Daniel 7 – “Daniel’s Frightening Dream”

lava_river_copyHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Daniel describes his dream as follows: four menacing beasts with great powers arise from the sea, and they are all vanquished by God. Additionally, a man-like creature is shown favor by God. An angel explains Daniel’s dream as follows: the four beasts are four kingdoms, and they will be superseded by an everlasting kingdom made up of God’s servants.

II. Photo
God appears in Daniel’s dream: “As I looked on, Thrones were set in place, And the Ancient of Days took His seat… His throne was tongues of flame; Its wheels were blazing fire. A river of fire streamed forth before Him…” (vv. 9-10)

III. Important Verses
vv. 7-8: After that, as I looked on in the night vision, there was a fourth beast — fearsome, dreadful, and very powerful, with great iron teeth — that devoured and crushed, and stamped the remains with its feet. It was different from all the other beasts which had gone before it; and it had ten horns. While I was gazing upon these horns, a new little horn sprouted up among them; three of the older horns were uprooted to make room for it. There were eyes in this horn like those of a man, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly.
vv. 9-10: As I looked on, Thrones were set in place, And the Ancient of Days took His seat. His garment was like white snow, And the hair of His head was like lamb’s wool. His throne was tongues of flame; Its wheels were blazing fire. A river of fire streamed forth before Him; Thousands upon thousands served Him; Myriads upon myriads attended Him; The court sat and the books were opened.
v. 27: The kingship and dominion and grandeur belonging to all the kingdoms under Heaven will be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High. Their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.
v. 28: Here the account ends. I, Daniel, was very alarmed by my thoughts, and my face darkened; and I could not put the matter out of my mind.

IV. Outline
1. Introduction
2-8. Four beasts are described
9-10. The “Ancient of Days” is described
11-12. The fourth beast is killed and the other three are weakened
13-14. Power and dominion are given to one who looks like a human being
15-16. Daniel is shocked and asks an attendant what it all means
17-27. The dream is interpreted for Daniel
28. Daniel’s anxiety

V. Comment
Daniel 7 begins the second section of the book. Collins writes, “The visions in the second half of the book of Daniel differ from the tales in chapters 1-6 both in genre and in setting. Daniel 7-12 consists of four literary units, each of which reports a revelation. Chapters 7 and 8 are symbolic visions in the prophetic tradition (cf. especially the visions of Zechariah). In each case the visions are interpreted to Daniel by an angel. In chapter 9 the revelation takes the form of the interpretation of an older prophecy from Jeremiah, but again the interpretation is given by an angel. In chapters 10-12 Daniel has a vision of an angel, who then narrates the revelation to him. In each case the revelation is eschatological in focus [i.e. it deals with the end of days]. The final revelation culminates with a prediction of resurrection and judgment. This is the only passage in the Hebrew Bible that speaks unambigously of individual resurrection.” (562-563)

The second part of Daniel is apocalyptic in nature, and Collins defines what the genre connotes: “The apocalypses fall into two types. One type, represented by 1 Enoch 1-36 and by 2 Enoch and 3 Baruch, describes a wonderful journey to places that are normally beyond the range of human experience, or an ascent through the heavens. In these apocalypses the emphasis is on cosmology, and the visionary typically sees the abodes of the dead and the places of judgment. The other type of apocalypse has its paradigmatic example in the book of Daniel. In this case, the emphasis is on history, which is typically divided into a specific number of periods (four kingdoms, seventy weeks of years). In apocalypses of this type, the focus is on the time of the end, when God will intervene for judgment. The judgment in these apocalypses involves a public judgment of the nations, but it also involves the judgment of individuals, followed by a blessed afterlife or everlasting punishment. Both types of apocalypses give great prominence to angels or demons, and all expect a final judgment of the dead.” (pp. 563-564)

Daniel says in vv. 13-14: “As I looked on, in the night vision, One like a human being Came with the clouds of heaven; He reached the Ancient of Days And was presented to Him. Dominion, glory, and kingship were given to him; All peoples and nations of every language must serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, And his kingship, one that shall not be destroyed.” Collins writes, “The identity of the ‘one like a son of man’ in its Jewish context is the most controversial issue in the book of Daniel, and one of the most controvesial in the entire Bible. Traditional Christian exegesis assumed that this figure was Christ, because of the way the phrase ‘Son of Man’ is used in the Gospels. This understanding of the figure could not have been available to Jews before the Christian era, but they could have taken the figure as the messiah. This understanding of the phrase was in fact standard in both Jewish and Christian exegesis for many centuries. Buth there is no other reference in Daniel to a messiah (a king who would restore the kingdom of David). Over the last century or so, there have been two main interpretations of the ‘one like a son of man.’ Many scholars assume that this figure is simply a symbol for the Jewish people. The alternative, and more satisfactory, interpretation is that he is an angel, most probably the archangel Michael, who represents the Jewish people on the heavenly level.” (565-566)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)

Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneaolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
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