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Many Bible prophecies associate beasts with evil kingdoms. Three passages have such similarities that I assume they should be viewed as having some commonality of meaning, but one striking difference has me puzzled.

Daniel 7: Lion, Bear, Leopard, Terrifying beast

2 Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. 3 Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.

4 “The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it.

5 “And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’

6 “After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.

7 “After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

Revelation 13: Leopard, Bear, Lion

1 The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.

Jeremiah 5: Lion, Wolf, Leopard

Therefore a lion from the forest will attack them,
    a wolf from the desert will ravage them,
a leopard will lie in wait near their towns
    to tear to pieces any who venture out,
for their rebellion is great
    and their backslidings many.

I have read that the beast in Revelation, being composed of pieces of a Leopard, a Bear, and a Lion, is made up from pieces of the territories of the three kingdoms from Daniel's prophecy, possibly Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece, thus Daniel and Revelation are connected.

However, in Jeremiah, in place of bear, the prophet uses wolf.

  • Is Jeremiah's prophecy unrelated to the other two?
  • Do some variant manuscripts of Jeremiah use bear instead of wolf?
  • Are wolves and bears culturally identical in how they are viewed in prophecy? (Mentions of wolf or wolves are few, while bears are very common.)
  • Are the prophecies parallel, but the use of wolf instead of bear is supposed to convey a shade of meaning? Perhaps, the early prophecy was "optimistic", but Judah acted so badly that a less dangerous "wolf" was replaced with a more dangerous "bear"?

NOTES:

  1. Isaiah 11 mentions all four: wolf, leopard, lion, bear, in that order.

  2. Habakkuk 1 refers to Babylon as multiple animals all by itself: leopard, wolf and eagle (but in Daniel, the lion has eagle's wings that are stripped off)

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  • Good question. Up-voted +1. And my answer below. – Nigel J Sep 14 '20 at 12:03
  • Corrected the citation. Thanks. – Paul Chernoch Sep 14 '20 at 12:56
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    one striking difference has me puzzled. - There is nothing objectively striking about the difference in question. Sometimes their number varies, at other times, their species, etc. – Lucian Sep 15 '20 at 1:49
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We should recall that the inspired record uses two different types of prophecy:

  1. Literal with the occasional metaphor. In this type of prophecy, all the words used can be understood fairly literally, except for the occasional metaphor.
  2. Apocalyptic - where almost every significant noun is used as a symbol of something. The four visions of Daniel are like this and most of Revelation is like this. Many of the visions of Zechariah also fall into this category.

Now to specifics.

Isa 11 is a Messianic prophecy with a metaphor of the "shoot", "branch" and the "root" all used as metaphors of the Messiah and His idealized kingdom - so perfect that the wolf and the lamb lie down together.

Hab 1 is a complaint by Habakkuk about the state of the world. The animals (V8) mentioned are used literally not figuratively.

Jer 5 is a lament about the appalling spiritual condition of Judah. The animals in V6 are used both literally and hyperbolically.

In Dan 7 & Rev 13, the beasts are obviously used symbolically - they cannot be literal as no such creatures exist! This is the characteristic of apocalyptic prophecy - highly symbolic.

Thus, there is no need for any symbolic link between the passages quoted as they are quite different forms of literature.

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This is pasted from my book 'The Cherubim of Glory'.

[I apologise, I cannot shorten this as the argument covers too much ground, across many scriptures.]

NOTE 1 : The text is easier to read in the PDF in the link as it is already pagenated and paragraphed for online perusal. The section on 'the four faces' is from Page 118 to Page 127.

NOTE 2 I do not see that Jeremiah 5:6 can be included in this series of visions. I think it something different, a different allusion. That will become evident on consideration of the other scriptures, as follows.

Page 118 Section 21. The Four Faces

It is clear to me that the chai chaiyah, the ‘live living’ - the ‘living creatures’ - in Ezekiel are an expression of cherubim. And it is also clear to me that the ‘four living’ in the Apocalypse are, also. Three times are the four faces of the cherubim described, twice in Ezekiel and once in the Apocalypse. Then, in the mention in Ezra and Nehemiah, of the four returning from Babylon, there is a further description, by means of the application of four names. These two mentions I see as one, save that the first name is slightly different in Ezra and in Nehemiah, wherein is a subtlety worthy of notice. All of this information results in four sets of four descriptions. And the relevant order of the four sets of information is instructive.

