Which Wesleyan Bible Commentary? Or both?

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Posted: Thu, Feb 9 2012 10:18 AM

I am taking a closer look at Wesleyan resources. Can someone please detail the differences between these commentary sets?

Eerdmans Wesleyan Bible Commentary (7 vols.)

Wesleyan Bible Study Commentary Series (18 vols.)

I can see the few differences mentioned in the product descriptions. I am more interested in the depth and organization of each resource. Is one more technical than the other? Is one primarily for preaching? Would owning both be complimentary or redundant? If I only get one, which one would be better?

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NB.Mick | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Feb 9 2012 11:00 AM

Well, given your current posting count,

I couldn' refrain from noticing that the EWBC spends some 4,500 pages on the whole bible, whereas the WBSC spends some 4,500 pages on the NT alone (and gives you approx. a thousand pages on Gen, Ps and Prov on top). 

WBSC seems to be this-century scholarship, the other is fifty years older. By the way Logos calls these "Wesleyan Bible Study Commentary" whereas the books sometimes call themselves "Wesleyan Bible Commentary" (like the Eerdmans), sometimes "A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan tradition" (maybe conflicting with the New Beacon series) and sometimes "A commentray for Bible students", see e.g. http://www.amazon.com/Galatians-Philippians-Colossians-Commentary-Students/dp/0898273072/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328813744&sr=8-1 

I happen to have Gal, Phil & Col of WBSC in another software, here is the (in my eyes not overly technical) treatment of Gal 1,1-5 for you:

Chapter 1.
A Salutation and a Denunciation

Galatians 1:1-9

Because Paul faced special and difficult problems with the church in Galatia, his salutation is particularly important. He needed to provide a clear and concise statement regarding his apostolic calling and work. He also knew it was necessary for him, at the beginning of the letter, to include a detailed declaration of the saving work of Jesus Christ. Therefore, even in the salutation we are confronted with the two major themes that will dominate Paul's letter to the Galatians: the vindication of his own apostolic authority and the divine initiative God has taken to redeem men and women through His Son, Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

1. Apostolic salutation (1:1-5)

LIFE CHANGE

Worshiping God

Such a great God is worthy of our highest praise. To contemplate who God is and what He has done in Jesus Christ is to fall on our knees in worship and praise. We study the great doctrines of the Christian faith not simply out of curiosity, but that we might come more fully to love and enjoy the gracious God who delights in our praise.

In the first century it was a common practice, both in the Jewish and Greek traditions, to begin a letter with a salutation that included the name of the sender, that of the recipient, and some formula of greeting. The greeting usually used was chairein, which literally means "rejoice" but was so commonly used that it came to mean welcome or hello.

The apostle Paul began each of his letters with a salutation. Rather than using the everyday word for greetings, he gave the Christian world a new and distinctive Christian expression: "Grace and peace." Having said hello, usually he added a word of blessing or prayer of thanksgiving for the person or people to whom he was writing. And, as we often do today in writing letters, Paul adapted his salutations to fit the unique circumstances of a particular person or place.

The Galatian salutation is interesting in what it does not contain. There is not the traditional prayer of thanksgiving that Paul usually employed as he began his other letters. (See Rom. 1:8-10; 1 Cor. 1:4-9; 1 Thess. 1:2-3.) Rather, he lashed out at the Galatians with his statement of astonishment that they had become apostate so soon after they had received his word of truth: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting (1:6). Since the words of blessing and affirmation are missing from this salutation and the word of rebuke given instead, we can expect to hear strong, emotional, and intense language in the letter that follows. We are not disappointed.

A great deal was at stake, including the heart of the gospel as Paul had proclaimed it to the Galatians. Paul was drawing a theological line in the sand against the false teachers who had done so much damage to the Galatian church by undermining the gospel and his apostolic authority in the process: Paul...sent not from men nor by man (1:1). One can only imagine how painful it must have been to Paul when he first became aware that spurious teachers were questioning the validity of his apostolic call. Even more painful for him was to discover that the Galatians, his own converts, were so readily giving credence to those who were maligning him. The primary concern was not for him personally (though that concern was enormous) but more serious was the devastating injury to the spiritual life of the Galatians themselves. It was one thing to entertain suspicions regarding the reputation of Paul as an apostle; it was quite another to cherish suspicions as to the divine character of the truth they had been taught by him. He had no choice but to deal with this immediately. Paul declared boldly and emphatically that his commission was direct from God, and he bore the same stamp as that of the other apostles, whose authority the false teachers had not the courage to deny.

It is important to understand the meaning of the word apostle. An apostle is one who is dispatched or sent forth. Applied to a person, the apostle is not only a messenger but also the delegate of the person who sends him. He is entrusted with a mission and has powers conferred upon him. Paul called himself an apostle. Without question this was his favorite term of self-designation and occurs in eight of the twelve letters in the New Testament that bear his name. The word apostle was known across the Jewish world since the term was in common use. It was the title borne by those who were dispatched from Jerusalem by the rulers of the Jews on any mission throughout Judea, particularly those who had the responsibility of collecting tribute to be paid for Temple service. After the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, these Jewish apostles formed a council of sorts to assist the Jewish patriarch in his deliberations at home and in executing his orders abroad. Therefore, when Jesus designated His immediate and most favored disciples "apostles," our Lord was not introducing a new term, but adopting one that already carried the idea of a highly responsible envoy. When first instituted as an office in the Christian community, the apostles were twelve in number, but there is no indication in Scripture that the number was intended to be limited to twelve any more than that the number of deacons was to be limited to seven. In establishing himself as an apostle, Paul was reminding the church of the high honor Christ bestows on His chosen servants.

Paul was called by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead (1:1). This is strong, positive language. Negatively Paul qualified his calling by saying it was neither from men, that is, from a human source, nor by men, that is, mediated through any particular person, whether Peter, James, Ananias, or whomever. Then comes the strong positive: but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. Paul separated Jesus Christ from all other humans and placed Him on the side of God. This was not a denial of the humanity of Jesus, but it was a witness to the fact that Jesus was more than a mere man. He is qualitatively different from every other human being both in respect to His unique relationship to the Father and to His sinless life. One cannot overstate how critical this was to Paul; if Jesus Christ were not fully divine, He could never have redeemed us from the curse of the law or freed us from the power of sin by His death on the cross.

And all the brothers with me...(1:2). Paul was not only concerned about his own reputation under attack, but also he wanted to make it clear that he and other believers were one with them in Christ, in the belief of and fidelity to the truth, in the arduous task of pioneer Christian work, and in building up and consolidating the church. This is a not-so-subtle means by Paul of promoting fellowship of believers and affirming the unifying force of redemption. It may be necessary, in ecclesiastical structures, to have ministerial ranks for maintaining order and discipline, but Christ, the Head of the church, teaches the law of religious equality: "you have only one Master and you are all brothers" (Matt. 23:8).

Grace and peace to you from God (1:3). Each of Paul's letters begins with a reference to grace and peace. Grace (chads) is closely related to the common Greek word for hello (chaire). In Paul's view, grace is synonymous with Jesus Christ; Paul never speaks of it as something impersonal. Rather, grace is God's unmerited goodwill given freely and effectively in the saving work of Jesus Christ. Peace results from a state of wholeness and freedom that the grace of God brings. It is a peace of conscience, a quietness and tranquility of mind because one has been reconciled to God. It is peace with God's creatures, with angels, with the Godly, in our hearts, and with our enemies. Grace releases us from sin; peace makes the conscience quiet. We are tormented by sin and guilt, but Christ triumphs over both through grace and peace. It is important to note that Paul distinguishes grace and peace in the Christian context from all other grace and peace. He wishes for the Galatians grace and peace not from some earthly monarch, but from God our Father. This is God's grace and heavenly peace. This double blessing comes from a single source—the one God who knows himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Gave himself (1:4). Paul had already referred to the resurrection in verse 1, but in verse 4 he brought into consideration the suffering and death of Christ on the cross. Christ himself gave us His own description of His mission in Mark 10:45: "to serve, and to give his life." Paul further developed this wonderful theme in the kenotic hymn in Philippians 2:5-11: Jesus became "obedient to death—even death on a cross." Do not say that Christ's death was an accident or that He was forced to die. He willingly submitted himself to fulfill the divine purpose of His Father. His death was voluntary—gave himself for our sins (1:4). His death was vicarious; the death of God's Son can reconcile us to the Father.

The purpose for Christ's giving himself is clear—to rescue us (1:4). The presence of evil in society is obvious, and it manifests itself through desires and principles that are contrary to God's nature and will for humanity. Salvation is both personal and cosmic. Paul was concerned for his readers' personal salvation to be sure, but he also was thinking of God's redemptive purpose in the wider cosmic arena. Martin Luther and other Reformation theologians stressed the point that Galatians is about individual salvation and justification by faith. Such a limited interpretation is understandable against the backdrop of the world of their day. However, the language present evil age suggests historic, cosmic, and eschatological implications in Jesus' rescuing us. All of this unfolds according to the will of our God and Father (1:4). It was the will of God that we should be saved. Christ was the appointed agent of that salvation. The sacrifice of Christ was voluntary.

Wesleyan Bible Commentary - Wesleyan Bible Commentary – Galatians, Philippians, Colossians.

 

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Ted Hans | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Feb 9 2012 11:12 AM

Super Tramp:
Eerdmans Wesleyan Bible Commentary (7 vols.)

You can compare both entries for yourself and make a decision. Hope this helps?

Eerdmans Wesleyan Bible Commentary (7 vols.)

    INTRODUCTION (Gal. 1:1–9)

The introduction to the Epistle is, in itself, relatively brief and somewhat typical of Paul’s style. It centers around a salutation that is buttressed by Christian love and praise to God. But when Paul introduces the occasion of writing and his purpose, he has already launched upon the theme of the book. The validity of the gospel and his prerogatives to proclaim it with assurance become both the extension of his introduction and the first main unit of the body of the epistle. Thus it is difficult to draw a sharp line between introduction and body of the discourse. At the risk of being arbitrary, we make a break after verse 9.


    A.      PAUL’S SALUTATION (1:1–5)

  1 Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren that are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father: 5 to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

The salutation contains the three customary elements of an ancient letter: the announcement of the writer, the designation of the readers, and the opening greetings. As always, Paul gives to these courtesies a spiritual character that brings him directly to the purpose of his mission in general and of the epistle in particular.

