God is Judge

Chapter 4

A Commentary on the book of Daniel

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The Parallel Visions


It is usually taken for granted that the visions of Daniel 2 and 7 are parallel visions. Interpretive issues surrounding the “parallel” visions are further complicated by two different approaches – the critical view understands the fourth kingdom to represent Grecian kingdoms and the traditional view understands the fourth kingdom to represent the Roman Empire.


The critical view (4th kingdom is Grecian)


Any approach to interpreting Daniel’s image in chapter 2 will inevitably be coloured by exegetical presuppositions concerning the authorship and dating of the book. If one believes Daniel to be a late pseudographic Maccabean production then the fourth kingdom will be the Greek Empire with the fractured feet equated with political alliances formed between the rival Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms described in Daniel 11.


This is the accepted view in critical scholarship which equates the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 and the fourth beast of Daniel 7 with the Syrian Greek (Seleucid) Empire and the “little horn” of chapter 7 and 8 with the persecuting power of Antiochus Epiphanes. According to the critical view the author of Daniel recorded his historic “visions” at the commencement of the Antiochene persecution. He fully expected deliverance and anticipated divine intervention in the form of the kingdom. Of course the eschaton did not arrive in BC 164/5 nor did the expected resurrection occur (Dan.12:1-3).


The critical understanding discounts the possibility of predictive prophecy and believes Daniel to be a prophecy ex eventu (prophecy after the event). Accordingly the author was accurate in his descriptions of the Greek period in which he lived (sic) but wrong in his predictions concerning the fate of the persecutor (Antiochus) and inauguration of the expected eschaton. Presumably the author was martyred shortly    Continued  ˃

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before Antiochus died and this explains why he got the details wrong (sic).


The traditional view (the 4th kingdom is Roman)


The alternative approach to Daniel 2 is also underpinned by certain exegetical presuppositions – namely an early 6th century date and authorship by the exiled Daniel.  The traditional interpretation accepts the possibility of predictive prophecy and supernatural phenomena. In this approach the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 are both identified with the Roman Empire.  


Early Jewish and Christian interpreters also favoured the Roman view[1], but as Walton[2] remarks; “While the unanimity    Continued  ˃


[1] In the Apoc. Bar. 39:1-8 (see, R.H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon, 1913), 2. 501). In 2 Esd. 12:10-12, where the vision of an eagle rising from the sea is described as Rome and is equated with the fourth kingdom of Daniel; “the eagle you saw rising from the sea represents the fourth kingdom in the vision seen by your brother Daniel. But he was not given the interpretation which I am now giving you or have given you”. According to Goldingay this confirms that the interpretation is “a novel one unknown to Daniel” (J. Goldingay, Daniel, Word Biblical Commentary [Vol.30], (ed., D. Hubbard, G. Barker, J. Watts R .Martin, Nelson Reference& Electronic, 1989),175. Josephus explicitly states, “Daniel also wrote concerning the Roman government, and that our country should be made desolate by them.”(Ant. 10.11.7)  R. Johanan in the Talmud (b. Seb. 20; b. Abod. Zar. 2b) and typical usage of Edom as a rabbinic designation for Rome, where in Lev. Rab. 13:5 the four rivers of Eden are likened to the four empires designated as Babylon, Media, Greece and Edom (i.e. Rome cf. Gen. Rab. 99).

[2] John H. Walton, The Four Kingdoms of Daniel, (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 29.1, 1986: 25-36), 27

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[in identifying the fourth empire as Rome] is startling and even impressive we must remember that these works all date to the Roman period. They therefore do not necessarily reflect an attempt at discerning the intentions of the book  of Daniel but could just as easily represent reinterpretation of data to suit what was perceived as historical reality”


The Western Roman Empire fell in 476 AD and the Eastern Roman Empire fell in 1453. Protestant interpreters often identify the Holy Roman Empire and sometimes the European Union as a continuation of the Western Roman Empire, equating it with the fourth Beast (and the ten toes stage of Dan.2) and the papacy with the “little horn” of Daniel 7-8.


