Daniel 7:1-28 Part II
In the previous study we examined the identity of the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. We will now examine the interpretation of Daniel's vision as given him by the angelic mediator (7:16). However, as with the preceding lesson, instead of engaging in a verse by verse analysis, we will focus on three crucial issues.
Before doing so, a brief review is in order. According to Dan. 7:7b-8, the fourth beast, respresentative of Rome, had 10 horns, among which there emerged an 11th, called 'a little horn. In our discussion of the significance of the 10 horns we took note of the three most frequently suggested interpretations. To these I now want to add a fourth. They are:
(1) The 10 horns are symbolic of precisely 10 actual kings or kingdoms that will appear at the end of history (usually identified with the 'ten-nation confederacy of Rev. 17:12-18). This is the dispensational interpretation.
(2) Another view is that the number 10 is not to be pressed, as if neither 9 nor 11 kings/kingdoms could fulfill the prophecy. The 10 horns simply portray the emergence from the Roman empire of a multiplicity of kings or kingdoms, i.e., any and all of the pagan empires that arose subsequent to the fall of Rome. This is the view presented by Desmond Ford in his commentary on Daniel.
(3) E. J. Young suggests that the number 10 simply indicates a multiplicity of rulers, an indefinitely large number of kings, a comprehensive and definite totality. The emergence of 10 horns from the beast indicates the diversification and extension of the power of the beast into all the world. The beast is ever present in its horns precisely because the horns are the beast in multiple and widespread manifestation (this latter point differs somewhat from Young's view). They symbolize the diffusion, diversification, and universal dominion of the beast's reign. Thus any and all actual historical empires that have and do embody the evil and Satanic characteristics of the beast constitute the 10 horns. Says Fairbairn,
'When, therefore, the divided state into which the modern Roman world fell, is represented under ten horns or kingdoms, it may well be doubted whether this should be pressed farther than as indicating, by a round number, the totality of the new states the diversity in the unity whether or not it might admit of being exactly and definitely applied to so many historical kingdoms (431).
(4) Another view, taken from Alan Johnson's commentary on Revelation and his explanation of the imagery found in Rev. 12:3; 13:1; 17:3,7-13, is similar to that of the previous two interpretations in that the number 10 need not be taken with arithmetical precision. 'Ten, says Johnson, 'symbolizes a repeated number of times or an indefinite number. It is perhaps another number like seven, indicating fullness (Neh. 4:12; Dan. 1:12; Rev. 2:10). Thus the number should not be understood as referring specifically to ten kings (kingdoms) but as indicating the multiplicity of sovereignties in confederacy that enhance the power of the beast (561). Johnson then goes on to identify the 10 with 'the principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms that Paul describes as the true enemies of Jesus' followers (Eph. 6:12). To be sure, they use earthly instruments, but their reality is far greater than any specific historical equivalents. These 'kings' embody the fullness of Satan's attack against the Lamb in the great eschatological showdown. They are the 'kings from the east' (16:12-14,16), and they are also the 'kings of the earth' who ally themselves with the beast in the final confrontation with the Lamb (19:19-21) (562).
One can only conclude that any tendency to dogmatize on the interpretation of the 10 horns must be resisted. We simply do not know to what or to whom they refer. Perhaps Daniel and John intended it that way. The same may be said for the 3 horns which are uprooted in consequence of the emergence of the little horn (Dan. 7:8,20,24). Those who identify the 'little horn with Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian ruler who persecuted the Jews in the 2nd century b.c., are quick to identify the 3 horns (or kings/kingdoms) as 'Demetrius, whom Antiochus IV replaced because of his absence in Rome . . ., another Antiochus, son of Antiochus III, and Heliodorus who, though not of the royal line, was a scheming aspirant to the throne (Anderson, 81; cf. also J. J. Collins, 80-81). The problem with identifying the little horn as Antiochus Epiphanes is that it would demand identifying the fourth beast as Greece and not Rome. In other words, the 4 beasts would then be Babylon, Media, Medo-Persia, and Greece, out of the last of which the 'little horn or Antiochus emerges. This view of the four kingdoms, however, though not impossible, is unlikely (see Addendum).