1. His Prerogative (1:1). Paul immediately thrusts his apostleship into the foreground. He writes not by human initiative but as an apostle. The authority is of the One who sent him. The detractors, then, do not reject a man but God. As apostle, he is proxy for God (Matt. 10:40). Though all this is implied in the term, Paul elaborates the significance of his apostleship. No doubt those who sought to discredit him had insinuated that there was a difference between the original apostles and Paul. His mission, they held, was given not by Christ but by the men in Antioch. Even when he received the Holy Spirit, it was said to be through a man, Ananias, who laid hands on him. Paul emphatically denies these slanders. His apostleship is not from men as to source, nor is it through man as to intermediate agency. There was only one source and agency. It was through Jesus Christ, and God the Father. As Ridderbos says, “The directly appended and God the Father announces that Paul’s calling of Christ was simultaneously a calling of God.”8
The key to Paul’s prerogative is the resurrection. God is described as the One who raised Jesus from the dead. Thus He made it possible for Jesus to call Paul as really as He had called the Twelve. And it was the same risen Lord, not Ananias, who shed forth the Holy Spirit on Paul. Thus Paul’s grace and apostleship was not a whit behind the others.

2. His Readers (1:2). Paul says nothing to identify the brethren that are with him. The mood of this letter is not to chat warmly and to exchange endearments. The apostasy of the readers has gone too deep for that. If one knew for sure the time and place of the writing, it would be easier to guess the identity of the members of the apostolic party. They are likely co-workers in the gospel.
The readers are designated as the churches of Galatia. This was long thought to refer to people of the geographical territory of that name in the heart of Asia Minor. This is called the North Galatian theory. However, for the past century or so, through the work of Ramsay and others, opinion has been swinging more toward the South Galatian view—that reference is to the Roman province that included not only the territory called Galatia but also the territories of Pisidia, Lycaonia, and parts of the regions of Phrygia and Cappadocia. If this is the correct view, it included the cities of Antioch, Lystra, Derbe, and Iconium, which were known to be visited by Paul.

3. His Wish (1:3). Paul’s greeting takes the form of a benediction. He can wish the reader nothing better than grace and peace. As Ridderbos says so well, these include “the reconciling relationship between God and His people and the full salvation included in it.”9 Here is an answer to the whole problem of backsliding or apostasy to which the Galatians were exposed. And this answer is from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. It cannot be either/or. It must be both/and. Judaizers, with their legalism, must not separate God the Father from God the Son. If grace and peace are to come from the Father, they must come also from Jesus, who is our Lord and Christ. He who has the Father has the Son. And he who has the Son has the Father. With Them, legalism is unnecessary. Without Them, it is not effective. Grace, not works, brings the fulfillment that is needed.

4. His Assurance (1:4). Departing from the usual pattern of salutation, Paul attaches a long description of the work of Christ to the mention of His name. This is to thrust the purpose of the letter to the fore. The Galatians had practically ignored the atoning death of Jesus in their emphasis on fulfillment through works. How often we need to be confronted with the death of Jesus! It brings us face to face with sins too deep to be removed by improving one’s works. But He gave himself for our sins. And through that death He is able to arrest the evil that we add to the world and to deliver us out of the clutches of the evil age. Here is the answer to man’s dilemma. The will of our God and Father is a genuine deliverance from sin, not just an accumulation of works prescribed by a law and imperfectly accomplished.

5. His Praise (1:5). With God as the source of salvation, a doxology is in order. In the face of apostasy and desertion, the light of the gospel shines all the brighter. The only salvation that exists does not bring praise to man. Man is a moral and spiritual failure. All glory must be to our God and Father for ever and ever. He is a light that the darkest night cannot extinguish. He is a beacon to call the lost back home.


    B.      OCCASION OF WRITING (1:6–9)

  6 I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; 7 which is not another gospel: only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. 9 As we have said before, so say I now again, If any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.

As we have seen, Paul was brief and abrupt in his salutation to the Galatians. He omitted his customary rejoicings and compliments. Now he suddenly unburdens his heart. The occasion of writing is that things are no longer as they were with the Galatians. The situation must be corrected or all will be lost.

1. Lapse from the Gospel (1:6). As if for contrast and emphasis, there is a sudden shift of attention from the glory of God to the folly of the Galatians. Paul expresses indignant surprise that they are so quickly removing from him that called them in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel. The tense of removing indicates that the agitators had not as yet met with decisive success. But the tendency to listen and to be influenced was frightening. Such wavering is so often the gate to apostasy.

2. Perversion of the Gospel (1:7). Paul hastens to correct the impression that there is more than one gospel. Legalism is not another gospel. There could be only one gospel—the good news of salvation through Christ. To depart from that and to teach others so is not to bring good news. It is to trouble the hearers. Human inventors, unwilling to obey the gospel and unable to produce another, do the only thing left. They seek to pervert the gospel of Christ. What man cannot make, he can spoil.

3. Uniqueness of the Gospel (1:8, 9). The gospel is not a theory or philosophy to be ventured and debated. It is good news to be proclaimed. The messenger is not to add to or subtract from the message. To do so is to depart from the facts and to mislead the public. Since the gospel is God’s message, to preach any other gospel‚ regardless of one’s personal standing or qualifications, is to be utterly false and ruinous.
Paul is so sure of the gospel as he proclaims it that he says of any who preaches otherwise, Let him be anathema. Rendall points out that the term anathema as used by Paul is not a judicial sentence of excommunication but rather it solemnly affirms general laws of the spiritual kingdom. “Any who tamper with the truth of the Gospel are pronounced outcasts from the faith and dead to the Spirit of Christ”10 Of this Paul claims to have recently warned them, probably in a personal visit. Rendall makes it clear that the uses of pro and arti here do not put the past and present in contrast but rather indicate the recency of the forewarning.11 This fact may offer some help in dating the epistle.


I. THE VALIDITY OF PAUL’S GOSPEL (Gal. 1:10–2:21)

Since the epistle is very personal and aimed directly at faith and conduct, there is no abrupt change from the introduction to the first main division of the discourse. The thought moves directly from the occasion of the writing to the validity of Paul’s particular proclamation of the gospel. Three factors support Paul’s claim to credibility. His gospel was received directly from Christ (1:10–24), was approved by the leaders in Jerusalem (2:1–10), and was vindicated even against the mistake of the chief Jerusalem apostle (2:11–21). All three of these issues are discussed only because the strained relationships demand it.
The remainder of the epistle is an exposition of the glories of salvation by faith in Christ (3:1–4:31) and the way of freedom through the Spirit (5:1–6:18).


Dayton, W. T. (1966). The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians. In . Vol. 5: Romans-Philemon. The Wesleyan Bible Commentary (335–337). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

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Mike Childs | Forum Activity | Replied: Thu, Feb 9 2012 8:19 PM

My pick would be the Eerdmans set.  It is older, but those scholars were fantastic.  I am biased though.  I, like the Eerdman's set, am over 50 years old, and I had a number of the scholars who did the Eerdman's set in seminary.   (Scholars like Dennis Kenlaw, George Turner, Herbert Livingston, etc. rank high with me.)

I could understand someone going with the newer set.  I am sure it is very good.

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 10 2012 9:22 AM

One other Wesleyan set to consider is New Beacon Bible Commentary (while the old BBC was a devotional gem in my humble opinion, the new series does a good job with the texts, although less devotional than the old one). 

http://www.logos.com/product/9655/new-beacon-bible-commentary-collection

Here is a look at the treatment on the Mary's magnicant from Luke and after that Daniel 7:1–28

5. Mary’s Hymn (1:46–56)

BEHIND THE TEXT

Mary’s hymn, the Magnificat (Latin), is special Lukan material and the first of four canticles in the Gospel. We have also the Benedictus by Zechariah (1:67–79), the Gloria in Exclesis by the heavenly host (2:13–14), and the Nunc Dimittis by Simeon (2:28–32; on Luke’s canticles, see Brown 1979, 346–50). Mary’s hymn is structured like hymns of praise in the Psalter with an introduction (vv 46–47), body (vv 48–53), and conclusion (vv 49–53). The hymn is Luke’s first use of an extended speech by a main character to elucidate his theological themes (see the comments on Thucydides in 1:1–4; other extended speeches occur in 1:67–79; Acts 2:14–36; 7:2–53; 17:22–31).

Mary’s hymn is modeled on the Song of Hannah in 1 Sam 2:1–11. The sidebar highlights the relationship of Mary’s song to Hannah’s. It also calls attention to Hannah’s reliance on ideas from elsewhere in the OT (esp. the Minor Prophets and the Psalms).

The songs of both women juxtapose the humble with the proud, the poor with the rich, the weak with the strong, and the righteous with the wicked. Both are hymns of rejoicing by a woman who finds herself with child as a blessing from God. The Song of Mary is deeply rooted in the biblical story.

A Comparison of the Hymns of Mary and Hannah

Theme

 

Mary in Luke

 

Hannah in 1 Samuel

 

Related OT Texts

 

Rejoicing

 

1:46–47

 

2:1

 

Zeph 3:14; Zech 2:10

 

Humility

 

1:48

 

1:11

 

 

 

Lord Holy

 

1:49

 

2:2

 

Ps 111:9

 

Generations

 

1:50

 

 

Ps 103:13, 17

 

Proud

 

1:51

 

2:3

 

Ps 89:10; 2 Sam 22:28

 

Weak/Strong

 

1:52

 

2:4

 

Job 12:19; 5:11

 

Hungry

 

1:53

 

2:5, 8

 

Ps 107:9

 

Israel

 

1:54

 

 

Ps 98:3; Isa 41:8

 

Abraham

 

1:55

 

 

Mic 7:20; Gen 17:7

 

Hannah’s song questions the established powers and calls for a return to biblical justice for the oppressed. By modeling Mary’s song on Hannah’s and other OT texts, Luke (like the other Evangelists) portrays the message of Jesus as similar to that of an OT prophet (Matt 21:11; Mark 6:4; Luke 13:33; John 6:14). This is a theme that will permeate the story of Luke (Evans and Sanders 1993, 8).

Additionally, the idea of an ideal future king creates the expectation of an answer to the problems of society articulated in the hymns (Luke 1:32–33; see 2 Sam 7:12–13). These problems, especially the oppression of the weak by the strong, are the same as those identified in the Samuel story (Luke 1:51–53; see 1 Sam 2:11; 2 Sam 7:14). A new king in the line of David will introduce a new society in which justice reigns and society’s problems are addressed.

