom of the Franks;
7, the kingdom of the Britons;
8. the kingdom of the Huns;
9, the kingdom of the Lombards;
10, the kingdom of Ravenna.
Compare also Duffield on the Prophecies, pp. 279, 280. For other arrangements constituting the number ten, as embracing the ancient power of the Roman empire, see Newton on the Prophecies, pp. 209, 210. There is some slight variation in the arrangements proposed by Mr. Mede, Bishop Lloyd, and Sir Isaac Newton; but still it is remarkable that it is easy to make out that number with so good a degree of certainty, and particularly so, that it should have been suggested by a Romanist himself. Even if it is not practicable to make out the number with strict exactness, or if all writers do not agree in regard to the dynasties constituting the number ten, we should bear in remembrance the fact that these powers arose in the midst of great confusion; that one kingdom arose and another fell in rapid succession; and that there was not that entire certainty of location and boundary which there is in old and established states. One thing is certain, that there never has been a case in which an empire of vast power has been broken up into small sovereignties, to which this description would so well apply as to the rise of the numerous dynasties in the breaking up of the vast Roman power; and another thing is equally certain, that if we were now to seek an appropriate symbol of the mighty Roman power - of its conquests, and of the extent of its dominion, and of the condition of that empire, about the time that the Papacy arose, we could not find a more striking or appropriate symbol than that of the terrible fourth beast with iron teeth and brazen claws - stamping the earth beneath his feet, and with ten horns springing out of his head.
(3) in the midst of these there sprang up a little horn that had remarkable characteristics. The inquiry now is, if this does not represent Antiochus, whether it finds a proper fulfillment in the Papacy. Now, in regard to this inquiry, the slightest acquaintance with the history and claims of the Papal power will show that there was a striking appropriateness in the symbol - such an appropriateness, that if we desired now to find a symbol that would represent this, we could find no one better adapted to it than that employed by Daniel.
(a) The little horn would spring up among the others, and stand among them - as dividing the power with them, or sharing or wielding that power. That is, on the supposition that it refers to the Papacy, the Papal power would spring out of the Roman empire; would be one of the sovereignties among which that vast power would be divided, and share with the other ten in wielding authority. It would be an eleventh power added to the ten. And who can be ignorant that the Papal power at the beginning, when it first asserted civil authority, sustained just such a relation to the crumbled and divided Roman empire as this? It was just one of the powers into which that vast sovereignty passed.
(b) It would not spring up contemporaneously with them, but would arise in their midst, when they already existed. They are seen in vision as actually existing together, and this new power starts up among them. What could be more strikingly descriptive of the Papacy - as a power arising when the great Roman authority was broken to fragments, and distributed into a large number of sovereignties?. Then this new power was seen to rise - small at first, but gradually gaining strength, until it surpassed any one of them in strength, and assumed a position in the world which no one of them had. The representation is exact. It is not a foreign power that invaded them; it starts up in the midst of them - springing out of the head of the same beast, and constituting a part of the same mighty domination that ruled the world.
(c) It would be small at first, but would soon become so powerful as to pluck up and displace three of the others. And could any symbol have been better chosen to describe the Papal power than this? Could we find any now that would better describe it? Any one needs to have but the slightest acquaintance with the history of the Papal power to know that it was small at its beginnings, and that its ascendency over the world was the consequence of slow but steady growth. Indeed, so feeble was it at its commencement, so undefined were its first appearance and form, that one of the most difficult things in history is to know exactly when it did begin, or to determine the exact date of its origin as a distinct power. Different schemes in the interpretation of prophecy turn wholly on this. We see, indeed, that power subsequently strongly marked in its character, and exerting a mighty influence in the world - having subjugated nations to its control; we see causes for a long time at work tending to this, and can trace their gradual operation in producing it, but the exact period when its dominion began, what was the first characteristic act of the Papacy as such, what constituted its precise beginning as a peculiar power blending and combining a peculiar civil and ecclesiastical authority, no one is able with absolute certainty to determine. Who can fix the exact date? Who can tell precisely when it was? It is true that there were several distinct acts, or the exercise of civil authority, in the early history of the Papacy, but what was the precise beginning of that power no one has been able to determine with so much certainty as to leave no room for doubt. Any one can see with what propriety the commencement of such a power would be designated by a little horn springing up among others.
(d) It would grow to be mighty, for the “little horn” thus grew to be so powerful as to pluck up three of the horns of the beast. Of the growth of the power of the Papacy no one can be ignorant who has any acquaintance with history. It held nations in subjection, and claimed and exercised the right of displacing and distributing crowns as it pleased.
(e) It would subdue “three kings;” that is, three of the ten represented by the ten horns. The prophet saw this at some point in its progress when three fell before it, or were overthrown by it. There might have been also other points in its history when it might have been seen as having overthrown more of them - perhaps the whole ten, but the attention was arrested by the fact that, soon after its rise, three of the ten were seen to fall before it. Now, in regard to the application of this, it may be remarked,
(1) That it does not apply, as already shown, to Antiochus Epiphanes - there being no sense in which he overthrew three of the princes that occupied the throne in the succession from Alexander, to say nothing of the fact that these were contemporaneous kings or kingdoms.
(2) there is no other period in history, and there are no other events to which it could be applied except either to Antiochus or the Papacy.
(3) in the confusion that existed on the breaking up of the Roman empire, and the imperfect accounts of the transactions which occurred in the rise of the Papal power, it would not be wonderful if it should be difficult to find events distinctly recorded that would be in all respects an accurate and absolute fulfillment of the vision.
