The Key Role of Daniel 7 -- By: Richard D. Patterson

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 12:2 (Fall 1991)
Article: The Key Role of Daniel 7
Author: Richard D. Patterson

The Key Role of Daniel 7

Richard D. Patterson

Perhaps the most persistent problem with regard to the unity and composition of the book of Daniel has been the relation of its first six chapters to its latter half.1 Although several divergent views have been held (particularly as to the age and provenance of chapters 1 and 7 2 ), these may presently be reduced to a widely held consensus: “The first six chapters of the book contain material which is older than the later chapters, and this material has been re-edited in Maccabean times to attain a redactional unity with the apocalyptic visions of chs. 7–12 .”3 This study will suggest that chapter 7 functions not only as a hinge chapter that provides unity to the two primary literary genres in Daniel, but plays a key role in the understanding of biblical eschatology.4

The Significance of Daniel 7 to the Structure of Daniel

The narrative of Daniel 7, though full of complex details, is simply told. At the onset of the reign of Belshazzar, Nabonidus’ son,5 Daniel has a dream consisting of a series of nocturnal visions.6 Daniel sees a great sea being driven and tossed by the four winds of heaven.7 As he looks, four great beasts come up out of the sea, the fourth of which is a frightful appearing animal with iron teeth. It also has ten horns among which ultimately another little horn arises, breaking off three of the existing horns. This little horn on the fearsome and dreadful beast has eyes and a mouth like a man and speaks great boastful words. As he looks further, Daniel catches a glimpse of the Ancient of Days seated on his throne before the assembled courts of heaven. The record books of judgment are opened and the awful beast with the boastful little horn is destroyed. Then Daniel sees “One like a Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven” (v. 13 —NIV), to whom the Ancient of Days grants an everlasting kingdom and authority, and before whom all men worship.

As the account continues, Daniel, who in the previous court narratives serves as the divine interpreter to the Babylonian court (see 2:25–45...

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