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Daniel 7:17

ESV ‘These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth.
NIV The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth.
NASB ‘These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth.
CSB These huge beasts, four in number, are four kings who will rise from the earth.
NLT These four huge beasts represent four kingdoms that will arise from the earth.
KJV These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.

What does Daniel 7:17 mean?

After seeing a troubling vision of beasts (Daniel 7:1–8) and images of God in heaven (Daniel 7:9–14), Daniel is unsettled (Daniel 7:15). So, he asks one of the angelic beings in his dream to explain what has been seen (Daniel 7:16). This being is not identified here. However, in other parts of Daniel's writing, he is given specific information from the angel Gabriel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21). Many commentators suggest this verse refers to Gabriel, as well, as a common choice for delivering divine messages (Luke 1:19, 26–33).

The messenger's first explanation concerns the four great beasts Daniel saw rising out of the sea. These are four kings, and their kingdoms, which will arise in the Mediterranean region of the world. These four kings and kingdoms represent the same information seen in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Daniel 2:31–35). Daniel interpreted those visions on behalf of the Babylonian king (Daniel 2:36–45). What Daniel sees describes Babylon, represented by the winged lion. This is followed by Medo-Persia, symbolized as a bear raised up on one side. A winged leopard describes Greece. Rome, finally, is depicted as a terrifying iron-toothed beast.

When Daniel saw these creatures, he envisioned them coming out of the "great sea" (Daniel 7:2–3). The messenger speaking here says these symbolize kings coming from "the earth." Daniel's vision included a clue about the location of these kingdoms. The angelic being is emphasizing those nations' worldly character: they are of the earth as opposed to heaven. The four kingdoms are earthly, whereas the kingdom that follows in the end time is heavenly. The Bible teaches that the whole world—the inhabited world of mankind—is sinful; it is under the power of the Devil (1 John 5:19).
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