I'd just like to take a moment and go back over what we've learned so far. We have several Old Testament prophecies that coincide with the same timeline of events: Daniel Chapters 2, 7, and 8. The imagery in Daniel Chapter 7 ties into the imagery in Revelation Chapter 13, so that we can see that the beast in Revelation 13 is really a conglomeration of the same beasts that were referred to back in Daniel 7. In Daniel's time, he was looking forward, and saw each event as a separate and new thing, but John was looking backward in time at events that have already passed and saw those beasts all mashed into one. I have already talked about Daniel 2, and may talk more about Daniel 8 in a later post. For now, I want to focus on the link between Daniel Chapter 7 and Revelation Chapter 13.
In Revelation 13:1, John describes a beast that comes out of the sea, having seven heads and 10 horns, resembling a leopard, with the mouth of a lion and the feet of a beast. When you look at the graphic below, you can see that all of this has been addressed from Daniel chapter 7. The first beast he saw was a lion, the second a bear, the third a four-headed leopard, and the last a non-descript beast with ten horns. If you do the math, that's seven heads and 10 horns right there. It's not a scary beast. It's a timeline of events that, by John's time, had passed, with the final non-descript beast taking place right then.
As we have worked through this timeline, we've learned more, and rather than go back and update what we've already done, we'll go more in depth with things here in the summary.
The first beast mentioned in Daniel 7 is a lion. The lion has eagle's wings. Most of us are already familiar with the lion being "the king of the jungle." A lion is viewed with majesty, a king. What not many people know is that in mythology, the eagle is associated with the Sun God. To put these two together, you can see how Nebuchadnezzar viewed himself, as both a king and the Sun God. However, as Daniel watches, the wings get plucked from the lion, and he stands up on two legs like a man, and is given the mind or heart (depending on which variation of the Bible you are reading - we have been quoting from the New International Version) of a man. If you read Nebuchadnezzar's story in Daniel Chapter 4, you see that he has a dream about an enormous tree, abundant in fruit, and providing food and shelter for all the animals and birds, and that a messenger from heaven comes down proclaiming that the tree should be cut down, leaving the stump, and driving all the animals away from it. When Daniel is called to interpret, he says that the great tree represents Nebuchadnezzar himself, and it's not his enemies that want to tear it down, it's God Himself, and that he will be driven out with the animals for seven years, and will eat grass like the ox, until he decides to worship and praise God, unless he decides to turn away from his sinful ways. A year later, as Nebuchadnezzar was strolling through his palace and looking out over his kingdom, he praised himself for how well everything was going, and it was in that moment that God caused him to go a bit crazy, leave the palace, and go out with the wild animals, where he wandered on his hands and knees, eating grass, for seven years, until his mind suddenly returned to him and he realized that God had kept his word, and He was truly worthy of praise and wonder. He no longer considered himself a god, he had the heart and mind of a man who loves God. It wasn't Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom that God had found fault with. It was the fact that Nebuchadnezzar was taking all the credit for himself when it was God who had given him all of this. You'll notice that the beast in Revelation 13 is given the mouth of a lion. This is because it refers to the pompous words spoken by Nebuchadnezzar. This beast gives itself all the glory.
