Fourth Beast

SYNOPSIS – The fourth beast becomes the main focus of the vision, especially its “little horn with a mouth speaking great things” - Daniel 7:7-14

Dinosaur Model - Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash
The fourth “
beast” is described in far more detail than the first three. It is the focus of the vision, especially its “little horn.” The other “beasts” provide the necessary background to the rise of this kingdom. This “beast” has no analog from the animal kingdom - It has great “iron teeth,” “ten horns,” and a “little horn” featuring a mouth that “speaks great things.” [Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash].
  • (Daniel 7:7-8) – “After that, I was looking in the visions of the night, when, lo, a fourth beast, terrible and well-hipped and exceeding strong, and it had large teeth of iron, it devoured and broke in pieces, and the residue with its feet it trampled down, and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, when, lo, another horn, a little one came up among them, and three of the former horns were uprooted from before it, and, lo, eyes, like the eyes of a man in this horn, and a mouth speaking great things.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The images of the “great iron teeth” and the feet with which this creature “trampled down” parallel the fourth part of Nebuchadnezzar’s “great image,” the legs and feet that were “strong as iron” and “shattered and subdued all things” - (Daniel 2:40-43).

With its feet, the beast “trampled the remnant.” The identity of the “remnant” is not given at this point; however, verbal links connect the description of “trampling” something underfoot with the next vision - the “goat” from the “west” - with its subsequent “little horn” that trampled “some of the stars underfoot”:
  • (Daniel 8:8-10) – “But the goat showed himself very great, and when he had become mighty, the great horn was broken in pieces, and there came up afterwards four in its stead towards the four winds of the heavens; and out of the first of them came a little horn, which became exceedingly great against the south and against the east, and against the beautiful [land]; yea it became great as far as the host of the heavens, and caused to fall to the earth some of the host and some of the stars, and trampled them underfoot.
The “ten horns” may correspond to the toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier “great image,” although that dream did mention but not their number - (Daniel 2:41).

The “little horn” emerged from among the “ten horns.”  It was not one of the ten but a smaller horn that appeared later. Three of the ten horns were “uprooted.” The text does not say whether the “little horn” removed them; in the Aramaic clause, the passive voice is used. The three horns were “removed” by someone or something.

The number “ten” may be symbolic or literal. Elsewhere, ten symbolizes a complete set of something. But the removal of three horns and their replacement by an eleventh and smaller one is quite specific, making it difficult to interpret these numbers symbolically. More likely, this level of detail points to known events.

The “little horn” had human eyes and “a mouth speaking great things.” This suggests intelligence and individuality, and something blasphemous - A challenge to the rule of God.

The next paragraph presents the reaction of the Heavenly Court to the four “beasts from the sea,” especially to the fourth “beast” with its blasphemous “little horn.” The reader is now presented with events from the perspective of the throne of God:
  • (Daniel 7:9-14) – “I continued looking until thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat, whose garment was white like snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool, his throne was flames of fire, his wheels a burning fire. A stream of fire was flowing on and issuing forth from before him, thousands of thousands waited on him and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. Judgment took its seat and books were opened. I continued looking, then because of the sound of the great words which the horn was speaking, I continued looking until that the beast was slain, and his body destroyed and given to the burning of the fire. As concerning the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but a lengthening of life was given to them, until a time and season. I continued looking in the visions of the night, when lo! with the clouds of the heavens, one like a son of man was coming, and unto the Ancient of days he approached, and before him they brought him near; and unto him were given dominion and dignity and kingship, that all peoples, races and tongues him should do service to him. His dominion was an everlasting dominion that should not pass away, and his kingdom that which should not be destroyed.
Daniel gazed “until thrones were placed.” The vision has now transitioned to a judgment scene before the throne of Yahweh. This is confirmed in verse 10 - “Judgment was set, and the books were opened” - (Daniel 12:1-4Revelation 20:11-15).

The picture of “one seated on the throne” symbolizes the sovereignty of God over events on the earth. Fire issuing from the throne points to His judicial power - (Revelation 4:1-8).

The vision does not identify the other beings who were sitting on the many “thrones.” Their plurality may serve to stress the majesty of the “Ancient of Days.” Likewise, the picture of “thousands upon thousands that served him.”

The picture of four ravenous creatures “ascending from the sea” gave the impression that human kingdoms were not under the control of the “God of Heaven.” Any such notion is now set aside by the actions that are occurring in the heavenly court.

