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Bible verses about Bear as Symbol
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Daniel 2:39   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The idea of inferiority seems to pass to the succeeding empires as well. But in what way was Medo-Persia inferior?

Medo-Persia controlled a larger territory than did Babylon, so it was certainly not inferior in political or military might. Even before the fall of Babylon, Cyrus had defeated the wealthy Croesus, king of Lydia in Asia Minor (546 BC). After victories in central Iran and in Phoenicia, he conquered Babylon in 539 BC, and his son Cambyses overthrew Egypt and Libya in 525 BC. At its height the Persian Empire was nearly double the size of Babylon.

It did, however, have a problem with internal unity. Cyrus, a Persian, initiated the growth of the empire by usurping the Median throne with the help of the Median nobility. The empire, from this point on, was dominated by Persians, or as the Bible says, the "bear . . . was raised up on one side" (Daniel 7:5). The two arms of the image symbolize this division.

Also, each time an emperor died, severe struggles erupted over succession to the throne. Fortunately, mostly strong and capable rulers won these struggles, especially during its first century, and kept the empire whole for over two hundred years. Only the superior might of Alexander's Macedonian army spelled its downfall.

Another factor of its inferiority was, oddly, its rulers. Cyrus, regaled in the Bible as God's "shepherd" and "His anointed" (Isaiah 44:28-45:13), was not the same caliber of man as Nebuchadnezzar. Though he was a humane and conciliatory ruler for his time, he neither lived long enough to stamp his character on his realm (d. 529 BC), nor did he acknowledge God's sovereignty as did his predecessor (Daniel 4:28-37).

In relation to this, the word inferior itself ('ara') means "earth, world, ground." Persia was literally more "earthly" or "worldly" than Babylon in God's eyes. The aims and drives of its kings were, as a whole, of a lower nature than Babylon's, though the latter's were certainly misguided as well. However, the trajectory of this factor in all these kingdoms is, according to the prophecy, downward, and it sinks further with each new empire.

On the other hand, it must be injected here that Cyrus was the instrument that God used to reestablish the Temple in Jerusalem (II Chronicles 36:22-23). The Persians had a general policy to honor the gods of all their defeated enemies by repairing or rebuilding temples and giving offerings to them. This was mainly done to appease the gods "just in case" they had been offended by the subjugation of their peoples, as well as to smooth relations between the Persians and their vassals. Scholars are still divided over whether Cyrus actually meant that the God of Israel was indeed the true God and thus his sovereign Lord. Most think he did not because decrees to other nations have been found in which similar language is used.

Unlike the Babylonians, the Persian Empire centered squarely on its military and political bases rather than its religious, cultural, or economic life. Historians consider the Persian imperial political structure and administrative forms to be the finest example of government before the Roman period. In fact, they think that the Romans borrowed Persian ideas in forming their own. This meant that the real basis of power in the empire was the army, even above that of the king, although the king supposedly controlled the army.

The religion of the Persians was Zoroastrianism, a dualistic belief in good and evil and man's struggle between them. Although it was less bloody, warlike, idolatrous, and superstitious than other polytheistic religions of the region, it retained vestiges of ancient beliefs that eventually supplanted it. The cults of Mithra, the sun god, and Anaita, the goddess of fertility—similar to Nimrod/Tammuz and Semiramis, the old Babylonian Mystery Religion—grew in popularity until Zoroastrianism faded into obscurity. But its principle of dualism lived on in Gnosticism and the mystery religions of the Roman Empire. Some of these beliefs and practices (such as Mithra's birthday, December 25; Sunday as a holy day; All Soul's Day; and heaven, hell and purgatory) were later embraced by Catholicism to counter the popularity of these cults.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part Two): Chest and Arms of Silver


 

Daniel 7:1-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is a further explanation of the world-ruling empires, showing national characteristics, but this time designed into animals of the same four kingdoms that appear in Daniel 2. Instead of being metals—gold, silver, brass, iron—now we have animals, indicating national characteristics of those four kingdoms, symbolized by the lion, the bear, the leopard, and the beast that was diverse from all the others.

The important thing to note here is that this illustration in Daniel 7 is a parallel of the image seen by Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2. This illustration in Daniel 7 confirms that the legs of iron of the Daniel 2 image and the fourth beast of Daniel 7 both exist at Christ's return, fight against Him, and are defeated. So even as the feet and toes of the Daniel 2 image will be at the time of the end, so will this diverse beast. They are one and the same.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 1)


 

Daniel 8:3-4   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

History records that the Persians considered a ram with sharp, pointed horns to be their guardian spirit, and the king bore the head of a ram instead of a crown when he led his armies into battle. The symbols of Medo-Persia used in the Bible, the ram and the bear, are powerful creatures, as opposed to the quick and agile goat and leopard, representing Greece. As for the different heights of the horns, the taller one represents the Persian half of the empire that rose to power later than the Median half.

Both the Medes and the Persians, as the Bible shows are represented by these horns (Daniel 8:20), also had territories located near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Though it makes little difference in the prophecy's interpretation, this river could also be "the River Ulai" (Daniel 8:2) upon whose banks the Persian capital of Susa (Shushan) was built.

The ram's pushing in every direction except east reflects the historical reality that Persia's eastern campaigns were inconsequential as compared to its other conquests. Though they did conquer as far east as the Indus River, subjugating Asia Minor, Babylon, Egypt, and Armenia was much more significant. Persia felt very little resistance in the east, and in its later history the western Macedonians under Alexander, represented by the he-goat with a notable horn (verse 21), were its most challenging foes.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part Two): Chest and Arms of Silver


 

Revelation 14:9-11   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

No person alive looks forward with any kind of wonderful anticipation to going through what these verses show.

Its clear from the context of Revelation 13 and 14 that "beast" is being used in the sense of a wild, adversarial animal. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is because of the use of leopard, bear, lion, and dragon. These are not domesticated animals, but rather they are animals that we would make every effort to avoid. We do not want to cross their paths if we find any indication that they are around. We make a great big circle to get out of their way.

Then, of course, there is the contrast with a lamb—a domesticated animal. Cattle, sheep, and goats are beasts, but they hardly qualify as being animals that strike terror in people.

The Beast being described here would cause our hair to stand on end. It exudes malevolence. It is interested in eating us for food or destroying us for crossing its path—it is a beast that is violent and aggressive and simply wants to perpetuate itself.

"Beast" is being used as a symbol, and the context is not really talking about an actual animal. The beast represents a governmental system, the personality of a system, and that system's philosophy of life. The context is showing us that from the system's point of view, people have no value other than for its purpose, and its purpose is simply to maintain and to extend its existence and power through the use of terror, fear—things that any wild animal would naturally exercise. In the "beast's" eyes, we are fodder or chattel.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Spiritual Mark of the Beast


 

 




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