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…
This first vision of Daniel is confessed on all hands to be an expansion of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar's dream had represented human empire in its intelligent, well-proportioned might. It was man's power as formed, in some measure, in the image of God. The substance, the strength, the character of the several empires were different; the form was one. Daniel's vision exhibits them on another side. The four winds of Heaven are driving upon the great sea, that representative, throughout Holy Scripture, of our troubled world, and out of it there arise forms of more than human strength. The terrific and wasting power of the world-empires is exhibited under the symbol of brute force. A sort of unity is given to them, in that they are all exhibited at first to the prophet's eye at once. God shows them to him first, as He Himself sees all things, at once; then, as they arose in fact, succeeding one another. Nor did they arise of their own power. "Not without being acted upon by the winds of Heaven does the sea send forth those beasts; not without being set in motion by the powers above, does the heathen world form itself into those great empires" (Hoffmann.) As the Babylonian empire had been exhibited to Nebuchadnezzar under the symbol of the richest metal, "gold," so now to Daniel under that of the solid strength of the king of beasts of prey, with the swiftness of the royal bird, the eagle. Jeremiah and Ezekiel had likened Nebuchadnezzar to both. The second beast, the bear, corresponds with the solid, heavy, chest of Nebuchadnezzar's statue. The twofold division and the relative strength of the two sides recur in this symbol also. It lifts itself heavily, in contrast to the winged rapidity of the Chaldean conquests. The "three ribs in its mouth" correspond accurately to the three kingdoms which the Medo-Persian empire swallowed up, the Lydian, Babylonian, and Egyptian. It is bidden, "Arise. devour much flesh," in conformity with the greedy character of the animal: waste of human life was a characteristic of the Persian empire in its heavy aggressiveness. Heaviness was, after Cyrus, the characteristic of its wars. Of the third empire, the characteristics are insatiableness of conquest, and swiftness, and fourfold division. The panther, an animal insatiable above every other beast of prey, gifted with a swiftness which scarce any prey can escape, is represented yet further with four wings. The subdivision of the empire is indicated by its four heads. Its colour corresponds to the brass of the image, its swiftness to the activity of the loins and thighs of the image. Probably the multiplication of the heads was a symbol of circumspection, of manifold, versatile intelligence. But, again, the chief object of interest in the vision is the fourth empire. For the living creature which can represent it there is no name. "In the former beasts," says , "there are single tokens of terribleness, in this, there are all." Of this last empire Daniel sees not only certain characteristics, but a history. Intervals of its history are marked. It embraces a long period. Its characteristic is stupendous strength. Permanent subdual characterised the Roman empire, but it had not the power of consolidating into one the disjointed materials of its greatness. The period after the destruction of the whole fourth kingdom is indicated by the words: "And the rest of the beasts, the other kingdoms, had their dominion taken away; yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time" (v. 12). This sentence seems to relate to a time after the destruction of the fourth empire, but this, being still future, we cannot explain certainly. The chief object of interest, that chiefly expanded, is that in which all the kingdoms end — the Kingdom of God victorious over the evil of the world... It is a sublime picture; man, with his keen intellect, a look more stout than his fellows, overthrowing kings, doing his own will, speaking against God, placing himself over against Him as His antagonist, having, for a set time, all things in his hand; and above, out of sight, God enthroned in the serenity of His majesty, surrounded by the thousands of heavenly beings who serve Him; and near Him, One in human form, born of a human birth, yet, like God, above in the clouds of Heaven, the darkness shrouding Him from human eye, but reigning and to reign for ever, His Kingdom neither to pass away by decay, nor to be destroyed by violence. "God is patient, because He is eternal." Below, all is tumult; above, all is tranquility; the Heavenly King over against the earthly potentate, until the last blasphemy draws down His lightnings upon him, the voice of his great word ascends, the judgment, of God descends.
(E. B. Pusey, D.D.)
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.