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The Four Beasts
06/06/2010
Scripture: Genesis 3:14-15; Daniel 7:1-14; Isaiah 1...
Track 7 of 12 in the Daniel: A Life Without Compromise series
Running time: 1 hour, 03 minutes, 53 seconds.
The vision we will study today in Chapter 7, the great beasts corresponds to the four metals of the image in Chapter 2. The vision of Daniel parallels Nebuchadnezzars dream image. Both visions are God-given and God-explained.



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The Four Beasts

With the beginning of Chapter 7 in Daniel, we now start the 2nd major division of the book. The 2nd half of the book consists of a series of visions, all of them given to Daniel and all of them were interpreted. As you will notice in the first verse, this vision given to Daniel takes place during the first year of King Belshazzar. I want to remind you again, the book of Daniel is not written in chronological order. In fact, if the chapters were to be put in order, they would look like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 5, 9, 6, 10, 11, 12.

I guess the best way to explain the Old Testament is really with one idea in mind, because man fell due to sin and lost the personal relationship with God that God originally planned and created, everything that follows points to the reestablishment of that relationship again. The first prophecy we find in scripture deals with the war that will go on and the ultimate event that will reestablish what man lost due to sin.

Genesis 3:14-15 So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

And so we see from this point on all the events before the birth of Jesus lead towards, flow towards, points towards and even bends towards the ultimate event, the arrival of the Messiah and his ministry. Everything that God did and everything that God gave to Israel were but shadows of the real things to come. Not only just the arrival of Jesus and the relationship he brought, but also what is yet to be realized in our future that are real and spectacular. Much of what we do, the way of life and principles Jesus asks us to live and follow all are also but shadows of the real truth yet to come.

When we look read and look at the visions given to Daniel by God, we have to realize what they were for and why God gave them. We have to remember the situation Israel is in and the burden they were under. They were in the situation because they sinned and refused to listen to God. But as in many times before, God didn’t leave them there to be destroyed, he broke their self will and renewed dependence in God that they needed. He raised up great leaders like Daniel to be an example to the nation on what was right and wrong living and he gave them hope to cling to through the visions given to Daniel. God will show Israel their future in these visions and will help them understand their purpose in life for centuries to come.

True or False: History can teach us a lot about the future!

If not, how come?
If so, how and what?

What did Jesus have to say about history and the present time to teach us about the future? (Matthew 24)

The vision we will study today in Chapter 7, the great beasts corresponds to the four metals of the image in Chapter 2. The vision of Daniel parallels Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image. Both visions are God-given and God-explained. The vision in Chapter 2 depicts world rule from the human view while world domination in Daniel’s vision is from God’s view. Man sees kingdoms of the world as great exhibitions of human prowess; God looks upon them as being bestial in character.

Daniel 7:1-7 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying on his bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream. Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it. “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’ “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule. “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

When this vision was given to Daniel, Babylon was still a great power. When we studied Belshazzar, I said there wasn’t much to say about Daniel during this time. 22 years were between Nebuchadnezzar’s death and the reign of Belshazzar. It was during this time Daniel was in obscurity. From what we read here, he was also doing some writing.

The dream’s first vision shows a great sea. Scholars don’t take this to be anything symbolic but literal. The sea is the Mediterranean Sea. All four nations found in the first image came from nations bordering the sea or their conquests of nations eventually met the Sea. The extreme eastern end of the Sea is Palestine, the geographic center of the earth and the center of God’s activities with Israel and the Gentile nations. Also, this is the area of the second coming of Jesus. Symbolically, the sea represents Gentile powers that are hostile to God and to Israel. There are many examples of this used I scripture:

Isaiah 17:12-13 Oh, the raging of many nations— they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples— they roar like the roaring of great waters!

It is out from the disturbed peoples of the earth that the four beasts arise. This disturbed state of the world gives rise to the conflicts among nations that causes one nation to overthrow others.

Lets think about war a minute; why do wars start? What is at the core of most wars we know about from history? But what is the cause of the commotion in this disturbed society in the vision? “The four winds of heaven churning up the great sea” What is meant by the four winds?

Revelation 7:1-3 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”

The four winds are satanic forces. Forces that are bent on hurting God’s elect. Even though they are evil, they are restrained by God and can’t do anything unless God allows it. The forces are at work in this vision and they are the reason why the beasts are on the move.

The First Beast: “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.

This beast corresponds to the head of gold in the first dream by Nebuchadnezzar. Both represent the Babylonian Empire. Gold is the most precious metal and the lion is the king of the beasts. In the ruins of Babylon, lions with wings were images found on walls and in statues. Other places in scriptures the winged lion was used to describe Babylon. Wings represent swiftness and over time, the mighty empire will lose its great ability.