Those who argue for a revived, end-of-the-age, Roman empire in which precisely 10 literal kings will rule, similarly insist that the uprooting here noted is an actual historical event involving precisely 3 literal kings whom the antichrist ('little horn) will depose. Others prefer not to speculate on the issue while still others see in this imagery a symbolic description of dissension, i.e., a reference to disunity and internecine conflict throughout the entire reign of the beast.
We may now turn to the three primary issues before us.
First, what is the relation of the Messianic kingdom to that of the fourth beast and the little horn?
In Daniel 2 we are told of the advent of the kingdom of God, symbolized by a stone cut out without hands, that crushes and eventually replaces the anti-God pagan empires of this world (2:34-35). In 2:44 reference is again made to the Messianic kingdom of God being set up, never to be destroyed. When did this occur, or when shall it occur, and what form did/will it assume? The emergence of this kingdom is again described in 7:13-14 (esp. v. 14). We are told in the interpretation of the vision which follows (7:15-28) that, although the fourth pagan beast (empire, king/kingdom) will oppress and persecute the Messianic people (7:21), the ultimate vindication of the saints and their dominion in the Messianic kingdom is assured (7:22). Again we read that notwithstanding the persecuting power of the beast, which shall continue for 'a time, times, and half a time, the kingdom of God will overpower and destroy it and eternal and universal dominion will be given to the saints of the Most High (7:26-27).
The fundamental question then becomes: when and in what form does the Messianic kingdom come and destroy the kingdom of the beast? When and in what form do the people of God receive dominion? The answer is found in the present fulfillment of the kingdom of God in the first coming of Jesus and the future consummation of the kingdom of God in the second coming of Jesus. If we are to grasp this truth, we must be familiar with the kingdom of God in the ministry of Jesus: its present fulfillment and its future consummation.
Here is a summary overview of my understanding of the kingdom as it was revealed and fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus.
1. The focus of Christ's ministry was the announcement of the coming of the kingdom of God - Matthew 3:2; 4:17; 4:23; 10:7; Luke 4:43; 10:9; Matthew 24:14; see especially Mark 1:14-15.
2. Was Jesus offering to Israel the fulfillment of the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of an earthly Davidic throne and rule? I think not. What, then, did he offer?
3. The concept of the kingdom clearly in the mind of the OT Jew was that of God's visible conquest of His enemies, the restoration of His people, Israel, to supremacy in the land, and the fulfillment of the promises of a Davidic throne and rule upon the earth in power and glory. That this kind of a kingdom was expected by the average Israelite in the 1st c. is indisputable. It was surely what John the Baptist expected; thus his bewilderment concerning Jesus: Matthew 11:2-6.
N.B. - In his response to John's disciples, Jesus was claiming that the fulfillment of the OT hope with its attendant blessings was in fact present in his person and ministry. The fulfillment, however, was not taking place along expected lines, hence John's perplexity. The unexpected element was that fulfillment was taking place, but without the eschatological consummation. The OT prophetic hope of the coming Messianic kingdom of God as promised to Israel is being fulfilledin the person and ministry of Jesus, but not consummated. The Jews of our Lord's day, in keeping with what they saw in the OT, expected the consummation of the kingdom, the complete and final overthrow of Israel's political enemies and the ushering in of the age of blessed peace and prosperity in the land. Our Lord, however, came with the message that before the kingdom would come in its eschatological consummation it has come in his own person and work in spirit and power. The kingdom, therefore, is both the present spiritual reign of God and the future realm over which He will rule in power and glory. Ladd explains:
'This brings us to our central thesis: that before the eschatological appearing of God's Kingdom at the end of the age, God's Kingdom has become dynamically active among men in Jesus' person and mission. The Kingdom in this age is not merely the abstract concept of God's universal rule to which men must submit; it is rather a dynamic power at work among men. . . . Before the apocalyptic coming of God's Kingdom and the final manifestation of his rule to bring in the new age, God has manifested his rule, his Kingdom, to bring men in advance of the eschatological era the blessings of his redemptive reign. There is no philological or historical or exegetical reason why God's Kingdom, God's rule, cannot manifest itself in two different ways at two different times to accomplish the same ultimate redemptive end, (TPOTF, p. 139).
