DANIEL’S VISION OF THE SEVENTY WEEKS: DANIEL, 9:1-27: PART I

            This morning we continue our study of Daniel.  And the chapter we are ready to deal with is chapter nine. In this chapter we find a third vision that God gave to Daniel during King Balshazar’s reign.  The first, found in chapter seven, was of four beasts.  And when we studied that vision, we noted certain parallels between it and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two, including an apocalyptic leap to the end-time. 

            The second, recorded in chapter eight, was a vision of a ram, a he-goat and a horn.  The interpretation of the main parts of that vision were clearly set forth, so that the meaning of some of the symbolism in Daniel at the historical level became clear.  The ram symbolized Media-Persia.  The he-goat symbolized Greece under Alexander the Great.  The four horns that grew up when the first horn (Alexander) was broken represented the four generals who divided Alexander’s empire after he died.  And with some deductions, we concluded that the little horn symbolized Antiochus IV.  Then once again we observed an apocalyptic leap to the end-time.

            Now in chapter nine we see a third vision.  The first two verses supply the setting.  They tell us that this vision was given in the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, on an occasion when Daniel was meditating on Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding the duration of the Babylonian Exile (Jer. 25:11-12).  As Daniel reflected on the prophecy, he realized that the 70 years were about up.  Darius the Mede was the first ruler of Babylon after Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire in 538 B.C.  And verse one tells us that Daniel was given this vision in Darius’ first year.

            The Babylonians had taken Daniel and others captive by in the first phase of their conquest of Palestine in 605 B.C.  So when Daniel saw this vision, it had been about 67 years since his personal captivity began.

            But Daniel not only was aware that the 70 years were near an end.  He also was aware that the chastisement of the Exile had not produced fruits of repentance among the people.  So Daniel prayed.  In his prayer Daniel confessed the sins of Israel.  But Daniel had read more in the prophets than the promises of chastisement.  He also had read about the expected restoration of Israel.  Undoubtedly he understood Jeremiah’s prediction of the duration of the Exile in that light. And thus he was hopeful.  So in verses 16-19 Daniel petitioned God on behalf of Israel. 

            First he recalled what God did for the people earlier, when he brought them out of Egypt “with a might hand” (v. 15).  Then he boldly asked for an end to God’s wrath (v. 16), and pleaded for mercy and forgiveness (vv. 18-19). 

            Suddenly things began to happen!  In verses 20-24 we see that God began to answer Daniel’s prayer even before he finished it.  The angel Gabriel suddenly appeared to Daniel.  Daniel evidently recognized the angel from his appearance in the previous vision (8:15-17). 

            Gabriel gave Daniel a vision of seventy weeks, which has proven exceedingly controversial among Christian interpreters.  In verses 24-27we see that there is a lot packed into those few verses.  I want us to look at four interpretive approaches to the vision.  In the next study we will work through the details, putting our emphasis on the two views most widely held among evangelicals.

            The first of the four interpretive approaches is typical of liberals.  Therefore I will call it the liberal view.  Liberal scholars tend to say that all of the events of the seventy weeks were fulfilled in the days of Antiochus IV.  Their reason is simple.  They believe that the book of Daniel was written after the second-century B.C. events it supposedly predicts took place.

            The second approach we will call the symbolic.  These interpreters think of the term “weeks” in the phrase “seventy weeks” as though they were in quotation marks.  That is, they view Daniel’s seventy weeks as a symbolic, rather than literal, measure of time.  They understand the “seventy weeks” to be coming from Jeremiah’s seventy years, on which Daniel had been meditating. 

            Thus in their interpretation, the first week symbolizes the period from the Babylonian Exile to the first coming of Christ.  The sixty-two weeks symbolize the period from the first coming of Christ to the coming of the Antichrist.  And the seventieth week symbolizes the rise and fall of the Antichrist.  There is no connection to actual weeks or years.  Only periods of time are intended.  [Keil held this view.]

            The third approach is that of the dispensationalists.  Dispensationalists interpret the seventy weeks as weeks of years.  That is, these are not regular weeks of seven days each, but they are weeks of years, containing seven years each. 

