Now, the short stories end and the trippy visions start… This all happened back in the bad old days when Belshazzar was still ruling. While he was cuddled up in bed—whether asleep or watching Conan, the book doesn't say—Daniel had "visions of the night," which he then wrote down.
Daniel describes how he saw the four winds blowing on the ocean. Four different beasts come up from the sea (apparently connected to or activated by the wind).
The first beast is a lion with eagle's wings. He loses the wings and is stood upright, like a human being, and is given a human heart.
The next beast is a bear, chewing on three ribs. A voice says to the bear, "Arise, devour much flesh." (So, so far, this isn't too different from the climactic sequence of any old '90s Power Rangers episode, really.)
The third beast is a leopard with four bird wings—oh, and four heads. It is given "dominion" over a kingdom of some sort.
The fourth beast is the worst and most terrible—its teeth are made of iron. It's totally different from all the beasts that came before it. It tramples the pieces of the things it's crushed and destroyed and devoured. Plus, it has ten horns (the sharp, pokey kind—not saxophones).
Now things get seriously far out: a little horn pops up and knocks out three of the other horns. And the little horn has human eyes, and speaks arrogantly from its mouth. Nothing to see here, just a pretty typical horn.
This arrogant horn gets interrupted, when God—"an Ancient One" or "The Ancient of Days"—appears on a throne, with other thrones set in place around him.
God is wearing snow-white clothing, with a white wooly mane of hair. His throne is made of fire and the wheels of the throne—we guess it doubles as a chariot—are also made of fire. A stream of fire (there's lots of fire in this scene) is also coming out from his presence.
The number of angels serving him is enormous: "a thousand thousands" or "ten thousand times ten thousand." That's short hand for "a lot."
The divine court is in session and God's law books are open.
But despite this epic, Disney World style laser, fire, and light show, the little horn (yeah, it's still here, by the way) keeps gibbering on arrogantly. The fourth beast, the one containing the little arrogant horn, gets put to death (presumably by God or by the angels). Though the other beasts lose their dominions, their lives are prolonged.
Then, Daniel sees "one like a human being" who comes with the clouds of heaven. He arrives at the feet of The Ancient of Days. God gives him the dominions that all the other beasts have just lost, except that the "one like a human being" isn't going to lose his kingdom. It's going to last forever.
The Man Who Would Be King
Daniel is way terrified by all these visions of God and arrogant, talking horns. So he approaches one of God's attendants (an angel of some sort) to get the scoop on what's going on.
Now, the interpretation starts: the angel says that the beasts represent four kings—but they're all going to fall at some point. Only the "holy ones of the Most High" are going to endure and rule the kingdom forever.
Like any reasonable person, Daniel is particularly interested in knowing what was going on with the last beast and with the crazy horn drama. Daniel says that, after the little horn beat the other horns, he could see it making war against God's holy ones—that is, until the Ancient One showed up, judged the little horn, and gave the kingdom to the Holy Ones.
The angel replies, saying that the last beast is going to be the worst kingdom of all. It's going to tear stuff up, smash stuff down, wreck the entire earth—just generally be nasty.
The ten horns symbolizeten kings who will arise out of that empire. But the little horn symbolizes an especially bad king who will attack and put down three other kings.
The little horn king is going to speak against God, persecute the holy ones (the Jews), and mess around with their laws and holy days. But the holy ones will only be in his power for "a time, two times, and half a time."
Then, the little horn king is going to be judged by God. His kingdom will be taken from him and given to the holy ones, who will rule and live in it forever.
Daniel ends the chapter by saying that all of these visions really scared him and made his face turn pale. But he kept thinking about them anyway.