(4) yet it is possible to make out the fulfillment of this with a good degree of certainty in the history of the Papacy. If applicable to the Papal power, what seems to be demanded is, that three of these ten kingdoms, or sovereignties should be rooted up by that power; that they should cease to exist as separate sovereignties; that they should be added to the sovereignty that should spring up; and that, as distinct kingdoms, they should cease to play a part in the history of the world. The three sovereignties thus transplanted, or rooted up, are supposed by Mr. Mede to have been the Greeks, the Longobards, and the Franks. Sir Isaac Newton supposes they were the Exarchate of Ravenna, the Lombards, and the senate and dukedom of Rome. The objections which may be made to these suppositions may be seen in Newton on the Prophecies, pp. 216, 217. The kingdoms which he supposes are to be referred to were the following:
First. The Exarchate of Ravenna. This of right belonged to the Greek emperors. This was the capital of their dominions in Italy. It revolted at the instigation of the Pope, and was seized by Astolphus, king of the Lombards, who thought to make himself master of Italy. The Pope in his exigency applied for aid to Pepin, king of France, who marched into Italy, besieged the Lombards in Pavia, and forced them to surrender the Exarchate and other territories in Italy. These were not restored to the Greek emperor, as they in justice should have been, but, at the solicitation of the Pope, were given to Peter and his successors for perpetual possession. “And so,” says Platina, “the name of the Exarchate, which had continued from the time of Narses to the taking of Ravenna, one hundred and seventy years, was extinguished.” - Lives of the Popes. This, according to Sigonius, was effected in the year 755. See Gibbon, Dec. and Fall, vol. ii. 224; iii. 332, 334, 338. From this period, says Bp. Newton, the Popes being now become temporal princes, no longer date their epistles and bulls by the years of the emperor’s reign, but by the years of their own advancement to the Papal chair.
Secondly. The kingdom of the Lombards. This kingdom was troublesome to the Popes. The dominions of the Pope were invaded by Desiderius, in the time of Pope Adrian I. Application was again made to the king of France, and Charles the Great, the son and successor of Pepin, invaded the Lombards; and desirous of enlarging his own dominions, conquered the Lombards, put an end to their kingdom, and gave a great part of their territory to the Pope. This was the end of the kingdom of the Lombards, in the 206th year after their obtaining possessions in Italy, and in the year of our Lord 774. See Gibbon, Dec. and Fall, vol. iii. 335.
Thirdly. The Roman States subjected to the Popes in a civil sense. Though subjected to the Pope spiritually, yet for a long time the Roman people were governed by a senate, and retained many of their old privileges, and elected both the Western Emperors and the Popes. This power, however, as is well known, passed into the hands of the Popes, and has been retained by them to the present time, the Pope having continued to be the civil as well as the ecclesiastical head. See Bp. Newton, pp. 319, 320. All semblance of the freedom of ancient Rome passed away, and this Roman dominion, as such, ceased to be, being completely absorbed in the Papacy. The Saxons, the Franks, etc., continued their independence as civil powers; these states passed entirely into the dominion of the Pope, and as independent kingdoms or sovereignties ceased to be. This is the solution in regard to the “three horns” that were to be plucked up, as given by Bp. Newton. Absolute certainly in a case of this kind is not to be expected in the confusion and indefiniteness of that portion of history, nor can it be reasonably demanded.
If there were three of these powers planted in regions that became subject to the Papal power, and that disappeared or were absorbed in that one dominion constituting the peculiarity of the Papal dominion, or which entered into the Roman Papal state, considered as a sovereignty by itself among the nations of the earth, this is all that is required. Mr. Faber supposes the three to have been these; the Herulo-Turingic, the Ostrogothic, and the Lombardie, and says of them, that they “were necessarily eradicated in the immediate presence of the Papacy, before which they were geographically standing - and that the temporal principality which bears the name of Peter’s patrimony, was carved out of the mass of their subjugated dominions.” - Sacred Calendar, vol. ii. p. 102. Prof. Gaussen (Discourse on Popery: Geneva, 1844) supposes that the three kings or kingdoms here referred to were the Heruli, the Ostrogoths, and the Lombards. According to Bower (Lives of the Popes, vol. ii. 108, Dr. Cox’s edition, note), the temporal dominions granted by Pepin to the Pope, or of which the Pope became possessed in consequence of the intervention of the kings of France, were the following:
(1) The Exarchate of Ravenna, which comprised, according to Sigonius, the following cities: Ravenna, Bologna, Imola, Fienza, Forlimpoli, Forli, Cesena, Bobbio, Ferrara, Commachio. Adria, Servia, and Secchia
(2) The Pentapolis, comprehending Rimini, Pesaro, Coneha, Fano, Sinigalia, Ancono, Osimo, Umono, Jesi, Fossombrone, Monteferetro, Urbino, Cagli, Lucoli, and Eugubio.
