Four Kingdoms of Daniel
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Four Kingdoms of Daniel

The four kingdoms of Daniel are four kingdoms which, according to the Book of Daniel, precede the "end-time" and the "Kingdom of God".

The four kingdoms

Historical background

Daniel was one of many Hebrew young men in particular taken captive by the Babylonians. He had been very well educated in his native Israel which is why he as well as others were chosen to be trained for service in the Babylonian king's household. This was a dark time for the people of Israel, and the Babylonian Captivity was a judgment by God upon them for forsaking His Commandments and instructions. God had forewarned Israel many times prior to this.

"Belteshazzar" was the Babylonian name given to Daniel, which undoubtedly referred to a Chaldean deity. Daniel's writings cover the Israeli Captivity under Babylon and also the Mede-Persian Empires. He served under several kings and was always favored for his wisdom, which he attributed to God.

Daniel 2

In chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a statue made of four different materials, identified as four kingdoms:

  1. Head of gold. Explicitly identified as King Nebuchadnezzar.[v.37-38]
  2. Chest and arms of silver. Identified as an "inferior" kingdom to follow Nebuchadnezzar.[v.39]
  3. Belly and thighs of bronze. A third kingdom which shall rule over all the earth.[v.39]
  4. Legs of iron with feet of mingled iron and clay. Interpreted as a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, but the feet and toes partly of clay and partly of iron show it shall be a divided kingdom.[v.41]

Daniel 7

In chapter 7, Daniel has a vision of four beasts coming up out of the sea, and is told that they represent four kingdoms:

  1. A beast like a lion with eagle's wings. [v. 4]
  2. A beast like a bear, raised up on one side, with three ribs between its teeth. [v. 5]
  3. A beast like a leopard with four wings of fowl and four heads. [v. 6]
  4. A fourth beast, with large iron teeth and ten horns. [v. 7-8]

This is explained as a fourth kingdom, different from all the other kingdoms; it "will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it".[v.23] The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom.[v.24] A further horn (the "little horn") then appears and uproots three of the previous horns: this is explained as a future king.

Daniel 8

In chapter 8 Daniel sees a ram with two horns destroyed by a he-goat with a single horn; the horn breaks and four horns appear, followed once again by the "little horn".

Schools of thought

Daniel's Vision of the Beasts, 1866 engraving by Gustave Doré.

Rashi's interpretation

Rashi, a medieval rabbi, interpreted the four kingdoms as Nebuchadnezzar ("you are the head of gold"), Belshazzar ("another kingdom lower than you"), Alexander of Macedon ("a third kingdom of copper"), and the Roman Empire ("and in the days of these kings").[1] Rashi explains that the fifth kingdom that God will establish is the kingdom of the messiah.[1]

Christian interpretation

From the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the "four monarchies" model became widely used by all for universal history, in parallel with eschatology, among Protestants. Some continued to defend its use in universal history in the early 18th century.

Christopher Cellarius (1638-1707), based on the distinctive nature of medieval Latin.[2] The modern historicist interpretations and eschatological views of the Book of Daniel with the Book of Revelation closely resemble and continue earlier historical Protestant interpretations.

There are references in classical literature and arts that apparently predate the use of the succession of kingdoms in the Book of Daniel. One appears in Aemilius Sura,[3] an author quoted by Velleius Paterculus (c. 19 BC - c. AD 31). This gives Assyria, Media, Persia and Macedonia as the imperial powers. The fifth empire became identified with the Romans. (After the 17th century, the concept of a fifth monarchy was re-introduced from Christian millennarian ideas.)

An interpretation that became orthodox[] after Swain (1940)[4] sees the "four kingdoms" theory becoming the property of Greek and Roman writers at the beginning of the 1st century BCE, as an import from Asia Minor. They built on a three-kingdom sequence, already mentioned by Herodotus (c. 484-425 BC) and by Ctesias (fl. 401 BC).[5] Mendels (1981) contests this dating and origin, placing it[clarification needed] later in the century.[6]

Jewish Reconstructionists and Full Preterists believe that Daniel is completely fulfilled, and that the believers are now working to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.

Two main schools of thought on the four kingdoms of Daniel, are:

  1. the traditionalist view, supporting the conflation of Medo-Persia and identifying the last kingdom as the Roman Empire.
  2. the Maccabean thesis, a view that supports the separation of the Medes from the Persians and identifies the last kingdom as the Seleucid Empire.[7]

Roman Empire schema

The following interpretation represents a traditional view of Jewish and Christian Historicists, Futurists, Dispensationalists, Partial Preterists, and other futuristic Jewish and Christian hybrids, as well as certain Messianic Jews, who typically identify the kingdoms in Daniel (with variations) as:

  1. the Babylonian Empire
  2. the Medo-Persian Empire
  3. the Greek Empire
  4. the Roman Empire, with other implications to come later

Jerome (c. 347 - 420) described this scheme in his Commentary on Daniel.[8] Within this framework there are numerous variations.

