Q: The question and answer last month reminded me of a question I have had for some time about the book of Daniel. The vision that King Nebuchadnezzar had in Daniel 2 about the image, and the visions Daniel had in chapters seven and eight about the beasts were about four Gentile empires that would hit the scene before the coming of Jesus. My question is why were there more than one vision about the same subject? Is there a reason or significance for it to be presented in these different ways?
A: That is a good question. The Lord has a purpose for everything being recorded in His Word. The first thing that comes to my mind is that God always confirms a matter with two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6; Matthew 18:16).
My studies have also shown me that the visions in Daniel were different because of the perspective in which they were being presented. For example in the first vision in Daniel 2, it was from the perspective of the forms of autonomy that would be in operation in each empire. For example, the head of gold pointed to the autonomy resting solely with the king of Babylon, such as Nebuchadnezzar. What the king said was law and had to be obeyed or it meant death as in the case of Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego in Daniel 3.
The second metal of silver implies that the balance of authority had changed. For the Medo-Persian Empire, it was a Monarchical oligarchy in which nobles were equal to the King in all but office, and a system in which the King could by no means do as he willed. This is one of the reasons the autonomy of the empire rested with the decrees that were made by the kings. Once a decree was declared by a king, it could not be changed as in the case of Darius’ decree that gave Daniel’s enemies the authority to cast him into the lion’s den in Daniel 6, and in the situation during the days of Esther when a decree had been signed by King Ahasuerus, sealed and delivered to the providences that all the Jews were to be put to death. It took another decree signed by the same king, sealed, and delivered to same providences that gave the Jews the permission to fight back because the first decree still stood. Another example of this practice is King Cyrus. He made a decree that the Jews had a right to return to Jerusalem. Every succeeding king had to respect Cyrus’ decree and often made another one like it to put their support behind it.
The third metal was bronze, which was less valuable than gold and silver. Alexander the Great was a monarchy supported by a military artistocracy. Such a government is only as strong as the moral character of its leaders. Alexander, because of his immoral indiscretions died at a young age. As a result, the Grecian Empire was divided between his four generals.
The fourth, the Roman Empire, was represented by iron and clay. Iron reveals this empire was stronger than others, but the clay points to a mixture and reveals its weakness. The strength rested in governmental authority having checks and balances to reign in any abusive power. For example, America’s type of government is along the same lines as the Roman Empire; therefore, it would be classified having the potential of great strength. The problem is political balance is fragile and can change when those in authority sacrifice the checks and balances for personal or professional reasons, opening the door for abusive power to make its appearance. Abusive power not only enslaves the people of a nation but it makes it weak and vulnerable to be destroyed from within.
In Daniel 7, the vision Daniel had of these four empires was from God’s perspective. The Lord knew what kind of destruction each empire would bring. For Babylon, it was like a lion, a beast of prey that not only preyed on nations it conquered but when one godless man calls the shots, he will naturally regress into an insane world that causes him to think he is sovereign, making him God in his mind. Some believe the eagle’s feathers point to the time that God clipped King Nebuchadnezzar’s arrogance by clearly humbling him in Daniel 4, when the haughty king became like an animal, while the dew from heaven fell on him for seven years. I guess there is a name to this condition. It is called lycanthropy.
The bear revealed that the Medo-Persian Empire would quickly devour Babylonia, Libya, and Egypt who formed an alliance to fight against the empire, (represented by the three ribs in its mouth). This empire used vast masses of troops that would devour anything in its way.
The Grecian Empire was represented by the leopard, a swift breast with wings (great speed), that within ten years would overthrow the armies of Persia, and subdued the civilized world. The four heads represented the four generals who took over the empire after Alexander the Great died.
The final beast represented a succession of rapacious wild beasts devouring one another. We know this is the Roman Empire. Out of the revived Roman Empire a beast of supernatural powers will emerge from this empire. He will be known as the last anti-Christ.
In the final vision in Daniel 8, it points to political power, as well as having a spiritual implication to the beasts representing these two empires. The ram symbolizes the united power of Medo-Persia, furiously pushing in three directions (Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt). The ram was displayed on the Persian coins and was looked upon as the guardian spirit of Persia.
The goat (Grecian Empire) subdued the ram and waxed great, but the main horn was broken into four. Again the empire was split and ruled by four generals who oversaw the regions of Macedonia, Thrace, Syria, and Egypt that later were absorbed into the Roman Empire. The goat was a symbol of Macedonia, and was found on the coins, and the capital of Macedonia, Edessa means “herd of goats,” because legend has it that the king of Macedon was led to this city by a herd of goats.
As humans we have a limited perspective of history and events, but God sees everything from beginning to the end. After the Gospel has been preached to the world, we as believers know in the end days, a cut stone, (Jesus Christ), will totally destroy the wicked power and influences of all Gentile governments, and set up His perfect kingdom.
As the Apostle John stated in the book of Revelation, “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 21:20).