DurbanDude was interested, and I'm sure this will generate lots of discussion, especially since it's never ever been discussed before. My interpretations of the visions of Daniel will be in quote-blocks.
Five subsequent kingdoms. Criteria for determining identity: (a) subsequent succession, (b) specifically as it pertains to these kingdoms having dominion over the Land of Israel.
Issues of contention: (a) The division of the 'iron' kingdom is not stated in the text to lead to a duality of that kingdom, where one half of it survives the fall of the other, nor that the tenfold toes means ten succeeding kingdoms; they are in and of themselves part of the fourth kingdom. (b) The value or usage of the metals as according to their corresponding kingdoms are irrelevant to determining the identity of the kingdom it represents (i.e. the use of 'iron' to symbolize the fourth kingdom has nothing to do with how extensively the fourth kingdom valued or used iron); the fourfold use of gold, silver, bronze, and iron was common in symbolic texts during ancient times, including in other passages of Scripture (e.g. Numbers 31.22; Joshua 6.19,24; 22.8; Isaiah 60.17; etc.). (c) Similar to the metal, the presence (and number) of the limbs on the statue are irrelevant to determining the identity of the kingdoms those portions of the statue represent (i.e. Daniel says nothing about there being two arms or two legs in relation to the identity of the kingdoms, simply that said portions of the statue happen to be such-and-such metal). (d) I believe Rome does not (in any sense, whatsoever) fit, as it does not meet criteria (a): it did not subsequently succeed (depending on other interpretations) either Alexander or Syria as according to criteria (b): in dominion over the Land of Israel; there was a gap of roughly one century.
- Gold = Babylon (identified explicitly).
- Silver = Media-Persia (Media and Persia were unified, after which they conquered Babylon).
- Bronze = Greece (Alexander's empire, which conquered Media-Persia).
- Iron = Syria (i.e. the Seleucid Empire, which rose out of Alexander's empire).
- Stone = Kingdom of God (identified explicitly).
The same five kingdoms as Daniel 2. Criteria for determining identity: (a) the details of Daniel's dream provide limited indications as to the identity of the five kingdoms, (b) without interjecting any biases, the scope of Daniel's vision naturally reminds the reader of Daniel 2, so the five kingdoms must be identical, (c) if any details are provided in the second half of the chapter from the messenger Daniel speaks to, as to how to interpret the images of Daniel's dream, these details take precedence before we may begin suggestions external to the book of Daniel.
Issues of contention:
- Lion beast = Babylon
- Wings plucked off = humiliation, possibly in reference to Nebuchadnezzar's humiliation (Daniel 4.31-33; 5.20-21).
- Raised on two feet as a man, given a man's heart = raised from a humiliated beast into a man, possibly in reference to Nebuchadnezzar's restoration from his humiliation when he recognized that Yahweh is God (Daniel 4.34-37).
- Bear beast = Media-Persia
- Raised on one side = Persia's dominance over Media.
- Three ribs in its mouth = remains of three other 'beasts' (read: kingdoms), referencing Media-Persia's major campaigns against Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt.
- Told to 'devour much flesh' = suggestive of Media-Persia's aggressive military campaigns (perhaps against the Greeks, given the identity of the next kingdom).
- Leopard beast = Greece
- Four wings of a bird = Alexander's speedy conquest
- Four heads = suggestive of the splitting of Alexander's empire, perhaps to his four mightiest generals (there were other, minor divisions outside of these four)
- Dominion given to it = suggestive of Alexander's speedy conquest having been 'divinely ordained' (e.g. Daniel 5.21)
- Dread beast = Syria
- Great iron teeth = identification with the 'iron' kingdom of Daniel 2.
- The messenger adds the detail of 'claws of bronze', perhaps indicating the Syrian (iron) kingdom has origins in the Greek (bronze) kingdom.
- Terrifying; dreadful; exceeding strong; devours; tramples remainder = descriptive of Syria's aggressive and self-destructive military campaigns and generally oppressive nature, as opposed to the relative favor and peace the Judeans received from Media-Persia and from Alexander.
- Ten horns = ten kings (identified explicitly by the messenger); lack of identifications for these ten kings suggests to me that the number 'ten' may be used symbolically here, carrying the meaning of 'manyness'.