The “fiery wheels” suggest mobility - There is no place safe from the judicial reach of the divine throne.  Yahweh’s rule is dynamic and not limited to “heaven.” He determines the course of history and empires. The “four beasts” could only exit the sea when and as He permitted. He was the source of the forces that stirred the surface of the sea to cause their ascent.

The fourth “beast” was “slain” because of its arrogance - The “mouth speaking great things.” The impious nature of all four “beasts from the sea” reached its most blasphemous height in the mouth of the “little horn”; consequently, the “fourth beast” was destroyed. However, the text states that it was the “beast” that was slain, NOT the “little horn” itself. This points to the “death” of a regime, not necessarily to the death of an individual ruler.

Next, the first three “beasts” reappear - (“The rest of the beasts”). In the historical record, each kingdom succeeded its predecessor. In the symbolical world of the vision, on some level, the four realms remain contemporaneous with the “little horn.”

In the first half of the vision, nothing was said about the destruction the first three beasts - all four continued to exist until they were destroyed collectively by an act of judgment. Likewise, in Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier vision, all four sections of the image were destroyed simultaneously at the end of the age by the stone cut “without hands” – They were constituent parts of one whole.

Each kingdom was “given a lengthening of life until a time and season.” Each endured for the time allotted by God but no longer. Each lost dominion and received the duration of life at the appointed time.  The end of the first three “beasts” was inextricably linked to the destruction of the last one; especially, to the demise of its “little horn.”

The destruction of the fourth kingdom brings the entire World-Power to an end, just as in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream when the “stone” struck the “feet” of the “great image,” causing the annihilation of the entire structure.  The sovereignty of the World-Power past successively from one kingdom to the next - Each exercised the same malevolent power. The form varied, but the nature of each beast remained the same.

The length of a “season and time” is undefined. This is a link to Daniel’s earlier statement that God “changes times and seasonshe removes kings and sets up kings.” This confirms the control of Yahweh over political events on the earth - (Daniel 2:19-23).
On some level, the lengthening of life meant that each beast continued to exist in the subsequent regime. Nebuchadnezzar saw four individual kingdoms represented by one figure comprised of four sections.
Thus, the World-Power has multiple incarnations but remains a singular entity. Its form varies over space and time, but its true nature does not. Previously, Daniel declared that the “Most-High has dominion over the kingdom of men,” singular, and “gives it to whomever he pleases,” also singular.

One like a son of man” is seen approaching the “ancient of days” after the destruction of the fourth beast. “Son of man” is an Aramaic idiom that, by itself, means no more than a “human being.” The figure is likened to a “son of man.” It does not state whether he was an actual human being or something else.

The “son of man” is contrasted to the monstrous four “beasts,” especially to the “little horn speaking great things” of the fourth “beast.” The nature of God’s kingdom differs from the beastly nature of the World-Power. Behind the image is the Genesis account of the creation of Adam. Yahweh made man in His “likeness” and charged him to take dominion over the earth. This “son of man” succeeded where Adam failed.

The “Son of Man” did not receive the kingdom until judgment was given and the “beast” was slain. Recorded in the “books” are the deeds of the four “beasts.” But the arrival of God’s kingdom did not produce their immediate destruction.

The “son of man” did not arrive from heaven but approached the Ancient of Days to receive the kingdom. This is another link to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream when he saw the “stone cut out without hands” that became “a kingdom that will never be destroyed”:
  • (Daniel 2:44-45) – “And in the days of those kings shall the God of the heavens set up a kingdom which, to the ages, shall not be destroyed, and the kingdom, to another people, shall not be left; it shall break in pieces and make an end of all these kingdoms, but itself shall stand to the ages. Forasmuch as you saw that, out of the rock, a stone tore itself away, but not with hands, and broke in pieces the clay, the iron, the bronze, the silver and the gold, the mighty God has made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter. Exact then is the dream, and trusty its interpretation.
In the book of Revelation, the vision of four “beasts ascending from the sea” is applied and modified - The four creatures become a single beast summoned by the “Dragon” to “ascend from the sea.” This “beast” included the same animalistic features as the four “beasts from the sea.” It also has “ten horns” and a mouth “speaking great blasphemies” - (Daniel 7:21-26Revelation 11:3-712:12-1713:1-10).


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