posted on Mar, 5 2012 @ 04:00 PM
In the vision of Daniel ch7, and again in the following chapter, the prophet sees a number of animal forms representing different kingdoms.
At least two of them, from the information that he’s given, represent “Greece” and “Persia”.
Most readers with enough knowledge of history have been able to recognise in these visions a rough outline of the events that followed the fall of
Jerusalem to the Babylonians.
Some readers are also looking for clues about events which might take place in later times.
I’m still a little agnostic about the value of this.
But I would suggest that anyone wanting to use the visions in that way would need to pay close attention to the guidance offered by the parallels in
ancient history, which are much too obvious to be ignored.
So that’s going to be my first approach to these chapters.
At the time of the fall of Jerusalem, power in the Middle East was dominated by three regions. There was the Nile valley (Egypt), the Tigris-Euphrates
plain (Assyria and Babylon), and Asia Minor (once controlled by the Hittite empire, followed by other powers).
Then a new power appeared on the Iranian plateau. When I was at school, we called it the Persian empire. Daniel, more accurately, calls it “the
Medes and the Persians”. This power was able to absorb the three regions that I’ve mentioned. After that, they ventured to cross over into Europe
and attack the Greeks, but this was clearly “a bridge too far”.
The Greeks were not a powerful nation, but they put up a dogged defence. Within a couple of centuries they had produced Alexander, who was able to
launch an astonishing campaign, overthrowing the Persian empire and placing it under his own control. After he died, his realm was divided between at
least four successors. This meant, for practical purposes, that the three original regions re-gained their autonomy under new dynasties- Ptolemy in
Egypt, Seleucus in Mesopotamia, and Antigonus in Asia Minor.
This history can then be matched against the visions of Daniel. In ch7, Daniel sees four great beasts coming up out of the sea. These are always
understood to be four kingdoms, and we can identify most of them with reasonable certainty.
The “winged lion” is one of the characteristic sculptures of Babylon, and probably represents that empire.
The empire of the Medes and the Persians was politically lop-sided (most of the original power and territory had come from the Medes) and would be
well-represented by the “lop-sided bear”. This bear is devouring three ribs, which would represent the three regions already mentioned.
Alexander’s kingdom came into existence with legendary speed, and then fell apart into four distinct kingdoms. This makes it a natural match for the
third beast, the winged and four-headed leopard.
In ch8 there is a supplementary vision. The first figure seen in that vision is a ram with two horns (one higher than the other), which is later
identified as the joint kingship of Media and Persia. The beast which overcomes the ram is now a goat, moving so fast that its feet don’t touch the
ground. This is later identified as “the king of Greece”. This goat has a single “conspicuous horn”, which is then divided in four ways. So
this vision is a closer look at the transition between the second and third beasts of the previous chapter.
Taking these two visions together, the encounter between Daniel’s Greece and Persia is a recognisable echo of the meeting of those two powers in the
events of ancient history.
How might the same story be applied to later events?
One approach would be to apply “like for like” in terms of geographical location.
Thus the role of “Persia” could be applied to Iran.
The catch is that, by the same token, the role of “Greece” would have to be applied to Greece.
If Daniel’s vision predicts a war against Iran, it is a war against Iran initiated by Greece.
Or possibly, given Alexander’s ancestry, by the state known to diplomacy as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYRM).
Another approach would be to apply “like for like” in terms of position in the world.
In that case, these points would be relevant;
Daniel’s “Persia”, at the time of the encounter with “Greece”, is the dominant power in its world. No beast in any direction seems able to
stand against it. It is able to “devour much flesh”.
It is also a duplex power, and one side of the partnership is more powerful than the other.
Daniel’s “Greece”, on the other hand, is an upstart kingdom, arriving on the international scene almost out of nowhere.
The new state hardly outlives the destruction of the old state, but falls apart in its turn.
(And the “hostile ruler” at the end of the book descends from one of these fresh divisions)
Therefore anyone trying to apply these visions to a later time would need to look for a dominant power in the world, to which to attach the