“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!’ Daniel 7:5 (NIV).
This vision of the second of the four beasts is about the Median-Persian empire that overthrew Babylon. Median Persia would conquer more territory than Babylon, specifically to the directions of west, north, and south that Persia conquered. Some people also believe the three ribs may signify three kings who came after Darius, but this can’t be confirmed (see https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/daniel-7-5.html).
Yet many people also believe the four beasts in Daniel’s dream also signify nations going to war at the end of time. In the first beast, ancient Babylon is seen as modern Iraq, which is where the ruins of Babylon are found. The second beast refers to modern Iran, which is located where Media and Persia once ruled. The three ribs would signify Persia, Ethiopia (in ancient days, already a powerful nation), and Libya (then as now, a strategic asset). Finally, the bear, raised on its side as if to look down might signify Gog, or modern Russia (https://bible-studys.org/Bible%20Books/Daniel/Daniel%20Chapter%207.html).
Many Christians believe this is a prophecy about nations that will ally against Israel in the final battle of Armageddon, which will usher in the end of the world. Whether or not this was Daniel’s full intention, the original meaning (pointing to the age of Persia) lines up cannily with what is told to happen in the end days.
What to believe?
It’s a great mystery, you know, yet the key to understanding it really isn’t that difficult. Jesus said, ““But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Nobody knows but Him, not even Jesus. It isn’t up to us to decide exactly whether this prophecy applied only to ancient empires or to future alliances in the time of the antichrist. In reality (and in my humble opinion), it also doesn’t matter. The key to understanding any Scripture – and any human interpretation or action from it – is to match it against what Jesus says through His Word.
If believing the prophecy of the second beast as a prophecy of the end times doesn’t conflict with Scripture – and it doesn’t – then it is a Godly thing to believe. And, if believing the prophecy speaks solely of ancient Median Persia – and it does – doesn’t violate Scripture, then that, too, is a Godly thing to believe. For our understanding, we have sufficient information, even when that doesn’t point to definitive answers. The only answer that matters is Christ.
For further reading: Ezekiel 38:5, Matthew 24:36, Daniel 7:6
Lord God, thank You for the mystery of the second beast. Strengthen my faith in You through my understanding of it.
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