Sunday: Four Animals
Read Daniel 7:1-28. What is the essence of what Daniel is shown, and what is the vision about?
Each animal shown to Daniel corresponds to a section of the statue shown to Nebuchadnezzar, but now more details about each kingdom are given. How interesting that the creatures, symbolizing pagan nations, are all unclean beasts. Also, except for the fourth beast, Daniel describes the animals as resembling some known creatures. So, the animals are not arbitrary symbols, inasmuch as each one bears some characteristics or points to some aspect of the kingdom it represents.
- Lion: A lion is a most fitting representation of Babylon. Winged lions decorated palace walls and other works of Babylonian art. The lion depicted in the vision eventually has its wings pulled off, is made to stand upright like a man, and receives a human heart. This process symbolizes the Babylonian Empire under its kings.
- Bear: The bear represents the Medo-Persian Empire. The fact that it is raised up on one side indicates the superiority of the Persians over the Medes. The three ribs between its teeth stand for the three main conquests of the Medo-Persian Empire: Lydia, Babylon, and Egypt.
- Leopard: The swift leopard represents the Greek empire established by Alexander the Great. The four wings make this beast even swifter, an apt representation of Alexander, who in a few years brought the entire known world under his dominion.
- The dreadful and terrible animal: Whereas the previous entities only resemble the animals mentioned, this one is an entity unto itself. That is, the first ones are depicted as “like” a lion or “like” a bear, but this one is not depicted like anything. This multi-horned beast also appears far more cruel and rapacious than the previous ones. As such, it is a fitting representation of pagan Rome, which conquered, ruled, and trampled on the world with its feet.
|All these thousands of years of human history have come and gone, just as predicted. How much comfort can you get from knowing that above all the clamor, unrest, and at times utter chaos, God rules? What does this teach us about the trustworthiness of Scripture?|
The Neo-Babylonian Empire was fairly short lived, lasting from about 612BC to 539BC. Nebuchadnezzar II was its longest serving King, commencing in 605BC and ruling for 43 years. He destroyed Jerusalem and took the Hebrews captive in 587BC. His wife was Amytis, a Mede. While Nebuchadnezzar was a fairly powerful ruler, it needs to be remembered that there were always plots and counterplots to be contended with. Nebuchadnezzar was able to control these more or less during his lifetime, but after he died the infighting between his offspring and courtiers greatly weakened the Kingdom.
During the latter part of the Babylonian Empire, the Achaemenid Empire (Medes and Persians in biblical terms) grew in strength. Like the Babylonian Empire it developed on the vision of one person, in this case, Cyrus the Great. Cyrus revolted against the Median empire in 553 BC and had essentially defeated them by 550BC. He ran successful campaigns in Egypt and had a continuing running battle with the Greek states to the west. He defeated the Babylonians at the Battle of Opis in 539 and took the city of Babylon soon after. The Achaemenid Empire was essentially Zoroastrian in religion but was also quite tolerant of other religions. It should be remembered that Cyrus was the one who allowed the Hebrews to return to Palestine and to rebuild the temple. Their empire essentially lasted from 550BC to 330BC. It was not all plain sailing though, and there were several assassinations and coups between siblings after Cyrus died. It was not good for your health to be king in those days. For all their infighting, the Achaemenids developed a system of roads for communication which greatly strengthened the kingdom.
During this time, the Greeks, which were a number of separate city states were united by Alexander the Great, a Macedonian. In 334BC he invaded the Achaemenid Empire, although it took another 10 years before he finally defeated them at the battles of Issus and Gaugamela. He continued to expand the Greek Kingdom during his lifetime extending it east as far as India. He died in 323BC, aged 32, in Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. There are several accounts of his death and a general feeling that foul play was involved.
The successorship of Alexander was hotly disputed by family members and his military commanders. Essentially the kingdom was broken up into several parts, the borders of which were quite fluid depending on the alliances and disagreements of the time. Assignations were common and a series of wars called the Diadochi wars were fought to try and sort out the mess. Leaders who emerged from this period were Ptolemy, Seleucus ! Nicator and Antipater. Ptolemy who took over Egypt and founded a dynasty that was to last until the death of Cleopatra in 30BC. Seleucus took over a large part of the previous Achaemenid empire and founded the ruling line that included the Antiochus kings. Antipater controlled a majority of Greek states. Of particular interest to the state of Judea were the Ptolemaic and Seleucid empires because for a fair bit of the intertestamental period they fought for control over Syria, and Judea just happened to be in the way.
The Seleucid empire is of particular interest to Seventh-day Adventists because it was during this time that Antiochus IV Epiphanes attempted to Hellenise Judea by disrespecting the temple services. This led to the Maccabean revolt that took place as a series of battles between 167-160BC. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah derives from this time and celebrates the rededication of the Temple after Judah Maccabee gained the victory over the Seulucids.
Still to come: The rise of Pagan and Papal Rome.
Bring it on brother Maurice I have a big appetite!
So interesting to learn the details behind the headlines of the four terrible beasts, which were the same kingdoms of the image of Dan 2. It is clear that the vision is not mainly about these kingdoms they are just the introduction.
In Dan 2 they are shown as shiny metals but in Dan 7 as ravenous beast, and even from Maurice's summary there was much infighting as wells as fighting each other.
This was the background in which God's people lived and this is why God gave this vision to Daniel not as a detailed history lesson. So what is the lesson? The world is ignoring the LORD of the universe and the world is getting worse and worse, cruel and evil. Dont be surprised when things get worse. Each empire claiming to be the best even like Rome demanding to be honored or worshipped as god or be put to death in various ways.
But worse was to come - see the horn that started little that survived the death of its beast and made war against the saints
Remember this vision was given to Daniel before the destruction of Babylon so it was future not history, we have an amazing LORD who knows what will happen!
The fulfilment of these prophecies reveal that God is indeed the God of the universe who knows the end from the beginning and rules in the affairs of men.
This leaves us with no doubt that all the prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled will surely come to pass. The more reason we should hold on to our faith without wavering.
Reading the lesson today and I believe they left out the part where the papal power is the beast which "IS" , seems like they are speaking in past tense, however the papacy is still considered the beast.
Daniel had many dreams and visions which he did not understand. He dreamed of four beasts which represented four kingdoms of the world, and of a ram and goat, which depicted two of those in greater detail. Daniel's visions reveal that the Messiah will be the ruler of a spiritual kingdom that will overpower and overshadow all other earthly kingdoms. We should interpret all of history in light of God's eternal kingdom.
The lion with eagle's wings = Babylon, the bear = Medo-Persia, the three ribs in its mouth represents the conquest of three major enemies. The leopard is Greece. Its wings show the swiftness of Alexander the Great's campaign as he conquered much of the civilized world in four years. The leopards four heads are the four divisions of the Greek Empire after Alexander's death. The fourth beast was not a world power which Daniel recognized; it represents Rome and the end times. Many Bible scholars believe that the horns correspond to ten kings who will reign shortly before God sets up his never-ending Kingdom. These ten kings had still not come to power at the time of John's vision recorded in the book of Revelation 17:12. The little horn is a future human ruler or the Antichrist ("man of sin", 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4)
God bless you all as you dig deep into His word.