Just like any man, Nebuchadnezzar would one day die and his son would take the throne. Ancient Babylonian records indicate that the king at the time was Nabonidus, Nebuchadnezzar's son. Belshazzar was Nabonidus' eldest son, and ruled Babylon while his father was away. Daniel 5 calls Belshazzar Nebuchadnezzar's son, but he is actually his grandson. Belshazzar had not been humbled by God, and he was very full of himself. He knew that the Persians were coming to attack, but he knew how well Babylon was defended and he wasn't afraid. He decided to throw a huge party to prove to the citizens of Babylon that there was nothing to be afraid of. Daniel had predicted the downfall of Babylon many years before, actually several times, starting with the dream Nebuchadnezzar had about the statue, and the lion that is succeeded by a bear. In Daniel Chapter 5, he talks about the downfall of Babylon. (Please keep in mind that the book of Daniel is not recorded in chronological order, just as the Bible is also not put together in chronological order.) At this party that Belshazzar is throwing, he has goblets and plates brought from the holy temple, and uses them for drinking wine with his concubines. A disembodied hand appears and writes a message on the wall. Belshazzar sees this and goes very pale. He sends for the wise men to come interpret what is written, but none can read it. Belshazzar's wife tells him to send for Daniel, who is still alive at this time, and offers to make him third highest in the realm (because he himself was only second in command, with his father holding the rank of king), and Daniel comes in to tell him the meaning, that God has found him wanting, that his days have been numbered, and that the kingdom is to be given to the Medes and Persians, and that very night, the Medes and Persians snuck into the walls of the city by the only route not guarded, the river, and took it easily, killing Belshazzar. Darius the Mede was now in control. In throwing that party and showing no concern, the people of Babylon failed to notice that the Euphrates River had suddenly gone dry. Darius had dammed it further up-river, so that no more water would flow in. Babylon was a virtually impenetrable fortress, with huge walls, a moat, and the River Euphrates running through its center. With the river no longer flowing, sneaking in under the walls through the river bed was easy. No one was prepared to guard the city from within and taking the city was a cakewalk for the invading army. Babylon was now under new leadership.
In Daniel Chapter 8, we see the Medes and Persians symbolized as a ram with two horns, one of which was bigger than the other, because Persia was so much stronger than Media. In Daniel Chapter 7, we see them referred to as a bear, raised up on one side, with three ribs in its mouth, being told to rise up and go eat its fill of flesh. This bear has a voracious appetite and the three ribs are generally thought to represent Lydia, Babylon, and Egypt, because those are three major nations it conquered. In Revelation 13, we are told that the seven-headed beast has the feet of a bear. When you think of how a bear uses its feet, you might think about how they stand up on their hind legs and can slap another predator down, or you might think about its claws that can leave huge rents in the bark of a tree when it sharpens them. Bear feet are pretty powerful. Not something you want to come up against.
The Medes and the Persians were once nomadic tribes in Central Asia that eventually joined forces to take over the land. The first ruler of this joint venture was a Mede, but after that, it came under Persian rule and stayed that way. As the Medes and Persians conquered nations, they would leave the kings of those lands in charge, establishing what was known as a satrap, meaning that the original king of that nation is now a subordinate to the Median/Persian king. The king of Lydia, Croesus, was not happy about this arrangement. He did not want to be subordinate to anyone else, and he formed an alliance with Egypt, Babylon, and the Spartans who were trying to save the Greek city-states in the region, and went up against the Persians and was defeated, destroying his own lands in the process. When the Medes and Persians conquered Babylon in 539 B.C., Cyrus was the current king, and he allowed the Jews to return to their homeland with the items that had been stolen from their temples by the Babylonians. The Jews loved Cyrus for this, calling him the Lord's anointed. We are told in the Bible that Belshazzar was killed, and that the kingdom was given to Darius the Mede. Cyrus was the king of Persia, but Darius was the general who took Babylon by force that night. Daniel survived the taking of the city and found favor with the new leaders, which I'm sure is why the stolen items were returned to the Jews. Cyrus was eventually killed and his son Cambyses II became king. It was he who invaded Egypt. The Egyptians did not like him. The process of taking over the country involved a great deal of human misery, and in attempting to act as pharaoh, he offended the priests at the temple. He died around 522 B.C. and another Darius, a prince and governor of Parthia, seized control of the empire. Under his rule, he established laws that punished lying and injuring others. These laws were designed to keep the strong for destroying the weak. People were put to death for crimes against the royal family, and otherwise mutilated for lesser crimes. He did many good things in the empire, including building a system of roads and standardizing weights and measures and digging the first Suez Canal from the Nile to the Gulf of Suez for irrigation purposes. However, the Egyptians were taxed heavily under Darius and they liked him even less than Cambyses. In 486 B.C., the Egyptians revolted and Darius was killed. The son of Darius, Xerxes, became the new king and he was even harder on the Egyptians than Darius had been. He appointed Persian satraps to be in charge of each region, so it was no longer ruled by a native king. He also destroyed the Babylonian temples and melted down their solid gold statue of Marduk, a Mesopotamian god, and the patron deity of Babylon. I believe it was this statue that, as recorded in Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar had insisted that all bow down to, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused and were thrown into the fiery furnace. When their fortifications were destroyed and their statue removed and melted down, the name of Babylon was banned and the Babylonians from that point forward were referred to as the Chaldeans.
