Biblical Numerology: NUMBER FOUR & FORTY– Part VII

Only Four Empires Struggle for World Dominion

Source: Daniel and the Revelation, by Uriah Smith, Ch. VII, pp. 105-147, Revision Copyrighted in 1944, 1972 by  the Southern Publishing Association.

     Daniel 7: 1. “This is the same Belshazzar mentioned in Daniel [chapter] 5. Chronologically, this chapter precedes the first chapter but chronology here is disregarded in order that the historical part of the book may stand for itself.

    “Verse 2. Daniel Relates His Own Vision. – All Scripture language is to be taken literally, unless there exists some good reason for regarding it as figurative. All that is figurative is to be interpreted by that which is literal. That the language here used is symbolic, is evident from verse 17, which reads, ‘These great beasts, which are four, are four kings which shall arise out of the earth.’  That kingdoms are intended, and not merely individual kings, is clear from the word, ‘But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom.’ In explaining verse 23, the angel said, ‘The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth.’ These beasts are therefore symbols of four great kingdoms. The circumstances under which they arose, as represented in the prophecy, are also stated in symbolic language.

     “The symbols introduced are the four winds, the sea, four great beasts, ten horns, and another horn which had eyes and a mouth and which rose up in war against God and His people. We have now to inquire what they denote.

     “In symbolic language winds represent strife, political commotion, and war, as we read from the prophet Jeremiah: ‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, evil shall go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirlwind shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. And the slain of the Lord shall be at that day from one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth.’ Jer. 25: 32, 33. The prophet speaks of a controversy which the Lord is to have with all nations. The strife and commotion which produces all this destruction is called ‘a great whirlwind.’

      “That winds denote strife and war is evident in the vision itself. As a result of the blowing of the winds, kingdoms arise and fall through political strife.

     “Seas, or waters, when used as a Biblical symbol, represent peoples, and nations, and tongues [languages]. Said the angel to the prophet John, ‘The waters which thou sawest . . . are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.’ Rev. 17: 15.

     “The definition of the symbol of the four beasts is given to Daniel before the close of the vision: ‘These great beasts, which are four, are four kings which shall arise out of the earth.’ Verse 17. With this explanation of the symbols, the field of the vision is definitely opened before us.

     “Since these four beasts denote four kings, or kingdoms, we inquire, Where shall we begin and what four empires are represented? These beasts arise consecutively, for they are enumerated from the first to the fourth. The last one is in existence when all earthly scenes are brought to an end by the final judgment. From the time of Daniel to the end of this world’s history, there were to be but four universal kingdoms, as we learned from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great image in Daniel 2, interpreted by the prophet sixty-five years before. Daniel was still living under the kingdom denoted by the head of gold.

     “The first beast of this vision must therefore denote the same kingdom as the head of gold of the great image, namely, Babylon. The other beasts no doubt represent the succeeding kingdoms portrayed by that image. But if this vision covers essentially the same period of history as the image of Daniel 2, the query may arise, Why is it given? Why was not the first vision sufficient? We answer, The history of world empires is passed over again and again in order that additional characteristics may be brought out, and additional facts and features may be presented. It is thus that we have ‘line upon line’ according to the Scriptures [Isa. 28: 9-13]. In chapter 2, only the political aspects of world dominion are portrayed. Here earthly governments are introduced in their relationship to God’s truth and God’s people. Their true character is shown by symbols of wild and ravenous beasts.

      “Verse 4. The Lion. – In the vision of Daniel 7, the first beast seen by the prophet was a lion. For the use of a lions as a symbol, read Jeremiah 4: 7; 50: 17, 43, 44. The lion as first seen in the vision before us had eagle’s wings. The symbolic use of wings is impressively described in Habakkuk 1: 6-8, where it is said that the Chaldeans should ‘fly as the eagle hasteth to eat.’

     “From these symbols we may easily deduce that Babylon was a kingdom of great strength, and that under Nebuchadnezzar its conquests were extended with great rapidity.  But there came a time when the wings were plucked.  It no longer rushed its prey like an eagle. The boldness and the spirit of the lion was gone. A man’s heart—weak, timorous, and faint—took the place of a lion’s strength. Such was the case with the nation during the closing years of its history, when it had become enfeebled and effeminate [like Solomon towards the end of his 40-year reign] through wealth and luxury.

     “Verse 5. The Bear. — As in the image of Daniel 2, so in this series of symbols a marked deterioration is noticed as we descend from one kingdom to another. The silver of the breast and arms is inferior to the gold of the head. The bear is inferior to the lion. Medo-Persia fell short of Babylon in wealth, magnificence, and brilliance. The bear raised itself on one side. The kingdom was composed of two nationalities, the Medes and the Persians. The same fact is represented by the two horns of the ram in Daniel 8. Of these horns it is said that the higher came up last, and of the bear it raised itself up on one side. This was fulfilled by the Persian division of the kingdom, for although it came up last, it attained the higher eminence, becoming a dominant influence in the nation. (see comments on Daniel 8: 3).

     “The three ribs doubtlessly signify the three provinces of: Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt, which was especially oppressed by Medo-Persia. The command, ‘Arise, devour much flesh,’ would naturally refer to the stimulus given to the Medes and Persians by the overthrow of these provinces. The character of the power is well represented by a bear. The Medes and Persians were cruel and rapacious, robbers and spoilers of the people. This Medo-Persian kingdom continued from the overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus to the Battle of Arbela in 331 B.C., a period of 207 years.