- Little horn = another (i.e. eleventh) king (identified explicitly by the messenger): Antiochus IV Epiphanes, per the following details:
- Three horns plucked up = three of the previous ten kings removed on account of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, perhaps in literal reference to Seleucus IV Philopator, Heliodorus, and Demetrius.
- Eyes of a man; mouth speaking great things; seemed greater than its companions; speak words against the Most High = references to Antiochus IV Epiphanes arrogant, self-deifying manner.
- (The following items are from Daniel's reflections of his dream and the messenger's interpretation of it.)
- Made war with the saints and prevailed over them; shall wear out the saints of the Most High; they shall be given into his hand = Antiochus IV Epiphanes oppressed and persecuted the Judeans.
- Shall think to change the times and the Law = Antiochus IV Epiphanes encouraged all peoples under his dominion to abandon their local customs and embrace his own. Any Judeans found keeping (or even owning a copy of) the Torah Law (including circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and festival-celebrating) was punished with death.
- For a time, times, and half a time = three and one-half years. Antiochus IV Epiphanes' persecution lasted roughly this long, from 167-164 BC.
- The Ancient of Days and his court sit in judgment; the Ancient of Days comes; the court shall sit in judgment = God brings national judgment upon the Syrian kingdom.
- The dread beast is killed, its body destroyed, and burned in the river of fire proceeding from the throne of the Ancient of Days; his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end = The Syrian dominion over the Judeans, especially as manifested through the tyrannical reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, is cast off of the Judeans.
- The rest of the beasts lose their dominion, but their lives are prolonged for a season and a time = Not all of the Gentile kingdoms that had dominion over the Land of Israel are doomed to utter destruction as Antiochus IV Epiphanes is.
- Son of man = Israel
- One like a son of man = the saints of the Most High. In contrast to the beastly character of the pagan nations, the persecuted Judeans who follow God's commandments represent true humanity (i.e. humanity as God intended: obedient to his commandments).
- Comes on the clouds of heaven to be presented before the throne of the Ancient of Days; judgment was given for the saints of the Most High = the Judeans are vindicated by God for enduring the persecution of the wicked Gentile nations.
- Son of man is given dominion, glory, kingdom; the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom; the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High = the Kingdom of God begins to manifest within the world through the faithful obedience of the persecuted Judeans, especially as they endure through and emerge victorious from that persecution. The Kingdom of God will continue to grow undeterred through the faithfulness of God's people, even as they await the coming of their King.
(a) The 'son of man' figure is not an individual person, but instead is a personification for a nation, just as the four 'beasts' are not four individual persons, but are personifications for four nations. In the case of the 'son of man', his identity as the personification of 'the saints of the Most High' is made clear in Daniel's reflection and the messenger's interpretation. No individual person is in view here.
(b) The 'dread beast' of Daniel 7 is often identified with the beast of the sea / the abyss / scarlet from the Revelation because they share common features (e.g. ten horns, speak great things, make war on the saints), and because the beast of the Revelation is commonly identified as Rome (in some way), it is thus said that the 'dread beast' must be Rome. I do not believe the commonality of features between the 'dread beast' of Daniel and the 'beast' of Revelation lead to the conclusion that they must be the same 'beast/kingdom'. The beast of Revelation, after all, has features in common with all four of the beasts of Daniel's dream: lion-mouthed (the first beast), bear-armed (the second), leopard-bodied (the third), ten-horned (the fourth), but also seven-headed (the total number of heads of Daniel's four beasts). John is definitely reminding his readers of the dread beast of Daniel's dream, but he is also reminding them of the lion, the bear and the leopard beasts. Hence, even if John's beast is identified as Rome, this in no way means that Daniel's dread beast must therefore be Rome also, only that Daniel influenced John.
(c) It is necessary to point out, in order to avoid any confusion, that in placing the manifestation of the Kingdom of God at the time of Maccabean Revolt (for that is the event through which God cast off the Syrian oppressors), I am not equating the 'Kingdom of God' with the 'Hasmonean Dynasty' that traces its origins to the Maccabean Revolt. The Kingdom of God is, at that time, primarily spiritual in nature, as found in the obedience of the saints to God.