“The beast” is a major topic in the book of Revelation, but it’s a subject which is first introduced in the book of Daniel. In Daniel 2 Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had a troubling dream which no one in his kingdom could discern, much less interpret. Then both the dream and the interpretation were given to Daniel, and he shared them with the king.
Daniel 2:31-45 (Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream)
31 “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. 32 This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 “This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. 37 You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; 38 and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold. 39 But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. 41 Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. 43 As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. 45 Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”
In this post we will begin to look at the four parts of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and the four kingdoms that they represent. As most students of prophecy agree, the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 is both the fourth beast of Daniel 7 and the beast of Revelation.
|Daniel 2||Daniel 7||Rev. 11, 13-17, 19-20|
|1st kingdom/gold/head||1st beast/lion with eagle’s wings||N/A|
|2nd kingdom/silver/chest & arms||2nd beast/bear raised up on one side with three ribs in its mouth||N/A|
|3rd kingdom/bronze/belly & thighs||3rd beast/leopard with four heads and four wings of a bird||N/A|
|4th kingdom/legs/iron feet/iron & clay||4th beast/huge iron teeth & 10 horns||“the beast”|
In the passage quoted above, we can see that the fourth kingdom (which is “the beast” of Revelation) is pictured in the following ways:
 In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the fourth kingdom took the form of “legs of iron” and “feet partly of iron and partly of clay.” It was the final stage of a great image which transitioned [a] from gold [b] to silver [c] to bronze [d] and to iron and then an iron/clay mix; and which consisted of [a] a head [b] a chest and arms [c] a belly and thighs [d] and legs and feet. As time progressed, the focus moved from the head of the image toward its feet. That image was to endure until its feet were struck by a stone which would become a great mountain and fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:31-35).
 In Daniel’s interpretation, the fourth kingdom would be as strong as iron at first but later would be partly strong and partly fragile. The kingdom of God would be set up during the time of those four kingdoms, and, specifically, it would take the place of the fourth kingdom and stand forever (Daniel 2:37-45).
So now let’s look at the first transition:
From Kingdom #1 (Gold / Head) to Kingdom #2 (Silver / Chest and Arms)
In Daniel’s interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar was identified as the head of gold (Daniel 2:38). After Nebuchadnezzar, there were four more kings before the Babylonian Empire lost its power. Daniel doesn’t say this, but we know this from history:
Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University (August 13, 2015)
The transfer of the kingdom from Babylon to Medo-Persia is seen very clearly in Daniel 5:30-31:
“That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old” (Daniel 5:30-31).
History tells us that this happened in 539 BC. In these two verses we see the transition:
*from gold to silver
*from the head to the chest and arms
*from the first kingdom to the second kingdom
Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University (August 13, 2015)
Kingdom #2 (Silver/Chest & Arms) to Kingdom #3 (Bronze/Belly & Thighs)
The transfer of the kingdom from Medo-Persia to Greece is also easy enough to see in Daniel 8, where Daniel records a vision he received during “the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar” (verse 1). In this vision he was by a river and saw a ram with two horns “pushing westward, northward, and southward” with no resistance (verse 4). Suddenly a male goat with one horn came charging from the west “with furious power” (verses 5-6), broke his two horns, and “cast him down to the ground and trampled him” (verse 7). This was the transition:
*from silver to bronze
*from the chest and arms to the belly and thighs
*from the second kingdom to the third kingdom
Then Daniel was further shown that the male goat would grow “very great” and “strong,” but that four notable horns would take the place of the one horn (verse 8). Then a little horn would come out of one of the four horns and would grow “exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land” (verse 9). This little horn would challenge the host of heaven (verse 10), take away the daily sacrifices and cast down the place of God’s sanctuary (verse 11), and “cast truth down to the ground” (verse 12).
Gabriel let Daniel know that the ram with the two horns represented the kings of Media and Persia (verse 20) and that the male goat was the kingdom of Greece (verse 21). The large horn was the first king (whom we know to be Alexander the Great), and we know from history that the four horns that later came up in its place (verse 22) were four generals of Alexander the Great (Cassander, Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Lysimachus) who ruled over separate territories in that kingdom.
