We’re in a series about the prophet Daniel’s vision of the four beasts. In this vision, Daniel saw four great beasts rise up out of the sea. Each of the four beasts symbolized empires that would have dominion over Israel and the Jewish people during a period of time known as “the times of the Gentiles.” That’s a time when the nation of Israel lost her autonomy as an independent nation and was ruled by Gentile powers. In the last post, we studied the first two beasts that rose out of the sea. In this third post, we’ll study the other two beasts that followed the first two beasts. The crux of Daniel’s vision of the four beasts was to reveal a dreadful and terrible enemy to the Jewish people. It was an enemy the Jewish people will face far, far into the distant future. Who is this enemy? It is the empire of the Antichrist—the greatest enemy the Jewish people will have ever encountered in all of their history. If you want to learn about the rest of Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, keep reading.
DANIEL’S VISION OF THE FOUR BEASTS
By Karen Thompson
Third in a Five-Part Series
Before we study the last two beasts in Daniel’s vision, let’s do a quick summary of the first two beasts. Let’s look at the first beast: “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” (Dan. 7:4). The first beast Daniel saw was a lion with wings like an eagle. This winged lion is symbolic of Babylon, specifically when King Nebuchadnezzar was the ruler. It was during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign that Babylon invaded and conquered Jerusalem and the Jewish people, which resulted in the beginning of a period of time the Bible calls “the times of the Gentiles.”
Now let’s review the second beast in verse five: “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.” The next beast is symbolic of the Medo/Persian Empire. It is symbolized by a beast that Daniel said resembled a bear. This bear-like beast symbolizes the Medo/Persian Empire during the time when it invaded and defeated Babylon, which meant the Persians then ruled over Jerusalem and the Jewish people.
If you recall, the dream of the metal man dreamed by King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 2 symbolizes the period of time when Jerusalem and the Jewish people would be under the rule of Gentile nations. On the metal man, the head of gold symbolized the Babylonian Empire. The chest and arms of silver symbolized the Persian Empire. In Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, we see the fulfillment of the first two empires ruling over the Jewish people. Now let’s look at the last two beasts. Let’s read, again…
Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts
Dan. 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. 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. 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 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. 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. 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. 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. 8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
Third Beast: Grecian Empire
The description of the next beast is in verse six: “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.”
The leopard symbolizes Alexander the Great of the Grecian Empire. We know from history that this beast symbolizes Alexander, but we also know it because of Daniel’s later visions. The leopard is known for its speed; hence, the leopard symbolizes the speed in which Alexander carved out his empire. Alexander the Great is famous for having conquered the entire Middle East in just 12 years of military campaign. In addition to ruling over Macedonia and Greece, Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, including Anatolia, Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Gaza, Egypt, Bactria, and Mesopotamia, and extended the boundaries of his empire as far as Punjab, India.
Also, you’ll notice it says the leopard had “four wings of a fowl.” I have always read that to mean it had four pairs of wings. But others hold the view that “four wings” means two pair of wings. It seems to me if that is the correct interpretation, why wasn’t Daniel consistent in his description of the lion by saying it had two wings. But he didn’t do that. He simply said the lion “had wings of an eagle.”
The leopard also had four heads; the four heads represent four of Alexander’s generals. After Alexander died, these generals argued about who would rule the entire empire. In the end, they decided to divide the empire into sections. As soon as the generals agreed to the division of the territories, they immediately went to war with each other to seize bigger portions of Alexander’s empire. The fighting between these four Greek generals is illustrated in one of Daniel’s later visions. Also, since wings symbolize armies, it makes sense to interpret the wings on the lion as four pair of wings to symbolize the armies of the four generals. The generals fought with each other with the intent of conquering the whole of Alexander’s empire for themselves. Two of the generals were quickly defeated by the other two generals. The last two generals and their posterity fought for centuries to conquer the other’s territory.
