“After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule. Daniel 7:6 (NIV).
Many people believe this third beast signifies the Greek Empire (https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/daniel-7-6.html ). At the time the verse was written, the minor kingdoms of Greece were, back then, only beginning to coalesce into a nation-state. A hundred years in the future, Alexander the Great, of Macedonia (part of Greece), would defeat Persia. In fact, in his short time as the world’s most powerful conqueror, Alexander conquered more territory, felled more kingdoms, and acquired more lands than any ruler had before or after him (including up to now). According to several commentaries, the leopard signifies the rapidity with which Alexander rose and overthrew the known world. The four wings stand for the kingdoms of Babylon and Persia, and beast with four heads denotes the four portions into which Alexander’s empire was split on his untimely death. The heirs to Alexander’s empire would be referenced again later in Daniel, specifically in chapter 11.
Yet any look at Daniel 6 is incomplete without also looking at Revelation 13:2, which says, “the beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.” It isn’t coincidence that John’s revelation includes the three beasts, all in one, mentioned in Daniel 7:4-6. The beast of Revelation is an earthly king, given power by the dragon – Satan – to rule over the world and, finally, subdue all mankind under Satan’s rule.
This is another verse where both meanings are true. In Daniel’s time, it spoke of the Greek empire to come. Yet, only a few hundred years later, the Greek empire had been superseded by the even-more-powerful Rome, which ruled during the time of John. When John wrote Revelation, he was an old man, likely exiled to Patmos, some 60 years or so after the death and resurrection of the Christ. By then, Daniel’s prophecy had already been fulfilled. John’s was yet to come. You and I get the gift of being able to understand both interpretations of the account.
Best of all, we get to absorb the lesson from it, namely that God is sovereign over all kingdoms. Many nations have risen and fallen in our world; as long as it exists, the world will see many more nations fall, perhaps including our own. Yet, through it all, God will still reign supreme, allowing as He does for human events to carry out His better will.
For further reading: Revelation 13:2, Daniel 7:7
Oh Lord, the stories of the beasts are mysterious, even terrifying. Thank You for ruling divine in our troubled world.
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