Towards a new paradigm


It is apparent that both the liberal and traditional interpretations have certain limitations. The fourth beast of Daniel is described but it is not explicitly identified; it is therefore left to the reader to interpret the vision (let the reader understand). The reader participates in the prophecy by applying their own understanding of scripture and history to the text, unfortunately this also includes exegetical biases as well as cultural and social influences. The following a priori parameters guide the proposed paradigm:


  • The book of Daniel is not pseudonymous but was written by the Jewish exile Daniel who lived into the reign of Darius Hystaspis. The prophecies were written before the Antiochene persecution (although this does not rule out later redaction and finalization).
  • The prophecy must have some application to the Roman Empire as it is applied by Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem and is also employed in Revelation in the context of Roman persecution (although it is an oversimplification to see the Roman Empire as the full eschatological realization).
  • The prophecy must have some application to the Syrian Greek (Seleucid) Empire as the “removal of the daily”(sacrifice) in Daniel 8 and the “changing of the times and laws” in Daniel 7 coupled with the description of the rival Diadochi in Daniel 11 point to the Antiochene crisis.

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daniel's image


The traditional view is irrelevant to the concerns of the Babylonian exiles regarding the reinstitution of temple worship and the land of Israel. The critical view, on the other hand, addresses the question of the cult but has no relevance beyond the second century. The following interpretation fuses traditional and critical understandings in a hybrid interpretation. Boutflower attempted harmonizing the critical and traditional views by distinguishing the little horn of Daniel 8 (which he understands as Antiochus Epiphanes) from the little horn of Daniel 7.[3]  However, Boutflower’s proposal lacks    Continued  ˃


[3] “Fundamentally these two powers are quite different. The little horn of chap. vii. is a fresh power springing up among already existing powers, and in some way different from them, able ere long to uproot three of them and to take their place. The little horn of chap. viii. , on the other hand, is described as a horn springing out of a horn, i.e. it represents, not a fresh power, nor a different kind of power, but a fresh development of an already existing power”.  Boutflower understands the “little horn” of Daniel 7 as the temporal power of the Papacy. C. Boutflower, In and Around the Book of Daniel, (The Macmillan Co, London, New York and Toronto, 1923),15

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plausibility and his distinction is artificial as the visions are complimentary and are both dated to the reign of Belteshazzar. Rather than seeking a disjunction between the vision of the “little horn” of Daniel 7 and 8, a break between the visions of Daniel 2 and 7 is more plausible. The proposed paradigm understands the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 as Roman (traditional view) and the fourth beast of Daniel 7 and 8 as Seleucid (critical view). In other words, although both visions (in Daniel 2 and 7) have the same departure point (Babylon) they do not run completely parallel.


Schematic overview of the new paradigm


solution table

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Notes on the schema:

1.     The first beast (lion) and the head of gold are virtually unanimously interpreted as Babylon. Exegetic divergence emerges with the second beast/metal.


2.     Radical interpreters identify the bear (silver) with Media and traditional interpreters with the composite kingdom of Medo-Persia. Daniel itself supports the traditional understanding as the ram-kingdom has, “two horns” which are the “kings of Media and Persia” with, “one [horn] higher than the other and the higher coming up last” (Dan. 8:3,20).  The second horn (Persia) is longer and arises last as it reflects the uneven relationship within the Medo-Persian entity.  The bear is depicted as lopsided with three ribs in its mouth. The bear’s stance depicts the uneven relationship between Median and Persian power[4] and agrees with the depiction of the ram with disproportionate horns. The Median king Cyaxerxes conquered Armenia and united the Aryan kingdoms for the destruction of Nineveh.  Together with Babylon, Media terminated the Assyrian Empire ca 625 BC (cf. Jos. Antiq. 10.5.1). These same kingdoms (Ararat, Minni and Ashkenhaz)[5]


[4] Medieval Jewish commentators such as Rashi and Pseudo-Saadia understand the raising up on one side as the division of the Medo-Persian Empire between the Medes under Darius, who ruled first, and the Persians. Similarly, Hartman and DiLella take the “one side” as a reference to the “only Median king know to the author, ‘Darius the Mede’”.  Hartman, Louis F., and Alexander A. DiLella, The Book of Daniel, (AB 23; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1978),212-213


[5] In the Targum to Jer. 50:27, Ararat, Mini, and Ashkenaz are paraphrased by Kurdistan, Armenia, and Adiabene.  They are the peoples of the Ararat mountain ranges and the areas centred round Lake Van and north of Lake Urumiah. They were buffer states on the frontier of the Assyrian Empire. Boutflower (1923:13) comments that the kingdoms of Jer. 50:27 have “thus some claim to be regarded as three ribs of the carcase of the old Assyrian lion, which the voracious Medo-Persian bear finds himself not quite able to gulp down (Dan. 5:5)”.

