The 4 beasts vision of Daniel chapter 7 are commonly explained as follows:
Lion = Babylonian Empire
Bear = Medo-Persian Empire
Leopard = Greek Empire
4th Beast = Roman Empire
This explanation of the four beasts prophecy is easily derived. In fact
it is so easily derived that anyone with a basic grasp of history could
have easily reached this arrangement.
Nevertheless, Daniel 12:4 & 9 indicate that the true meaning of all
Daniel's prophecies were 'shut up' and 'sealed'. Hidden from view until
'the time of the end'.
Scholars, have it seems, been blinded to the fact that the Daniel 7
prophecy and its supplied interpretation (Dan 7:15-27) were disguising
a more important and deeper meaning. The surface teaching, presenting
a progression of four significant empires, was actually hiding a
portrayal of the arising of four forms of 'Israel'.
To help us understand God's deeper teaching for the Daniel 7 prophecy
it is necessary to consider how it starts;
Dan 7:2 ... the four winds of heaven were stirring
up the Great Sea.
:3 And four great beasts came up from the sea,
each different from the other.
THE GREAT SEA
Most tend to read this and envisage a literal
'Great Sea'. However, it refers to a biblical
sea, a sea also symbolized by the bronze sea
located in the temple of Solomon.
1King 7:23 And he made the Sea of cast bronze, ten cubits
from one brim to the other; it was completely
round. Its height was five cubits, and a line
of thirty cubits measured its circumference.
:24 Below its brim were ornamental buds encircling
it all around, ten to a cubit, all the way
around the Sea. The ornamental buds were cast
in two rows when it was cast.
:25 It stood on twelve oxen: three looking toward
the north, three looking toward the west, three
looking toward the south, and three looking
toward the east; the Sea was set upon them, and
all their back parts pointed inward.
:26 It was a handbreadth thick; and its brim was
shaped like the brim of a cup, like a lily
blossom. It contained two thousand baths.
:39 ... He set the Sea on the right side of the house,
toward the southeast.
This bronze sea was placed upon 12 bronze oxen. Oxen which faced
toward the four directions of heaven; north, west, south and east.
Three oxen facing each direction.
[ NB: The arrangement of the oxen mimics that of the 12 tribes
of the children of Israel, which were to stand 3 tribes
in each direction around the tabernacle of meeting.
Refer, Numbers chapter 2. ]
THE GREAT SEA - The great sea represents the multitude of people
supported by the national structure of the 12 tribes. (Note, Jude 13
where 'raging waves of the sea' represents people. Also in Rev 17:15
we observe the symbol 'waters' used to represent groups of people.)
The four beasts which arise from this Great Sea, arise out of Israel!
Hence, depicting four different 'kingdom' forms of Israel.
To try and identify the four beasts, one has to reflect upon the biblical
history of Israel and also consider other relevant prophecies.
1ST BEAST - LION
The first beast is presented in 2 forms:
- like a lion with eagle's wings
- like a lion standing on 2 feet with the heart of a man.
The first form emphasizes strength and movement. The promises made
initially by God to Abraham and Isaac were the source of the strength
of Jacob and his descendants.
The main thrust of the eagle symbolism is the journeying of the children
of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land.
Exod 19:4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and
how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you
The second form of the lion focuses upon the time immediately following
the settlement of the children of Israel in the Promised Land. The eagle
wings were removed from the lion and it was made to stand on two feet
(presumably both sides of the river Jordan).
A man's heart was given to the lion, symbolizing a heart which was soft,
but also a heart which could rebel against God.
2ND BEAST - BEAR
The second beast is like a bear raised up on one side with 3 ribs in its
mouth (between it's teeth). It was told to arise and devour much flesh.
In the history of Israel there is the unexpected establishment of the
ten tribed 'house of Israel'. This was established as an entirely separate
kingdom. (The other two tribes, of Judah and Benjamin, now formed the much
smaller kingdom known as the 'house of Judah'. These two tribes continued
to be ruled by the descendants of David.) Refer 1 Kings 11:9,13,29-40;
12:1-16; 2Chr 10:1-19.
And so the former 12 tribed nation of Israel came to an end and another
beast like form of Israel was formed. This ten tribed beast being likened
to that of a bear.
As the lineage of David was ruling over the house of Judah, another
lineage was selected to rule over the house of Israel. The first king
of this new form of Israel was Jeroboam (son of Nebat). Jeroboam was an
Ephraimite! (1Kin 11:26, 12:20).
The prophecy advises that the bear was raised up on one side.
