Daniel continues in Daniel 7:6, “After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.” (NASB)

This is now the third beast that Daniel describes.

One point that many do not notice is the sequence of the four beasts. They do not appear simultaneously but follow in sequence to each other. Therefore, Daniel employs the term “After this” to note that each kingdom succeeds the previous one.

Unlike the second beast who we could relate to as resembling an animal known to us, this third beast, just like the first one is describing something in symbolic language. We know this by its description. No one has ever seen a leopard with four wings like a bird and four heads! They simply do not, and have never, existed. Once again, multiple theories have been exchanged as to what the symbolism means.

It is no mistake that the vision was given to Daniel depicting the leopard. The fur and markings of a leopard make it easy for them to be well camouflaged which allows them to be opportunistic hunters who prey on their victims and pounce at great speed. They can run up to 36 miles per hour, leap horizontally over 20 feet and jump vertically almost 10 feet high. Many of these characteristics are a clear reference to the king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon, Alexander the Great. He succeeded his father, Phillip II in 336 BC at the young age of 20 and in just twelve years he created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, conquering the mighty Persian empire in the process.

As I mentioned, there are several suggestions as to the four wings of a bird. Some suggest this symbolizes additional swiftness, emphasizing the speed in which Alexander conquered the world. This idea does seem to fit well with how quickly Alexander subdued the nations he attacked. As king of Macedon (which prior to his father’s rule was merely a small state dominated by larger cities such as Athens, Sparta, and Thebes) Alexander succeeded in leading Greece into a federation of states, allowing him to embark on further domination. Throughout his military career, Alexander won every battle that he personally commanded.

With Greece clearly being referenced as the third beast (despite what liberals argue) and Alexander as leader of that kingdom, we can see why the four heads are significant to the symbolism. What I am about to say, which many believe is the correct interpretation of the four heads, is derived from what we know of history. Scripture does not give us the historical narrative of the Grecian empire. That is because the chronological dates of its history occurred between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the new one, known better to the Christian scholar as the Intertestamental Period. This was a period of approximately 400 years. The Persian dynasty lasted from 532 – 332 BC. Alexander’s defeat of the Persian’s occurring in this intertestamental period brought Greek rule to the world and as a result, Greek culture was promoted in every land Alexander had conquered. The Hebrew Old Testament was translated into the Greek Septuagint by 70-72 Jewish scholars during the third and second centuries BC. By the second and first centuries BC most people in Israel spoke Greek. Those who no longer understood Hebrew were able to have the Hebrew Scriptures in a language they could understand.

Alexander is never referenced directly in Scripture. But he is referenced indirectly at least four times in Daniel, with several more references alluding to his identity or that of his kingdom. He [or at least his kingdom] are clearly identified as the leopard. History confirms that Alexander suddenly died in 323 BC at the age of 33. On his deathbed, Alexander handed his signet ring to his senior cavalry officer, Perdiccus, who subsequently called several of Alexander’s generals together to discuss how and who would rule the divisions of the kingdom. Often the accepted thought is that his kingdom was divided between four generals. Calvin and Jerome believed these to be Ptolemy, Seleucus, Phillip, and Antigonus. Given the infighting that occurred, this may well be correct. Several assassinations followed as others were vying for power in the newly drawn up divisions of the kingdom. Modern commentators claim it was the four kings who appear approximately 22 years after the death of Alexander, after the overthrow of Antigonus at the battle of Ipsus in 301 BC, that finally became the four heads of their respective states. This view has resulted in claiming that Lysimachus was given Thrace and Bithynia, Cassander was given Macedonian and Greece, Seleucus controlled Syria and Babylonia as well as territories that extended as far as India, and Ptolemy controlled Egypt, Palestine and Arabia Petrea [also known as Rome’s Arabian Province].

Despite the infighting, what we can discern is that four kings, depicted as the four heads of the leopard, were generals in Alexander’s army that would eventually rule as a basileus (a Greek term for king) in their respective kingdoms.

As for the comment in the Scripture that dominion was given to it, it certainly shows the workings of God in arranging for all of this to occur. Alexander, who had an army of far fewer numbers, could never have defeated Persia without the providence of God. Nor could his kingdom have continued to grow into separate states without God’s direction. All of this was according to God’s will and purpose and we see it fulfilled in the prophecy of Daniel, written almost two hundred years before the events even took place.