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are described as uniting with the “kings of the Medes” by Jeremiah (Jer.51:27-29) for the destruction of Babylon. Radical criticism asserts that this did not occur in the time of Daniel as it was Persia that destroyed Babylon (not Media) and that Darius the Mede in Daniel is a fictional figure introduced to validate the expectations of the Jeremiah prophecy, namely that Babylon would be destroyed by Media (in the same manner as Nineveh had been some 87 years previously).  However, Media, as an inferior partner (one side lower than the other), did partake in the destruction of Babylon, together with the three ribs that had been picked clean (Ararat, Minni and Ashkenhaz) it was instructed to stuff more meat into its mouth, “arise, devour much flesh”.  In the year 550 BC the Persians whose country lay south and south east of Media, successfully rebelled under Cyrus king of Anshan (who was supposedly the great-grandson of Cyaxerxes).  Media was therefore incorporated into Achaemenid Persian hegemony as an inferior co-ruler (this is reflected by Dan. 8:3, 20 – “kings of Media and Persia”).


3.     Although the third kingdom would “rule over the whole earth”, (Dan. 2:39), the expression is not to be regarded as universal but as a technical term for the nation of Israel (note that the kingdom of God also filled the “whole earth”Dan. 2:35). Daniel was only interested in the relationship of human empires to the future of Israel. The identification of the goat with Greece is unambiguous in Dan. 8:21-22 where we are informed that the “notable horn” (Dan. 8: 5) is the “first king” (Alexander) and that his empire would break into four.  This is not in dispute and is generally accepted by critics and traditionalists alike. However, critical interpreters understand the fourth terrible beast (not the third Leopard beast) of Daniel 7 as the Greek empire. Critical interpretations understand the third beast of Daniel 7 as Persia (the four heads being four prominent kings); [6] traditional interpreters identify the Leopard as Greece and the four    Continued  ˃


[6] The only Persian kings known in the Bible are Cyrus, Ahasuerus (Xerxes), Artaxerxes, and “Darius the Mede” (of course there was more than one Ahasuerus and more than one Artaxerxes).

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heads with the kingdoms into which the Empire fragmented after the death of Alexander.[7]  Can the Leopard be more readily identified with Greece (i.e. does it parallel the Goat kingdom with four horns), than with Persia? An indication that the Leopard is Greece of the traditional view may well be found in the description that it is the only beast  of which it is said that sovereignty was given to it (Dan. 7:6). Universal rule is also predicated of the third metallic kingdom in Dan. 2:39.  Josephus has Alexander state that he had a dream when he was at Dios in Macedonia in which he was encouraged by the God of the Jews not to delay in his conquest of Asia as his domination of Persia was foreordained. Josephus even has the high priest point out the passages in Daniel that spoke of Grecian conquest.[8] Our proposed schema [...continued on next page]


[7] “The Successors” (Diadochi) of Alexander ensued before the Hellenistic world settled into four stable power blocks: the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt, the Seleucid Empire in the east, the kingdom of Pergamon in Asia minor, and Macedon. In the process, both Alexander IV and Philip III were murdered.