IN THE TEXT

■ 46–50 Mary rejoices at the birth of her child and the prophecies about him. Her words, My spirit rejoices in God my Savior (v 47), are from Habakkuk’s prayer for help in the midst of trouble (Hab 3:18; see 1 Sam 2:1; Mic 7:7). This is fitting considering Mary’s situation. Savior, sōtēr, is infrequent in the Gospels, occurring only here and in 2:11 and John 4:42 (see Acts 5:31 and 13:23). It evokes a common phrase from the OT (Pss 24:5; 25:5; Hab 3:18). Like the barren Hannah, Mary characterizes her status as that of God’s humble … servant (v 48; see 1 Sam 1:11).

Mary is a woman at the lowest levels of village culture, and one now under suspicion of immorality. Her humility is born of shame and gratitude: for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name (v 49). The “Mighty One” is the warrior God (Zeph 3:17). Mary’s response to the situation is to declare God’s holiness, as Hannah did (1 Sam 2:2).

Mary describes God’s mercy as extending to those who fear him from generation to generation (v 50). This shows continuity with the OT tradition and its past heroes and heroines and identifies the present characters as living links in this pan-generational story (see 1:1–2). And it also implies that the drama reaches into the future with the promised children yet to be born.

■ 51–53 Verses 51–53 are a diatribe against the proud (see again, 1 Sam 2:3–8). All the verbs are in the prophetic aorist tense. That is, the birth introduces an accomplished present reality rather than a future promise. This emphasizes the “perfective” force of the aorist, rather than its temporal force (Beale and Carson 2007, 262). Mary’s pregnancy means that those who are proud in their inmost thoughts are already scattered (v 51). Rulers are already brought down … from their thrones (v 52), and the humble already lifted up (v 52). Those who experience hunger now (present active participle) are already filled (v 53). Those who are rich are already sent … away empty (v 53). These aorist verbs suggest that the oppression of the poor and humble is already overcome by God’s action toward Mary.

The concept of a present social order already being reformed by the presence of God’s Spirit is typical of the Hebrew prophets. It is a prophecy anchored in a particular sociohistorical setting. Yet, it expresses hope for the reform of the current order through the presence of God’s people in the world. The world will not be swept away and replaced by an eschatological kingdom; it will be reformed from within.

This idea has long informed the Wesleyan approach to social justice. Believers are called to bring the prophetic vision into reality by their labors, spirituality, and moral purity. This new order is the reality that our Christian hope tells us is meant to be. As such, Mary’s hymn is a call to engagement in social action to right the wrongs brought on by pride and oppression, to right the wrongs visited on the downtrodden.

■ 54–56 Verses 54 and 55 echo Isa 41:8–9, in which Israel is described as God’s “servant” and “descendants of Abraham [God’s] friend.” In v 54 God has helped his servant Israel. The deeper background of the Abrahamic covenant is invoked for the first time in Luke. The promise to Abraham and his descendants forever (v 55) refers to God’s assurance to give land and progeny to Abraham in Genesis (12:1–4; 17:7; 18:18; see Luke 1:73).

The repetition of “forever” in v 55 calls to mind again the messianic covenant with David through the house of Jacob from 1:33. In the distant past, this promise resulted in the creation of a powerful nation-state under Solomon. That state had centuries before declined under foreign domination. But God is already bringing about the reconstitution of his nation in radically different terms than expected. The new Davidic kingdom (v 32) will be unlike its predecessor socially and politically. But it will survive “forever.”

________________________________

II. Visions from a Foreign Land (7:1–12:13)

Overview

The second major section of the book records four visions that Daniel receives while serving in the courts of Babylon and Persia. They are arranged in chronological order beginning within the time frame of the stories in chs 1–6 and moving beyond them by a few years. Like Ezek 1, they affirm that God continues to speak to his people in a foreign land.

These visions connect integrally to one another. Common themes, subject matter, structural elements, and key words create a sense of interdependence and unity. All four visions deal with the subject of kingdoms in conflict. As they progress, each vision tends to become more particular and detailed than the previous one. The first vision in ch 7 sketches a general overview of world history in broad strokes. The other three visions in chs 8–12 concentrate upon a specific time of turmoil within that scheme. They focus upon a period of affliction surrounding an event called “the abomination that causes desolation” (9:27; 11:31; see 8:13). The images of the visions also display a movement from the surreal toward the more familiar. Fantastic animals in ch 7 give way to more realistic animals in ch 8. These are exchanged for numerical images in ch 9 and finally for specific activities of kings in chs 10–12.

As a unit the visions reaffirm the central themes put forth by the stories in the first portion of the book and explore their implications further. The sovereign God experienced by Daniel and his friends remains fully in control. His dominion extends over all the kingdoms of this world and even beyond it. Those who are wise like Daniel can expect deliverance from God, if not in the present, then in the future. Faithful living is always ultimately rewarded. So as believers await the full manifestation of God’s rule in the future, they are challenged to remain unwavering in their commitment to his kingdom in the present.

A. Vision of Four Beasts (7:1–28)

Overview

Chapter 7 serves as the focal point of the book. All that has gone before and all the follows converge in its verses. In some ways everything is new. In other ways much remains the same. A new genre is employed to sketch a fresh image of God’s sovereignty over this world. Yet, at the same time, an overall narrative frame remains, and the language and motifs of the stories reappear. These elements combine to paint a memorable picture of “the appointed time” when the Lord “will arise and have compassion on” his people (Ps 102:13). The centrality of this chapter must not be missed.

BEHIND THE TEXT

Several features mark ch 7 as pivotal in the book. Language, themes, and motifs link this chapter to both the stories (chs 1–6) and the visions (chs 7–12). Structural elements and genre also cause the chapter to function as a hinge between the two major portions of Daniel. As a vision ch 7 introduces the final section of the book. Yet it also serves as a conclusion to the stories.

At the end of ch 7 the Aramaic section of Daniel (chs 2–7) comes to completion. This portion forms a distinct unit within the book that is held together not only by language but also by other features (see Behind the Text on ch 2). Its conclusion signals something significant to the reader. The themes and motifs have come full circle and a climactic concluding point is reached.

Even though the Aramaic section is dominated by narrative, ch 7 is integrally related to them. Verbal and thematic connections between ch 7 and these stories are evident on several levels. Most obvious is the relationship to ch 2 and its comparable dream of the four kingdoms. The theme of divine judgment upon earthly kingdoms dominates both chapters. Visions through the medium of dreams, the rising and falling of four kingdoms, and the terrifying iron-like strength of the last kingdom are some of the similar motifs. As the beginning and ending of the Aramaic section, these two chapters form an inclusion for the material in this section.

The descriptions and interpretations of four world kingdoms in chs 2 and 7 tend to complement each other. They supply details that may be lacking in one or the other. The way in which earthly kingdoms afflict God’s people, for example, is not mentioned in ch 2 but is given considerable emphasis in ch 7. The two versions also provide contrast in perspectives. The imposing metal statue of ch 2 portrays the kingdoms of this world from a human standpoint in all their glitter and glory. The grotesque beasts of ch 7, on the other hand, convey the animalistic character of earth’s kingdoms from God’s point of view. The appearance of two similar visions within the book underscores the significance of the messages contained in them. The motifs have been repeated to alert the reader to take notice.

Links with other stories in the book are also significant. Some examples include the following. Reference to execution by a “blazing fire” (7:11) recalls the ordeal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in ch 3. The description of the beasts in 7:4–8 alludes to Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and beast-like appearance in ch 4. The setting of Belshazzar’s reign (v 1) and the descriptions of the boastful “little horn” (vv 8, 25) evoke the story of Belshazzar’s humbling in ch 5. The lion-like appearance of the first beast (7:4) recalls the lions that threatened Daniel in ch 6.

While ch 7 is closely associated with the stories, it also commences the second half of the book. A new genre, the apocalyptic styled vision report, is employed, which will dominate the final chapters. Four personal visions of Daniel are recorded in chs 7–12. They employ typical apocalyptic motifs and language such as symbolic animals and numbers along with heavenly beings who act as guides to the visionary.

The general form of chs 7–12 is that of a prophetic vision report. Typical of vision reports among the prophets is a two-part structure: (1) an account of what is seen followed by (2) its interpretation (see Jer 1:11–16). This is the pattern followed here in ch 7. Other elements often found in this genre include: (1) an indication of circumstances, (2) a request for understanding, and (3) a concluding statement about the visionary’s response. An additional feature of heavenly beings assisting the one receiving the vision is found in some exilic and postexilic prophets (Ezek 40–48; Zech 1–6) and becomes common in noncanonical apocalypses. Prior to the exile prophets typically reported God conversing directly with them and explaining meanings (Isa 6; Amos 8:1–2).

Like ch 8, the visionary of ch 7 reports seeing animals that represent human kingdoms. Thus these two visions can be distinguished from those in chs 9–12, which do not include such images, as symbolic vision reports. The animals in ch 8 are different from those in ch 7 however. There are only two of them, and they are not hybrids. Yet, they are ferocious animals with horns. The second one has a terrorizing small horn much like the little horn of ch 7. The setting for both visions is identified in relation to the reign of Belshazzar. There are other connections, but these will be considered in comments on ch 8.

Aside from common genre, the final chapters of the book are linked by a new chronological sequence that breaks with the earlier chapters. The stories in chs 1–6 moved sequentially from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to Belshazzar to Darius. Chapter 7 reverts to the first year of Belshazzar, which places it chronologically between chs 4 and 5. Then the visions in chs 8 and 9 are related to the reigns of Belshazzar and Darius, while the final vision in chs 10–12 is connected to the third year of Cyrus. There is also a pattern of “first year” then “third year” in these notations that creates another bond for these visions.

Except for the first verse, the vision of ch 7 is relayed from a first person perspective. A third person introduction is not unusual for these kinds of reports (see 10:1). Though this feature could indicate a secondary hand in the material, it does not necessarily mean that. Third person comment is a typical literary device employed in postexilic material (see Ezra 7 and Neh 1). It tends to highlight the eyewitness effect of the first person perspective.

The historical setting given for the vision of ch 7 is significant. It identifies a time of unrest and emerging empires like those envisioned in Daniel’s dream. The first year of Belshazzar was around 550 b.c. (v 1). This was the year that the Babylonian king Nabonidus relinquished daily control of the empire to his eldest son, Belshazzar, and retreated to the Arabian desert for a period of about ten years. Nabonidus preferred worship of the moon god Sin to the patron god of Babylon, Marduk. These factors created a religious and political struggle among various factions in Babylon and threw the empire into disorder.

