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THE VISION OF THE FOUR BEASTS.
Daniel, chap. vii.
With regard to the preceding vision Daniel acted only as interpreter; in this one, which (if we adopt the chronology of our bibles) took place about fortyeight years afterwards, he was the seer.
These considerations may warrant our regarding the two visions more in the light of distinct and independent revelations than, owing to their juxta-position in the bible, we have, perhaps, been used to do.
The Prophet in his dream saw the four winds of the heaven striving together on the sea; and four beasts came up from the sea. It does not seem to be necessary, and it may be doubted whether it is right, to consider these four beasts as corresponding to the four portions of the Image. Admitting, for indeed it seems to be quite clear, that the fourth beast represents the Kingdom symbolized by the fourth portion of the Image, yet it does not follow that the head of Gold and the Lion are equivalent symbols, nor the breast of Silver and the Bear, nor the belly of Brass and the Leopard, and commentators might, I conceive, have saved themselves the trouble which they have very unsuccessfully taken to make out correspondences and resemblances between them.
Indeed it is necessary in order to our taking a right view of the case, that we should just glance at the shifts to which interpreters following this scheme have been
driven, in the attempt to give it some kind of plausibility. Bishop Newton says, “ What was revealed unto Nebuchadnezzar .... was again revealed unto Daniel with some inlargements and additions .... but there is this difference, that what was exhibited to Nebuchadnezzar in the form of a great Image, was represented to Daniel in the shape of great wild beasts. The reason of which is ingeniously assigned by Grotius, and after him by Mr. Lowth, 'that this image appeared with a glorious lustre in the imagination of Nebuchadnezzar, whose mind was wholly taken up with admiration of worldly pomp and splendor; whereas the same monarchies were represented to Daniel under the shape of fierce and wild beasts, as being the great supporters of idolatry and tyranny in the world 3.!” This is what Grotius, according to Lowth”, “acutely observes ;” but I cannot see the ingenuity and acuteness; and I presume that to do so we must understand that Nebuchadnezzar's vision was the creature of his imagination, and that Daniel's politics were the same as those of Grotius.
Then why is the head of Gold the same as the Lion with eagle's wings ? Because the King of Babylon is called a lion, Jerem. iv. 7, and said to fly as an eagle, Jer. xlviii. 40, Ezek. xvii. 3. 12. This may be true and of some weight as far as it goes, which is not very far; and so no doubt Bishop Newton felt when he thought it necessary to add, “ The Lion is esteemed
3 Dissert. on the Prophecies, Vol. I. p. 441.
• In. v. 31.
the King of beasts, and the Eagle the King of birds, and therefore [he might go on to say was no more a peculiarly fit symbol of the first, than of any other one of the dominant empires; but instead of this he goes on to say that therefore] the Kingdom of Babylon, which is described as the first and noblest Kingdom, and was the Kingdom then in being, (what an odd reason if one did not know the man] is said to partake of the nature of both. Instead of a lion the Vulgar Latin, and the Greek and Arabic Versions have a lioness ; and it is Jerome’s observation that the Kingdom of Babylon for its cruelty is compared not to a lion, but to a lioness, which naturalists say is the fiercer of the two." Then of course it is easy to say that “the Eagle's wings denote its swiftness and rapidity: and the conquests of Babylon were very rapid 5”—but when we are told that it was “made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it,” what are we to understand ? Bishop
“ What appears most probable is, that after the Babylonian empire was subverted, the people became more humane and gentle; their minds were
Bishop Newton found Lowth a poor ally as to the passages which he refers to, Jeremiah xlviii. 40, and Ezekiel xvii. 3. 12. On the former that commentator says, with great simplicity, “Conquerors are often compared to Eagles and other birds of prey," and on the latter “ Conquerors are elsewhere represented by Eagles who are birds of prey, and remarkable for their swiftness.”. Of course the obvious comparison of a conqueror to a lion or an eagle, goes a very little
way towards explaining the phænomenon of a lion with eagle's wings brought forward, and dealt with like the lion seen by the prophet.
humbled with their fortune; and they who vaunted as if they had been gods, [who says they did ?] now felt themselves to be but men.” That is to say, the taking of a wild beast of horrible fierceness, ridding him of unnatural excrescences belonging to another genus of animals, raising him from his prone condition, and not only making him stand upon his feet like a man, but actually giving him a man's heart—this, which seems as if it could scarcely be supposed to be the work of any but its Creator-this is a symbol of subversion, degradation, humiliation, and to meet this we are to imagine that the people of Babylon, living under the tyranny of the fierce lioness, went about vaunting themselves (poor creatures) as if they had been gods, until they became more “humane and gentle,” and quite pleasant affable companions, by a bloody revolution which transferred them from the tyranny of one wild beast to that of another.
And what becomes of these “ humane and gentle” people thus transferred from the lion, or rather perhaps the fierce and still more cruel lioness, to the bear; and recently wakened up to a conviction that they are men, women, and children, and not gods at all ? “The very learned Bochart,” says Bishop Newton,
recounts several particulars wherein the Persians resembled bears.” Very likely they might, for more or less resemblance may be traced in most nations. I have not Bochart's work at hand, and am not encouraged to seek for it by the bishop's adding, “but the chief likeness consisted in what I have mentioned ;" for what
does the reader imagine that to have been ?-just this, “for their cruelty and greediness after blood they are compared to a bear, which is a most voracious and cruel animal.” So that the “humane and gentle” people, who, even if we are in this matter to discriminate between Babylonians, Medes, and Persians, must have formed the bulk of the population in the Medo-Persian empire, do not seem to have been very much improved either in nature or condition.
I do not, however, mean to say that I admit this as an explanation of the symbol. The Bishop suggests that the cruelty (of which he gives a horrible description) is intimated in the command, “ Arise, devour much flesh.” It may be so; though I cannot help thinking that we might just as well argue that the issuing such a command implied that the beast was to be employed in doing what he would not do from mere natural instinct. But supposing it true, I doubt whether this makes it peculiarly fitted to the Bear compared with the Lion. The Bishop tells us, “A bear, saith Aristotle, is an all-devouring animal; and so saith Grotius the Medo-Persians were great robbers and spoilers according to Jeremiah, li. 48. 56.” In a note the Bishop quotes the words of Grotius,“ Ursus Zwov zaupa yov [animal omnia vorans] ait Aristoteles VIII. 5, sic Medopersæ magni prædones,” &c. I doubt very much, not only whether this is a true account of the animal which divine wisdom selected for the symbol, but whether it is the account which Aristotle meant to give. It is clear and one would think it must