Sequence in Daniel 7:1–28
Dr. John Niemelä
Daniel 7 has been a battleground between traditional Dispensationalists and other theological systems. Much of the conflict results from not dealing with the chapter’s internal chronological indicators. This paper will consider the chronological placement of each verse inductively after answering an upper-level outlining issue: How much of the chapter was envisioned.
How Much of Daniel 7 Was Envisioned?
Most of Daniel 7 focuses on the content of the vision that he received. However, Daniel also sets forth three editorial comments (that are not part of the vision).
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts. Daniel spoke, saying. . . . (1-2a).
I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things (15-16).
This is the end of the account. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart (28).
The locations of these editorial comments suggest the general outline:
|1. Vision: comment one introduces the vision||(7:1-14),|
|2. Interpretation: comment two introduces it; comment three concludes it||(7:15-28).|
However, this is not the order in which Daniel received the contents of the chapter. That is, he did not receive the entire vision prior to receiving the interpretation. Rather, Daniel started receiving the interpretation when verses 9- 10 were revealed to him. The evidence for this comes mainly from Daniel’s editorial comments and partially from a few points within the vision itself.
Daniel refers to chapter 7 as a dream in verse 1, as visions of his head in verses 1 and 15, and as a vision by night in verse 2. In other words, Daniel was asleep when he received this dream or vision. However, the one who interpreted the vision to Daniel was someone that Daniel saw within the vision itself.
I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things (15-16).
The fact that the interpretation came within the dream means that the dream continues through verse 27. Daniel received not only the vision, but also the interpretation, as a dream from God.
Categorization of Verses in Daniel 7
Daniel 7 covers the same ground more than once, because Daniel records the vision, his questions about it, and the answers he received. Therefore, close examination of each verse may prevent paralleling the wrong verses.
Categorization of Verses
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts.
Verse 1 is not part of the vision itself, but is an introduction. It dates the vision as 553 B.C., the year that Nabonidus made Belahazzar into his coregent. Thus, the vision occurs within the last years of Babylon, the first bestial kingdom. Daniel indicates that he was selective, recording only the heads of the vision. Since he gave a summary, additional details appear as he states the interpretations of various details.
Four Bestial Kingdoms (7:2-3)
Daniel spoke, saying, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other."
The vision describes four successive kingdoms, represented by beasts. Verse 17 interprets the beasts as kings of four kingdoms. Chapter 7 describes the same four kingdoms as Daniel 2.
Babylon, The First Bestial Kingdom (7:4)
The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.
The first kingdom was Babylon. Our focus is on those events which are yet future to the year 2002, so we will not deal with the options for phrases in verse 4b.
Media-Persia, The Second Bestial Kingdom (7:5)
And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: "Arise, devour much flesh!"
The second kingdom is Media-Persia, not Media alone. Liberal scholars avoid the idea that Daniel contains predictive prophecy, by treating the fourth beast as Greece, rather than Rome. Thus, they do not face the fact that Cyrus, a Persian, effected his claim to the Median kingdom when he defeated Croessus of Lydia (547 B.C.). In 539 B.C., Media-Persia defeated Babylon.
The imagery of the lopsided bear points to the superiority of Persia in the combined empire of Media-Persia. Daniel 6:8, 12, and 15 each remind the king that he cannot change any law of the Medes and Persians. Again, since the focus of this paper is future, we will not focus on the options concerning the three nations it conquered (represented by the ribs).
Greece, The Third Bestial Kingdom (7:6)
After this I looked,  and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.
The third kingdom is Greece. Alexander the Great started his attacks against Persia in 334 B.C. The Persian empire ceased to exist by 331 B.C. Eight years later, Alexander was dead, leading to a division of his empire between his four generals: Cassander (Macedonia and Greece), Lysimachus (Thrace, Bithynia, and Asia Minor), Seleucus (Syria and eastward), Ptolemy (Egypt and vicinity).
Rome, The Fourth Bestial Kingdom (7:7a)
After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it. . . .
Rome was the fourth empire. It completely succeeded Greece in 63 B.C. when it crushed the last Seleucid stronghold and took Jerusalem. The portion of verse 7 cited above does not contain anything specific to the Tribulation. However, the Roman Empire will have expression during the Tribulation also.
Rome’s Eleventh Horn (7:7b-8)
And it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.
