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In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts. (Daniel 7:1, NKJV)


In chapter seven we encounter the first of Daniel’s prophecies as recorded in the Book of Daniel. God gave this prophecy to Daniel by means of a dream and visions while he was in bed. This could mean he had one dream in which he saw the four beasts and their actions; and, at later times while meditating on the dream, he was given the explanation of what he saw.

Daniel tells us he wrote down the main facts of the dream, which makes sense because he did not want to forget it. He did not record the dream in every particular but recorded only the main facts. These were not just things he thought were important but the things God impressed on his mind. The Apostle Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 1:20–21 “that no prophecy of Scripture is on any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”

God gave this prophecy to Daniel in the first year of Belshazzar. Belshazzar was not a monarch in his own right; he was coregent with his father, Nabonidus. Belshazzar became coregent in 553 b.c. and governed the city of Babylon until its fall on October 12, 539 b.c. as recorded in Daniel chapter five, two days after the capitulation of the Babylonian army to Cyrus the Persian on October tenth.

The prophecy covers the same four kingdoms as did the image in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. Considerable time had passed since Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar his dream and its interpretation. Nebuchadnezzar had his dream in 604 b.c. and this prophecy came to Daniel in 553 b.c., fifty-one years later. Undoubtedly, after half a century and with Daniel probably over 70-years old, he could recall Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and it interpretation; however, this prophecy was somewhat different. There is more detail about the four kingdoms than in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and this dream disturbed Daniel in a way Nebuchadnezzar’s dream did not. In verse 15 he tells us, “I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.” Furthermore, Daniel could recall the dream but he could not interpret the dream and needed an angel to explain it to him. “I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things.”

Of special interest in this prophecy is the vision of the Son of Man and His kingdom. It will be shown that the Son of Man and His kingdom is the same as the stone cut out of the mountain without hands of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The dream and its interpretation do not come out and say, “This is the same as what you saw in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.” The details given in the dream along with what has been said previously about the kingdom of God will show that the Son of Man and His kingdom are one-in-the-same as the stone cut out of the mountain.

One purpose of this prophecy was to correct an error in thinking among the Jews of the Babylonian captivity. They were misunderstanding some of the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, thinking they would be returned to their native land and enjoy perpetual prosperity as the kingdom of God. Two of Jeremiah’s prophecies definitely predicted their return to Judah and Jerusalem:


And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, says the LORD; and I will make it a perpetual desolation. (Jeremiah 25:11–12, NKJV)


For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:10–11, NKJV)


In chapters 36 through 48 of Ezekiel, a glowing picture of the restoration of Israel is pictured along with an extravagant description of what the Jews thought to be the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem. It is true that fourteen years after God gave this prophecy to Daniel the Babylonians were defeated and under Cyrus the Persian the Jews were allowed to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple. But this prophecy shows them a future of oppression under the reigns of four world-wide empires and the kingdom of God coming in the time of the fourth kingdom—the fourth beast and not upon their immediate return to their homeland. One truth the prophecy of Daniel in chapter seven reveals to the Jews is that even though they would return to Jerusalem, their future was bleak.

The dream begins with the four winds of heaven stirring up the Great Sea. This is a depiction of world-wide strife that would last for about 450 years. The four winds of heaven show that this strife will come from all directions of the compass: north, south, east, and west. The land of the Jews was centrally located to all the conquests carried out by the four empires, which we know to be Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

Daniel and the Jews were in Babylon at the time the prophecy was given, so it is easy to see how the Medes and Persians came against them from the east, as Persia is east of Mesopotamia. The Jews were conquered by the Babylonians, who came against them from the east and northeast. The Greeks crisscrossed Judah several times during their rampages. They came from the north, south, and across the Great Sea—the Mediterranean Sea. The Romans conquered the Greeks and annexed Palestine, coming to it form both the north and across the Mediterranean Sea. The message to the Jews was: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over! Their future was not a future of a kingdom of God on earth but a future of being in the middle of world-wide conflicts.

As the dream opens, we see the four winds, or the four empires, stirring up the Great Sea. Clearly, the Great Sea is the Mediterranean Sea, but it is use here in a symbolic sense rather than a literal sense. Everything else in the dream is presented in symbolic representations and to be consistent with this motif it must be a symbol. To take the Great Sea literally presents some historic inaccuracies. The dream would have all four empires coming against the land of the Jews over the Mediterranean Sea, which did not happen. The Babylonians and Persians came against them from the east. These empires did have provinces on the Mediterranean, but they conquered these provinces from the east. Only the Greeks and Romans could have actually come across the Mediterranean Sea.

So, what does the Great Sea represent? We will consider four prophetic texts where the sea is used to represent something and from this we can get an idea of what the Great Sea in Daniel’s dream it.


But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. (Isaiah 57:20, NKJV)


Isaiah says that the sea represents wicked people; not just wicked people, but wicked people that are constantly moving back and forth muddying the waters. The characteristic presented here is that the four empires will keep things stirred up in the world during the times of their dominances and no moral good will be served by what they do.


Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation and many kings shall be raised up from the ends of the earth. They shall hold the bow and the lance; they are cruel and shall not show mercy. Their voice shall roar like the sea; they shall ride on horses, set in array, like a man for the battle, against you, O daughter of Babylon. (Jeremiah 50:41–42, NKJV)


In this passage Jeremiah is predicting the overthrow of Babylon, not just by the Medes and Persians but also the Greeks and the Romans. Their voice will roar like the sea, which is an emblem of their cruelty and lack of mercy. So, another trait of the Great Sea is cruelty and a lack of mercy.


The sea has come up over Babylon; she is covered with the multitude of its waves. (Jeremiah 51:42, NKJV)


The trait of the sea in this prophecy is that it overwhelms whatever is in its path. The multitude of waves depicts a surge that cannot be held back; it is a tidal wave. The onslaught of the Great Sea across the land of the Jews as carried out by these four world-wide kingdoms could not be held back, they overwhelmed everything in their paths.


Then all the princes of the sea will come down from their thrones, lay aside their robes, and take off their embroidered garments; they will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground, tremble every moment, and be astonished at you. (Ezekiel 26:16, NKJV)


In stark contrast, Ezekiel says that the princes of the sea will eventually be brought down and tremble in astonishment. He is speaking of the miraculous overthrow of the city of Tyre by Alexander the Great. The city was situated on an island just off the coast of Phoenicia and considered to be impregnable. It was perfectly situated to fight off any army trying to reach it by ferries; the armies would travel so slowly as to be vulnerable to arrows and other missiles fired from behind the city walls. Alexander filled up the water between the coast and the island so that his army could attack the city on land completely foiling the defense of the city. In time, the water washed away all traces of Tyre and the siege so that no visible record of it exists even today. With this we understand there is a high degree of astonishment associated with the Great Sea symbol.

Putting the pieces together, the Great Sea represents a time of great wickedness and merciless destruction that will overwhelm the land of the Jews and the then known world causing continual fear and astonishment.