Today Daniel has two visions; then he interprets a message from the Lord to King Belshazzar.
In the first vision, Daniel sees four beasts representing four world empires: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Daniel says the fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, is different from the others – “It was different from all the beasts that were before it, 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.”
Then Daniel gazes into the heavenly realm, and he sees the Lord’s throne and the Lord Himself; and there is an encounter between the Lord and the beast – “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. As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.”
“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, 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.”
This vision greatly troubles Daniel. Per the ESV Study Bible, “The beasts in general show the present world order as an ongoing state of violence and lust for power that will continue until the final coming of God’s kingdom. The fourth beast will be different from those before it in power and in duration… As for the ‘little’ horn who made war with the saints and prevailed over them and who shall wear out the saints, many take this to represent the Antichrist, whom they expect in the end times. Other interpreters think there is not enough precise data to identify the little horn. It is clear, however, that this king will blaspheme against God, oppress the saints, and try to abolish the calendar and the law which govern how God’s people worship. The saints will be handed over into his power for a time, times, and a half – totaling three and a half times, or half of a total period of seven times of judgment… The central point of the vision is that the time when the beastly kingdoms of the earth will oppress the saints is limited by God, and beyond it lies the scene of the heavenly court, where the beasts will finally be tamed and destroyed (cf. Rev. 20:1-4, 10).”
Daniel has another vision of a ram with two horns representing the kings of Medo-Persia, and a male goat with a notable horn representing the kingdom of Greece and Alexander the Great who will conquer the Persian empire, – “And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece. The large horn that is between its eyes is the first king. As for the broken horn and the four that stood up in its place, four kingdoms shall arise out of that nation, but not with its power.”
Alexander the Great will conquer and rule the Persian Empire from 334-331 B.C. After his death, his empire will divide among his four generals: Cassander will rule over Greece and its region, Lysimachus will rule over Asia Minor, Selecus will rule over Syria and Israel, and Ptolemy will rule over Egypt.
Then Daniel saw a little horn grow out of one of the four horns which represented the four generals. Most scholars believe this little horn is the eighth ruler of the Seleucid dynasty, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who will rule over Syria and Israel. Antiochus will persecute the people of the Lord, blaspheme God, command idolatrous worship of himself, end sacrifices at the temple, and desecrate the temple. However, Antiochus will only reign for a limited time before he is judged by the Lord and the temple is restored.
We end the reading with King Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon, having a lavish drunken feast where they are praising their false gods while consuming wine from vessels that were taken from the house of the Lord. This displeases the Lord, so He writes Belshazzar a message on the wall. Daniel interprets the message for him, saying that because of Belshazzar’s pride and dishonor of the Lord, his kingdom will be divided and given to the Medes and the Persians – “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.”
Tomorrow Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den, and King Cyrus signs a decree allowing the exiles to return to Jerusalem, bringing an end to the Captivity Era. Keep reading. (Daniel 7:1-8:27, Daniel 5:1-31)