Bear and Leopard - Identities

In Daniel’s vision, how do we identify the second and third kingdoms, the “Bear” and the “Leopard”? - Daniel 7:5-6

Acropolis - Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash
Daniel saw “four beasts ascending” from the sea. Each of 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 animal. It was a horrifying monstrosity with “
great iron teeth,” “ten horns,” and another “little horn, with a mouth speaking great things.” - [Acropolis - Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash].

In the provided interpretation, all four “beasts” were labeled “kingdoms,” successive political powers that would appear on the earth:
  • (Daniel 7:17, 23) – “These great beasts are four kings, that shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most-High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever… The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth.”
The four “beasts” correspond to the four parts of the “great image” in Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier dream: the head of gold (“lion”), silver torso (“bear”), brass belly and thighs (“leopard”), and legs of iron and clay (“fourth beast”). In Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s dream, the “head of gold” was identified as Nebuchadnezzar - (Daniel 2:31-45).

Likewise, in the vision of the “four beasts,” the winged lion represented Nebuchadnezzar and the Neo-Babylonian kingdom. The remaining three “beasts” ascended from the sea in succession after the “lion,” presumably, representing the historical sequence of three subsequent kingdoms.
  • (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 Daniel, the kingdom that followed Babylon was the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians.” It is always called “kingdom” using the singular number, and consistently, it is identified as the “Medes and Persians” – (Daniel 5:28, 6:8-15).

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

The “bear” had “three ribs” gripped in its mouth. If the “bear” represented 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 empires of Lydia (546 B.C.), Babylon (539 B.C.), and Egypt (525 B.C.).

In the vision, the voice commanded 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 identified as 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) – “Behold, I will make you to know what will be in the later time of the indignation; for it belongs to the appointed time of the end. The ram which you saw that had the two horns, they are the kings of Media and Persia.”
  • (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. Based on the interpretive keys provided, 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.
Regarding the “leopard,” its two pairs of “wings” indicated rapidity of movement, and even flight, and its “four heads” pointed 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 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 appeared on the “goat” after its first “prominent horn” was broken. As to its identity, the interpretation of the “goat” leaves no doubt:
  • (Daniel 8:21-22) – “And the goat is the king of Greece: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.  And as for that which was broken, in the place where four stood up, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not with his power.”
The vision of the “goat” can only refer to the Greco-Macedonian kingdom and its first great king, Alexander. 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. Like the Medo-Persian Empire, the same reality is portrayed at the start of the vision in chapter 11:
  • (Daniel 11:2-4) – “And now will I show you the truth. Behold, there will stand up yet three kings in Persia; and the fourth will 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 stand up who will rule with great dominion and do according to his will. And, when he stands up, his kingdom will be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven.”
Thus, the second and third “beasts,” the “bear” and the “leopard,” represent the “Medes and Persians” and Greece. The mighty Babylonian kingdom was overthrown by the Medo-Persian Empire, which, in turn, was overthrown by the Greco-Macedonian kingdom of Alexander the Great.

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