Bear and Leopard - Identities

In Daniel’s vision, how do we identify the second and third kingdoms, the Bear and the Leopard

In his vision, Daniel saw “four beasts ascending” from the sea. The first three featured characteristics from the animal kingdom - the winged lion, the bear, and the leopard with two pairs of wings.

The fourth beast did not resemble any known species of animal. It was a horrifying monstrosity with “great iron teeth,” “ten horns,” and another “little horn, with a mouth speaking great things.”

In the vision’s interpretation, all four “beasts” are labeled “kingdoms.” They are successive political powers that appear on the earth at different times - (Daniel 7:17, 23).

And the four “beasts” correspond to the four parts in Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier dream of the “great image” that was composed of four different types of material. In Daniel’s interpretation of that dream, the “head of gold” is identified as Nebuchadnezzar - (Daniel 2:31-45).

Likewise, in the vision of the “four beasts,” the winged lion represents Nebuchadnezzar and the Neo-Babylonian kingdom. The remaining three “beasts” ascend from the sea in succession after the “lion,” presumably, representing the three subsequent kingdoms that arose after Babylon’s downfall.

  • (Daniel 7:5) – “And, lo, another beast, a second, resembling a bear, and on one side was it raised up with three ribs in its mouth, between its teeth, and thus were they saying to it, Rise, devour much flesh.”


In the book, the kingdom that follows Babylon is the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians.” It is always called “kingdom” in the singular number, and consistently, it is identified as the “Medes and Persians” – (Daniel 5:28, 6:8-15).

The “bear” has one side raised higher than the other. And in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the “great image,” both the “arms” and the “breast” of the silver torso are listed (“its breast and its arms of silver”). Thus, there are two distinct divisions in the second realm.

The “bear” has “three ribs” gripped in its mouth. If it represents the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians,” the “three ribs” match the historical record. In its first twenty-five years, the Medo-Persian Empire conquered the great empires of Lydia (546 B.C.), Babylon (539 B.C.), and Egypt (525 B.C.).

A voice commands the “bear” to “rise, devour much flesh!” That description is echoed in the vision of the “ram” in chapter 8. The “ram with two horns, with one higher than the other.” No other “beast” could stand before it, and it did according to its will “and magnified itself”; that is, until “the goat from the west with a notable horn between his eyes” overthrew it.

In the interpretation in chapter 8, the “ram” is the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians,” which is then followed by “Greece.” The same scenario is presented in the introduction to the book’s final vision in chapter 11 - (Daniel 8:19-20):

  • (Daniel 11:2-3) – “Behold, there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth shall be far richer than they all: and when he is waxed strong through his riches, he shall stir up all against the kingdom of Greece. And a mighty king will arise who will rule with great dominion and do according to his will.”

When interpreting the symbolism of Daniel, priority must be given to the clues provided in the book. This means the “bear” can only represent the kingdom of the “Medes and Persians.”


  • (Daniel 7:6) – “After that, I was looking, and lo, another like a leopard, and it had four wings of a bird upon its back, and four heads had the beast, and dominion was given to it.

The “leopard,” has two pairs of “wings,” indicating rapidity of movement, and its “four heads” point to internal divisions. The description parallels the image of the “goat” in chapter 8:

  • (Daniel 8:5-8) - “The goat came from the west over the face of the whole earth and touched not the ground; and the goat had a prominent horn between his eyes. And he came to the ram that had the two horns, which I saw standing before the river, and ran upon him in the fury of his power.  And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with anger against him, and smote the ram, and broke his two horns; and there was no power in the ram to stand before him; but he cast him down to the ground and trampled upon him; and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. And the goat magnified himself exceedingly: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and instead of it there came up four notable horns toward the four winds of heaven.”

The speed of the goat in conquest is described as having its feet “not touching the earth.” This corresponds to the leopard’s “four wings of a bird.” The “four heads” of the leopard parallel the four “lesser horns” that appear on the “goat” after its first “prominent horn” is broken. As to its identity, the interpretation of the “goat” leaves no doubt – the “goat is the king of Greece” – (Daniel 8:21-22).

The “goat” can only refer to the Greco-Macedonian kingdom and its first king, Alexander the Great. His army overthrew the Medo-Persian Empire in only three years.

After his death, his empire was divided between four of his generals. None of the four subsequent Greek kingdoms ever approached the size of Alexander’s realm.

And like the Medo-Persian Empire, the same reality is portrayed at the start of the vision in chapter 11 - (Daniel 11:2-4).

Thus, the “bear” and the “leopard,” represent the “Medes and Persians” and Greece. The mighty Babylonian kingdom was overthrown by the former, which, in turn, was conquered by the Greco-Macedonian kingdom under Alexander the Great.


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