The year 550 b.c. also marks the time that Cyrus the Great rebelled against his Median overlord Astyages and united the forces of the Medes and Persians. By so doing he established one of the most enduring empires of world history, the Persian Empire. It lasted for over two centuries from 550 b.c. to 331 b.c. and became one of the largest empires the world has ever known (see Behind the Text for ch 8 for more information).

Though many of the ideas and images employed in ch 7 are unique to it and the book of Daniel, interconnections with other texts in the Hebrew Scriptures are many. Especially noteworthy are passages that refer to God as creator and judge. Such texts establish essential background for the worldview underlying this vision. God forming and subduing monsters from the sea is a significant image reflected in the vision (Gen 1:20–21; Isa 17:12–13; Jer 46:7; Job 40–41; Ps 74:12–14; Ezek 29:3; 32:2), as is the picture of God sitting as judge over nations (Pss 9:7–8; 96:10–13; 110:1–7). Psalm 2 is particularly instructive because it mentions God installing his “Son” the king to rule over the nations. Similarly Ps 89 speaks of God ruling from his throne and investing a Davidic ruler with authority. This psalm also includes reference to God crushing the sea monster Rahab. Prophetic visions of the final consummation of human history on the day of the Lord provide additional backdrop to Daniel’s vision (Isa 2:1–5; 66:17–24; Zech 14:1–21). The depictions of God’s people sharing in the dominion over their former oppressors (Isa 14:1–4) and all nations worshipping God (Isa 2:2) are particularly applicable. The appearance of God on his throne is consistent with other throne room visions of the Hebrew Scriptures (1 Kgs 22:19; Ezek 1:4–28).

The ideas and images of ch 7 are also at home within the context of the ancient Middle Eastern world (see Lucas 2002, 168–76, and Collins 1993, 280–94, for extended discussions). Mythology, iconography, and wisdom texts of Mesopotamia and Canaan provide a number of general parallels to the elements found in Daniel’s vision. Though no exact correspondences to what Daniel envisions can be discovered in this material, a context for processing bizarre images and the pattern of relationships between characters is established. For example, the Mesopotamian creation myth Enuma Elish relays Marduk’s struggle with the sea and its monsters. Texts from Canaanite Ugarit provide a similar episode with Baal as champion. Reliefs and statues of winged lions were regular motifs in palaces of the ancient world. Omen texts recorded births of malformed hybrid animals. These were considered messages from the gods and analyzed with extreme care. Such parallels do not indicate that Daniel borrowed these elements to construct his vision. They do, however, provide background for the visual and conceptual effects of the vision upon its original audience. Daniel’s vision was not an entirely unique collection of images and ideas without reference to the thought world of his audience.

The vision of ch 7 follows a simple structure. A report of the vision (vv 2–14) is followed by its interpretation (vv 15–27). These two major sections are enveloped by a brief introduction (v 1) and an even briefer conclusion (v 28).

The report and interpretation parallel one another. The report moves from a description of the four beasts (vv 2–7) to a focus upon the little horn (v 8) to the throne scene in heaven (vv 9–14). The interpretation follows the same order by explaining the meaning of the four beasts (vv 17–18), the little horn (vv 19–25), and then the throne scene (vv 26–27).

IN THE TEXT

1. Introduction (7:1)

1 The opening verse does more than provide a setting for the vision. It also establishes links with other parts of the book. Daniel is introduced without any description of his background, position, or abilities. The vision report obviously relies upon information from the first six stories to provide background for this main character. His role has changed from that in the narratives, however. He is now a recipient of dreams rather than an interpreter of them.

The historical setting for the vision also connects it with the stories. Reference to the Babylonian king Belshazzar locates Daniel’s vision chronologically between chs 4 and 5. This alerts the reader to additional background for understanding the drama of ch 5. Daniel apparently knew where things were headed even before the writing on the wall appeared. He had received a personal revelation regarding the unfolding of events in his world. The first year of Belshazzar, about 550 b.c., is significant in the flow of world history. It references a time of confusion in the Babylonian Empire and the entire Middle East. New nations were emerging while others were waning. It was a crucial era of transition (see Behind the Text above).

Daniel receives the visions through the medium of a dream. This parallels Nebuchadnezzar’s experiences in chs 2 and 4 (2:28; 4:5). Daniel’s later visions do not come in the context of dreams (8:1; 9:21; 10:1). The vision happened as he was lying on his bed. This also recalls Nebuchadnezzar’s experience in ch 4 (4:5, 10, 13). The location may indicate the unexpected nature of the vision. Persons intentionally seeking communication with the divine world would more likely do so in a temple setting.

In order to ensure its perpetuity, Daniel wrote down the substance of his dream. Putting a divine message into writing marked it for fulfillment and gave it the authority of a royal decree (Isa 8:1; Hab 2:2). It also made possible the continuing affects of the message for subsequent generations (Jer 36:2–3; Ezek 43:10–11). The phrase substance of (rēs̆) literally translates beginning of. The implication is that Daniel records the dream in the sequence in which it came to him, starting at the beginning.

2. Report of the Images (7:2–14)

The account of Daniel’s vision is conveyed in a chiasmic structure that focuses attention upon God seated in judgment upon his throne in vv 9–10. The final scene in which a divine figure comes on the clouds in vv 13–14 balances the opening portrayal of beasts emerging from the sea in vv 2–3. Reference to the fate of the three beasts in v 12 offsets their initial descriptions in vv 4–6. Similarly judgment upon the fourth beast in v 11 stands over against its first appearance in vv 7–8. Besides highlighting God’s role as judge over earthly kingdoms, this structure dramatizes the effects of divine rule. The contrast could not be more pronounced between the chaos prior to vv 9–10 and the order following. Before the throne of God both cosmic and human realities are significantly altered.

For the first time in the book Daniel conveys his experience in first person. This perspective dominates the remainder of the book. The impact of this feature is to highlight the eyewitness aspect of the material and thus enhance its sense of authority. The reader is also able to live the experience with Daniel more tangibly.

2 The report is punctuated with formulaic sayings such as I looked (ḥāzēh hăwê; vv 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11a, 11b, 13) and there before me (ʾărû/ʾălû literally means “behold”; vv 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13). These phrases intensify the drama by focusing the audience upon the key scenes. They also accentuate the personal aspect of this experience. Daniel further underscores the ominous character of his dream by noting it took place at night (v 2). Three times he emphasizes this setting, thereby alerting readers to the gravity of his dream (vv 2, 7, 13). Night visions carry additional emotion (Gen 46:2; Job 33:15; Zech 1:8).

Daniel’s dream begins with a scene of great terror, a violent ocean storm. The picture of the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea depicts chaos and the cosmic proportions of the dream (v 2). Reference to the four winds of heaven suggests hurricane conditions with wind coming from every direction—north, south, east, and west. Since the term “wind” (rûaḥ) also translates as “spirit,” the phrase winds of heaven could subtly suggest divine involvement. These winds stir up threatening waves from the ocean. The great sea (yammāʾ rabbāʾ) might refer to the Mediterranean Sea (see Josh 1:4; hayyām haggādôl) but also evokes the primordial waters of biblical imagery and Mesopotamian mythology. “The great deep” (tĕhôm rabbâ) lies above the firmament and beneath the earth (Gen 7:11; Amos 7:4; see also Gen 1:7). Throughout the Bible the sea symbolizes uncertainty and disorder (Rev 21:1). The whole scene recalls Gen 1:2, which describes chaos before creation when “the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep [tĕhôm], and the Spirit [rûaḥ] of God was hovering over the waters [māyim].”

3 Out of the chaotic ocean tempest emerge four great beasts (v 3). Though they share common oppressive characteristics because of their origins, each has distinguishing marks. They are each different from the others in their appearance and the terror they evoke. Biblical writers frequently envision the sea teeming with intimidating serpent-like monsters known as Leviathan or Rahab (Pss 89:9–10; 104:25–26; Isa 51:9).

4 The first beast looks like a lion with wings of an eagle (v 4). The combination of the king of beasts with the king of the birds makes this beast exceptional. Yet the creature experiences both highs and lows of life. Having its wings … torn off suggests loss of ability and status. Gaining qualities of a man, however, indicates a move in the other direction. The language recalls ch 4, where Nebuchadnezzar falls and rises in power. In his demise he was given “the mind of an animal” (literally, “the heart of a beast,” 4:16) and grew hair that looked like “the feathers of an eagle” (4:33). The beast of Daniel’s vision knew the reversal of these effects and was lifted from the ground like Nebuchadnezzar (7:4; see 4:36).

5 The second beast looks like a bear that is deformed (v 5). The description of being raised up on one of its sides is ambiguous. It could indicate that the bear is raised up in an attacking stance. More likely, though, it portrays a disproportioned growth on one of its sides. Grotesque animals are a common feature of apocalyptic works. The three ribs in its mouth could be understood as “tusks” or “fangs” rather than body parts of another animal. In any case, the beast is instructed by an unidentified voice to get up and eat your fill of flesh. The ravenous character of this animal is being emphasized.

6 The third beast looks like a leopard with four wings and four heads (v 6). The leopard is known for speed and agility and the reference to four wings only increases this image. The four heads suggest extended influence over the world, which is confirmed by noting it was given authority to rule. This creature recalls the four living creatures with four faces and four wings in Ezekiel’s vision of heavenly realms (Ezek 1). These creatures possessed the ability to move in any direction at any time in absolute synchronized harmony.

The first three beasts resemble some of creation’s most imposing predators. The lion, bear, and leopard occur in biblical texts, sometimes together, to evoke dread (Jer 5:6; Hos 13:7–8). The architects of ancient Mesopotamian palaces commonly employed these same animals for similar effects. Animals with wings was a typical motif of ancient royal artists. Winged lions in particular decorated thrones and court entrances. The hybrid character of such animals, including those in this text, only adds to their horror for an ancient Jewish audience. Certain kinds of creatures were appalling to Israelites (Lev 11:9–12, 23) and the mixing of species was contrary to the created order (Gen 1:24–25; Lev 19:19).

7 The order in which the first three beasts appear is descending in terms of how ancient writers traditionally perceived their strength and terror. But the fourth beast reverses this trend and becomes the most imposing of all. The shift is marked by the use of active verbs to describe this beast. By contrast the first three beasts are depicted with passive verbs. Daniel adds dramatic affect to the fourth beast’s introduction by pausing to remind the audience once again that this occurs in my vision at night (v 7; see vv 2 and 13 also).