The Persians continued their efforts of world domination under Xerxes, and when he died from assassination, his son Artaxerxes took over, after killing all of his siblings. Artaxerxes ruled another 40 years, and after that, it seems to have passed down from ruler to ruler, often through intrigue and assassination, etc. The Persians were able to take many of the Greek city-states in Asia, but they were never quite able to take Greece itself. Greece was able to turn them back. Eventually, around 386 B.C., Egypt was able to free themselves from Persian rule, but this time was one of constant fighting for domination, and in 343 B.C., Persia was once again able to regain control of Egypt.
In 338 B.C., King Philip of Macedonia joined in the fighting, leading a campaign to liberate the Greek city-states in Asia. He was assassinated in the process, and his son Alexander blamed it on the king of Persia, Darius III, and in 334 B.C., crossed the Hellespont, determined to go after him. The Phoenician cities surrendered to Alexander and the Greeks, except Tyre, which fell after a 7-month siege, and he was welcomed gladly into Egypt, who were sick of Persian rule. There, he was treated as a god. Darius III tried to offer Alexander half the empire, but Alexander refused. He continued chasing Darius and when they met again on the battlefield, Darius fled, abandoning his army. In 331 B.C., Alexander entered Babylon and ordered the temple be rebuilt. The capital at Susa surrendered, where a vast fortune of Persian treasure was stored. Alexander began training the Persians with his military techniques, and he overtook Persepolis, where more treasure was stored, and then headed to Bactria, where the viceroy had imprisoned Darius. By 330 B.C., Darius was dead and Alexander was the new ruler of the empire.
Remember that in Daniel Chapter 8, Greece was represented as a powerful he-goat with a notable horn on its forehead. The goat was moving so fast its feet didn't even touch the ground. He came at the ram in a great rage and shattered the ram's two horns and trampled the ram. None could save the ram from its fate. In fact, Alexander DID come after Darius in a rage, because he was certain Darius had killed his father. Daniel was alive to see the Persians take over Babylon, but there was no way for him to see this prediction of his come true. The prediction goes on to say that at the height of its power, the large horn broke off and four new ones grew up in its place. We see a similar prediction in Daniel 7, with the four-headed leopard, with four wings that denote the speed of its conquest. In this case, the four heads have the same meaning as the four horns that grew up after the notable horn broke off. It represented the four generals that would take over control of the empire after Alexander's death.
Alexander married the daughter of Darius III and insisted that 10,000 of his men also marry Persian women, hoping to breed himself a bigger army. He was very interested in combining the cultures of Macedonia, Greece, and Persia, and even adopting Persian customs. He continued his conquests of Asia all the way up to the border of India, where his men refused to go any further. They wanted to be done fighting and to return home. Alexander returned to Babylon, and not long after, became gravely ill and died. His wife was pregnant, but there was no way to determine whether she would have a boy, and he had no other heir. His generals and other major Greek and Macedonian political figures began a long, arduous battle to become the new leader in charge of the empire. This was a tumultuous time of murder, betrayal, and civil war. His wife did end up giving birth to a son who she named Alexander, but the child was half Bactrian, not as ideal a candidate for the Macedonian throne as some of the other potentials who were putting themselves forward as the next ruler. Ptolemy, one of Alexander's personal bodyguard, and there were rumors, that he was the illegitimate son of Philip II, which would make him Alexander's half-brother if true, had seized control of Egypt and Alexander's corpse early on, but the rest of the empire took time to be divided out as wars and battles raged on for another 20 years. By the end of this time, four leaders were still alive and had taken land and crowned themselves kings of those regions. Cassander, who was thought to have sent the poison that killed Alexander, and who had killed off all of Alexander's remaining relatives who could have been possible successors by blood, including an illegitimate child that Alexander had never acknowledged, Alexander's mother, and his legitimate son who was around 11 at the time of his murder, took control of Macedonia. Lysimachus, who had been one of Alexander's trusted bodyguards, was awarded the province of Thrace, which is just northeast of Macedonia, in the region of the Hellespont, the bridge between Macedonia and Asia Minor. He mostly stayed out of the wars that followed Alexander's death, but eventually fought against Antigonus, one of the major players in the succession wars, for more land. Seleucus, one of the commanders of the Silver Shields, Alexander's most elite group of fighters, took over most of Persia. It was Seleucus who gained control of Babylon.
