Daniel 7

Daniel 7
Daniel's vision of the four beasts - Woodcut by Hans Holbein the Younger

Daniel 7 is the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible. It is the last chapter written in Aramaic before it continues again in the Hebraic Masoretic text of the next chapter. This chapter begins the first series of apocalyptic visions that Daniel receives and is given cryptic interpretations for a portion of them.

The chapter includes visions that Daniel receives of four beasts coming out of the sea, as well as a vision of "one like the Son of Man" coming up to the Ancient of Days. Some interpretation of these visions is given to Daniel, but no beast is clearly identified with any specific kingdom. However, some Christian theologians since the second century have connected the eagle winged lion with Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonia, a matter still open to considerable debate. One traditional interpretation of these four beasts is that, in order from first to last, they are Neo-Babylonian Empire, followed by Achaemenid Empire (which was made up of Medes and Persia, with one being stronger than the other), then the Macedonian Empire and the Roman Empire.

Medieval Christian writers, especially in Apocalyptic accounts, often identified the beasts with later empires, closer to their own times, believing that Daniel's prophecy had yet to be fulfilled; the rapid rise of the Islamic Caliphate in and around traditionally Christian lands made its identification with the last beast attractive.


Literary structure

Arthur Ferch points out that the vision forms a chiasm:[1]

A. First 3 beasts (4-6)
B. Fourth beast (7)
C. Little horn (8)
D. The Judgment (9, 10)
C'. Little horn (11a)
B'. Fourth beast (11b)
A'. First 3 beasts (12)


Engraving by Matthäus Merian of Daniel's vision of the four beasts, 1630. Each beast is labelled with the empire represented: Assyria, Persia, Greece and Rome.

Daniel's first vision [2] is that of four beasts and he asks for an interpretation of them. He is told that the four beasts represent Four monarchies to appear on Earth. Unlike Chapter 2, only the latter half of this vision, beginning with the fourth beast, is given a textual interpretation.

Beast like a lion

The first beast is like a lion with eagle’s wings, in which they are torn off. It is then standing on two feet and given a man’s heart.

Beast like a bear

The second beast is like a bear, raised up on one side, and has three ribs in its teeth. He is told to gorge himself on flesh.

Beast like a leopard

The third Beast is like a leopard with four wings and four heads is given authority to rule.

Fourth beast

The fourth beast is a terrifying, powerful beast, unlike any other, crushes and devours the whole earth with its iron teeth—trampling it down.


7 After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beastterrifying 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.

Textual interpretation
23 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.