(3) the city and dukedom of Rome, containing several cities of note, which had withdrawn themselves from all subjection to the emperor, had submitted to Peter ever since the time of Pope Gregory II. See also Bower, ii. 134, where he says, “The Pope had, by Charlemagne, been put in possession of the Exarchate, the Pentapolis, and the dukedom of Spoleti” (embracing the city and dukedom of Rome). And again, on the same page (note): “The Pope possessed the Exarchate, the Pentapolis, and the dukedom of Spoleti, with the city and dukedom of Rome.” It should be remembered that these statements are made by historians with no reference to any supposed fulfillment of this prophecy, and no allusion to it, but as matters of simple historical fact, occurring in the regular course of history. The material fact to be made out in order to show that this description of the “little horn” is applicable to the Papacy is, that at the - commencement of what was properly the Papacy - that is, as I suppose, the union of the spiritual and temporal power, or the assumption, of temporal authority by him who was Bishop of Rome, and who had been before regarded as a mere spiritual or ecclesiastical ruler, there was a triple jurisdiction assumed or conceded, a threefold domination; or a union under himself of what had been three sovereignties, that now disappeared as independent administrations, and whose distinct governments were now merged in the one single sovereignty of the Pope. Now, that there was, just at this time, or at the beginning of the Papacy, or when it had so increased that it could be recognized as having a place among the temporal sovereignties of the earth, such a united domination, or such a union of three separate powers under one, will be apparent from an extract from Mr. Gibbon. He is speaking of the rewards conferred on the Pope by the Carlovingian race of kings, on account of the favor shown to them in his conferring the crown of France on Pepin, the mayor of the palace - directing in his favor over Childeric, the descendant of Clovis. Of this transaction, Mr. Gibbon observes, in general (iii. 336), that “the mutual obligations of the Popes and the Carlovingian family form the important link of ancient and modern, of civil and ecclesiastical history.” He then proceeds
(1) to specify the gifts or favors which the Popes conferred on the Carlovingian race; and
(2) those which, in return, Pepin and Charlemagne bestowed on the Popes. In reference to the latter, he makes the following statement (iii. 338): “The gratitude of the Carlovingians was adequate to these obligations, and their names are consecrated as the saviours and benefactors of the Roman church. Her ancient patrimony of farms and houses was transformed by their bounty into the temporal dominion of cities and provinces, and the donation of the Exarchate was the first-fruits of the conquests of Pepin. Astolphus (king of the Lombards) with a sigh relinquished his prey; the keys and the hostages of the principal cities were delivered to the French ambassador; and in his master’s name he presented them before the tomb of Peter. The ample measure of the Exarchate might comprise all the provinces of Italy which had obeyed the emperor or his vicegerent; but its strict and proper limits were included in the territories of Ravenna, Bologna, and Ferrara; its inseparable dependency was the Pentapolis, which stretched along the Adriatic from Rimini to Ancona, and advanced into the midland country as far as the ridge of the Apennines. In this transaction, the ambition and avarice of the Popes have been severely condemned.
Perhaps the humility of a Christian priest should have rejected an earthly kingdom, which it was not easy for him to govern without renouncing the virtues of his profession. Perhaps a faithful subject, or even a generous enemy, would have been less impatient to divide the spoils of the barbarian; and if the emperor had entrusted Stephen to solicit in his name the restitution of the Exarchate, I will not absolve the Pope from the reproach of treachery and falsehood. But, in the rigid interpretation of the laws, every one may accept, without inquiry, whatever his benefactor may bestow without injustice. The Greek emperor had abdicated or forfeited his right to the Exarctiate; and the sword of Astolphus was broken by the stronger sword of the Carlovingian. It was not in the cause of the Iconoclast that Pepin had exposed his person and army in a double expedition beyond the Alps; he possessed, and he might lawfully alienate his conquests: and to the importunities of the Greeks he piously replied, that no human consideration should tempt him to resume the gift which he had conferred on the Roman pontiff for the remission of his sins and the salvation of his soul.
The splendid donation was granted in supreme and absolute dominion, and the world beheld for the first time a Cristian bishop invested with the prerogatives of a temporal prince, the choice of magistrates, the exercise of justice, the imposition of taxes, and the wealth of the palace of Ravenna. In the dissolution of the Lombard kingdom, the inhabitants of the duchy of Spoleti sought a refuge from the storm, shaved their heads after the Ravenna fashion, declared themselves the servants and subjects of Peter, and completed, by this voluntary surrender, the present circle of the Ecclesiastical State.” The following things are apparent from this extract:
(a) That here, according to Mr. Gibbon, was the beginning of the temporal power of the Pope.
(b) That this was properly, in the view above taken, the commencement of the Papacy as a distinct and peculiar dominion.
(c) That in this there was a threefold government, or three temporal sovereignties united under him, and constituting at that time, in the language of Mr. Gibbon, “the present circle of the ecclesiastical state.” There was, first, the Exarchate of Ravenna; secondly, the Pentapolis, “which,” he says, was its inseparable dependency; and, thirdly, the “duchy of Spoleti,” which, he says, “completed the present circle of the ecclesiastical state.” This was afterward, Mr. Gibbon goes on to say, greatly “enlarged;” but this was the form in which the Papal power first made its appearance among the temporal sovereignties of Europe. I do not find, indeed, that the kingdom of the Lombards was, as is commonly stated, among the number of the temporal sovereignties that became subject to the authority of the Popes, but I do find that there were three distinct temporal sovereignties that lost their independent existence, and that were united under that one temporal authority - constituting by the union of the spiritual and temporal power that one peculiar kingdom. In Lombardy the power remained in the possession of the kings of the Lombards themselves, until that kingdom was subdued by the arms of Pepin and Charlemagne, and then it became subject to the crown of France, though for a time under the nominal reign of its own kings. See Gibbon, iii. 334, 335, 338. If it should be said, that in the interpretation of this passage respecting the “three horns” that were plucked up, or the three kingdoms that were thus destroyed, it would be proper to look for them among the ten, into which the one great kingdom was divided, and that the three above referred to - the Exarchate of Ravenna, the Pentapolis, and the dukedom of Spoleti and Rome - were not properly of that number, according to the list above given, it is necessary, in reply to this, to advert only to the two main facts in the case:
(1) that the great Roman power was actually divided into a large number of sovereignties that sprang up on its ruins - usually, but not in fact exactly, represented by ten; and
(2) that the Papacy began its career with a conceded dominion over the three territories above referred to - a part, in fact, of the one great dominion constituting the Roman power, and in the same territory. It is a remarkable fact that the popes to this day wear a triple crown - a fact that exists in regard to no other monarchs - as if they had absorbed under themselves three separate and distinct sovereignties; or as if they represented three separate forms of dominion. The sum of what is said in the exposition of these verses may be thus expressed:
(1) That there was originally one great sovereignty represented here by the “fourth beast” - the Roman empire.
