World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
23 This is what he said: “As for the fourth beast,
there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth
that shall be different from all the other kingdoms;
it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
This reply of the angel is subject to the same obscurity as the vision itself, but it ought to be sufficient to calm the minds of the faithful to know that various changes should arise and shake the whole earth; for as many troubles were, prepared for the saints, so also they were braced up to fortitude and endurance. For God was not willing fully to explain what he had shown to his Prophet; he only wished to set before him this conclusion — a kingdom shall arise completely different from all others. Thus the angel says, The Fourth Beast signifies a fourth kingdom, which shall differ from all the kingdoms Previously to that period, no state was so extensive in its sway. For although the Spartans and Athenians performed illustrious and memorable exploits, yet we know them to have been included within narrow boundaries; and the ambition and wordy vanity of the Greeks caused them to celebrate those wars which were scarcely of any consequence, as we learn even from their own histories. Whichever way we take this, Sparta obtained with difficulty the second rank in Greece, as Athens did the first. As far as concerns the Roman Empire, we know it to have been more extensive and powerful than the other monarchies. When all Italy came under their sway, this was sufficient for any noble monarchy; but Spain, Sicily, part, of Greece, arm Illyrieum were added, and afterwards all Greece and Macedon, Asia Minor, Africa., and all the islands; for by one word they expelled the king of Cyprus, and sold his goods by public auction. When the dregs of the people were collected, Claudius made a law for the banishment of the king of Cyprus, and this he accomplished by his single voice, without the use of force at all. No wonder then that God foretold how different this kingdom, should be from all the others; it had no single head; the senate had the chief authority, though all power was centered in the people. There was therefore a kind of mingled confusion, since the government of Rome was never settled. And if we weigh all things prudently, it was neither a republic nor a kingdom, but a confused compound, in which the people exercised great power in a tumultuous way, and the senate oppressed the people as much as it could. There were three ranks — the senatorian, the equestrian, and the plebeian, and that mixture made the kingdom like a monster. The angel, therefore, announces the fourth kingdom as different from, the others
He afterwards confirms what we said before; it will fall, says he, and break to pieces, and tread down the whole earth This was fulfilled after Gaul and Britain were subdued, Germany partially subjugated, and Illyrieum, Greece, and Macedon, reduced to submission. At length they penetrated to Asia, and Antiochus was banished beyond the Taurus; his kingdom afterwards became their prey, then they obtained possession of Syria. The kings of Egypt were their allies, and yet became dependent upon their nod; the sovereign dared not appoint an heir, without consulting their pleasure. As, therefore, they ruled supremely so long and so widely, they fulfilled this prophecy by devouring the whole earth. For such lust for dominion never existed before; wars were heaped upon wars, they were alike greedy of the blood of others, and by no means sparing of their own. The whirlpool was insatiable, while it absorbed the whole world, and their pride crushed it and trampled it under foot,. Cruelty was added to pride, for all looked up to the Romans, and conciliated the favor of Rome by flattery, for the purpose of raging savagely against; their own people. By these arts almost the whole of Greece perished. For they knew how many innocent persons everywhere perished in every city, a kind of diversion which delighted them; they were fully aware how easy it was to attract all the power of the whole world to themselves, when it was able to put forth neither strength, nor skill, nor power against them. For their nobles were constantly at variance; sometimes one faction and sometimes another was supreme, and thus the splendor of every city easily, and gradually diminished. Thus all Greece was spoiled, and the Romans exercised their dominion there without difficulty, as over brute beasts. We may say the same of Asia also. We are not surprised then at the angel saying, the earth would be trodden down and trampled on by this fourth beast.