The Times of the Gentiles Part II-The Beasts
Times of the Gentiles is a long period of time when four Gentile empires will follow one another in sequence with the Fourth Empire going through several different stages. But eventually this will give way to God’s setting up His own Kingdom. While the Gentile empires are of human origin; the Kingdom of the Stone is of divine origin. While the Gentile empires are all temporary, God’s kingdom is eternal. Jesus spoke of this in His Olivet Discourse.
And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (KLV).
The Four Visions Daniel Saw, Daniel 7:1-14:
Now the first vision was of Nebuchadnezzar’s. The next vision is one that God provided directly to Daniel. Let’s do a reading of the entire passage and then go through an explanation and see if that makes things a little easier to understand. Some of this gets a little hard to grasp when we are talking about beasts, and images, and numbers of body parts, and horns, and some strange things… Let’s look at the second passage of the four we will be reading in the section of the Times of the Gentiles.
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. 2Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of heaven brake forth upon the great sea. 3And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4The 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 to stand upon two feet as a man; and a man’s heart was given to it. 5And, behold, another beast, a second, like to a bear; and it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6After this I beheld, and, lo, another, like a leopard, which had upon its back four wings of a bird; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. (ASV 1901).
The First Vision, four winds and four beasts
Immediately in verse 1 Daniel is given the time and location of the four visions. Then in verses 2-6 there is a vivid description of the first vision. It begins with a view of what is called the Great Sea. We know this to be the Mediterranean and it represents the Gentile world. This same imagery is used in other biblical references (Isaiah 17:12-13; Matthew 13:47-50; Revelation 13:1; 17:1, 15). The sea is stirred up by the four winds. The number is the same as the Gentile empires. Interestingly the winds themselves point to God’s sovereignty and dominion. Then immediately four individual and distinct beasts rise up out of the Mediterranean Sea. All of these are representations of Gentile empires and all come out of the Mediterranean area. We can keep that in mind that these four beasts are going to come out of the Great Sea. Somehow they are going to come out of this Gentile dominion.
The First Beast is described, as lion like but having wings as an eagle. It is representing the Babylonian Empire, which has been referenced elsewhere in the Old Testament. (Jeremiah 4:7; 48:40; 49:19,22; 50:17; 44; Ezekiel 17:3).
As depicted on the gates of Ishtar, the Babylonian winged lion can be viewed at the British Museum, or the University of Chicago. The latter part of verse four seems to reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s animal like punishment as recorded in Daniel 4:1-37. We remember that in Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar, filled with pride is considering all that he had done and all he had built, and Babylon was the splendor of the ancient world. In doing this he was filled with pride and this was after having seen what Daniel can do and after knowing Daniel’s God and after believing that Daniel’s God was very, very, powerful. By denying Daniel’s God, the Lord changed him into, behavior like unto an animal. He ate grass, he walked on all fours, and his nails grew exceedingly long. He was out of his normal mind for seven years.
Nebuchadnezzar began to act as an animal due to the condition imparted by God. The same thing happened to Babylon. Babylon eventually softened from its beast-like nature of conquest to culture pursuits. They excelled in the arts of divination, astronomy, astrology, accounting, mathematics and private and commercial law. Most of what we use today in Business and Commerce Law came from Babylon. They became too peaceful. It was easy for the Medes to take them over. There wasn’t a struggle; they became a more peaceful group near the end of their existence.
The Second Beast had ribs for dinner
The second beast has characteristics of a bear representing the Medo-Persian Empire. The bear appears cockeyed, with one side elevated. While the Medes and the Persians were unified, the Persians were by far the dominant power and it was a uneven merger. The vision describes the bear as having three ribs in its mouth, just eaten the flesh. Some see these three ribs as representation of the three kingdoms conquered by the Medo-Persian military. This made them a powerful empire. Those defeated foes were Lydia, Babylon, and Egypt. The bear is not as royal as the lion and is bulky and weighty. Medo-Persia successfully built their empire through the brute strength and volume of their military forces. They had this huge army, much larger than the other countries they conquered.
CHART COMPARING DANIEL 2 WITH DANIEL 7 IMAGES
The Third Beast, Leopard like with 4 wings and 4 heads
The third beast is leopard-like and it represents the Greek Empire. The leopard is much faster than both the lion and the bear. With leopard-like swiftness Alexander the Great conquered the Medo-Persian Empire and greatly extended his Hellenistic Empire. He conquered extremely fast. There are thousands and thousands of scholarly articles written about him and about how fast he moved and the strategy he employed. He developed the military flanks and other superior military stratagems. He just didn’t live very long; he died in Babylon in his early 30’s. So with leopard-like swiftness Alexander conquered the Medo-Persian Empire and extended the Hellenistic Empire.
The four wings represent the swiftness of Alexander in conquering all the other empires from Europe to Western Asia. After a lengthily period of infighting by all of Alexander’s generals four emerged as the victors, which are represented by the four heads. They were:
- Ptolemy, who controlled Egypt, Israel and Arabia Petrea
- Seleucus, who controlled Syria, Babylonia, and India
- Cassander, who controlled Macedonia and Greece
- Lysimachus, who controlled Thrace and Bithinia
The Fourth Beast was dreadful, terrible, and strong
7After this I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, a fourth beast, terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. 8I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. 9I beheld till thrones were placed, and one that was ancient of days did sit: his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and the wheels thereof burning fire. 10A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousands of thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11I beheld at that time because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake; I beheld even till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire. 12And as for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 13I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (ASV 1901).
The Second Vision, The Fourth Beast
The next vision that Daniel received given in verses 7-8, describes the last beast. It is not like any of the first three. The others all have animal characteristics, there isn’t anything to this one at all, and it’s just a beast. This fourth beast is described as being different from all the others. It completely conquers and smashes the three that precede it. It is more cruel and violent than the previous three empires. The fourth beast has ten horns. Later an eleventh horn arises which is described as the little horn. This 11th horn pulls out three of the original ten horns. With only seven horns left the little horn become the eighth horn on the head of the beast.
This beast is similar to the image in the second chapter of Daniel. Here this also represents the fourth Gentile world empire. Further it is stated that this empire will go through several stages. Even though this empire conquers the other three they are not eliminated from the world political scene.
To Be Continued.
Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.