            They arrive at this conclusion, because the context itself rules out seven-day weeks.  There is no way that all of the things indicated could have happened in 490 days.  Thus they conclude that the seventy weeks represent weeks of years, that is, a period of 490 years.

            We will get the details in the next essay, but the basic view is that the first sixty-nine weeks go from the time of Daniel to the time of the death of Jesus and the destruction of the Temple in the first-century A.D.  And the seventieth week is still in the future.  That is, there is a long separation between sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks.  And the events of the seventieth week have not yet happened.

            The fourth approach I will call the traditionalist.  The traditionalist view has some things in common with that of the Dispensationalists, such as an understanding of the weeks as weeks of years.  But there are major differences as well. 

            In this view, the seventy weeks are consecutive.  That is, there is no separation between the sixty-ninth and seventieth weeks.  Further, the events of the seventy weeks all were fulfilled historically by the first century A.D.  In addition, prophetic perspective allows for additional historical fulfillments at the time of Antiochus IV and the end-time Antichrist.

            Most evangelicals would hold to one of the latter two positions.  I have no way of determining the percentages, but both views are widely held.

PROPHECY: INTERPRETATION OF SYMBOLISM AND TYPOLOGY

            We have reached a point in our study of Daniel, where certain questions arise that require special consideration.  Therefore in this essay we are going to delay our study of Daniel for one week in order to take up some of these important issues.

            First, we must deal with the apocalyptic and prophetic nature of Daniel.  Fairly early in the study we did talk a little about apocalyptic literature.  We noted at that time that the Jews developed this form of literature during times of persecution.  It is a literature that speaks of a doctrine of two ages, the first being the present age, which is temporary, evil, and under the control of Satan. 

            The second age is the age to come, which will be eternal, glorious, and under the control of God or his Messiah.  This new age will be instituted by direct intervention of God.  His Christ, the Son of Man, will come to destroy evil and institute the eternal kingdom, thus ending the suffering of God’s people.

SYMBOLISM: THE BIBLICAL PROPHET’S TOOL

            Symbolism is a Communication device.  And the prophets used symbols in several ways. The most common symbols were verbal symbols.  Verbal Symbols are symbols that are described in words.

            For example Hosea, inspired by God, gave symbolic names to his children. When his first child, a son was born, he named him Jezreel because of God’s judgment that would come in a battle in the valley of Jezreel.  He named his second child, a daughter, “Not Pitied,” because God would have no more pity on Israel.  And then he named his second son, “Not My People,” because Israel had forfeited her place as God’s people (Hosea 1:1-9, esp. vv. 4, 6, 9). 

            The biblical prophets also used symbolic actions.  An example from the New Testament was the action of the prophet Agabus (Acts 21:10-11).  When Paul was ready to go to Jerusalem near the end of his third missionary journey, Agabus took Paul’s girdle (the equivalent of our belts) and tied up his own feet and hands with it.  And then he announced: “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this girdle and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”  Thus, we see the role of symbolism in prophecy.  Symbolic language and actions point to something real, but its images are not the reality itself. 

            Now then, when we interpret symbolism in prophecy, there are five principles that we ought to follow.  First, we should approach prophetic symbolism with humility.  Daniel provides a good example.  He said in respect to the vision reported in chapter eight “I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding” (v. 27).  Modern interpreters should have the same kind of humility without abandoning the quest for understanding. 

            Second, when interpreting prophetic symbolism, we must recognize the primacy of imagination over reason.  We should not make the mistake of interpreting symbolic, imaginative word-pictures, as logical statements.  They are like parables, which generally make a single point.  Not all of the details are necessarily significant.  In other words we must learn to think in pictures.

            Third, when interpreting prophetic symbolism, we should find the meaning in the context. In some cases the author actually tells the reader what the symbols mean.  In chapter eight we were told that the ram with the shorter and longer horns symbolized Media and Persia.  And the goat symbolized the king of Greece.  Another example would be Rev. 1:20, where the seven lampstands are identified as the seven churches for whom the Revelation was written..

