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Four Great Monarchies


Daniel’s Dream


At what time was Daniel’s second vision given?


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 his dream.”

Daniel 7:1.


What effect did this dream have upon Daniel?


“I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my head disturbed me.  Verse 15.


Note – The effect of Daniel’s dream upon him, it will be noticed, was similar to the effect of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams upon him; it troubled him. (See also Daniel 2:1.)


What did Daniel ask of one of the heavenly attendants who stood by him in his dream?


“I approached one of those standing there and asked him the true meaning of all of this. “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things.” Daniel 7:16.


What did the prophet see in this vision?


“Daniel said, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea.” Verse 2.


What was the result of this strife?


Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.” Verse 3.


The Meaning of the Beast Symbols


What did these four beasts represent?


“These four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise out of the earth.” Verse 17.


In symbolic language, what is represented by winds?


Strife, war, commotion. (See Jeremiah 25:31-33; 49: 36, 37.)


Note – That winds denote strife and war is evidence from the vision itself. As a result of the striving of the winds, kingdoms rise and fall.


What, in prophecy, is symbolized by waters?


“Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are people, multitudes, nations and languages.” Revelation 17:15. 


Note – In the second chapter of Daniel, under the figure of an image of a man, the mere political outline of the rise and fall of earthy kingdoms is given, preceding the setting up of God’s everlasting kingdom. In the seventh chapter earthly governments are represented as viewed in the light of Heaven – under the symbols of wild and ferocious beasts – the last, in particular, oppressing and persecuting the saints of the Most High. Hence the change in the symbols used to represent these kingdoms.


What was the first beast like?


The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted to the ground so that it stood on its two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.” Daniel 7:4.  


Note – The lion, the first of the four beasts, like the golden head of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, represents the Babylonian monarchy; the lion, the king of beasts, standing at the head of his kind, as gold does the metals. The eagle’s wings doubtless denote the rapidity with which Babylon rose to its peak of power under Nebuchadnazzar, who reigned from 605 B.C. to 562 B.C. (605 B.C. was his ascension year, and the following year was counted his first official year.)


What symbolized the second kingdom?


“And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’ Verse 5.


Note – “This was the Medo-Persian Empire, represented here under the symbol of the bear…. The Medes and the Persians are compared to a bear on account of the cruelty and thirst for blood, a bear being the most voracious and cruel animal.” – Adam Clarke, Commentary, on Daniel 7:5. The first year of this kingdom of the Medes and Persians is dated from 538 B.C.


What symbolized the third universal empire?


“After that, I looked, and before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.” Verse 6.


Note – If the wings of an eagle on the back of a lion denoted rapidity of the movement of Babylonian Empire (Habakkuk 1: 6-8), four wings on the leopard must denote unparalleled celerity of movement in the Grecian Empire. A study of Alexander’s campaigns proves this to be historically true. In the spring of 334 B.C. Alexander crossed over to Asia Minor at the head of his army of some thirty-five thousand Macedonians and Greeks…. Four years later, he had overthrown the Persian Empire founded by Cyrus the Great, and set himself up as its ruler by the right of conquest. Another four years were spent in the subjugation of the wild tribes of the Iranian Plateau and the more civilized peoples of the Indus Valley. In the shot space of eight years Alexander had annexed an area of little less than two million square miles, containing a populace of more than twenty million persons. The amazing rapidity of his conquest, a feat all the more remarkable in view of his small force at his disposal, was due in large part to the superior organization of the Macedonian army, the excellence of Alexander’s generals, trained in the school of his father, Phillip, and his own superior superlative qualities as a general and a leader of men.” A.E. R. Boak, Albert Hyma, and Preston Slosson, The Growth of European Civilization (1938), Vol. 1, pp. 59, 60. (Copyright, 1938, by F.S. Crofts & Co., Inc. Used by permission of Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc.)

“The beast also had four heads.” The Grecian Empire maintained its unity for a short time after the death of Alexander, which occurred in 323 B.C. Within twenty-two years after the close of his brilliant career, or by 301 B.C., the empire was divided among four of his leading generals. Ptolemy, Cassander, Lysimachus, and Seleucus.


How was the fourth kingdom represented?


“After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast – terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and destroyed its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.” Verse 7.   


What was the fourth beast declared to be?