What does verse 4 represent? The insanity of Nebuchadnezzar and his restoration.

The Second Beast: “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’

The Babylonian Empire gave way to the Medes and Persians. The bear when it comes onto the scene has three ribs in its mouth suggesting that this new world power had already devoured its prey, the Babylonians, Egypt and Lydia. The bear is a mighty beast but it isn’t as fast and nimble as a lion and it is less regal, nevertheless, the lion was overpowered just as the head of gold surrendered to the breast and arms of silver.

Look at verse 5, in this image, describe for me the nature of this bear? The image is a bear that lumbers a long, slowly but with a huge mass. A bear is big and massive and it destroys anyone in its path. That is how the Medes and Persians made war. They hurled masses of troops upon its enemies. When Xerxes made war against the Greeks, it hurled 2½ million fighting men against them. It moved slowly due to the size of its forces but it destroyed everything in its path.

The Third Beast: I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.

The lion devourers, the bear crushes and the leopard represents the Greek Empire. This fits well the description of Alexander the Great and how he waged war. The speed of his conquests amazed his enemies and historians. Alexander conquered a lot of territory in a short period of time. He also died at an early age. After his death his empire was divided up between his four generals and the four heads denotes the four kingdoms of Syria, Egypt, Macedonia and Asia Minor. The empire continued this way until it was conquered by the Romans.

There is an unusual statement made in verse 6 (and dominion was given to it); what does it mean? Look at verse 4:17

The Fourth Beast: I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

I sort of get the sense that Daniel quickly passed over the first three to get to the fourth beast that caught his interest. It caught his interest enough to inquire about it. What is fascinating about this beast, we are not told what kind of beast it was other than it was terrify and frightening and had iron teeth. As we will read in a minute, it also had 10 horns. The iron teeth correspond to the iron feet in the image in Chapter 2 and the 10 horns correspond to the 10 toes. The fourth beast is Rome.

Daniel was very concerned about the fourth beast because it wasn’t anything like the other three. There is also information concerning the 10 horns.

Daniel 7:8 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

Now here is where things get wacky. When the horns get thrown into the vision, many Christians divert from the pattern we see in the two visions in Daniel to something really out there. There is a large group of Christians who stop at this point and believe that this part of the vision predicts the second coming of Christ. Personally, I have a lot of trouble with that. Israel is in captivity and many are giving up hope. The reason why the visions are given is to keep Israel going, not to lose hope because much better days are ahead for the nation. Why would God confuse the pattern of the visions by predicting the 2nd coming of Jesus when the first one hadn’t even happened?

I truly believe the intent of the vision is simple and meant to be that way so everyone can know and learn from its meaning. Let’s allow the Bible to explain the meaning. The symbols used here would have been symbols consistent with what the Jews already recognized. In the Old Testament, the horn symbolized power.

1 Samuel 2: 10 Those who oppose the LORD will be shattered. He will thunder against them from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. “He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

The altar in the temple for sacrifice also had horns, one on each corner, So the nation knew what the symbol of the horn meant because they saw it used on a regular basis.

The number 10 is significant. Most beasts in the field have two horns. The altar of God had twice that. But this beast had 10. What is the message God sent to Daniel concerning this beast?

Numbers in scripture have meaning are consistent throughout the Bible. 10 in the Bible was used several times to depict the concept of “many”. The Jews would have understood that concept. When plurality is denoted, the number 10 was used. Thus when the prophet states that the beast had 10 horns, he means there were many provinces so divided that each ruler was like a king. Think back to the time of Jesus, even though Palestine was under Roman rule, if still had its own king. In fact there were several kings.

All four beasts are terrifying and horrific in the eyes of God but their terror is understood by two truths:

1. Each beast is followed by another. The terror of each beast is eclipsed by its successor.
2. Each beast is controlled by a greater power – the power of God.

Isaiah gives a great prediction concerning these four beasts. He warned Israel about the destruction to come because the nation refused to cease from their sins. These nations are terrifying and each had terrible consequences for the Jews. But in the end, they were no match for God’s power.

Isaiah 17:12-14 Oh, the raging of many nations— they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples—they roar like the roaring of great waters! Although the peoples roar like the roar of surging waters, when he rebukes them they flee far away, driven before the wind like chaff on the hills, like tumbleweed before a gale. In the evening, sudden terror! Before the morning, they are gone! This is the portion of those who loot us, the lot of those who plunder us.

Next week we will pick up the rest of Daniel 7 and talk more about the horn that spoke. That horn seemed to be one of the 10 that really caught Daniel’s interest. It catches the interest of many Christians as well.