            Fourth, we should look for the prophet’s pastoral concern.  The prophets were speaking, first of all, to their own people.  Even John’s Revelation had primary application to the congregations for whom John wrote it, rather than to us.

            And fifth, we must look for the main point.  Again, the analogy with parables is instructive.  Interpretation for our day does not require “detail‑for‑detail” correspondence between John’s symbols and our circumstances.  [See both Armerding and Gasque, Handbook of Biblical Prophecy, pp. 91-95 and Michelsen, Interpreting the Bible, pp. 236-239.]

MULTIPLE FULFILLMENTS OF OT PROPHESIES

            We have seen in our studies thus far that much of what we call prophecy in the Bible is “forthtelling.”  Forthtelling is non-predictive prophecy that needs no fulfillment.  But there is a predictive element, the so-called “foretelling” element.  And under this category there are two types. 

            First there are those prophecies that have a single fulfillment.  In most of those cases, the prophet makes a conscious prediction for his historical context that will be fulfilled in his historical context.  Such a prophecy needs no fulfillment in the NT, as when Isaiah prophesied that Sennacherib, the King of Assyria would not conquer Judah (Is. 37).

            Sometimes the prophet makes a conscious prediction for the end times that will be fulfilled directly at that time, as is the case with the Son of Man coming on clouds of glory in Dan. 7.  All such prophecies have a single fulfillment. 

            But then there are other predictive prophecies that have multiple fulfillments.  These illustrate what is called the “prophetic perspective.”

            In cases of prophecies that have multiple fulfillment, the prophet makes a conscious prediction for his OT historical context that the NT says also has a messianic fulfillment in the end-time.  Normally the prophet is not conscious of the future application when he utters the prophecy.             For example in Isaiah chapter seven, Isaiah prophesied about a child that would be named Emanuel that would be born as a sign for Ahaz the king.  Isaiah had no idea that his prophecy would have a second fulfillment when Jesus was born in the distant future (Is. 7:10-16; Mt. 1:23)

TYPOLOGY

            Another important tool of the prophets is typology.  Typology is not predictive prophecy, but it is a significant means of indirect revelation.  It is a correspondence of pattern between a person, event or thing in the OT, called the type, and one in the NT, called the antitype.  “A correspondence of pattern” simply means that they are analogous; they are like one another.  In other words, the OT type is like the NT antitype. 

            For example, when Hosea was speaking for God about God’s love for Israel, he did so by speaking about the Exodus from Egypt.  And then he declared, “out of Egypt I called my son” (11:1).  Then several hundred years later, Mathew, while writing about Mary, Joseph and Jesus’ escape to Egypt and their return after the death of Herod, saw a typological correspondence between the two instances of calling sons out of Egypt (Mt. 2:13-15).  Matthew did not understand Hosea 11:1 as a predictive prophecy.  Rather he saw it as typology, because of the similarity of pattern between the coming out of Egypt by Israel and Jesus. 

            Another example is Jonah.  Jesus himself saw a typological correspondence between the three days that Jonah spent in the belly of the fish and the three days that he, Jesus, would spend in the grave (Mt. 12:39-40).

            Another example that Jesus used was the story of Moses lifting up a bronze snake on a pole to stop a plague when Israel was complaining in he wilderness after coming out of Egypt.  All who looked at the uplifted serpent lived (Num. 21:4-9).  Jesus saw the correspondence of pattern between the uplifted snake and the soon to be uplifted Son of Man.  All who would believe in the Son of Man would have eternal life (Jn. 3:14-15).  Of course the life given by Christ is on a higher, more significant level (eternal as opposed to physical).  But the analogy, the correspondence, is there.            Another significant distinction is that between typology and allegory.  In the case of typology, the correspondence is strictly within the historical framework in which it is seen.  Allegory on the other hand involves arbitrarily assigned hidden meanings.  That is, the interpreter provides the meanings rather than the historical context.  Once again, a comparison with the parables of Jesus is instructive.