(2) that, in fact, as is abundantly confirmed by history, this one great and united power was broken up into a large number of separate and independent sovereignties - most naturally and obviously described by ten, or such as would appear in a prophetic vision to be ten, and such as is actually so represented by historians having no interest in the fulfillment of the prophecy, and no designed reference to what may be symbolized by the “ten horns.”
(3) that there was another peculiar and distinct power that sprang out of them, and that grew to be mighty - a power unlike the others, and unlike anything that had before appeared in the world - combining qualities to be found in no other sovereignty - having a peculiar relation at the same time to the one original sovereignty, and to the ten into which that was divided - the prolongation, in an important sense, of the power of the one, and springing up in a peculiar manner among the others - that peculiar ecclesiastical and civil power - the Papacy - well represented by the “little horn.”
(4) that, in fact, this one power absorbed into itself three of these sovereignties - annihilating them as independent powers, and combining them into one most peculiar dominion - properly represented by “plucking them up.”
(5) that as a proper symbol, or emblem of some such domination, a crown or diadem is still worn, most naturally and obviously suggesting such a threefold absorption of dominion.
(6) that all this is actually prefigured by the symbols employed by the prophet, or that the symbols are such as would be naturally employed on the supposition that these events were designed to be referred to.
(7) and that there have been no other historical events to which these remarkable symbols could be naturally and obviously applied. And if these things are so, how are they to be explained except on the supposition that Daniel was inspired? Has man any natural sagacity by which such symbols representing the future could be suggested?
(d) It would be arrogant and proud, “speaking great words against the Most High.” No Protestant will doubt that this is true of the Papacy; no one acquainted with history will presume to call it in question. The arrogant pretensions of the Papacy have been manifested in all the history of that power, and no one can doubt that its assumptions have been, in fact, by fair construction, “a speaking of great words against God.” The Pope has claimed, or allowed to be conferred on him, names and prerogatives which can belong only to God. See this fully shown in the notes at 2 Thessalonians 2:4. The facts there referred to are all that is necessary to illustrate this passage, on the supposition that it refers to the Papacy. Compare also the Literalist, vol. i. pp. 24-27.
(e) This would be a persecuting power - “making war with the saints,” and “wearing out the saints of the Most High.” Can anyone doubt that this is true of the Papacy? The Inquisition; the “persecutions of the Waldenses;” the ravages of the Duke of Alva; the fires of Smithfield; the tortures at Goa - indeed, the whole history of the Papacy may be appealed to in proof that this is applicable to that power. If anything could have “worn out the saints of the Most High” - could have cut them off from the earth so that evangelical religion would have become extinct, it would have been the persecutions of the Papal power. In the year 1208, a crusade was proclaimed by Pope Innocent III against the Waldenses and Albigenses, in which a million of men perished. From the beginning of the order of the Jesuits, in the year 1540 to 1580, nine hundred thousand were destroyed. One hundred and fifty thousand perished by the Inquisition in thirty years. In the Low Countries fifty thousand persons were hanged, beheaded, burned, or buried alive, for the crime of heresy, within the space of thirty-eight years from the edict of Charles V, against the Protestants, to the peace of Chateau Cambresis in 1559. Eighteen thousand suffered by the hands of the executioner, in the space of five years and a half, during the administration of the Duke of Alva. Indeed, the slightest acquaintance with the history of the Papacy, will convince anyone that what is here said of “making war with the saints” Daniel 7:21, and “wearing out the saints of the Most High” Daniel 7:25, is strictly applicable to that power, and will accurately describe its history. There have been, indeed, other persecuting powers, but none to which this language would be so applicable, and none which it would so naturally suggest. In proof of this, it is only necessary to refer to the history of the Papacy, and to what it has done to extirpate those who have professed a different faith. Let anyone recall:
(1) the persecution of the Waldenses;
(2) the acts of the Duke of Alva in the Low Countries;
(3) the persecution in England under Mary;
(4) the Inquisition;
(5) the attempts, too successful, to extinguish all the efforts at reformation in Italy and Spain in the time of Luther and Calvin (see McCrie), and
(6) the attempts to put down the Reformation in Germany and Switzerland - all which were either directly originated or sanctioned by the Papacy, and all for the same end, and he will see no reason to doubt that the language here is strictly applicable to that power, and that there has been no government on earth which would be so naturally suggested by it. - Cunninghame, in the Literalist, i. 27, 28. Indeed, who can number up all that have perished in the Inquisition alone?
