clouds of heaven...one like a son of man
(7:1) “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. Daniel 7:13-14 (ESV) "I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
Outline. The seventh chapter of Daniel does not follow chronologically from the previous six chapters, which recount the historical journey of Daniel and his Hebrew comrades from their exile and role in the Babylon court to his continued service under Darius once the Persian empire took over. Visions that Daniel had first during Belshazzar's Babylonian reign and then under Darius/Cyrus' Medo-Persian reign are described, which tell of future events from pre-Christ empire struggles (including the four beasts and a Ram & a Goat) to what are often thought to be post-Christ eschatological times (including Seventy Sevens, the King who exalts himself, and Michael's rise).
Historical Context. Daniel was in the first deportation of the Babylonian exile of Judah in 605BC. The book of Daniel states he gained prominence in the royal court until Babylon fell to Persia in 539BC. Daniel continued to serve in the Persian royal court under Darius the Mede (thought to be a governor under King Cyrus, or another name for Cyrus himself). Daniel 7:1 reveals that the vision of the four beasts occurred while still under the rule of Belshazzar of Babylon ca. 553/2 BC (Elwell, 596).1 Most scholars agree that the beasts depicted in the vision itself represent Babylon (612BC), Medo-Persia (539BC), Alexander the Great (331BC), and Rome (ca. 323BC) (Pfeiffer, 789).2 The throne scene is impossible to date due to prophetic perspective and its spiritual setting.
Message Summary. The promised “seed” of the woman through Abraham's descendants is seen receiving God's Kingdom in order that all the peoples would be blessed, and serve Him.
Dominant Theme. While the Kingdom theme appears here and is further elaborated in verse 27, the “one like a son of man” is the dominant figure since He is the recipient of the Kingdom. Since, the figure in question's most prominent description is His humanity, it follows that this man is the promised “seed” of the woman (Gen. 3:15). Moreover, “all peoples, nations, and languages worshiped him” (NIV) echoes the Abrahamic promise to bless all nations (Gen 12:3) and receiving Messianic promises, such as an “everlasting” kingdom, echoes the David promise (2 Sam. 7:5-16).
OT & NT Correlation. The very phrase “son of man” harkens back to Genesis 1 & 2 and the creation of “Man” or “Adam” since the words are interchangeable in Hebrew. The Messianic tone of the “one like a son of man” references the promised “seed” (Gen. 3:15), the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:3), and the Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7:5-16) as already discussed. All peoples coming to worship the Messiah is also described in Psalms 72:11 & 102:22 and Isaiah 42:1 & 54:13. What's most striking is Jesus' self-designation as the “son of man” all throughout the Gospels to masterfully refer to himself as being both Man and God while still allowing listeners to be “hearing but not understanding” (Luke 8:10). This is perfectly in line with Daniel's term of “one like a son of man” (emphasis added) signaling that the Messiah would be a man, and yet much more (especially coming with the clouds heaven). Luke's application of the term alone occurs in relation to Christ's earthly ministry (Luke 5:24; 9:58; 19:10), suffering/death/resurrection (Luke 9:22,44; 18:31; 22:22,48; 24:7), and second coming (9:26; 21:27,36; 22:69). Christ then applies Daniel's prophecy to Himself in His Great Commission to His disciples stating that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18), an obvious reference to His Messiahship. Some scholars also believe “This throne scene is fully elaborated in Revelation, chapters 4-20...” where “It is a judgment scene wherein the Ancient of Days...takes possession of the earth's kingdoms through the Son of Man...” since it fits with the beast violently losing its dominion (Pfeiffer, 790).