The Book of Daniel is the only full-blown apocalyptic book in the Protestant recognized version of the Canon. A literary device divides the book into two halves. Chapters 1-6 are a collection of stories that introduces the reader to Daniel and three other Israelites as unwilling guests of the Babylonia Empire ruled by Nebuchadnezzar. The second half, Chapters 7-12 consists of apocalyptic imagery of deformed beasts and the heavenly court. The focus of this paper will be on chapter 7, which serves as a bridge of the two halves. Chapter 7 is the earliest of the visions as it identifies with the genre of 8-12 while through language and content it reverts to Daniel chapter 2. The linguistic break down is not as neat as the literary divide in that Dan. 2:4b-7:28 was written in Aramaic while other portions of the book is written in Hebrew.
The timeline altered in the first verse of Dan. 7 serves as the opening to the four visions of in the remainder of Daniel. Belshazzar is cited in the first verse of chapter seven (7) as the King of Babylon, however Belshazzar is noted as the last King of Babylon and the son of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter five. The last king of the Babylonian Empire was Nabonidus. It is believed that Nabonidus for inexplicable reasons moved to the town of Teima and abrogated the empire to his son Belshazzar. Therefore, Seow points at that the “literary setting of Daniel 7 is the beginning of the end of the Babylonian Empire” (Seow, p. 101). The literary chronology of the period set is correct, but it is generally agreed among scholars (Collins, Hartman, Di Lella) there is no historical value in the dating. It is for this reason that most commentators immediately go into verse two of 7. Nevertheless, Daniel states, “Then he wrote down the dream:” (Seow, p. 97).
The question that may be asked in verse two is why would the four winds of heaven stir the great sea? Seow suggests that “the word “stirring is the same one used in Job 38:8 of the turbulent seat that God is said to have contained (see also Job 40:23; Ezek. 32:2)” (p. 102). He identifies the imagery as being similar to the Babylonian creation epic, Enumah Elish. In the Babylonian creation saga the god Marduk stations the four winds (South Wind, North Wind, East Wind, West Wind) to prevent the escape of Tiamat described as the dragon of the deep. This inclusion of the wind from the four areas of the earth creates a cosmic effect of a world in chaos. The Bible often reflects God’s use of the wind to bring order to chaos (see Job 26:12-13; Gen 1:1-2). Apparently, the stirring suggests the need for God’s response to a chaotic situation as affirmed. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary adds an additional point view to this imagery.
The imagery of four beasts rising from the sea is reminiscent of the statue described in Daniel with the four metals. The four beasts and the four metals are symbolic of rising empires. Di Lella points out it is unnecessary to reference mythological...