What do the beasts of Daniel 7 represent?


By BibleAsk Team

The prophecy of Daniel 7 begins with the statement of a dream. In the dream, four mysterious beasts arise from out the water. One may ask, what do the beasts of Daniel 7 represent?

Daniel’s Dream

The dream begins with Daniel seeing the four “winds” striving upon the “sea.” Then, four different “beasts” come out of the sea (Daniel 7:1-3). Already, there are three symbols here to decode: winds, sea, and beasts. According to the Bible, these symbols represent:

  • Wind=represent strife, commotion, and destruction (Revelation 7:1-3).
  • Sea or water= represents vast amounts of people-a densely populated area (Revelation 17:15).
  • Beasts=represent kingdoms (Daniel 7:23).

In Daniel’s dream, God reveals information about kingdoms that would arise from a densely populated area as a result of strife or wars.

Daniel then goes on to describe each of the four beasts in his dream.

The First Beast

“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” (Daniel 7:4).

Here we have an additional symbol which is “eagle’s wings.” In Bible prophecy, wings of eagles represent speed (Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 4:13; Habakkuk 1:6-9).

The lion with eagles wings represents Babylon (605/6 – 539 B.C.). The symbols for Babylon are all in the superlative: Gold (Daniel 2) is the finest of metals; the lion is king of the beasts; the eagle is lord of the air. Ancient Babylon was a mighty empire and history reveals to us that a winged lion was evidently the official symbol of the Babylonian kingdom.

Notice the words “… wings plucked, lifted up …, made to stand like a man, and a man’s heart given to it …” Compare this to Daniel 4: 33-34. This experience resembles that of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in Daniel chapter 4.

The Second Beast

The second beast was “like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh” (Daniel 7:5). The bear represents Medo-Persia (539 B.C.) under Cyrus the Great. Notice that the bear has one side higher than the other and that it has three ribs in its mouth. The image of ribs crushed in its mouth point to the bear devouring other animals until they are consumed. These are the three great conquests that brought the Medes and Persians to power. Egypt, Lydia and Babylon formed an alliance but were defeated.

  • Babylon. 539 BC. Babylon is occupied. Nabonidus captured.
  • Lydia. 547 BC. Croesus of Lydia taken prisoner.
  • Egypt. 568 BC. Amasis II of Egypt suppressed. In 605 BC, Egypt was originally defeated in the battle of Carchemish.

At first the Medes and Persians ruled jointly, with the Medes being stronger. However, the Persians later rose to be substantially the greater power over Astyages of Medes. This is depicted as the bear being lifted on one side.

The Third Beast

The third beast was “like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also four heads; and dominion was given to it” (Daniel 7:6). This leopard represents Greece (331 – 168 BC).

The Grecians, under Alexander the Great, literally flew (wings representing speed) from conquest to conquest. He became king at only the age of 18 and in the span of about a decade conquered the then-known world.

However, at the peak of his career, Alexander the Great died of consumption at the age of only 33 on June 10, 323 BC. This is said to be the result of alcohol poisoning after a night of excessive drinking. Alexander had no heir to the throne. Therefor, the kingdom passed to the Diodachi (“successors”) and was eventually divided up among four generals, represented by the four heads of the leopard:

  1. Cassander (East) – Macedonia, Thrace and Greece
  2. Lysimachus (North) – Asia Minor
  3. Ptolemy (South) – Egypt and Palestine
  4. Seleucius (West) – Babylon, Persia and Syria

The Fourth Beast

After these three beasts, Daniel saw “a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns. I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things” (Daniel 7:7-8).

This dreadful beast represents Rome, the next kingdom to come after the Greek Empire. We can see a correlation between Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 when it comes to describing Rome: the beast has iron teeth (Daniel 7) and the image had iron legs (Daniel 2).

The Fourth’s Beast’s Second Phase

We also have an additional symbol here, these are the horns. According to the Bible, the horns represent kings that will come out of the kingdom of Rome “And as to the ten horns, out of this kingdom shall arise ten kings; and another shall arise after them; and he shall be diverse from the former, and he shall subdue three kings” (Daniel 7: 24).

