Daniel's Vision of the Four Wild Beasts

posted Oct 7, 2016, 9:14 AM by Basic Bible Doctrine   [ updated Oct 7, 2016, 9:16 AM ]
In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a vision. In vision, Daniel stood on the shore of the "Great Sea" (the Mediterranean). Out of the sea four "Great Beasts" came up in succession. These "Four Beasts" correspond with the "Four Kingdoms" represented by the "Colossus" in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The first beast was "like a Lion and had Eagle's Wings," and as Daniel watched it, he saw it "lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon its feet as a Man, and a Man's Heart was given to it." Dan 7:4. This "First Beast" represented the First World Kingdom—Babylon, and its King Nebuchadnezzar.
The peculiarity of the "First Beast" was that it had "Eagle's Wings." This combination of the lion, the "King of Beasts," and the eagle, the "King of Birds," corresponded to the Royalty of the "Head of Gold" of the "Colossus," and typified the "Eagle-like" swiftness of the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. The "Plucking of the Wings" doubtless referred to the "Beastly Insanity" of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:20-27), and the "lifting up," and causing to stand upon its feet "as a man" to his restoration to sanity.
The Second Beast was "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." Dan 7:5. The bear is the strongest beast after the lion and is distinguished for its voracity, but it has none of the agility and majesty of the lion, is awkward in its movements, and effects its purpose with comparative slowness, and by brute force and sheer strength. These were the characteristics of the Medo-Persian Empire. It was ponderous in its movements. It did not gain its victories by bravery or skill, but overwhelmed its enemies by hurling vast masses of troops upon them. Xerxes' expedition against Greece was undertaken with 2,500,000 fighting men, who with the camp followers made up an army of 5,000,000. Other Persian generals had armies running up into the 100,000's of men. It is easy to be seen that the movements of such enormous bodies of men would "devour much flesh," not only in the destruction of their enemies, but thousands would die of disease and exposure and the countries through which they passed would become famine stricken by the loss of food seized to feed such armies. The side of the Bear which raised up to attack typified Persia, in which lay the greatest military strength, and corresponded to the right shoulder and arm of the "Colossus." The "Three Ribs" stood for the three Kingdoms of Lydia, Babylon and Egypt, which formed a "Triple Alliance" to check the Medo-Persian power, but were all destroyed by it.
The Third Beast was "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." Dan 7:6. The leopard is the most agile and graceful of creatures; but its speed is here still further assisted by "wings." Slight in its frame, but strong, swift and fierce, its characteristics render it a fitting symbol of the rapid conquests of the Greeks under Alexander the Great, who, followed by small but well-equipped and splendidly brave armies, moved with great celerity and in about 10 years overthrew the unwieldy forces of Persia, and subdued the whole civilized world. The "four wings of a Fowl" indicate, that, as a "fowl" does not fly high, the armies of Alexander were fitted mainly for lowland fighting. There is an incongruity between the number of "wings" and the number of "heads" of the Leopard. While the first beast, the Lion, with "one head" has "one pair" or "two wings," the Leopard with "four heads" has only "two pair" or "four wings." "Four heads" call for "four pair of wings." Why only "four" wings it is not known, unless they denote the four quarters of the earth into which Alexander sought to extend his Kingdom.
The "Four Heads" of the Leopard represent the "Four Kingdoms" into which the Empire of Alexander was divided by his generals, namely Egypt, Syria, Thrace and Macedonia. From B.C. 323 to B.C. 30 there was no world-wide Kingdom, there being this break or parenthesis between the Medo-Persian and Roman Empires, showing that while there was to be "four" and "only four" world-wide Empires it did not necessarily follow that there should be no break between them. The Third Beast, the Leopard, corresponds to the abdomen and hips of the "Colossus."
The Fourth Beast was unlike any beast that Daniel had ever seen or heard about, it was "dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly, and it had great IRON TEETH. It devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue (the other Beasts) with the feet of it; and it was diverse from all the Beasts that were before it and it had "Ten Horns."
The fact that the Fourth Beast had "Iron Teeth," and that there were "Ten Horns" on its head, the "iron" corresponding to the "Iron Limbs" and the "ten horns" to the "Ten Toes" of the Colossus, would cause Daniel to see that the Fourth Beast represented the Fourth World Kingdom.
But as Daniel "considered" the "Ten Horns," he was amazed to see another Horn, a "LITTLE" one, come up among them, and before whom there were "three" of the "First Horns" plucked up by the roots, that is destroyed; and as he examined the "Little Horn" more closely he noticed that it had Eyes like the eyes of a Man, and the Mouth of a Man speaking great things. Dan 7:7, 8. This mystified and troubled Daniel. He had seen nothing corresponding to it on the "Ten Toes" of the Colossus. It must mean some new and additional revelation that God did not see fit to impart to the Gentile King Nebuchadnezzar, and that was reserved for Daniel and his people (the Jews), for we must not forget that Daniel's own visions, in the last six chapters of the Book, have to do with God's dealings with the Jewish People in the "Latter Days." Dan 10:14.
Before Daniel could ask for an explanation of the meaning of the "Little Horn," he had another vision, a vision of a Judgment. Dan 7:9-14. Daniel's vision of the destruction of the Beast (vs. 11) locates this Judgment as just before the Millennium. Daniel at the same time saw the "Son of Man" (Christ) receive His Kingdom (the Stone Kingdom). Vs. 13, 14. These visions added to Daniel's perplexity, and he was "grieved in his spirit," and the visions of his head "troubled him" (vs. 15), so he approached one of the "Heavenly Messengers" that stood by and asked him the meaning. He was told that the "Four Beasts" stood for Four Kings, or Kingdoms (vs. 23), that should arise out of the earth. Then Daniel wanted to know the "truth" about the "Fourth Beast," which was so diverse from the other three. The "Little Horn" of the Fourth Beast was what troubled him the most because it was to make war against the "Saints of the Most High," and they were Daniel's own people, the God-fearing Jews of the "End Time," who were to pass through the "Great Tribulation" and to be prevailed against, until the time came that the people (the Jews) of the "Saints of the Most High" should possess the Kingdom.
In explanation Daniel was told that the "Ten Horns" on the Fourth Beast represented "Ten Kings" that shall arise, and that the "Little Horn" was a king that should rise among them and subdue three of them, and that he would be a "person" of remarkable intelligence and great oratorical powers, having a mouth speaking great things (vs. 8, 20). That he would be audacious, arrogant, imperious and persecuting and change "times and laws," and that the "Saints of the Most High" would be given into his hands for a "Time, and Times, and the Dividing of Time," or 3½ years.
In this vision of the Four Beasts we see "Degeneration" just as we saw it in the metals of the Colossus. The descent is from the Lion, the "King of Beasts," to a nondescript monster that defies description. The reason why these Four Kingdoms are represented first as a "Golden Headed Metallic Image," and then as a succession of "Wild Beasts," is to show the difference between man's view and God's view of the World Kingdoms. Man sees in them the concentration of wealth, majesty and power; God sees them as a succession of rapacious wild beasts devouring one another.