[8] Antiq.11.8.5; John S. Evans observes that, “Lendering contends that most of the account [in Josephus] rings true because of details like the following:(1)the Samaritans are allowed to build their own temple, which is a plausible punishment for the Jew’s refusal to provide assistance to Alexander’s army;(2) Alexander grants no privileges to the Jews that they did not already have under the Persian kings;(3) “the idea that Alexander had a vision in which the God of the Jews played an important role is just too incredible to be invented” because “everyone knew that Alexander claimed to be the son of the Egyptian god Ammon”; and (4) Alexander’s demand for auxiliaries and his willingness to allow the Jews to have the same position under him that they had under the Persians “matches the demand made by Alexander to Darius that he would address him as the master of the Persian possessions.” Evans remarks that despite Lendering’s positive evaluation of the credibility of Josephus’ account he nevertheless adopts a dating of 165 BC for Daniel. Evans concludes; “Yet we can be reasonably certain that Josephus, a first-century AD Jew who was born shortly after the ministry of Christ, did not invent the story about Alexander’s visit to Jerusalem out of the blue and that the Jews of his day accepted the truthfulness of this story and believed in the Book of Daniel’s prophetic character.” John S. Evans, The Prophecies of Daniel 2,(Xulon Press, 2008),40-41

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follows the traditional interpretation in equating the brass of chapter 2, the four headed leopard of chapter 7 and the four horned goat of chapter 8, with the Greek Empire and the kingdoms into which it subsequently fragmented. It differs from the traditional view in understanding the fourth beast of chapter 7 as a digression on the Greek Empire. Only two of the four goat-horns were of interest to the future of Israel – the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties (kings of the north and south), with particular concentration on the Syrian Greek (Seleucid) dynasty that persecuted the nation. At this point the proposed schema is essentially in agreement with the critical view in identifying the fourth beast with the Syrian Greek empire and the little horn with Antiochus Epiphanes – where this schema differs from both the traditional and liberal view is that the fourth beast of chapter 7 does not parallel the fourth metal of the image in chapter 2. The fourth beast is unique in that it is the only beast – that also has metal. The fourth beast has elements of the fourth metal (iron teeth) and it also has elements of the previous metal (brass claws). It is obviously intended that the reader identifies the fourth beast with the metallic image-empires of chapter 2, which is why the hybrid monster has metallic appendages – but the correlation is deliberately unspecific, precluding complete identification with either one or the other empire of chapter 2 but containing elements of both.  Therefore the brass (Greek) empire of chapter 2 includes the split into four (Greek) empires in chapter 7 (Leopard with four heads) and chapter 8 (Goat with four horns) and subsequently focuses attention on the Syrian Greek empire (fourth beast) and the Antiochene protagonist (Little horn) of chapter 7 and 8.


4.     The iron empire in the image of Dan.2 follows the traditional view in being Roman. Rome could not defeat Parthia, which remained independent. Babylonia, Media and Persia all remained outside the Roman Empire. Under the proposed schema the fourth metal of    Continued  ˃

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Daniel 2 (Rome) is not analogous with the fourth beast of Daniel 7 (Greek Syrian).


5.     The last stage of the image in Daniel 2 does not depict an empire but rather a fractured alliance that lacks cohesion. The idea is one of division – a loose alliance (or co-existence?) that will not hold together just as the mixture of iron and clay cannot cling together –it has no tensile strength and is so weak that it will disintegrate at the slightest challenge. This alliance contains elements of the previous Roman Empire (the iron) but is not fully Roman. Such elements may include Israel and Syria (Roman protectorates) but also elements of Euphrates clay (such as Parthia).[9]  The traditional view regards the iron/clay mixture as the remains of the Holy Roman Empire but an interpretation that disregards the context of the Middle East with Israel at the epicentre is hardly plausible. Daniel’s only interest was the fate of his people and the reinstitution of temple worship. Most critical commentaries understand the iron/clay mixture as  a reference to one or the other of the interdynastic marriages of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, the first being that of Antiochus II to Bernice in 252 BC the second being that of Ptolemy Epiphanes to Cleopatra, daughter of [...continued on next page]


[9] The first century situation is instructive and perhaps typical. After the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 the Jews had two focal points; the Exilarch in Parthian controlled Babylon and the Sanhedrin in Roman controlled Palestine. The Parthians, perhaps earlier contented to allow local Jewry to receive instruction from Jerusalem, certainly took advantage of the change in Palestinian politics and the anti-Roman turn in Jewish world opinion, to establish local control of Jewry under close supervision. In the next century Jews were the most loyal supporters of the Parthian cause against Trajan, Septimus, Serverus and Alexander Severus. In Palestine, circles of Jewish Messianists (the Bar Kochba revolt) were prepared to cooperate with the Parthians against Rome.  The Bar Kochba revolt (second Jewish war, 132-135 AD) marked three and a half years of Jewish independence from Rome until the final destruction and dispersal of Judea. So ended the alliance between the formerly iron state of Israel and the Parthian clay.

