So that we do not become confused, we will discuss Daniel’s dream in several portions. Today we will read verses two through eight of Daniel chapter seven. “Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it.  And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’  After this, I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it.  After this, I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.  I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.” (ESV)

There is a lot of information in these seven verses and we need to walk carefully through each verse. It is important to do this methodically as Daniel chapter seven is perhaps the most prophetic chapter of the whole book. Miss something or interpret it incorrectly and our whole structure concerning what will occur at the end of this world as we know it will be skewered. God’s message through Daniel gives us a clear understanding of who and what to expect. The book identifies the characters of the past and of the future. While God does not give us all the answers, the roadmap He does provide is enough for us to know the characters in play.

In verse two Daniel says he sees the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea. This should be seen as symbolic language. Let us look at each description separately.

 

The four winds of heaven

Some interpret the four winds to mean the four compass points of north, east, south, and west. This may be true in that winds coming from all directions would have a global effect. Scripture often mentions wind in relation to God’s providential acts (cf. Jeremiah 23:19; 49:36; 51:16; Zechariah 6:1-6; 7:14; Revelation 7:1-3). These acts are associated with the results upon human beings, particularly, the nations associated with these humans. Here is where we should note that nothing occurs without God’s purpose and will. Notice what the four winds are doing. They are stirring up the sea. So, the language of these four winds correctly interpreted means that it is God who directs the forces of these winds so that the nations that are spoken about, i.e. the four kingdoms or beasts, are set in motion.

The great sea

In the view of the Scripture passage and the subsequent powers who came to become world powers, many interpret the great sea to be the Mediterranean. A word of caution is required here. While the view may appear to be centered on the Mediterranean this is no ordinary storm that the four winds stir. Indeed, when we get to discuss the fourth beast and what will finally come out of it, which is futuristic, one could argue we are referencing global activity of this beast as we term global today. Nevertheless, the center of attention about what comes out of this fourth beast does involve the area of the Mediterranean in the future. While the first three kingdoms/beasts affected the “global” population, we must remember this was in the context of what was considered the known world at that time. Clearly, the fourth kingdom/beast, and what eventually is produced, will affect the entire globe as we know it today. The word “sea” very often refers to nations and its peoples. We can see a clear indication of this in Isaiah 17:12-23 and 57:20. So, when we read of the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, we can be confident this refers to God’s providential actions among the Gentile nations. This merely is giving us the background as to how these kingdoms/beasts arise and by what authority they are allowed to come into being in the first place.