Some Symbolism in Daniel

The Identification of the Four Kingdoms

            In Daniel Chapter 7, Daniel is given a vision of four great beasts. These four great beasts are representative of four great kingdoms that are mentioned in Daniel chapter 2. The first beast/kingdom was a lion and had wings of an eagle. (Dan. 7:3) This is paralleled with the head of gold in Daniel chapter 2 representing Babylonia. James Smith points out that, “The change in the character of the beast probably points to the fact that the Neo-Babylonian Empire, in its later stages, was less aggressive and more humane.”[1] The second beast/kingdom was a slanted bear. (Dan. 7:5) This is paralleled with the chest and arms of silver mentioned in Daniel chapter 2 representing the Medo-Persian empire. Warren Wiersbe mentions that the bear is not cunning or crafty, rather the bear is atrocious and barbaric. The fact that the bear was slanted is symbolic, showing the Persian half was stronger than the Medes half and the three ribs represent three empires that they have already defeated—Egypt, Babylon, and Libya.[2] Next, the third beast was a leopard with four wings on its back and four heads. (Dan. 7:6) This is paralleled with the belly and thighs of bronze in Daniel chapter 2 and is representative of Greece. The wings represents speed and agility that the bear did not have. The four heads has different views as to its meaning. “Some believe that the four heads may have faced the four directions of the compass. Some take these heads to symbolize the four major territories of Alexander’s kingdom. Others see them as representative of the four Hellenistic monarchies ruled by the former generals of Alexander.[3] The most logical seems to be the four major territories of Alexander the Great kingdom that were split after his death. The last beast/kingdom mentioned can be described only as terrible. (Dan. 7:7-8) It is representative of the legs of iron and feet of clay in Daniel chapter 2 which is Rome. Steven Miller confers this by stating that by the second century Rome was preeminent over Greece.[4]

The “One like the Son of Man”

            There is little debate that Daniel 7:13-14 is talking about a human form and not a redeemed Israel. Steven Miller gives three views attempting to reveal the identity of “Son of man.” One view states that Son of man is Michael the archangel and his followers are angelic. This view is erroneous because that would mean the Jews would be elevated to the rank of angel and it clearly states in Daniel 7:27 that it is given to the “people” of the Most High. The next view states that the “Son of man” is the Jewish nation. This is clearly an inaccurate view because in Daniel 7:14, “That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” and the Bible is absolutely clear that God alone is to be worshiped. Therefore, it is not possible that the Jewish nation is the “Son of man.”[5] This leaves only one possible choice. The “Son of man” is no other than Jesus Christ. The strongest case for this view is, as Steven Miller states, “70% of clouds mentioned in the Bible has to deal with Mt. Sinai, Temple, or eschatological theophanies.”[6] The first example that came to mind was when the disciples watched Jesus ascend into the clouds and they were told that Jesus would return the same way. (Acts 1:9–11)

The Identification of the Ram and the Goat

            Daniel chapter 8 identifies the ram as the kings of Persia (Dan. 8:20) and the goat as Greece. (Dan. 8:21) Warren Wiersbe develops this in his commentary. Like before the ram which had uneven horns represented the stronger Persians and the Medes being the weaker. The goat had one great horn representing Alexander the Great. The goat—Alexander the Great—attacked the ram—Medes and the Persians—and destroyed the two horns on the ram and this represents Greece’s victory over Medo-Persia. When the horn is broken on the ram with the four horns presiding, this represents the four generals who divided the kingdom and controlled the kingdom.[7]


Miller, Stephen R. Daniel: The New American Commentary. Vol. 18. Nashville , TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994.

Smith, James E. The Major Prophets: Old Testament Survey Series. Joplin, MO: College Press, 1992.

Wiersbe, Warren W. Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament. Wheaton , IL: Victor Books, 1993.

[1] James E. Smith, The Major Prophets, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1992), Da 7:2–8.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1993), Da 7.

[3] James E. Smith, The Major Prophets, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1992), Da 7:2–8.

[4] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, vol. 18, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 201.

[5] Ibid., p. 208

[6] Ibid.

[7] Warren W. Wiersbe, Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1993), Da 8.


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