Use with the Book of Revelation

Christian interpreters typically read the Book of Daniel along with the New Testament's Book of Revelation. The Church Fathers interpreted the beast in Revelation 13 as the empire of Rome.[9] The majority of modern scholarly commentators understand the "city on seven hills" in Revelation as a reference to Rome.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][excessive citations]

Second temple theory

Full Preterists, Idealists, certain Reconstructionists and other non-futurists likewise typically believe in the same general sequence, but teach that Daniel's prophecies ended with the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, and have few to no implications beyond that. Jewish and Christian Futurists, Dispensationalists, and, to some degree, Partial Preterists believe that the prophecies of Daniel stopped with the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem; but will resume at some point in the future after a gap in prophecy that accounts for the Church Age.

Traditional views

The traditional interpretation of the four kingdoms, shared among Jewish and Christian expositors for over two millennia, identifies the kingdoms as the empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. This view conforms to the text of Daniel, which considers the Medo-Persian Empire as one, as with the "law of the Medes and Persians".(6:8, 12, 15) These views have the support of the Jewish Talmud, medieval Jewish commentators, Christian Church Fathers, Jerome, and Calvin.[23]

Jerome specifically identified the four kingdoms of Daniel 2 in this way.[24] The "four monarchies" theory existed alongside the Six Ages and the Three Eras, as general historical structures, in the work of Augustine of Hippo, a contemporary of Jerome.[25]

The alternative view which sees the sequence ending with Greece and the Diadochi, thus excluding Rome, is not without historical precedent however. The pagan critic of Christianity, Porphyry, suggested a variation of this interpretation in the third century CE. In the following centuries, several Eastern Christians espoused this view, including Ephrem the Syrian, Polychronius, and Cosmas Indicopleustes.[26]

During the Medieval ages the orthodox Christian interpretation followed the commentary by Jerome on the Book of Daniel.[27] It tied the fourth monarchy and its end to the end of the Roman Empire, which was considered not to have yet come to pass (the Eastern Roman Empire persisted until 1453). This is the case for example in the tenth-century writer Adso, whose Libellus de Antichristo incorporated the characteristic medieval myth of the Last Roman Emperor.[28][29]Otto of Freising used the principle of translatio imperii and took the Holy Roman Empire as the continuation of the Roman Empire (as fourth monarchy).

Protestant Reformation

This 1630 engraving of Daniel's vision in chapter 7 by Matthäus Merian follows Jerome's interpretation of the four beasts, but with "Assyria" in place of "Babylon".

A series of Protestant theologians, such as Jerome Zanchius (1516–1590), Joseph Mede (1586–1639), and John Lightfoot (1602–1675), particularly emphasized the eschatological theory of four monarchies.[30] Mede and other writers (such as William Guild (1586-1657), Edward Haughton and Nathaniel Stephens (c. 1606-1678)) expected the imminent end of the fourth empire, and a new age.[31] The early modern version of the four monarchies in universal history was subsequently often attributed to the chronologist and astrologer Johann Carion, based on his Chronika (1532). Developments of his Protestant world chronology were endorsed in an influential preface of Philipp Melanchthon (published 1557).

The theory was topical in the 1550s. Johann Sleidan in his De quatuor imperiis summis (1556) tried to summarise the status of the "four monarchies" as historical theory; he had already alluded to it in previous works. Sleidan's influential slant on the theory was both theological, with a Protestant tone of apocalyptic decline over time, and an appeal to German nationalist feeling in terms of translatio imperii.[2][32][33] The Speculum coniugiorum (1556) of the jurist Alonso De la Vera Cruz, in New Spain, indirectly analysed the theory. It cast doubts on the Holy Roman Emperor's universal imperium by pointing out that the historical 'monarchies' in question had in no case held exclusive sway.[34] The Carion/Melanchthon view was that the Kingdom of Egypt must be considered a subsidiary power to Babylon: just as France was secondary compared to the Empire.[35]

The Foure Monarchies was the title of a long poem by Anne Bradstreet from 1650.[36] Title page of the 1678 edition of her poems .

