The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth…
The first of these is the Babylonian empire. In the dream of Nebuchadnezzar its symbol was the head of gold, and in the dream of Daniel, the first wild beast which was like a lion and had eagle's wings. The superior excellence of the head of gold to the silver, brass, and iron of the colossal image corresponds with the superior excellence of the first wild beast, which had the body of the king of beasts and the wings of the king of birds, to the three other wild beasts which came up afterwards out of the sea. A royal dignity belonged to the Babylonian empire which was lacking in its successors. It is true that when Daniel had his dream the Babylonian empire was near its end; but as the stand-point of Daniel in the dream was before the wild beasts came up out of the sea, the interpreter justly spoke of then to Daniel as "four kings which shall arise out of the earth." In the dream the Babylonian empire was yet to come; but in point of fact it had already come, and was on the eve of passing away. In the plucking of the wild beast's wings, which deprived it of its soaring ambition, and in lifting it up from the earth and giving to it a man's attitude and heart, which deprived it of the voracious nature of the wild beasts, there seems to be a reference to the madness and restoration of Nebuchadnezzar. The Judgment which humbled and ennobled the great king, paved the way for the overthrow of the first great world-power. The empire after the restoration of Nebuchadnezzar had never been so glorious; but the change wrought in him had deprived it of the conquering and destructive power of the wild beast. The lion-like ferocity and eagle-like swiftness in pouncing upon the nations had given place to the kindliness and consideration of a brother man. And when the great king died the glory had departed. None of his successors had either his genius or his strength and nobility of spirit; and in twenty-three years the Babylonian empire had ceased to be. The second world-empire is the Medo-Persian. Three reasons seem to place this opinion, which has been common in all ages, on a solid and immovable foundation.
(1) It is historically true. It is admitted on all hands that the empire which succeeded the Babylonian was the Medo-Persian. To suppose, as the higher critics generally do, that the kingdom meant in both dreams is a kingdom of the Medes, is to ascribe to them a grave historical blunder, since the kingdom of the Medes lost its separate existence and became a part of the dominion of Cyrus eleven years before the downfall of the Babylonian empire.
(2) It is the empire meant in the sacred narrative. This seems clear from the following facts. In his interpretation of the mysterious writing which portended the doom of Babylon, Daniel says of one of the words which suggested the Persians: "Perez: thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians" (v. 28). It is no doubt true that Darius the Mede is mentioned as the first king; but then it is to be noted, not only that Darius the Mede "received the kingdom," but that he and his councillors regarded the edict as unalterable, "according to the law, of the Medes and Persians" (Daniel 6:8, 12, 15).
(3) It is the only empire which fits the symbols. The symbol of the second empire in Nebuchadnezzar's dream is "the breast and arms of silver." The symbol is emblematic of its inferiority to the first empire, represented by the head of gold, and the two arms are the two people who composed it. Its symbol in Daniel's dream is the second wild beast, "like to a bear, raised upon one side, with three ribs between its teeth, to which it was said, Arise, devour much flesh." The Medo-Persian empire, like the bear, was powerful and destructive; one of its two people, the Persians, like one of the sides of the bear, was more prominent than the other; it had in its grasp, like the bear with the three ribs in its mouth, the three kingdoms of Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt; and it was sluggish, like the bear, and needed to be stimulated in its destructive voracity. The Medo-Persian empire fits exactly both symbols, while the empire of the Medes fits neither. On these three grounds it seems certain that the second empire symbolised in the two dreams was the Mede-Persian. The third world-empire is the Greek or Macedonian. Its symbol in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar is "the belly and thighs of brass"; in the dream of Daniel, a leopard with four heads and four wings. The leopard is a fierce animal, remarkable for its swiftness and agility. When the prophet wished to impress his fellow-countrymen with the exceeding swiftness of the horses of the Chaldeans, he described them as "swifter than leopards" (Habakkuk 1:8). This quality of swiftness is here intensified by the leopard "having the four wings of a bird." The lion, the symbol of the Babylonian empire, had only two wings; but the leopard, the symbol of the Macedonian, had four. The exceeding swiftness of such a wild beast is an emblem of Alexander the Great in his conquering career. The rapidity of his military movements was not only superior to those of Nebuchadnezzar and of Cyrus, but perhaps unexampled in the history of the world. The four heads of the leopard represent the four kingdoms into which the Macedonian empire was divided after Alexander's death. The third wild beast seems in every, respect an apt symbol of the Macedonian empire. The higher critics generally, on the other hand, take the third wild beast to be a symbol of the Persian empire. I have already given three reasons for thinking that the second wild beast must be intended for the Medo-Persian empire. After the Babylonian empire there was neither a Median nor a Persian empire, but only a Medo-Persian empire; and if the second wild beast refers to the Medo-Persian empire, then the third wild beast must refer to the Macedonian empire, which immediately came, after it. But in addition, the third wild beast is not an apt symbol of the Medo-Persian empire. The four-winged leopard might be looked upon as a fit symbol of Cyrus, though not nearly so apt as a symbol of Alexander the Great, either for rapidity or ferocity; but it is altogether inappropriate to the general character of the Medo-Persian empire. Instead of being like a four-winged leopard, it strikingly resembled the awkward, slow-moving bear. Again, the four heads are not satisfactorily explained of the Medo-Persian empire by supposing that they refer either to its universal dominion — the four heads being understood as the four points of the compass towards which the empire spread — or to four of its rulers. The heads naturally suggest kings or kingdoms, and the four heads being on the beast at one and the same time suggest four contemporaneous, and not four successive kings. The fourth world-empire is the Roman. The fourth wild