4. The present form of the kingdom manifested in Matthew 11:5 -
Christ's deeds (e.g., binding of Satan; 'The meaning of Jesus' exorcism of demons in its relationship to the Kingdom of God is precisely this: that before the eschatological conquest of God's Kingdom over evil and the destruction of Satan, the Kingdom of God has invaded the realm of Satan to deal him a preliminary but decisive defeat, [Ladd, 151]. Cf. Luke 10:18; Mt. 12:22-37).
Christ's words ('The word which Jesus proclaimed itself brought to pass that which it proclaimed: release for captives, recovery for the blind, freeing of the oppressed. . . . The message creates the new era . . ., it makes possible the signs of the messianic fulfillment. The word brings about the Kingdom of God. The gospel is itself the greatest of the messianic signs, .)
5. Central thesis - 'is that the Kingdom of God is the redemptive reign of God dynamically active to establish his rule among men, and that this Kingdom, which will appear as an apocalyptic act at the end of the age, has already come into human history in the person and mission of Jesus to overcome evil, to deliver men from its power, and to bring them into the blessings of God's reign. The Kingdom of God involves two great moments: fulfillment within history, and consummation at the end of history (218).
6. This thesis is illustrated by the parables. Consider Mark 4:26-32.
"His [Christ's] mission was to bring to men the fulfillment of the messianic salvation, while the apocalyptic consummation remained in the future. Such an event was unheard of. Precisely here was to be found the predicament of Jesus' hearers: how could this be the supernatural Kingdom of God? Jesus made no display of apocalyptic glory. He refused to act as a conquering Davidic king, supernaturally endowed to crush Israel's enemies. How could the Kingdom be present in one whose only weapon was his word, whose only victory was over demons and Satan and sickness?
The unexpected presence of the supernatural Kingdom is the central message of the parable in its historical setting. The Kingdom of God which will one day bring an apocalyptic harvest is present; but it is like a seed rather than the harvest. Yet the seed is related to the harvest; and the life of the seed is itself the act of God -- supernatural. While men sleep, the earth produces fruit automate. The supernatural act of God which will one day be disclosed in glory is active and at work in a new and unexpected form, in Jesus of Nazareth. In him is taking place a supernatural work of God" (TPOTF, p. 192).
7. This unexpected advent of the kingdom in its present form as God's redemptive reign is precisely the 'Mystery form of the kingdom as illustrated in the parables of Matthew 13. That God proposed to bring in His kingdom is, of course, no secret or mystery. That the kingdom was to come in power and glory was no secret. The 'Mystery is a new disclosure concerning God's purpose for the establishment of that kingdom; to be more specific, that the kingdom which is to come in the future in power and glory has, in point of fact, already entered into the world in advance in a hidden form to work secretly within and among men:
'. . . the 'mystery of the kingdom' is the key to the understanding of the unique element in Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom. He announced that the Kingdom of God had come near; in fact, he affirmed that it had actually come upon men (Mt. 12:28). It was present in his word and in his messianic works. It was present in his person; it was present as the messianic salvation. It constituted a fulfillment of the OT expectation. Yet the coming and presence of the Kingdom was not self-explanatory and altogether self-evident. There was something about it which could be understood only by revelation. This meant that while the presence of the Kingdom was a fulfillment of the OT expectation, it was a fulfillment in different terms from those which one might expect from the prophets. Before the end of the age and the coming of the Kingdom in glorious power, it was God's purpose that the powers of that eschatological Kingdom should enter into human history to accomplish a defeat of Satan's kingdom, and to set at work the dynamic power of God's redemptive reign among men [cf. II Cor. 5:17]. This new manifestation of God's Kingdom was taking place on the level of human history and centered in one man---Jesus Christ (227-29).
8. George Ladd answers several important questions concerning the Kingdom of God in his book Crucial Questions About the Kingdom of God.