The actual text reads,
The translation 'and to part' is usually rendered 'and to side'.
Also, 'was set up' (or 'raised up') could indicate 'established'.
There has been a lack of clarity as to how to understand the meaning
The tribe of Ephraim became the dominate tribe of the 'house of Israel'.
The name of Ephraim was used to refer to the 10 tribes of the house of
Israel. Refer 2Chr 25:7, Jer 7:15, Isa 7:2 and Ezek 37:16.
There is a very important point to note about the tribe of Ephraim. It
was to this tribe, Ephraim, that many of the Abrahamic blessings of God
were eventually passed. The promises of God having been made to Abraham
and Isaac, were later passed to Jacob (Gen 27:28-36) and Jacob passed
them to Ephraim (Gen 48:14-20, 49:22-26). (Ephraim being the second
eldest son of Joseph.)
(NB: While Ephraim received promises of great prosperity, it was
Judah that received from Jacob the promise of kingship until
Shiloh. Refer Gen 49:10.)
The prophecy mentions three ribs in its mouth, between the teeth of the
When the house of Israel arose, Jeroboam feared the eventual loss of his
kingdom to the kingship of the lineage of David, 1Kin 12:27. As Jeroboam
considered this to be something which was likely to occur, due to his
people travelling to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, he made priests of
those who were not of the sons of Levi.
So those of the sons of Levi (who sought to serve the Lord God), were
compelled to depart from all the ten tribes of Israel, and relocate their
families in the kingdom of Judah. 2Chr 11:13-17.
The tribe of Levi was composed of three divisions; reflecting the three
sons of Levi - Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. (NB: In respect to the
tabernacle of God each division was appointed different duties. Num
In the prophecy, we next find the bear being told to 'Arise, devour
much flesh' (ie 'meat').
The promise of an enduring kingdom was made to Jeroboam if he heeded
all the commandments of God. Refer 1 Kings 11:37-39.
After continued failure to take a stand and obey God, failure to devour
the Word of God, the household of Jeroboam was brought to an end (1Kin
15:29-30). The same fate befell the subsequent ruling households of
Baasha (1Kin 16:11-13) and Ahab (2Kin 10:1-11).
In the end the failure of this beast to consume the Word of God caused
God to cast the ten tribed kingdom of Israel out of His sight. 2Kin
3RD BEAST - LEOPARD
The third beast was like a leopard and had 4 bird wings and 4 heads.
Dominion was given to it.
[ NB: It may be thought that this beast should be shown with
four pairs of wings, because of the four heads. However,
it can be seen from other examples that wings are counted
individually, refer Isa 6:2, Ezek 1:6, Rev 4:8 & 12:14. ]
This beast is a representation of the kingdom established by Josiah.
While Josiah was crowned the king of Judah, he also exerted his
authority over the land formerly occupied by the house of Israel.
2Chr 34:6 And so he did in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim,
and Simeon, as far as Naphtali and all around,
:7 When he had broken down the altars and the wooden
images, had beaten the carved images into powder,
and cut down all the incense altars throughout all
the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem.
2Kings 23:19 Now Josiah also took away all the shrines of the
high places that were in the cities of Samaria,
which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the
Lord to anger; and he did to them according to all
the deeds he had done in Bethel.
Hence the comment in Daniel 7:6, "dominion was given to it".
The arrival of King Josiah was predicted by a prophet of God hundreds
of years before Josiah's actual birth.
1Kings 13:2 Then he cried out against the altar by the word
of the LORD, and said, "O altar, altar! Thus says
the LORD: 'Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall
be born to the house of David; and on you he shall
sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn
incense on you, and men's bones shall be burned on
King Josiah was a highly noteworthy king!
2Kings 23:25 Now before him there was no king like him, who
turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all
his soul, and with all his might, according to
all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise
Following the death of Josiah, four of his descendants reigned as kings
and they each experienced captivity in a foreign land. These were;
1) Jehoahaz (2Kings 23:31-34)
2) Eliakim renamed Jehoiakim (2Kings 23:34, 2Chr 36:6)
3) Jehoiachin also named Coniah (2Kings 24:8,12)
4) Mattaniah renamed Zedekiah (2Kings 24:17,25:7).
This beast is presented with two pairs of bird like wings, because
these four kings were all carried off as captives to either Babylon
The line of Zerubbabel, who led the return from captivity, was traced
through King Jehoiachin (refer Matt 1:11-16.) It was through Zerubbabel
and later descendants that the life of this kingdom was preserved.