            In Gal. 4:22-31 Paul uses the verb allegorein to describe that Hager the slave and Sarah the free woman figuratively represent “two covenants.”  The old covenant produces slavery, and the new covenant produces freedom.

            Another example of allegorical fulfillment is I Cor. 10:4, where Paul writes of the Israelites in the wilderness that “they drank from the supernatural rock which followed them and The Rock was Christ.”            Unless certain controls are held in relation to typological interpretations, the process can get out of hand.  First, it must be limited to actual historical events that are central, not just incidental accompaniments.

            Second, the interpretation must have a NT warrant; that is the interpreter must not invent meanings and correspondences.  If one starts to invent meanings, then they are slipping into allegory, which is not a legitimate means of interpretation.  The reason it is not legitimate is because by definition allegory is uncontrolled, arbitrary assignment of meanings.

DANIEL’S VISION OF THE RAM, HE-GOAT AND HORN: DAN. 8:1-27

            In this chapter we find another vision that God gave Daniel.  The first two verses supply the setting.  This vision came two years after the vision in chapter seven.  The chapter seven vision came in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign. This one occurred in the third year of his reign.

            The city of Susa was located about 230 miles East of Babylon, where Daniel lived.  After Daniel’s time, Susa became a much more important city in the Persian Empire. 

            The first thing Daniel saw in the vision was a ram.  It had two horns, says Daniel; and although one horn came up after the other, it stood higher than the first.  This should remind you of something in the chapter seven vision.  The beast that looked like a bear was raised up on one side, which is a parallel to the ram’s horns.  A point of general importance here is the fact that the horns are the locus of power for any horned animal.  

            Then Daniel saw the ram charge to the West, North and South, every direction but East.  And nothing could withstand the ram.  It did as it pleased (vv. 3-4).  Again there is a parallel in the chapter seven vision.  The three ribs in the bear’s mouth symbolized nations that the bear devoured.  Here the ram was devouring nations in three directions.

            Next Daniel saw a he-goat come from the West.  The goat had one large, conspicuous horn between its eyes (v. 5).  The goat skimmed over the earth, which symbolizes rapid conquest.

            Then the goat charged into the ram, breaking its two horns; and thus the goat completely overcame the ram (v.7).  This was a great victory for the goat, but it didn’t last.  Verse eight tells us that goat’s horn was broken at the height of its powers.  And four conspicuous horns grew in its place.  Once again this reminds us of something in the chapter seven vision.  It reminds us of the third beast, the leopard, which had four heads.  Those four heads likely parallel the four horns here. 

            As Daniel continued to watch the vision unfold, he saw a little horn emerge from one of the four.  This one expanded its territory towards the East and South, toward the “glorious land” (v. 9).  The “glorious land” is the land of Israel. 

            Here again we see a similarity to the previous vision, though it also presents a difference. The previous vision spoke of a little horn kingdom arising out of four prior kingdoms; but in that vision we saw 10 horns (kingdoms) in between the four and the little horn kingdom.  Here there is no mention of 10 kingdoms in between.

            Verse 10 is obscure, but it probably is a symbolic way of expressing the death of many saints in the “glorious land.”  Verse 24, when we get to it, indicates that many of them would die

            In verse 11 Daniel saw the little horn magnify himself over the “Prince of the host.”  There is debate about the identification of this Prince.  He was either the king of Israel at the time, or Israel itself.  At any rate, the little horn took over the Temple sanctuary and stopped the daily sacrifices (vv. 11-12). 

            Then in verse 13 the question of the duration of the little horn’s oppression is raised.  And an answer is given in verse 14.  It will last “two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.” 

            Scholars debate the meaning of this answer.  Some have wanted to interpret it as a reference to the morning and evening sacrifices that were stopped.  If that were correct, the period would be 1,150 days.  But most agree that the Hebrew people did not think that way.  A biblical parallel to this kind of expression would be the expression “forty days and nights” found in the Old Testament (Gen. 7:4, 12; Ex. 24:18; 1 Kgs. 19:8).  That expression means a full forty days, and similarly this one means a full 2,300 days. 