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Antiochus III, in 193-192 BC. They correlate these unions with the marriages mentioned in Dan. 11:6, 7. It is very probable that the author wishes the reader to recognise a link – but the link is purely thematic and typical.  By that we mean that the motif of exogamy, “mingling with the seed of men” (Dan. 2:43) or intermarriage between the “sons of God and daughters of men”, is a recurrent OT motif found in Genesis (Gen. 6:2), repeated by Solomon (1 Kgs. 11:1) and also by the returning exiles in the time of Ezra-Nehemiah (Ezra 10:2). It continued to be a problem in the Maccabean era, when covenants were made with gentiles. Thus exogamy establishes a conventional narrative pattern that describes Jewish-gentile relations. The eschatological vision of Daniel 2 consummates the end of human history (Dan. 2:44); in contrast the Seleucid Empire of Daniel 7 was not destroyed by the stone, nor did the end of that empire see the in-breaking of the universal rule of God or the resurrection (cf. Dan. 12:1-3).  However, the destruction of the image had a first century fulfilment - the stone cut without hands (a euphemism for the supernatural origins of the Messiah) marked the in-breaking of divine sovereignty and the crucifixion and the resurrection (of Christ the first fruits cf. Dan. 12:1-3; Matt. 27;52-53) was not only a judgment on sin, but also a judgement on the deification of human power (institutionalized religion, imperialism, etc) and it resulted in the grinding and dispersal of Israel, like chaff to the four winds. The resurrection of Christ and judgement of Israel in the first century is typical of the final resurrection and judgement - - the first century Christ-event (stone of Dan. 2:45) is an “apocalyptic moment”.[10] The rapid growth of Christianity was the commencement of a process that removed one mountain (the temple mount cast into the sea cf. Matt. 21:21; 43-44) to replace it with the mountain of God (Dan. 2:35).


“You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and    Continued  ˃


[10] The resurrection of Christ was an eschatological event; “And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Matt. 27:52-53).



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broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” (Dan. 2:34-35)


“If you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done” (Matt. 21:21)


“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matt. 21; 43-44).


Israel emerged from the wilderness of the Babylonian exile (cf. Ezek. 20:35) and compromised herself with the surrounding nations (in the Maccabean era and with first century Rome). John saw the re-emergence of a composite beast (Rev. 17:3) that draws on imagery from Daniel 7. The first century concluded with another exile of the Jews in the “wilderness of the people”. The destruction of the image in Daniel 2 has an “already/not yet” realization in the first century and at the Second Advent. The proportionality of the image fits a first century setting; understanding the legs as a continuous expression of Roman rule (in its different aspects) would extend them from 65BC to the present – making the legs nearly four times longer than the body section – a strange image indeed!  Many of the Danielic prophecies have either a dual fulfilment or are discontinuous (or contain both elements); this will become apparent when Daniel 9 is examined.


The Fourth kingdom of chapter 2 and chapter 7


Although the iron kingdom and the terrible beast share similarities, closer examination reveals important differences. The emphasis in Daniel 2 is strength (iron) that degenerates into division and instability (iron/clay). In Daniel 7 the emphasis is on the unique character (diverse from all kingdoms) of the terrible beast, in particular his ruthlessness (stamp the residue/tread down/break in pieces the earth) which culminates in the persecutions of the little horn. The fourth    Continued  ˃

