Four Beasts - Interpretation

The vision of the fourth beast, its arrogant “little horn” and the war it waged on the saints is interpreted by an angelic being - Daniel 7:15-28

Stars over mountains - Photo by Brendan Miranda on Unsplash
Daniel’s vision of the four beasts “ascending from the sea” concluded with a judgment scene. In it, the figure “like a Son of Man” approached the “Ancient of Days” to receive everlasting “dominion.” His vision left Daniel confused and troubled, but an angel provided him with its interpretation.  The “Son of Man” represented the people of God destined to inherit the kingdom - [
Photo by Brendan Miranda on Unsplash].

While the “Son of Man” received everlasting dominion over all the nations, in the vision’s interpretation, the “saints of the Most-High” received sovereignty and “possessed the kingdom.”
  • (Daniel 7:15-18) - “The spirit of, me, Daniel, was grieved in the midst of the sheath, and the visions of my head terrified me. I drew near to one of them who stood by and made exact inquiry of him concerning all this, so he told me, and the interpretation of the things made he known to me. These great beasts, which are four, are four kings who shall arise out of the earth; but the saints of the Highest shall receive the kingdom, and shall possess the kingdom for the age, yea, for the age of ages.”
The four “beasts” represented four kings and their kingdoms. In the vision, the “beasts” were ascending “from the sea,” but in the interpretation, “kings” were ascending “from the earth.” The interpretation moves out of the symbolical and into the historical. The “earth” represented the peoples from which the four kingdoms had “arisen.”
  • (Daniel 7:19-23) - “Then desired I to be sure concerning the fourth beast, which was diverse from all of them, exceeding terrible, whose teeth were iron, and his claws of bronze, he devoured, brake in pieces, and the residue with his feet he trampled down; also concerning the ten horns, which were in his head, and the other, which came up and there fell from among them that were before it three, and this horn which had eyes and a mouth speaking great things, and his look was more proud than his fellows: I continued looking, when this horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them: until the Ancient of Days came, and justice was granted to the saints of the Highest, and the time arrived that the saints should possess the kingdom. Thus, he said, the fourth beast is a fourth kingdom which shall be in the earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour all the earth, and shall trample it down and break it in pieces.”
Each “beast” represented a “king” and its “kingdom.” Collectively, the four “beasts” were contrasted with the “saints of the most-high” who were destined to receive the “everlasting kingdom.”

The interpretation focuses on the fourth “beast,” especially its “little horn.” It appeared “stouter than its fellows” - the “ten horns” of the fourth “beast” - and it became more prominent than the others. It then made “war with the saints and prevailed against them.” Thus, before receiving the kingdom, the “saints” must endure this assault by the “little horn.”

This corresponds to the description of the fourth beast that “trampled the remnant with its feet,” the “remnant” being identical with the “saints.” This understanding is confirmed in the next paragraph when the horn “spoke words against the Most-High and wore out his saints.”
  • (Daniel 7:24-28) - “And the ten horns of that kingdom are ten kings who will arise, and another will arise after them. And he will be diverse from the former ones, and three kings will he cast down, and words against the Most-High will he speak, and the saints of the Highest will he afflict, and will hope to change times and law, and they will be given into his hand for a season and seasons and the dividing of a season, but judgment will take its seat, and his dominion will they take away to destroy and make disappear unto an end. And the kingdom, and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under all the heavens shall be given to the people of the saints of the Highest, his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions to him will render service, and show themselves obedient. Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, greatly did my thoughts terrify me, and my bright looks were changed upon me, but the matter in mine own heart I kept.”
The “little horn” symbolized the malevolent king who attempted to destroy the “saints,” and for a time, he prevailed over them “until the Ancient of Days arrived, and justice was granted for the saints.” Only when God intervened did the “saints” receive the kingdom.

In the vision, the “ten horns” represented ten kings. The “little horn” was distinct from them and rose to prominence after three “horns” had been “removed.” The “little horn” then spoke “words against the Most-High and wore out the saints.” This expands on the earlier description of its mouth “speaking great things,” and suggests royal edicts intended to harm the “saints.” And it attempted to “change times and the law,” thus, trespassing on the divine prerogative. As Daniel previously declared, God alone “changes times and seasons” - (Daniel 2:21).

Seasons - Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Times” is a generic term that may refer to time delimited in several ways - weeks, months, and years, for example. The Septuagint Greek version translates the word with kairos, meaning “season, set time.” In view were the annual feasts and rituals from the Levitical regulations that the “little horn” attempted to change - (Leviticus 23:1-4).

The “war” against the saints would last for a “time, times, and a dividing of time.” The Aramaic text is not precise, and more correctly reads - “time (singular), times (plural), and part of a time.”  The last clause can mean any portion of a full “time,” however long or short.

The four beastly regimes “were given a lengthening of life for a season and a time.” Since the same temporal terms are applied to the first three kingdoms, and since each endured for a different length of time, the “season and time” does not represent a literal number. Each realm was “given” dominion and life by God, the one who changes “times and seasons” - (Daniel 2:21).

The period of a “time, times and part of a time” does not refer to the length of this king’s reign, but it defines the period during which it “speaks words against the Most-High,” wages war against the “saints,” and attempts to “change times and the law.”

That things were “given into his hand” signified that God remained in control of events. The period of suffering would come to an end at the appointed time. In contrast, the victory of the saints would endure forever. The “little horn” would lose its dominion and be “consumed and destroyed.” The oppression of the “saints” was part of the process necessary for establishing the kingdom of God, otherwise, why did God “give” persecuting power to this malevolent creature?

The “kingdom and dominion” were given to the “people of the saints.” In the vision, the kingdom was given to the one “like a son of man,” but in the interpretation, to the “saints.” In verse 27, the plural pronoun gives way to a singular. It is “his kingdom” and “all dominions will serve him”. The singular pronouns refer to the “son of man.” Thus, the “Son of Man” represents the saints, their fates are inextricably linked.

The chapter concludes with Daniel troubled and terrified by his vision, indicating that he did not understand it. But he kept the matter in his heart. This sets the stage for further illumination that will be provided by the next vision.



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