These small group studies of Daniel contain outlines, commentary, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Daniel 7 Bible Study Commentary And Discussion Questions

Outline

I. Daniel’s vision of the four beasts (1-8)
II. The Ancient of Days reigns (9-12)
III. The Son of Man’s kingdom (13-14)
IV. Interpretation of the vision (15-18)
V. The fourth beast and the antichrist (19-28)

I. Daniel’s vision of the four beasts (1-8)

Discussion Questions

  • Is this chapter in chronological order? When do these events occur?
  • What key word or words are repeated in this chapter?
  • In what way is writing down the dream helpful?
  • What other Biblical passages describe a similar scene?
  • What do you think of when you think of a beast? What qualities does a beast have?
  • What type of animals did the four beasts appear as?
  • What qualities can you see of these beasts from their descriptions?
  • Would you want to make friends with these beasts? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think that these kings are described in this way?

Cross-References

Revelation 13:1-2 – And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.

Revelation 13:5-7 – And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon – Daniel 5 records the last day and death of Belshazzar and chapter 6 records Daniel’s ministry as official to the Persian king. Chapter 7 takes place at least around ten years before these events.

At this time, it appears that Daniel had retired from active service at the court. But he didn’t spend his days vacationing at the beach and collecting shells. Daniel was active as a prophet receiving and recording revelations from the Lord.

In the first six chapters of Daniel, he interprets the dreams of others. In the last six chapters, he himself is the recipient of special revelation from God. And while the first half of the book is a chronological history of Daniel’s official service, the last half is more akin to a journal of his own interactions with the Lord.

Application – Believers should never retire from serving the Lord. As you grow older, the location and method of your ministry may change, but you should still minister. This truth is built on the principle that every aspect of our lives, from start to finish, belongs to the Lord.

2. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter – Daniel faithfully recorded his dream and subsequent encounter with the heavenly being. His record was vital not only for his own memory and walk with the Lord, but for us as well.

Application – We are to be diligent in our walk with the Lord. One way we can follow Daniel’s example is to take good notes when we study the Word. Whether you are listening to a sermon, having a quiet time, or joining an inductive Bible study you will get more out of it if you record what you are learning.

3. Four beasts came out of the sea – We see the same wording in Revelation regarding the rise of the beasts in the end times. The sea seems to be symbolic of the evil of mankind spread over the world. Sometimes it refers to Gentile nations (Psalm 74:13, Isiah 57:20). In Revelation 21:1, we learn that in the new earth there will be “no more sea.” Man’s evil system will be defeated. Evil plots will no longer be hatched against the Almighty.

When something is in the sea, it is hidden. Only when it comes out, it is revealed. Therefore no one would be able to identify the identity of these beasts (kings) until after they were revealed by coming to power. Just as it would be folly to star at the surface of the water and guess at the location and identity of an unseen sea creature, so it would be to guess the names of these kings before they rose to power.

It could also relate to the Mediterranean Sea as each of these four empires had a geographical connection to it.

4. The four beasts – Each of these beasts had a specific appearance. That is, each of these kingdoms which are described had unique features. They were four separate and distinct nations. And yet they also had similarities. The most obvious similarity is that each one was a beast.

The term beast generally has a negative connotation. Beasts generally are ugly (think Beauty and the Beast). Only the most powerful animals or mythical creatures are called beasts. But more than just their power, beasts are typified by a total lack of self-control. They lack any type of grace, morality, or culture. Instead, their actions are controlled by their basest instincts. Whereas a man has self-will and should restrain certain fleshly instincts, a beast never does. A beast is controlled by rage, passion, desire, and violence. To call a person a beast is a great insult. It means that he is behaving like a wild animal and not a man. Whereas a man is made in the image of God and is to live out the fruit of the Spirit, a beast has no soul and commits all the works of the flesh.

Therefore the term beast here shows us the depraved and lawless nature of these four kingdoms. They are like wild animals fulfilling their own passions. They have no desire to seek after God and live to satisfy the flesh.

In additions, these beasts were frightening to look at. They were destructive. A beast does not bring anything of value to the table. It only destroys. Like father like son. Satan also seeks only to kill and destroy.

John 10:10 – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

The beasts act just like their father, the devil.

Jesus contrasted Himself with Satan. He brings abundant life. Jesus is a life-giving force. He offers the bread of life. He offers living water. Everything good and perfect is a gift from Him above.

The world on the other hand seeks to ensnare and ruin you. The nations and the systems of culture they espouse today are more akin to beasts than they are to God.

Would it be wise to go and cuddle with a bear? One man thought so. Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend Amie Huguenard attempted to live with brown bears in Alaska. They made documentaries of their experiences, in which they claimed to build mutual trust and respect with the animals. Unfortunately, the ending is quite predictable. Both of them were mauled and eaten.

