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Daniel 7:6

6. After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it.

6. Post hoc vidi, 77    That is, a vision was offered to me. — Calvin et ecce alia, bestia scilicet, sicut pardus, similis pardo, et alae quatuor avis super dorsum ejus, et quatuor capita bestiae et potestas data est ai.

 

Daniel has already spoken of two empires, namely, the Chaldean and Persian. Interpreters agree in the necessity for referring this vision to the Macedonian Empire. He compares this kingdom to a leopard, or, as some translate, a panther, since Alexander obtained his great power through swiftness alone; and although it is not by any means a striking animal, yet it managed by its remarkable speed to subdue the whole east Others bring forward many points of likeness, in which the Grecian character is in accordance with the nature of the leopard. But I fear these minutiae have but little weight: it is sufficient for me that the Spirit treats here of the Third empire. It was not of any importance at first, and could neither terrify distant regions, nor acquire subjects by its own worthiness. It then became like some swift animal, if I may say so, since the swiftness of Alexander is notorious; but he did not excel in either prudence, or gravity, or judgment, or in any other virtues. Mere rashness seized upon him; and even if he had never tasted wine, his ambition would have intoxicated him. Hence Alexander’s whole life was drunken; there was neither moderation nor composure in him. We see, then, how suitably this answers to the character of Alexander, although this is also extended to his successors, all of whom partook largely of the nature of their prince. Daniel says, therefore, A beast appeared to him like a leopard

He also says, It had four wings on its back, and four heads Some persons, as I think perversely, distinguish between the wings and the heads. They suppose the kingdom to be depicted as winged because Alexander seized upon manly kingdoms in a short period; but the more simple sense is, this beast had four wings and four heads, because Alexander had scarcely completed his victories when he died, contrary to all expectation; and after his death, every one seized a portion of the prey for himself. This, however, is certain: after the chief generals of his army had contended for many years, all histories agree in stating that the supreme power centered in four. For Seleucus obtained Asia Major, and Antigonus Asia Minor, Cassander was king of Macedon, and was succeeded by Antipater, while Ptolemy the son of Lagus became the ruler of Egypt They had agreed indeed otherwise among themselves; for Alexander had a son by Roxana, first daughter of Darius; he had a brother, Aridaeus, who grew up to manhood, but was epileptic and of weak intellect. Then, since the generals of Alexander were cunning, they acted on this pretext, that all should swear allegiance to their young ward, and then to Aridaeus, in case their ward should die before he was of age. 88     The Latin text in the Geneva edition of 1617 has “populi“ where it ought to be “pupilli.” That of 1569 is correct in reading “pupilli“ — Ed. Then Lysimachus was set over the treasury, and another commanded the forces, and others obtained various provinces. Fifteen or twenty leaders divided among themselves both offices and power, while no one dared to assume the name of king. For Alexander’s son was the lawful king, and his successor was that Aridaeus of whom I have spoken. But they soon afterwards united; and that was an admirable specimen of God’s Providence, which alone is sufficient to prove that passage of Scripture He who sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed. (Genesis 9:6.) For none of Alexander’s generals escaped in safety except those four whom we have mentioned. His mother, at the age of eighty, suffered a violent death; his wife, Roxana, was strangled; his son perished miserably; Aridaeus, his brother, a man of no intellect, and almost on a level with the brutes, was slain with the rest — in truth, the whole family of Alexander suffered violent deaths. With respect to the generals, they perished in battles, some of them being betrayed by their soldiers, and others the victims of their own negligence; and yet, although they expected a sanguinary end, they did not escape it. But four only survived, and so the whole empire of Alexander was divided into four parts. For Seleucus, whose successor was Antiochus, obtained Upper Asia, that is, four eastern empire; Antigonus, Asia Minor, with a part of Cilicia, and Phrygia, and other neighboring regions; Ptolemy seized upon Egypt and a part of Africa; Cassander and then Antipater were kings of Macedon. By four wings and four heads, Daniel means that partition which was made immediately after the death of Alexander. Now, therefore, we understand what God showed to his Prophet under this vision, when he set before him the image of a leopard with four wings and heads.

He says, Power was given to the beast, because the success of Alexander the Great was incredible. For who would have thought, ‘when he was crossing the sea, that he would have conquered all Asia and the East? he led with him 50,000 men, and did not undertake the war on his own responsibility alone, but by various arts, he procured the nomination to the leadership of Greece from the Free States. Alexander was therefore, a kind of mercenary of the Greeks, and was unable to lead with him more than 30,000 men, as we have said he engaged in battle with 150,000, then with 400,000, and then with almost a myriad. For Darius in his last battle had collected above 800,000 men besides camp-followers, so that there were almost a million with him. Alexander had already drawn to himself some auxiliaries from the foreign nations whom he had conquered; but he could not trust them: hence his whole strength lay in these 30,000, and on the day on which he conquered Darius, he was so overcome by sleep that he could scarcely be aroused. The historians who extol his prudence, excuse this by recording his sleeplessness during the preceding night; besides, all agree in stating him to have been apparently dead, and when all his generals approached they could scarcely wake him up, and then they purposely raised a shout around his tent, though no one dared to enter. Alexander had scarcely wiped his eyes, when Darius fled; hence the Prophet’s statement is true — a beast’s power was given to him, since this happened beyond every natural expectation and every human opinion, as by his aspect although he could frighten all Greece, and lay prostrate so large an army. He states this of the Third Empire. I will not repeat here all that can be said and can be gathered from history; for many things must be put off till the eleventh chapter. I will therefore briefly compress whatever points seem necessary for the interpretation of the passage. It now follows, —


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