Daniel 7:3
(3) Four great beasts.--The monstrous forms of the beasts are implied, rather than the hugeness of their size. Other instances of beasts being taken as emblems of kingdoms may be found in Isaiah 27:1; Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 32:2. It must be observed that the beasts do not rise up simultaneously, but in succession to each other. In this way, and in the difference of their character, they form a parallel to the subject-matter of the vision recorded in Daniel 2.

Verse 3. - And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. The Septuagint rendering omits "great;" otherwise it is a closely accurate representation of the Massoretic text, save that the translator seems to have had, not דא מןאּדּא, but as in the Syriac, חדא מן־חדא, as he renders ε{ν παρὰ τὸ ἕν. Theodotion has μεγάλα, but does not so slavishly follow the Aramaic construction at the end. The Peshitta is very close to the Massoretic, save that in the last clause it agrees with the LXX. The number four is, in apocalyptic writings, significant of the world; "the four winds" mean the whole world. Here it is human history that is summed up in the four beasts. So in Zechariah we have "four horns" that symbolize the oppressors of the people of God (Daniel 1:18; Daniel 2:1). We have "four" chariots in the sixth chapter of Zechariah, which seem to be symbols of the same thing. Beasts. Animals of one sort or another are used of nations in the prophets; thus Egypt is symbolized in Isaiah 27, as "leviathan," presumably a crocodile (Isaiah 51:7), as "a dragon" in Ezekiel 29:3 Babylonia is figured as an eagle (Ezekiel 17:3). Composite beings are used as symbols also, as Tyro is addressed as a '"covering cherub." In the Book of Revelation Rome is figured as a beast with seven heads and ten horns (Revelation 13:1). In the Book of Enoch (85. - 90.) we find this figurative use of animals carried much further. Assyria and Babylonia and, following them, Persia made great use of composite, monstrous animal forms as symbols, not so much, however, of political as of spiritual powers. This distinction is the less important, that political events were regarded as the production of spiritual activity.

7:1-8 This vision contains the same prophetic representations with Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The great sea agitated by the winds, represented the earth and the dwellers on it troubled by ambitious princes and conquerors. The four beasts signified the same four empires, as the four parts of Nebuchadnezzar's image. Mighty conquerors are but instruments of God's vengeance on a guilty world. The savage beast represents the hateful features of their characters. But the dominion given to each has a limit; their wrath shall be made to praise the Lord, and the remainder of it he will restrain.And four great beasts came up from the sea,.... Which are afterwards interpreted of four kings or kingdoms, Daniel 7:17, which rose up in the world, not at once, but successively, and out of the sea or world, through the commotions and agitations of it; and these are the four monarchies, Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman; compared to "beasts", because of the rapine and violence, cruelty, oppression, and tyranny, by which they were obtained, set up, supported, and maintained; and to "great ones", being not like single separate kingdoms, as the kingdom of Israel, and the like, but consisting of many kingdoms and nations, and so like beasts of an enormous size:

diverse one from another; in their situation, language, manner, strength, and power; hence expressed by divers sorts of beasts, as the lion, bear, leopard, &c.; as in Nebuchadnezzar's dream by different metals, gold, silver, brass, and iron.

Daniel 7:2
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