1. 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.
Note.-- If chronological order were to govern, this chapter would follow chapter four. But presumably chronological order was disregarded that the historical chapters might all come together; likewise the prophetic chapters. From one standpoint chapter two is almost wholly prophetic, but it is also narrative, and so was not improperly given a place with the historical chapters.
2. Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.
3. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
Note.-- In symbolic prophecy waters denote peoples (Rev. 17:15), and winds the strife and commotion of war (Jer. 25:32), out of which rose the four great universal kingdoms, as already described in the prophecy of the second chapter. Here these kingdoms are symbolized by four beasts, as before in chapter 2 by the four parts of the image.
4. 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 stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
Note.-- The lion, king of beasts, fittingly represented Babylon, "the glory of kingdoms." But Babylon was already losing its lion heart in Belshazzar's day, and its career of conquest was over, as represented by the plucking of its wings.
5. And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
Note.-- As the bear "raised up itself on one side," so in this dual monarchy, the Persian side lifted itself into supremacy.
6. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
Note.-- The fleetness and spring of the leopard well symbolize the swiftness of Alexander's movements, needing even the four wings also to picture the "rapidity of his conquests," as Appian, the Roman, phrased it. The four heads represent the four main divisions into which the empire was resolved after Alexander's death, at the early age of thirty- three years, B.C. 323.
The Empire of Rome (B.C. 168- A.D.476)
7. After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it; and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
Note.-- As Cardinal Manning, of London, wrote of this: "The legions of Rome occupied the circumference of the world...It was 'exceedingly terrible,' according to the prophecies of Daniel."--"Temporal Power," p. 122.
8. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
Note.-- See note under verse 25.
9. I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
10. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
Note.-- This is the judgment hour foretold in Revelation, just before the second coming of Christ. While this judgment is passing in heaven, God sends to the world the message, "The hour of His judgment is come." Rev. 14:7. It is of deepest interest to every soul to study these things, for every person has a case pending before that court.
11. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.
12. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.
13. I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
14. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
15. I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.
16. I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.
17. These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.
18. But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.
Note.-- It is the story of history foretold again, -- Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, -- with the setting up of the everlasting kingdom to follow, as in Daniel 2.
19. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;
20. And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.
21. I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;
22. Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.
23. Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.
24. And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
25. And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.
Note.-- The fourth empire, Rome, was divided as the barbarian peoples swept in from Northern and Eastern Europe, founding the ten kingdoms, which later developed into the nations of Western Europe of today. Among these, as the empire was divided, rose "the little horn," a kingdom "diverse" from the others, a religious power, the Roman Papacy, ruling among the kingdoms of the divided empire. It grew into a persecuting power that for centuries did "wear out the saints of the Most High." It has "thought" to change the times and laws of the Most High also, as the prophecy said, establishing Sunday, the first day of the week, as the day of rest, in opposition to God's law, which declares, "The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God." It has replaced God's times with holidays originating from paganism, as at the council of Nicea in 325; when it was declared "Easter" would replace the Christian Passover (The Lord's Supper) as kept by all the early church.
The Roman Catholic Church has for centuries set forth this "change" of the Sabbaths as a mark of its power above the Holy Scriptures. In Keenan's "Doctrinal Catechism," it is thus stated:
"Question.--- Have you any other way of proving that the church has power to institute festivals of precept?
"Answer.--- Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her,--- she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority."
The prophecy foretold the time during which the Papacy was to hold special supremacy among these kingdoms of the divided Roman Empire, --"a time and times and the dividing of time." In the Scriptures a "time" is a year (see note on chapter 4:23); times, two years; and a dividing or half a time, a half year. The ancient Bible reckoning was 360 days to the year. This makes 1,260 days. In Revelation 12:6 this same period of time is described as "a thousand two hundred and three score days." And in symbolic prophecy a day stands for a year-- "each day for a year." Eze. 4:5,6. This 1,260 years marks the long period of special supremacy.
In 533 Justinian, reigning over the Roman Empire, recognized the Pope of Rome as supreme over the church; and in 538, with Pope Vigilius set on the papal throne by the arms of the empire, began the new order of papal rulers. "From this time on the popes, more and more involved in worldly events, no longer belong solely to the church; they are men of the state, and then rulers of the state."--- Bemont and Monod's "Medieval Europe." An ecclesiastical power had arisen among the kings of the divided empire, "whose look was more stout than his fellows." And 1,260 years later, this power's supremacy among the kingdoms of Western Europe received a check. France, the chief supporter of papal exaltation in those early centuries, was in the midst of the epoch-making French Revolution. In 1793 came the decree aiming to abolish the church and religion, and in 1798 the French arms took the city of Rome, deposed the Pope, and sent him into captivity.
Thus the Papacy, after 1,260 years of supremacy, received a "deadly wound," as the prophecy of Revelation 13 calls it. But this was not to be the end of the Papacy. "The deadly wound was healed," it is said in the Revelation. Their kingdom was restored in 1929 when Mussolini, Italy's dictator established the Vatican state and made the Pope the "Head of that state." The papal power continues to war against the truth to the end, even as shown in this prophecy of Daniel. But God's kingdom will triumph.
26. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.
27. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.
28. Hitherto is the end of the matter. As for me Daniel, my cogitations much troubled me, and my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.