Daniel 7: A New Perspective
Application of the Visions
If Daniel's visions are political and that they can be understood and interpreted meaningfully in modern-day political terms, then it requires us to look around the world to find a country whose politics answers to the inherent symbolism given in Daniel 7 and in the prophet's other visions. Here I will use Ethiopian politics to exemplify Daniel's visions. I will use Ethiopian politics beginning its revolution in 1973/74 to show how it closely parallels (the interpretations I have provided) the visions of Daniel.
The Turbulent Political Waters
First, the sea whipped up by the storm and eventually manifesting four major (political) animals matches the Ethiopian situation in 1973/74 period where there was a revolutionary situation brewing and major political forces tearing at the long-standing monarchy and feudal system. Next I match the major Ethiopian political players with Daniel's beasts and what their imagery represents.
Lion: The lion in the vision represents the Solomonic dynasty that ruled Ethiopia for long centuries until its overthrow by the Ethiopian revolutionary forces. The lion in particular represents the last emperor, Haile-Selassie, who through what is now known in history through the 1974 “creeping coup”, step-by-step was stripped of his powers and majesty. At the end the majestic king fell into the hands of his guardians, the soldiers. The Emperor, once looked upon as a divine figure, with deep awe and respect, now through a carefully planned coup was stripped of his majesty and power. The Lion of Judah, frail and weak, was reduced into an obedient pet in the hands of his captors. He was handled and treated as a mere human being, and no longer as the anointed one of God, the most revered Lion of Judah. Like a circus lion, tamed and cowed, the Emperor took orders from his one-time obedient soldiers. Does the picture (imagery) and what happened to Emperor Haile-Selassie match to the description and interpretation of the lion vision of Daniel. I say, "yes".
Bear: The bear has two main features, namely it drags itself one side and second it devours much flesh. I identify the imagery of the bear with the northern secessionist/ regional movements which were active in particular in the norther part of the country, such as the Eritrean liberation fronts such as the ELF and the EPLF, and also another regional group, the TPLF. These groups were one-sided. They were regional or ethnic in their base and operation. So when Daniel said the bear lifted itself up on one side, he is referring to such regional forces. Secondly, these groups were responsible for a long-running regional insurgency which killed and maimed hundreds thousands of people. Daniel saw the bear with three ribs in its mouth to represent how rapacious the political animal it represents would become. Does the picture (imagery) and activities of the bear match to that of the northern regional and secessionist movements which were a major political force in Ethiopia, particularly after 1973/74? I say, "yes".
Leopard: The leopard, with its four head and four wings, is matched with a political movement with main characteristics with the following traits. The movement will be brainy, likely made up of mainly intellectuals. The political force will be quick in its activities. Its operations will not take time to emerge and mature. Third, its influence will sweep the four corners. Fourth, its followers will be drawn from the four quarters; it is be diverse (mottled). Fifth, the political force will use ambush (terrorist) tactics. Because of these peculiar characteristics, I identify the leopard with one political force which came into prominence during the Ethiopian revolution. This is the Ethiopian Student Movement inspired urban-based Marxist groups, such as EPRP (Ethiopia People's Revolutionary Party) and AESM (All-Ethiopia Socialist Movement), etc. Such organizations were made up of educated elite. They were nation-wide in their outreach. They recruited irrespective of ethnicity, religion, and gender, etc. Particularly, EPRP and AESM engaged in urban warfare. Until they were destroyed by the fourth beast (i.e., Derg or military junta), EPRP and AESM were important power-brokers in Ethiopian politics. EPRP's tactics of political assassination which drew the wrath of the the fourth beast (i.e., the Derg) in the form of the Red Terror.
Fourth Beast: The fourth ghastly beast, for its features and actions, matches the other main role player in the Ethiopian revolutionary politics. I find the the Ethiopian army which gave rise to the armed forces coordinating committee (i.e., Derg) to match the nature and actions of of the fourth political beast. If the beast in general is the army, and then its ten horns represent the several strongmen it gave rise to, namely the Derg. The ten horns represent the 109-member Derg which was made up of mostly obscure junior officers and non-commissioned soldiers. Eventually it was the Derg which emerged the most powerful force in post-1974 Ethiopian politics, removing the monarch from power and squashing all its political opponents. The Derg was repressive, intolerant, and cruel.
