There has been more than one ‘beast’ in history. Daniel 7 contains four great beasts. We can see them as a description of great and proud empires that set themselves up as world powers. In this light Britain could be seen as a beast of the 18th – 20th centuries, and America and Russia could be beasts of the 20th century. Each world empire is different, but each one is the same. It takes the order of creation and it twists it and exploits it.
For the original reader the beasts’ rising from the sea would show that they are rising from forces which try and undo God’s order in creation. The sea is chaos. These beasts, then, are not part of the natural created order but like horrific orcs created from beautiful elves, the beasts in the Daniel narrative are mutations.
There is a grandeur to these aberrations and that is nowhere more apparent than in the first beast which takes the form of a lion crossed with an eagle. Both beasts are swift and both beasts are beasts of prey. However, because of their beauty and grandeur both beats were frequently used as national symbols. Judah ascribed greatness to God by calling him a lion and an eagle at various times.
This beats is Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. It starts as proud and ravenous but finds humanity with Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling experience. It is transformed from a mythological symbol of terror to a compassionate and rational human being as God created humans to be. In other words the empire of Nebuchadnezzar is redeemed in this narrative.
3Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.
4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it.
- What does the sea show us about the beats that follow?
- Describe the first beast?
- How does the first beast change?
- What empires in history have developed power that led them to be destructive of people and God’s creation?
- How could you make an argument for or against America being a beast like those in Daniel 7?
- How can an empire redeem itself like Babylon?