At the start of Daniel 7 the seer recounts a night vision he had of four beasts which rose from the depths of the Great Sea. The first beast was like a lion and had eagle’s wings, the second was like a bear, and the third like a leopard with four birds’ wings and four heads. The fourth beast, however, was worse than any of these. It was ‘fearsome and grisly and exceedingly strong, with great iron teeth. It devoured and crunched, and it trampled underfoot what was left. It was different from all the beasts which went before it, and had ten horns’ (7.7; REB). As the seer was considering the horns, another horn, a small one, appeared among the others and three of the original horns were uprooted to make way for it. ‘In this horn were eyes like human eyes and a mouth that uttered bombast’ (7.8; REB). As the seer looks on, the heavenly court abruptly appears and the beast is killed and its carcass consigned to the flames (7.9-12). There follows the celebrated description of the arrival of one like a human being (literally ‘like a son of man’—kevar enosh in the Aramaic), to whom are given sovereignty and glory and kingly power (7.13-14).
Troubled and dismayed, Daniel seeks guidance as to the meaning of what he has seen from one of those present. He is told: ‘These great beasts, four in number, are four kingdoms which will arise from the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingly power and retain possession of it always, for ever and ever’ (7.17-18). Daniel then seeks a more detailed explanation, since he sees the horn waging war against ‘the holy ones’ with some success, until the arrival of the Ancient in Years and the award of judgement in their favour, together with kingly power. His heavenly informant then obliges him with a long