To fulfill the vision, the Derg manifested series of power struggles. Several leaders of the Derg were eliminated through bloody purges. Finally, one despicable (non-noble, or insignificant) officer, Mengistu Haile-Mariam (MHM) emerged as the de facto head of the Derg and of Ethiopia. Major Mengistu removed from power, one after the other, General Aman Mikael Andom and General Teferi Benti the successive chairpersons of the Derg (junta) before himself assumed the chairmanship. Mengistu also killed Major Atenafu Abate who was the initial leader and inspiration behind the Derg. Major Atenafu made way for Mengistu to serve as first vice-chairperson of the Derg, under the Generals Andom and Teferi. Eventually, under the leadership of MHM, the Derg adopted communism as state ideology, making the Soviet Union and North Korea as its models of state craft and policy-making.
Answering the descriptions of the little horn found in Daniel chapters 7, 8, and 11, Mengistu was intelligent, cunning, hard-headed, haughty, impious, militaristic, and merciless. His economic policies were socialist/ communist, as he was distributive to a high degree. Under him the country was literally brought down to its knees – the socialistic economic policies bankrupted the country. His agricultural policies devastated the country. His militaristic approach made the Ethiopian civil war in the north worse. Mengistu mercilessly eliminated his opponents.
At the hands of the Derg, thousands of Ethiopians lost their lives, were thrown into prison for many years, and other millions left the country for good in exile. Because of its communist ideology, the Derg put protestant churches under severe restrictions. Many Pentecostal churches were shuttered, and most were turned into government offices or community service centers. Many believers were incarcerated or left the country in search of religious freedom.
God judged the Derg through the fire of war. God completely dismantled and destroyed the Derg in 1991, when the northern “bear” (I.e., the EPLF and TPLF alliance) defeated the Derg’s army and took power in Addis Ababa in May 1991. Other political organizations were let operate in the country, but the Derg was totally destroyed.
"As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.” (Dan 7:12)
A Diversion to Daniel 2
The iron-legs regime is succeeded by the the ten toes-&-iron-and-clay made feet. The branching or multiple toes are indicative of political or regime fragmentation. The iron and clay mix predicts a political alliance between strong and weak organizations. In short, the regime which succeeds the iron-type dictatorial regime will be fragmented and fractious, with quite strong elements and extremely weak components as well.
The iron leg in the man-image in Daniel 2 matches the dictatorial behavior of the Derg. But what succeeds the "iron leg" is the fractious metal-clay mix feet. The fragmented and fractious feet as an image of a regime nicely match the picture of the Ethiopia People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) which replaced the Derg in 1991. Hence, what Daniel sees about the "feet" fragmented-and-fractious regime easily fits the description of the EPRDF.
"Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. The feet of the image were partly iron and partly clay, which suggests that this last kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. It will be a fractious regime. It will be a fractious regime. Just as you saw iron mixed with clay, so they will mix themselves with human offspring. Furthermore, they won't remain together, just as iron doesn't mix with clay." (Daniel 2: 41-43, NIV)
Similarly, the EPRDF is a federation of ethnically based political parties. Among all ethnic based parties which make up the EPRDF, it is only the TPLF which has the iron quality because of its military strength and political domination, while all its allied parties are mere clay for their relative weaknesses. Moreover, the EPRDF has set up Ethiopia as an ethnic federations, with 9 ethnic regions. Because of ethnic based federal system, the country has become quite fractious and unstable.
Daniel intimates that mix between the iron and clay represents the seeds of men (v. 43) The seeds of men today we know as races or ethnic groups. It is in such a political atmosphere where ethnic-based federalism prevails that God sends His heavenly kingdom.
"In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever." (Daniel 2:44, NIV)
That means the EPRDF is barely visible in Chapter 7 (also not in Chapters 8 and 11). This suggests that the EPRDF is not anti-church and blasphemous as the fourth beast, therefore gets less of God's attention. However, God has given us enough clue that the fourth beast will not be immediately succeeded by the Kingdom of God. God has indicated in Daniel 2 that first there has to be an iron-clay mixture regime, which we have identified with the ethnic-based politics and federalism.
Hence, based on this new line of interpretation then it is right to expect the political Kingdom of God to make its appearance about any time soon.
[To be Continued}
Glory be to God
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