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kingdom is different to all the others because of its aggressive stance towards the Jews, particularly against their religion. Such anti-Semitism could not be attributed to Nebuchadnezzar (even though he destroyed the temple), certainly not against the Persians or even the Romans.[11] The business end of the beast in Daniel 7 has Roman (iron teeth) and Greek (brass claws) characteristics. It is suggested that the instruments of aggression represent the Greek Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes, who spent fifteen years of his life as a hostage in Rome (1 Macc. 1:10) – the ‘teeth’ and ‘claws’ of the terrible beast are therefore synonymous with the ‘little horn’ – who was a product of Rome and Greece and who epitomized the aggressive, destructive, anti-Semitic aspect of the persecuting power. The ‘little horn’ stands against the ‘Prince of Princes’ (Michael) and is broken without hand (Dan. 8:25); his demise is supernatural. There are three accounts of the death of Antiochus in Maccabees (1 Macc.6:1-17; 2 Macc.1:14-16; 2 Macc.9:1-29). Although there are significant differences in the accounts they agree that he was not killed during his failed attempt to rob the temple at Elymais but died shortly afterwards. Perhaps the most pertinent account to Daniel is found in 2 Macc.9:1-29; “Thus he who had just been thinking that he could command the waves of the sea, in his superhuman arrogance, and imagining that he could weigh the high mountains in a balance, was brought down to earth and carried in a litter, making the power of God manifest to all. And so the ungodly man’s body swarmed with worms, and while he was still living in anguish and pain, his flesh rotted away, and because of his stench the whole army felt revulsion at his decay. Because of his intolerable stench no one was able to carry the man who a little while before had thought that he could touch the stars of heaven. Then it was that, broken in spirit, he began to lose much of his arrogance and to come to his senses under the scourge of God, for he was tortured with pain every moment. And when he could not endure his own stench, he uttered these words: “It is right to be subject to God, and no mortal should think that he is equal to God” (2 Macc.9:8-12). Echoes from Isaiah 9 confirm the Greek Syrian origins of the ‘little horn’ ---


[11] Paradoxically the Roman emperor Nero persecuted the Christians and had the characteristics of the little horn.

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Daniel 8 Isaiah 9
“Shall destroy (corrupt) wonderfully” (Dan.8:24) “His name shall be wonderful counsellor” (Isa. 9:6)
“By peace destroy (corrupt) many” (Dan.8:25) “Prince of peace” (Isa. 9:6)
“And his power shall be mighty” (Dan.8:24) “Mighty God” (Isa. 9:6)


The context in Isaiah is Assyrian aggression (and the promise of the Messiah) during the reigns of Ahaz and Hezekiah. It is fitting that the Assyrian monarch Sennacherib is employed as a template for the (Greek) Syrian Antiochus.  The same hubris and aggression towards God is displayed (cf. Isaiah 14) [12] by both protagonists.  Antiochus Epiphanes is contrasted with the messianic attributes found in Isaiah 9 - - he becomes the antithesis of messiah, the anti-Christ of the OT. The intertextual echoes and allusions between Daniel 8 and Assyria in Isaiah are appropriate for the ‘little horn’, the Greek-Syrian enemy, Antiochus. For the Danielic author the Greek-Syrian corruption of the priesthood and desecration of the Sanctuary (under Antiochus) was a    Continued  ˃


[12] The oracle in Isaiah 14 is not taken up against the Babylonian monarch (Isa 14:4) but against the Assyrian monarch (Isa.14:25) probably about the time (c.735-715BC) that the Judean king Ahaz died (cf. Isa.14:25). The Assyrian monarch Tiglath-pileser III claimed the title “King of Babylon” in 728 BC as well as his successor, Shalmaneser V (726-722 BC), and still later in 709 BC Sargon II claimed the title. Esarhaddon made Ashurbanipal king of Assyria and his other son king of Babylon. The oracle is directed at Assyria and is appropriate to Sennacherib who attacked the Temple Mount (cf. Isa.14:13) during the reign of Hezekiah and was later assassinated by his sons in his place of worship (2 Kings 19:36-37 cf. Isa.14:18-20 or, is this Sargon whose body was not found when he was killed in battle in 705?).

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repeat of earlier abuses, when Judea was a client state of Assyria under Ahaz (2Kgs. 16:10-16).


Daniel 8 (Syrian Antiochus) Isaiah 14 (Assyrian King)
10.And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them.


13.For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north’.
11. He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down. 14. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.