These 10 kingdoms are the same as the 10 toes of the image described in Daniel 2:41-44. History tells us that the kingdom of Rome was overcome by barbaric tribes that each gradually took over a certain part of the Roman empire and made it their own. These barbaric tribes were 10 in number, equivalent to the 10 horns. Seven of those 10 tribes developed into the countries of modern Western Europe, while three were uprooted and destroyed by a little horn (Daniel 7:8).

  1. Visigoths–Spain
  2. Anglo-Saxons–England
  3. Franks–France
  4. Alemani–Germany
  5. Burgundians–Switzerland
  6. Lombards–Italy
  7. Suevi–Portugal
  8. Heruli–Rooted up
  9. Ostrogoths–Rooted up
  10. Vandals–Rooted up

The little horn of Daniel 7 is the second phase of Rome’s rule. This represents when pagan Rome became papal Rome. The little horn power is depicted as uprooting three other horns upon its rise to power. This occurred when the papacy was given military and political power.

The Little Horn

“I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things” (Daniel 7:8).

The little horn is observed to be the papacy. It uprooted or destroyed the three Barbaric tribes (Heruli, Ostrogoths and Vandals) because of their belief in Arianism. The papacy upholds the Pope as the “vicar of Jesus Christ” or one who stands in the place of Christ or God earth. Arianism therefore posed a threat to their authority, resulting in the obliteration of these three tribes. Although Arianism is unbiblical (Philippians 2:5-6), it was far worse to wipe out entire people groups in the conquest for power.

This is interesting as the little horn is described as having “the eyes of man.” The Bible states, “…so the eyes of man are never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20). Thus, the papacy would procure any means in establishing its power.

The little horn is also said to have, “…a mouth speaking great things.” This is more fully described in verse 25. “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time” (Daniel 7:25). This little horn power speaks great words against the Most High or God. This is the definition of blasphemy. It also persecutes God’s people and seeks to change times and laws.

Three Identifying Markers of the Little Horn

The papacy fulfilled all three of these attributes in the following way:

  1. Blasphemy-Speaking blasphemy is when a man stands in the place of God (John 10:33). The Popes claim to be Christ on earth. Another title for the Pope is the “vicar of Jesus Christ.” A vicar means “one who stands in the place of” or “substitute.” Also, Catholic priests claim to forgive sins which only God can do. Likewise, this is an act of speaking blasphemy (Matthew 9:2-3).
  2. Persecuting God’s people-Historians estimate that during the inquisition, Middle Ages, and Early Reformation Era, more than 50,000,000 martyrs perished for their faith at the decree of the Papacy (Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1965 edition, page 726).
  3. Changing Times and Laws-The only law of God related to time is the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11). The Papacy openly declars that they have changed the seventh day Sabbath in God’s commandment to Sunday.The following is a section from a Catholic catechism:“Question: Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept?”“Answer: Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her – she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority.” Stephen Keenan, A Doctrinal Catechism [FRS No. 7.], (3rd American ed., rev.: New York, Edward Dunigan & Bro., 1876), p. 174.Therefore, it is concluded that this little horn power is indeed the papacy. There is no other power on earth that has made such claims or done such acts. This is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy too clear to be ignored.


Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 complement each other in portraying the history of world empires in consecutive order, and in giving specific identifying criteria to help Bible students to be sure of the interpretation. As the Bible repeats events, it also enlarges them by giving more information. The prophecy of Daniel 2 is magnified in Daniel 7. It is made more clear as the book of Daniel goes on. While these prophesies unfold in history, the Bible reminds us in Daniel 7 of God’s great promise to His people.

“And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him” (Daniel 7:27).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


The contents of this article and website are not intended to be against any individual. There are many priests and faithful believers in Roman Catholicism. These who serve God to the best of their knowledge and are seen by God as His children. The information contained herein is directed only towards the Roman Catholic religio-political system which has reigned in varying degrees of power for nearly two millennia. This system has established an increasing number of doctrines and statements that directly go against the Bible.

It is our purpose to lay the clear Word of God before you, the truth-seeking reader. It is up to you to decide for yourself what is truth and what is error. If you find anything here contrary to the Bible, do not accept it. However, if you desire to seek for Truth as for hidden treasure, and find herein something of that quality and feel that the Holy Spirit is revealing Truth to you, please make all haste to accept it.

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