(h) It would claim legislative power - “thinking to change times and laws.” The original Chaldee here may be rendered, as is done by Gesenius and DeWette, set times, stated times, or festival seasons. The word here, says Gesenius (Lexicon), is “spoken of sacred seasons, festivals,” and there can be no doubt that in this place it refers to religious institutions. The meaning is, that he would claim control over such institutions or festivals, and that he would appoint or change them at his pleasure. He would abolish or modify existing institutions of that kind, or he would institute new ones, as should seem good to him. This would be applicable, then, to some power that should claim authority to prescribe religious institutions, and to change the laws of God. No one, also, can fail to see a fulfillment of this in the claims of the Papacy, in setting up a jurisdiction over seasons of festival and fast; and in demanding that the laws of kingdoms should be so modelled as to sustain its claims, and modifying the laws of God as revealed in the Bible. The right of deposing and setting up kings; of fixing the boundaries of nations; of giving away crowns and scepters; and of exercising dominion over the sacred seasons, the customs, the amusements of nations - all these, as illustrated under the Papacy, will leave no doubt that all this would find an ample fulfillment in the history of that power. The Pope has claimed to be the head of the church, and has asserted and exercised the right of appointing sacred seasons; of abolishing ancient institutions; of introducing numberless new festival occasions, practically abrogating the laws of God on a great variety of subjects. We need only refer, in illustration of this,
(a) to the claim of infallibility, by which an absolute jurisdiction is asserted that covers the whole ground;
(b) to all the laws pertaining to image-worship, so directly in the face of the laws of God;
(c) to the celibacy of the clergy, rendering void one of the laws of heaven in relation to marriage;
(d) to the whole doctrine respecting purgatory;
(e) to the doctrine of transubstantiation;
(f) to the practical abolition of the Christian Sabbath by appointing numerous saints’ days to be observed as equally sacred;
(g) to the law withholding the cup from the laity - contrary to the commandment of the Saviour; and
(h) in general to the absolute control claimed by the Papacy over the whole subject of religion.
Indeed, nothing would better characterize this power than to say that it asserted the right to “change times and laws.” And to all this should be added another characteristic Daniel 7:8, that “it would have the eyes of a man;” that is, would be distinguished for a far-seeing sagacity. Could this be so appropriately applied to anything else as to the deep, the artful, and the far-reaching diplomacy of the court of Rome; to the sagacity of the Jesuit; to the skillful policy which subdued the world to itself?
These illustrations will leave no doubt, it seems to me, that all that is here said will find an ample fulfillment in the Papacy, and that it is to be regarded as having a reference to that power. If so, it only remains,
III. To inquire what, according to his interpretation, we are to expect will yet occur, or what light this passage throws on events that are yet future. The origin, the growth, the general character and influence of this power up to a distant period are illustrated by this interpretation. What remains is the inquiry, from the passage before us, how long this is to continue, and what we are to anticipate in regard to its fall. The following points, then, would seem to be clear, on the supposition that this refers to the Papal power:
It is to continue a definite period from its establishment, Daniel 7:25. This duration is mentioned as “a time, and times, and the dividing of a time” - three years and a half - twelve hundred and sixty days - twelve hundred and sixty years. See the note at that verse. The only difficulty in regard to this, if that interpretation is correct, is to determine the time when the Papacy actually began - the terminus a quo - and this has given rise to all the diversity of explanation among Protestants. Assuming any one time as the period when the Papal power arose, as a date from which to calculate, it is easy to compute from that date, and to fix some period - terminus ad quem - to which this refers, and which may be looked to as the time of the overthrow of that power. But there is nothing more difficult in history than the determination of the exact time when the Papacy properly began: that is, when the peculiar domination which is fairly understood by that system commenced in the world; or what were its first distinguishing acts. History has not so marked that period that there is no room for doubt. It has not affixed definite dates to it; and to this day it is not easy to make out the time when that power commenced, or to designate any one event at a certain period that will surely mark it. It seems to have been a gradual growth, and its commencement has not been so definitely characterized as to enable us to demonstrate with absolute certainty the time to which the twelve hundred and sixty years will extend.
Different writers have assigned different periods for the rise of the Papacy, and different acts as the first act of that power; and all the prophecies as to its termination depend on the period which is fixed on as the time of its rise. It is this which has led to so much that is conjectural, and which has been the occasion of so much disappointment, and which throws so much obscurity now over all calculations as to the termination of that power. In nothing is the Scripture more clear than that that power shall be destroyed; and if we could ascertain with exactness the date of its origin, there would be little danger of erring in regard to its close. The different periods which have been fixed on as the date of its rise have been principally the following:
(1) An edict published by Justinian (533 a.d.), and a letter addressed by him at the same time to the Pope, in which he acknowledged him to be the head of the churches, thus conferring on him a title belonging only to the Saviour, and putting himself and empire under the dominion of the bishop of Rome. - Duffield on the Prophecies, p. 281.
(2) The decree of the emperor Phocas (606 a.d.), confirming what had been done by Justinian, and giving his sanction to the code of laws promulgated by him; a code of laws based on the acknowledged supremacy of the Pope, and which became the basis of European legislation for centuries; and conferring on him the title of “Universal Bishop.”
(3) The act of Pope Stephen, by which, when appealed to by the claimant to the crown of France, he confirmed Pepin in the kingdom, and set aside Childeric III, and, in return, received from Pepin the Exarchate of Ravenna and the Pentapolis. See Ranke’s Hist. of the Papacy, vol. i. 23. This occurred about 752 a.d.
(4) The opinion of Mr. Gibbon (4:363), that Gregory VII was the true founder of the Papal power. “Gregory VII.,” says he, “who may be adored or detested as the founder of the Papal monarchy, was driven from Rome, and died in exile at Salerno.” Gregory became Pope 1073 a.d. These different dates, if assumed as the foundation of the Papal power, would, by the addition to each of the period of 1260 years, lead respectively to the years 1793, 1866, 2012, and 2333, as the period of the termination of the Papal dominion. As this is a point of great importance in the explanation of the prophecies, it may be proper to examine these opinions a little more in detail. But in order to this, it is necessary to have a clear conception of what the Papacy as a distinct domination is, or what constitutes its peculiarity, as seen by the sacred writers, and as it has in fact existed, and does exist in the world; and in regard to this there can be little difference of opinion.
