Fourth Beast

In Chapter 7 of the Book of Daniel, the fourth “Beast” that the Prophet saw “ascending from the sea” is presented in more detail than the first three. It is the center and primary concern of the vision. The three other “beasts” provided background information for the rise of the fourth kingdom. Unlike the first three, it had no analog in the animal kingdom. It was an unnatural and monstrous creature with “iron teeth” and “ten horns.”

The fourth Beast used its “iron teeth” and feet to “trample” its victims, a clause which parallels the fourth section of the “great image” in King Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier dream concerning a great image with a “golden head.” The legs and feet of that great image were “strong like iron” that “shatters and subdues all things”:

  • (Daniel 7:7-8) – “After that, I was looking in the visions of the night, when, lo, a fourth beast, terrible and well-hipped and exceeding strong, and it had large teeth of iron, it devoured and broke in pieces, and the remnant with its feet it trampled down, and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, when, lo, another horn, a little one came up among them, and three of the former horns were uprooted from before it, and, lo, eyes, like the eyes of a man in this horn, and a mouth speaking great things” – (Compare Daniel 2:40-43).

THE TEN HORNS


With its feet, the fourth Beast “trampled the remnant with its feet.” The identity of the “remnant” is not given in the immediate passage, but verbal links connect the “trampling” by this creature to the next vision in Chapter 8 when the “little horn” trampled “some of the stars underfoot” - (Daniel 8:8-10).

The “ten horns” may correspond to the toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier “great image,” although neither his dream nor its interpretation mentioned the number of “toes.” The “little horn” emerged from among the “ten horns,” three of which were “uprooted.”

In the Aramaic text, the verb rendered “uprooted” is passive. That means the three horns are “removed” by someone or something - (Daniel 2:41).

The number “ten” could be symbolic or literal. Elsewhere, “ten” symbolizes a complete set of something. But the removal of three horns and their replacement by an eleventh is quite specific, which makes it difficult to interpret the numbers symbolically. More likely, this level of detail points to a known historical event or events.

The “little horn” had human eyes and “a mouth speaking great things,” suggesting intelligence, arrogance, and perhaps something blasphemous.

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY


Next, the Heavenly Court reacted to the “Beast” and its blasphemous “horn.” We are now presented with events from the perspective of God’s throne - (Daniel 7:9-14).

Daniel gazed “until thrones are placed.” Here, the vision transitions to a judgment scene (“judgment was set, and the books were opened”). The image of “one seated on the throne” symbolizes the sovereignty of God over historical events - (Daniel 12:1-4, Revelation 4:1-8, 20:11-15).

The other beings who were sitting on the “thrones” are not identified in the text. Their plurality may stress the majesty of the “Ancient of Days”; likewise, the picture of “thousands upon thousands that serve him.”

The four ravenous creatures “from the Sea” gave the impression that human kingdoms are not under the control of the “God of Heaven.” Any such notion is now set aside by events in the heavenly court.

The “fiery wheels” indicate mobility. There is no place safe from the judicial reach of the “Ancient of Days.”  His rule is dynamic, and He determines the course of empires. The “four beasts” can only exit the sea when He permits, and He is the source of the forces that stir the surface of the sea, causing them to ascend and march across the earth.

The fourth “Beast” was “slain” for its arrogance. The impious nature of the four “beasts” reached its most blasphemous height in the “mouth” of the “little horn” that “spoke great things.” Consequently, the “fourth Beast” was destroyed. But it was the “Beast” that was slain, NOT its “little horn.” This points to the “death” of a regime but not necessarily to the destruction of an individual ruler.

However, the first three “beasts” reappear (“The rest of the beasts”). In the historical record, each kingdom succeeded its predecessor. In the symbolic world of the vision, the first three realms remain contemporaneous with the “little horn.” All four regimes continue until they are destroyed collectively by an act of divine judgment.

Likewise, in Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier vision, all four segments of the great image” were destroyed simultaneously in “later days” by the stone cut “without hands” - they were CONSTITUENT PARTS OF A SINGLE WHOLE.

Each kingdom was “given a lengthening of life until a time and season.” Each kingdom continued in power for the time allotted by God, and each one lost dominion but then received a duration of life for the appointed time. The final destruction of the first three “beasts” is inextricably linked with the demise and destruction of the “little horn.”

Thus, the destruction of the fourth kingdom and its “little horn” will end the entire structure of the World Empire, just as in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream when the “stone” struck the “feet” of the “great image” and turned the entire structure into dust.

And so, the sovereignty of the World Empire passes successively from one kingdom to the next, but each one exercises the same malevolent power. The form varies, but the nature of each regime remains the same.

In the interpretation of Daniel’s dream, the length of a “season and time” is not defined but constitutes a link to Daniel’s earlier declaration that God “changes times and seasonshe removes kings and sets up kings” - (Daniel 2:19-23).

The lengthening of life means that each “beast” continues to exist in the subsequent regimes. Nebuchadnezzar saw four individual kingdoms represented by one figure composed of four sections. The World Empire has multiple incarnations but it is a single entity. Its form may change but its nature does not.

Next, the “one like a Son of Man” was seen approaching the “Ancient of Days,” but only after the destruction of the fourth Beast. This figure is in sharp contrast to the monstrous “beasts,” especially the “little horn speaking great things.”

The nature of this figure’s dominion differs markedly from the beastly nature of the World Empire. Behind this image is the story of Adam. Yahweh made man in His “likeness” and commanded him to take dominion over the earth. The “Son of Man” now receives “dominion” and thus succeeds where Adam failed.

The “Son of Man” did not receive the kingdom until judgment was given “for the saints” and the “Beast” was slain. Recorded in the “books” were the deeds of the four “beasts.”

The “Son of Man” approached the “Ancient of Days” and received the kingdom. This is another link to Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier dream in which he saw the “stone cut out without hands” that became “a kingdom that will never be destroyed” - (Daniel 2:44-45).

IN REVELATION


And in the Book of Revelation, the vision of the four “beasts from the sea” is modified. The four beasts become a single beast summoned by the “Dragon” from the Sea. And that “Beast” possesses the same animalistic features as Daniel’s four “beasts from the sea.”

This single “Beast from the Sea” also has “ten horns” and a mouth “speaking great blasphemies.” It is related to Daniel’s four beasts, but it is also something more, and presumably, far worse.

In Daniel, the “little horn” waged “war against the saints and prevailed over them.” In Revelation, the “Beast from the sea” with the “mouth speaking great things” also wages “war against the saints,” and he likewise overcomes them.

And in both Daniel and Revelation, the saints do not take full possession of the kingdom until after their ordeal at the hands of the “Beast.” But, in both cases, the victory is won first by the “Son of Man” or the messianic “Son” – (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 13:1-12).


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