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“I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.
And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.”
Again and again, in the figurative language of Scripture, winds are used as the symbol for wars; and the sea, or waters, for nations or peoples. (See Jer. 25:31-33; Rev. 17: 15.) The prophet saw the clashing of the nations in war, and out of these conflicts arose the kingdoms described in the prophecy.
Note the prophetic picture of the prophecy and the corresponding representation in history.
Prophecy.—“The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.”
History.- As the lion is king of beasts, it was a fitting symbol of Babylon, "the glory of kingdoms." Isa. 13:19. The eagle's wings suggest rapidity of movement and farreaching conquest. The prophet Habakkuk said of it, “Their horsemen shall come from far; they shall fly as the eagle." This was the characteristic of Babylon under the earlier kings, but especially under Nebuchadnezzar. Berosus, the ancient Chaldean historian, wrote of him:
“This Babylonian king conquered Egypt, and Syria, and Phenicia, and Arabia; and exceeded in his exploits all that had reigned before him in Babylon.” (See Flavius Josephus “Against Apion,” book 1, par. 19.)
But now, at the time of Daniel's vision, degeneracy had come; the empire was tottering. The lion heart was gone, the eagle's wings were plucked, and within three years from the time the vision was given, Babylon was overthrown.
Medo-Persia As the dominion passed from Babylon to the next great power, the prophet says:
Prophecy.—“Behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.”
History.— The Medes and Persians overthrew Babylon. Medo-Persia was a dual kingdom, lifting itself up on one side, first the Median branch the stronger, then the Persian, under Cyrus and his successors, rising higher. This two-sided characteristic, noted as a distinguishing mark in the prophecy, was emphasized by the ancient writers also. Æschylus, the Greek poet, who lived in the time of Persia, wrote:
“Asia's brave host,
Cyrus third, by fortune graced,
The word spoken in the vision, "Arise, devour much flesh," describes the history from the time when the Persian side rose uppermost. Rawlinson says, “Cyrus proceeded with scarcely a pause on a long career of conquest.”
An alliance against Persia was formed by Lydia, Egypt, and Babylon (Herodotus 1: 77); and as these three great provinces were subdued, they may well be represented by the three ribs in the mouth of the Medo-Persian bear.
Grecia Yet another kingdom was to follow, and strikingly the symbol pictures the characteristics of the Greek conquest.
Prophecy.-"After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; and the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it."
History. The third kingdom was Grecia. Under Alexander the Great, the Greeks swept into Asia with the quickness of the leopard's spring. And the four wings on the leopard must represent astonishing fleetness. Plutarch speaks of
the "incredible swiftness” of Alexander's conquests. Appian wrote:
“The empire of Alexander was splendid in its magnitude, in its armies, in the success and rapidity of its conquests, and it wanted little of being boundless and unexampled, yet in its shortness of duration it was like a brilliant flash of lightning. Although broken into several satrapies, even the parts were splendid.”—“History of Rome," preface,
Thus the ancient Roman writer pictured the career of Grecia just as represented by the prophetic symbol — the
THE THIRD BEAST
“After this I beheld, and lo another,
like a leopard.” Dan. 7:6. fleetness, the great dominion given it, the division of the empire into satrapies, as suggested by the four heads of the leopard. Out of the conflicts following Alexander's death, there came the fourfold headship of the empire. Rawlinson says, “A quadripartite division of Alexander's domain was recognized.” (See “Sixth Monarchy," chap. 3.) The real situation is best represented, as Dr. Albert Barnes says, by "one animal with four heads," just as the prophetic symbol described it centuries before.
Thus the course of empire followed the outline of the “sure word of prophecy” from age to age.
"Armies were ranged in battle's dread array:
New wars, new heroes came — their story passed away.” There was to be no abiding kingdom till the time came for God's glorious kingdom to be set up.
As the prophet watched the moving panorama of history, foretold in symbols, he said:
Prophecy.--"After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came