It is not a mere ecclesiastical power - not a mere spiritual domination - not the control of a bishop as such over a church or a diocese - nor is it a mere temporal dominion, but it is manifestly the union of the two: that peculiar domination which the bishop of Rome has claimed, as growing out of his primacy as the head of the church, and of a temporal power also, asserted at first over a limited jurisdiction, but ultimately, and as a natural consequence, over all other sovereignties, and claiming universal dominion. We shall not find the Papacy, or the Papal dominion as such, clearly, in the mere spiritual rule of the first bishop of Rome, nor in that mere spiritual dominion, however enlarged, but in that junction of the two, when, in virtue of a pretended Divine right, a temporal dominion grew up that ultimately extended itself over Europe, claiming the authority to dispose of crowns; to lay kingdoms under interdict, and to absolve subjects from their allegiance. If we can find the beginning of this claim - the germ of this peculiar kind of domination - we shall doubtless have found the commencement of the Papacy - the terminus a quo - as it was seen by the prophets - the point from which we are to reckon in determining the question of its duration.
With this view, then, of the nature of the Papacy, it is proper to inquire when it commenced, or which of the periods referred to, if either, can be properly regarded as the commencement.
I. The edict of Justinian, and the letter to the bishop of Rome, in which he acknowledged him to be the head of the church, 533 a.d. This occurred under John II, reckoned as the fifty-fifth bishop of Rome. The nature of this application of Justinian to the Pope, and the honor conferred on him, was this: On all occasion of a controversy in the church, on the question whether “one person of the Trinity suffered in the flesh,” the monks of Constantinople, fearful of being condemned under an edict of Justinian for heresy in denying this, applied to the Pope to decide the point. Justinian, who took great delight in inquiries of that nature, and who maintained the opposite opinion on that subject, also made his appeal to the Pope. Having, therefore, drawn up a long creed, containing the disputed article among the rest, he despatched two bishops with it to Rome, and laid the whole matter before the Pope. At the same time he wrote a letter to the Pope, congratulating him on his election, assuring him that the faith contained in the confession which he sent him was the faith of the whole Eastern church, and entreating him to declare in his answer that he received to his communion all who professed that faith, and none who did not. To add weight to the letter he accompanied it with a present to Peter, consisting of several chalices and other vessels of gold, enriched with precious stones. From this deference to the Pope, on the part of the emperor, and this submitting to him, as the head of the whole church, of an important question to be determined, it has been argued that this was properly the beginning of the Papacy, and that the twelve hundred and sixty years are to be reckoned from that. But against this opinion the objections are insuperable, for
(a) there was here nothing of what properly constitutes the Papacy - the peculiar union of the temporal and spiritual power; or the peculiar domination which that power has exerted over the world. All that occurred was the mere deference which an emperor showed to one who claimed to be the spiritual head of the church, and who had long before claimed that. There was no change - no beginning, properly so called - no commencement of a new form of domination over mankind, such as the Papacy has been.
(b) But, as a matter of fact, there was, after all, little real deference to the Pope in this case. “Little or no account,” says Bower, “ought to be made of that extraordinary deference (the deference shown by carrying this question before the Pope). Justinian paid great deference to the Pope, as well as to all other bishops, when they agreed with him; but none at all when they did not - thinking himself at least as well qualified as the best of them - and so he certainly was - to decide controversies concerning the faith; and we shall soon see him entering the lists with his holiness himself” - Lives of the Popes, i. 336.
II. The second date which has been assigned to the origin of the Papacy is the decree made by the emperor Phocas (606 a.d.), by which, it is said, he continued the grant made by Justinian. This act was the following: Boniface III, when he had been made bishop of Rome, relying on the favor and partiality which Phocas had shown him, prevailed on him to revoke the decree settling the title of “Universal Bishop” on the bishop of Constantinople, and obtained another settling that title on himself and his successors. The decree of Phocas, conferring this title, has not indeed come down to us; but it has been the common testimony of historians that such title was conferred. See Mosheim, i. 513; Bower, i. 426. The fact asserted here has been doubted, and Mosheim supposes that it rests on the authority of Baronius. “Still,” says he, “it is certain that something of this kind occurred.” But there are serious objections to our regarding this as properly the commencement of the Papacy as such. For
(a) this was not the beginning of that peculiar domination, or form of power, which the Pope has asserted and maintained. If this title were conferred, it imparted no new power; it did not change the nature of this domination; it did not, in fact, make the Roman bishop different from what he was before. He was still, in all respects, subject to the civil power of the emperors, and had no control beyond what he exercised in the church.
(b) And even this little was withdrawn by the same authority which granted it - the authority of the emperor of Constantinople - though it has always since been claimed and asserted by the Pope himself. See Bower, i. 427. It is true that, as a consequence of the fact that this title was conferred on the Popes, they began to grasp at power, and aspire to temporal dominion; but still there was no formal grasp of such power growing out of the assumption of this title, nor was any such temporal dominion set up as the immediate result of such a title. The act, therefore, was not sufficiently marked, distinct, and decisive, to constitute an epoch, or the beginning of an era, in the history of the world, and the rise of the Papacy cannot with any propriety be dated from that. This was undoubtedly one of the steps by which that peculiar power rose to its greatness, or which contributed to lay the foundation of its subsequent claims, its arrogance, and its pride; but it is doubtful whether it was so important an event characterizing the Papacy as to be regarded as the origin, or the terminus a quo in ascertaining the time of its continuance.