These verses describe events during the Tribulation. Some of the arguments for this referring to a yet future time rely upon following verses (which we have not yet considered). However, John Walvoord adduces an argument from this verse which points to a yet future fulfillment,
The interpretation identifying this as Rome immediately has a major problem in that there is no real correspondence historically in the phrase, "and it had ten horns." This and the succeeding matter has no correspondence to either the history of Greece or to the history of Rome. The interpretation of the vision later in the chapter only serves to emphasize the problem.
As a result, non-dispensational interpreters must resort to treating various aspects of verse 8 as symbolic. For example, John Goldingay expresses discomfort at taking some numbers literally and others symbolically, but nevertheless does so. '"Ten horns,' then, might not signify an actual number. But there is less ground for taking 'three horns' nonliterally. They 'were uprooted before it' . . . ."  However, he never established the need for taking any of the numbers symbolically. He evidences an inconsistent hermeneutic, a feature common to non-futurist views of Daniel 7:8. This hermeneutical argument is not the only one favoring assignment of the verse to the yet-future Tribulation, but it is the argument based in this verse by itself. (This section of the paper is categorizing individual verses prior to relating verses to each other, so other arguments must wait).
Commentaries often note that verse eight does not state directly that the eleventh horn defeated the three kings However, it is only right to note that verse 24 states this directly.
Heavenly Court (7:9-10)
I watched till thrones were put in place, And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire; A fiery stream issued And came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, And the books were opened.
The imagery is clearly heavenly. Although the Ancient of Days is singular, more than one throne is placed. Daniel does not identify who else would sit upon the other thrones. The Ancient of Days is depicted as aged. In keeping with the judicial imagery, this would stress His wisdom and purity. The white apparel focuses on His holiness. A great multitude surrounds His throne, but Daniel does not identify them.
Rome’s Eleventh Horn (7:11)
I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame.
This is the second mention of the eleventh horn’s pompous words. In fact, verse 11 is a continuation of verse 8. Verses 9-10 represent a change in scene, but they do not disrupt the flow between verses 8 and 11.
The heavenly court is convened after the eleventh horn started his pompous speaking. He kept speaking, oblivious to what was happening in the heavenly court. However, those pompous words caused Daniel to look back to planet earth.
Daniel kept watching long enough to see the destruction of the beast, not just its eleventh horn. Verse 11b discusses the effect of the judgment that it pronounced on the fourth beast. It does not discuss the court’s decision (that comes in a later verse).
First Three Bestial Kingdoms (7:12)
As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
Unlike most verses in the chapter, verse 12 has no chronological markers. This leaves two options for its sequence in the narrative:
- It could follow verse 11 chronologically.
- It could be an editorial comment concerning earlier events.
Dwight Pentecost argues the latter view,
The kingdoms represented by the preceding beasts had already been stripped of their power by military conquest. But the fourth beast will be relieved of its power not by being conquered militarily, but by divine judgment (cf. Dan. 9:27; Rev. 11:15; 19:15). Each of the three, however, had been allowed to live a short time. This may mean that the cultures of each of the first three conquered empires were assimilated into the conquering nations.
Indeed, the idea of a continuance of the first three bestial kingdoms into their successors is documentable. On the other hand, the view that verse 12 follows verse 11 chronologically creates an untenable chronology: that the first three beasts would continue after the destruction of the fourth beast at the end of the Tribulation. Since the grammar leaves the chronology open, the simplest solution is to regard verse 12 as referring to events which precede verse 11. In light of the destruction of the fourth beast, Daniel mentioned the destiny of the first three beasts.
The Heavenly Court (7:13- 14a)
I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
This is a return to the heavenly court (apparently just after the pronouncement of judgment upon the fourth beast). This passage describes the Ancient of Days awarding Christ the kingdom. The Aramaic phrase kebar 'enash (like son of man, or manlike) lacks an article. The focus is upon His human appearance, in contrast with the four beasts that preceded. This qualitative usage is in keeping with the simile introduced by like. Kebar 'enash looks like He descended from man, not like the four descendants of beasts.
Despite the lack of an article, everything here points to kebar 'enash as a divine being. Cloud-rider, in ancient near-eastern imagery, stands for a deity. Indeed, appearances of God in the Bible often have cloud imagery.
Kebar 'enash appeared before the Ancient of Days, who gave Him dominion, glory, and a kingdom. The scene is heaven, not earth. The awarding here is judicial. Christ will then go and win the kingdom through His Second Advent.
Son of Man’s Kingdom (7:14b)
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.
The reason for dividing verse 14 at this point is that the we (the conjunction that begins verse 14b introduces a purpose clause. The purpose for giving kebar 'enash dominion, glory, and a kingdom is in order that those on earth would serve (that is, worship) Him.
