The Four Beasts
The eagle lives long, has great strength, and flies high in freedom and majesty. On June 20, 1792, the bald eagle was chosen to symbolize the sixteen-year-old Unites States. During the cold war in cartoons the Soviet Union was often pictured as a powerful yet clumsy big brown bear. Then, in the 1980 summer Olympic Games,
Russia countered this image with the cuddly teddy bear mascot, Misha,to present a friendlier image. The lion is the symbol of Britain’s pride and might, and China pictures itself as the four-legged snake dragon. The Book of Daniel uses wild beasts to picture powerful world empires long before our modern era.
In Daniel 2 God gave King Nebuchadnezzar a dream in which the king saw a mighty statue and he was the head of gold. Now, as we come into the second half of Daniel’s prophecy, God gives the diplomat-prophet a dream that parallels Nebuchadnezzar’s, only this time it’s four beastly creatures rising out of a stormy sea.
“In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon Daniel had a vivid dream and as he slept on his bed, visions passed through his head. And he wrote down the essence of the dream. Here’s what he wrote. ‘This is what happened in my vision in the night. Look—four winds of the heavens stirring the great sea. And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different one from the other. The first was like a lion. It had wings of an eagle, and I saw its wings plucked. Then the beast was lifted up from the ground. It stood on its feet, like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.
Look again—another beast, a second one. This one was like a bear, raised up on one of its sides, with one side lifted up higher than the other. In its mouth between its teeth were three ribs, and the beast was told, ‘Arise! Devour much flesh!’
After this, my vision continued with the command, ‘Look –another beast. This one was like a leopard. Four wings like a bird were given to the leopard upon its back, and the beast had four heads. It, too, was given dominion.
After this, my vision of the night continued, ‘Look-a fourth beast, terrifying, horrible, and incredibly powerful. It had great iron teeth with which it devoured and stamped what remained with its feet, crushing it to pieces. It was different from the other beasts that came before it, and it had ten horns. While I was considering the horns, a small horn arose and the previous three horns were plucked up by the roots. And look, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.’” Daniel 7:1-8
As we track Daniel’s text, we know that the lion-like first beast is the Babylonian Empire. And that Nebuchadnezzar started out acting like a wild beast—trying to brainwash Daniel, throwing Daniel’s three friends into the fiery furnace, and then having his megalomania humbled by living seven years like an ox in the open fields. He ended up praising Daniel’s God and accepting his sovereignty.
We also can figure out that the second bear-like beast is the Medo-Persian Empire where the Persians were definitely more powerful than the Medes in the union. We will have to wait till the text gives us more information to figure out the next two world empires and, more importantly, the boastful little horn that arises out of the ten horns.
One conclusion we can make is that the empires arise out of a raging ocean of chaos, and unlike Genesis 1:2ff where God fills the formless emptiness with light and life, these mad-made empires become more and more violent, tearing everything apart like ravenous beasts.
LORD, I pray that you will calm the beastly nature of the nations seeking to gain dominance in our world today so that your Son’s gracious Gospel can be taken to every people group on earth.
For more from Dave Wyrtzen please visit TruthEncounter.com!