Application – Do not love the world or anything in the world. Do not get cuddly with the world or its system. And do not get seduced by its power or the false promise of fulfilling all of your desires. Don’t build a relationship with a bear. Build a relationship with the One who gives life.

5. The four beasts are four kings (17) – In verse 17, the angel tells Daniel that the four beasts are four kings who shall arise. Each of these kings will establish a new and powerful empire.

Scholars generally agree that the four beasts represent the following four historical nations.

A. The first one was like a lion and had eagles’ wings – Eagles and lions are both considered to be majestic animals. Eagles are lord of the air and lions are the king of beasts. This beast represents Babylon. Note that its wings were cut off and it was made to be a man.

This fits with the life of Nebuchadnezzar. He was proud like an eagle. But God humbled him, repeatedly reminding him that he was merely a man, and not a god.

Jeremiah also used the images of a lion and eagle in reference to Babylon (Jeremiah 49:19-22).

A winged lion statue taken from Babylon is displayed at the British museum.

B. The second beast was like a bear – This beast appears more carnal than the first. It is pictured as in the very act of devouring flesh. Three ribs protrude from its mouth and it is commanded, “arise, devour much flesh.” A bear is slower than an eagle but more powerful.

It represents the Medo-Persian empire and the king who established it, Cyrus. Their armies were notorious for their brutality and strength. Note that the bear was “raised up on one side.” That is, one side was larger than the other. Probably this is a reference to the fact that the Persians were more prominent than the Medes.

The three ribs may signify their three great conquests, Egypt, Babylon, and Lydia.

C. The third beast was like a leopard with four wings of a bird and four heads – A leopard is swift, but made all the swifter for its four wings.

This beast represents the Greek Empire built by Alexander the Great. He was one of the greatest military minds in history. By the young age of 28, he had already conquered most of the known world. His tactics (four heads) were brilliant and his quick strikes were difficult to repel.

After Alexander died, his kingdom was divided into four parts and split among four of his generals as shown by the four heads of the beast.

D. The fourth beast was dreadful and terrible with great iron teeth – Daniel says that this beast is “different from all the beasts that were before it.” The iron teeth remind us of the legs of iron of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the statue.

The fourth beast represents the Roman empire, which will come in two parts. The first Roman empire was represented by the legs of iron and historically rose to prominence in 27 BC. And the revived Roman empire is represented by the feet of clay and iron and it is as yet a still future kingdom.

The hallmarks of this beast are its strength and ruthlessness. It breaks into pieces and tramples everything that stands in its way.

In addition, it is described as having ten horns, three of which will be plucked out, and a little horn that boasts great things. You can read more on this in our study of Revelation 17 and also later in this chapter.

Application – God knows the future. His sovereign plans come to pass. No man could have predicted the rise and fall of these as yet still future kingdoms so accurately. God can. These last chapters of Daniel remind us that time is in His hands. The future can look terrifying, just as it did for Daniel. But we don’t need to be afraid because God is in control.

II. The Ancient of Days reigns (9-12)

Discussion Questions

  • Who is the Ancient of Days? Why is He described with this term?
  • What are your observations about His appearance?
  • What does His clothing and hair teach us about Him?
  • What does the fiery fire of His throne signify?
  • What might the wheels refer to?
  • Describe the heavenly crowd before the throne.
  • What was He doing on the throne? Who was He judging?
  • What do you think the books contain?
  • What was the outcome of the court session?
  • How does this passage affect our lives today?

Cross-References

Revelation 19:20 – And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.

Psalms 90:2 – Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Psalms 103:19 – The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. The Ancient of Days took his seat on the throne – Daniel uses a unique title for God here. It emphasizes God’s eternal existence. One of the major themes of Daniel is the temporary nature of earthly kingdoms contrasted with the eternal nature of God’s kingdom.

The words “kingdom,” “dominion,” “endure,” and “forever” appear repeatedly throughout the book as God seeks to teach His subjects that He alone is sovereign and that His kingdom will have no end. Thus the title, “Ancient of Days” is a reminder that long before the beginning of any earthly kingdom, God already existed. He was sitting on His throne before any earthly kings had one, and He will still be sitting on His throne after they are gone.

Application – Remembering who God is and who we gives us a healthy dose of humility. Next time you question God, remember who was on the throne a trillion years before you were born.

2. His features and the throne room described –

A. His clothing was white as snow – It reminds us of His purity. His glory shines without any blemish.

B. The hair of his head was like pure wool – His white hair shows us His “age.” He is the Ancient One, existing from eternity past.

Proverbs 20:29 – The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.