The word translated serve is pelah. It is a term of worship, as its uses in the Aramaic sections of Daniel show. The fact that the world will worship kebar 'enash demonstrates His deity. He is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. It is with that backdrop that Jesus, in the Gospels, refers to Himself as Son of Man.
Four Bestial Kingdoms (7:17)
Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth.
The envisioned interpreter asserts that the four beasts represent four kingdoms.
Son of Man’s Kingdom (7:18)
But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.
The phrase receive the kingdom refers to ascending to a position of rule. The same phrase appears in Daniel 6:1 [English Bible: 5:31]. (The citation includes the prior verse as well).
That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
The reception of the kingdom by the saints of the Most High is quite compatible with Christ’s position as king. Faithful believers receive positions of administration within the kingdom as a reward for faithfulness. Compare the Parable of the Talents; Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:11- 13; Revelation 3:21. The prospect of co-reigning with Christ motivates faithful service.
Fourth Bestial Kingdom (Rome) (7:19)
Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet;
Daniel here wanted to know about the fourth beast as a whole, which includes both the time before the eleventh horn as well as his time.
Rome’s Eleventh Horn (7:20- 21)
And the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows. I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them,
This is the third mention of the eleventh horn speaking pompously. As noted earlier, Walvoord has argued the need for taking the eleventh horn as yet future, since no historic fulfillment of the ten (or eleven) kings simultaneously ruling the Roman Empire has occurred. The time of the eleventh horn prevailing in war against the saints is still future (within the Tribulation).
The Heavenly Court (7:22)
. . . until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.
Daniel again returns to the heavenly courtroom, but introduces the verse with an important chronological indicator, 'ad (" until" ). Specifically, the eleventh horn will prevail in war until the Ancient of Days comes, a reference to the heavenly courtroom scene (mentioned in Daniel 7:9- 10, 13- 14a, here, and in 26a). Only after the verdict is given in favor of the saints, will they possess the kingdom.
Fourth Bestial Kingdom (Rome) (7:23)
Thus he said: "The fourth beast shall be A fourth kingdom on earth, Which shall be different from all other kingdoms, And shall devour the whole earth, Trample it and break it in pieces."
This verses recaps the fourth beast in its entirety again. Everything said here has been said before.
Rome’s Eleventh Horn (7:24- 25)
The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand For a time and times and half a time.
In addition to reiterating the presence of ten kings, these verses expressly state that the eleventh king subdues three of them. He also speaks pompously against God and persecutes His saints. The persecution last for "a time and [a pair of] times and half a time." The persecution will last three and a-half times. Daniel 4:25 is an accepted use of time for one year within the Aramaic portion of Daniel. Daniel 9:27 divides the seventieth heptad (unit of seven) into two halves, so ample precedent exists for saying that Daniel is quite concerned to refer to the last three and a half years of world history before the Second Advent.
The Heavenly Court (7:26a)
But the court shall be seated, And they shall take away his dominion.
This verse adds an important chronological item: The seating of the court is what leads to taking the eleventh horn’s dominion from him. Since neither the ten horns not the eleventh horn have yet appeared in history, the seating of the court must also be future. This is a crux interpretum, because it not only affects 26a, but also verses 9- 10, 13- 14a, and 22a. The heavenly courtroom, in its entirety, is future. Everything points to the seating of the court occurring just prior to the Second Advent. The court decrees that the little horn lose his dominion. Then Christ returns in the Second Advent to take it by military conquest.
From this perspective, when Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, it was not because the heavenly court had already convened. It had not. However, when it is seated, Christ will be the Son of Man coming with the clouds.
Son of Man’s Kingdom (7:26b-27)
To consume and destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.'
Verse 26b starts with two purpose infinitives. The purpose for the court’s decree to take away the little horn’s dominion is in order to destroy it. The destruction will commence with Christ’s Second Advent. As a result of Christ’s military conquest, the saints will receive the greatness of the kingdoms.
Verse 27 indicates that His kingdom is an everlasting one. The referent of the pronoun in the phrase His kingdom, should be seen as a referent to Christ, because this verse parallels 14.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.
Unlike the four beasts, no other kingdom will supercede Christ’s kingdom. All peoples, nations, and languages will worship Him. Again, the term translated serve means to worship.
Narrative Summary (7:28)
This is the end of the account. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart.