To sum it up, the leopard with four heads and four wings is symbolic of Alexander’s Grecian Middle Eastern Empire during the time when it broke up into four sections, with four kings. It’s interesting to note that the wings on the leopard are not eagle’s wings like they were on the Babylonian lion. The leopard’s wings are bird wings which denote that these generals had less power, resulting from the Grecian Empire being divided into four sections. When Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire, it meant that Israel was then under the rule of the Grecian Empire.
Fourth Beast: The Antichrist Kingdom
The description of the last beast is in verses 7–8: “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. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.”
Daniel’s vision of the four beasts concentrates mostly on the last beast. We are given the most information about the last beast, because it is the end time kingdom of Antichrist. This beast displayed more action than the others. In fact, Daniel seemed to be frightened by it, using adjectives like dreadful and terrible to describe it. Daniel didn’t have this emotional reaction when observing the other beasts. Clearly, just as Daniel said, this beast “was diverse from all the beasts that were before it,” meaning it was different than the others. Daniel described the frightening behavior of this fourth beast by saying it had great iron teeth that devoured and broke in pieces its prey, and then what it didn’t devour with its teeth, it stomped into pieces the residue of its prey with its feet.
Ten Horns and a Little Horn
Daniel observed that this dreadful and terrible beast had ten horns on its head. As Daniel watched, he observed unusual action concerning the ten horns. He said, “There came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots…” (v. 8). A “little horn” came up from under the other horns and, in so doing, displaced three of the ten horns, uprooting them in the process. When this little horn had pushed its way up, Daniel noticed that it looked different than the others. The rest of verse eight describes the little horn: “Behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.” None of the other horns were given any description. The fact that this little horn is described in detail tells us it is important. And the fact that the mouth is said to speak “great things” tells us the little horn will be filled with hubris. Clearly, this horn is more significant than all the other horns.
Let’s jump ahead for a moment in the chapter to where Daniel asked the heavenly messenger for the interpretation of these four beasts and ten horns. In verse 17, the heavenly messenger explained, “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.” Each of the beasts represent a king, and all the kings were rulers over different nations. Then Daniel wanted to know specifically about the fourth beast and its ten horns. This is the end time kingdom of Antichrist. The messenger said, “The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth … And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings” (Dan. 7:23–24).
So now we know that each of the four beasts represent a king of a nation. The ten horns on the last beast symbolize ten kings. Of course, a king wouldn’t be a king if he wasn’t a ruler of a nation. So the ten horns on the fourth beast symbolize ten kings/nations. Then another horn, an eleventh king, will come into a position of power after all these other kings have already been established. The action in this scenario of the little horn rising up from underneath the ten horns and displacing three horns is symbolic of the little horn king subduing three of the ten kings/nations. It is described as having eyes and a mouth that speaks great things which tells us this horn/king will have significance during the end times.
What will be confirmed in Daniel’s following visions is that the beast with iron teeth symbolizes the Antichrist kingdom, and the ten horns symbolize ten kings that will align together with the Antichrist beast. Three of these ten nations, he will conquer through war. The other nations will yield their authority to him willingly (Rev. 17:12–13).
We’ll continue our study of the vision of the four beasts in our next two blogs. There’s so much more to be learned.
In his off time, email Patrolman Elvin led a scout group for little emails. The mom of one of the young emails in the group came to watch her little email be sworn in as a new email scout. Momma email listened as Patrolman Elvin quizzed the new scout on the group’s mission and motto.
“New scout,” shouted the Patrolman, “Step forward and recite for me the mission of every email!”
The young scout stepped forward and said, “Sir, the mission of every email is to be read everywhere, in every town and country!”
“Next, recite to me the email motto,” commanded the Patrolman.
“Sir,” he said, “The email motto is to always be moving forward!”
Patrolman Elvin then asked the new scout to recite the email oath.
With his hand across his heart, the little email recited the email oath saying, “On my honor, I will do my best to fulfill my function and purpose, to keep moving forward and never stop, to be read as many times as possible.”
Patrolman Elvin smiled broadly. And momma email burst with pride!
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