Verses 23-26 go into detail about the little horn that “grew exceedingly,” who we know to be Antiochus Epiphanes. It’s important to notice the key time markers that Gabriel used as he described the rise and fall of Antiochus, the Hellenistic Greek king of the Seleucid Empire from 175-164 BC:
“And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their fullness, a king shall arise, having fierce features, who understands sinister schemes… But he shall be broken without human means” (verses 23, 26).
The breaking of Antiochus Epiphanes was to take place at the end of the rule of the third kingdom, Greece/Macedonia. This is confirmed by what Daniel was told in verses 17 and 19:
“Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end… Look, I am making known to you what shall happen in the latter time of the indignation; for at the appointed time the end shall be.”
Daniel’s vision of the third kingdom, Greece/Macedonia, did not go beyond the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. The downfall of Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 BC would apparently mark the transition from the third kingdom to the fourth kingdom. Before taking a look at that transition, I’d like to share a historical excerpt about the rule of Greece/Macedonia, the third kingdom, over Israel.
The Jewish Virtual Library gives the following historical overview of Greece/Macedonia’s rule over Israel from the time of Alexander the Great’s death in 323 BC until the downfall of Antiochus Epipanes IV in 164 BC:
Greece’s Rule over Israel from 323 BC to 164 BC
The death of Alexander the Great of Greece in 323 BCE led to the breakup of the Greek empire… The Land of Israel was thus sandwiched between two of the rivals and, for the next 125 years, Seleucids and Ptolemies battled for this prize.
[See Daniel 11:5-31 for a description of the battles between the Seleucid/Syrian kings of the north and the Ptolemaic/Egyptian kings of the south, and see here for a list of the rulers of the Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties. These were the bronze thighs of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, after Greece transitioned from one territory (i.e. the belly) to four territories and then to two territories.]
The [Seleucids] finally won in 198 B.C. when Antiochus III defeated the Egyptians and incorporated Judea into his empire. Initially, he continued to allow the Jews autonomy, but after a stinging defeat at the hands of the Romans he began a program of Hellenization that threatened to force the Jews to abandon their monotheism for the Greeks’ paganism.
Antiochus backed down in the face of Jewish opposition to his effort to introduce idols in their temples, but his son, Antiochus IV, who inherited the throne in 176 B.C. resumed his father’s original policy without excepting the Jews. A brief Jewish rebellion only hardened his views and led him to outlaw central tenets of Judaism such as the Sabbath and circumcision, and defile the holy Temple by erecting an altar to the god Zeus, allowing the sacrifice of pigs, and opening the shrine to non-Jews.
The Jewish Hammer
Though many Jews had been seduced by the virtues of Hellenism, the extreme measures adopted by Antiochus helped unite the people. When a Greek official tried to force a priest named Mattathias to make a sacrifice to a pagan god, the Jew murdered the man. Predictably, Antiochus began reprisals, but in 167 BCE the Jews rose up behind Mattathias and his five sons and fought for their liberation.
The family of Mattathias became known as the Maccabees, from the Hebrew word for “hammer,” because they were said to strike hammer blows against their enemies. Jews refer to the Maccabees, but the family is more commonly known as the Hasmoneans.
Like other rulers before him, Antiochus underestimated the will and strength of his Jewish adversaries and sent a small force to put down the rebellion. When that was annihilated, he led a more powerful army into battle only to be defeated. In 164 BCE, Jerusalem was recaptured by the Maccabees and the Temple purified, an event that gave birth to the holiday of Chanukah [See Antiquities 12.7.7].
At this point, many Bible teachers say that dominance over Israel was transferred from Greece to Rome. Therefore, Greece was the third kingdom/beast and Rome was the fourth kingdom/beast in the visions of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel. Here’s a typical example of this model:
Source: Facebook (Eschatological Escapades, September 1, 2016)
But is that really what happened? It’s not at all what happened. No such transfer took place. Dominion over Israel did not pass from Greece/Macedonia to Rome, which at the time was a republic. Something very different happened. Someone else obtained that dominion.
In the next post, we’ll examine the transition from the third kingdom to the fourth kingdom.
All of the posts in this series can be found at this page.