     “Verse 6.  The Leopard. — The third kingdom, Grecia, is here represented by the symbol of a leopard. If wings upon the lion signified rapidity of conquest, they would signify the same here. The leopard itself is a swift-footed beast, but this was not sufficient to represent the career of the nation here symbolized. It must have wings in addition. Two wings, the number the lion had, were not sufficient; the leopard must have four. This would denote unprecedented celerity of movement, which we find to be a historical fact in the Grecian kingdom.

The conquests of Grecia under Alexander had no parallel in ancient time for suddenness and rapidity. His military achievements are summarized by W. W. Tarn: ‘He was a master in the combination of arms; he taught the world the advantages of campaigning in winter, the value of pressing pursuit to the utmost, ‘march divided, fight united.’ He marched usually in two divisions, one conducting the impediments and his own [division] traveling light; his speed of movement was extraordinary.

It is said that he attributed his military success to ‘never putting anything off’ . . . .The enormous distances traversed in unknown country imply a very high degree of organizing ability; in ten years he had only two serious breakdowns . . . Had a lesser man attempted what he achieved, and failed, we should have heard enough of the hopeless military difficulties of the undertaking [the Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. VI, pp. 425, 426].

     “The beast had also four heads.’ The Grecian Empire maintained its unity but little longer than the lifetime of Alexander. After his brilliant career ended in a fever induced by a drunken debauch, the empire was divided among his four leading generals. [1] Cassander had Macedonia and Greece in the west; [2] Lysimachus had Thrace and the parts of Asia on the Hellespont and the Bosphorus in the north; [3] Ptolemy had Egypt, Lydia, Arabia, Palestine and Coelesyria in the south; and [4] Seleucus had Syria and all the rest of Alexander’s dominions in the east.

     “By the year 301 B.C. with the death of Antigonus, the division of the kingdom of Alexander into four parts was completed by his generals. [Ibid, pp. 461-504].These divisions were denoted by the four heads of the leopard.

      “Thus accurately were the words of the prophet {Daniel] fulfilled. As Alexander left no available successor, why did not the huge empire break up into countless petty fragments? Why into just four parts, and no more?—-For reasons that the prophecy foresaw and foretold. The leopard had four heads, the rough goat four horns, the kingdom was to have four divisions; and thus it was. (See more fully in comments in Daniel 8.)

     Verse 7. A Dreadful Beast. — Inspiration finds no beast in nature to symbolize the power here illustrated. No addition of hoofs, heads, horns, wings, scales, teeth, or nails to any beast found in nature will answer. This power is diverse from all the others, and the symbol is wholly different from anything found in the animal kingdom.

     “The foundation for a volume is laid on verse 7, but for lack of space we are compelled to treat it briefly here. This beast corresponds to the fourth division of the great image—the legs of iron. In the comment on Daniel 2: 40 are given some reasons for believing this power to be Rome. The same reasons are applicable to the present prophecy. How accurately did Rome answer to the iron portion of the image [shown to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2]! How accurately it answers to the beast before us! In the dread and terror which it inspired, and in its great strength, it answered admirably to the prophetic description.

The world has never seen its equal. It devoured as with iron teeth, and broke in pieces all that stood on its way. It ground the nations into the dust beneath its brazen feet. It had ten horns, which are explained in verse 24 to be ten kings, or kingdoms, which should arise out of this empire. As already noticed in comments on Daniel 2, Rome was divided into ten kingdoms. These divisions have ever since been spoken of as the ten kingdoms of the Roman Empire.

     “Verse 8. Daniel considered the horns. A strange movement appeared among them. Another horn, at first little, but afterward more stout than its fellows, thrust itself up. It was not content quietly to find a place of its own, and fill it; it must thrust aside some of the others, and usurp their places. Three kingdoms were thus plucked up.

      “A Little Horn Among the Ten. – This little horn, as we shall have occasion to notice moré fully hereafter, was the papacy. The three horns plucked up by the roots represented the Heruli, the Ostrogoths, and the Vandals. The reason for their removal was their opposition to the teachings and claims of the papal hierarchy. ‘In this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things’—fit emblems of the shrewdness, penetration, and arrogant claims of an apostate religious organization.

     Verses 9, 10. A Judgment Scene. – A sublime description of a more awesome scene is not to be found in the word of God. Not the grand and lofty imagery alone could arrest our attention; the nature of the scene itself demands most serious consideration. The judgment is here brought to view. Whenever the judgment is mentioned, it ought to take an irresistible hold upon every mind, for all have a deep concern in its eternal issues.

     “By an unfortunate translation in verse 9, a wrong idea is almost sure to be conveyed. The phrase ‘cast down’ is from a Chaldee word, remi, which may properly be rendered ‘hurled by violence,’ as is plainly the case where it is used to describe the casting of the three Hebrews into the fiery furnace, and the casting of Daniel into the den of lions. But another equally correct translation is ‘to set or place in order,’ as in the placing of the judgment seats mentioned here, as also a like setting or placing in Revelation 4: 2, in which the Greek bears out the same meaning. The Revised Version (RSV) in Daniel 7: 9 reads properly, ‘thrones were placed,’ as Gesenius defines the root remah, with reference to Daniel 7: 9 as an example.

     “The ‘Ancient of Days, God the Father, presides at the judgment. Mark the description of His person. Those who believe in the impersonality of God are obliged to admit that He is here described as a personal being, but they console themselves by saying that it is the only description of the kind in the Bible. We do not admit this latter assertion; but granting that it were true, is not one description of this kind as fatal to their theory as though it were repeated a score of times? The thousand thousands who minister unto Him, and the ten thousand times ten thousand who stand before Him, are not sinners arraigned before the judgment seat, but heavenly intelligences who wait before Him, attendant on His will.” – pp. 105-113. (Continued next week).