The Babylonian Exile #9

The book of Daniel does not arrange all of Daniel’s prophecies and his interpretation of dreams and visions of others in chronological order. In chapter 2 Daniel interpreted a dream of Nebuchadnezzar which spoke of four nations that would exercise their power over the people of the time they existed and of God setting up His own kingdom in the days of those four kingdoms. In chapter 7 is a vision given Daniel with its interpretation. There was over a 50-year span of time between the prophecies recorded in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7. The first prophecy came in the early years of the empire; the last prophecy came during the waning days before the empire’s end. Yet chapter 5 records the fall of the Babylonians and chapter 6 tells of Daniel’s night in a lion’s den, well into the days of the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. Perhaps this return to a Babylonian monarch after recording the kingdom’s overthrow may be explained by the fact that Daniel is divided into two parts. Some divide the book into chapters 1-7 and 8-12 while others believe the division should be chapters 1-6 and 7-12. This latter division seems more “natural” by having “each division” begin with a prophecy of four human kingdoms and one divine.

The prophecy which was Daniel’s interpretation of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar (chapter 2) is the one most people are familiar with. Chapter 2 emphasizes the beginning of God’s kingdom; chapter 7 emphasizes the Messiah who would rule over the kingdom God would set up. Chapter 7 reads, “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream and told the sum of the matters. Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of heaven brake forth upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon two feet as a man: and a man’s heart was given to it And, behold, another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. After this I beheld, and, lo, another, like a leopard, which had upon its back four wings of a bird: the beast had also four heads: and dominion was given to it. After this, I saw in the night visions, and, behold, a fourth beast, terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly: and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces and stamped the residue with its feet: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots: and behold, in the horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. I beheld till thrones were placed, and one that was ancient of days did sit: his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool: his throne was fiery flames … the judgment was set, and the books were opened. I beheld at that time because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake; I beheld even till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire. And as for the rest of the beasts their dominion was taken away; yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time” (vv. 1-12).

In chapter 2 the four earthly kingdoms are represented as metal: gold (Babylon), silver (Medes and Persians), brass (Grecian), and iron with iron mixed with clay (Rome). The same four kingdoms are in Daniel 7, but represented in a different way. Instead of four different metals, four different animals were used. A lion with eagles’ wings (Babylon), a bear (Medo-Persians), a leopard (Grecian), and a diverse beast with iron teeth (Rome). Those who are students of John’s revelation of a great beast which also came up out of the great sea are struck by the similarity of that beast to the four beasts of Daniel 7. In Revelation 13:1-2 the beast had “ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns ten diadems and upon his head names of blasphemy and the beast … was like a leopard, and its feet was as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion and the dragon gave him his power, and his throne and great authority.” The image of Nebuchadnezzar was destroyed by a stone which was cut without hands from a mountain. The beast of Daniel 7 was judged and destroyed by the Ancient of Days (vv. 12-13). In John’s vision in Revelation 13, the diverse beast met its end by Him who sat on a while horse — Christ (Rev. 19:19-20).

Daniel 7 records the destruction of the beast (four earthly kingdoms) but its emphasis is on Him who is the long awaited Messiah and King of the heavenly kingdom: “I beheld in the night visions and behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given unto him dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting kingdom, which shall not pass away; and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (vv. 13-14).

How accurate! How astonishing! God, by the knowledge He gave to Daniel, pulled back the curtain of time to show what would happen in the world for the next 600 years. And in the midst of the despair which had settled upon many of the Jews exiled from their homeland, showed that God would fulfill His promises in the coming of Him who was the “seed of the woman,” the seed of Abraham and the seed of David and who also was God’s Son!  Little wonder that unbelievers have challenged this book and its veracity because it is beyond human power to look into the future and see the fortunes of men and how God fulfilled His eternal purposes. Only God could do that — AND HE DID! What compelling prophecies come to us from the mouths (pens) of these prophets of the Babylonian exile!

Jim McDonald