The Catholic Jean Bodin was concerned to argue against the whole theory of 'four monarchies' as a historical paradigm. He devoted a chapter to refuting it, alongside the classical scheme of a Golden Age, in his 1566 Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem.[37]

Title page of A Brief description of the Fifth Monarchy or Kingdome (1653) by William Aspinwall.
Monument to the Four Kingdoms of Daniel on Nuremberg town hall, Germany: two each.
Monument to the Four Kingdoms of Daniel on Nuremberg town hall, Germany: two each.
The lion represents the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. The bear represents the Persian King, Cyrus.
The leopard represents the King of the Greek Empire, Alexander. The fourth beast represents the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar.

Fifth Monarchists

In the conditions leading to the English Civil War of 1642-1651 and in the disruption that followed, many Englishmen advanced millennarian ideas, believing they were living in the "end of days".[38][page needed] The Fifth Monarchists were a significant[] element of the Parliamentary grouping and, in January 1661, after Charles II had taken the throne following the English Restoration of 1660, 50 militant Fifth Monarchists under Thomas Venner attempted to take over London to start the "Fifth Monarchy of King Jesus". After the failure of this uprising, Fifth Monarchists became a quiescent and devotional part of religious dissent.[39]

Seventh-day Adventist view

The Seventh-day Adventist Church shares the traditional view that the four kingdoms of Daniel, as paralleled in chapters 2 and 7, correspond to the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, the Greek Empire and the Roman Empire. Furthermore, they hold the view that the ram and the goat correspond to the Medo-Persian Empire and the Greek Empire, respectively. They also hold to the traditional view that the "little horn" in Daniel 7:8 refers to the Papacy; the reference to changing "times and law" (Daniel 7:25) refers to the change of the Christian Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday, and the attack on the sanctuary (Daniel 8:11) to the mediatorial ministry of Roman Catholic priests.[40] The "time, times and half a time" (Daniel 7:25) represents for Adventists a period of 1260 years from 538 CE to 1798 CE, when the Roman Catholic Church dominated the Christian world.[41] The feet of the statue in Daniel 2, made of mixed iron and clay, represent modern Europe.[42] The Adventist interpretation depends on the "day-year principle", the established idea that when used in prophetic context, a day is equivalent to a year.