"Are we to conclude that because the Jews interpreted the 'kingdom of God' as the Davidic kingdom that Jesus' announcement that the kingdom of heaven was at hand meant that he was prepared to inaugurate the promised earthly Davidic kingdom of Israel, if Israel would accept him, their Messiah? On the answer to this question rests the so-called 'postponed kingdom' theory. It is very possible that our Lord offered the Jewish people something which they misunderstood and misinterpreted. In fact, their very misunderstanding may well have been the very reason why they did not accept him. He did not offer them the sort of kingdom they wanted. Had he offered them the earthly, Davidic kingdom, they would have accepted it; but that was not yet to be. Before the coming of the earthly phase of the kingdom, there must come another manifestation of the kingdom, in saving power. The cross must precede the crown. The clue to this interpretation is found in this fact: Jesus did not offer to the Jews the earthly kingdom any more than he offered himself to them as their glorious, earthly King. . . .
Jesus did not present himself to Israel as the Davidic king, as Israel interpreted that kingship. He was the King, indeed. Matthew makes this as clear as can be. But he came not on a throne of glory, but 'meek, riding upon an ass (Zech. 9:9).The coming of the Messiah was to be twofold. He was to come in meekness, in humility, to suffer and die; he was also to come in power and glory to judge and to reign. In the same way, God's kingdom was first to come to men in a spiritual sense, as the Saviour-King comes in meekness to suffer and die, defeating Satan and bringing into the sphere of God's kingdom a host of people who are redeemed from the kingdom of Satan and of sin; and subsequently it is to be manifested in power and glory as the King returns to judge and reign. We are under no more obligation to interpret Jesus' offer of the kingdom in light of the Jew's understanding of it than we are to interpret his messiahship in light of Jewish interpretation. It is the inspired record, not Jewish theology, that is our guide. . . .
It is difficult to see how Jesus could have offered to Israel the earthly Davidic kingdom without the glorious Davidic King who was to reign in that kingdom. The very fact that he did not come as the glorious King, but as the humble Savior, should be adequate evidence by itself to prove that his offer of the kingdom was not the outward, earthly kingdom, but one which corresponded to the form in which the King himself came to men" (113-117).
9. Jesus did not offer to Israel the earthly Davidic kingdom which was postponed because they rejected it. Nothing was postponed. The fulness of the promised kingdom, that is, the earthly reign of Christ in power and glory, was not offered to the Jews. It was not God's purpose that the kingdom in that sense should then come. Such is reserved for the consummation. It was God's purpose, on the other hand, to prepare for himself through the ministry and message of Jesus a people who submit themselves now to his sovereign and kingly reign. That is the kingdom Jesus offered and it was accepted! To those who received our Lord then, and also now, the kingdom is a present spiritual reality. The powers of the future kingdom have been realized in present experience.
'This reign of God, inaugurated by Christ, calls into being a new people. The Jewish people rejected this kingdom, and it was therefore taken from them, who by history, background, and religion ought to have been the 'sons of the kingdom' (Matt. 8:12), and was given to a people who would receive it and manifest the righteousness which the kingdom must require (Matt. 21:43). This is the Church, the body of those who have accepted the Christ and so submitted themselves to the reign of God, (CQATKOG, p. 131).
10. In summary:
'As the messiahship of Christ involved two phases, a coming in humility to suffer and die, and a coming in power and glory to reign, so the kingdom is to be manifested in two realms: the present realm of righteousness or salvation when men may accept or reject the kingdom, and the future realm when the powers of the kingdom shall be manifested in visible glory. The former was inaugurated in insignificant beginnings without outward display, and those who accept it are to live intermingled with those who reject it until the consummation. Then the kingdom will be disclosed in a mighty manifestation of power and glory. God's kingdom will come; and the ultimate state will witness the perfect realization of the will of God everywhere and forever, (131-32).