The description of the fourth beast is more extended than that of the others, indicating its special significance. A trilogy of horrific attributes terrifying and frightening and very powerful is matched by a trilogy of oppressive actions crushed and devouredand trampled (v 7). The actions depict an animal killing and feasting on prey. With powerful jaws the beast crushes its victim and tramples on the carcass while consuming its flesh. The increased terror associated with this beast is emphasized by the comment that it was different from all the former beasts. If a lion, bear, and leopard are terrifying, this beast is more. It is so horrifying that no earthly beast compares to it. Thus it remains unnamed, incomparable, and more mysterious. Terms such as powerful, iron, and crushed recall vocabulary describing the fourth kingdom in the dream of ch 2.

As a symbol of its superiority, the beast dons ten horns (v 7). Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures horns signify status, strength, and at times pride (1 Sam 2:1; Pss 75:4–5; 112:9). The number ten suggests a full amount, such as is associated with the Ten Commandments or ten fingers (Gen 32:15; Exod 34:28; 1 Sam 1:8). The fourth beast possesses unmatched strength. Since some animals might normally have two horns, this beast is five times greater than normal.

8 As the description of the beast continues, additional details are given about its horns. Among the ten horns emerges a little one that uproots three others (v 8). The little horn came up (sĕlēq) among them in a manner resembling the emergence of the beasts who “came up out of the sea” in v 3. Similar to the first beast, this horn possesses some human qualities. Its eyes are like the eyes of a man. It also has a mouth that spoke boastfully. Notice of the beast’s eyes and mouth focus attention upon its character. In biblical tradition these particular body parts reveal the inner person (Ps 19:14; Prov 4:23–25; Matt 12:34). Often they are associated with pride and foolishness (Prov 6:16–17; 15:2). The term translated boastfully literally means great things (rabrĕbān), which could be taken either positively or negatively. The interpretation of the vision clarifies a negative meaning is intended. The little horn speaks arrogantly “against the Most High” (v 25). It reflects the character of those kings God humbled in chs 4 and 5.

9 The dream report continues with a dramatic shift in atmosphere. An orderly scene of divine beings invades the chaotic stage of grotesque beasts. The author signals this shift by moving to poetic verse in vv 9–10 and 13–14. Parallelism, rhythm, metaphor, simile, hendiadys, assonance, and repetition are employed to heighten the effect of this scene.

A court coming to order is envisioned by thrones being set in place and the Ancient of Days taking his seat (v 9). The judgment hall is a palace throne room. The king, his throne, a body of water, and the royal attendants are described. Within Hebrew Scriptures the divine title Ancient of Days is only found in this chapter (vv 9, 13, 22). It reflects the Ugaritic reference to Baal as “father of years” and emphasizes God’s age. Ancient cultures revered older persons. So the point of the name is to underscore God’s authority to rule. God can sit as judge of nations because he is eternal. God has been before anything else from the beginning, so he has a perspective that no one else can have. Clothing that is white as snow and hair that is white like wool adds to this image. These are features associated with someone respected and wise.

The whiteness of God’s clothing and hair signifies more than age, however (v 9). It also conveys unmatched purity and alludes to God’s holiness. Reference to a throne that is flaming with fire and wheels that are all ablaze adds to the impression of God’s holy otherness. Fire functions as a catalyst in the purifying process of metals and thus evokes an image of separation and purification throughout the Hebrew Scriptures (Exod 3:2; 19:18; Zech 13:9; Mal 3:2). The chariot-like appearance of a throne with wheels is common imagery for divine thrones in the ancient world. It recalls Ezekiel’s vision of God by the Kebar River once again (Ezek 1). In that vision God moves quickly and freely in all directions as a result of the wheels beneath the throne. Thus the description of God in these verses accentuates his holiness. God is not like the beasts of earth or anything else in creation. His clothing, his hair, and his throne set God apart.

10 Before the throne flows a river of fire (v 10). One might imagine a reflecting pond, which was sometimes used in ancient temples. In any case, this feature portrays divine judgment. Throughout Scripture God deals with evil like “a consuming fire” (Deut 4:24). Thus fire is frequently used as a symbol for God’s judgment (Isa 66:15–16; Ezek 21:31–32; Amos 5:6). Typical of ancient royal courts, the king is attended by a large number of courtiers. Thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand poetically express incalculable numbers (v 10). God’s throne is surrounded by “a great multitude that no one could count” (Rev 7:9).

While the attendants remain standing, the divine judge is seated and the proceedings begin (v 10). The books that are opened might be a record of things that have taken place within the king’s domain. Based on the context, one could assume these are the deeds of the four beasts. Royal records were typical among ancient monarchs (Ezra 4:15; Esth 6:1), and the tradition of God keeping records of human behavior within his realm runs deep in the Hebrew Scriptures (Exod 32:32; Ps 56:8; Mal 3:16). Yet the contents of the books could also be God’s purposes for the future. Within Daniel the idea of God sealing such plans in a book is particularly emphasized (8:26; 9:24; 10:21; 12:4, 9).

11 The poetry of vv 9–10 and 13–14 is briefly interrupted by prose description of judgment for the four beasts in vv 11–12. This prosaic interlude draws attention to this moment in the scene and helps contrast it with the more positive components that precede and follow it.

God executes judgment upon the four beasts. First, the fourth beast is slain for his offenses (v 11). The boastful words the horn was speaking are the primary reason given for this sentence. As in chs 4 and 5, God does not tolerate insolence within his domain. Execution by means of a blazing fire indicates the severity of the crime. The most heinous offenses were handled in this way (Lev 20:14; 21:9; Josh 7:25; Dan 3:6). With its body destroyed the condemned has no hope of further existence according to ancient mentality. This dramatic picture reflects the vision of Isaiah regarding “that day” when God “will slay the monster of the sea” (Isa 27:1).

12 After dealing with the fourth beast, God turns to the other three. God’s judgment is discriminating for the other beasts are not treated as harshly as the fourth beast (v 12). They are stripped of their authority and allowed to live for a period of time. The difference in the treatment of the beasts suggests that the evil perpetrated by the fourth beast is more offensive to heaven than that of the other three. As v 25 will make clear, it is the blasphemous behavior of the fourth beast that is judged so severely. This agrees with the stories in chs 4 and 5. The arrogant sacrilege of Belshazzar also exacts the death sentence, while the pompous pride of Nebuchadnezzar is given a chance to change. Perhaps the three beasts are offered the same grace that Nebuchadnezzar had in ch 4 when they are allowed to live for a period of time.

The fact that judgment of all four beasts occurs at one time agrees with the dream of ch 2. There the statue representing four kingdoms is destroyed by one crushing blow (2:34, 43). This suggests that God’s kingdom breaks into the various realms of earth throughout history. God’s people do not have to wait for the culmination of history before the kingdom of God manifests itself among them. Yet, focus upon the last beast and its demise indicates that final judgment on the ultimate day of the Lord is also in view. Similar to what Israel’s other prophets perceived, this vision anticipates both historical and eschatological events. God deals with nations and establishes his kingdom on earth within history as well as at its end (Isa 2:1–5; Zech 14:1–21).

13 The final episode in the throne scene is the climax of the vision. An extended introduction signals the significance of these verses. Daniel notes once again that his experience took place in a vision at night when he looked and saw remarkable things before him (v 13). These three elements constitute the same formulaic introduction used at the beginning of the report (v 2) and when the fourth beast was described (v 7). Thus the main character of this scene is set over against the four beasts and in particular the fourth beast. The contrast between the two could not be greater.

The key figure of this dramatic scene is one like a son of man (kĕbarʾĕnās̆, v 13). The Aramaic phrase bar ʾĕnās̆ corresponds to the Hebrew ben ʾĕnôs̆ and ben ʾādām, which literally translate “a son of a man” or “a descendant of a human being.” It can be used in an indefinite sense to indicate “someone” and often designates “humanness” (Pss 8:4; 144:3; Jer 49:18; Ezek 2:1). Thus it simply means “a human being.”

The figure here is said to be like a human being, which suggests an essence other than human. Since this person comes with the clouds of heaven, deity is implied. Clouds were typically the vehicle of divine transport within Israelite and Canaanite thought. Baal, the god of thunderstorms, is called “Rider on the Clouds” in myths from Ugarit. In the Hebrew psalms and prophetic literature God rides the clouds like a king in a chariot (Pss 18:9–12; 68:4; 104:3; Isa 19:1). Therefore the “son of man” figure displays both human and divine qualities.

This person comes before the Ancient of Days to be invested with authority (v 13). The language evokes ancient enthronement ceremonies as the “son of man” figure moves through the throne room led by a royal entourage into the presence of the Ancient of Days.

14 To this person God grants authority, glory and sovereign power (v 14), the same kinds of things Nebuchadnezzar had received from God (2:37; 5:18). These are gifts only divinity can bestow, for they are God’s by nature according to the book of Daniel (4:3, 34; 6:26). Authority (s̆ālṭān), also translated dominion in this verse, is repeated throughout this chapter (vv 6, 12, 14 [3 times], 26, 27 [2 times]). The divine right to rule, which was stripped from the beasts (v 12), is given over to the “son of man” figure in this verse and also, according to v 27, “the saints.”

Now vested with authority, the “son of man” figure becomes an object of worship. The term for worshiped (pĕlaḥ) recalls ch 3 where the dilemma for the Hebrews was whether or not they would bow before a statue (3:12, 14, 18, 28). In this vision all people do what Nebuchadnezzar had hoped they would do before his idol. They pay ultimate reverence to one worthy of such. An eschatological scenario envisioned by the prophets of Israel unfolds here (Isa 2:2; Zech 14:16). The entire world, all peoples, nations and men of every language, fall before “the one like a son of man” (v 13). This list recalls the royal decrees of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius that called for worship of Daniel’s God (4:1; 6:25). So also does the declaration that his dominion is everlasting, will not pass away and never be destroyed, which is identical with the language of the secular kings (4:3; 6:26). These three expressions of the indestructible nature of the kingdom underscore its present reality as well as its assured continuance. This contrasts sharply with the fate of the beasts just noted in vv 10 and 11.

