Daniel 7:1-7
Daniel 7:1
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters.
Now Daniel had finished writing the historical part of his book and now till the end of the book comes the apocalyptic visions which he has and then explains them.  If you recall that Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and the son of Evil-Merodach.  The vision that begins in this verse came approximately fifty years after the dream of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue.  Belshazzar had reigned approximately 3 years.  What Daniel did was to write the dream down but instead of explaining what every part of the dream was, he instead, told only the principal parts or the chief parts of the dream.  It would be like taking a trip to the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  The details of the trip would focus on the Grand Canyon and not the drive to get there.  The word “matters” carries with it the meaning of “subject or discourse.”
Daniel 7:2
Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.
Here Daniel begins his explanation by stating that he saw the four winds, that is, wind from every direction which would have churned up the sea.  What could be in view here is an actual sea like the Mediterranean which Daniel saw in his dream.  In Jeremiah 49:36, we see another judgment of God upon Elam by means of the four winds.
Jeremiah 49:36 (KJV)   And upon Elam will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and will scatter them toward all those winds; and there shall be no nation whither the outcasts of Elam shall not come.
Another explanation for the great sea could also be the nations of the world as they are all likened to the sea.  The Lord could be stirring up the nations.  It is probably more likely that this is what would be in view since God deals with the nations of the world.
Isaiah 17:12-13 (KJV)   Woe to the multitude of many people, which make a noise like the noise of the seas; and to the rushing of nations, that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters!  {13} The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind.
Daniel 7:3
And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.
We can rule out the literal meaning of beasts.  The interpretation of this verse is found in verse 17 of this chapter.  Daniel 7:17 (KJV) These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.  No doubt they are called beasts because of their cruelty and their opposition to the kingdom of God.  These kings are diverse from one another because Daniel is now seeing in a different way the same four kingdoms which shall come to pass that was seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  The four kingdoms are Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.
Daniel 7:4
The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
This verse gives a sum of God’s dealing with Nebuchadnezzar.  The mention of a lion that had eagle’s wings is definitely a symbolic description of the royal power of a king.  It pictures Nebuchadnezzar as being the most powerful king of Babylon.  He had the strength of a lion and the eagle’s wings gave him strong mobility to go into other countries and conquer them like a blitzkrieg.  Then Daniel tells about the stripping of power.  His wings were plucked which meant that his strength of mobility was now limited and he could no longer go into other countries with the motive of conquering them.  Now that the wings were lifted up, the lion had to stand like a man without the ability the wings gave him.  He now had to stand and within that standing his royal pride and arrogance was stripped from him as he went out into the field for seven years.  Once he learned his lesson, he was reinstated to his position and given a man’s heart, that is, the heart of flesh as we read about in Ezekiel.  Ezekiel 36:26 (KJV)   A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  Nebuchadnezzar was a new man after his seven year ordeal.
Daniel 7:5
And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.
This is an interesting symbol.  It shows the partnership of the Medes and Persians that conquered Babylon.  In fact when Daniel is writing this dream, Babylon was only 2 years away from being conquered by the Medes and Persians.  This is a symbol of a lopsided bear.  The lopsidedness comes from the fact that the Medes and Persians were partners but the Persians had the superiority over the Medes thus showing the lopsidedness of the Partnership.  For example, one could view this as two partners going into business but one having 70% of the partnership and the other has 30%.  Although they are partners, one has the ascendency over the other.  The three ribs in the mouth shows the insatiable appetite to conquer.  The Medes and Persians conquered Babylon (539 B.C.), Egypt (402 B.C.), and Lydia (546 B.C.)  The Medes and Persians continued to conquer until their appointed time had come to an end and they too were finally conquered.
Daniel 7:6
After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.
A leopard can run at the speed of 36 miles per hour (58 KMH) which means what we have represented here is the kingdom of Greece and about the swiftness of the conquests of Alexander the Great.  Now this beast had four distinct heads and the dominion that was given unto each of the heads.  Before the four heads were given the dominion, the leopard had conquered as far as India and parts of Europe.  Then upon the death of Alexander, the four heads took dominion over the conquered kingdom.  The four heads were his four generals: Lysimachus received Thrace and Bithynia.  Antipater or Cassander received Macedonia and Greece.  Seleucus received Syria and east to India.  Ptolemy received Palestine and Egypt.
Daniel 7:7
After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.
The fourth beast represented Rome.  The fact that it was dreadful and terrible meant that it had no symbolism in the animal world as the other kingdoms did.  The description of it shows that it had an insatiable hostility in conquering other lands and creating a large empire.  Rome was interested in building the largest kingdom ever and was always land grabbing as far as Great Britain.  The iron teeth represents its ability to devour any kingdom that comes against it or devours those that Rome came against.  Rome broke up kingdoms and brought them into subjection as vassal states.  All the rest were stamped, that is, crushed, the remainder of any people who resisted them.  It was diverse from all other beasts because there was no representation in the animal world plus the Roman Empire lasted for hundreds of years, much longer than most kingdoms ever did.  The kingdom of Rome also had ten horns which shows it had tremendous power as the horn in Scripture represents power.  Psalm 92:10 (KJV) But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.