The point is that the establishment of the Messianic kingdom and the destruction of the pagan empires is not an instantaneous event. In his vision Daniel is alone concerned with the fact that God and His Christ will ultimately emerge victorious over the beast. The time and manner in which this occurs is not addressed by Daniel. In other words, Daniel is concerned with the goal or end and not the means and manner whereby it is achieved. Consequently, like so many of the OT prophets, Daniel did not differentiate between the first and second comings of King Jesus, nor did he perceive the manner or phases in which the Messianic kingdom would emerge corresponding to the nature of the two comings of Christ.
In sum, the answer to our first question as it is raised by Daniel 2 and 7 is this: the Messianic kingdom has been established and the saints of God now rule, and, the Messianic kingdom will be established and the saints of God will rule. It is the relationship between fulfillment in the present and consummation in the future.
Second, who or what is the 'little horn mentioned in Daniel 7:8,11,20,21,24,25? Is it/he identical with or different from the 'little horn of Daniel 8? It would appear that the 'little horn of Daniel 8 is assuredly Antiochus Epiphanes (175-64 b.c.). The 'little horn of Daniel 7, on the other hand, is probably the end-time 'antichrist. But we should probably not draw too rigid a distinction between them, insofar as 'antichrist may well assume more than one historical form.
* Antiochus Epiphanes (175-64 b.c.)
* Nero (64-68 a.d.)
* Roman general Titus (70 a.d.)
* Eschatological Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:1-10; 1 John 2:18-24; 4:1-6); Rev. 13,17
Third, what is the meaning of the phrase, 'a time, times, and half a time (7:25), seemingly the duration of the little horn's dominion over the people of God?
Is this a reference to some chronologically precise period of time, or is it a symbolic reference to any period of time, regardless of duration, in which certain characteristic features and events are prominent? One's answer to this question will largely depend on the interpretation given to Daniel 9:24-27 and the prophecy of the 70 weeks.
* Dispensational interpreters are uniform in declaring that the 70 weeks are weeks of years, hence 490 years. They believe that 69 of these weeks transpired between the time of Daniel and the crucifixion of Jesus. The 69th week, or remaining 7 years of the original 490, is yet future. This future 7 year period is designated the Great Tribulation in which the 'little horn or antichrist will hold sway. It is not until the middle of that 7 year period, however, that the 'little horn begins to persecute the people of God. In other words, he persecutes and oppresses them for 3 ½ years. Thus the dispensationalist says the 'time, times, and half a time of Dan. 7:25 = the last 3 ½ years of the Great Tribulation period.
* Non-dispensationalist interpreters do not believe that the 70th week or 7 year period of Dan. 9:24-27 is future. Many believe the 70th week terminated either with the crucifixion of Jesus or in 70 a.d. with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple (there are other theories to be noted in our study of Daniel 9). Others argue that the present church age = the 70th week of Daniel, or possibly = the latter and concluding half of the 70th week. On this view, the period 'time, times, and half a time is a reference to the whole of this present era, spanning from the exaltation and ascension of Christ to his 2nd advent, during which time the beast oppresses and persecutes the people of God (others would restrict the 'time, times, and half a time to the conclusion of the beast's oppressive reign but without limiting the period to merely 3 ½ years).
We will thoroughly examine the subject of the 70 weeks in a future lesson. For now we must determine as best we can if the period in 7:25 is chronological or theological.
The first thing we observe is that the expression in 7:25 is not in terms of years, days, months, weeks or any such chronological measure. Rather, we read of a 'time, times, and half a time, by which we may take Daniel to mean 1 + 2 + ½ = 3 ½. But 3 ½ what? In Revelation there are several texts in which a similar if not identical designation is found:
Rev. 11:2 = 42 months = the period during which the nations will trample the holy city.
Rev. 11:3 = 1260 days (or 42 months of 30 days each) = the period during which the two witnesses will prophesy.
Rev. 12:6 = 1260 days = the period during which the 'woman is nourished by God in the wilderness.
Rev. 12:14 = a time, times, and half a time = the period during which the 'woman is nourished in the wilderness.
Rev. 13:5 = 42 months = the period during which the beast acts with authority and blasphemes.
(Note also Rev. 11:11 and the 3 ½ days, the period during which the two witnesses lie dead in the streets.)