  1. In Ezekiel 1:10, four faces are described - man; lion; ox; eagle.

  2. In Ezekiel 10:4, four faces are described - cherub; man; lion; eagle.

  3. In Ezra 2:59, four men are listed - Telharsa; Cherub; Addan; Immer. They came from Telmelah. In Nehemiah 7:61, four men are listed - Telharesha; Cherub; Addon; Immer. They came from Telmelah.

  4. In Revelation 4:7, four faces are described - lion; calf; man; eagle.

  5. In the first description, I see the first man, given dominion over all other flesh; man over lion, ox and eagle. But after transgression, and after the descent of the old world into a condition so gross that Enoch must needs be re-positioned out of it and Noah must needs fashion an ark to escape the inevitable judgment upon it, sacrifice is required, in righteousness, to extend the first man’s presence on earth, and to prolong the continuance of unclean heavens. Noah sets this forth in Genesis 8: 20-22.

  6. Therefore I see in the second description, that the ox is sacrificed and, thus, the cherub appears. Man is subordinate to cherub, but still has dominion over lion and eagle. After man’s transgression and banishment, the cherubim appeared in the Garden of Eden, and they were settled at the east end of it. By redemptive sacrifice shall there be progress towards what cherubim represent. And thus, in the new order of the old creation, cherubim predominate, for what they represent is not relinquished; it is still held - and held predominately over the first man. What they represent shall not be fulfilled in the first man, now. But out of that which is of the first humanity, shall there come something else. In that, shall the cherubic representation be realised. Thus humanity is still there, but is now subordinate.

  7. The four men in Ezra and Nehemiah came from Telmelah. Tel is a mount, as in Tel Abib (Telaviv). Melach is the Chaldee for salt. They came from a mount or an heap of salt. Out of judgment came they. I believe this is a reference back to subsequent judgment at Sodom and Gomorrha. Amber, I would say, is a reference to judgment by Flood. Salt is a reference to judgment by brimstone. The cherubim pass through these judgments. They come out of the colour of amber. And these four came from the mound of salt. The judgments on the first man are essential, in righteousness, before there is progress towards the ultimate fulfilment of what cherubim represent. Just as we see that thirty years must pass, from the time of Josiah’s repentance until all judgment has been meted out, in every direction, before the day when . . ‘the heavens were opened’. Out of righteous judgment shall come forth the purposes of God.

He will relinquish that which fails. And he will wait until the time is proper for him to act towards his eternal purpose. As to the four men in Ezra/Nehemiah, Telharsa - in Ezra - has a shade of meaning, haras, harisah, harisuth, relevant to overthrow, ruin and destruction, whilst the concomitant name in Nehemiah, Telharesha, has the connotation, hariyyah, of a woman with child. Both these relate to a Tel, a mount. Then Addan/Addon means noble and Immer means lambs. It is lambs plural so I do not see this as sacrificial, I see it as the lambs of a flock, the new born.

Therefore I see that a change from the overthrow, ruin and destruction of all that the first man has established on earth shall result in a noble form of humanity and shall result in a new birth and a flock of such new born, flocking together in communion. There are two mounts seen - Telharsa/Telharesha - and both are seen in one man. So, with those who come out of the first man into a new man. They pass by Mount Sinai and they go to Mount Zion.

They labour in bondage, as Hagar, but, at the time appointed of the father, they shall shine forth as heirs and freeborn sons. This change from ruin and destruction to woman with child denotes a new birth.

This is what returns out of the devastation of judgment upon Judah; returns from the chastening of captivity by Chebar. Nothing is lost in the purposes of God. Though a people must yield to God’s ways and must bow to the providence of God’s righteous judgment and receive the scourging and chastening that is necessary, yet shall it, eventually, yield the fruit of righteousness and peacableness.

How relevant this is to today - 2015 !

So, I sum up the third description as :-

  1. Old mount to woman with child; Cherub; noble man; lambs.

  2. Lion;calf;man;eagle. In the context of the Apocalypse, I see the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open the book of God’s everlasting purpose and to loose the seals of judgment upon the first creation, that a new creation might be established. This is the Everlasting Testament which is thoroughly based, in righteousness, in sacrificial redemption - hence the calf. Thus shall man be rightly placed in a new creation. And that place is above all the works of God’s hands - even the above the very principalities in the heavens.