beast, as it appeared to Daniel in the dream, is said to be "terrible and powerful, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns." There are two striking points of resemblance between this symbol and that of the fourth empire in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. One is, that both have iron as a characteristic feature. The fourth wild beast had great iron teeth, and the fourth or lowest part of the colossal image was iron; and as iron was an emblem of a breaking and subduing power, it strikingly shadows forth the Roman empire. The other is, that both were marked by the number ten. The fourth beast had "ten horns," and the iron portion of the image "ten toes." The ten horns and the ten toes represent the ten kingdoms into which the Roman empire would be divided; and here, as elsewhere in Scripture, the definite number ten seems to be used in an indefinite sense for a great many. But while an apt symbol for the divided Roman empire, the number ten seems totally inapplicable to the Grecian empire, which is the favourite view of the higher critics. We come now to what is said about the Little Horn. "I considered," says Daniel, "the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots; and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things." He says also in the 21st and 22nd verses: "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom." The general opinion of the higher critics is that the little horn is a symbol for Antiochus Epiphanes, one of the Grecian kings of Syria ( 175 B.C.-164 B.C.), and the arch-persecutor of the Jewish people. But this empire cannot be correct if, as we have already tried to show, the fourth world-empire is the Roman. Ahtiochus Epiphanes belongs to the third world-empire, and not to the fourth. Besides, there are two things in the symbol which show that it could not refer to Antiochus Epiphanes. One is, that the little horn canto up after the ten horns, and was distinct from them. Antiochus, on the other hand, was one of the ordinary kings of Syria. His kingship was not distinct from those of the divided empire. The other is, that the little horn rooted out three of the ten. There is nothing corresponding, or approaching to, this in the history of Antiochus Epiphanes. The little horn means, I have no doubt, Papal Rome. In the fifth century of our era the Roman empire was broken up by the invasion of northern hordes; and amongst the kingdoms into which it was divided the church in Rome, with its bishop, sprang into existence as one of the kingdoms of the empire. This took place in , when Pepin, king of the Franks, granted to the Pope for a temporal dominion the Ex-archate of Ravenna, the Pentapolis, and the Duchy of Rome; and so, according to the prophetic dream, the new kingdom came up after the other ten. It was also a little horn, whether you look at the church in Rome as an ecclesiastical body or at the temporal dominion with which it was invested. The States of the Church, even with the Dukedom of Spoleto, which Charlemagne added in , formed only the central part of the Italian peninsula. In 1870 these States were lost to the Church of Rome, and in 1871 formally annexed to the kingdom of Italy, while the Italian parliament agreed to allow the Pope to live in the Vatican as a sovereign, not subject to the laws of the land, and to grant him an annual appanage of nearly three and a quarter million of lires. So far, then, as temporal dominion is concerned, the Pope has always been a little horn. Again, Papal Rome, like the little horn, is diverse from the other horns of the empire, inasmuch as the spiritual power is combined with the temporal, the ecclesiastical with the political. Another thing noted of the little horn is, that "before it three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots." This also is true of Papal Rome. Of the various opinions as to what the three extinguished sovereignties were, I am inclined to adopt that of Sir Isaac Newton, that they were the kingdom of the Lombards, the Ex-archate of Ravenna which represented the dominion of the Byzantine emperors, and the Duchy of Rome. Gibbon, in the forty-fifth chapter of his great work, says: "during a period of two hundred years, Italy was unequally divided between the kingdom of the Lombards and the Ex-archate of Ravenna." And there can be no doubt that it was the Pope, by means of Pepin and Charlemagne, who put down these two sovereignties in the empire. The Duchy of Rome, which he also plucked up by the roots, though small in size, was yet, on account of its prominence and importance in the empire, well entitled to be represented as one of the ten horns. And it is a memorable and suggestive fact that the Pope, alone of all sovereigns, wears a triple crown. Again, Daniel says of the little horn: "Behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows." The eye is the symbol of intelligence, and the eyes of a man in the little horn imply that it would be distinguished amongst the kingdoms of the world for its subtle and astute diplomacy. Its intelligence would be that of a man as compared with that of a wild beast. And such extraordinary intelligence has been a distinguishing feature in the worldly policy of Papal Rome. Its diplomacy is unrivalled for duplicity and craft. And no worldly power ever approached it for speaking great swelling words of vanity. This is what is said to the Pope at his coronation: "Receive the tiara ornamented by the three crowns, and know that you are the father of bishops and kings, the earthly governor of the world, the vicar of our Saviour Jesus Christ to whom be honour, world without end." Another feature of the little horn, which belongs also to Papal Rome, is its persecution of the people of God. "I beheld," says Daniel (v. 21), "and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them." In interpreting this, the angel said to Daniel (v. 25): "And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time, and times, and half a time." There is no need to enlarge upon the persecutions of the Papacy, as there is no land in Christendom whose soil has not been stained with the blood of the martyrs which she has shed. Happily its power to persecute is for the present, at least to a large extent, taken away. The next thing in the dream is the doom which was to befall the little horn. First of all, there is the sitting of the Heavenly court on the conduct of the little horn (v. 9, 10). There are judgment days in Heaven continually occurring with regard to human affairs. After the destruction of the little horn, the world-wide empire of the Messiah begins. Daniel thus continues his dream (v. 13, 14).
Parallel VersesKJV: The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
WEB: The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I saw until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand on two feet as a man; and a man's heart was given to it.