One's understanding of these time references will depend on how one interprets the events prophesied to occur within each respective period. It is not my purpose to explain what the events in Rev. 11-15 are. Suffice it to say that in my view (which is always subject to change!) these designations (42 months = 1260 days = time, times, and half a time = 3 ½ years) all refer to the entire present age intervening between the two comings of Christ. In other words, they are but literary variations for the same period. I do not believe that either Daniel or John intended us to take these references as chronologically precise periods that may be specified on a calendar. Consider the following:
(1) E. J. Young writes: 'The purpose of the language seems to be to express both the duration and the intensity of the period during which the little horn will rule. It is first stated that there will be a time. In itself this word simply means a definite period, the precise length of which is not given. There is therefore no warrant for asserting that it means a year. Next comes mention of times which evidently signifies double the length of the preceding. We should then expect a doubling of this expression, namely four times, thus reaching a total of seven. Such however is not the case. Instead of an expression four times, we read merely of a half time. Since the precise length of these periods is not stated, it would seem as though a symbolical reference were intended. Thus, the little horn will hold sway for a time. His dominion will however increase in strength and intensity. This is represented by the word times. We should then expect that the intensity of his rule will double, but instead of that we are told merely that it will be for a half time, thus signifying that his power is cut off, just when it seemed to be increasing towards its fullness. The power of the little horn, which God will permit to exist upon earth, will increase in intensity with respect to the people of God. There is, in other words, to come a period when wickedness will be manifested in the little horn. However, for the sake of the elect this period will be shortened (cf. Matthew 24:22) (The Messianic Prophecies of Daniel, 52-53).
Goldingay takes a similar approach. The 3 ½ periods 'suggests a time that threatens to extend itself longer: one period, then a double period, then a quadruple period . . . but the anticipated sequence suddenly breaks off, so that the seven periods (in effect an eternity) that were threatened are unexpectedly halved. The king symbolized by the small horn has his time allotted; it is not without end. He himself is under control. The period he rules is a long one, but it is brought to a sudden termination. This way of speaking carried no implications whatsoever for the chronological length of time that will correspond to these periods (181).
(2) There is evidence that the number 3 ½ gradually became a stereotypical or stock designation in apocalyptic literature for a period of persecution and distress, regardless of its chronological duration.
As for references to this time frame in biblical literature, note the 3 ½ years of drought during the rule of Ahab and Jezebel in 1 Kings 17-18; Luke 4:25; James 5:17. It was also approximately 3 ½ years that Antiochus Epiphanes persecuted the Jewish people by defiling the temple. The precise length is disputed: some say it was from June 168 to December 165 b.c.; others, from December 168 to the middle of 164 b.c.; and others say it was closer to 3 years, from Chislev or December 168 to the same month in 165 [see 1 Macc. 1:57; 4:52]. Some have even suggested that the number 3 ½ came to be symbolic of distress and difficulty in light of the 3 ½ months that intervened between the winter solstice and the Babylonian festival of Marduk. Thus Beckwith writes:
'The theory is plausible that he [Daniel] derives the number [3 ½] from Semitic tradition, that primarily it figured the three months or more during which nature is in the grasp of frost and cold and that it afterwards became a symbol of the fierce period of evil before the last great triumph, a symbol of the time of the power of Antichrist, 'the times of the Gentiles,' Lk. 21:24, or more widely, the symbol of any period of great calamity (The Apocalypse of John, 252).
(3) The reference to 42 months is possibly taken from the 42 years of Israel's wilderness wandering (the initial 2 years followed by the 40 God inflicted upon her), and the 42 stations or encampments of Israel while in the wilderness (Num. 33:5ff.).
(4) Others suggest that 3 ½ signifies a broken 7, and thus becomes a symbol for the interruption of the Divine order by the malice of Satan and evil men, a period of unrest and trouble.
(5) The strongest argument for interpreting these references as theological and not chronological is the book of Revelation. The events which occur within these periods are, in my view, such that will transpire throughout the present age. Hence the 42 months = 1260 days = time, times, and half a time = 3 ½ years = the present inter-advent age.