“He gave me this explanation: “The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it and crushing it.” Verse 23.  


Note – “This is allowed, on all hands, to be the Roman Empire. It was dreadful, terrible, and exceedingly strong… and become, in effect, what the Roman writers delight to call it, the empire of the whole world.” –Adam Clarke, Commentary, on Daniel 7:7. World power may be said to have passed from the Greeks to the Romans at the Battle of Pydna, in 168 B.C. 

“Finally, in 168, the Romans…. Won a complete victory over Perseus [of Macedonia] in the battle of Pydna. The Macedonian kingdom was at an end…. Having disposed of Macedonia the Romans turned their attention to other Greek states with the intention of rewarding their friends and punishing their enemies…. Henceforth it was clear that Rome was the real sovereign in the eastern Mediterranean and that her friends and allies only enjoyed local autonomy, while they were expected to be obedient to the orders of Rome.”

A.E. R. Boak, A History of Rome to 565 A.D. (1938 ed.), p. 109. (Copyright, 1921, 1029, 1943, by the Macmillan Company. Used by permission.)


What was denoted by the ten horns?


“The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings.” Verse 24.


Note – The Roman Empire was broken up into ten kingdoms in the century preceding A.D. 476. Because of the uncertainties of the times, religious writers have differed in the enumeration of the exact kingdoms intended by the prophecy. Says one writer on Bible prophecy.

“The ten horns may not be strictly permanent, but admit of partial change. Some may perhaps fall, or be blended, and then be replaced by others. The tenfold character may thus be dominant through the whole, and appear distinctly at the beginning and close of their history, though not strictly maintained every moment.”

“A tenfold division, such as some have looked for, mathematical and unvaried, would frustrate one-half of the prediction; and would deprive the rest of all its freedom and moral grandeur. But now every part is alike accomplished. At the same time, by these partial changes in the list of doomed kingdoms, the reproach of a stern fatalism, which otherwise would cloud the equity of divine Providence, is rolled away.”

- T.R. Birks, The Four Prophetic Empires, and the Kingdom of Messiah: Being an Exposition of the First Two Visions of Daniel (1845 ed.), pp. 143, 144, 152.


What change did Daniel see take place in these horns?


“While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.” Verse 8. 


Note – The “little horn” spoken of in Daniel 7:8 symbolizes papal Rome. The three horns that were plucked up symbolize three barbarian nations that were overthrown and completely destroyed. These three nations of kingdoms were among the principle obstructions to the rise of papal Rome to political power. They were the Heruli, the Vandals, and the Ostrogoths; and all three of these nations were supporters of Arianism, which was Catholicism most formidable rival.


What inquiry on the part of Daniel shows the fourth beast, and especially the little-horn phase of it, constitutes the leading feature of this vision?


Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws- the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell – the horn that looked more imposing than the others and had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully.” Verse 19, 20.        


Note – The first three beasts of Daniel 7 were comparable to other known animals in some respects, but there seemed to be no parallel in the world of nature that could be used to represent the terribleness of this hideous fourth beast. There is no question but that this beast represents the same power portrayed by the legs of iron of the great image of Daniel 2. Daniel was particularly interested in this particular beast because it was so different in its form and behavior. His words “I would know the truth of the fourth beast” bring to attention the great persecuting power of history.


When was the little horn to arise?


“After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings.” Verse 24.


Note – The ten horns, as already shown, arose from Rome, the fourth kingdom, was divided into ten kingdoms. This division was completed by A.D. 476. The little-horn power that was to arise after them and before whom three of the other kings – the Heruli, the Vandals, and the Ostrogoths – fell was the Papacy. [Roman Catholic Church]

“Out of the ruins of political Rome, arose the great moral Empire in the ‘giant form’ of the Roman Church. – A.C. Flick, The rise of the Medieval Church (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1909), p. 150.

“Under the Roman Empire the popes had no temporal powers. But when the Roman Empire had disintegrated and its place had been taken by a number of rude barbarous kingdoms, the Roman Catholic Church not only became independent of the states in religious affairs but dominated secular affairs as well.”  - Carl Conrad Eckhardt, The Papacy and World-Affairs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937) p. 1.

With the place and time of the kingdom of the little horn identified, the study of its character and work will be considered in the segment that follows.


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