LAWTON CHURCH OF GOD, LAWTON OKLAHOMA

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THE FOUR BEASTS, PART 4

 

And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ĎArise, devour much flesh!í After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. (Daniel 7:5Ė6, NKJV)

 

The first beast Daniel saw, which we found to be the Babylonian Empire, was a lion that had eagleís wings. This beast corresponded to the head of gold of the image Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream. The next two beasts are a bear and a leopard, which correspond to the Medo-Persian and Greek empires, which are the silver and bronze portions of Nebuchadnezzarís dream image.

The bear appears suddenly. In the previous chapter it was mentioned that one does not normally think of a bear taking on a lion in a fight and winning. But, in the case of Babylon and the Persians it is exactly what happened. The Babylonian Empire began to weaken during the time of Nebuchadnezzarís insanity. After he recovered he was a changed man and had lost interest in expanding his kingdom. The five kings following him were weak and ineffective and by 539 b.c. Babylon was a candidate to be conquered by almost any opposing force.

The bear in Danielís dream represents the Persian Empire. This bear was not friendly and it was very hungry. The Medes and the Persians were not as strong as Babylon was at its height under Nebuchadnezzar as a bear might not be as strong as a lion in some ways. However, the weakened condition of Babylon gave the bear an advantage over the lion.

We see the bear raising itself up on one side as it engages the lion in battle. In this stance it soon overpowered the lion. Daniel records that the bear appeared suddenly. We know that the Babylonian army surrendered to the Medo-Persian army on October 10, 539 B.C. and that two days later the city of Babylon fell after its attempt to throw off the invaders. The fall of Babylon is recorded in the fifth chapter of Daniel. The city fell suddenly in one night while Belshazzar was throwing a wild party. He felt safe within the walls of Babylon surrounded by a might river, but the bear rerouted the river and suddenly came in under the walls.

The bear in Danielís dream was in the act of raising itself up on one side as it began its battle with the lion. One of its forelegs was still on the ground and with the other the bear was reaching out to strike the lion. This speaks of the Persian kingdom rousing itself after it had been in quiet subjection to Babylon. Persia was like a bear wakening from hibernation: hungry and ferocious.

The three ribs in the bearís mouth are a subject of debate among Bible commentators. Some suggest that the three ribs represent the three major kingdoms conquered by the Persians: Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt. The ribs are the remains of the nations Cyrus devoured in putting together the Persian Empire. The fact that there is no flesh on the bones is an indication of how vicious he was in spreading his kingdom. Some suggest that the ribs are stuck in the bearís teeth showing that he could not devour all of his neighboring kingdoms. And there are some other interpretations for the ribs, but they are relatively inconsequential.

When the bear suddenly appears in Danielís dream, a voice calls out telling the bear to ďArise, devour much flesh.Ē This voice represents Godís intervention in history. It was Godís time to put judgment on Babylon. When God moves in history, it is suddenly. Godís people may be prepared for what He is about to do, but the unbelieving world is always taken by surprise.

The Persian Empire, the bear, was in power for about 208 years, from 539 B.C. to 311 B.C. at which time the leopard came along looking to displace the bear and take over its habitat. The leopard in Danielís dream represents the Greek, or Macedonian, Empire founded by Alexander the Great. This leopard is not a nice, pretty leopard one might see in a zoo or in a nature movie; it is a monster. Unlike all other leopards, this one has four wings and four heads. The Greek Empire under Alexander had the stealthy nature and speed of the leopard. And like the leopard, he was known for being bloodthirsty and cruel.

Leopards are very agile animals that can run over 36 miles per hour; lead over 20 feet; and jump up to 10 feet in the air. They are also very good swimmers. No animal is safe when a leopard is after it; those animals are known as ďlunch.Ē The leopard is considered to be the shrewdest of the big cats and, pound for pound, it is the strongest climber and it is capable of killing prey larger than itself. The leopard also has a spotted coat. These spots suggest that the Greek Empire was no one homogeneous culture, but a blend of several cultures with different customs. Adam Clarke comments on this fact:

 

The leopard is a spotted animal; a proper emblem of the various nations, with their various customs and languages, which constituted the Macedonian empire. It may refer to the character of Alexander himself, sometimes mild, at others cruel; sober and drunken; continent and lecherous; having a great power of self-government, and at other times being a slave to his passions

 

The leopard in Danielís dream has four wings on its back. These wings are not the wings of and eagle, instead they are generic wings of a fowl. Nebuchadnezzarís two eagleís wings gave his the strength and speed to quickly expand his kingdom. The leopardís four wings helped this already swift and agile creature to move much faster. In his lifetime, Alexander subdued part of Europe, and all of known Asia and Africa in only twelve years.

This leopard is very strange in that it has four heads. The heads do not represent the succession of four kings; rather, they represent four powers that were part of one empire. Alexander died at the age of 32 and left no successor. At his death, the empire was organized into four sections, each under the rule of one of his generals. Thrace and Bithynia (what is now part of Bulgaria in eastern Europe and all of Asia Minor) was under the rule of Lysimachus; Syria and the East was under the rule of Seleucus; Egypt was under the rule of Ptolmey soter; and, Macedonia, or Greece proper, was under the rule of Cassander.

Daniel 7:6 says that dominion was given to this leopard beast. God gave this beast its dominion; it did not take it on its own. We see that, again, God intervenes in human history to place judgment on a nation. This time it was the Persian Empire. Just because God uses one nation to enact His judgment on another nation does not give that nation immunity from the responsibility to act justly and according to Godís moral laws. The Babylonians found that out; the Persians found that out; and nations and empires throughout history have found that out. ďDo not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man [or a nation] sows, that he will also reap.Ē (Galatians 6:7)