Fourth Beast

The fourth beast is the focus of the vision, especially its “little horn with a mouth speaking great things” - Daniel 7:7-14

Feathered Dinosaur - Photo by Amy Baugess on Unsplash
The fourth “
beast” is described in more detail than the first three.  It is the focus of the vision, especially the “little horn that was speaking great things.” The other “beasts” provide background information for the rise of this kingdom. Unlike the first three, it has no analog in the animal kingdom. It is an unnatural creature with “iron teeth” and “ten horns” - [Feathered Dinosaur - Photo by Amy Baugess on Unsplash].

The beast’s “iron teeth” and feet were used to “trample” its victims. This clause parallels the fourth part of the “great image” from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the kingdom with legs and feet “strong like iron” that “shattered and subdued 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 residue 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).
With its feet, it “trampled the remnant.” The identity of the “remnant” is not given, but verbal links connect the “trampling” with the next vision, where 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 that dream did not mention the number of its “toes.” The “little horn” emerged from among the “ten horns,” three of which were “uprooted.” In the Aramaic text, the verb is passive, meaning the three horns were “removed” before the “little horn” by someone or something - (Daniel 2:41).

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

The “little horn” had human eyes and “a mouth speaking great things.” This suggests intelligence, arrogance, and something blasphemous. Next, the Heavenly Court reacted to the “beast” with its blasphemous “horn.” We are now presented with events from the perspective of God’s throne:
  • (Daniel 7:9-14) – “I continued looking until thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat, whose garment was white like snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool, his throne was flames of fire, his wheels a burning fire. A stream of fire was flowing on and issuing forth from before him, thousands of thousands waited on him and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. Judgment took its seat and books were opened. I continued looking, then because of the sound of the great words which the horn was speaking, I continued looking until the beast was slain, and his body destroyed and given to the burning of the fire. As concerning the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but a lengthening of life was given to them, until a time and season. I continued looking in the visions of the night, when lo! with the clouds of the heavens, one like a son of man was coming, and unto the Ancient of days he approached, and before him they brought him near; and unto him were given dominion and dignity and kingship, that all peoples, races and tongues him should do service to him. His dominion was an everlasting dominion that should not pass away, and his kingdom that which should not be destroyed.
Daniel gazed “until thrones were placed.” The vision has transitioned 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 all historical events - (Daniel 12:1-4Revelation 4:1-8, 20:11-15).

The other beings who sat on the many “thrones” are not identified. Their plurality may stress the majesty of the “Ancient of Days”; likewise, the picture of “thousands upon thousands that served him.” The four ravenous creatures “from the sea” gave the impression that human kingdoms were 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” suggest 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” could only exit the sea when He permitted, and He was the source of the forces that stirred the surface of the sea to cause their ascent.

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”; consequently, the “fourth beast” was destroyed. However, it was the “beast” that was slain, NOT its “little horn.” This points to the “death” of a regime and not necessarily to an individual ruler’s downfall.

However, the first three “beasts” reappeared - (“The rest of the beasts”). In the historical record, each kingdom succeeded its predecessor. In the symbolic world of the vision, on some level, the first three realms remained contemporaneous with the “little horn.” All four beast systems continued until they were destroyed collectively by an act of divine judgment.

Likewise, in Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier vision, all four sections of the great image” were destroyed simultaneously 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 endured for the time allotted by God, and each lost dominion but then received the duration of life at the appointed time.  The final destruction of the first three “beasts” was inextricably linked to the destruction of the last one with the demise of its “little horn.”

The destruction of the fourth kingdom brought the entire World-Power to an end, just as in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream when the “stone” struck the “feet” of the “great image” and destroyed the entire structure.  The sovereignty of the World-Power passed successively from one kingdom to the next, but each exercised the same malevolent power. The form varied, but the nature of each regime remained the same.

In the interpretation, 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 meant each “beast” continued to exist in the subsequent regimes. Nebuchadnezzar saw four individual kingdoms represented by one figure composed of four sections. Thus, the World-Power has multiple incarnations but is a single entity. Its form may vary but its true nature does not.

One like a son of man” was seen approaching the “Ancient of Days,” but only after the destruction of the fourth beast. The figure is in sharp contrast to the monstrous “beasts,” and especially to the “little horn speaking great things.” The nature of his dominion differs from the beastly nature of the World-Power. Behind the image is the story of the creation of Adam. Yahweh made man in His “likeness” and charged him to take dominion over the earth. The “son of man” now 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.” He approached the “Ancient of Days” to receive the kingdom. This is another link to Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier dream when he saw the “stone cut out without hands” that became “a kingdom that will never be destroyed” - (Daniel 2:44-45).

In Revelation, the vision of the four “beasts from the sea” is modified; they become a single beast summoned by the “Dragon” from the sea. That “beast” included the same animalistic features as the four “beasts from the sea.” It also had “ten horns” and a mouth “speaking great blasphemies.” It is related to Daniel’s four beasts, but it is also something more, and presumably, even worse.

In Daniel, the “little horn” waged “war against the saints and prevailed over them.” Likewise, in Revelation, the “beast from the sea” with a “mouth speaking great things” waged “war against the saints and overcame 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” – (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 13:7).



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