            In years this is about 6.3 years.  That time period does not match up with any of the other time periods mentioned in Daniel; and neither would the other interpretation.  So it may be better to take it as a symbolic number that suggests the time of oppression by the little horn would last less than seven years, the ideal number.

            Now at verse 15 we come to the interpretation that an angel gave to Daniel.  Daniel saw the archangel Gabriel; and he heard a voice, probably the voice of God, telling Gabriel to reveal the meaning of the vision to Daniel (vv. 15-16). 

            Daniel was frightened, perhaps because he thought this would soon come to pass.  However Gabriel told Daniel that the vision related not to Daniel’s time, but to the time of the end (v. 17).  Next, Gabriel gives Daniel a clear interpretation of the kingdoms symbolized in the vision. 

            The ram with the two horns represented the kings of Media-Persia.  The he-goat with the conspicuous horn was Alexander the great.  And the four horns that arose out of his broken horn were the four kingdoms formed by Alexander’s generals after his untimely death. 

            One general took over Macedonia and Greece (Cassandar).  Another took over Asia Minor (Lysimachus).  But those were not important to Palestine.  A third general took over Egypt and Palestine.  His name was Ptolemy.  And a fourth, Seleucus, took over the Old Persian Empire.  The descendants of these two generals, known as the Ptolemies and Seleucids, fought constantly over Palestine. 

            Gabriel did not identify by name the little horn king, whom he described as a “king of bold countenance” who would arise “at the latter end of their rule.”  But there is no doubt that at the historical level he was Antiochus IV, Epiphanes, the Seleucid king who ruled from 175-164 B.C.  This will become clear from the final vision in chapters 10-12.  But remember, Gabriel had said that this vision was “for the time of the end” (v. 17).  So this vision has to have an end-time application as well.  This is the so-called “prophetic perspective,” where prophecies have more than one application.  Here there are two.  There will be an historical fulfillment in Antiochus IV, and an end-time fulfillment in the antichrist.

            Thus Antiochus becomes a type of the end-time antichrist; and the series of characteristics that are listed in the passage are true of both.  He “understands riddles” (v. 23).  “His power shall be great.”  “He shall cause fearful destruction, and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people of the saints.”  “He shall make deceit prosper.”  “In his own mind he shall magnify himself”  “And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes (vv. 24-25). 

            Some might want to argue that the last king is the end-time antichrist and that it does not refer to Antiochus.  But at the historical level it likely is a general reference to Antiochus’ rebellion against God. 

            Then in the middle of verse 25 we get what I have called the “leap to the end-time.”   “But by no human hand shall he be broken.”  Once again we are reminded of something we saw earlier in the book.  It reminds us of the stone that destroyed the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two, where that dream leapt to the end-time.  That stone was “cut out by no human hand” (2:34).

            Now then, I believe this chapter is very important to our proper understanding of the book-as-a-whole.  In apocalyptic literature, when the author gives you an interpretation of certain important symbols, these become a key to interpretation of the parts of the work where no interpretation was given. 

            So now we could venture an interpretation of the kingdoms symbolized by the dream in chapter two and the visions in chapters seven and eight.  But I still want to hold that task until we have seen all of the visions.

DANIEL’S VISION OF THE FOUR BEASTS: Daniel 7:1-28

            In this essay we are studying Daniel, chapter seven.  It is very important, because it forms a kind of bridge between the two halves of the book.  The first six chapters are primarily narrative, except for chapter two, which predicts the distant future.  Chapter five has some predictive prophecy in it, but the predictions were limited to Belshazzar’s reign. 

            The second half of the book (chs. 7-12) is primarily a prediction of distant events.  And the parallels with chapter two tie the two halves together.  Not all scholars divide the book this way.  Some, because 2:4-7:28 are written in Aramaic and the rest in Hebrew, divide the book at the end of chapter seven, instead of at the end of chapter six as I am doing. 

