I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 Kings, Ezekiel, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians and 1 Timothy. This post continues from Daniel 1-6.
Daniel’s vision of four beasts has some parallels to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the multi-material statue, in that the four beasts are normally identified with the four kingdoms (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome).It is easy to get lost in the details—what is the meaning of the three ribs in the bear’s mouth?—and miss the sovereignty of God in this vision. Who tears the wings off the lion, and lifts it (7:4)? Who commands the bear to have some more (7:5)? Who gives the leopard authority to rule (7:6)? Who slays the fourth beast (7:11)?
In the same vision, Daniel sees the enthroned Ancient of Days giving authority, glory and sovereign power to one like a son of man (7:13-14). It is He who is in control over all the kingdoms of this world.
Daniel sees another vision, this time of a ram and a goat, which the angel Gabriel interprets for him. This vision covers some four hundred years of future events,which has led sceptics to say that the book of Daniel was written after the fact.
Daniel’s vision describes Alexander the Great as a large horn broken off at the height of its power—history tells us he died mysteriously at the age of 32 after conquering a vast area from Greece to India. After Alexander’s death, his empire was divided among four of his generals. The future activities of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, king of one of the resulting kingdoms, are described in 8:9-12, 23-25. Antiochus reappears in Daniel’s last vision later in the book.
Daniel, now an old man, was reading his Bible and read Jeremiah’s prophecy that the exile would last seventy years. He used the divine promise as a springboard for prayer. He asked for restoration on the basis of God’s great mercy and for His own name’s sake. May we learn to base our prayers on the mercy of an unchanging God!
Gabriel returns to Daniel with an answer for his prayer. God’s answer to Daniel is not just an end to the exile, but an end to the cause of the exile: human sin. [I will blithely skip over the seventy sevens because I have no idea exactly what they mean.]
This chapter is a preamble to the revelation Daniel is given in chapters 11 and 12. Daniel had again been praying, and a heavenly man was sent with an answer for him. [My paper pastors identify this heavenly man with the pre-incarnated Christ, but I’m not so sure. Why would Christ need help from the archangel Michael?] Like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel before him, Daniel’s lips were touched. Unlike them, Daniel’s experience came toward the end of his ministry.
11:3-4 refers to Alexander the Great, and the division of his empire after his death. The two kingdoms that affected Israel are the Ptolemaic kingdom in Egypt, to the south of Israel, and the Seleucid kingdom in Syria to the north. 11:5-20 contains historically verifiable accounts of these two kingdoms.
11:21-35 is about Antiochus IV Epiphanes. After an unsuccessful war with Egypt in which he was forced to surrender to the Romans (Bible, Wikipedia), he turned to persecuting the Jews (Bible, Wikipedia). His persecution was so revolting that he became the type/ shadow of the Antichrist to be revealed just before Jesus’ return.
Prophetic foreshortening describes those prophecies that address events that will happen years, centuries or millennia apart as though they happen within a short time of each other. That’s what happens in this portion of Daniel: the heavenly man goes from describing Antiochus to someone who’s similar to him, but not him. Could only be the man of lawlessness, the Antichrist.
The same God who foretold all these events that are now in our past has made promises to us. Because of His track record we can trust Him to bring about the restoration (and judgment) that is awaiting fulfillment.
Sources: Liam Goligher, Vaughan Roberts