In Revelation 13, the beast has the appearance of a leopard. You might think of speed when you think of leopards, because their coloring is so similar to that of the cheetah, but in fact, leopards are known for their stealth. They tend to hide in trees when stalking their prey, and prefer to live alone. Leopards are very smart and opportunistic hunters. They don't like to expend a lot of energy in a high-speed chase, they wait until their prey is close before they pounce. So we see a beast that looks like a leopard, so you want to think stealthy and smart, with the feet/legs of a bear, with lots of power behind them, easily maiming or killing an opponent, and the mouth of a lion, praising itself very highly (and loudly).
The last beast is a terrible one. It has iron teeth and bronze claws and basically tramples everything in its path. We don't actually know how long ago the town of Rome was founded, but they started taking over the Italian peninsula around 509 BC when they drove the Etruscans out. In 387 BC, they were nearly destroyed when the Gauls came streaming out of the Alps and nearly burned Rome to the ground. The Gauls were Celtic warriors, nomads, and very fierce. They had the habit of nailing their enemies heads above their doorways as decoration, and cutting their newborn baby boys so they would be born knowing pain. The Gauls were like something the Romans had never seen, wild, fighting naked, singing battle songs as they fought... It was unnerving, to say the least. When the Gauls arrived at the city of Rome, the Romans had already heard they were coming, and everyone had moved up to the fortress on Capitoline Hill for safety, except for a group of older men, the patricians, the elder statesmen of the city. They were too proud to run and hide, and they donned their majestic purple-hemmed robes and sat in a courtyard in their ivory-lined chairs to wait. As the Gauls came into the city, it was eerily quiet, the houses and streets all empty. It was their turn to be unnerved. When they rounded a corner and saw the old men seated there in their robes and long beards, unmoving, they almost looked like statues. One of the barbarians reached out and touched the beard of an elder, who promptly took his staff and whacked the barbarian over the head. That prompted the Gauls to turn around and slaughter them all in their chairs and the war was back on. The Gauls laid siege on Capitoline Hill. The siege lasted seven months. By that point, both sides were tired of fighting, and it was decided that the Romans would give the Celts 1,000 pounds of gold to get them to leave. The Celts left behind a city who was determined never to be humiliated that way again. It is quite possible that the Romans learned from the violent behaviors of the Celts and incorporated them into their own military strategies as they began their own conquest for expansion.
History has shown that it can be very difficult for one ruler to hold vast amounts of land. Uprisings occur from countries wanting to maintain their own nationality and culture. The Romans addressed this by allowing for dual citizenship for regions close to Rome, so a person could not only still belong to their own country but also be a Roman citizen, or further away, granting certain Roman rights and privileges. They left the rulers in charge of their respective regions, and all governments stayed intact. All the Romans asked was for men to be soldiers in their military, and so to establish military settlements in each region. They began a project of building high-quality roads to get soldiers and supplies to areas quickly. Any rebellion was met with a quick and harsh response, thus keeping the peace in the empire. By the middle of the third century BC, Rome had conquered all of the Italian peninsula and set its sights on the Greek city-states to the south. This was the beginning of three Punic Wars that were fought between 264 and 146 BC. Rome built a navy and fought against Carthage, ultimately becoming the most powerful force in the Mediterranean.
