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After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. (Daniel 7:7–8)


Thus far in Daniel’s dream we have encountered a lion, a bear, and a leopard, which are analogous to the head of gold, chest of silver, and waist of bronze in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. These images represent in order the Babylonian, Persian, and Greek empires.

We now come to the last beast in Daniel’s dream, which we know must correspond to the legs of iron with feet of mixed iron and clay in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the Roman Empire. This beast, while not defying description, is difficult to classify. We are told only that it has a head and it has feet. The head is hideous because it has horrible iron teeth. The iron teeth are consistent in substance with the iron legs of Nebuchadnezzar’s image. The head of this beast has ten horns and eventually an eleventh horn comes up to pluck out three of the other horns. This horn also has eyes like a man’s eyes and a mouth that speaks pompous words. We know this beast has feet because Daniel saw it trampling with its feet; however, we are not told how many feet, so that fact must not be important. This is all the description we have of the appearance of this beast.

In most instances, this beast is pictured on the charts of prophecy teachers as a dragon-like animal. If you have ever seen the movie “Godzilla,” you can see a resemblance between that monster and this monster in Daniel’s dream as depicted on these charts. The reason this beast is depicted in the likeness of a dragon is because most prophecy teachers associate it with the dragon in the twelfth chapter of Revelation.

The dragon of Revelation 12 is somewhat different than Daniel’s beast. Daniel’s beast and the Revelation dragon both have ten horns, but that is where the similarity ends. The Revelation dragon has seven heads but Daniels beast appears to have only one head. In verse 20 of chapter 7, Daniel speaks of “its head” and does not mention other heads on this beast. Daniel’s beast has feet but there is no mention of a tail; and the Revelation dragon has a tail but there is no mention of feet. Finally, the Revelation dragon is red in color but Daniel assigns no color to his beast. These differences may be inconsequential, but we should note that there are differences.

Prophetically, there is a relationship between Daniel’s beast and the dragon of the Revelation, but they are not one-and-the-same. In Daniel’s dream, the beast is the Roman Empire as it impacts the land of the Jews. In the Revelation, the red dragon represents the spirit of religion associated with non-Christian religions. These beasts’ association with Rome is that it was the ruling empire at the beginning of the Revelation narrative and it was the protector and champion of non-Christian religion at the time.

Most of the vision in the seventh chapter of Daniel has to do with this fourth beast. We saw its strong but divided nature in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; here we learn more about its cruelty and its vicious nature. You will notice that each of the beasts in this vision is cruel and vicious as we learned about their natures from our earlier discussion of the Sea and the earth. You will also notice that each succeeding beast is more vicious and cruel than its predecessor.

This Roman beast is the most vicious and cruel of them all. Daniel says of it, it is “dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong.” The Hebrew word dreadful, deh-khal, means to fear. It denotes creeping along, going out with a quiet gait like a timid person. This does not mean that the beast is timid itself; instead, it terrifies peoples so that they slink away in fear. As this Roman beast comes on the scene, people are so much in dread of it they slink away from it in fear. The Hebrew word terrible, em-taw-nee, appears only here in the Bible. Translated “terrible” in our English Bibles, its literal meaning is “well loined.” That is not a common expression in modern American English and is better understood by the word “burly,” which means great in bodily size, stout or sturdy. Exceedingly strong is two Hebrew words: yat-teer and tak-keet. Yat-teer means preeminent, very great; and, tak-keet means hard, strong. Putting all this together, we learn that the Roman Empire as it comes on the scene it is a big and powerful empire that strikes fear into the hearts of all it encounters, subduing them with little effort.

The iron teeth of this beast are its tool of destruction, This obviously is the Roman legions by which Rome extended its rule over the then known world. Adam Clarke comments about this beast:


This is allowed, on all hands, to be the Roman empire. It was dreadful, terrible, and exceeding strong: it devoured, and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue, that is, the remains of the former kingdoms, with its feet. It reduced Macedon into a Roman province about one hundred and sixty-eight years before Christ; the kingdom of Pergamos about one hundred and thirty-three years; Syria about sixty-five; and Egypt about thirty years before Christ. And, besides the remains of the Macedonian empire, it subdued many other provinces and kingdoms; so that it might, by a very usual figure, be said to devour the whole earth, to tread it down, and break it to pieces; and became in effect, what the Roman writers delight to call it, the empire of the whole world


Daniel remarks that “this beast was different from all the beasts that were before it.” He notes that it has ten horns, but that is not why it is different. The difference is primarily in its form of government, which was both its strength and its weakness. The Babylonian and Persian empires were monarchies having hereditary kings with absolute rule. The Greek Empire was like a monarchy under Alexander. When he died, the empire was divided into four sections, each with a ruling and hereditary ruler. What makes the Roman system of government different from the others is that it was a republic. It did have an emperor, but also had an elected senate that worked in conjunction with the emperor. The office of emperor was not hereditary. This form of government was a source of strength as the national leadership changed from time to time. This, to a degree, overcame the corruption and weakness inherent in hereditary monarchies. Adam Clarke, again, comments:


It (the fourth beast) was diverse from all the beasts that were before it—Not only in its republican form of government, but also in power and greatness, extent of dominion, and length of duration.


The ten horns of Daniel’s fourth beast is the subject of much discussion among prophecy teachers. The most common explanation is that these horns are the ten divisions of the Roman Empire after its fall to the barbarian tribes. The first principle of Daniel’s prophecies is that they concern the impact of the four world-wide empires on the Jews up to the coming of Messiah. The division of the Roman Empire happened long after the coming of Messiah and it cannot be factored into the events in Daniel’s prophecies. The evidence in Daniel’s dream shows these ten horns cannot be the ten barbarian kingdoms because the Person called the Ancient of Days confronts this beast, its horns, and the special eleventh horn that arises. To be consistent with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and with history, the events involving the horns have to be resolved with the coming of the kingdom of God in the days of Christ on earth.