In addition, his white hair shows His holiness and perfection. We know God is a Spirit. But He chose to manifest Himself to Daniel in this way at that moment to teach us something about His character and essence.

C. His throne was fiery flames – Flames are a symbol of judgment. They also portray refining (like dross eliminated through heat). And again, the fire shows God’s holiness. In the Old Testament, when He appeared to Israel, fire was often closely associated. Moses saw the burning bush and God’s presence was within the fire. The pillar of fire protected them from their enemies and guided them to their destination. The Shekinah Glory also burned brightly as a fire.

D. Its wheels were burning fire – Thrones on earth generally don’t have wheels. It is possible that these wheels represent the mobility of His throne. He is omniscient, observing everything that happens in the entire universe.

E. A thousand thousands serve Him – Every king is served by His subjects. The host of heaven are actively serving the King of Kings. One day, we too will stand serving before Him.

Whereas a thousand thousands serve Him, ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. They are standing before Him in judgment. It appears that the number of people being judged is far greater than those who actively serve Him. Unbelievers greatly outnumber the faithful.

F. The court sat in judgment and the books were opened – Every person will stand before God in judgment one day, from the lowest servant to the great kings. Greece’s Alexander the Great, Persia’s Cyrus, and Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar would all appear before God’s throne. He would have the last say. Their high ranking on earth would give them no special favors in heaven. Every person will be judged on the basis of their deeds.

In Daniel’s vision, he saw the books opened.

Revelation 20:12 – And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.

The books record the deeds of men. Judgment will be fair and impartial, based on the evidence.

Application – If Alexander the Great and Nebuchadnezzar cannot escape judgment, do not think that you can. You will be there too, with them facing the Ancient of Days. He sees all and knows all. Are you ready to face your Maker?

3. The results of the judgment – The horn on the fourth beast represents a man who will rule in the last days before this judgment. He will be blasphemous to a point the world has never seen before. Many passages describe his great boasting (Revelation 13:5). This character is widely considered to be the antichrist. The fact that he is connected with the fourth beast shows us that there will be some version of a revived Roman empire in the last days.

Note that at the judgment, this person and his kingdom is the very first one judged. John’s description in Revelation matches this one. The antichrist is the very first person judged and thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).

One day all of these beasts will be judged. Their dominion will be taken away and Jesus will rule the earth from Jerusalem in the millennium. While the dominion over the earth will be taken away from these nations, people will still exist. Various nations will continue to exist during the millennium.

While various details of these prophecies can be difficult to figure out, the key lessons are clear. The things of this world, including the power of man, are temporary. Small or great, all will stand before God’s throne in judgment.

Application – The application of this principle is simple. Imagine two kings are asking for your allegiance. You are allowed to see the future. You know one of these kings will reign a short time and be defeated. Though he makes great boasts, these prove to be lies. The other king will conquer all of his enemies and reign forever. Which one will you ally yourself with? Ally yourself with the King of Kings. Develop your relationship with Him.

III. The Son of Man’s kingdom (13-14)

Discussion Questions

  • Who is the one like the son of man?
  • Why is he called by this title?
  • What does this passage show you about the roles of the Trinity?
  • How could a man have an everlasting dominion? What hints does this passage give about the nature of Jesus?
  • How do you see the theme of kingdoms running through the book of Babylon?
  • What key lesson do we learn in this book about kingdoms?
  • How is God’s kingdom contrasted with man’s?

Cross-References

Revelation 1:14-15 – The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.

Mark 14:62 – And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

John 3:13 – No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. With the clouds of heaven there came one like the son of man – Son of Man is a title often used by Jesus. The Messianic title signifies the Savior’s identity as a man, a representative of the human race. In Scripture, He is often pictured as either going with or coming with the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62). Daniel has been privileged to see a vision of God the Son in His glory.

2. He was presented to the Ancient of Days – God the Father and God the Son are shown to be distinct.

3. To Him was given everlasting dominion – Here we see the role of the Father and the Son. The Son voluntarily subjects Himself to the Father’s rule. The Father glorifies the Son by entrusting all of creation to His care. Jesus will be the ruler over all. All people of all tribes, nations, and languages will be His subjects. His kingdom will last forever.

Luke 1:33 – And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

This prophecy will be fulfilled in Jesus after His second coming and the final judgment (Revelation 19-22).

Application – People generally seek to immigrate to more prosperous countries. There are websites that calculate the value of various countries’ passports. Some passports are worth more because the host country is more powerful, has more benefits, or can gain you entrance into more other countries. Therefore being a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom is to be desired above everything else! Have you immigrated to become a Jesus’ kingdom citizen? Immigration has certain rules before it can take effect. Jesus gives us one. Believe in Him. Do you have faith in Jesus?