At the same time as the second Punic War, the Macedonian Wars began between Rome and the Macedonian kingdoms, initially under the leadership of King Philip V, a descendant of Antigonus I, who, you might remember, was a major player in the effort to take over the empire when Alexander was killed. The third Macedonian War ended with Rome overthrowing Macedonia, killing King Perseus (son of Philip V), thus bringing to an end the empire that Alexander the Great had begun.
Rome was a different kind of beast. You can see below that it spanned a time period of nearly 500 years. The others were lucky to come close to ruling for 200 years. Part of Rome's success was due to the quick and severe punishment it bestowed upon any rebellion, but also because of the way they ruled. They did not have one central ruler. Rome was ruled by a Senate, and it allowed its conquered regions certain rights as long as they obeyed any direct orders and supplied men for the military. A lot of big things occurred during the time of Roman rule. Some very well-known people in history show up at this time. Julius Caesar, Augustus, Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, we've talked about Constantine, and of course Jesus lived during this time.
The beast mentioned in Daniel 7 has iron teeth and bronze claws. Rome has been referred to as a political machine. It says that this beast is a fourth kingdom that would arise and devour the whole earth, trampling it. Rome has had global influence on government, and, you will see, also on religion. We will be talking about that as we move into the next section.
1 In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. 2 So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, 3 he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means. ” 4 Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” 5 The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. 6 But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.” 7 Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” 8 Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: 9 If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” 10 The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. 11 What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.” 12 This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death. 14 When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. 15 He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. 16 At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him. 17 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. 21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. 22 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. 23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”
Daniel Interprets the Dream
24 Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.” 25 Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.” 26 The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” 27 Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, 28 but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these: 29 “As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. 30 As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind. 31 “Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. 32 The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. 34 While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. 36 “This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. 37 Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; 38 in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. 39 “After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. 40 Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. 41 Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. 42 As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay. 44 “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. 45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.” 46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” 48 Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.
The Image of Gold and the Blazing Furnace
1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it. 4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 8 At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.” 13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” 26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. 28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of a Tree
1 King Nebuchadnezzar, To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth: May you prosper greatly! 2 It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. 3 How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. 4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. 5 I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. 6 So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. 7 When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. 8 Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.) 9 I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. 10 These are the visions I saw while lying in bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. 11 The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. 12 Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed. 13 “In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven. 14 He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. “ ‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him. 17 “ ‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’ 18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
Daniel Interprets the Dream
19 Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! 20 The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, 21 with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds— 22 Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth. 23 “Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’ 24 “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: 25 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. 26 The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”
The Dream Is Fulfilled
28 All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. 32 You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” 33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. 34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” 36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
The Writing on the Wall
1 King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. 2 While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. 3 So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. 4 As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. 5 Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. 6 His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking. 7 The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. 9 So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled. 10 The queen, hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. “May the king live forever!” she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! 11 There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. 12 He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.” 13 So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? 14 I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. 15 The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. 16 Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” 17 Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means. 18 “Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. 19 Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. 20 But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. 21 He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes. 22 “But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. 24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription. 25 “This is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN 26 “Here is what these words mean: Mene : God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. 27 Tekel : You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. 28 Peres : Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” 29 Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom. 30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, 31 and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.
Daniel’s Dream of Four Beasts
1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream. 2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. 4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it. 5 “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’ 6 “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule. 7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. 8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 9 “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. 11 “Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. 12 (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) 13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
The Interpretation of the Dream
15 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. 16 I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this. “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’ 19 “Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. 23 “He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time. 26 “ ‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. 27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’ 28 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”
Daniel’s Vision of a Ram and a Goat
1 In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. 2 In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. 3 I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. 4 I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great. 5 As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. 6 It came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at it in great rage. 7 I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power. 8 The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven. 9 Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. 11 It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the LORD; it took away the daily sacrifice from the LORD, and his sanctuary was thrown down. 12 Because of rebellion, the LORD’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the LORD’s people?” 14 He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.”
The Interpretation of the Vision
15 While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.”17 As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.” 18 While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet. 19 He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. 22 The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power. 23 “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. 25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. 26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”27 I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.
The Beast out of the Sea
1 The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” 5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear. 10 “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.”This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.
The Beast out of the Earth
11 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. 14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. 18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.