Dan 7 — Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts
Dan 8 — Daniel’s Vision of the Ram and the Goat
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We shift gears in the second half of Daniel, chapters 7-12, to read Daniel’s prophesies. Beginning in chapter 7, we are taken back to Belshazzar’s time, chronologically before Chapter 5 (interesting to note Daniel was fully devoted to God while patiently waiting in captivity.)
In chapter 7, Daniel dreams of four beasts which “are four kings that will rise from earth” (Daniel 7:17). These beasts are vicious, especially the fourth, “terrifying and frightening and very powerful…it had ten horns” (7:7). This 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 down and crushing it” (7:23). This kingdom will “speak against the Most High” (7:25) and thus its “power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever” (7:26). In the end, all sovereignty, power and greatness “will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High” (7:27).
Chapter 8 recounts another dream of “the distant future” (8:26). In this dream we read of great devastation, “when rebels have become completely wicked…He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people” (8:23-24). It gets worse, “He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes” (8:25). But there is good news in the end: “Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power” (8:25b). Daniel receives the interpretation and is “worn out” to the point where he lays “exhausted for several days” after which he “got up and went about the king’s business” (8:27).
Apocalyptic readings are hard to dwell on because they project us to some future time beyond the troubles of today. It’s remarkable that Daniel is able to contemplate the dream, hear the interpretation, recognize it was “beyond understanding” (8:27) and get back to work. Lord help me to take the time to receive your word, to linger long enough to grasp its importance even when I can’t comprehend its meaning, then get back to doing the work that needs to be done here on earth.