See also



  1. ^ a b Chabad Tanakh: Rashi's Commentary on Daniel 2
  2. ^ a b Herbert Butterfield, Man on His Past (1955), pp. 45-56.
  3. ^ John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature (1998), p. 93.
  4. ^ Swain, Joseph Ward (January 1940). "The Theory of the Four Monarchies: Opposition History under the Roman Empire". Classical Philology. University of Chicago Press. 35 (1): 1-21. doi:10.1086/362315. ISSN 0009-837X.
  5. ^ Erich S. Gruen,The Hellenistic World and the Coming of Rome (1986), p. 329.
  6. ^ Mendels, Doron (Autumn 1981). "The Five Empires: A Note on a Propagandistic Topos". The American Journal of Philology. Johns Hopkins University Press. 102 (3): 330-337. doi:10.2307/294139. ISSN 0002-9475. JSTOR 294139.
  7. ^ John J. Collins, A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (2007), p. 282
  8. ^ "St. Jerome, Commentary on Daniel (1958). pp. 15-157".
  9. ^ "The four beasts of Daniel, however, reappear in the monster of Chapter 13 of the Book of Revelation, with ten horns, seven heads, bear's feet and a lion's mouth, which the Fathers of the Church took to be the Roman Empire.", Gelston, et al., "New heaven and new earth prophecy and the millennium: essays in honour of Anthony Gelston", p. 297 (1999).
  10. ^ Wall, R. W. (1991). New International biblical commentary: Revelation (207). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
  11. ^ Bratcher, R. G., & Hatton, H. (1993). A handbook on the Revelation to John. UBS handbook series; Helps for translators (248). New York: United Bible Societies.
  12. ^ Davis, C. A. (2000). Revelation. The College Press NIV commentary (322). Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub.
  13. ^ Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation. The New International Commentary on the New Testament (315). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
  14. ^ Beckwith, Isbon T. The Apocalypse of John. New York: MacMillan, 1919; reprinted, Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2001.
  15. ^ Caird, G. B. A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine. Black's New Testament Commentaries, edited by Henry Chadwick. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1966.
  16. ^ Bruce, F. F. The Revelation to John. A New Testament Commentary, edited by G. C. D. Howley. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969.
  17. ^ Henry Barclay Swete, Commentary on Revelation (1977). Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1977.
  18. ^ Leon Morris, The Book of Revelation, An Introduction and Commentary (1987). Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Revised Edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  19. ^ Roloff, J. (1993). A Continental Commentary: The Revelation of John (198). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
  20. ^ Aune, D. E. (2002). Vol. 52C: Word Biblical Commentary : Revelation 17-22. Word Biblical Commentary (944). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
  21. ^ Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (Re 17:9). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
  22. ^ Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Re 17:7-18). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.
  23. ^ McDowell, Sean (2009). Apologetics study Bible for students: hard questions, straight answers. Nashville, Tenn: Holman Bible Publishers. p. 899. ISBN 978-1-58640-493-2.
  24. ^ "Jerome identified the four kingdoms analogously with the interpretation of the prophecy of Daniel 2, in a diachronic system. In the first kingdom, symbolized by the lion, he saw the Neo-Babylonian empire. He identified the bear with the Persian kingdom, the leopard with the Macedonian rule, and the fourth beast with the Roman empire." Fröhlich, "Time and times and half a time: Historical Consciousness in the Jewish Literature of the Persian and Hellenistic Eras', JSP Supplements, pp. 71-72 (1996).
  25. ^ Isabel Rivers, Classical and Christian Ideas in English Renaissance Poetry: A Student's Guide (1994), p. 56.
  26. ^ Beatrice, Pier Franco (1991). "Pagans and Christians on the Book of Daniel". Studia Patristica. XXV: 27. ISBN 9789068315196.
  27. ^ Chris Given-Wilson, Chronicles: The Writing of History in Medieval England (2004), p. 115.
  28. ^ C. A. Patrides, Joseph Anthony Wittreich, The Apocalypse in English Renaissance Thought and Literature: patterns, antecedents, and repercussions (1984), p. 45.
  29. ^ "Apocalypse". Apocalyptic Ideas in Old English Literature.
  30. ^ "Bishop John Lightfoot's Works (1684)".
  31. ^ Bryan W. Ball, A Great Expectation: eschatological thought in English Protestantism to 1660 (1975), p. 140.
  32. ^ Alexandra Kess, Johann Sleidan and the Protestant vision of history (2008), pp. 83-85.
  33. ^ Anthony Grafton, What was History?: The Art of History in Early Modern Europe (2007), p. 171.
  34. ^ David Andrew Lupher, Romans in a New World: Classical Models in Sixteenth-Century Spanish America (2006), p. 163.
  35. ^ Paula Findlen, Athanasius Kircher: the last man who knew everything (2004), p. 177.
  36. ^ "PAL:Anne Bradstreet(1612?-1672)".
  37. ^ "Jean Bodin". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  38. ^ Capp, Bernard (1972). The Fifth Monarchy Men: A Study in Seventeenth-Century English Millenarianism (reprint ed.). Faber & Faber (published 2012). p. 1487. ISBN 9780571286867. Retrieved 2019. [...] a number of new books [...] share a common theme in stressing the normalcy and the wide extent of millenarianism in England in the seventeenth century [...].
  39. ^ Compare: Capp, Bernard (1972). The Fifth Monarchy Men: A Study in Seventeenth-Century English Millenarianism (reprint ed.). Faber & Faber (published 2012). p. 1665. ISBN 9780571286867. Retrieved 2019. The history of the Fifth Monarchists in the 1670s shows a continuing polarization of the movement, with the majority moving towards quietism and being accepted by other contemporary sectarians, whilst the minority became more deeply involved in violence and plots.
  40. ^ Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (2005). Seventh-day Adventists believe (2nd ed). Pacific Press. pp. 356-357, 293-295.
  41. ^ Seventh-day Adventists believe (2nd ed), pp. 184-185
  42. ^ Seventh-day Adventists believe (2nd ed), p 376
  43. ^ Uriah Smith, 1944, Daniel and Revelation, Southern Publishing Association, Nashville, TN
  44. ^ Roy Allan Anderson, 1975, Pacific Press Pub. Assoc., Unfolding Daniel's Prophecies, Mountain View, CA
  45. ^ Daniel 7:13-27 see verses 13, 14, 22, 27

Further reading

  • H. H. Rowley (1935), Darius the Mede and the Four World Empires in the Book of Daniel. A Historical Study of Contemporary Theories
  • Gerhard F. Hasel, "The Four World Empires of Daniel 2 Against its Near Eastern Environment," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 1979 12: 17-30
  • Bernard Capp (1972), Fifth Monarchy Men: Study in Seventeenth Century English Millenarianism, Faber ISBN 0-571-09791-X
  • Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (2005). Seventh-day Adventists Believe (2nd ed). Pacific Press.
  • Deferrari, Paulus Orosius; translated by Roy J. (2001). The seven books of history against the pagans (1st short-run reprint ed.). Washington: Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 978-0-8132-1310-1.

External links

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