IV. Interpretation of the vision (15-18)

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think these visions made Daniel anxious?
  • What did he do when he was worried? What lesson can you learn from this?
  • What kings might be represented by these four beasts?
  • What clues do you see in the beasts’ appearance that can link them to specific kingdoms?
  • How should a believer react to this vision (18)?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Daniel was anxious and approached an angel – Daniel was a person like you and me. He was not immune to worry or fear. The vision alarmed him. It was terrifying. It is not every day that you see a vision of the end of the world!

Notice what Daniel does with his worry. He immediately goes to seek help. Desiring to find out as much as he could about this vision, he asked someone in the know (perhaps an angel) for an explanation.

Application – There will be many times we are confused or anxious. When you have those feelings, go to the source of all wisdom. There is only One who can solve all of your problems.

2. The interpretation was given to Daniel – Ask and you shall receive. Daniel asked what it meant and he was told the answer.

The given interpretation is very simple. The four beasts are four kings. Though they have dominion for a time, it is the saints of the Most High who shall receive the kingdom.

Jesus made a similar point in His sermon on the mount.

Matthew 5:3, 5 – Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Daniel lived in a time when darkness seemed to reign. Judah was defeated. He and his friends were exiles in a strange, foreign land. Idolatry dominated every aspect of culture. Violence, pride, and selfishness were rampant. He needed a reminder that these things were temporary. In the end, God wins. We too need that same reminder. And that is the lesson of Daniel 7.

V. The fourth beast and the antichrist (19-28)

Discussion Questions

  • How was the fourth beast different than the others?
  • What do the horns on its head represent?
  • Who do you think the one horn in verse 20-21 represents?
  • What will this person be like?
  • How long will he rule (25)?
  • What might it mean that he wants to change the times and the law?
  • How will this kingdom and ruler meet its end?
  • What will happen after the demise of the fourth beast?
  • What principles can we learn from this?
  • What does this passage teach us about God?
  • What does it teach us about man?
  • What does it teach us about this world that we live in?
  • How important is it to have an eternal perspective?
    How will having an eternal perspective help you resist temptation?
  • Based on what we learned in this chapter, shat should your attitude be toward the world?

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast – Daniel’s hunger for the truth is commendable. It would be easy to just say, “this is too complicated” and just let it be. But Daniel sought to understand every detail he could.

2. Recap of the fourth beast – In verses 19-22, Daniel recaps what he had already seen in his vision of the fourth beast. It was powerful and brutal. Ten horns were on its head. These ripped out three. And one horn was conspicuous in its boasting. That horn made war against the saints. Finally, the Ancient of Days judged this beast and the saints possessed the kingdom.

3. The explanation –

A. The fourth beast would be different from all the kingdoms.

B. It shall devour the whole earth and trample it down – The Roman empire conquered a vast swath of territory. The revived Roman empire will rule over the whole earth.

C. The ten horns are ten kings – There are many views about these ten kings (see notes on Revelation 17). Some spiritualize these ten kings and say that they refer to the many kings of the Roman empire in history. However, we should take this dream within the context of Daniel. In Daniel 2, the king had a dream of a statue. The statue had ten toes, just like this beast has ten horns. The rock representing the eternal kingdom of God smashed the toes. So Jesus’ kingdom will directly conquer this kingdom. That kingdom and Jesus’ return are still in the future. Therefore it stands to reason that the ten kings here in Daniel 7 are also still future to us. They will reign over the world in the last days before Christ’s return.

At that time another king will arise, different from them. He will put down three of these ten kings and take dominion for himself. The antichrist will blaspheme the Most High, war against His saints, and even attempt to change time and the law. Notice that time, times, and half a time are given into his hands. That equates to three and a half years, the latter half of the seven-year tribulation period.

Finally, this ruler will be punished. And the true saints of God will partake of His perfect, everlasting kingdom.

Scholars do not agree on every detail of eschatology. Some aspects can be hard to understand. But the key point remains. God wins. Everyone on His team wins. His kingdom lasts forever.

4. Daniel was disturbed by what he saw and heard – God revealed very solemn and weighty events to Daniel. For Daniel’s part, he was not apathetic. He cared greatly about the world and what he saw of it through this dream. The Lord clearly held Daniel in high regard to entrust him with these spectacular prophecies.

Amos 3:7 – For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.

We are blessed that the Alpha and Omega tells us what is to come. He tells us so that we will be ready. Satan attempts to deceive people by promising unending pleasure to those who follow their lusts. God’s message is clear. Everything in this world will end. Only His kingdom lasts forever.

Application – Do not be seduced by the short-term pleasures the world offers. Have a long-term perspective.

Comment – What are your thoughts? Share a comment about what you learned from this Bible study on Daniel 7 below.

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