on Daniel 7 :1
In the first year of Belshazzar - This is the same Belshazzar who was slain at the taking of Babylon, as we have seen at the conclusion of chap. 5. That chapter should have followed both this and the succeeding. The reason why the fifth chapter was put in an improper place was, that all the historic parts might be together, and the prophetic be by themselves; and, accordingly, the former end with the preceding chapter, and the latter with this. The division therefore is not chronological but merely artificial.
Told the sum of the matters - That he might not forget this extraordinary dream, he wrote down the leading particulars when he arose.
on Daniel 7 :1
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon - On the character and reign of Belshazzar, see Introduction to Daniel 5 Section II. He was the last of the kings of Babylon, and this fact may cast some light on the disclosures made in the dream.
Daniel had a dream - Margin, as in Hebrew, saw. He saw a series of events in vision when he was asleep. The dream refers to that representation, and was of such a nature that it was proper to speak of it as if he saw it. Compare the notes at Daniel 2:1.
And visions of his head upon his bed - See the notes at Daniel 4:5.
Then he wrote the dream - He made a record of it at the time. He did not commit it to tradition, or wait for its fulfillment before it was recorded, but long before the events referred to occurred he committed the prediction to writing, that when the prophecy was fulfilled they might be compared with it. It was customary among the prophets to record their predictions, whether communicated in a dream, in a vision, or by words to them, that there might be no doubt when the event occurred that there had been an inspired prediction of it, and that there might be an opportunity of a careful comparison of the prediction with the event. Often the prophets were commanded to record their predictions. See Isaiah 8:1, Isaiah 8:16; Isaiah 30:8; Habakkuk 2:2. Compare Revelation 1:19; Revelation 14:13; Revelation 21:5. In many instances, as in the case before us, the record was made hundreds of years before the event occurred, and as there is all the evidence that there could be in a case that the record has not been altered to adapt it to the event, the highest proof is thus furnished of the inspiration of the prophets. The meaning here is, that Daniel wrote out the dream as soon as it occurred.
And told the sum of the matters - Chaldee, "And spake the head of the words." That is, he spake or told them by writing. He made a communication of them in this manner to the world. It is not implied that he made any oral communication of them to anyone, but that he communicated them - to wit, in the way specified. The word "sum" here - ראשׁ rē'sh - means "head"; and would properly denote such a record as would be a heading up, or a summary - as stating in a brief way the contents of a book, or the chief points of a thing without going into detail. The meaning here seems to be that he did not go into detail - as by writing names, and dates, and places; or, perhaps, that he did not enter into a minute description of all that he saw in regard to the beasts that came up from the sea, but that he recorded what might be considered as peculiar, and as having special significancy.
The Codex Chisianus renders this, ἔγραψεν ἐις κεφάλαια λόγων egrapsen eis kephalaia logōn - "He wrote in heads of words," that is, he reduced it to a summary description. It is well remarked by Lengerke, on this place, that the prophets, when they described what was to occur to tyrants in future times, conveyed their oracles in a comparatively dark and obscure manner, yet so as to be clear when the events should occur. The reason of this is obvious. If the meaning of many of the predictions had been understood by those to whom they referred, that fact would have been a motive to them to induce them to defeat them; and as the fulfillment depended on their voluntary agency, the prophecy would have been void. It was necessary, therefore, in general, to avoid direct predictions, and the mention of names, dates, and places, and to make use of symbols whose meaning would be obscure at the time when the prediction was made, but which would be plain when the event should occur. A comparison of Daniel 7:4, Daniel 7:9, Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:14, will show that only a sumptuary of what was to occur was recorded.
Matters - Margin, as in Chaldee, words. The term words, however; is often used to denote things.
on Daniel 7 :1
7:1 In the first year of Belshazzar - This prophecy is written in Chaldee, to be a monument to him, of the reverence his father and grandfather shewed towards God, who had done such mighty works for them. Then he wrote - These visions were recorded for the benefit of the church, to rectify their mistake: for they thought all things would succeed prosperously after they returned out of their captivity.