As we come to our 14th study, we have watched Daniel grow through the book of Daniel from a captive from Israel carried into the great Babylonian kingdom and trained to serve there. He distinguishes himself by his ability to understand dreams. He always gives credit to God and refuses personal glory. Chapter 7 of Daniel starts a change of focus from Daniel’s historical gifting to his own more prophetic dreams. His first dream is recorded as coming during the “the first year of Belshazzar of Babylon. V.1 At the end of Daniel 6, Daniel is under king Darius the Persian so chapter 7 flashes back to chapter 5, before the lion’s den story. So there is a sense of two parts to the book of Daniel portraying God’s work in the culture surrounding Daniel and then recording some of Daniel’s own spiritual journey. Even so our spiritual journey is impacted by the themes of history that impacts the trajectory of the institutional church and we are impacted by our own spiritual journey embedded in our social history.
So chapter 7 records Daniel’s personal prophetic dream and this vision has called forth multiple explanations through the decades and unfortunate divisions among people. Daniel is often treated like Revelations, a prophetic book that sees into a future we cannot yet envision.
- Let us first start today by pondering how we understand dreams. Check all that might apply.
- ______ My inner self working out some issue as I sleep.
- _______ Some might be a message from God. E.g. ________
- _______ A source of journaling to better understand myself.
- _______ A message from the other world (Tevya, Fiddler)
- _______ Flashbacks? The mind healing itself?
- Can you remember a dream that so rattled you, you sought someone to help you understand it? _____________________________
Let us go to Daniel’s dream. (As you read this part, underline each beast.)
7 In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream: 2 I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, 3 and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then, as I watched, its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a human being; and a human mind was given to it. 5 Another beast appeared, a second one, that looked like a bear. It was raised up on one side, had three tusks in its mouth among its teeth and was told, “Arise, devour many bodies!” 6 After this, as I watched, another appeared, like a leopard. The beast had four wings of a bird on its back and four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the visions by night a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth and was devouring, breaking in pieces, and stamping what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that preceded it, and it had ten horns. 8 I was considering the horns, when another horn appeared, a little one coming up among them; to make room for it, three of the earlier horns were plucked up by the roots. There were eyes like human eyes in this horn, and a mouth speaking arrogantly.
3, Name the four beasts
- beast 1____________ became ________________
- beast 2 ____________ had ___________________
- beast 3 ____________ had ___________________
- beast 4 ____________ had ___________________
- What interpretation have you heard for these four beasts? What kingdoms did they represent? Past or future to Daniel? A past focus would see the animals representing Babylon, Persian, Greeks and Rome. A more modern understanding would see Rome, Russia, Africa, and Industrialization. The “end times” prophesizing of the 60s is not a major focus in Christianity today as the church sees itself as fighting social injustice to usher in a better world. Since prophecy is proven by the future coming true, let us focus more on the present and ask, what “kingdoms” or forces do you feel are at battle in our world today? __________________
- How do you understand Christianity plays into your vision of the future?
9 As I watched, thrones were set in place, and an Ancient One took his throne,
his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence.
A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him.
The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.
- It might be interesting at this point to read Revelation 1. Note the similarities and the differences.
- The “Ancient One” is generally considered to be God speaking.
- Who might “the court” be?
- “Books were opened” Which books do you imagine will be there?
11 I watched then because of the noise of the arrogant words that the horn was speaking. And as I watched, the beast was put to death, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
- Evil is overcome and punished. “The beast” is generally understood to a demonic figure, not a human who is capable of repenting and being forgiven. “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it iswritten, ‘Vengeanceis mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”” Rom. 12:9. Is there something you need to leave in God’s hands? _____
13 As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. 14 To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.
- This is generally considered a reference to the reign of Christ eternally, hence the strong connection between Daniel and Revelation. Many find this a comforting prophecy uniting Biblical revelation. Whether we find comfort in specifics of the dream or in the realization that God speaks in ways we do not expect, through dreams, through his Word, through nature, through music. Bottom line: God speaks into his creation and will bring about justice!