Daniel 7: What Prophecies Do the Four Beasts Represent?

4-Beasts_Daniel

In Daniel 7, Daniel has a vision of four beasts rising from the sea  during the initial year of Belshazzar’s reign in Babylon[1].  This vision also involved four winds and a “Great Sea”[2] The four winds of heaven began to agitate the sea and four beasts arise from it[3]. Verse 17 suggests that the word “sea” is symbolic for “earth” (more importantly the nations/people of the earth in a constant state of turmoil) and the beasts themselves represent earthly kingdoms[4]. The number four in reference to the winds refers to the four directions of the earth meaning the effect of the winds is universal (across all nations)[5].

The first beast Daniel sees rising up is a lion that had the wings of an eagle which made it resemble a cherub protecting God’s kinship above the ark[6]. Verse 4 notes that its wings were torn off so that it stood like a human being. This shows that the kingdom represented by the lion appeared to be the kingdom of the gods, but the human given power made it equally as frail as any other human kingdom[7]. The kingdom represented by the lion is Babylon and can be substantiated by the fact of Nebuchadnezzar being symbolized as an eagle and a lion (eagle in Jer 49:33; Lam 4:19; Hab 1:8; Ezek 17:3 and as a lion in Jer 4:7; 49: 19, 22; 50:17, 44)[8].  The lion’s wings being removed references the humanitarian rule of Nebuchadnezzar after he became insane[9].

The second beast Daniel sees rising up was a bear with three ribs between its teeth[10]. The three ribs and the bear’s eagerness to eat its fill of flesh provide fuel for the symbolism that the bear symbolized the Persian conquest of Lydia (546 BC), Babylon (539 BC), and Egypt (525 BC)[11]. This means that the kingdom symbolized by the bear was the Medo-Persian kingdom and is in line with the identification of a ram in Daniel 8:20 as “the kings of Media and Persia”[12].

The third beast Daniel sees resembled is a leopard with four sings and four heads that was given authority to rule[13]. The traditionalist view holds that the leopard symbolizes Greece[14]. The wings give allusion to the speed at which Greece carried out its conquests as Alexander the Great invaded Asia Minor in 334 BC and conquered the entire Medo-Persian Empire to the border of India within ten years[15]. The wings themselves also allude to the four quarters of earth which alludes to world domination[16]. Scripture asserts that the term “head” is usually in reference to different rulers of government (eg Isa 7:8-9) and thus the leopard’s four heads represent Daniel’s prediction of Alexander’s kingdom evolving into four distinct kingdoms after Alexander’s death and much internal struggle within the empire[17]. The Maccabean view asserts this beast represents Persia[18], however the Maccabean view is considered heretical as it asserts the Book of Daniel was written after events had already passed in an effort to raise the morale of his fellow countrymen[19].

Daniel does not identify the fourth beast because it is too terrifying for him to fully describe beyond it having ten horns, power, and size which also means the animal was something that Daniel had never seen before[20]. The horns themselves represent kings or kingdoms (cf Rev 13:1 and Zech 1:18) given their identification in verse 24 and this means that the horns represented the fourth empire[21]. The little horns with eyes represent kings who take over the kingdom by force while displaying a great deal of intelligence and the king’s arrogance against God[22]. The little horn therefore represents the Antichrist and the fact the beast had ten horns signifies a completeness in power he will have that oversees an empire rising from the ruins of the old Roman Empire[23].

 

[1] Daniel 7:1.

[2] Daniel 7:2.

[3] Daniel 7:3.

[4] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary, 1st ed, (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994): p. 195.

[5] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary, 1st ed: pp. 195-196.

[6] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum:Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009):. p. 791.

[7] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum:Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology: pp. 791-792.

[8] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary, 1st ed: p. 197.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Daniel 7:5.

[11] Gregory A. Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum:Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology: p. 792.

[12] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary, 1st ed: p. 198.

[13] Daniel 7:6.

[14] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary, 1st ed: p. 199.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary, 1st ed: pp. 199-200.

[17] Stephen. B. Miller, Daniel: The New American Commentary, 1st ed: p. 200.

[18] Ibid. 196.

[19] Ibid. p. 24.

[20] Ibid. pp. 200-201.

[21] Ibid. p. 201.

[22] Ibid. p. 202.

[23] Ibid. p. 203.

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charlestinsley

My name is Charlie Tinsley and I blog about The Bible. In particular, I post my thoughts, commentaries, and Bible Study teachings I have done. I hold a Bachelors Degree in Science in Religion Summa Cum Laude with a Biblical Studies Minor. I am currently studying for a Masters In Divinity at Eastern Mennonite Seminary with PhD ambitions in the study of Theology. I am married and have been for several years and I currently reside in Virginia.

2 thoughts on “Daniel 7: What Prophecies Do the Four Beasts Represent?”

  1. I agree with you on your interpretation of the 4 beasts. I am currently making a power point study on this and would like permission to use your photo of the 4 beasts. I will put your website address in the bottom right corner so that you receive credit.
    Thank you

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