            But I believe the content of the material suggests the division at the end of chapter six.  Chapters 1-6 are narratives of events in chronological order from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.  Chapters 7-12 all are accounts of visions that came to Daniel, also in chronological order, beginning with the reign of Belshazzar. 

            Chapter seven, verse one, sets forth the situation.  It reads, “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed.  He wrote down the substance of hs dream.” 

            As you can see, this vision came in the first year of the reign of Belshazzar.  Therefore it probably occurred before the writing on the wall incident of chapter five.

            Verses two and three contain a general statement about the vision, with the details following.  It is a vision of four beasts that arise out of the great sea.  Now I want to jump ahead in the vision for a single piece of information that will help us understand what these four beasts represent.  Verse 17 tells us that these beasts represent a succession of kingdoms. 

            Now with that piece of information before us, we come back to verse four, where we see that the first beast looked like a lion that had eagles wings (v. 4).  Of course the lion, because it is the top predator wherever it lives, is commonly known as “the king of beasts.”  Moreover the eagle is the king of birds.  Therefore the lion with eagles’ wings symbolizes the great strength and power of the first kingdom. 

            Then Daniel saw a change in this first beast.  The lion lost its wings.  This symbolizes a partial, or temporary, loss of power.  Then the beast was made to stand like a man, and the mind of a man is given to it.  This immediately reminds us of an incident we saw earlier in the book. 

            This is exactly what happened to king Nebuchadnezzar in chapter four.  He temporarily lost his kingdom, because he lost his sanity.  But then both his sanity and kingdom were restored to him.  So this first beast represented the kingdom Nebuchadnezzar.

            The second beast, seen in verse five, looked like a bear that was raised up on one side.  It had three ribs in its mouth.  Since the bear is second only to the lion in its strength and power, the symbolism indicates that the second kingdom is less powerful than the first.  The prominence of the one side of the bear suggests an alliance in which one of the two kings is dominant.  This symbolizes the alliance of the Medes and Persians that arose after Nebuchadnezzar.  The ribs in the bear’s mouth symbolize nations that were devoured by the bear. 

            In verse six a third beast is described.  It looked like a leopard that had four wings.  The leopard is neither as kingly as the lion, nor as strong as the bear; but it is a fast and rapacious animal.  Notice that the wings are the wings of an ordinary bird, in contrast to the eagles’ wings of the first beast.  Once again this symbolizes less power than the previous kingdoms. 

            The leopard had four heads.  In biblical imagery, heads on animals represent kings or kingdoms.  So the vision was saying that four contemporaneous kingdoms would arise out of the kingdom symbolized by the leopard.

            Then comes a fourth beast in verses seven and eight.  When we get to the interpretation in verses 15 and following, we will see that this fourth beast (or kingdom) is the most important one seen in this vision. 

            Notice that the fourth beast is not likened to any animal.  Daniel says that it was different from the former beasts and had “large iron teeth” and ten horns.  Then out of the ten horns, a little horn grew.  This little horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and was boastful.  It displaced three of the original ten. 

            At verse nine there is a sudden shift of scene to the throne room of God in heaven, where Daniel saw a glorious scene and the beasts were judged and sentenced.  .  “The Ancient of Days,” who is God, took his seat on the throne, in the midst of a fiery scene, while ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him worshiping.  Then all were seated, and “the books [meaning the books of judgment] were opened.”  The fourth beast and its horns were slain and burned.  The other, earlier beasts (kings) lived on in a sense, after the later ones absorbed them.

            In verses 13-14 Daniel was given a glimpse of the end-time coming of the son of Man.  Later revelation reveals that this Son of Man was God’s Messiah, his Son, whose name was and is Jesus.  Daniel saw “one like a son of man” come before the Ancient of Days “And in Daniel’s words, “he was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”  The point is that the Kingdom of God ultimately will replace all the kingdoms of the earth. 

            At verse 15 the interpretation of the vision begins with a general interpretation of the overall vision, and verses 15-18 reveal what we already have figured out.  The beasts represent successive kingdoms that ultimately will be replaced by the kingdom of God.