An interpretation for the “son of man” figure is not offered in the vision’s explanation of vv 15–27. Thus readers are left to interpret this person in light of other scriptures. Both Jewish and Christian interpreters have observed similarities between the “son of man” figure and portraits of messianic personalities in other prophetic books. The prophets proposed a Davidic descendent who would exercise authority over the kingdom of God much like Daniel’s vision portrays (Isa 9:1–6; 11:1–5; Mic 5:1–5; Zech 9:9–10). The major element that is different in Daniel is the combination of divine and human features. Of the several possible identifications proposed for the “son of man” figure, the best option is Jesus Christ. He fits the description of a divine-human person who is invested with universal authority and worshipped by all peoples at the end of time. New Testament writers clearly understood Jesus in this way. In one of Paul’s letters, for example, Jesus is described with the features of the “son of man” figure in Dan 7. He is the one “who, being in very nature God” was “made in human likeness” and yet was exalted by God so that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil 2:6–7, 10–11).

Son of Man in Daniel 7:13

Scholars have offered numerous proposals for the identification of the “son of man” figure in Dan 7:13. The most prominent include: (1) Judas Maccabeus, (2) the people of God, (3) an angelic being, and (4) Jesus of Nazareth. Some of those who view the book as a second-century composition have favored Judas Maccabeus. He is the messianic figure who led the revolt that freed the Jews and established the Hasmonean Kingdom in 164 b.c. The book’s lack of support for violent resistance like that of the Maccabees, however, argues against this idea.

The people of God have been proposed because “the saints of the Most High” are said to receive the kingdom in vv 18, 22, and 27. Scholars propose that the “son of man” individual in v 13 symbolically embodies the whole. This proposal might be acceptable if worship of the “son of man” figure were not described in v 14. According to biblical tradition only God should be honored in this way. Thus a distinction between the “son of man” figure and the people of God should be maintained. It is reasonable to understand, then, that the “one like a son of man” will lead “the saints” as they inherit the kingdom of God.

The worship of the “son of man” figure in v 14 also preempts the angelic being option proposed by some scholars. Both Gabriel and Michael, who are mentioned later in Daniel (8:16; 9:21; 10:13, 21; 12:1), have been suggested. Neither human beings nor angels, however, can be the legitimate objects of worship from the biblical perspective.

Jewish and Christian traditions over the centuries have been dominated by the understanding that the “son of man” figure is messianic. Jewish interpreters have looked for a future personality yet to come, while Christians naturally identified Jesus of Nazareth as that person. The favorite title of Jesus for himself throughout the Gospels was “the son of man,” which he clearly associated with Dan 7:13 (Matt 13:26; 24:30; 26:64; Mark 14:61–62). The early Christian community picked up on this and advanced the same connection (Rev 1:13; 14:14; see From the Text below for more discussion).

3. Interpretation of the Images (7:15–27)

Like the dreams of chs 2 and 4, interpretation follows description of the images. This time, however, Daniel does not provide the interpretation. He is the recipient of the vision and must rely on another person to interpret for him. Suspense is built by presenting Daniel’s reaction first (vv 15–16), then a summary interpretation (vv 17–18) before the detailed explanation (vv 19–27). The vision concludes with a note on Daniel’s final response (v 28).

The interpretation essentially follows the sequence of scenes in the dream reported in vv 2–14. Only v 18 jumps ahead to summarize the meaning of the last scene. Otherwise explanation of the four beasts is given (v 17), then the fourth beast (vv 19–25) and finally the throne scene (vv 26–27).

15 Daniel’s initial response to what he saw is similar to that of others who received visions (Gen 41:8; Dan 2:1; 4:1) and that he himself experienced on another occasion (4:19). It is not as intense as what Belshazzar felt (5:6, 9), however, or even what he would experience in later dreams (8:27; 10:8–17). A sense of apprehension along with some positive anticipation is expressed by the phrases troubled in spirit and disturbed (v 15).

16 He who knew the meaning of such things in previous chapters must now rely upon another to interpret. So Daniel asked one of those standing there for help (v 16). This person is apparently a heavenly being, perhaps the archangel Gabriel based upon the notation in 9:21, which identifies him as “the man I had seen in the earlier vision.” Zechariah also experienced the assistance of angels during his visions (Zech 1–6). It is a common feature of noncanonical apocalypses, which tends to add authority to the interpretation of the vision by asserting that it was also of divine origin.

17 The angel gives a brief summary interpretation of the vision’s two key scenes: the beasts emerging from the sea and the court sitting in judgment. According to the heavenly interpreter the four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth (v 17). The term kingdoms (malkìn) can also be translated “kingships” or “kings.” It is a feminine noun expressing the idea of royalty or reign. Since a kingdom is embodied in its king and vice versa either meaning is possible in the context.

The identification of these kings or kingdoms with specific historical entities has been a matter of scholarly debate. By reference to the characteristics described of each animal in the vision, several schemes have been proposed. Comparisons with the statue of ch 2 and the beasts of ch 8 also add to each argument. The point of the vision, however, may not be to identify precise kingdoms or kings. The description of each beast is general enough to allow several applications. The features of the four-headed leopard, for example, might fit with the Persian Empire, the Greek Empire, or the Babylonian king Neriglissar. The nature of vision material suggests caution in this regard. The goal of such material is to paint a picture, not to sketch details. Vision images are symbols of general realities, not necessarily specifics. Interpreters must be careful not to overanalyze symbolism in such material.

The number four is best taken symbolically rather than as a designation for a particular quantity. It is clearly significant in this vision. There are four winds, four beasts, four wings, and four heads. The vision of the bear includes the numbers three and one, which add up to four. The fourth beast has three horns and then a little horn. As was noted in ch 2, the number four traditionally symbolizes universality or completeness (Exod 25–39; Prov 30; Amos 1–2). A list of four things denotes comprehensiveness. The subject has been covered in its entirety when four are mentioned.

The scheme of four great beasts, then, most likely intends to present an image of the entire scope of human history. Four kingdoms symbolize all the kingdoms of this world in their totality. The final fourth beast represents the last political power in history from the perspective of the audience. That is to say, the last kingdom is the realm under which the current audience lives, whenever that may be. The first beast logically represents the realm of the Babylonian kingdom or Nebuchadnezzar. This is the time in which the vision claims to have originated. The second and third kingdoms, to which the text gives little attention, could stand for any significant political entity between the first and last kingdoms. Their oppressive beastly qualities could fit any number of kingdoms throughout human history. Thus for Daniel the beasts might represent the four kings Nebuchadnezzar, Amel-Marduk, Neriglissar, and Nabonidus. The little horn that grows from the fourth beast would be Belshazzar, the contemporary despot for the vision. The imprecise nature of the vision’s images, however, does not restrict the historical referents only to Daniel’s time. Later audiences are invited to understand the fourth kingdom as the contemporary power at work in their day. This kingdom is different from all the rest because it is present. Its terror is greater because the audience feels it firsthand.

Historical Referents for the Four Kingdoms

Many commentators attempt to associate each beast with a specific world power or person. As in ch 2, two primary views dominate the discussion. Scholars suggest the kingdoms are either (1) Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece or (2) Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Those who hold to a second-century b.c. date of composition typically follow the first position while those who argue for a sixth-century b.c. date of composition more readily assert the second. A modification of the latter view is to understand Rome in terms of a modern confederacy of European states (Miller 1994, 196–203). Another less prominent theory is that the four beasts represent four individual kings. These kings might be the Babylonians Nebuchadnezzar, Amel-Marduk, Neriglissar, and Nabonidus.

Numerous specific points may be made for each of the four empire views (see Lucas 2002, 187–91, for Babylon to Greece view; see Archer 1985, 85–87, for Babylon to Rome view). All positions essentially agree on the identification of the first beast as either Babylon or Nebuchadnezzar. This understanding is based upon links with chs 2 and 4 and the fact that the vision logically might begin with the contemporary kingdom.

The bear can be viewed as representing either the Median or Persian empires. The connection of the bear with the Median Empire rests upon the assumption that the author of Daniel believed the Medes ruled the Middle East between the Babylonians and the Persians. Following this line of argument, the three ribs are thought to signify either three kings or nations the Medes subdued. Perhaps the three are Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz, based on Jer 51:27–29. If the bear is taken to represent the Persian Empire, though, the three ribs can be connected to kings or nations overrun by them. One common suggestion is to identify them with the three great conquests of the Persians, which were Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt. The description of the bear with one side raised up also fits with the Persian Empire. According to some, this feature could represent the two-part character of the empire, Medes and Persians, of which the Persians were the more dominant.

The speed and agility indicated by the winged leopard can describe either Persia or Greece. Both boasted highly efficient military operations. The remarkable sweeping conquest of the Middle East by Alexander the Great is the most compelling comparison, however. The reference to “four heads” in this case fits well with the fourfold division of the Greek Empire at Alexander’s death. On the other hand, if the leopard is taken to represent Persia, then the “four heads” might apply to the rule of four Persian kings implied by Dan 11:2, though Persia certainly had many more kings than this.

The fourth beast has been identified as either Greece or Rome. For those who view the book as a second-century b.c. composition, the fourth beast represents the contemporary oppressive political power of the Seleucids. This empire sprang from the Greek Empire and was ruled by a series of kings from Seleucus I to Seleucus IV that might represent the “ten horns” of v 7. Actually there were only seven kings in this time frame, but three contenders for the throne following the death of Seleucus IV would bring the number to ten. These contenders could be considered “three of the first horns” uprooted by “the little horn” (v 8). The “little horn” who succeeded to the throne then was Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a person who certainly spoke “boastfully” (v 8) and intentionally oppressed “the saints” (v 25; see Behind the Text on 11:2–12:4).

The association of the fourth beast with Rome is based upon the sequence of empires in world history. If the third beast is Greece, then Rome was the next world empire. Its dominating hold over the Mediterranean world could appropriately be described with “iron teeth” that “crushed and devoured its victims” (v 7). The coming of “one like the son of man” during the Roman era naturally fits with the birth of Jesus Christ in the days of Augustus Caesar. No identifications for the ten horns, three horns, or the little horn has received wide acceptance, though. Because of this, some scholars suggest that the fourth beast also speaks of the final kingdom of the earth. They project a federation of ten European states from which an antichrist figure will emerge before Christ comes to establish the kingdom of God on earth.

The theory that the four beasts represent four Babylonian kings moves the vision’s primary reference into the time frame of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar can be as easily associated with the first beast as the Babylonian Empire at large. How Amel-Marduk and Neriglissar might reflect the second and third beast is uncertain since little is known of them. The disruptive fourth beast could represent Nabonidus because of the way he took over the kingdom and ruled it so carelessly. In this scheme the little horn would be Belshazzar who, according to ch 5, rose up to speak “boastfully” (v 8) and set himself “against the Most High” (v 24).