In the light of this, many commentators suggest that the period is simply an expression for the time of tyranny until the end comes, the period of eschatological crisis, the age of persecution and pilgrimage for the people of God however long it may be. 'The figure [thus] becomes a symbol like the red cross or the swastika, a shorthand way of indicating the period during which the 'nations,' the unbelievers, seem to dominate the world, but the 'people,' God's people, maintain their witness in it (Wilcock, I Saw Heaven Opened, 106).
In sum, it would seem that in describing the era of the 'little horn / antichrist as a 'time, times, and half a time, Daniel and John are not attempting to tell us how long he will hold sway, as if by 3 ½, 42, 1260, etc., they were specifying a period that is chronologically precise. It is not the length but the kind of time that is meant. In other words, 3 ½ and 42 and 1260 are not a description of the chronological quantity of the period but rather of its spiritual and theological quality.
Reconsidering the Four Kingdoms
Although I dismissed it in an earlier lesson as untenable, perhaps we should give more serious consideration to the suggestion that the four kingdoms in Daniel 2 and 7 are not Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, but Babylon, Media, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The latter view has been consistently rejected by conservative scholars because the majority who embrace it are liberal critics who date the book of Daniel in the 2nd century b.c. and deny its predictive prophecies. But recently conservative scholars such as Robert Gurney ('The Four Kingdoms of Daniel 2 and 7, Themelios 2, 39-45), John Walton ('The Four Kingdoms of Daniel, JETS 29/1 [March 1986], 25-36), and Marvin Pate and Calvin Haines (Doomsday Delusions [Downers Grove: IVP, 1995]) have argued for both a 6th century date for the book of Daniel and that Greece, not Rome, is the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 and the fourth beast of Daniel 7.
The evidence for this view should be noted:
* The existence of the Median empire under the leadership of Astyages (585-550 b.c.) and Cyaxares II is not well-known, but it is clearly documented. Its territory was roughly equivalent to that of Babylon. One of Astyages' daughters married Nebuchadnezzar, while yet another married Cambyses I of Persia. The latter couple gave birth to Cyrus whose Medo-Persian empire conquered Babylon in 539. A case can be made that whereas the Median empire was contemporaneous with that of Babylon, the former succeeded the latter in power following the death of Nebuchadnezzar.
* If Media is the second empire in Daniel 2, it is the second beast in Daniel 7. The second beast is said to have 'three ribs in its mouth (7:5). Gurney points us to Jer. 51:27-29 where three nations are mentioned as linked with the Medes and coming against Babylon. These three are Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz. Ararat = Urartu which was subdued by the Medes in 605 b.c. Minni = Mannaea (an ally of Assyria), which fell to the Medes shortly after the collapse of Assyria. And Ashkenaz = the Scythians who were defeated by the Medes in the reign of Cyaxares II. [Lacocque believes the 'three ribs might refer to the Babylonian kings known to Jewish tradition: Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach, and Belshazzar. But these Babylonian kings were not conquered by Media, if in fact being in the 'mouth of the bear symbolizes military conquest.]
* On this view, the third kingdom and beast (the leopard with 4 wings and 4 heads; 7:6) is Medo-Persia. The 'four wings of a bird are believed to suggest the celerity with which Cyrus, king of Persia, extended his domain (Anderson, 79; cf. Isa. 41:3), while the 'four heads are taken as referring either a) to the four corners of the earth, thus indicating Persia's claim to universal dominion, or b) to the four Persian kings of Dan. 11:2 (Cyrus, Artaxerxes, Xerxes, Darius III [who was defeated by Alexander the Great]; others identify them as Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius, and Xerxes). Gurney also points out that the superiority of the third kingdom over the second (Dan. 2:39; 7:6) better fits Persian supremacy over the inferior Median empire than Greece's relationship to Persia (since both the latter were world powers). Another argument against identifying Greece as the third kingdom is that 'the four successors to Alexander [who are alleged to be the four heads on the leopard], both in history and in Daniel 8, represent diluted strength, whereas in Daniel 7 the four heads seem to represent the strength itself (Walton, 31).