            In verses 19-25 the person interpreting the vision for Daniel went on to explain about the fourth beast.  The key points are in verses 21-22.  There we learn that the little horn is the main figure.  He is going to make war against the saints and prevail over God’s people.  But then in verse 22 we see the same kind of apocalyptic jump to the end time that we saw in connection with chapter 2.  The imagery here is that of final judgment and the vindication and restoration of God’s people. 

            Verses 23-25 provide the details about the judgment of the fourth beast.  It shall have its day of power and even victory over God’s people, but God will bring it under judgment.  This will take place over a long period of time.  Ten other kingdoms will rise out of the fourth, and out of those ten will emerge the king symbolized by the little horn. 

            Verses 24 and 25 indicate four things that he will do.  First, he will “subdue three kings.”  Presumably that means three of the ten.  Second, he will speak against the Most High.    Third, he will “oppress the saints.” and fourth, the saints will come under his dominance “for a time, times and half a time.” 

            The time reference, “a time, times, and half a time,” traditionally has been interpreted as three and one half years on the basis of Rev. 11:2-3 and 13:5.  But this may not be accurate.  The term “time(s)” sometimes is used to symbolize periods of time other than years.

            Finally, verses 26-28 show us that the sovereignty and power of all the kingdoms will be given over to God’s saints as part of God’s end-time kingdom.  And his kingdom will last foreer.

            Once again we see in these verses the apocalyptic leap to the end time.  That does not preclude fulfillment at some historical level as well; but the final fulfillment is in the end-time.

            Now then, as we did in relation to chapter two, we shall not at this point get into various attempts to identify the specific kingdoms symbolized by the beasts.  I promise you, we will do that.  We will look at several opinions about which kingdoms were intended.  But I want to do it at the end of our study of the book, after we have looked at all of the visions.

            For now I just want you to se the common pattern that exists between this vision and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter two.  You will remember that Nebuchadnezzar dreamed about a huge statue. 

            Its head was gold; its breast and arms were silver; its belly and thighs were bronze; and its legs were iron.  And we were told in the interpretation that these symbolized a succession of four kingdoms, the first one of which was Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. 

            The feet and toes were made of a mixture of iron and clay; and we were told that the toes represented kingdoms that would emerge from the fourth kingdom.  But then there was a leap to the end-time when the kingdom of God, symbolized by a great stone not cut by human hands, will smash the statue and replace it.

            Here in chapter seven we have a similar pattern.  The four beasts represent a succession of four kingdoms, out of which will emerge 10 kingdoms.  There is an added element in comparison with thee dream of chapter two; namely, the little horn.  But the end is the same.  There is a leap to the end-time when the kingdom of God will triumph; and the kingdom of God will replace the kingdoms of this world.

DANIEL IN THE LION’S DEN: DAN. 6:1-28

            In this essay we are taking up the second of the two best-known and most-loved stories in the book of Daniel.  The first was the story of the deliverance of the three Hebrews from the fiery furnace in chapter three.  Here we have the wonderful story of Daniel’s deliverance in the lion’s den. 

            We must begin this study, as we did the last, by trying to identify the king in whose reign this event took place.  Last week we quickly reviewed the first four chapters, and noted that all the events of those chapters took place during the days of king Nebuchadnezzar. 

            But chapter five was set in a different king’s reign.  His name was Belshazzar.  But that became an historical problem, because no Belshazzar appears on the secular king lists of Babylon. As we studied the issue, we concluded that there were two possible identifications of Belshazzar, and that there are problems with both.

            Now in the very last verse of chapter five (v. 31), another new king had come on the scene.  His name was Darius the Mede.  Again, as with Belshazzar, no king Darius appears on the secular king lists at that time.  Cyrus the Persian is the king of record. 

            Three possible solutions are put forward.  But I am not going to work through those suggestions, because no genuinely satisfactory conclusion can be reached.  Whoever Darius the Mede was, he was the king when the events of chapter six took place.  The passage begins with a description of the governmental organization that Darius put in place, and Daniel’s role in it. 

