Every map has a legend. It’s often a little box, in the bottom corner, that explains what all the shapes, colors, and numbers mean. It helps you determine details like distance, topography, road types, pipelines, and other important features. Without the legend, you could probably make an educated guess at many things, but some details on the map would remain a mystery. But if you have the legend, you can then read your map with more accuracy and confidence than before.

Daniel chapters 2, 7 and 8 record various dreams and visions. You might say that God gave Daniel a colorful roadmap for what was ahead. In strange and unusual symbols, Daniel saw a picture of many world events, political leaders, and significant moments that were yet to happen. But even Daniel, who was a gifted interpreter of dreams much like Joseph (Daniel 1:17) was bamboozled by much of what he saw. The map was colorful and vast, but overwhelming.

No doubt, some of his confusion came from the fact that the dreams and visions contained similar symbols, overlapping ideas, and repeated pictures. If you have been reading these chapters, you have probably noticed the same. The number four reappears. Animals reappear. Kingdoms reappear. Horns reappear. Soon they begin running together. It’s easy to wonder, “Are the four kingdoms of chapter 2 the same ones as chapter 7? Is the ‘little horn’ of chapter 7 the same as the ‘little horn’ of chapter 8?” It’s easy to get disoriented, like a traveler searching his map, unable to make sense of it all.

This is where Daniel 8 is helpful. This chapter is a clarifying one, designed, in part, to clear up a bit of the interpretive fog. Where the dreams of Daniel 2 and 7 include rather vague interpretations, Daniel 8 includes some specific details along with specific names. As one scholar noted, the interpretation section in Daniel 8 “makes the identification of the events it prophecies indisputable.” In fact, scholars (on the left and right) tend to agree about the meaning, historically, of this chapter. For this reason, Daniel 8 is like a map legend. It orients the reader.

If you compare the symbols of 2 and 7 with those in 8, the details begin to fall into place and make more sense. When you compare that with what we know of world history, you can then see with astounding certainty that God is indeed in control! The ancient kingdoms rose and fell just as He said they would.

Some people go overboard with charts in the book of Daniel. It’s easy and tempting to do. (If you heard my introductory sermon, you know that I too have been guilty of this in the past.) But comparing the details of Daniel 2, 7, and 8 is a natural and helpful way to see the relationship of the symbols and meaning.

THE VISIONS OF DANIEL 2, 7, AND 8: A COMPARISON CHART

The chart below represents a common conservative view of the kingdom visions of Daniel. Much more may be added, but I have included the clearest interpretive elements.

(Note: Bold words are details from Scripture. Italics are likely details from history.)

 

Statue of 

Daniel 2

 

 Beasts of

Daniel 7

 Animals of

Daniel 8

 

Kingdoms

Represented

 

 

Golden Head

(2:32a, 37-38)

 

Lion w/Wings

(7:4)

 

 

 

 

Babylon

612-539BC

(2:38)

 

 

Silver

Chest/Arms

(2:32b, 39a)

 

 

Bear

w/1 Larger Side

(7:5a)

 

 

Ram

w/1 Larger Horn

(8:3-4)

 

 

Media and Persia

539-331BC

(8:20)

 

 

Bronze Belly/Thighs (2:32c, 39b)

 

 

Leopard w/Wings and 4 Heads

(7:6)

 

 

Goat w/1 Horn

Then 4 Horns

(8:5-12)

 

Greece

331-63BC

(8:21)

 

Iron Legs &

Iron/Clay Feet

(2:33, 40-43)

 

 

Iron Teeth Beast w/Many Horns

(7:7-8)

 

 

 

 

 

Rome

63BC – AD476

(Unspecified But Historically Likely)

 

(This chart adapted from Joyce Baldwin, Tyndale OT Commentary: Daniel, pg. 161 and Daniel Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition: Daniel, pg.87)

 

Final Thought:

The chart above represents more than a history (or prophecy) lesson. It is an important reminder of a tried-and-true method for all Bible study. It’s called: interpreting Scripture with Scripture. We should always allow clearer passages to inform foggier ones. If you come to a text that you don’t understand, go find a related text that you DO understand and read the first one in light of the second one. Let the Bible give you solid anchor points upon which you can build your understanding. It may not tell you everything you want to know, but it will tell you what you need to know. If nothing else, it will orient you better as you make the interpretive journey through God’s word each step along the way.