Comparison of the fourth beast and the fourth kingdom


The destruction of the fourth beast does not result in the establishment of the eschaton for although the other three beasts are deprived of their dominion, they have their lives prolonged for a season and a time (Dan. 7:12) implying that their dominion (particularly over Israel) will be temporarily restored at some future point (cf. Rev.13:1-2). A series of contacts and contrasts exits between the fourth kingdom (Dan.2) and the fourth beast/little horn (Dan.7-8):

Daniel 2 Daniel 7-8
Iron (fourth kingdom) Iron teeth and brass claws (fourth beast)
Whole image destroyed Fourth Beast destroyed - others allowed to live for a time
Destroyed by a stone Prince of the Host; Prince of Princes (Michael); One like a son of man
Stone cut without hand Enemy broken without hand
Heavenly kingdom set up in the days of those kings The time came that the people of the saints possessed the kingdom

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In Daniel 2 the whole image is destroyed (including the fourth kingdom) and completely obliterated (no prolonging of life for a season) and replaced with God’s sovereignty.  The phrase; “cut without hand” (Dan. 2:34) and “broken without hand” (Dan. 8:25) are not analogous as the former refers to the supernatural origins of the stone and the latter to the supernatural intervention that destroys the little horn. Only God has the prerogative to change “times and seasons” (Dan, 2:21) but the little horn seeks to change “times and laws” (Dan. 7:25). Once again these expressions are not synonymous, the former referring to divine providence (God sets up and removes kings) the latter to attempts by Antiochus to corrupt the festal calendar and the Law of Moses by removing the daily sacrifice and desecrating the Sanctuary. Similarly, the phrase; “And the kingdom….shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High” (Dan. 7:27), is not necessarily comparable with the kingdom that the God of heaven sets up (Dan. 2:44). The “kingdom” of Dan. 7:27 (although the passage is eschatological) is in the first instance the “pleasant land” of Dan. 8:9 – the land of Israel which was subject to the persecutions of the little horn (Antiochus Epiphanes).


The kingdom of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7


It is an oversimplification to understand the establishment of the kingdom in Daniel 2 as only occurring at the end of the historical continuum.   It is far more than a particular moment at the “End of Days”, for the in-breaking of divine sovereignty often occurs in the middle of history as it did with the “already/not yet” fulfilment of the ministry of Christ. The promise that the kingdom/reign of God/heaven will come/is near/has arrived is key to redemptive history.  The first century glimpsed an outworking of the destruction of human power - universal history underwent universal judgment on the cross.  That is not to say that the kingdom of God in its fullness has already been established as that is patently untrue, it is a recognition of apocalyptic thought patterns that make the present time subservient to the “End of Days”, that rest on the tension between present reality and future fulfilment- that allow historical events to take on meaning beyond their temporal significance.

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This is particularly true of Daniel 7 where the end of time arrives in the middle of history. The destruction of the Greek Syrian Empire under the “little horn” Antiochus was such an apocalyptic moment. Robert Hamerton-Kelly observes;


“This identification of the centre of history with the end, is the identification of a spatial with a temporal concept, “here and now” with “then and there.” For most of us the promise of “then and there” is enough. Time attests our human frailty with respect to the appropriation of reality. We must, because of that frailty, be content to receive reality in “coffee spoonfuls” as TS Eliot puts it, dribs and drabs from time to time, because we cannot bear too much. We are time bound and reality comes to us along the trajectory of that bondage. Ultimately when the timeline ends, we go “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12), but in the mean time we, like the old time “remittance man”, receive our periodic allowance. The mystic, or revelator, or prophet, on the other hand, has episodes of direct contact with the really real, and is thus able to keep the rest of us informed and encouraged. The Incarnation [we would argue for manifestation P.W.] of God as the authentically human gives us all a glimpse of the real, enables us to anticipate and enjoy, and therefore is the apocalyptic event par excellence, the end of history. Since it has occurred in the midst of time, it has the proleptic status, of the “already but not yet,” already in substance but not yet in durance”.[13]


The in-breaking of the apocalyptic moment was referred to by Jesus during his trial when, in response to his accusers, he alluded to Dan. 7:13 (in Matt. 26:64); “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man….” This is understood by H.A. Whittaker as    Continued  ˃


[13] Robert Hamerton-Kelly, Politics and Apocalypse: An Introductory Essay [cited March 2009]Access here