It was, however, in view of this, and with this considered as properly the origin of the Papacy, that the Rev. Robert Fleming, in his work on the Rise and Fall of the Papacy, first published in 1701, uttered the following remarkable language, as based on his calculations respecting the continuance of that power: “If we may suppose that Antichrist began his reign in the year 606, the additional one thousand two hundred and sixty years of his duration, were they Julian or ordinary years, would lead down to the year 1866, as the last period of the seven-headed monster. But seeing they are prophetic years only (of 360 days), we must cast away eighteen years in order to bring them to the exact measure of time that the Spirit of God designs in this book. And thus the final period of the Papal usurpati (supposing that he did indeed rise in the year 606) must conclude with the year 1848 - (Cobbin’s Edition, p. 32.) Whether this be considered as merely a happy conjecture - the one successful one among thousands that have failed, or as the result of a proper calculation respecting the future, no one in comparing it with the events of the year 1848, when the Pope was driven from Rome, and when a popular government was established in the very seat of the Papal power, can fail to see that it is remarkable considered as having been uttered a century and a half ago. Whether it is the correct calculation, and that temporary downfall of the Papal government is to be regarded as the first in a series of events that will ultimately end in its destruction, time must determine. The reasons mentioned above, however, and those which will be suggested in favor of a different beginning of that power, make it, at present, more probable that a different period is to be assigned as its close.
III. The third date which has been assigned as the beginning of the Papacy is the grant of Pepin above referred to, 752 a.d. This grant conferred by Pepin was confirmed also by Charlemagne and his successors, and it was undoubtedly at this period that the Papacy began to assume its place among the sovereignties of Europe. In favor of this opinion - that this was properly the rise of the Papacy - the terminus a quo of prophecy, the following considerations may be urged:
(a) We have here a definite act - an act which is palpable and apparent, as characterizing the progress of this domination over men.
(b) We have here properly the beginning of the temporal dominion, or the first acknowledged exercise of that power in acts of temporal sovereignty - in giving laws, asserting dominion, swaying a temporal scepter, and wearing a temporal crown. All the acts before had been of a spiritual character, and all the deference to the Bishop of Rome had been of a spiritual nature. Henceforward, however, he was acknowledged as a temporal prince, and took his place as such among the crowned heads of Europe.
(c) This is properly the beginning of that mighty domination which the Pope wielded over Europe - a beginning, which, however small at first, ultimately became so powerful and so arrogant as to claim jurisdiction over all the kingdoms of the earth, and the right to absolve subjects from their allegiance, to lay kingdoms under interdict, to dispose of crowns, to order the succession of princes, to tax all people, and to dispose of all newly-discovered countries.
(d) This accords better with the prophecies than any other one event which has occurred in the world - especially with the prophecy of Daniel, of the springing up of the little horn, and the fact that that little horn plucked up three others of the ten into which the fourth kingdom was divided.
(e) And it should be added that this agrees with the idea all along held up in the prophecies, that this would be properly the fourth empire prolonged. The fifth empire or kingdom is to be the reign of the saints, or the reign of righteousness on the earth; the fourth extends down in its influences and power to that. As a matter of fact, this Roman power was thus concentrated in the Papacy. The form was changed, but it was the Roman power that was in the eye of the prophets, and this was contemplated under its various phases, as pagan and nominally Christian, until the reign of the saints should commence, or the kingdom of God should be set up. But it was only in the time of Stephen, and by the act of Pepin and Charlemagne, that this change occurred, or that this dominion of a temporal character was settled in the Papacy - and that the Pope was acknowledged as having this temporal power. This was consummated indeed in Hildebrand, or Gregory VII (Gibbon, iii. 353, iv. 363), but this mighty power properly had its origin in the time of Pepin.
IV. The fourth date assigned for the origin of the Papacy is the time of Hildebrand, or Gregory VII. This is the period assigned by Mr. Gibbon. Respecting this, he remarks (vol. iv. p. 363), “Gregory the Seventh, who may be adored or detested as the founder of the Papal monarchy, was driven from Rome, and died in exile at Salerno.” And again (vol. iii. p. 353), he says of Gregory, “After a long series of scandal, the apostolic see was reformed and exalted, by the austerity and zeal of Gregory VII. That ambitious monk devoted his life to the execution of two projects:
I. To fix in the college of Cardinals the freedom and independence of election, and forever to abolish the right or usurpation of the emperors and the Roman people.
II. To bestow and resume the Western Empire as a fief or benefice of the church, and to extend his temporal dominion over the kings and kingdoms of the earth.
After a contest of fifty years, the first of these designs was accomplished by the firm support of the ecclesiastical order, whose liberty was connected with that of the chief. But the second attempt, though it was crowned with some apparent and partial success, has been vigorously resisted by the secular power, and finally extinguished by the improvement of human reason.”
If the views above suggested, however, are correct; or if we look at the Papacy as it was in the time of Hildebrand, it must be apparent that this was not the rise or origin of that peculiar domination, but was only the carrying out and completing of the plan laid long before to set up a temporal dominion over mankind.