* On this view, the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 (strength of iron, feet/toes of clay and iron) and fourth beast of Daniel 7 is Greece. Arguments: (1) Alexander the Great's army was invincible (Dan. 2:40; 7:7,19, whereas Rome was stopped by Parthia in its attempted expansion. (2) The 'western civilization and culture of Greece was quite different from (Dan. 7:7b,19a) the three previous oriental empires, whereas Rome was in many ways similar to Greece. (3) The fourth empire is said to crush the other three 7:7,19). Greece did in fact conquer the territory of Babylon, Media, and Persia, whereas the latter three were outside the area of the Roman empire. (4) Daniel 2:40-43 says that this fourth kingdom will be divided (iron and clay) and weakened, a likely reference to the Seleucid kingdom (Syria, the stronger part, iron) and the Ptolemaic (Egypt, the weaker part, clay, which was eventually overrun by the Seleucids). 'The reference to the two substances not mixing together distinctly reminds one of the rupture between the two kingdoms, which occurred despite the intermarriage between them (Pate & Haines, 68). (5) In Daniel 7:8,20-22,24-25 we read of a 'little horn emerging from the 'ten horns and before whom three of the latter fall. This 'little horn is portrayed as severely persecuting the people of God. On this view, the three uprooted horns (kings) were Cappadocia, Armenia, and Parthia. These three were actually defeated by Antiochus the Great, father of the infamous Antiochus Epiphanes. The defeat of the three by Antiochus the Great would then be seen as the beginning of the kingdom of the 'little horn which was continued and brought to culmination under Antiochus Epiphanes. (Others have suggested that the 'three horns uprooted refer to Antiochus's capture of Ptolemy VI Philometor in Egypt, and his victories in the east against Parthia and Bactria. Still others suggest that the reference is to Demetrius, whom Antiochus IV replaced because of his absence in Rome, another Antiochus, son of Antiochus III, and Heliodorus who, though not of the royal line, was a scheming aspirant to the throne (see Anderson, 81; cf. also J. J. Collins, 80-81).
* If Greece is the fourth kingdom/beast, one must account for its 'ten horns in Daniel 7 and its 'four horns in Daniel 8 (vv. 8,22). Clearly, these cannot be referring to the same phenomenon. The four horns are assuredly the four generals who succeeded Alexander the Great (Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucius, Ptolemy). The ten horns may well be the ten independent states that emerged by the latter part of the third century b.c.: Ptolemaic Egypt, Seleucia, Macedon, Pergamum, Pontus, Bithynia, Cappadocia, Armenia, Parthia, and Bactria. So, at one stage of its existence the 'beast of the Greek empire had 'four horns, and at a later stage of its existence had 'ten horns, from which emerged an eleventh or 'little horn.
* The 'little horn of both Daniel 7 and 8 who oppresses the people of God will do so for 'a time, times, and half a time (7:25). Antiochus IV Epiphanes (ruled 175-164 b.c.), besides persecuting the Jews, suppressed the observance of their religious festivals and sacred days (especially the Sabbath; see 2 Macc. 6:6) and prohibited reading of the Torah (1 Macc. 1:41-64). According to Lacocque, 'this first religious persecution in the history of Israel lasted for just over three years between 168 and 165. The expression 'one period [a time], two periods [times], and a half period [half a time]' should be understood from this perspective as 'one year, two years, and a half year' (153-54).
* Finally, 'in Daniel 8 the two beasts are said to concern the 'final indignation' and the 'time of the end' (8:19), which would suggest that it is dealing with the third and fourth empires rather than the second and third as must be assumed in the Roman view. Daniel 11 also focuses its attention on the Greek empire, while reference to Rome is nothing more than incidental. There also the time of the end is the focus (Walton, 36).
If one adopts the view in which Greece is the fourth beast, then Antiochus Epiphanes is the 'little horn of both Daniel 7 and 8. This would lead to the conclusion that all that Daniel has written about the four kingdoms of Daniel 2 and the four beasts and ten horns of Daniel 7, has already been fulfilled in history. We should not, therefore, be looking to any future, end-of-the-age fulfillment of these prophecies.