            Darius divided the kingdom into 120 provinces, each under the rule of a satrap.  Interestingly, in the days of Queen Esther, roughly a century later (486-465 B.C.), we find Persia still organized that way (Esther 1:1, 8:9). 

            Then Darius divided the 120 provinces into three groups, each under the supervision of an “administrator” (NIV), or “president,” as the NRSV translates it.  Daniel was one of the three (vv. 1-2).

            Daniel’s performance in the role of president was so impressive that Darius was considering giving him authority over the whole kingdom, under Darius of course.  Darius evidently mentioned this publicly, causing jealousy among the other presidents, and some of the satraps (v., 3).

            So the jealous ones plotted against Daniel.  They could find nothing in Daniel’s work they could attack, so they concluded that they would have to find something associated with his religion (vv. 4-5).

            They came up with an ingenious plan, which we see in verses 6-9.  The plan began with a lie to the king.  They told the king that all the presidents, prefects, satraps, counselors and governors were making the request, which was not true.  Certainly Daniel had not agreed to it; and probably neither had all of the satraps, among whom would have been Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and others loyal to Daniel.

            The request was that the king establish and enforce an edict that anyone who made a petition to any man or god other than the king for thirty days would be thrown into a den of lions. The king, flattered by the idea, signed the edict (v. 9). 

            In verse eight we see a statement about “the law of the Medes and Persians.”  That law was that once an edict by a Persian ruler was officially given, it could not be revoked.  This law is confirmed in Esther, in 1:19 and 8:8.  And of course it was the intention of the plotters that the king be bound by his own edict.

            The edict did not pose a threat to any of the pagans, because they easily could comply.  But that was not true of the Jews.  However the king didn’t think about that when he signed it.

            When Daniel learned about the edict, he had to make a decision.  He would have had several options.  For example, he could have rationalized the situation and stopped praying to the Lord for 30 days.  That would have been compliance.  Another possibility for Daniel would have been to pray to the Lord in secret.  That also would have kept him in compliance with the edict.  But Daniel did neither of those things.  He chose a third option.  He decided to follow his usual practice, established during his decades in exile.  Daniel prayed before a window that opened towards Jerusalem three times a day, as he always had done. 

            The “three times a day” probably was morning noon and night.  In any case, the plotters had what they wanted.  They were watching him, and they saw him praying to his God by the open window three times a day.  So they went to the king and told him what Daniel was doing.  And of course they reminded the king about his edict. 

            Verse 14 indicates that the king, who liked Daniel, gave considerable effort to finding a way around his own edict; but none could be found.  And the plotters came back to remind the king of his duty (v. 15).

            Faced with an impossible situation, the king did what he had to do.  And Daniel was thrown in with the lions.  It is ironic that the man who sentenced Daniel to this fate tried to comfort him, as the sentence was carried out (v. 16).

            When one reads the literature on this account, there is considerable speculation on the construction of the den.  Most are convinced that it was large, and that it had two compartments so that keepers could safely enter to clean it.  But no one knows any more than that, though further speculation sometimes is done.  The purpose of sealing the den with the king’s seal was to ensure that no one opened the den to rescue Daniel. 

            After a sleepless night, the king hastened to the den at daybreak to see what had happened.  His calling out to Daniel seems to indicate that he had some hope that Daniel may have been delivered by God (vv. 19-20).  And lo and behold, he was.  Daniel answered him, “My God sent his angel and shut the mouths of the lions.  They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.  Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king” (v. 22).  

            This made the king happy; and he responded in three ways.  First, he brought Daniel out of the den (v. 23).  Then, second, he cast Daniel’s accusers into the den, along with their families. And the lions immediately devoured them (v. 24).  The execution of the families of the plotters, along with the plotters themselves, though terribly cruel, was standard procedure in that culture.

            And finally, third, the king issued a decree that gave four reasons for fearing and reverencing Daniel’s God (verses 25-28).  One, Daniel’s God is alive (v. 27).  Two, he endures forever (v. 27).  Three, his kingdom, that is his rule, likewise endures forever.  And four, he delivers and rescues by working miracles.