In Christ, who is exalted, in humanity, above every name that is named - who is exalted above the heaven to the very throne of the Father - in him, and under his Headship, is a new humanity which is risen out of the old and is seated in the heavenlies with Christ. Such a humanity is that which is according to God’s eternal purpose. In such humanity - in sonship - does the Father delight.

This living - expressed fourfold - is seen round the throne. It is thoroughly wrong to translate zown, in Chapter Four, as ‘beast’, thus causing confusion with therion, ‘beast’, in Chapter 13:1, and thereafter, which beasts are associated with the Drakon, another matter altogether.

The four living, they should be called, and they are around throne in company with the twenty four elders, all the wisdom come out of Israel and come out of Apostleship. Together, the living and the wisdom combine and are seen again as the hundred and forty four thousand, the full complement of both testaments multiplied in divine activity.

There is another hint of what is here seen in the two angels, in white, which Mary saw in the sepulchre. They are described as ‘sitting’, kathezomai. Downsitting, kata, but with the word zoe, life, added. I take this to imply sitting upright, either literally or metaphorically. Six times is the word used and it is instructive to see of whom it is used. But here I see an emphasis on living. Seated, in that the attitude is one of rest, in sabbath, yet not inactive. Lively, quick, for all that they are ‘dwonseated’. And here also is a hint of what cherubim convey. The angelic two sit at the head and feet of where the body of Jesus had lain, very reminiscent of cherubim atop the ark. Rightly seen, the sepulchre is where the ark completes its journey. Then - he is not here; he is risen !

The full complement are seen again, an exceeding great multitude which no man number. Angels minister to these, holding back the winds of final judgment till all be gathered and sealed, Revelation 7:3. These angels stand about the throne, and they are about the elders and, within, are both about the living. All fall upon their faces before the throne and worship God, saying, Amen: Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be unto God for ever and ever. Amen.

Cherubim are an abstract concept. I do not believe they are, strictly speaking, a representation of the people of God in themselves. Nor do I believe they are a representation, as such, of angelic beings or angelic activity itself. Nor yet do I accept that they are an expression of animal life, as such.

I believe that cherubim are an abstract concept representing something in God. It is a matter of God’s purpose. It is that which he purposes in everlasting. It is that which, ultimately, will express God in a substantial creation. That which is within God - his desire, his purpose - shall, through first creation, redemption and new creation, be fully expressed in the manifesting of God through humanity.

But the first humanity failed of that purpose. Hence redemption in Christ. But redemption in Christ does not re-instate the first humanity. Redemption in Christ brings in a new humanity - in Christ - of which he is the Head.

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Finding an answer required hopping through nine prophets and the Gospels.

In Daniel 7, the prophet gives four animals:

  • The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle.
  • a second beast, which looked like a bear.
  • another beast, one that looked like a leopard.
  • a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns.

What solved the mystery for me was figuring out that fourth beast. Isaiah and history provide the key:

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat, 
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them. 
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox. 
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. 
9 They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, 
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

The dangerous animals above in Isaiah are:

  • wolf
  • leopard
  • lion
  • bear
  • cobra

Then look at Habakkuk:

Their horses are swifter than leopards,
    fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
    their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour; (Habakkuk 1:8)

The beasts listed here in Habakkuk are:

  • leopard
  • wolves
  • eagle

Jeremiah 5 has:

  • lion
  • wolf
  • leopard

If you take them all together, discarding the cobra, which seems to represent Satan, you get a superset of six animals:

  • lion
  • eagle
  • bear
  • leopard
  • wolf
  • terrible beast

The lion had eagle wings, so the first two are one and the same.

That leaves the wolf and the terrible beast as one and the same. Isaiah 11's beasts match Daniel 7's list. Jeremiah 5 has three of four and so does Habakkuk 1.

How sure can we be that the "terrible beast" of Daniel 7 is the wolf (or plural, a pack of wolves, which is more terrifying)? The legend of Romulus and Remus has the founders of Rome suckled by a she-wolf. Rome has always been associated with the Wolf.

Thus all these prophecies (and more I have not listed) contain either partial or complete lists of the same four beasts.

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