Daniel’s dream informed him that there were many years of Gentile domination of the nation and that things would become terrible before God (one who properly can be worshipped) would set up His kingdom with an administration consisting of rewardable saints. The long and troubling future history of the nation in the meantime troubled him.
SEQUENCE OF WHAT IS STILL FUTURE
Underlined verses are the ones which demonstrate the chronological link.
1. A kingdom (recognizable as the Roman Empire) will have ten kings simultaneously (7b, 20, 24),
2. The eleventh little horn who speaks pompously against God defeats three of the ten (8, 11, 20, 24),
3. The eleventh horn prevails against the saints for three and a-half years (21, 25),
4. The heavenly court is seated near the close of the three and a-half years (9- 10, 25- 26a),
5. Christ comes to the court and is presented to the seated Ancient of Days (13)
6. The court takes away the eleventh horn’s dominion (26a), which is also a decision in favor of the saints (22a), and is the decision to give the kingdom to Christ (14a),
7. Second Advent and total destruction of the fourth beast (11b, 26b),
8. Christ is worshipped and reigns forever on earth with an administration composed of saints (14b, 18, 22b, 27).
Attention to parallels and internal chronological considerations show that references in the Gospels to Christ as the Son of Man anticipate the Ancient of Days giving Him the kingdom. However, that event will occur immediately prior to the Second Advent. It has not already happened.
The following passages use cloud-imagery in theophanies. Kebar 'enash refers to Christ in Daniel 7:13.
And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people (Exodus 13:21-22).
And the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and believe you forever." So Moses told the words of the people to the LORD. . . . Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled people (Exodus 19:9, 16).
And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD (1 Kings 8:10-11).
The burden against Egypt. Behold, the LORD rides on a swift cloud, And will come into Egypt; The idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, And the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst (Isaiah 19:1).
Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub, and paused over the threshold of the temple; and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was full of the brightness of the LORD’s glory (Ezekiel 10:4).
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).
Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64).
Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory (Mark 13:26).
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen (Revelation 1:7).
The following passages show that pelah has a sense of worship, which leads to the conclusion that kebar 'enash is a reference to deity. He is Christ, not the nation of Israel, as some argue.
There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up (Daniel 3:12).
Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up (Daniel 3:14)?
If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up (Daniel 3:17- 18).
Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God (Daniel 3:28)!
So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you (Daniel 6:17)."
And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions (Daniel 6:21)?"
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:14).
Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him (Daniel 7:27).'
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture citations are from the New King James Version (Nashville: Nelson, 1982).
 And suddenly indicates that verse 5 follows verse 4.
 After this indicates that verse 6 follows verse 5.
 After this indicates that verse 7 follows verse 6.
 John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago: Moody, 1971), 162.
 John E. Goldingay, Daniel, ed John D.W. Watts, WBC, vol. 40, ed. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (Dallas: Word, 1989), 164, hypothesizes that ten might derive from the ten toes in Daniel 2 or from a propensity towards the use of ten generations in apocalypses. The first suggestion begs the question, since the fact that a statue would have ten toes in no way negates the idea that there would be ten kings. The second argument would only have weight if one granted that later apocalyptic literature determines the meaning of Daniel. Goldingay’s inference derives from two irrelevant arguments. He has proven nothing.
 The New King James "put in place" is correct. The older KJV incorrectly suggested a negative tone with its "thrones were cast down."
 J. Dwight Pentecost, "Daniel," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1985), 1351.
 Another evidence for His deity appears in the term serve in verse 14b.
 See Appendix 1.
 Although we is not a purpose conjunction, the change in actor from the Ancient of Days who gives the kingdom to humans carries more weight than mere connection.
 See Appendix 2.
 See note 4 of this paper.
 Goldingay, Daniel, 146, n 25.c, acknowledges, "' dnyn should presumably here be taken as dual (see n. 4.e-e)." Ibid., 144, n. 4.e-e, says, "' Wings' gappiyn was pointed as pl, raglayin 'feet' as dual (also shinnayin 'teeth' [!- the reference being to two jaws] and qarnayin "horns" [!- because they usually come in pairs] in v 7). In later Aram. and Syriac the dual disappears, and this has probably affected MT pointing in Dan; some MT plurals will thus have been originally dual." We will not pursue the issue of whether Daniel or the scribes were responsible for the forms here. The point is that recognized plural forms in the Aramaic portions of Daniel clearly can represent duals. No non-dual meaning has commanded attention for Daniel 725. This is even true for non-Dispensational and liberal commentators
 See Appendix 2.