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referring to a spiritual and mental grasp of truth concerning Jesus.[14] The little horn of Daniel 7 also forms the basis for the description of the Beast in Revelation 13. Moreover, in Revelation 12 we read of a battle between Michael and a dragon with seven heads and ten horns. The ten horns obviously derive from the fourth beast of Daniel 7. Michael fights the dragon, although in the following passage the credit for the victory is given to the followers of Christ. The conflict vision in Revelation 12 is influenced by the antithesis of the “one like a son of man” and demonstrates at least a functional analogy between the archangel Michael and the figure in Daniel’s vision.  Imagery from Daniel 7 is constantly re-employed by the Johannine Apocalypse because it had a dual reference; it was relevant to the first century and to the “End of Days.” The in-breaking of the kingdom was therefore seen in the time of Antiochus, seen in the first century at the trial/crucifixion/resurrection of Christ, and seen at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70.  However, none of these apocalyptic “moments” exhausted the visions which still await their final consummation at the return of Christ.




The visions in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 do not run completely parallel. Whereas the Fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 is Roman, the Fourth beast of Daniel 7 is the Greek Syrian Empire under the Seleucid dynasty.  Antiochus Epiphanes is the “little horn” of chapter 7 and 8. The image of Daniel 2 had an “already/not yet” realization in the first century, but can only reach true fulfilment at the second advent (with Israel back in the land) this conclusion is reinforced by the reuse of similar imagery in Revelation. Although the destruction of the “little horn” occurred in 168 BC, the event has eschatological, one might say supra-historical overtones - - the “little horn” functions as a type of the anti-Christ.  Only in this sense do the two events (destruction of the image/judgement of the fourth beast/little horn) have parallels, for    Continued  ˃


[14] Whittaker notes that a similar formula (shall ye see) is used in John 1:51 and in John14:7. However, this does not rule out the possibility that his accusers actually saw a vision of the risen Christ coming in judgment when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70.  H.A. Whittaker, Studies in the Gospels,(Biblia,1989),742

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although the events are spatially and temporally different, in essence they are a singular apocalyptic episode.




Note on Nebuchadnezzar’s image


Although it was Nebuchadnezzar who deported the exiles and burnt the Temple the Neo-Babylonian period commenced with Naboplassar in c.626 and ended with the Persian capture of Babylon by Cyrus in c.539   a secondary Medo-Persian phase (but very important from the perspective of the Jewish exiles) began with the capture of Babylon by Darius Hystaspis (Darius the Mede) in c.521. The Medo-Persian period during which Judea was annexed as a Persian province lasted until the conquest of Persia by Alexander in c. 333 after which Greek influence was felt. After Alexander’s death Judea became the battle ground of the successors of Alexander’s Greek empire. Judea was annexed to Egypt by Ptolemy Soter in c.320 and later annexed to Syria by Antiochus the Great at the battle of Paneas but he over reached his ambitions when he invaded Greece and was forced to withdraw from Asia Minor when he was defeated by the Romans at the battle of Magnesia in c.189. The Greek period of Judean domination continued until the arrival of Antiochus Epiphanes c.175 that provoked the Maccabean rebellion in c.165. Greek influence was still felt despite brief independence and in c. 63 Pompey captured Jerusalem and Judea became a Roman protectorate. This was briefly interrupted by a Parthian incursion in c.40 when Jerusalem was captured and the Maccabee Antigonus was placed on the throne. However, the Roman senate appointed Herod as king and he retook Jerusalem in c.37. Sometimes there is a decisive battle that marks the transition from one Empire to the next but the transition is often more complex.


Ignoring the Hasmonean period and treating the successors of Alexander as belonging to the Greek period of foreign domination we can surmise that (as far as the vision is concerned) that the Neo-Babylonian period lasted (626-539) 87 years, the Medo-Persian (539-333) 206 years, the Greek (333-165) 168 years and the Roman domination of Judea  lasted (63+70) 133 years (or 198 years as the Bar    Continued  ˃

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Kochba revolt is regarded as the last Roman intervention). This conforms roughly to the proportions of a human figure with head-chest-thighs- legs dimensions forming an approximate ratio of 1-2-2-2.5 leading to the conclusion that a first century fulfilment was expected not one in the distant future. The full realization of the vision was interrupted by the Diaspora and could only be concluded when the Jews returned (which has recently occurred).