The vision of this chapter received historical fulfillment in the overthrow of Persia by Alexander the Great (330 BC), the division of Alexander’s kingdom into four (‘but will not have the same power’, verse 22), and the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes, who did what is here foretold of him in verses 9-12 and 23-25 (170-164 BC). Gabriel’s emphasis, however, on the vision having to do with ‘the time of the end’ (see verses 17 and 19) suggests that its meaning is not exhausted in Antiochus, but that he is only a type of one greater than he, and yet to come, who will act in a similar way. Cf. 7:24-26 and Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:8-10.
- What description is used both of the ram and of the goat in the time of their prosperity, and also of the king of verse 23?
Yet what was the end of these kingdoms?.
- Why was Daniel so deeply affected by this vision?
Consider how the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel seemed to indicate that the return from exile would coincide with the advent of the kingdom of God (see, e.g., Jer. 32:37-44; Ezek. 37:21-28), but this vision shows long vistas of history stretching into the future, and further suffering for the Jews.
- Verse 9. ‘The Beautiful Land’: i. e., Palestine.
- Verse 10. ‘The host of the heavens… the starry host’; used figuratively of Israel and her leaders.
- Verse 11. ‘The Prince of the host’: i.e., God himself. Cf. verse 25.
- Verse 12. Israel was to be given over into the power of the ‘horn’ because of transgressions, and true religion was to be suppressed.
- Verse 14. If the burnt offering ceased for 2300 time, that would be 1150 days, which is a little more than three years. It is known that Antiochus did suspend the burnt offering for three years and possibly a little longer.
This chapter records first the vision (Verses 2-14), then the general interpretation (verses 15-18), then Daniel’s question concerning three features of the vision (Verses 19, 20), and lastly the answer given to these questions.
- Assuming the four kingdoms to be the same as those that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream (chapter 2), what is three new in this vision that caused Daniel such distress and agitation (verses 15, 28)?
- To Nebuchadnezzar the kingdoms of this world appeared in the glittering splendor of material wealth and power, whereas by Daniel they are seen as beasts of prey.
What is the difference between theses points of view, and which is the deeper and true view?
Cf. 1 Sam. 16:7; Matt. 4:8; 1 John 2:16, 17.
- What is to be the final goal of history to which this vision looks forward?
Who are ‘the saints of the Most High’ (verse 18)?
What privileges will they have in the days to come?
- Verse 5. The bear represented the Medo-Persian Emprie, noted for it greed for further conquest.
- Verse 6. The wings on the leopard’s back indicate the swiftness of Alexander’s campaigns.
After his death his empire was divided into four parts.
- Verse 7. The fourth beast is either the Seleucid Empire, with its many kings (horns), of whom Antiochus Epiphanes was the most deadly, or Rome, with its many emperors, under one of whom arose the son of man.
The identity of Darius the Made is still a matter for debate, but the most likely candidates are Gobryas (Gubaru), the governor of Babylon, or Cyrus the king. This is one of many instance of biblical interpretation over which the reader has to admit that we simply do not know the answer until fresh evidence comes to light to help to solve the mystery.
- Neither pressure of business nor the threat of death kept Daniel from prayer. Is this true of you?
Do you think that other qualities in Daniel’s character revealed in this chapter were the outcome of his prayer life? What were those qualities?
Cf. Is. 40:29-31; Phil. 4:5, 6.
- Is your faith of such kind that you can stand alone in obedience to God without external support?
Are we living in such a way that even our keenest critics take it for granted that the will of God comes first in our lives, come what may?
Babylon fell in 539 BC, twenty-three years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar. A quarter of a century, therefore, has elapsed since the events of chapter 4.
- What four accusations did Daniel bring against Belshazzar? In what two ways was Belshazzar’s sin aggravated and made worse?
- Consider the judgment pronounced upon Belshazzar as symbolizing the divine judgment upon all ungodliness, whether in national or individual life. See verses 26-28, and cf. Prov. 15:3, 9; Eccles. 8:11-13.
- The identity of Belshazzar was for a long time unknown, but he is now known to have been the eldest son of King Nabonidus (556-539 BC), and to have shared the duties of the throne with his father.
While Nabonidus was away from Babylon, his son had supreme authority there.
- Verse 10. ‘The queen’: probably the queen-mother, widow of Nebuchadnezzar.
- Verses 25-28. The words represent three weights or coins, i.e., mina, shekel and peres or half-mina.
But the interpretation conceals numerous plays on words, for the verbal roots mean ‘to number, to weigh and to divide’.
In the case of ‘peres’, ‘to divide’, there is a further similarity to the word for Persian.
The theme of this chapter is pride. It takes the from of a decree by Nebuchadnezzar announcing the strange dreams and visions he has seen, through which he has learnt the all-important lesson that ‘the Most high is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes’ (verse 25). It can be compared with Is. 14:8-17 and Ezek. 28:1-10, passages that in their turn look back to the basic sin of humanity (Gen. 3).
- How effective was the king’s experience in bringing him to humility?
Contrast his attitude to God and confession of him in this chapter with his previous utterances in 2:47; 3:29. How would you define the change?
- What are the main themes of Daniel’s teaching in this situation?
With verse 27, cf. Mic. 6:8.
- Verse 13. ; A messenger, a holy one’: i.e., an angelic figure who acted with the authority of God.
- Verse 33. The mental derangement, known as zoanthropy, lasted for a set period described as ‘seven times’ (verse 16). This could mean ‘seven years’ or simply; a substantial period of time’. In the apocryphal ‘Prayer of Nabonidus’, found at Qumran, it is recorded that King Nabonidus, a successor of Nebuchadnezzar, spent seven years of his reign in isolation at Teima because of some strange illness. So this chapter is not without parallel in ancient traditions.
In the opening part of this chapter the king manifests a very different attitude towards the Lord from that of 2:47. The probable reason is that between chapters 2 and 3 there is an interval of several years, during which Nebuchadnezzar had evidence that his own god was greater than the God of the Jews (cf. verse 15b).It accounts also for the enmity of the officials against Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They would resent Jews continuing to hold rule over the province of Babylon.
- What threefold accusation was brought against the three Hebrews?
Consider how subtly it was worded to stir the king’s anger.
- How does this trial of faith differ from anything these men had had to meet up to this time?
For similar instances of courage, see Acts 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 2 Tim. 4:16-17. What purposes were served by the miracle of deliverance that God brought about?
- Observe that the four kingdoms, though historically appearing one after the other, are yet all parts of the one statue. Also, it is not just the last kingdom of the four, but the whole statue that is broken by the rock that strikes it.
a) What does the dream reveal as to God’s final purpose?
b) And, what differences do you find between the kingdoms of the world represented by the statue and the kingdom represented by the rock? (see Rev 11:15).
- What divine purpose did the dream serve in relationship to:
(b) Daniel and his friends,
(c) and all who knew, or know of it? (hint 2:47)
Verse 39,40. Those who assign the book of Daniel to the Maccabean period take the four kingdoms to be those of Babylon, Medes, Persians, and Greeks. This, however, apart from other objections, seems to be contrary to the book itself, which regards Medo-Persia as one kingdom (see 5:28; 6:8; 8:20,21). Therefore both the assigning of the book of Daniel to the Maccabean period and the assumptions concerning the kingdoms is not preferred.