4TH BEAST - 10 HORNS
The last beast was dreadful, terrible and strong and possessed huge iron
teeth. With these teeth and its feet it was devouring, breaking and
trampling what was left.
This beast is described as taking 2 forms:
- ten horns
- seven horns and a little horn.
This 4th beast is initially introduced with the comment, "I saw in the
night visions" (Dan 7:7). Daniel had already documented in Dan 7:1-2
that the vision came to him by night, so this later comment suggests
the beginning of a period of end-time spiritual darkening.
This 10 horn entity is described as having teeth of iron and nails of
bronze. This suggests the presence of elements of the 3rd and 4th parts
of the Daniel chapter 2 statue.
The first 3 horns appear to portray the Jewish faith - a reflection of
the three divisions of Levi who attended the tabernacle, Numbers 3:17,
The latter 7 horns, the Christian faith - a reflection of the seven
lampstands amongst which the Son of Man stands, Rev 1:12-13, and the
7 horns of the Christ lamb, Rev 6:6.
This union of 10 kings/kingdoms sets about verbally attacking other
smaller non-aligned church groups desiring to teach the word of God.
So in summary, this 4th beast appears to be a Jewish/Christian composite
of denominations, which join together with the aim of becoming the only
organisation to represent God. These, through the vehicle of this beast,
will oppress and persecute dissenting groups.
7 HORNS + LITTLE HORN
The second stage of the 4th beast arises when the little horn appears on
the scene and displaces the leaderships ('kings') of the first 3 horns.
The period 'a month and a year' expires with the appearance of the little
horn and the Great Tribulation begins.
This little horn speaks great words
and has eyes. These factors make him
greater than the remaining 7 horns,
This little horn brings persecution
upon the saints for the symbolic
duration of '3.5 times' (Dan 7:25).
The symbolic displacing of the 3 horns by the little horn represents
Satan gaining control of the Jewish faith. A number of other prophecies
portray this event as the end-time fall of Jerusalem. The Satanic entity
accomplishes this victory with the assistance of the 'armies' of the
seven Christian leaderships and so the ancient desire of the nations of
Syria and Ephraim (house of Israel) is fulfilled.
Isa 7:6 Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and
let us make a breach therein for us, and set
a king in the midst of it, even the son of
Upon the expiry of the period appointed for the rulership of the little
horn, the 4th beast kingdom will be given to the saints of God.
A SEASON AND A TIME
To truly understand this Daniel 7 prophecy it is necessary to also
consider the only time period provided.
Dan 7:12 As for the rest of the beasts, they had their
dominion taken away, yet their lives were
prolonged for a season and a time.
- A Season and a Time -
'SEASON' - H2166
The word 'season' in the text is being used in an indefinite
sense, rather than as a representation of 3 months. The word
'season' could therefore be equally rendered 'period' or
'TIME' - H5732
The word 'time' is the same word found in Dan 4:16, where
it is commonly considered to mean 'year'. (In Daniel
chapter seven it is also found in verse 25, 'a time,
times and half a time'.) It can mean a set time.
What span of time is being defined by 'a season and a time'?
A more literal translation of Daniel 7:12 is;
Dan 7:12 And the remainder of animals, passed away the
authority of them, and prolonging of lives
was granted to them until a period and a year.
Having already considered that the first 3 horns of the 4th beast are
Jewish, suggests that this period of prolonged/lengthened life ends
when the 3 horns are removed by the little horn.
This period of time seems to be mimicked by Rev 9:15.
Rev 9:15 And the four angels were loosed, which were
prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month,
and a year, for to slay the third part of men.
Notice that the end of the lives of the other Daniel 7 animals
indicates a demise of lives and likewise Revelation 9:15 also
discusses the termination of lives.
[ NB: 1) There is an indication in the book of Zechariah
that three shepherds are removed in a symbolic
Zech 11:8 I dismissed the three shepherds
in one month.
My soul loathed them, and their
soul also abhorred me.
2) A period of 'thirty days', ie one month, is also
mentioned in Daniel 6:7,12. Any symbolic meaning
would be suited to the events of the end-time. ]
SUMMARY AND FINAL COMMENT
So the final arrangement is as follows;
Lion = Initial form of the nation Israel
Bear = The 10 tribed formation of Israel
Leopard = The reconstituted Judah led Israel
4th Beast = An end-time tyrannical form of Israel
The arrangement presented above reflects a perspective which one
could describe as 'sealed', ie not obvious from a surface reading
of the text.
(Daniel 12:4 states; 'Daniel, shut up the words' and 'seal the book'
... 'until the time of the end'.)