18 A key message of the vision is that the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever (v 18). This point is made three times in the interpretation with increasing clarity (see vv 22 and 27). The saints of the Most High could refer to either heavenly beings or the people of God. Most likely it is the latter, referring to those on earth who identify with a holy God by their commitment to holy living. The term saints (qaddìs̆ìn) is an adjective that translates literally as holy ones. It derives from the term qaddìs (Hebrew qāddas̆), which means to set something apart for divine purposes. The adjective form typically refers to heavenly beings in other chapters of Daniel (4:13, 17, 23; 8:13). Yet the saints in 7:22 and 25 are clearly people of earth because the ruler of the fourth kingdom attacks and oppresses them.

Saints

The Hebrew equivalent to saints (qāddôs̆ìm) often denotes heavenly beings like the Aramaic term, but not always (see Ps 34:9). Frequently God challenges people to be “holy ones” just as he is a holy one (Lev 11:44; 19:2; 20:8, 26). Noncanonical Jewish literature uses the term to refer to both heavenly beings and human beings (for heavenly beings see Sir 42:17 and Wis 10:10; for human beings see 1 En. 100:5 and Wis 18:9). (See further discussion in Collins 1993, 313–17.)

The saints are said to receive the kingdom and possess it (v 18). The term kingdom, as noted previously, refers to the idea of reign or royalty. In this context it undoubtedly refers to God’s kingdom described in v 14. The emphasis there, as here, is upon its stability. It will last forever—yes, for ever and ever. The threefold repetition of forever (ʿālam) underscores its permanence. This is not only a future reality but also a present one. The kingdom of God in this world continues despite the rising and falling of human kingdoms. To say that the saints will receive and possess the kingdom is a way of indicating significant participation in that realm. What that means precisely is not articulated. This idea resonates with the rest of the prophets who assert that God’s people will rule over their former oppressors (Isa 14:1–4; 49:22–23; 60:10–12).

The relationship of the saints to the “one like a son of man” in v 13 is an important question. Since both are said to receive the kingdom, some scholars have suggested that they must be the same. Perhaps the “son of man” figure is the embodiment of Israel or God’s people as a whole. The worship of the “son of man” figure in v 14, however, argues against this. Within biblical tradition only God is to be worshipped (Exod 20:3), not human beings or even heavenly beings. Therefore the “son of man” figure must be distinguished from the saints in this verse and later (vv 22, 25, 27). This implies that the “son of man” figure heads up this kingdom and the saints participate in the rule of it. New Testament writers project just such a scenario with regard to Jesus and his followers (Matt 24:30–31; 1 Thess 4:16–17; Rev 20:4–6).

19–20 The summary interpretation is not enough for Daniel, nor for the reader. The brief interpretation only whets the appetite to understand more of the vision. Daniel wants to know details, in particular, the true meaning of the fourth beast (v 19). This beast received special attention in the report of the vision (see vv 7–8). The interpretation now confirms its significance by focusing upon it as well. The narrative builds suspense further at this point by rehearsing the description of this beast given in vv 7–8 along with some omissions and additions. The new elements include reference to bronze claws and the fact that the little horn is more imposing than the others (vv 19–20). Both features increase the sense of terror associated with this beast.

21–22 The most important addition to the description of the fourth beast is that this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them (v 21). The significance of this point is signaled by the introduction I watched, the same formula that occurred at seminal junctures in the report of the images (vv 2, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13). This new information describes the saints, God’s people on earth (see discussion above), engaged in battle with the horn that came from the fourth beast (v 22). Worse yet, they are losing. This detail exposes the particular evil in which the beast is involved. He is opposed to God’s people. Verse 25 will articulate further aspects of the horror.

The people of God may become involved in a dramatic struggle with the ferocious fourth beast, but they emerge as victors. The text describes the Ancient of Days intervening and pronouncing judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High (v 22). The ruling of the divine judge regarding the struggle between the beast and God’s people shows preference for the people. They come to possess the kingdom that holds authority over the beasts of this world. All this occurred when the time came for it to happen. The inference is that the timing of things is out of the hands of the saints. They cannot determine it. The information at this point provides additional context for understanding some of the drama behind the throne scene in vv 9–14. The fourth beast is not sentenced to death only because he is boastful. He is singled out for the severest punishment among the beasts because he attacks the people of God. Also the information indicates that the saints will join the “one like a son of man,” presumably under his leadership, in ruling God’s kingdom. The explanations coming in the next verses will make these things clearer.

In response to Daniel’s request, the heavenly being finally provides a more detailed interpretation. He elaborates on the fourth beast (v 23), the ten horns (v 24a), the little horn (vv 24b-25), and the court scene (vv 26–27). In order to signify the importance of the interpretation, the text once again reverts to poetic verse throughout vv 23–27 (see BHS and NRSV).

23 The heavenly interpreter clarifies what was previously said in v 17: the fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth (v 23). It is different from all the other kingdoms in the extent of its domination and terrorizing. The whole earth will feel the effects of this kingdom. The three beast-like actions mentioned in the vision report are reiterated (see v 7). Like a ravenous animal this kingdom will exploit the world by consuming its resources and trampling them underfoot.

24 The ten horns are explained as ten kings who rule over the fourth kingdom (v 24). While these kings might refer to specific historical figures, their number is likely symbolic. The number ten signifies a full amount. Thus this kingdom will endure for what might seem to be a full cycle for earthly kingdoms. At this moment, though, when people might hope that this kingdom is coming to an end, another king will arise. This is the “little one” of v 8. His prowess is indicated by his ability to subdue three kings in order to secure the throne. Again the number could refer to three particular kings, but it is more likely symbolic of extra strength. Three things create a strong bond (Eccl 4:12). Yet the final king is able to overcome such. This may be why he is described as “more imposing than the others” in v 20.

25 The terror of this final king is made plain in a list of his evil deeds. Blasphemy and religious persecution are his trademarks. He is in direct opposition to the things of God. This king will (1) speak against the Most High, (2) oppress his saints, and (3) try to change the set times and the laws of the faith (v 25). Like Belshazzar in ch 5 this king arrogantly sets himself “up against the Lord of heaven” (5:23). He is also like Belshazzar in the way he trivializes the sacred. Belshazzar handled the consecrated goblets of the temple with contempt (5:2–4). Similarly the king of Dan 7 treats the holy ones of God and his sacred institutions with disregard. The word oppress (bālaʾ) literally means “to wear out,” indicating the king’s attacks upon the faithful will be relentless. The set times and the laws likely refers to prescribed worship practices outlined in the laws of Moses. These include such things as Sabbath observance, sacrifice rituals, and annual festivals. While this sort of thing has happened at various times throughout history, 1 Macc 1:41–50 records a particular time when Antiochus IV (175–164 b.c.) issued a decree restricting Jewish worship practices (see also Dan 8:11–13; 9:27; 11:31; 12:12).

The continual assault of the king will result in God’s people being handed over to him (v 25). Just as Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar (1:2) so they will come under the control of this king. The expression literally reads given into his hands, which implies divine action. The people of God are not overpowered by the evil king but are permitted to fall into his hands. Like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel in chs 3 and 6, God’s people are not delivered from their ordeal but rather in it.

This time of affliction will not go on forever. An ending has been predetermined. It will last for a time, times and half a time (v 25). Many commentators suggest that this phrase refers to three and a half years, even though the term time (yiddān) does not necessarily mean “year” but rather “a period of time.” Also times (yiddānìn) is not dual but simply plural. Based upon other references in Daniel and the NT, however, this seems to be the best understanding. Daniel 12:7 connects the phrase to 1,290 days and 1,335 days, which approximate but do not match three and a half years. The NT links it with 1,260 days, which is three and a half years on a 360-day lunisolar calendar (compare Rev 12:6 with 12:14). Revelation 11:2 also refers to forty-two months for the trampling of Jerusalem.

This does not mean the phrase must be taken as a literal calculation. Three and a half is half of seven, the perfect number. The phrase thus symbolizes the imperfect duration of the final evil king. It also suggests that his reign comes to an abrupt halt. The faithful will endure a seemingly unending oppression for a time and times, but then it will suddenly cease as it is cut in half. Therefore the phrase is a symbolic expression for an unspecified amount of time that quickly ends. The point is that the saints will not suffer endlessly. God has marked a time for its conclusion.

26 At the appointed time the divine court will sit in judgment of the evil king (v 26). God executes the sentence by deposing the king and bringing his reign of terror to an end. His authority is taken away and completely destroyed. The utter elimination of the king’s realm is emphasized in the Aramaic, which literally reads, annihilated and destroyed to the end. Verse 11 carried the same emphasis when it pictured “his body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire.”

27 By contrast, all the imposing power wielded by the evil king and more is transferred to the people of God. They inherit the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven (v 27). This expression, which uses three words with similar meanings, accentuates absolute sovereign control. The authority of God’s kingdom encompasses all the power of all the realms of the four beasts portrayed in the vision. These beasts represent all the kingdoms under the whole heaven. Thus the new kingdom is greater than anything ever known within human history.

Those who receive the new kingdom are the saints, the people of the Most High (v 27). Literally this phrase translates, “the people of the saints of the Most High” (so RSV, ESV, and others). The meaning of the phrase depends on whether one takes the saints as possessive or explicative. Accordingly it can also be translated either “the people who belong to the saints of the Most High” or as the NIV has it. In light of references to the saints in vv 18, 22, and 25, the rendering of the NIV seems most appropriate. The text is explaining that the saints are the people of the Most High.

The kingdom that the saints receive can be described as his kingdom, meaning God’s kingdom (v 27). The text could be translated “their kingdom,” however, referring to the people (so nrsv). The antecedent for the pronominal suffix on his kingdom could be either the masculine singular noun people or the masculine plural noun Most High. The latter is more likely since the verse goes on to speak of worship and obedience given to him. Ultimately God holds authority over this kingdom and is the only one appropriately worshipped. Therefore it is properly referred to as his kingdom, not their kingdom.

The new kingdom is characterized by permanence and universal worship. It will be an everlasting kingdom, a point well emphasized before in vv 14 and 18. All rulers who serve in this kingdom bow before the central authority. They will worship and obey the true leader of this kingdom. The scene is reminiscent of numerous biblical visions of the final kingdom of God. It is a time when “all kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him” (Ps 72:11).

4. Conclusion (7:28)

The chapter concludes with another note about Daniel’s response to the vision. This echoes back to v 15, which began the interpretation section of the vision. So also the phrase the end of the matter (sôpaʾ̄ dì millĕtāʾ) balances the beginning of the matter (rēʾs̆ millìn) in v 1 and creates an inclusion for the entire vision (v 28).