It should be added, whatever of the three first periods referred to be regarded as the time of the rise of the Papacy, if we add to them the prophetic period of 1260 years, we are now in the midst of scenes on which the prophetic eye rested, and we cannot, as fair interpreters of prophecy, but regard this mighty domination as hastening to its fall. It would seem probable, then, that according to the most obvious explanation of the subject, we are at present not far from the termination and fall of that great power, and that events may be expected to occur at about this period of the world, which will be connected with its fall.
Its power is to be taken away as by a solemn judgment - if the throne was set, and God was to come forth to pronounce judgment on this power to overthrow it, Daniel 7:10-11, Daniel 7:26. This destruction of the power referred to is to be absolute and entire - as if the “beast were slain, and the body given to the burning flame” - “and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it unto the end.” This would denote the absolute destruction of this peculiar power - its entire cessation in the world; that is, the absolute destruction of what had constituted its peculiarity - the prolonged power of the beast of the fourth kingdom - concentrated and embodied in that represented by the little horn. If applied to the Roman power, or the fourth kingdom, it means that that power which would have been prolonged under the dominion of that represented by the little horn, would wholly cease - as if the body of the beast had been burned.
If applied to the power represented by the “little horn” - the Papacy - it means that that power which sprang up amidst the others, and which became so mighty - embodying so much of the power of the beast, would wholly pass away as an ecclesiastico-civil power. It would cease its dominion, and as one of the ruling powers of the earth would disappear. This would be accomplished by some remarkable Divine manifestation - as if God should come in majesty and power to judgment and should pronounce a sentence; that is, the overthrow would be decisive, and as manifestly the result of the Divine interposition as if God should do it by a formal act of judgment. In the overthrow of that power, whenever it occurs, it would be natural, from this prophecy, to anticipate that there would be some scenes of commotion and revolution bearing directly on it, as if God were pronouncing sentence on it; some important changes in the nations that had acknowledged its authority, as if the great Judge of nations were coming forth to assert his own power and his own right to rule, and to dispose of the kingdoms of the earth as he pleased.
(C) It is to be anticipated that the power referred to will be destroyed on account of its pride and arrogance. See the notes at Daniel 7:11. That is, whatever power there is upon the earth at the time referred to that shall be properly that of the fourth beast or kingdom, will be taken away on account of the claims set up and maintained by the “little horn:” “I beheld because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake; I beheld until the beast was slain, etc.,” Daniel 7:11. On the supposition that this refers to the Papacy, what is to be expected would be, that the pride and arrogance of that power as such - that is, as an ecclesiastical power claiming dominion over civil things, and wielding civil authority, would be such that the Roman power - the lingering power of the fourth kingdom - would be taken away, and its dominion over the world would cease. That vast Roman domination that once trod down the earth, and that crushed and oppressed the nations, would still linger, like the prolonged life of the beast, until, on account of the arrogance and pride of the Papacy, it would be wholly taken away. If one were to judge of the meaning of this prophecy without attempting to apply it to particular passing events, he would say that it would be fulfilled by some such events as these: if the people over whom the prolonged Roman civil power would be extended, and over whom the ecclesiastical or papal scepter would be swayed, should, on account of the pride and arrogance of the Papacy, rise in their might, and demand liberty - that would be in fact an end of the prolonged power of the fourth beast; and it would be on account of the “great words which the horn spake,” and would be in all respects a fulfillment of the language of this prophecy. Whether such an end of this power is to occur, time is to determine.
(D) Simultaneously with this event, as the result of this, we are to anticipate such a spread of truth and righteousness, and such a reign of the saints on the earth, as would be properly symbolized by the coming of the Son of man to the ancient of days to receive the kingdom, Daniel 7:13-14. As shown in the interpretation of those verses, this does not necessarily imply that there would be any visible appearing of the Son of man, or any personal reign (see the note at these verses), but there would be such a making over of the kingdom to the Son of man and to the saints as would be properly symbolized by such a representation. That is, there would be great changes; there would be a rapid progress of the truth; there would be a spread of the gospel; there would be a change in the governments of the world, so that the power would pass into the hands of the righteous, and they would in fact rule. From that time the “saints” would receive the kingdom, and the affairs of the world would be put on a new footing. From that period it might be said that the reign of the saints would commence; that is, there would be such changes in this respect that that would constitute an epoch in the history of the world - the proper beginning of the reign of the saints on the earth - the setting up of the new and final dominion in the world. If there should be such changes - such marked progress - such facilities for the spread of truth - such new methods of propagating it - and such certain success attending it, all opposition giving way, and persecution ceasing, as would properly constitute an epoch or era in the world’s history, which would be connected with the conversion of the world to God, this would fairly meet the interpretation of this prophecy; this occurring, all would have taken place which could be fairly shown to be implied in the vision.
(E) We are to expect a reign of righteousness on the earth. On the character of what we are fairly to expect from the words of the prophecy, see the notes at Daniel 7:14. The prophecy authorizes us to anticipate a time when there shall be a general prevalence of true religion; when the power in the world shall be in the hands of good men - of men fearing God; when the Divine laws shall be obeyed - being acknowledged as the laws that are to control men; when the civil institutions of the world shall be pervaded by religion, and moulded by it; when there shall be no hinderance to the free exercise of religion, and when in fact the reigning power on the earth shall be the kingdom which the Messiah shall set up. There is nothing more certain in the future than such a period, and to that all things are tending. Such a period would fulfill all that is fairly implied in this wonderful prophecy, and to that faith and hope should calmly and confidently look forward. For that they who love their God and their race should labor and pray; and by the certain assurance that such a period will come, we should be cheered amidst all the moral darkness that exists in the world, and in all that now discourages us in our endeavors to do good.