Chapter 2

The Four Beasts of Daniel 7

In chapter 7 of the book of Daniel we find another vision that is believed to be a prophecy about future kingdoms. In this case the symbolic picture given is of four beasts instead of a statue with four metals. The four beasts listed in Daniel 7 are a lion, a bear, a leopard, and a very strange beast with 10 horns.

Although there is nothing in the Bible that expressly demands the following interpretation, the four beasts of Daniel 7 have traditionally been equated with the four parts of the statue in Daniel 2. So the head of gold (Babylon) in Daniel 2 would be equivalent with the lion, the silver chest (Medo-Persia) with the bear, the bronze belly and thighs (Greece) with the leopard, and the iron legs (Rome) with the final 10 horned beast.

In his book Mideast Beast, Joel Richardson argues that the final beast of Daniel 7 is the Islamic Empire and not Rome. Richardson does not spend too much time trying to prove his belief that the final beast of Daniel 7 is the Islamic Empire, which is probably because he is following the traditional view that equates Daniel 2 directly with Daniel 7. In this view, those who believe they have determined the identity of the legs of iron in Daniel 2 feel at liberty to copy and paste that kingdom into the final beast kingdom of Daniel 7 without much explanation. Since Richardson, as we saw in the last chapter, has already determined the legs of iron in Daniel 2 to be the Islamic Empire, he also believes that the last beast in Daniel 7 must be the Islamic Empire.

Richardson does offer two arguments for the fourth beast being the Islamic Empire. To interact with those arguments we need to read what is said about this beast in Daniel 7.

“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.” (Daniel 7:7-8)

The fourth beast is said to be very destructive—.“devouring,” “breaking in pieces,” and “trampling.” Richardson says this is an argument in favor of the fourth beast being the Islamic Empire because the Roman Empire was not very destructive, and the Islamic Empire was.

“The Roman Empire in many ways was anything but a destructive empire. Instead it was rather constructive, often adding infrastructure, order, and law to the lands it conquered.”1

While it is true that Rome did build up its empire and attempt to add infrastructure, order, and law to the lands they conquered, the exact same thing could be said of the Islamic Empire. More to the point, the fact that Rome was at times constructive does not negate the fact that they were also very destructive. They fought countless wars, often destroying entire cities. I am reminded of a quote, attributed to Calgacus by the Roman historian Tacitus, which says of the Roman Empire: “They plunder, they slaughter, and they steal, this they falsely name Empire, and where they make a wasteland, they call it peace.”

Richardson then goes on to suggest that the Islamic Empire was more destructive than the Roman Empire. However, it seems that an evaluation of which of these two empires was more destructive is a very subjective endeavor. They both used their military to conquer new territory, and they both killed countless people on their road to building their empires. At the same time, they both seemed to prefer to use non-violent means to acquire new territory when possible. They both tried, whenever possible, not to destroy major places of worship or cities in their conquests, but rather to convert them to suit their own purposes. Since Richardson’s main argument for the fourth beast being the Islamic Empire as opposed to the Roman Empire is that, in his opinion, the Roman Empire was not destructive but the Islamic Empire was, we can dismiss it easily on the grounds that such a distinction between the two empires is by no means clear. Despite Richardson’s claim to the contrary, the Roman Empire was most certainly extremely destructive, desolating entire cities when it suited them and killing countless people, including many Jews and Christians.

The only other argument that Richardson makes to explain why the fourth beast of Daniel 7 is the Islamic Empire and not the Roman Empire is regarding the blasphemous words spoken by one of the horns on the head of the fourth beast:

“As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings. He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end.” (Daniel 7:24–26)

Richardson here makes the case that because one of the horns on the beasts’ heads is speaking blasphemies against the most high and killing saints, this should be seen as an Islamic Empire and not the Roman Empire. He says that the Roman Empire was too tolerant for Scripture to describe it in this way.

There are two problems with this argument. The first is most interpreters don’t see the actions of the “little horn” in Daniel 7 (the one who speaks blasphemous words) as relating to the ancient Roman Empire in any way. Though they see the fourth beast itself as representative of the ancient version of Rome, or the so-called “revived Roman Empire," they see the actions of the “little horn” on the beast’s head as the actions of the Antichrist himself, a man who has yet to come, not a nation. The fact that Daniel 7:25 tells us this horn’s actions are primarily limited to three and a half years should be enough to prove that the actions of the little horn of this beast isn’t a commentary on the ancient Roman Empire at all since the Roman Empire lasted much longer that three and a half years. In addition, Daniel 7:25 uses the pronoun “him” to describe the horn, suggesting it is a man, not a nation. Richardson’s case that the ancient Roman Empire can’t be the little horn because Rome was too “tolerant” is totally moot because the part of the beast called the “little horn” is a prophecy about a yet future man, the Antichrist, and is not making a commentary about ancient Rome’s tolerance or lack of tolerance in any way.

The second problem with this idea is while the Roman Empire was tolerant of most religions, they were only tolerant if you tolerated their religion as well. This was just fine for most religious people of the day who had no problem with simply adding another god to their lists of gods to honor, but it became a big problem for followers of monotheistic religions like Judaism and Christianity, who would not bow down to gods other than the God of the Bible. Eventually Jewish people and Christians were brutally persecuted and countless numbers of them were killed by the Roman Empire because of this so-called “tolerant” Roman religious system. The Roman emperors were also seen as a part of the Roman pantheon of gods, and people were expected to worship them with a pinch of incense. This would be considered a very blasphemous practice by most standards, and many Christians and Jews were executed because they refused to participate in it. To say the fourth beast cannot refer to Rome because Rome was too tolerant is not a very good argument. If you told the Christians being burned alive, crucified, and fed to lions in the coliseum by the Roman Empire that Rome was tolerant of their religion, I doubt they would have agreed with you.

As I have said before, it is my goal to limit my personal beliefs to a minimum while criticizing the Islamic Antichrist view. However I have included in Appendix 1 a discussion about Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 to explain how I understand these chapters. If I am correct, then Richardson’s argument about Daniel 7 is completely irrelevant.