Daniel remains troubled as he was before in v 15. This time his countenance is affected, however, and his face turned pale. Like Belshazzar (5:6, 9), Daniel’s “splendor changed,” which denotes intense anxiety.

The emphasis on Daniel’s response highlights the significance of this vision. Such strong emotion surely indicates something worthy of consideration. It invites readers to take the time to ponder the vision’s meaning.

FROM THE TEXT

The dramatic images of the vision of ch 7 portray theology that is central not only to the book of Daniel but also to the entire Bible. The chaos perpetrated by ungodly governance is powerfully portrayed in all of its horror. Yet divine subjection of this human upheaval is equally envisioned. God will bring judgment upon earth’s evil institutions and individuals. While God’s authority over this world is assured, its final manifestation awaits a time appointed by heaven itself.

The rule of human beings apart from God creates chaos. The vision in ch 7 captures the essence of secular human kingdoms in a poignant portrait. It is an insightful political observation sketched with powerful images that emphasize the cosmic dimensions of earthly governments. Winds from every direction churn up deep oceans that spit out grotesque beasts (vv 2–3). These horrifying animals represent human kingdoms that terrify and devour the world into which they come. Their attempts at creating order through domination only yield more chaos. They move swiftly, stealthily, and determinedly, each more fearful than the other. The final beast embodies all the worst of its predecessors and produces the most brazen ruler of all. Wielding unparalleled power, he arrogantly blasphemes heaven. He emerges from obscurity, overthrows the strength of three, speaks against the Most High, and trivializes the sacred (v 25).

The scene forms a striking impression of life in utter confusion. Contrast with the well-designed, peace-filled paradise of Gen 1–2 is marked. Also missing are the ideals of the luxuriant cosmic tree in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of Dan 4. Images of care and protection for God’s creation, birds nesting in fruitful branches and animals gathering for shelter (4:12), are foreign to the vision of ch 7. In their place are descriptions of exploitive predators crushing, devouring, and trampling their prey. They abuse rather than preserve the bounty and beauty of God’s creation.

Such disorder disrupts, oppresses, and terrorizes those living under the realm of these kingdoms. Especially vulnerable are persons who try to live connected with God. The saints, as the text calls them (vv 18, 21, 22, 27), are worn out from the assaults of secular despots. Eventually they are handed over to the whims of evil tyrants (v 25). Like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel (chs 3 and 6), they experience the full force of the insanity of human decrees before they are delivered.

Chaos is one of the most consistent manifestations of evil. All that opposes or ignores God moves toward confusion, disorder, and meaninglessness (Gen 11:7; Isa 24:1–13; Lam 1:1–6; Eccl 1:14). It reverses the order of creation. As Gen 1 makes plain, God’s creative actions produce a well-arranged, purposeful world. That which was formless and void takes on meaningful design in the hands of the biblical Creator. “God is not a God of disorder but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

Within the earthly sphere human kingdoms often become the prime perpetrators of chaos in this world. While they are not the only source of disorder, they are a major expression of its presence in God’s creation. They miss the truth that order has divine origins and attempt to control by human law. They do not understand that there is one who “judges the earth” (Ps 58:11) and in whom “all things hold together” (Col 1:17). The story of Daniel’s lion pit ordeal highlighted the illusion of human law. The chaotic affects of earthly approaches to peace are as far ranging as a nation’s dominion. People, especially God’s people, suffer under such regimes. As this text shows, evil states affect more than the lives of its individual subjects. They disrupt the creative purposes of God. Their evil actions carry cosmic implications. Decisions by governments are more than political, social, economic, or even moral issues. They are spiritual ones.

The vision affirms that ungodly rulers design ungodly states. Evil is not only corporate but also personal. The text comes to focus upon one individual leader, a little one (Dan 7:8). This person is responsible for speaking blasphemy, oppressing God’s people, and altering sacred traditions (v 25). While the evil state may have created such a person, his wickedness embodies the character of that kingdom. The nature of the horrific beast is ultimately located within the hearts of individuals.

Throughout history Christian interpreters have connected the little horn of ch 7 with an end-time figure known as “the antichrist.” New Testament writers employed the images and motifs of ch 7 when describing rebellious figures such as “false Christs” (Mark 13:22), “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thess 2:3–9), “the antichrist” (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 7), and “the beast” (Rev 13:1–10). These persons manifest both a present and a future reality. They will appear within and at the end of human history, according to the early Christians. Like the little horn of Dan 7, they stand for everything opposed to God and lead a rebellion against heaven. Yet in the end they are subdued by Christ and brought to judgment (Rev 19:20–21).

God judges evil states and brings new order out of chaos. The turbulence of raging nations ceases before God’s court. The beasts of chaos are slain and stripped of their authority before the heavenly throne (Dan 7:11–12). Authority, glory and sovereign power are placed within the hands of an anointed one and his people and a new kingdom is established (v 14). This kingdom will be one of perfect order because all rulers will fulfill their God-ordained roles and give reverence to God (v 27). The original purposes for creation will finally be accomplished. With God at its center, this kingdom will be secure and stable. It will last forever. It will not pass away or be destroyed (v 14).

The image of God judging nations in order to restore creation is fundamental to the biblical worldview. Prophets and psalmists agree on this point. One day God will come to “judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth” (Ps 96:13). The result of divine judgment will be a world of God’s choosing. Biblical writers envision “new heavens and a new earth” where “the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more” (Isa 65:17, 19), “mountains will drip new wine” (Joel 3:18), “the Lord will be king over the whole earth” (Zech 14:9), “peoples will stream” to the mountain of God to worship (Mic 4:1), and “God himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev 21:3). It will be a world filled with abounding joy (Isa 24:14). Therefore creation looks forward to God’s judgment with great anticipation. “Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth” (Ps 98:8–9).

Psalm 2 affirms the same picture found in Dan 7 with a more earthy description. That poem envisions earthly rulers rising up and plotting against God and his purposes like the beasts emerging from the sea. But “the One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, ‘I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill’ ” (Ps 2:4–6). The kingdom of the Lord’s anointed will transform the chaos perpetrated by nations just as the kingdom of the “one like a son of man” will. Isaiah also reflects this thought when he writes, “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks” (Isa 2:4).

The text makes clear that the new order is a divine act. The role of God’s people is not emphasized. They simply receive the kingdom and give honor to God. Neither faithful living nor persistent resistance is explicitly admonished. The vision even remains silent about the actions of the “son of man” figure. These features tend to underscore the divine origins of the kingdom and its authority. God takes the initiative over the forces of chaos in this vision as he does throughout Scripture. Genesis 1:1–2 first confirms it and Job 40–41 agrees. Turbulent storms and sea monsters do not intimidate or thwart God’s purposes. He “rides on the wings of the wind” (Ps 104:3), cosmic waters obey his commands (v 7), and all creatures of the sea, even Leviathan, come under his control (vv 25–26).

The full manifestation of God’s authority in this world awaits the end of human history. The events portrayed in Dan 7 are both historical and eschatological. Like Israel’s other prophets, Daniel sees God’s kingdom entering this world within the frame of human history as well as at the end of it. That kingdom is never absent, for it will never be destroyed (v 14). It is forever.

The court scene of ch 7 portrays God’s judgment of all human kingdoms. Together earthly realms are sentenced, some to death and some to diminished authority. This corporate verdict implies both ongoing and final judgment. Treatment of the three beasts indicates judgment within history. These kingdoms are stripped of their authority and allowed to live for a period of time (v 12). The execution of the fourth beast, the symbol of earth’s last kingdom, conveys final judgment. The dominion of human kingdoms ceases when the beast is slain and its body destroyed (v 11).

The authority of these beasts, according to the vision and its interpretation, is handed over to one like a son of man and the saints (vv 13–14 and 18, 22, 27). The new kingdom over which they reside is eschatological. Verse 22 references the time when God’s people possessed the kingdom. That moment is concurrent with events that can only take place at the end of human history. It is when the “son of man” figure comes with the clouds of heaven and is given authority (vv 13–14). Then, all peoples, nations and men of every language, including all rulers, will fall down in worship before God (vv 14 and 27).

The scene portrayed in ch 7 provided NT writers with images to describe the work of Christ within this world and at the end of human history. These writers allude to the patterns, motifs, and images in this chapter more often than any others in the book. According to the Gospels, Jesus’ favorite way of referring to himself was as “the Son of Man.” While this designation could convey only the fact that Jesus was human, the contexts in which he uses it suggest more. Scholars are divided on the issue, but it seems likely that Jesus was identifying himself with the “son of man” figure in v 13. His use of the definite article could communicate “that particular son of man,” meaning the one mentioned in Daniel.

When Jesus describes his second coming he envisioned “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky” (Matt 24:30; Mark 13:26). Before the high priest at his trial he proclaims, “In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt 26:64; Mark 14:62). Following his resurrection Jesus states, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). Thus Jesus claims that God “has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man” that Dan 7 speaks about (John 5:27).

These images of Christ and the culmination of human history lie behind the descriptions of final victory in the writings of Paul (1 Thess 4:16–17; 2 Thess 2:1–12; 1 Cor 15:50–57). The picture of the way God will judge world powers, however, is most vividly expressed in the book of Revelation. A beast with horns rises from the sea and terrorizes the world in Rev 13. This creature speaks “proud words and blasphemies” like the little horn in Dan 7 (Rev 13:5). It makes “war against the saints” and extends its authority throughout the earth (Rev 13:7). Eventually the beast is slain in the final judgment. It is thrown into “the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Rev 19:20). Its judge and conqueror is Jesus Christ, who finally reigns absolute over this world along with those who have remained faithful to him (Rev 20:1–6).

The vision of Dan 7 then, according to the NT, found realization in the person of Jesus Christ. It still awaits its final fulfillment in his second coming.

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Matthew C Jones | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Feb 10 2012 9:50 AM

Dan Francis:
A Comparison of the Hymns of Mary and Hannah

I really  appreciate everyone's responses.  I have not been silent for lack of interest but I am very busy preparing for my daughter Hannah's wedding tomorrow. After the excitement has died down I will give proper consideration to all the great material posted.  

I also meant to mention I have the Joseph Agar Beet Commentary.  Is anyone aware Agar is a seaweed that grows on the ocean floor? Interesting name to saddle one's son with. Big Smile

Logos 7 Collectors Edition

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