Pamela Ayn Austen
Second Beast: Bear Lifted Up
On One Side
Image: J. Larsen Maher
Wildlife Conservation Society
5. Suddenly another beast appeared, 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. So it was told, "Get up and gorge yourself on flesh!"
The Second Beast, a bear lifted up on one side, is the Medo-Persian Empire. A bear symbolizes something incorporated to become powerful, or today it would be corporations are corporatism. That's just what the Persian Empire did with the Babylonian Empire that it defeated, along with all of the other nations and lands it conquered: it incorporated them into itself.
Unlike the Babylonians, the Medo-Persians did not overthrow a nation and then kidnap and enslave its people, tear down their temples, and steal their treasures. In fact, Persia set the Babylonian exiles from all the other nations free, and they helped the Jews to not only rebuild their temple, but they paid for it, and gave back all of the temple treasures.
The Medo-Persians subdued a land, and then they incorporated the land into their Empire as a province and had them pay taxes. So here is the bear of Persia: it was a big corporation busy with many hostile take-overs.
The Medes and Persians were of the same nomadic pastoralists from the Iranian Plateau, and the Medes were instrumental in helping to defeat Babylon, but eventually Cyrus the Great of Persia tamped down the Medes, and the Persians became the more powerful people, and so the Bear appears to be lifted higher on one side than the other, although the Medes and the Persians were really from one people, one bear.
The Lord said of Cyrus in Isaiah 41:25: "I have raised up one from the north, and he has come, one from the east who calls on my name. He will march over rulers as if they are mortar, like a potter who treads the clay."
The Bear is given a mandate by heaven to go forth and devour much flesh, but I don't believe that meant kill people, but as a corporation, go and take-over all the lands of the all the people: consume them into yourself, in other words, like a bear consumes things into its own belly. God said that he was with Cyrus the Great, and that he would prosper Cyrus in all that he set out to do. So God was giving Cyrus and Persia the right to go out and conquer and devour all of the known territory of the middle east, and parts of the further east and west, and it became the largest empire to that date. It devoured, or incorporated, more land than any other empire before it.
Ribs in Scripture represent nations, and the three ribs are most likely the three large nations conquered by this Empire: Lydia, Egypt, and Babylon. The Medo-Persian Empire gobbled these three kingdoms up and made them tax-paying subjects within its dominion.
The Bear imagery correlates with the silver arms and chest of the Statue of Daniel, and Daniel said in 2:39 that the Medo-Persian Empire would be inferior to the Babylonian empire, even though it actually spanned across more land.
Why was the Medo-Persian Empire inferior to King Nebuchadnezzar's Empire? Babylon's king was the head of gold of the Statue of Daniel. Gold means perfection, and the Statue meant the entirety of human pride; so the head of gold is the perfection of human pride, and King Nebuchadnezzar certainly personified it.
The Medo-Persians were the two arms and the chest (ribs) of silver, and silver means joy and profit.
The human pride of the Persians was great, but unlike Babylon's violent and selfish pride which destroyed God's temple, kidnapped his people, and stole the valuable temple belongings, God tempered the Persians' pride with Cyrus the Great. With great joy and profit, the Israelites were not only set free, but Persia paid to rebuild their temple, and the valuable temple items were all given back. This was an empire that caused joy and profit, though they were great conquerors of people and land, and others at the time may not have seen them as bringers of joy. God and God's people did, however.
And consider that even today, large corporations are all about making a profit and feeling the joy of abundance and market dominance.
Since the Statue of Daniel represents the entirety of human pride, Persia was inferior to Babylon because its arrogant pride was lessened by way of the generosity it showed to the Jews and other slaves of Babylon, whom Persia set free. Within the frame-work of the Statue's meaning, which is human pride, Persia just wasn't quite as prideful, extravagant, boastful, and selfish as the king of Babylon. Persia was an overlord, no doubt; but they incorporated the conquered people into their empire; they didn't snuff them out and scorch the earth behind them as Nebuchadnezzar had done.