Daniel 7

Some Notes on Daniel 7 (Part 2)

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A Time. Times, and Half a Time

The length of time that these saints are given into his hand is described cryptically as “a time, times, and half a time” (7:25). If we stand back and think a little about these words, it will become apparent that the only possible way in which they can make sense is if we understand the plural “times” as designating “two times.” If it can mean any more than two the whole revelation drops into irrelevance. This is because if any more than “two times” is meant, it might be three or four, or twelve, or twelve hundred times. Who’s to know?

No, the only way “times” designates anything for sure is if it is a simple doubling of a “time.” This would mean that we have one unit (or “time”), and two additional units (“times”), and then a half unit (half the first unit). Hence, whatever the units are we have three and a half of them.

Since we know that these units are units of time the best suspects are days, weeks, months, or years. In Daniel 4:23, 32 it is most likely that the “seven times” in which Nebuchadnezzar was insane stands for seven years. If that is correct then “a time, times, and half a time” in Daniel 7:25, and later in Daniel 12:7 stands for three and a half years.

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Some Notes on Daniel 7 (Part 1)

Detail from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel - Michelangelo Caravaggio

Just as there are four kingdoms represented by the materials in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-image in Daniel 2, four kingdoms are also present in Daniel’s vision of the four beasts in chapter 7. Since we find weird creatures, portents of the last days, a supernatural guide and such, this vision is associated with apocalyptic genre.1

Saying something is “apocalyptic” is enough in some quarters to designate it non-literal, but comparison of biblical apocalypses with plain prophetic passages strongly suggests that they can refer to the same things, and that therefore, apocalyptic texts should not be understood apart from the more straightforward prose of comparative prophetic literature.

Each of the four beasts arises out of the sea (Dan.7:3). This “great sea” (v.2) is not interpreted, but it possibly refers to the Mediterranean, although it has additional value as a symbol for the world, especially in resistance to God (v.17; Isa. 57:20).2

The standard opinion of conservative commentators is that the beasts in Daniel 7 represent Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece (Macedonia), and Rome, exactly as in Daniel 2.3 I believe this is the correct understanding of the four beasts of Daniel 7:4-7, although I shall have to leave more detailed explanations to the commentaries.4

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