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7. Daniel's Dream of Four Beasts

1In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream and told the sum of the matters. 2Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of heaven brake forth upon the great sea. 3And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4The 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 to stand upon two feet as a man; and a man's heart was given to it. 5And, behold, another beast, a second, like to a bear; and it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6After this I beheld, and, lo, another, like a leopard, which had upon its back four wings of a bird; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, a fourth beast, terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. 8I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. 9I beheld till thrones were placed, and one that was ancient of days did sit: his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and the wheels thereof burning fire. 10A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousands of thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. 11I beheld at that time because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake; I beheld even till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire. 12And as for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 13I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. 15As for me, Daniel, my spirit was grieved in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. 17These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, that shall arise out of the earth. 18But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever. 19Then I desired to know the truth concerning the fourth beast, which was diverse from all of them, exceeding terrible, whose teeth were of iron, and its nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet; 20and concerning the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, and before which three fell, even that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake great things, whose look was more stout than its fellows. 21I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. 23Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. 24And as for the ten horns, out of this kingdom shall ten kings arise: and another shall arise after them; and he shall be diverse from the former, and he shall put down three kings. 25And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time. 26But the judgment shall be set, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. 28Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts much troubled me, and my countenance was changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.

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Here the Prophet proclaims how he was instructed by a dream concerning the second beast. If we will only judge by the event, this beast doubtless represented the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, although the Prophet specifies the Persians, as the Medes had long ago submitted to their yoke. Behold, says he, another beast like a bear. We know a bear to be a mean and foul animal, slothful and inert, as well as cruel. In comparing the bear with the lion, its appearance is foul and displeasing, while the lion is remarkable for beauty, although it is formidable. He compares the Persians to a bear, on account of their barbarity, since we have already pronounced that nation fierce and savage. Then, again, the Persians were not civilized like the Assyrians and Chaldeans, who dwelt in the most beautiful region in the whole world, and in a most lovely country like a most noble theater; but the Persians lay hid like wild beasts in their caves. They dwelt among their mountains, and lived like the brutes. Hence the Prophet compares them very appositely to a bear; nay, God showed this form to his Prophet. He afterwards adds, It stood on one side Some think this to have been added to express the more contracted dominion of the Medes and Persians, but this opinion is unsuitable. We know how extensive was the sway of the Medes before they came under the power of Cyrus and the Persians. By themselves the Medes were most powerful; then the Persians were added, and afterwards Cyrus seized upon the possessions of the Chaldean monarchy. He possessed even the keys of Egypt, reigned in Syria, held Judea, and extended beyond the sea, till at length he was conquered by the Scythians. When, therefore, it is said, he stood on one side, the obscure origin of his kingdom is intended, for the fame of the Persians was included within their mountains until Cyrus acquired for them a name by his exploits. For he was a brave warrior, and deservedly eclipsed the glory of all others. Hence, at first this beast stood on one side; that is, the Persians were without fame or reputation; they had no wealth, and never emerged from their lurking-places. We see how this particular is restricted to their origin in consequence of its obscurity.

The Prophet then adds: Three ribs were in the beast’s mouth between its teeth; and it was thus proclaimed, Arise, eat much flesh! Those who understand three definite kingdoms by the three ribs, seem to refine far too minutely. I think the number indefinite, because this beast had bitten by its mouth not one rib but more; because the Persians, as we have said, drew to themselves the power of the Medes, and afterwards subdued the Assyrians and Chaldeans, and Cyrus also subdued many nations, until all Asia Minor acknowledged his authority. When, therefore, the Prophet speaks of three ribs, it implies the insatiable nature of this beast, since it was not content with a single body, but devoured many men together. For, by “many ribs,” he meant much prey. This is the whole sense. I do not hesitate to explain the following words, it was said to the beast, of angels, or of God himself. Some prefer to understand this of the stimulus by which Cyrus was instigated to cruelty. But since God exhibits to his Prophet the image of his Providence, what I have lately suggested becomes very probable: namely, it was said to the beast, Arise, eat much flesh; not; because God was the author of cruelty, but since He governs by His secret counsel the events which men carry on without method, His authority is here deservedly placed be/ore our eyes; for Cyrus would not have penetrated so swiftly into different regions, and have drawn to himself so many empires, and subjugated so many powerful nations, had not God wished to punish the world, and had made Cyrus the instrument of slaughter. As therefore Cyrus executed God’s vengeance by shedding so much human blood, the Prophet declares it to have been said to him, Arise, and eat flesh. In one respect God was not pleased by the slaughter of so many nations by Cyrus, and by the increase of one man’s power and tyranny through so much human bloodshed; but in another respect God is said to have commanded the conduct of Cyrus, since he wished to punish the world for its ingratitude, to which the most desperate obstinacy and rebellion were added. There was no remedy for these vices; hence God entrusted Cyrus with the duty of executing His judgment,. I am compelled to stop here.